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Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for those questions. I am aware that many people from Sudbury and its satellite villages used the Walnuttree Hospital last year and that the hospital has served the community very well for many years. However—sadly and understandably for a hospital that was built as a workhouse in 1836—the facilities do not meet modern healthcare needs.

I am aware of the distance to the hospital in Bury St Edmunds, but the issue of additional transport from Sudbury to Bury St Edmunds has been raised with various private bus companies and the voluntary car group. I cannot comment on the provision made in the neighbouring PCT; it is up to that PCT.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, in the event of an emergency, the community hospitals now have no accident and emergency unit, and it is proposed
 
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that the new development for 2007 will have no accident and emergency unit. How far does an ambulance have to go to take emergency cases to a hospital with an accident and emergency unit?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I cannot comment on the ambulance provision, as it is not in my brief, but I would imagine that it would involve the 17 miles to the hospital in Bury St Edmunds. If I am misleading the House, I will write to the noble Baroness and put a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I declare an interest as a lifelong user of both hospitals and as a visitor yesterday. Is the Minister aware that the community of Sudbury and district was promised a new hospital as recently as June? Secondly, is she aware that the consultation document put out by the PCT is thoroughly misleading? Thirdly, and perhaps most extraordinarily, is she aware that they have closed 55 beds at Bury St Edmunds since the consultation commenced? In those circumstances, would it not be warranted for the Secretary of State to use her powers of intervention under the National Health Service Act 1977?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am well aware of the noble Lord's personal interest. A review of local healthcare needs has been undertaken by the new management of that hospital, and it has concluded that the previous model of care that had been agreed was no longer appropriate and therefore it has put forward new plans. That is what has been decided at local level. I am aware of the closure of some beds at Bury St Edmunds, but I am told that the number of beds that remains is adequate for the acute needs of the area. In respect of the powers of my honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health, that matter will be dealt with further along the line. At present there is an ongoing consultation, and we will see what happens at the end of that.

Lord Bridges: My Lords—

Lord Peston: My Lords—

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Rooker): My Lords, it is the turn of the Cross-Benches.

Lord Bridges: My Lords, will the noble Baroness explain something about the conduct by the Department of Health of the crises in Suffolk hospitals in the past year? According to the local newspapers, it has been evident for over a year now that the hospitals have been running at a deficit and presumably with the knowledge of the department—although that is not clear—running up heavy debts with the local banks. Is she further aware that the proposal to sell community hospitals that were paid for by public subscription in the last century to meet that deficit is causing a great deal of disturbance in the locality?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am aware of the disturbance and the unrest that is taking place. Of
 
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course my department is very well aware of the financial situation at the PCTs in question. All those things are being discussed and properly considered.

Lord Peston: My Lords, I declare an interest as I live in the area served by the hospitals. Has my right honourable friend the Secretary of State consulted the Independent Reconfiguration Panel on the matter? It was set up by the Secretary of State to give her advice, which included that it be made sure that the needs of patients and the quality of patient care were central to the proposal. Am I not right that what is central to the proposal is simply money? It has nothing to do the National Health Service whatever.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am confident that everything that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and the department do is to do with care for patients. Care for patients in the NHS is central to this Government's policy.

Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that what is important to people in any local area faced with closures such as these is the provision of services, not necessarily where those services are provided? Has she any information that would help people in the local area be comforted that better services will be available to them in terms of information and support services, and in terms of making sure that they do not fall through the gap between health and locally provided social services?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, many people—myself included—are often attached to places because of the services that they provide. As my noble friend says, it is the services that are of the utmost importance. I am confident that the new services provided by the PCT will better meet the needs of the people in the area. For example, there will be much better interaction between the social services and between the NHS departments. That is something that the people of west Suffolk have said that they want.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords—

World Trade Organisation: December Conference

2.52 pm

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My Lords, the objective of Her Majesty's Government for the sixth World Trade Organisation
 
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Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong is to achieve a package that: first, is pro-development; secondly, helps to build a more competitive European economy; and, thirdly, allows a conclusion to the current trade round—the Doha development agenda—by the end of 2006. Reducing significantly levels of domestic and export support in agriculture must be a central component of the package, with Her Majesty's Government pressing for agreement at Hong Kong on an end-date of 2010 for the elimination of export subsidies.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Pascal Lamy has, in effect, approved the preliminary suggestions of Commissioner Mandelson for substantial cuts in tariffs on agri-imports into the EU, and possibly for the liberalisation of even the sugar regime, depending on further negotiations. Given that, will the Government in the last effective six weeks of the presidency—they are now rapidly running out of time; it is a very short time—put pressure on the United States to do something similar?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, as the House will probably know, discussions are taking place and a further offer from the EU was made on Friday evening. It is being considered by the steering committee of the five interested parties. Clearly we hope that that will further promote the negotiations, leading to further movement by the other main countries in those negotiations.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, although the Hong Kong meeting is very important, does the Minister agree that it is as he said only the penultimate meeting in a round due to end in 2006, so it is fairly important not to get into a situation where that goes off the rails definitively in December? There is a lot more work to be done. Also, does he not think that it would be a good idea if the President of France were to study the Treaty of Nice and notice that he does not have a veto?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I agree, although it should be said that a good outcome to the ministerial conference is vital if the DDA is to conclude by 2006. That is important because the US fast-track authority expires in 2007. I totally agree about the reading matter for the President of France in the matter.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that expansion of trade will do much more to lift the poorest countries out of poverty than debt relief or the provision of aid? Given that, how will the UK Government, who have the presidency of the EU, give a lead to their EU colleagues at the WTO negotiations to ensure that the poorest countries are not marginalised and that they are not forced against their interests to liberalise their markets before they are ready to trade effectively? There is an enormous fear,
 
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which the Trade Justice lobby will be emphasising on Wednesday, that this round may damage the poorest countries to the benefit of those that are better off.


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