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NHS Staffing Costs

12. Ms Rachel Squire: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on NHS staffing costs. [10798]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: Resources available to the NHS for staffing and other costs continue to be higher than ever before. Since 1980, the number of nursing staff has increased by 15.5 per cent., the number of hospital doctors by 21.5 per cent. and the number of general practitioners by 18.7 per cent.

Ms Squire: Does the Minister agree that the Government's market approach has led to rock bottom morale among NHS staff and a two-tier service for patients? Will he condemn the approaches made to consultants at Glasgow Royal Infirmary NHS trust to give preferential treatment to patients of GP fundholders? Will the Government, for once, stop telling fibs and admit that the NHS is certainly not safe in their hands? [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker: Order. The hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) seems to be a little perplexed. The Secretary of State used the word fib earlier in a similar context and I allowed it.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: The hon. Lady can be assured that the health service is absolutely safe in the Government's hands. Expenditure has increased substantially. I can give her the reassurance that she seeks in relation to Glasgow. We are absolutely committed to treating all patients equally. All that matters is the recommendation of the clinician as to whether the patient requires urgent treatment. If he or she so recommends, the patient must receive it. The Scottish Office guidelines are

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clear. The same waiting time guarantee must apply to every patient. I understand that the trust accepted that it issued its questionnaire in error.

Mrs. Fyfe: Being guaranteed a maximum waiting time is not the same as being told that someone will not be put behind in a queue if a GP fundholder seeks priority. Has the Minister been in touch with Glasgow Royal Infirmary NHS trust today to tell it that it is out of line? If not, why not?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: If the hon. Lady had listened to what I said, she would have heard that I was making it absolutely clear that we do not accept in any circumstances a two-tier health service. Every patient must receive the same priority according to the determination of the clinician concerned. That is stated in our guidelines and that position must be followed. The NHS trust admitted that its questionnaire was issued in error.

Mr. McAllion: If the Minister thinks that the Scottish Office guidelines are clear, he is the only one who does. Has he read the letter, issued on official notepaper bearing the crest of Glasgow Royal Infirmary NHS trust, in which the medical advisory committee states that it has agreed to take the opinion of all consultants on whether factors other than clinical need should significantly affect the handling of patient care? Does he understand the point that is made in the letter--that the pressure from his imposed internal market and from GP fundholders and other purchasers who are demanding significantly better treatment for their patients has led the trust to consider abandoning the principle of treatment in accordance with medical need? Will he send a clear instruction to every NHS trust in Scotland that patients can be treated in accordance with medical need, and only in accordance with medical need? If he will not do that, both he and the Secretary of State for Scotland should do what one of the Secretary of State's constituents--Mrs. Bowie--called on him to do today in the press and resign, because neither of them, nor any of the other chancers on the Government Front Bench, can be trusted with our NHS.

Hon. Members: Oh!

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: Guidelines have been issued--[Interruption.] The position is absolutely clear--[Interruption.]

Madam Speaker: Order. Obviously I have missed something. Will the Under-Secretary of State tell me what he is shouting about?

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson: Is "chancers" parliamentary?

Madam Speaker: Chancers?

Mr. Robertson: The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) used the word "chancers".

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton rose--

Madam Speaker: Order. I did not hear what the hon. Member for Dundee, East said. If the hon. Gentleman said

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something that might have been unparliamentary, I expect him to develop the point that he made so that I understand completely what he said.

Mr. McAllion: Madam Speaker, I used a word from Glasgow patois--"chancer". It means that we do not really trust the person who is described as a chancer. I think that it is parliamentary.

Madam Speaker: I live and learn every day, especially from the Scots. Thank you very much.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: I can tell the hon. Gentleman that there is no element of chance about the fact that more than £30 million has been allocated to the NHS trust in the hon. Gentleman's constituency for an extension to Ninewells hospital. NHS trusts in Scotland represent a remarkable success story in helping to bring down waiting times. As for the Secretary of State's constituent, although because of confidentiality I cannot comment in detail, I understand that she wanted to be treated more quickly than would have been possible on the NHS. There is no reason to suppose that she would have had to wait longer than the guaranteed maximum period for patients. Only clinicians can judge individual need. NHS resources must be made available for those in greatest need.

Glasgow International Airport

13. Mr. Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what analysis he has made of the impact on the economy of the west of Scotland of the development of Glasgow international airport. [10799]

Mr. Kynoch: I believe that the airport makes an important contribution to the west of Scotland economy, and that is why, as my hon. Friend knows, we support the Glasgow airport initiative, which seeks to maximise the economic benefits of the airport's expansion.

Mr. Stewart: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that positive and helpful reply. Does he agree that two key infrastructure developments are crucial to the airport's future--first, the M74 northern extension and, secondly, an eastbound on-ramp for the M8? Can he give an unequivocal commitment to the House today that both those developments will go ahead as soon as possible?

Mr. Kynoch: I compliment my hon. Friend on his involvement in the setting up of the Glasgow airport initiative in 1992. In answer to his two questions about the roads, I assure him that we shall consider those matters positively and will try to take them forward at the earliest possible time.

Mrs. Adams: Will the Minister join me in congratulating Glasgow airport on bringing 5,000 jobs to my constituency, but will he also recognise that that is no substitute for the loss of 85 per cent. of the manufacturing jobs in my constituency--about 20,000 jobs--over the same period? Will he now consider investing in manufacturing industry, with the aim of helping the airport to further its business?

Mr. Kynoch: I am glad that the hon. Lady recognises the contribution that the airport initiative has made. I have

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seen a similar initiative in the United States--the Washington airport task force, which has contributed towards a good joint venture arrangement between software houses in the United Kingdom, including Scotland, and in Virginia. I believe that the Glasgow airport initiative has been ably set up to develop similar arrangements.

As for manufacturing, the hon. Lady may be aware of the jobs that have been created by Locate in Scotland in the past year. About 12,300 jobs have been created, involving 97 projects and £1.1 billion in capital investment. The transformation of the Scottish economy from some of the traditional industries of the past towards the industries of the future--we now produce about 11 per cent. of Europe's semiconductors, 35 per cent. of its personal computers, 50 per cent. of its automated banking machines and 60 per cent. of its workstations--is all positive information about successes for the Government and for our policies.

EC Council of Ministers

14. Mr. Duncan Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has recently attended a meeting of the EC Council of Ministers. [10801]

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson: My right hon. Friend attended a meeting of the Council of Fisheries Ministers on 26 October 1995, and I attended on 21 and 22 December 1995.

Mr. Duncan Smith: When my hon. Friend returns from the next European Council of Ministers meeting,

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will he go on a special tour of Scotland to remind all of those who are selling the idea that Scotland will be able to cast itself adrift from the UK and that all the tax money that is spent and the trade that is conducted in Scotland by the rest of the UK could be replicated and replaced by Europe are talking utter nonsense? Would not such a course lead to bankruptcy and higher taxation?

Mr. Robertson: I can assure my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend and all my Scottish Office colleagues regularly travel to all parts of Scotland. Indeed, my right hon. Friend has just returned from two days in Shetland at the Up Helly-a celebrations. My hon. Friend is right to suggest that Scotland punches well above its weight in the councils of Europe and the world as a full and equal partner in this United Kingdom. That is in stark contrast to the immediate belittling of Scotland that is on offer from the SNP or the gradual marginalisation that is offered by Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Mr. Maxton: When the Minister and the Secretary of State attend meetings of the Council of Ministers, do they discuss with their Spanish, German and French colleagues the development of regional government within these areas and the importance of devolution to their economies?

Mr. Robertson: I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we discuss those matters--our Spanish counterparts are most concerned about having one of the worst unemployment rates in the EU.


Edinburgh Assay Office Bill

Read the Third time, and passed.

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