HC Deb 21 April 1947 vol 436 cc711-4
Commander Galbraith

I beg to move, in page 33, line 12, to leave out from "until" to "and," in line 14, and to insert: the medical practitioner concerned has reached the age of sixty-five years, has retired or has died, whichever first occurs. This Amendment raises the question of compensation for the loss of right to sell a medical practice. It is laid down in the Subsection of the Bill as drafted, that compensation shall be paid in such manner as may be prescribed, and that except in such circumstances as may be prescribed it shall not be paid until either the retirement or death of the medical practitioner concerned. We had a long discussion on this matter in Standing Committee, when I referred to injustices and various cases where hardship might occur. I had a very reasonable reply from the Under-Secretary, but on one point I felt that he might have gone further, namely, on the point of semiretirement. I hope that the Government will consider this Amendment reasonable, because it provides for compensation to be paid at the age of 65, or on retirement or death. Most doctors, and other professional people, by the time they reach 65, begin to feel that they are entitled to take things a little easier, and I think it is reasonable that a doctor should be compensated for any loss he has suffered through being unable to sell his practice.

Mr. Spence

I beg to second the Amendment.

Mr. Buchanan

We discussed this matter exhaustively in Standing Committee, when I gave the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite certain assurances that did much to allay his feelings. He has now put forward a modified proposal, and I hope to go some way towards meeting him. He and my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings), in Committee, said, "You may have a doctor who, because of overwork or ill-health, wishes, not to retire, but to sell his practice, and buy one which is half the value of his present practice, and go into semi-retirement." That was a reasonable supposition. That might happen to a doctor at any time, and not only a doctor at the age of 65. I was asked about the young doctor going abroad, and I said that he would get his money. I was asked about the young doctor giving up medical practice to go into local authority work, and I said he would get his money. I was asked about the young doctor who was overloaded with debt through buying his practice, and I said that he would get his money. We propose, now, to prescribe conditions so that a man who retires, because of ill-health, to go into a smaller practice, may get either the whole or part of his money at once. I have spoken to my medical representatives, and they thought that generally when a man of 65 retired it was not to go to a smaller practice, but to retire completely. The case which they thought should be met was the man who suffered a breakdown in health at 40 to 50 years of age, who did not want to retire from work but was seeking a somewhat easier life. I propose to meet the case of the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) by saying that we will meet that class of case, at any age, either by paying the whole or a portion of the sum to which he is entitled.

9.0 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

I think that the Joint Under-Secretary has met us very fairly on this point and that we should be prepared to withdraw the Amendment. He might have done all that we aim to do by leaving out the words from "paid" to the end of the sentence. Otherwise, the words "retirement or death" are still left in the Bill and the Joint Under-Secretary says that he is not in fact going to stick to those words, but is going to take power by prescribing to pay out a portion of the value of the practice according to what seems to be just and equitable. That is perfectly satisfactory, and I hope that now, or in another place, he will be able to put that in the words of the Statute. I suggest that to leave out the words after "paid" would be the best way.

Mr. Buchanan

I cannot guarantee to do it or to refuse to do it. I will look at the matter again. The Secretary of State proposes to see that a man who has genuinely broken down in health and who wishes to retire shall receive payment.

Commander Galbraith

We are very appreciative of the way in which we have been met on this matter. I am glad that we put down this Amendment so that the hon. Gentleman has been able to explain still further the course which his right hon. Friend intends to take. I hope that not only in the case of complete breakdown in health, but that where a man feels overburdened, he can expect to receive some compensation, so that he can go into a smaller practice. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.