Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): I am grateful for this brief opportunity to add my comments in support of the remarks made by my constituency neighbour, the hon. Member for Regent’s Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck).
As has been said, the Paddington health campus is a large undertaking, but it is also a project whose time has come. It will offer all the people of London and, indeed, the country more generally, world-class facilities across a range of medical disciplines. It is an essential component of Westminster’s regeneration plans for a highly visible part of our capital, the significance of which goes way beyond the local level. I endorse the hon. Lady’s comments. She rightly said that Paddington is a much changed area, and that change continues. It is a little unfair to compare the plans with those of even six or seven years ago.
The Minister is aware that a vast amount of preparatory work and expenditure have been invested to get to where we are today, and I urge him to recognise how much has been achieved. That there have been difficulties and disagreements along the way is not surprising. The crucial point to note is that there is now a strong, influential and robust coalition of support for the scheme, both medically and politically. Any project that unites the Conservative leader of Westminster city council and the Mayor of London?never mind hon. Members from opposing parties who have a direct constituency interest?is surely also worthy of the Government’s support.
This has been described as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and few would demur from that description. Indeed, only occasionally can we say that all the planets are aligned in favour of such an important project being given the go-ahead, but that is now the case. There is nothing to be gained from delaying a decision until after the election. Political uncertainty is perhaps the project’s greatest threat.
I understand that the rector of Imperial college, Sir Richard Sykes, has only this afternoon been in touch with No. 10 Downing Street to express that wonderful global institution’s support for the scheme and, I have no doubt, to muse on the significant boost it would give to Britain’s ability to continue playing a leading role in international medical and scientific research.
Westminster city council is, as we speak, engaged in discussions to reduce still further the public sector’s exposure and to strike a more beneficial accommodation for the taxpayer with the private sector partners, whose positive contribution and needs in unlocking the project must also be recognised.
I do not wish to rehearse the formidable points that the hon. Lady made, but here today and, I suspect, on many other occasions, the will for the project to succeed and bring its undoubted benefits to London and the country is very much apparent among the trusts and politicians involved locally. I urge the Minister and his Government to demonstrate their political will and support the Paddington health campus.