HC Deb 22 July 1946 vol 425 cc1786-90

8.45 p.m.

Sir Alan Herbert

I beg to move, in page 2, line 35, to leave out "of the following descriptions, that is to say," and to insert "including."

I move this Amendment in the absence of my right hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter), who is in America. This is one of those rather difficult Amendments, of the cart before the horse variety. It is intended as a preliminary to a longer and more important Amendment to Clause 16, which, I understand, by your indulgence, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, may now be called. The first of the Amendments has been put down at the request of the Vice-Chancellors and medical faculties of Oxford and Cambridge Universities. In the Clause the Minister is bound to provide certain specified requirements, accommodation and other services, but these requirements do not include teaching and research, and in the view of the universities someone should have the duty of providing the facilities for teaching and research. It is suggested in a later Amendment that this could be done by the teaching hospitals in consultation with the universities. At this moment that is as far as I can go on this Amendment without being out of Order. Whether the Minister will approve our later proposals we cannot tell, but even if he cannot, I hope that this Amendment may commend itself to him. It seems to give greater powers and duties than he already has, and some think it gives him too many, but that will be limited by the last Amendment.

Mr. Pickthorn

I would nor ask the House to believe that this Amendment and the others connected with it are necessarily in the best possible form. I do not feel quite sure about that, but perhaps the House will permit me very slightly to elaborate the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert). I think the point the universities feel is that, on the face of it, there ought to be some provision for teaching and research. I think I am right in saying that as the Bill stands, there is no provision about teaching or research. They feel that, until the contrary may be shown, there is a presumption that the universities ought to have some part, and even some initiatory part in it, and I think it was with this presumption in mind that they drafted this Amendment.

I suppose it would be proper to construe line 35, in Subsection (1), to mean that the Minister cannot provide a service which is not "of the following descriptions." The descriptions indicate all the services the Minister can provide, and therefore anything not in the descriptions is something presumably which he cannot provide. I think that is the first step in the argument. The second step is that if we simply increase the "following descriptions" by adding teaching and research, the effect, if I understand the Bill properly, would be that, thereupon, teaching and research would come under the direct control of the Regional Health Boards and of the governors of hospitals. Therefore the suggestion is that instead of putting them here, we should put them in at another point in the Bill, so that they would not come under the direct and almost exclusive control of these authorities, but come under some kind of initiatory control of the universities. Meanwhile, to make that possible, we are omitting the words "of the following descriptions," and substituting "including," and in line 44 substituting "specifically mentioned in" for "provided under." I hope that explains the intention behind these Amendments, and that even if they may, not be held to be the best possible way of meeting that intention, it may be considered that this is not an unreasonable desire, and that some steps will be taken towards meeting it.

Mr. Wilson Harris (Cambridge University)

I should like to reinforce what has been said by my hon. Friends. I submit that this Amendment has a claim for favourable consideration on its own merits, quite apart from its relation to a subsequent university Amendment which will be moved later. The Bill as it stands contains words which are definitely limiting. The Minister can only provide the accommodation and services which fall within "the following descriptions," that is to say, the three classes of accommodation and services which are enumerated in the Clause. It may well be that in future, with the development of health and hospital services generally, it will be desirable to add to these particular services. The Minister has claimed that he is entitled to provide to a large extent in this matter by Regulation, for the very good reason that otherwise points which were not substantial might need fresh legislation. Therefore, I feel that it is in his own interests—and we all consider his interests first and foremost—to substitute the word "including" for the words of the following descriptions, that is to say. On these grounds, and in order that it may point the way to a subsequent Amendment, I trust that the Minister may consider the change of words as proposed.

Mr. Bevan

It is extremely difficult for us to discuss a general principle in connection with this Amendment. It might be for the convenience of the House if we could have a rather wider discussion, because the hon. Members who have addressed themselves to this Amendment have not been able to express clearly what they desire to achieve. I cannot accept this Amendment, and, at the same time, it is difficult for me to discuss on the Amendment the principle which hon. Members have raised.

Mr. Pickthorn

I do not know whether I should be in Order, but perhaps it would assist the Chair—if it is not arrogant of me to assist the Chair, as well as the Government Front Bench—if I made a suggestion. I have some hope that the Amendment on Clause 16 may be in Order, and may, therefore, be called, if the proviso which it contains is omitted. I have some reason to hope that that course may be possible. I do not know whether it would he within the Rules of Order to discuss that Amendment along with this one.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

I understand that it is Mr. Speaker's intention to call the Amendment to Clause i6 with a certain proviso omitted. I do not know how far it will be possible to discuss the matter then, but, quite clearly, we cannot discuss Clause 16 now without some special agreement.

Mr. Bevan

I shall have to resist this Amendment. It is an attempt to strengthen very considerably the position of the universities. I should have thought that the position of the universities had been firmly established in the structure itself. The effect of this Amendment, as I understand it, would be to deprive the boards of governors of the right to conduct clinical research and to confine it to the universities.

Mr. Pickthorn

That is not right.

Mr. Bevan

The best thing that I can suggest is that we negative this Amendment and discuss the Amendment to Clause 16, and if the will of the House so decided, then we should have to accept consequential Amendments. I cannot accept this Amendment.

Mr. Eccles

I hope that the Minister will refuse this Amendment. With the greatest respect to the universities—and I struggled through Oxford University myself—I understand that this Amendment would give the Minister all sorts of powers about which we do not know anything. The word "including" might be used in any way, to provide all kinds of other services. I think that the Minister has enough powers already. I am very willing to discuss the later Amendment to Clause 16, if it is called, because it seems a very sensible one, but I hope we shall not accept this Amendment to Clause 3.

Sir A. Herbert

As it has been suggested by the Minister that we might discuss this question on the Amendment to Clause 15, and in the hope that if that Amendment is defeated here, it will by some magic be passed in another place, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.