Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): I support the call made by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) that health Ministers should clarify whether they have new policies to cope with the scourge of superbugs in our hospitals, which kill between 5,000 and 20,000 people a year. On Tuesday, when, with your support, Mr. Speaker, I asked for a statement about the policy proposals that had been announced on Friday, the Minister of State, Department of Health, the hon. Member for Doncaster, Central (Ms Winterton), replied that
if this were new policy it would have been brought to the House. It is not new policy”.?[Official Report, 9 December 2003; Vol. 415, c. 910.]
However, the press release published by the Department of Health last Friday stated that the Secretary of State
today published plans for a crackdown on . . . so-called ‘superbugs‘.”
It referred to
wide-ranging proposals . . . which seek to revolutionise the way potential infections are handled”.
It also referred to new rules”, a new system”, a new drive” and new plans”.
Normally when Ministers say outside the House the exact opposite of what they say inside the House to avoid being held accountable to the House, it is a serious matter and raises fears that they may be deceiving the House. However, my fear is that they are telling the House the truth and that in fact they have no plans to tackle that growing scourge. The UK‘s record is worse than that of any other country in Europe, and is getting worse faster than anywhere else in Europe.
Mr. Hain: I understand the points that the right hon. Gentleman is making and I am sure that the Secretary of State for Health will listen closely to them. However, the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that, as I think my hon. Friend the Minister for Health said the other day, the problem arises from the bodged way in which the Conservative Government introduced compulsory competitive tendering. That is where the problem comes from. However, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the issue of superbugs, hospital infections and inadequate cleaning in hospitals has to be addressed. We intend to address it and the Secretary of State for Health will take forward certain measures. He will obviously be accountable to the House for what he is doing and how the matter is developing.
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