HC Deb 09 May 1923 vol 163 cc2375-6

I beg to move, That leave be given to introduce a Bill to amend the Dentists Act, 1921. The Bill which I ask leave to introduce is rather of a different complexion from the last one. It is not so humorous, nor I hope will it be so contentious. There is no Member in this House who was a stronger supporter of the principle of the Dentists Act of 1921 than myself, nor anyone who is more convinced than I am of the necessity of good dentistry. The Act of 1921 laid it down that any unregistered dentist before he could even qualify technically must have reached the age of 23 years. The House will see, I think, that was purely an arbitrary age, and I believe as a fact it was the result of a compromise between those who desired to fix the age at 25 and those who desired to fix it at 21. The result of arbitrarily fixing the age of 23 meant that there were a large number of young unregistered dentists, ex-service men, who were cut out from any possibility of entering for the qualifying examination because they were not 23 years old. I think many in the House who like myself voted consistently for the Bill of 1921 were unaware that it would inflict a hardship on these ex-service men.

This Bill ought to be a non-contentious one, because all that there is in it practically is to reduce the age from 23 to 21 at which ex-service men can pass their qualifying examination. There are, of course, many in the dental profession, unregistered dentists and other persons throughout the country, who would like the Bill to go further and to include all the unregistered dentists, some men, perhaps not of age to serve in the War, or who may have been unfit for service in the War, and yet who have taken to dentistry as their life work. But, having taken a good deal of trouble in the preparation of this Bill as always is necessary for a Bill of this character, I have found that the opposition to include all these men would be too great; therefore, the Bill is restricted to ex-service men. They deserve, I think all will agree a special degree of consideration, not only for the fact that they fought in the War, but also that for two years they were debarred from pursuing their studies and practical work. There will be an opportunity for the non-service men to pass and qualify through the ordinary channels. I hope the Dental Association itself may lend a helping hand to these young men to do so. This Bill has created a considerable interest in the country, and it has the support, I know, of a very large number of Members here. The number of men who will come under the provisions of this Bill is not very large, though I cannot give it exactly, but whether small or not, it is most important at the present time, when many men are unable to obtain employment, that we should not in any way penalise those men who have a calling and can get a livelihood by driving them into unemployment. More especially do I say so as I understand from cases I have seen that in some districts at any rate (I am told in some of the industrial districts of South Wales) there is an actual shortage of dentists at the present time. I hope the House will support this proposal. I hope that the Minister of Health, who, I think, is sympathetic to this Measure will do his best to try and obtain facilities for the passing of this modest little Bill which is nothing but a measure of justice to ex-service men.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Lieut.-Colonel Dalrymple White, Colonel Sir Charles Burn, Mr. Hohler, Mr. Lumley, Sir Arthur Marshall, Mr. James Henry Thomas, and Lieut.-Colonel Lambert Ward.