MPs clash on Barts merger

April 28, 1995

A private Bill to merge St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College with the Royal London Hospital and Queen Mary and Westfield College has moved a stage forward in the Commons despite a stormy Labour split.

All three college councils support the merger, planned for August. Peter Shore, Labour MP for the local Bethnal Green and Stepney constituency, moved the bill which gained its second reading by 164 votes to 19. He stressed that it was not linked to the Government's decision to axe Bart's hospital, which he deplored and opposed.

It would be "grotesque" if the Bill were jeopardised as part of some MPs' efforts to keep the hospital open, he said.

East London needed a strong medical school to match those being created in the south and west of the capital, and any delay would harm students and staff without affecting the hospital's future, he said.

But in a lengthy, impassioned speech, another local Labour MP, Brian Sedgemore, said it was "bunkum" that the three colleges supported the move. "We are here tonight to perform the last act in a plan to wipe the name of St Bartholomew's off the face of the earth," he said.

Julian Axe, secretary of Bart's medical college, and secretary designate of the proposed St Bartholomew's and the Royal London Hospital School of Medicine and Dentistry, said: "We go along with the merger."

Graham Zellick, principal of Queen Mary and Westfield College, deplored the style and tone of the Commons opposition. He claimed that in a recent meeting between representatives of the three colleges and Mr Sedgemore, the MP "made it clear" that he did not oppose the merger or challenge the academic arguments.

Mr Sedgemore said he had not been in a position to say the merger was undesirable until the Government proposal to close St Batholomew's, but that this effectively meant the medical school was being abolished.

The colleges hoped that two petitions against the bill, one from two Bart's graduates in Norfolk, would be dismissed last night.

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