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Standing Committee

1. The Bill shall be committed to a Standing Committee.

2. The Standing Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it shall meet.
3. Proceedings in the Standing Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 12th April 2001.

Consideration and Third Reading

4. Proceedings on consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at nine o'clock on the day on which those proceedings are commenced or, if that day is a Thursday, at six o'clock on that day.

5. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at ten o'clock on the day on which those proceedings are commenced or, if that day is a Thursday, at seven o'clock on that day.
6. Sessional Order B (Programming Committees) made by the House on 7th November 2000 shall not apply to proceedings on consideration and Third Reading.

Lords messages

7. Paragraphs (6) and (7) of Sessional Order A (varying and supplementing programme motions) made by the House on 7th November 2000 shall not apply to proceedings on any motion to vary or supplement this order for the purpose of allocating time to proceedings on consideration of any messages from the Lords, and the question on any such motion shall be put forthwith.


Queen's recommendation having been signified--

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 52(1)(a), (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with bills),

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(a) any expenditure incurred by the Secretary of State for or in connection with the carrying out of his functions under that Act; and
(b) any increase attributable to that Act in the sums which are payable out of money so provided under any other Act.-- [Mr. Mike Hall.]

Question agreed to.


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord): With permission, I shall put together motions 8 to 11.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Supreme Court of England and Wales

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Local Government

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I think the Ayes have it.

Hon. Members: No.

Division deferred till Wednesday 28 March, pursuant to Order [7 November 2000].

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With permission, I shall put together motions 13 and 14.

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Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Local Government Finance

Question agreed to.


Motion made,

Hon. Members: Object.


Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [31 January],

Hon. Members: Object.

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Motion made,

Line 40, before the word 'European' insert the words 'Environmental Audit Committee or with the'.
Line 50, before the word 'European' insert the words 'Environmental Audit Committee or with the'.
Line 52, at the end insert the words:--
'(4A) notwithstanding paragraphs (2) and (4) above, where more than two committees or sub-committees appointed under this order meet concurrently in accordance with paragraph (4)(e) above, the quorum of each such committee or sub-committee shall be two.'.--[Mr. Mike Hall.]

Hon. Members: Object.


Religious Broadcasting Licences

11 pm

Mr. John Burnett (Torridge and West Devon): This petition is from a number of my constituents in Torridge and West Devon and others. There are, I believe, some 1,365 signatories to it. The petition requests that provision be made to remove discrimination against religious bodies in obtaining properly regulated broadcasting licences.

The prayer in the petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

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Walsgrave Hospital

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

11.2 pm

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry, North-West): On the occasion of this Adjournment debate, I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss the lack of confidence in the chief executive of Walsgrave hospital, which serves the whole of Coventry, including, of course, my own constituency.

A most unhappy situation, lasting some 19 months, led to my initiating the debate. The staff unions are opposing the consultants and the chief executive himself thinks that the current unrest could lead to problems arising over the new private finance initiative hospital for Coventry. I am led to believe from articles in today's edition of the Coventry Evening Telegraph that the surgeons are split on the matter.

I have to tell my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health, who will reply to the debate, that one senior surgeon even thinks that there could be political manoeuvrings against the professional class of surgeons by her Department, but I am anxious to assure her that I do not share that view; nor is it widely shared by the surgeons at Walsgrave.

It is not my intention to apportion any blame for the unhappy situation with which we in Coventry are confronted. I believe that the management has a lot to answer for and I also believe that management, with one simple step that I shall deal with shortly, could put an end to this great unhappiness and great lack of certainty. The purpose of raising the matter on the Adjournment is to urge that the situation be brought to a close, to outline the simple step that could bring it to a speedy resolution and to say frankly that, after 19 months, it has gone on for far too long.

The problems of today started back in September 1999 with a whistleblowing incident. Members of the House will be aware of the whistleblowing legislation that was introduced by the Government in 1998. In 1999, three surgeons at Coventry blew the whistle on surgeons in the colorectal department because of the peri-operative mortality rate. One of the whistleblowers was Mr. Alban Barros D'Sa, who remains suspended. The immediate reaction to the whistleblowing was to suspend one of the whistleblowers; 18 months later, he remains suspended. His position should be resolved to bring order to the current disorder.

The whistleblowing incident has reached a satisfactory conclusion for one of the surgeons on whom the whistle was blown. The professional advisory panel that reported to the hospital in December 1999, only three months after the incident, made three recommendations. All have been acted upon. The surgeon has been moved from colorectal work, and a new specialist will be recruited for the work. The third recommendation was that a performance audit of the department's work in the previous four years should be undertaken. A performance audit of only two years was carried out, but I ask my hon. Friend to consider one aspect of it.

One of the reasons for blowing the whistle was the peri-operative mortality rate of operations conducted by one of the surgeons in the colorectal department. I choose

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not to name him tonight because I believe that he is competent in other areas, but that he should not undertake colorectal work. While he had a peri-operative mortality rate of 20 per cent. over two years, the specialist had a rate of only 5 per cent. or 6 per cent. The national target is 5 per cent.

The statistics for reviewing performance are calculated on P values. Why do the figures show no significant difference between those surgeons' work? If we are generally applying P values, and drawing comparative conclusions, how can we claim that there is no difference in performance that poses a problem for patients when, in a two-year period, one surgeon has a 20 per cent. peri-operative mortality rate and another has one of only 5 per cent.? The various statistics that we use, and the way in which we use them, currently lead us to that conclusion.

I revert to the position of Mr. Barros D'Sa. He was a whistleblower who was subsequently suspended on four counts. All were considered, and except for a part of one of them, he was found not to be at fault. It is important to stress that Mr. D'Sa's professional competence has not been questioned. No one claims that he is anything other than a good surgeon. When we are so desperately short of cancer surgeons and others--colorectal work is associated with cancer problems--how can a surgeon of acknowledged competence and with an undisputed professional reputation be left idle for 18 months?

Six months ago, part II of the report of an independent panel of three surgeons was produced. They were led by a noted local Queen's counsel, Jeffrey Burke. They reported that Mr. D'Sa was at fault for oppressing a junior. It is not for me to argue Mr. D'Sa's defence, which is not the purpose of the debate, but he says in his defence that he was quizzing the junior doctor rather aggressively about peri-operative mortality and failures of the operations conducted by the surgeons on whom he blew the whistle. I mention that simply in passing.

The substantive recommendation of the independent panel was that Mr. D'Sa should be reinstated. It referred to his hitherto unblemished record. The management of the hospital could easily have accepted the part II recommendation, and reinstated Mr. D'Sa with a warning. The panel believed that he should receive a written warning. The matter would thus have been brought to a speedy conclusion six months ago.

Instead of doing that, the management issued what it called a document of mitigation. As the judge it came up against was to rule, it was not so much a document of mitigation as of aggravation. In it, the management saw fit to include, as the major reason for not reinstating Mr. D'Sa, a letter that he had written to his Member of Parliament, my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South (Mr. Cunningham), and copied to me as the Member of Parliament for North-West Coventry. Since we regard all matters to do with the cathedral, the police and the hospital as constituency issues, I felt it right that we should question the management's procedure in using a private and confidential letter that Mr. D'Sa wrote to his Member of Parliament as a reason for not reinstating him.

As you are aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we took the issue to Mr. Speaker. It would be fair to say that we had to recognise that Members' correspondence does not enjoy privilege or, indeed, qualified privilege. What we say in this House enjoys total privilege and there is no way in which I would abuse that. I understand that any

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correspondence that I have with my hon. Friend the Minister or other Ministers enjoys qualified privilege. However, Mr. D'Sa's letter, which was private and confidential and naturally critical of the management, was included in the management's so-called document of mitigation and submitted to those concerned as a reason for not reinstating him.

Despite all our opposition to the management proceeding in this manner, the chief executive was determined to do so. The case went to court, as we knew it would, and an injunction was taken out by the lawyers representing Mr. D'Sa. I hate to say it, but the management was humiliatingly defeated at the injunction hearing. Not only was it expressly forbidden to rely on or use the letter addressed to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South and copied to me: it was refused the right to rely on any surrounding information other than what was, quite rightly, in part II of the independent report prepared on the issue.

One would have thought that that would be the end of it. Enough money had been spent, enough time wasted and enough management attention dissipated--all to no good end, except for the immense legal costs. Has that contributed one iota to patient care or to concern for those who need it most in the hospital? Of course not. This has been a great and costly diversion of resources.

The management, which had taken the case to court, was condemned to pay all the costs, including those of the surgeons. One would have thought that was the end of it and that we could now proceed with the normal implementation of the independent recommendation in part II of the report. However, that was not acceptable. I am informed that the management is still pursuing the case and seeking leave to appeal against the ruling of the court. That will mean more costs, more delays and further harm. The vote of no confidence that the surgeons have determined to hold on the conduct of the case concerning Mr. D'Sa will proceed, and the Electoral Reform Society is being brought in to supervise it.

There will be growing concern in the constituency among patients and prospective patients that the hospital is in disarray. That is in no one's interests, and in no way do I want to contribute to that uncertainty by bringing this matter to my hon. Friend's attention. On the contrary, I believe that it is necessary to highlight the one simple action that can be taken that will put an end to the matter once and for all. It will remove uncertainty, restore confidence and re-establish between surgeons and management the co-operation that is so vital to the good functioning of any organisation. It is very simple. The management should be prepared to follow the recommendations of part II of the report, which was prepared by independent experts in the field who were appointed to do the job, and to proceed with the reinstatement of Mr. D'Sa.

That is why I brought the matter to the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister. I do not expect her to be able immediately to respond to my concerns about the way in which the statistics for judging the competence of surgeons are used. I hope that she will look into that matter and get back to me. However, I hope that she will be able to use her good offices to intervene, or to say that she is sufficiently aware of the situation and that it has

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gone on long enough, at too much cost and with too much dissatisfaction in the hospital; I hope too that she will ensure that the part II recommendations are introduced.

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