Yesterday in Parliament, John Redwood urged the Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson, to take immediate action on the unacceptable level of hospital-acquired infections. Waiting eighteen months for a new quango to tackle the problem will not address people’s justifiable fears of hospital treatment.
Later, during the debate on entitlement to work in the UK and Security Industry Authority licensing checks, Mr Redwood asked the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, if she could tell the House how many illegal immigrants are working in the public sector and what she proposes to do about it. The Home Secretary declined to provide a figure.
For the questions in full, taken from Hansard, see below.
<strong>Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): </strong>Given the urgency of tackling the more than 6,000 deaths a year from hospital-acquired infections in our hospitals, why does not the Secretary of State take urgent action on the issue, rather than waiting 18 months so that a new quango can be set up? Whatever that quango might be able to do should be done now, because the problem exists now and people should not live in fear of dying from going to hospital.
<strong>The Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson):</strong> If the right hon. Gentleman is referring to the care and quality commission, I should say that legislation needs to go through for the regulator to be given those extra powers. However, that does not mean that we should freeze everything in aspic. As was mentioned earlier, there are a whole series of initiatives. I did not mention the doubling of the number of improvement teams, nor the fund of money available to nurses at the front line so that they can access things, such as curtains and fittings, that they know very well need to be replaced. I did not mention that we are going to move from 2,000 to 5,000 matrons and that they will be given power over the cleaning contract and given whistleblower protection to report on such issues to the trust and beyond. The right hon. Gentleman is right to be concerned about the issue; it is a matter of concern to the public. However, there are a whole series of measures, none of which we need wait 18 months for.
<strong>Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con):</strong> Since the Home Secretary reminded all public sector employers of their duties under the legislation, how many illegal immigrants have been found to be working in the public sector, and what action is she proposing to take about that?
Jacqui Smith: Never mind whether it is the public or the private sector, there is rightly continued enforcement activity, including, for example, the 3,700 successful Border and Immigration Agency enforcement operations against illegal workers last year. All that work would have been decimated by the Conservative party’s proposals in its manifesto at the last election to halve the money made available to the agency. It is a bit rich for Conservative Members to demand enforcement activity when they would have halved the agency’s ability to carry it out.