Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Will the Minister give way?

    Jane Kennedy: Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue. I beg his pardon, but I did not see him during the debate?[Hon. Members: “He was here.”] I am sorry. I will give way.

    Mr. Lilley: I am extremely grateful.

    The Minister has not mentioned deficits so far. I asked the Library about the cause of the deficits and was told that 21 per cent. of the increased expenditure last year went on pensions. I was also told that, according to the British Medical Association, consultants‘ pensions would rise by 24 per cent. and GPs‘ pensions by 56 per cent. because of the new contracts. Is that a wise and fair use of money when the Government are refusing to do anything about the pensions of those who have been misled and awarded them by the ombudsman?

    Jane Kennedy: I believe that it is an appropriate way of proceeding with pay reform. We negotiated the arrangements on the clear understanding that the investment was in return for reform. The new contracts for NHS staff are designed to support service improvement, to deliver real benefits for patients and the service and to improve the working lives of NHS staff. The issue was raised by the hon. Members for Mid-Sussex, for Beverley and Holderness (Mr. Stuart) and for Southend, West (Mr. Amess). I will look into the matters raised by the hon. Member for Southend, West about his local hospital and its application for foundation trust status and write to him if he will allow me to do so.

    20 Mar 2006 : Column 122