§ Major BARNETT
I beg to move,That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying that, the Scheme made under paragraph 4 of the Schedule to the Nurses' Registration Act. 1919 (9 and 10 Geo. V., c. 94), for the election of sixteen persons to be members of the General Nursing Council for England and Wales, and laid before Parliament on the 13th day 1709 of February, may be modified as follows:—
§ Page 3, Table, by leaving out the first seven figures in the column headed "Number of persons to be elected," hi order to insert the figure "11."
§ Page 3, Table, by leaving out the first twenty-four lines in the column headed "Qualifications of persons to be elected," in order to insert the words" Registered nurses (i.e., nurses registered in the general part of the register)."
§ Page 3, by leaving out lines 31 to 42, inclusive.
§ Page 3, line 43, by leaving out the words "the first," in order to insert the word "any."
§ Page 3, line 45, by leaving out the word" that," in order to insert the word "such."
§ Page 3, line 46, by leaving out the words 24th" and "November," and by leaving out the figure "1922," and inserting in lieu thereof "19—."
§ Page 4, tine 2, by leaving out the words "1st" and "October."
§ Page 4, line 3, by leaving out the figure "1922."and inserting in lieu thereof "19—."
§ Page 4, line 41, by leaving out the words "of any class."
§ Page 4, line 42, by leaving out the words "of that class."
§ Page 4, line 46, by leaving out the words "of any class."
§ Page 5, line 10, by leaving out the word "seven," in order to insert the words "twenty-one."
§ Page 5, by leaving out lines 30 to 36, inclusive.
§ Page 5, lines 45 and 46, by leaving out the words "the votes cast in each of the five parts of the voting papers being kept distinct."
§ Page 5, by leaving out line 50.
§ Page 5, line 51, by leaving out the words "requisite number of."
§ Page 5, line 52, by leaving out all the words after "Returning Officer," to end of page.
§ Page 6, by leaving out line 1.
§ Page 6, line 2, by leaving out the words "who have the greatest number of votes.
§ "Page 6, line 27, by leaving out sub-section (2).
§ Page 7, Table, by leaving out the first seven figure; in the column headed "Number of persons to be elected," in order to insert the figure "11."
§ Page 7, Table, by leaving out the first twenty-four lines in the column headed "Qualifications of persons to be elected," in order to insert the words "Registered nurses (i.e., nurses registered in the general part of the register)."
§ Page 8, by leaving out lines 1 to 12 inclusive.
§ Page 8, line 13, by leaving out the words "the first," in order to insert the word "any,"1710
§ Page 8, line 15, by leaving out the word "that," in order to insert the word "such,"
§ Page 8, line 16, by leaving out the words "24th" and "November," and by leaving out the figure "1922," and inserting in lieu thereof "19—."
§ Page 8, line 18, by leaving out the words "1st October 1922," in order to insert the words "day of 19—."
§ Page 8, line 33, by leaving out the words "24th day of November 1922," in order to insert the words "day of 19—."
§ Page 8, line 39, by leaving out the words" 24th day of November 1922," in order to insert the words day of 19—."
§ Page 8, line 41, by leaving out the words "W. P. Herringham."
§ Page 8, line 43, by leaving out the words "November 3rd 1922," in order to insert the word "(Date)."
§ Page 9, line 20, by leaving out sub-section (4).
§ Page 10, Form D, Ballot Paper I, by leaving out the words "Two Past or Present Matrons of Metropolitan General Hospitals with Training Schools. (Two Candidates only to be voted for)," in order to insert the words "Eleven Registered Nurses."
§ Page 11, by leaving out page 11.
§ Page 12, by leaving out page 12 down to "The voter must put a mark thus x against the name or names of the candidates for whom she votes," and by leaving out after the said words the words from "The voter" to "paper," in line 12, inclusive.
§ Page 12, line 13, by leaving out the words "in any part of this ballot paper.
§ "Page 12, line. 22, by leaving out the word "8th."
§ Page 12, line 23, by leaving out the words "December 1922," in order to insert the word "19-."
§ Page 13, at end, by leaving out the words "8th" and "December," and by leaving out the figure "1922," and inserting in lien thereof "19—."
§ Page 14, at end, by leaving out the words "8th" and "December," and by leaving out the figure "1922," and inserting in lieu thereof "19—."
§ This scheme has to be submitted to the House in prescribed form. The curious thing is that the election has been held although the scheme has never been submitted to the House of Commons, and the reason is this that although the General Nursing Council has had three years in which to prepare its scheme and present it to the Minister of Health for his approval, it has allowed these three years to elapse. A considerable period was occupied last year by a strike on the part of a majority of the members of the General Nursing Council. We in this 1711 House are accustomed to minorities, whether in the House or in Committee, going on strike temporarily, but I do not think there has been any previous case in which a large majority of a Council such as this have refused to function because they cannot get on with the minority. The result was that through no fault of the Minister of Health, the election had to take place without the scheme having been submitted to the two Houses of Parliament.
§ The notice on the Order Paper is a most portentous thing, but I am glad to say that there are only three Amendments of substance, and they are capable of being briefly explained. The first deals with the qualifications of the people who represent the registered nurses on the Council. I shall be within the recollection of the House, at any rate of those hon. Members who were Members of the House four years ago, when I say that in the debates on the question of nurses' registration two points received very great stress. One was, that nurses were to be raised to the status of a profession, and the second was that they were to he independent in the choice of their representatives. Again and again speakers pointed out the desirability of registered nurses being free to choose their own representatives without dictation from the matrons. I do not wish to say a word against the matrons as matrons. They are a very admirable body, and a very distinguished body of women. I do not want to disfranchise them, and I do not want to deprive them of the privilege of being elected members of the General Nursing Council, but I do want to point out to the House that this scheme, for which the approval of the House is asked, requires that six of eleven representatives of the registered nurses shall be past or present matrons. That is not in consonance with the wishes of the House of Commons. It is all very well to say that, these ladies shall be entitled to be elected if the nurses want to elect them. Of course they ought to be, and they have a very good chance of being elected. Any matron who knows her business, and has been a good matron, has a better chance of election to the Council than a registered nurse who has not had the same opportunity of advertisement. Why six out of eleven representatives of the registered nurses should be past or 1712 present matrons I fail to see. There is nothing whatever to prevent the other five from being matrons of hospitals not having training schools. In other words under the scheme as it stands six of the representatives must be past or present matrons and the other five may be. The amendment I put forward is that the registered nurses should elect eleven nurses to represent them, and they may be matrons or not exactly as the nurses please. If the House adopts that suggestion it will be following a precedent set in Scotland.
§ The second point is the amount of time to be given for the voting papers to be sent out. Voting papers according to these rules have to be sent out seven days before polling day. That is far too short a period. I am suggesting 21 days. The returning officer found it necessary at the last election to extend the period to 14 days, though he had no authority from the, Minister of Health to do it. The only other Amendment of substance deals with the powers of the returning officer. A very remarkable Clause enables the returning officer, if he makes a mistake, to sit in judgment on his own case, and decide that the work was well done, and that the error or informality does not invalidate the election. There is no reason for giving this power to the returning officer, especially when he himself is the person whose mistakes are to be excused. Bad mistakes were made at the recent election. One was that the secrecy of the ballot was violated. Voting papers were sent out with a space for the nurse's registered number, and when I asked a question in the House of Commons the ballot papers were withdrawn and a new election was held at a cost of some hundreds of pounds. This is the last opportunity of bringing this scheme before the House. I realise the difficulties which my right hon. Friend must have in dealing with this matter, because he is fresh to his important office, and although he has tackled its difficulties with characteristic courage and ability it is rather hard on him to ask him to accept these Amendments en bloc and without consulting the General Nursing Council. On the other hand the Registered Nurses' Parliamentary Council does not want to see these Rules, which it considers thoroughly bad, made a precedent. I would like to have some assurance from my right hon. Friend as regards 1713 the future.. I do not care about the past, for the Council has been elected for five years under these Rules, bad as they are. I do not want the revision of these Rules to wait for five years. If we can have an assurance from my right hon. Friend that the General Nursing Council will have these Amendments, which I venture to think are reasonable, brought to their notice and that they will be asked within, say, six months, or at any rate within twelve months, to consider these Amendments and put forward their prescribed scheme for the next election, that, I think, would go a long way to meet an undoubted grievance.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
I beg to second the Motion.
When this Measure for the registration of nurses was introduced, I always had my doubts about its efficiency, and apparently it has been a failure, but I have a hope of the present Minister of Health doing something better than his predecessor. The nurses must be protected. Their livelihood, their profession —and it is a noble profession—is at stake in this matter. People have been brought in to nurse the sick who have had no experience, and this has been to the detriment of those nurses who have been thrown out of employment. Amendment of the scheme is absolutely essential, and I hope the Minister of Health will do what he has been asked to do and have the new rules put into operation.
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Neville Chamberlain)
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South-West St. Pancras (Major Barnett) recognises that I am placed in a somewhat difficult position in this matter. I have only been in office a few days, and it has been impossible for me to make such investigations into the ease the hon. and gallant. Member desires to present as would be necessary before I could accept the. Address on the Paper. In ordinary circumstances, I would have asked my hon. Friend to postpone the matter, and I am sure he would have done so in courtesy, but the difficulty is that this is the last of the 21 days allowed in which an Address may be presented to His Majesty, and, if my hon. friend withdraws his Resolution, unless he obtains some assurance from me, he is obliged to forego the right that is otherwise his. 1714 That is a position I ought to meet. If the Motion be withdrawn to-night, I will undertake to request the General Nursing Council to consider the amendments of my hon. friend, and ask them to draw up and submit to me such alterations as they may be prepared to make within the next 12 months. These alterations to the scheme, if they are approved by me, wilt be laid on the Table of the House, and will be open to discussion. If make that offer in the hope that my hon. friend will accept it as a fair compromise in the circumstances.
§ Major BARNETT
I thank my right hon. Friend for what he has said, and for his endeavour to meet our case. With the leave of the House, I should like to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.