HC Deb 21 October 1949 vol 468 cc961-4

Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 84 (Money Committees).—[King's Recommendation signified].

[Mr. BOWLES in the Chair]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to reconstitute the General Nursing Council for England and Wales (hereinafter referred to as "the Council"), it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of—

  1. (a) all expenses incurred by the Council with the approval of the Minister of Health which are attributable to defraying expenditure incurred by standing nurse-training committees constituted under the said Act;
  2. (b) any contributions made by the Minister of Health towards the expenses of the Council in inspecting and approving, for the purposes of rules made by the Council relating to the training of nurses, institutions vested in him; and
  3. (c) any fees or allowances paid by the Lord Chancellor to a person nominated by him under the said Act to determine an appeal against a refusal of the Council to approve an institution for the purposes of any such rules as aforesaid or a withdrawal by the Council of approval given by them for those purposes to an institution."—[Mr. Blenkinsop.]

3.6 p.m.

Mr. Diamond

I am grateful to you, Mr. Bowles, for allowing me to catch your eye, because, although I hesitate to detain the Committee at this time of day, I am afraid that the form of the Financial Resolution as it stands, without the explanation which I hope may be forthcoming from the Parliamentary Secretary, is not satisfactory as far as the General Nursing Council is concerned. Paragraph (b) of this Financial Resolution refers to the power to make payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of the contributions made by the Minister of Health towards the expenses of the Council in inspecting … institutions vested in him. The important word is "contributions." The Minister of Health is to contribute towards the expenses of the council in inspecting institutions vested in him.

The reason why I am bound to raise this point is that this directly refers to Clause 13 (2) of the Bill, and it will not be possible, if this Financial Resolution is passed in its present form, to move an appropriate Amendment on the Committee stage to Clause 13 (2), which says: The Minister may make to the Council, out of moneys provided by Parliament, contributions of such amounts as he may determine towards the expenses. … I should like to make it quite clear that the council has three sources of income: first, examination fees which it devotes to defraying expenses of the examinations which it carries out; secondly, fees from the nurses themselves which it devotes to carrying out its statutory work of registering nurses and the other matters relating to the register; thirdly, money received for inspecting institutions, which it uses to defray the cost of inspecting those institutions. It follows, therefore, that if there is any deficit in that third item, if the council is not to be wholly reimbursed for carrying out certain activities on behalf of the Minister, then the cost must inevitably fall on the nurses who will, in effect, out of their subscriptions, or whatever form they may take as provided in the Bill, pay for the inspection of training schools.

I am sure that is not the intention of the Government, but nevertheless it is a fact, as I understand the words, as I understand the plain English of it, that a contribution is something which may be less than the whole. I imagine that it is possible to "contribute" 100 per cent. of the expenses which may be incurred; I suppose that if one makes a payment of 5 per cent. of the expenses incurred that is also a "contribution." Therefore, I should like my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to assure me that the words mean that the council will be reimbursed the whole of such expenses as it properly incurs in carrying out these functions.

This matter was raised in another place and a reply was given which, if I may say so, was somewhat confusing. The Clause to which I refer, Clause 13, has regard purely to the inspection of training institutions and although the council has other functions this Clause refers purely to that. So far as the council properly incurs expenditure on inspecting training institutions, I suggest that it is essential that the whole of the expenses so incurred should be reimbursed, otherwise the whole of the budget of this nursing council will go by the board. I hope my hon. Friend will say that that is what he intends to do and that, in this context, the word "contributions" is to be so understood.

Mr. Howard

I should like very strongly to support the general point which has been made by the hon. Member for Blackley (Mr. Diamond). There is some doubt whether the way in which the Financial Resolution is at present drawn will enable the Exchequer, if it sees fit, to pay the whole of the expenses directly in connection with the training of nurses, the inspection of training institutions and the expenses of those who carry out that work. I do not suggest, and I do not think the hon. Member for Blackley would suggest, that it is desirable at this moment to demand an explicit statement that the whole of whatever expenses may arise will in fact be paid 100 per cent. But it is absolutely essential that we should know that the power to pay those expenses, if it is thought that they should be paid, is conferred by this resolution, and I hope we shall have a very explicit statement from the Front Bench on that point.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I can give the assurance, first of all, that under this Resolution as drafted the Exchequer will have full power to make a 100 per cent. grant of expenses. I would add the assurance that it is the intention to ensure that 100 per cent. reimbursement of all expenses approved by the Minister—and I must insert that because we cannot pay out blank cheques—will be guaranteed under this wording.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.