HC Deb 28 October 1949 vol 468 cc1702-4

Subsection (3) of section eighteen of the Act of 1943 shall be read and construed as if after the words "Any person who" there were inserted the following paragraph:— (a) not being a person whose name is included in any part of the list, says or does anything implying that his name is included in some part thereof; or."—[Mr. Diamond.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Diamond

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The purpose of the proposed new Clause is to fill a gap which was left erroneously, I feel sure, in the earlier Act. Under that Act it was possible for the Council to take proceedings against those falsely claiming to be covered by the Act but, as it subsequently transpired, it was not possible for the Council to take proceedings in the limited case covered by the Amendment, that of a person whose name is not included in any part of the list saying or doing anything which implies that his name is so included. If a person was included in some part of the list, and said falsely that he or she was in another part of the list, it was possible for the Council to take proceedings against that person, quite properly, to protect the status of assistant nurses. If the person's name was not included in any part of the list, no proceedings, it was found, could be taken against that person for falsely claiming to be on the list.

I am sure that we do not want at this late stage to appear to be introducing legislation which creates new penalties under an Act of 1943. Nevertheless, a case does exist in which the Council had the wish to prosecute a person falsely claiming to be on the list. The Council were advised by their legal advisers that it was not possible to do so under the Act as it existed. For those reasons the proposed new Clause has been framed.

1.15 p.m.

Mr. Blenkinsop

In moving the proposed new Clause my hon. Friend has mentioned the reason why we would not be very willing to include the Clause ourselves. It is true that one instance has occurred, but I think he would be the first to agree that it is a pity to legislate for the exceptional circumstance. Furthermore, the list is gradually being superseded. It is already closed to new entrants and opportunity is being given under the Bill for those who are on the list to move on to the register. Gradually the list will decline in importance.

Therefore, I should have thought it was undesirable, unless there were some overpowering reasons, to include new powers to deal with the matter of this single instance of which we have information, and which I believe can possibly be dealt with in another way. That matter has been looked at by our legal advisers and I am assured that it is possible to deal with that type of case in another way than by inserting the proposed new Clause. For those reasons I hope that my hon. Friend will withdraw the Motion.

Mr. Diamond

There is a great responsibility on the Council for protecting the status of all the nurses for whom it is responsible. Although I am very glad to hear my hon. Friend say that there is possibly—I do not think he went very much further than that—a way of dealing with this matter, I would ask him to bear in mind that I have sinned greatly in bringing this matter before the Committee. If there were only one case and I had said nothing about it, nobody would be any the wiser. Having brought it erroneously to the full light of day in the Committee, it is now open and public knowledge that the armament of the General Nursing Council for protecting its nurses of various categories is not entirely bullet proof. The position might not have been very serious—having regard to the fact that only one case has arisen—before anybody knew about it outside the Council. Now I have, at the Council's request, put this matter forward.

I therefore think that the matter should be given rather more careful thought than would have been necessary earlier. I hope that the Minister will now give this matter very careful consideration and will either find means which are satisfactory to the legal advisers of the Council to enable them to discharge the responsibilities put upon them by this House in an earlier Act, or will introduce words at a later stage enabling him to do so. In that very confident expectation I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, and Clause, by leave withdrawn.