§ 1. Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham)
If he will make a statement on the work of University hospital, Durham and the North Durham Health Care NHS trust. 
§ The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton)
North Durham Health Care NHS trust was formed on 1 April 1998. Since then, its income has grown by an average of 9 per cent. year on year. The trust met all its waiting list targets in 2000–01, and the new state-of-the-art University hospital of North Durham was completed on time and within budget.
§ Mr. Jones
Does my hon. Friend agree that the success of the North Durham Health Care NHS trust is due, in no small part, to the chairmanship of Mr. Kevin Earley? Does he accept that Mr. Earley's removal from the chairmanship without any local consultation has left the trust leaderless and does nothing to help deliver the good health care that we expect in North Durham?
§ Mr. Hutton
I certainly agree that the trust has performed, not least in getting the new hospital built on time; I am sure that the chairman of the trust made a significant contribution to that. However, it was right to move responsibility for appointments to an independent appointments commission. The procedures have been approved by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. Today, the NHS Appointments Commission confirmed that there will be a new chairman of the trust, and an announcement will be made in the near future.
§ Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham)
From his answer, my hon. Friend is obviously aware that Kevin Earley, who was chair of the trust, has been unceremoniously dumped after doing an excellent job in delivering the new hospital to us. My hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones) has tabled questions to the Secretary of State asking who was invited to interview by the new NHS Appointments Commission, which organisations were consulted and why Kevin Earley was not reappointed. Every single question went unanswered. Was that because Mr. Earley crossed civil 696 servants in the north-east of England and, disgracefully, was sacked as a result? Is that not an example of transparency—
§ Mr. Hutton
I am sorry, I cannot explain why those questions were not answered, but I shall certainly look into it. However, that has nothing whatever to do with the points that my hon. Friend made. We decided to set up the NHS Appointments Commission; that was the right thing to do. As I have made clear to the House, the commission's appointments procedures have been approved by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. How the NHS Appointments Commission goes about its task is a matter for it to decide, but I am quite sure that it did the right thing on this occasion.