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|Government wins fight to build foundations in hospitals
7 May 2003
The government has won its fight to construct foundations in hospitals after a threatened backbench revolt failed to materialise. When it came to the vote on an amendment that would have scrapped the proposals, MPs voted to defeat it by 297 votes to 117. The bill is now entering its committee stage, following which the government will be free to add foundations to existing hospitals and set up new hospitals with their own foundations.
The idea of having foundations in hospitals is a controversial one. Economising under 18 years of Conservative rule meant that the foundations of existing hospitals were privatised and often moved to a better business location or shared between multiple hospitals, while new hospitals were built without any foundations at all to save on building costs. Construction experts say this led to serious problems.
"Hmmm, this doesn't look good, this doesn't look good at all," mused master builder Douglas Ramsbottom from Chisholm. "You've got major subsidence all over the place. Half of these buildings could collapse at any moment. It's not going to be cheap to fix it you know."
Medical professionals have spoken out against the plans, which they say would cause unnecessary disruption. "OK, my ward slopes to the left at a 30 degree angle and there's a big crack down that wall, but digging the whole place up is just going to cause more problems," explained one nurse. "It would be easier to buy a new hospital, but that's hardly going to happen, is it?"
Speaking for the Conservative Party, its "leader", Iain Duncan Smith, said that he broadly backed the plans but would instruct his party to vote against them "for the hell of it". "That'll show Labour just how good we are," he explained to a passing, uninterested journalist at Westminster.
The Liberal Democrats also voted against the plans, arguing that hospitals should have the power to decide whether or not they need foundations themselves, without Whitehall bureaucrats interfering. Labour MPs had followed a similar line but many gave in and either voted with the government or abstained after being "persuaded" that it would be in their interests. Some were also given a bag of jellybeans and a pat on the head by Whips, which is said to have tipped the balance.