§ Mr. PALING
I beg to move to leave out the Clause.
I do not do this because we do not want doctors to be paid. We do not want to make them work for nothing; on the contrary, we desire that there shall be good payment for everyone, doctors included; but we want to take this opportunity of pointing out to the House a difference in treatment between one portion of the community and another, and to draw attention to the very generous way in which the doctors have been met, and the very poor-spirited opposition put up by the Government to the methods adopted by the doctors or by the medical associations in order to obtain these very generous increases. I am not going to vote against them because they are generous, but in paragraph (a) of Clause 23 we find this:for attending to give evidence at any inquest whereat no post-mortem examination has been made by the practitioner, one and a-half guineas for each day on which he is required to attend.In the Bill before it went to Committee the fee in that case was one guinea. There is, therefore, an increase of 50 per cent. Again, in paragraph (b) we find:for making a post-mortem examination of the body of the deceased and reporting the result thereof to the coroner without attending to give evidence at an inquest, two guineas.I understand that in the Bill before it went to the Committee the fee for this was a guinea and a-half, but I am given to understand that the fee actually paid before that was one guinea, so that that was raised by half-a-guinea in the Bill before it went to Committee, and now it has been further raised to two guineas —an increase of 100 per cent., which is not bad when you compare it with what we in the working-class community have had during the past few years. Again in paragraph (c):For making a post-mortem examination of the body of the deceased (including the making of a report, if any, of the result thereof to the Coroner) or attending to give evidence at an inquest on the body, three guineas for the first day.2604 In the original Bill the figure was twoguineas—an increase of 50 per cent. And at the end of the paragraph:one and a-half guineas for each subsequent day on which the practitioner is required to attend.That was not in the old Bill at all. This is very generous treatment. A Member of our party said in the Committee that in the course of his work he had attended many inquests and he was of the opinion that in some of these cases the doctors deserved an advance in fees, and generally speaking, we said we would not vote against it, and we are not going to vote against it to-day, but we should like to know—I do not know if the doctors will tell us or not—the methods they used in order to impress upon the-Government the necessity for increasing these fees without the Government even putting up a show of a fight.
When it was brought to the Under-Secretary's notice, he said the figures had been put down as a basis for discussion. I can hardly take that in. The hon. Gentleman accused me of always being suspicious, and so I am, in view of the treatment we generally get, but there must have been some consideration given to these fees before the Bill came to Committee, because I believe the hon. Gentleman admitted that in paragraph (a), where the Bill says one and a-half guineas; previously the doctors had only had one guinea. [An HON. MEMBER: "For how many years?"] I am not discussing that at all. I am merely saying that the figure was altered from one guinea to a guinea and a-half, and when we objected the Under-Secretary said the figures had been put clown as a basis for discussion. I dare say the fees originally put down appeared to the Home Office to be sufficient. I hope the doctor Members in the Tory party will come to our aid as fellow trade unionists when we are threatened next year.
§ Mr. PALING
I suppose there is a better term than that —a bourgeois term. At any rate they have a kind of association which has brought some kind of influence to bear on the Home Office very successfully. We have been discussing at Question Time to-day the visit of one of our trade union secretaries to Moscow, 2605 the suggestion being that he has gone in order to bring back some ideas wherewith we may fight more successfully. Seeing the success the doctors have made of this, I am not sure that he would not have done better to go to the Medical Association.
§ Mr. PALING
He would have learnt how to get bigger wages for the people he represents, which is the thing that matters for the moment, and I am not so sure, if you talk about patriotism and the way you looked at it from the point of view of the War, that our people would not come out at least as well as the doctors. But the thing that stands out is, that when one section of society comes for an increase, the Government, as constituted at present, did not attempt to put up any effective opposition, while at the same time, on nearly every question that comes before the House, they are asking for economy—in regard to nearly every working-class man in the country, whose wages have been dropping month by month for the last five or six years. When we want an increase we are asked, Can the industry afford it? Is the economic position of the industry such as to warrant an increase I No such question is asked in regard to this. I suppose it will come out of the rates. Again, we are having complaints on all sides of the House of the enormous burden of the rates on industry. No argument of that kind is used by the Government in regard to the increase given to the doctors. They are doctors and the others are working-class people. Again, perhaps, this is a sheltered industry not subject to competition like the mining industry, and the same arguments cannot be applied against it. But whatever may be the argument, the fact remains that these generous increases have been given. It may be the doctors have not been paid all they are worth, but that applies to a good many other people and particularly to the mining community.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member appears to be discussing the matter at large. He really must restrict himself to what the Clause will do.
§ Mr. PALING
I thought the fact that we had had to suffer wage reductions in the mining industry was relevant to this question whether they should have an increase in the doctors' industry.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not object to it being put in a sentence, but the hon. Member is elaborating it many times over.
§ Mr. PALING
I hope hon. Members on the other side, when we ask that this matter should be considered on its merits, will vote for it on its merits rather than as they have done in the past few months. If we were to-day exercising the spirit of revenge for what has been imposed upon us we should be inclined to vote against it, but we are not. We are going to support it because we believe the doctors ought to be paid well and I realise, as an ex-miner, that in some of these cases the doctors perform tremendous services when men are injured in accidents. But I thought it was right to point out, particularly in view of what the Government have done in the past 12 months, the difference in treatment exercised towards one section of the community as compared with another.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I beg to second the Amendment.
We have been counselled many times by Members opposite never to mix industry with politics. We have been told that industrial matters ought to be dealt with by people outside the House of Commons. Bills similar to this—small, insignificant and apparently meaningless so far as the great industrial business of the nation is concerned—are the very Bills which might be a guiding influence to members of industrial organisations when they finally made up their minds that to secure even-handed justice at all, they would have to come to the House of Commons and put their industrial and economic point of view before the various Ministers of State if they were going to secure any sort of fair play or justice with regard to their wages. Here is a typical example. The Minister in charge of the Bill inserts certain figures for services to be rendered. I do not suggest that the figure is too large, neither will I vote against any one of these figures, because I feel that the services rendered are equal in value to the price that is to be paid. 2607 But immediately the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle) and the hon. Member for Derby (Sir R. Luce) submit a case in Committee from the professional point of view that an increase is necessary, that increase is forthcoming with little or no opposition from the Minister. Here we have a definite, typical example of the influence of the medical Members of the House and the services they can render to their professional trade union. If we are to follow their example it is no use shouting in the wilderness of industrial conflicts outside the House if one hopes to secure any sort of reasonable standard of life or reasonable payment for physical or mental work performed beyond these four walls.
The thing to do, if we are to follow the example of the hon. Members for St. Albans and Derby, is to come to the Minister in charge of the Bill and intimate to him the power, strength and determination of the members of that professional organisation and the results are forthcoming in a very short time, as has been the case in this instance. The hon. Member for St. Albans says if we go to the medical profession we shall find some patriotism. He has indicated the kind of patriotism they usually stand for —patriotism at a price. While I have no desire to east a single reflection upon the medical or the legal profession—two of the strongest trade unions in the country —it is fair to point out the power and influence they use in this House and how easily they can exact for the members of their societies what the millions of people who render other service of equal value in its way fail to get notwithstanding our industrial and political efforts in every conceivable direction. I hope the Under-Secretary is going to tell us exactly what he expects members of other trade union organisations are going to do when they fail to get justice outside the House. I do not want him to tell us that the figures were put into the Bill merely as a basis for discussion, because figures are not often put in Bills as a basis for discussion in Committee, but I want him to tell us why he made the change. We will undertake not to vote for the abolition of the Clause or the removal of any one of these increases, but will he tell us how this influence operates to induce him to agree so 2608 quickly with the medical people when he would not agree with the industrial workers?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The speeches of the two hon. Members have made me wonder whether I ought to put the Amendment or not. There is a rule against, Motions tendered in a spirit of irony. However, I will put it.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Captain HACKING
I am not going to follow the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Paling) and the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) into the question of the good or evil which one may obtain from being a member of a trade union. I prefer to discuss this Amendment and the effect it would have if it were accepted by the House. The hon. Member for Doncaster quoted something which I said in Committee to the effect that he always seemed to be suspicious of anything that was done on this side of the House. I think, however, that I added that his suspicions were always unfounded, that he never proved them and that they had no foundation in fact. The fees referred to were fixed in the year 1844, and there have been many changes since that time. I do not know if the hon. Members understand the effect of their Amendment. Is it their wish that the doctor should receive no fees at all?
§ Captain HACKING
Then why did the hon. Members put down this Amendment which would have that effect?
§ Mr. PALING
Do you wish me to explain? I said quite definitely that we wished to show that we had a grievance, and to show to the public and the country generally the difference in the treatment given to the miners as compared with that which is given to the doctors.
§ Captain HACKING
The effect of this Amendment, if carried, would be that doctors in the future would get no fees at all. The fees are decided under Section 22 of the Act. This Bill repeals that particular Section, but the actual effect of this Amendment, if accepted, would he that the doctors would receive nothing. The hon. 2609 Member for Don Valley (Mr. Williams) and the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Paling) have said that they have no objection to the doctors obtaining remuneration.
§ Mr. R. DAVIES
I want to assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that this Amendment was put down for the purpose of raising a protest against the manner in which this increase of fees was carried out. My two hon. Friends have already indicated that they have no objection to the amount of the fees; we merely protest against the manner in which the fees were increased in Committee upstairs. The Home Office, with all the information at its disposal with regard to foes payable to doctors for attending inquests and post-mortem examinations, inserted £1 1s. in the first instance. Two hon. Gentlemen representing the medical profession, presumably, stood up in Committee and moved an increase forthwith of 50 per cent. in the fees. What we object to is not the sum, which is not too large, but we want, I repeat, to enter a protest against the easy way in which the Government accepted an Amendment of this kind without any valid reason for that increase being given.
I would ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Under-Secretary to the Home Office whether there was not some negotiation between the Home Office and the British Medical Association, in the first instance, as to the sum that was to be inserted in the Bill? The British Medical Association, being a very powerful organisation, would surely have known full well that this Bill was being drafted in the Home Office, and if they did not they are not as alert as I believe them to be. On the point that the British Medical Association is not a trade union—
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
Is it in order to discuss what is the nature of a trade union and the British Medical Association on this Amendment? If it is in order, I shall have to ask for the liberty of replying.
§ Mr. PALING
May I point out that previously, when this question cropped up, the hon. Gentleman objected to the British Medical Association being called a trade union and designated it by another name?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)
Before I took Mr. Speaker's place in the Chair, I heard a ruling that this discussion should not be made an occasion for the discussion of something outside the Amendment. I think, therefore, it would be better to leave out this question altogether and confine ourselves to the Amendment itself.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I do not know whether that is in order or not until I hear what is said about it, but I think it would be very much better to confine the discussion to the Amendment itself?
§ Mr. DAVIES
I am anxious to keep within the rules of order, but I think we are in order in making it clear that we are not objecting to the sum mentioned in the Clause; that we wanted to move an Amendment to protest against the manner in which the increase has been made. We on this side of the House are very dissatisfied indeed at the easy way in which the Under-Secretary for Home Affairs accepted this Amendment at the instigation of the medical profession.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I think it is necessary to snake one point quite clear to the House in regard to the imputation which has been made upon the medical profession as to the way in which this Clause has been amended, and to relieve them of the suggestion that there has been any negotiation between the Government and the British Medical Association. I would like to make it clear that I came into this House absolutely untrammelled by any responsibility to the British Medical Association in any way, and for years I have intended, and I always intend, to hold myself free from any such action. I will only support the raising of medical fees in so far as I think that that can be justified on the 2611 needs of the case, and it is from that point of view that I have raised the question in this particular instance. My hon. and gallant Friend and I did not accept the proposal made by the British Medical Association. We brought forward other proposals, and we had a very hard job to convince my hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary of the necessity and righteousness of the application which we made. It was on that line that we took action, and it is on that line that we shall act with regard to medical fees.
§ Mr. PALING
May I ask where, and in what circumstances, the hon. and gallant Gentleman had a difficult job to bring the Under-Secretary for the Home Office to adopt that point of view? It was not in the Committee.
§ Dr. VERNON DAVIES
I was not a member of this Committee, but I want to enter a definite protest against the attack which was made on the medical profession by the Mover and Seconder who brought forward in this House comparisons between the treatment which is given to medical men, so called, and miners. I think it is entirely unnecessary. Unfortunately, speeches of that nature are not confined to the House, but are read by the public and they are apt to give a very wrong impression. Anything which militates against a spirit of good will between medical men and their patients is most detrimental, and I regret that hon. Members, for the sake of making a demonstration, should have allowed themselves to make such observations. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. H. Davies) was much fairer. He put it that they simply objected to the method by which the increase was given. I would point out that if that fee of one guinea was regarded as fair in 1844 surely at this time there should be some slight increase. I wonder how many increases of wages the miners have had during that period? There is a tendency among the Members of the Labour party to belittle the medical profession whenever they have an opportunity. [HON. MEMBERS: "Never!"] In this House they constantly speak against them and the harm that may be done in the country may be very, very great. I think that, out of 2612 courtesy to the profession of which they all some time or another have to obtain the services, they ought to be very careful what they say, remembering that their words may spread throughout the land and be read by people who may not understand the whole of the circumstances of the case, and may cause unnecessary dissatisfaction and trouble.
§ Mr. LEE
I never heard in Committee or in this House any reflection made upon medical men. The only protest we are making now is as to the way in which this increase was given. We do not say that the amount is too much, and we certainly do not make any reflection upon the doctors as doctors, but we do want to know why this change was made so easily.