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Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill): Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Jack: I cannot give way, as I have much information to give, which I am sure the hon. Lady wants to hear.

In spite of having to administer a tough spending round, my right hon. and learned Friend has seen spending on the health service next year grow by £1.3 billion--a 1.6 per cent. real increase. That is not an example of someone who is running down the health service. Since 1978-79, spending on the health service in real terms will have risen by 71.1 per cent. I can say that with pride, whereas the Labour party not only presided over cuts in NHS capital spending, but in cuts in nurses' pay. That is the Labour party's track record, not ours, which is one of which we can be proud.

There were comments from the Opposition and some of my hon. Friends on management costs in the NHS. Those much maligned managers have done much to try to improve the operation of the health service. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is right to consider that issue. The £650 million, which will be carved off administrative costs and generated through improvements in efficiency in the NHS, will go directly to patient care. I know that the Labour party finds that concept difficult to understand, but improvements in the efficiency of the NHS have helped us to be able to say truthfully that more patients are now being treated in our hospitals than ever before.

If one adds the private finance initiative to the real-terms growth in funding--I underline that it is added to the real-terms funding--one finds that there is yet more increased funding for the NHS in total. It adds to the funding; it does not take away from it. The hon. Member for Peckham has the idea that, because we have found another way to build new hospitals and new facilities in the health service, we are taking something away. I do not

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know where she has been, but perhaps she should reflect on what is happening in Peckham under the private finance initiative.

Ms Harman: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Jack: The hon. Lady has enough time to entertain us with misleading columns. Let her hear it from me that in King's College hospital, which is in her constituency, the trust issued an advertisement in the Official Journal of the European Communities in August 1995 for a £70 million project to consolidate acute and specialist services on the Denmark hill site. I am sure that her constituents and the people of Peckham will be delighted with the rubbishing that she has given a project that will clearly bring improvement in health care. Far from competing for the work being a minority sport, tenderers are already shortlisted down to three, and they will be competing for a quality piece of business.

I announced in my recent action agenda that, to ensure progress in the private finance initiative, we would put before the construction industry and those providing the services for the nation good quality business projects which would be run from within Government by highly trained people, and that there would be a private finance initiative training exercise with Price Waterhouse to train between 5,000 and 10,000 civil servants in the ways of private finance.

Ms Harman: Before the Minister creates the impression that people in King's College hospital are tucked up in the beds provided by the new private finance initiative, will he confirm to the House that in one year the Government have cut 17 per cent. of the NHS capital budget? Will he confirm that the proposed 242 per cent. increase in one year in the private finance initiative is an unlikely and unachievable target?

Mr. Jack: I shall confirm neither, but in respect of the private finance initiative I can confirm that my right hon. and learned Friend pointed out that we expect some £14 billion-worth of projects to be agreed by the end of the public expenditure period, and we know that £5 billion will be signed up by the end of the financial year.

Turning to deliveries on hospitals, why cannot the hon. Lady acknowledge the success that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health announced recently in Amersham and South Buckinghamshire of £35 million-worth of real hospital? There are many more to come. I recommend that the hon. Lady spends less time on the "Today" programme and more time reading the

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press releases from the Department of Health, where she will receive information about what we can achieve through the private finance initiative.

Let me tell the hon. Lady about some of the other thrilling successes that are about to happen. They include projects worth £140 million in Norfolk and Norwich, £60 million in North Durham, £50 million in Swindon and Marlborough, £26 million in Bishop Auckland and £90 million in Dartford and Gravesham, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) said in his telling intervention. Those contracts are being negotiated and represent real progress in the private finance initiative.

If the hon. Lady wants to know what the NHS really thinks, I suggest that she reads what the clinical directors of the South Buckinghamshire NHS trust said about that project. They were absolutely delighted and they could not believe that that initiative would deliver them such a remarkably good hospital.

I conclude by saying that the worst speech we heard this evening was from the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes). I have never heard an hon. Member run down in such unequivocal terms the part of the country that he purports to represent. He destroyed Wales in but a few telling moments, and he did not tell his constituents and the House that, as a result of the Government's excellent economic policies, unemployment in Wales is below the national average and that Wales has the highest percentage of three and four-year-olds in education compared with the rest of the country. Barclays bank tells us that confidence is growing at a faster rate in Wales than in the rest of the United Kingdom. Those are the symbols of success, not failure, and the hon. Gentleman has done a great disservice to Wales and his constituents in the way in which he has conducted himself.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned league tables. This country is the biggest European destination for direct United States of America and Japanese investment. We have the highest proportion of the population of working age in work than any other major European country. We have the best job creation record in Europe. Our level of unemployment is well below the European average. We export more per head than the USA or Japan, and we have far fewer labour disputes than the European average. We are proud to be top of those league tables, and we are a party proud to support an excellent Budget, which will bring improvements to the lives of 26 million taxpayers in this country. I commend the Budget to the House.

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed tomorrow.

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Lancashire

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Wells.]

10 pm

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East): It is fair to say that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State is a southerner, but nevertheless I welcome him to an important Adjournment debate for those of us who live in the north-west. It is important because of its subject, which is the future of Lancashire, and timing--a day on which England has been saved by its Lancastrian captain's magnificent innings of 185 not out.

This debate is also happily timed to commemorate another day in Lancashire's long and proud history. Exactly 700 years ago last week, Lancashire's first two Members of Parliament arrived at Westminster. According to the Library records, on 27 November 1295, Sir Mattheus de Redman and Sir Johannes de Elwyas took their places for the first time. Sir Mettheus hailed from Levens in the former historic county of Westmorland, near my own home. The second knight of the shire, Sir Johannes, was from near Salmesbury, near Blackburn, but he was also connected with Breighmet, which I take to be the Breightmet in my constituency of Bolton, North-East.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster): My hon. Friend may be interested to learn that my treasurer for many years had the same name as the original knight, and our association offices are named after him.

Mr. Thurnham: I am delighted that my hon. Friend is here this evening. I thank her for all the support that she gives in the House for everything to do with Lancashire.

Lancashire's long and proud record as a county stretches back more than 800 years--to 1168, when it was first mentioned as the county of Lancaster. In 1351, the Duchy of Lancaster was created, with boundaries that have--I am glad to say--remained intact to this day. My constituency was justifiably proud of its 806 years of Lancashire history--at least, until the disastrous local government reorganisation of 1974, which created the infamous Greater Manchester county council, and attempted to tear up Boltonians' loyalties to Lancashire by trying to make them into so-called Greater Mancunians.

The Government wisely recognised their folly, when, in 1986, they abolished Greater Manchester county council, allowing Bolton its independence as a unitary authority. Bizarrely, the Government have left the Greater Manchester county boundary in place, much to the annoyance of the vast majority of the people of Bolton.

Bolton is known all over the world as a Lancashire cotton town. There may not be much left of its cotton industry, but overwhelmingly it wants to return to its historical county of Lancashire. Opinion polls by the Bolton Evening News showed that more than 99 per cent. of respondents want Bolton to be back in Lancashire. It is hard to find anyone who disagrees, other than in the Minister's Department and the Lord Lieutenant's office in Greater Manchester.

All political parties in Bolton supported the unanimous resolution of the council on 19 October 1993


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Other councils throughout the north west have expressed similar views.

I was delighted last year when my hon. Friend the Minister of State accepted my invitation to visit Bolton, to learn for himself the strength of local views. He met councillors and other representatives of the Friends of Real Lancashire, and was left in no doubt about the strength of people's feelings--at a time when the Friends of Real Lancashire were raising a petition with about 30,000 signatures, calling for the return of Lancashire's historic boundaries.

The day after his visit, the Bolton Evening News carried a front page banner headline:


And the people rejoiced that a Minister had listened to their views.

I commend the work of the Friends of Real Lancashire under their leader, Mr. Chris Dawson, who, with others, and out of the goodness of his heart, has campaigned ceaselessly for Lancashire's proud history to be remembered and its boundaries properly restored. The Friends of Real Lancashire are a part of the Association of British Counties; I commend my hon. Friend the Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher) for his work for the association. I am delighted that he and 25 other hon. Members have signed early-day motion 109, calling for the marking of historic county boundaries with clear signposts on all roads as they cross the historic counties' boundaries.

Last year, I presented to the House a petition with 30,000 signatures gathered by the Friends of Real Lancashire, calling for the restoration of Lancashire's historic boundaries. It was presented on 21 March to mark the birthday of Her Majesty the Queen, who, as monarch, carries the title of Duke of Lancaster, dating from the time of Henry IV.

I hope that the Minister is in no doubt as to the strength of people's feelings about this issue, which strikes at the very heart of each person's sense of local identity.

Not only does the Greater Manchester county boundary limit the Parliamentary Boundary Commission in its work--not so happily in my case--but it has a negative effect on industries such as tourism, and on the whole sporting, cultural and emotional heritage of Lancashire's people. Surely the home of Lancashire county cricket club should be in Lancashire, especially after today? I hope that my hon. Friend will now cease to procrastinate, and will direct the Local Government Commission forthwith to undertake an immediate review of Lancashire's boundaries, with a view to restoring them for ceremonial, sporting and cultural purposes.

In 1974, the Government said, in a statement quoted in The Times of 1 April:


Perhaps 1 April was the right date for that statement, which seems to have been honoured much more in the breach than in any attempt to observe it.

In 1990, my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Portillo), when he was the Minister responsible for local government, confirmed that the statement was still true, and the situation had not changed.

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In spite of the clear assurance that the traditional county boundaries were not altered in 1974, they are no longer shown on Ordnance Survey maps, and have been replaced by administrative county boundaries. In the areas affected by changes to local government in 1974, road signs naming traditional counties have been removed and sometimes replaced by signs naming the administrative counties--while other boundaries remain totally unmarked.

Travellers can no longer tell when they pass from Cheshire, Cumberland, Westmorland and even Yorkshire into the county of Lancashire. Travelling north on the M6 from Cheshire into Lancashire, drivers are not informed that they have arrived in Lancashire until more than 20 miles past the border, where they reach a sign north of Charnock Richard proclaiming that they are in Lancashire, the red rose county. Not only is this confusing for the traveller; it means that people moving into the area have no idea which county they are living in.

The Post Office is happy for mail to be addressed to Bolton, Lancashire, and I am glad to see that Bolton council now includes Lancashire in its notepaper address. Indeed, the Post Office warns customers not to put Greater Manchester on the address, as letters thus addressed may be delivered 24 hours late, having had to go to Manchester first and then be sent back to Bolton. If the Post Office can recognise Bolton as being in Lancashire, why cannot the Government?

Hitherto, we have been passed backwards and forwards between the Department of the Environment and the Local Government Commission, with each saying that the other must take a decision to carry out a review. Now that decisions are being made on unitary status for Blackburn, Blackpool, Warrington and Widnes, surely this is the time to carry out a proper review of all Lancashire's former constituent parts, so that Bolton can once more be restored to Lancashire.

I hope that my hon. Friend will listen to what the people are saying and ensure that the Government no longer stand in the way. The lord lieutenant of greater Manchester may regard the campaign as a nuisance factor, and I have nothing against that excellent gentleman's work, but the fact remains, however, that the people of Bolton do not want to be Greater Mancunians.

In a letter to me, Mr. Dawson wrote:


When my hon. Friend the Minister of State with responsibilities for local government visited Bolton last year, I was happy to present him with a rare copy of Henry Fishwick's 1894 "History of Lancashire". I have been able to obtain a second copy of the book, and would be happy to lend it to my hon. Friend the Minister if he wishes to learn more of Lancashire's proud history, so that he can better direct its future.


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