HC Deb 16 November 1950 vol 480 cc1982-2000

7.33 p.m.

Miss Hornsby-Smith (Chislehurst)

I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health for being present at such short notice to reply on the subject that I am raising on the Adjournment, namely, the method of appointing doctors to the London County Council estate area known as St. Paul's Cray. I apologise for the very short notice, but the speed at which appointments are made in this area is so rapid that I had to seize the first opportunity.

A new, large London County Council estate is being built in the area of St. Paul's Cray. It comprises over 3,000 houses, and a large population from the London County Council area is being transported out there. Naturally, that gives rise to scope for more medical practitioners, and it is the manner in which these appointments are made that I wish to bring to the notice of the House. Obviously, with a new and growing population, there is every scope for a doctor to obtain and build up a strong and active practice in a very short time.

It would appear likely that such a desirable and obvious opportunity would be seized upon, and sought after, by any young doctor wishing to establish himself in medical practice or, indeed, by those who were in the Services during the war and were not able to build up practices for themselves. One could have expected that such appointments would be advertised and such opportunities offered to all those who might wish to seize them. One would also expect that such applications, after advertisement by the responsible Medical Practices Committee, would bring in names from which that Committee would select doctors to practise on this estate.

During the past four months I have received strenuous protests against the very active Communist activities of two of the four doctors appointed to one particular practice on this estate. Because of that, I investigated the method of their appointment and sought to find out what competition there had been when they succeeded in being appointed. I found that Dr. J. D. Paulette was granted, by the county council, a house compulsorily acquired from a private owner, and that, having got those premises, he applied to the Medical Practices Committee, saying he had been granted, not a house, but the doctor's house on the estate and, therefore, asked them to give him permission to practise.

At that time, there were other doctors who had submitted their names to the London County Council as wishing to practise on this estate, but only the name of Dr. Paulette appears to have gone forward and, as there was only one applicant and a growing demand by a new population, the Medical Practices Committee had no option but to appoint him. Subsequently, a second doctor, Dr. L. M. Franklin, was appointed to Dr. Paulette's practice. He had been on the London County Council list for houses, but he subsequently acquired one privately in the area and withdrew his name from the county council list. Later, a third doctor, Dr. Tuckmann, was appointed to practise, he having applied to practise with Dr. Paulette. Finally, a Dr. Tepper was appointed. He was allocated a London County Council house on the estate, and he applied to the Committee that he might be permitted to practise, having had premises and facilities given him by the L.C.C.

The position of the Medical Practices Committee is obviously prejudiced when they have only one name submitted to them and when that applicant claims that he has the premises and that, virtually, he is allowed to start up in practice. Again, the Medical Practices Committee virtually have to accept the nomination of the London County Council so that, in fact, the L.C.C., by deciding which doctors should be allocated a house from which they can practise, are choosing the doctors on this estate instead of the Medical Practices Committee.

I recognise the right of the London County Council to choose their tenants, but I should not think they had any statutory right to choose doctors. In submitting only their choice of tenant to the Medical Practices Committee they are usurping the statutory right of choice of that Committee. It is a matter for very grave concern among a large number of my constituents that of these four doctors in a joint practice two are active, professed and zealous Communists. I am not in a position to pass an opinion on the political beliefs of the other two, but, as they are joined in a partnership for which there seems to have been support in some quarters and accommodation made available, I think this is a matter which should be investigated.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

Does the hon. Lady think that a doctor is any the worse as a doctor for being a Communist?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

No. I am not casting doubts on a man's ability to practise his profession. The doctor may be brilliant. I am merely pointing out that these privileges and opportunities of obtaining a good, growing practice on a new estate have, by some peculiar coincidence, been given to people who are using no small amount of their time in pursuing active Communist propaganda.

I ask the Minister if he would investigate this matter and see that any application submitted to local authorities by doctors wishing to practise in these areas shall be submitted to the Medical Practices Committee, so that that Committee may then say, "We choose doctors A, B and C and we look to you to provide the accommodation for them." Secondly, I ask that it should be arranged that, in these new satellite or quasi-satellite towns, with new and growing populations, these appointments, which offer great opportunities to build up a practice in a short while, instead of having to break into territory well served with doctors, should be advertised and should be open to all members of the medical profession who might want to establish themselves in practice.

I hope that the Minister will be able to give me some assurance on these points. This question has been a matter for grave concern and there has been much consultation over the last few months. I have discussed it with both the secretary of the local Medical Practices Committee and with the chairman of the National Medical Practices Committee. I hope the Minister will be able to give me some assurance tonight.

Mr. Daines (East Ham, North)

I was interested in that part of the hon. Lady's speech in which she dealt with the number of medical men who were Communists. She said that that was "by coincidence." Is she saying that they were chosen because they were Communists? Does the hon. Lady believe that that was why they were chosen? She cannot dismiss it by saying that it was by coincidence.

Miss Hornsby-Smith

I think the selection of names to go forward to the Medical Practices Committee shows signs of very definite political prejudice.

Mr. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

That is too funny for words.

Mr. Tomney (Hammersmith, North)

The hon. Lady is accusing the London County Council of canvassing for the Communist Party to be given these appointments.

Miss Hornsby-Smith

Even if the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) thinks it funny, I suggest that the London County Council might show some concern at the very active and widely-known political practices of these gentlemen.

7.44 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. Blenkinsop)

I came here at very short notice tonight to answer the debate initiated by the hon. Lady the Member for Chislehurst (Miss Hornsby-Smith), but I must admit that I was surprised that such a serious allegation as this should have been made without my being given notice of its character and of the arguments to be used. I bitterly resent the manner in which this subject has been raised tonight. I understood that the hon. Lady was raising the question of medical practices in this area and that her complaint was, rather, that an additional partner had been taken into a certain practice in St. Paul's Cray.

Miss Hornsby-Smith

My primary point was the method of appointment. It is, however, the allegations, as the hon. Gentleman calls them, which have brought about the investigation into the method of appointment.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I would say immediately, and I hope with the agreement of every hon. Member, that it is highly undesirable that allegations of this character should be made in the House, first without adequate notice and, second, without any supporting evidence of any real character. I think all hon. Members present will remember an Adjournment debate, which we had as recently as last night, on the question of the rights of individuals. It is very strange to me that, after the very serious discussion we had last night, it should now be implicitly suggested that the political views of doctors should be taken into account on their appointment. I have not heard in the House for a long time a more reactionary and more undesirable statement than the hon. Lady's; if she is not able to withdraw her remarks, I hope she will choose an opportunity, with proper notice, to amplify them in the proper way so that they may be properly ventilated and discussed.

Miss Hornsby-Smith

I remarked that it was a coincidence; nowhere in my speech did I suggest that their appointments should be judged by their political beliefs.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I believe that hon. Members who are here will agree that they could draw only one assumption from the remarks that were made, and I resent that assumption as bitterly as I resent an unwarranted allegation being made against the Medical Practices Committee.

Mr. Daines

The inference left on my mind was quite clear. It was that the hon. Lady was saying that these medical men were chosen because they were Communists. I may, perhaps, be a little dumb, but that is certainly the impression I had.

Mr. Blenkinsop

It seems to me that an attempt is being made to make an allegation against the Medical Practices Committee, a body of very high standing and repute throughout the country—and I think it is fair to say, with the medical profession generally—and also an allegation against the London County Council.

Miss Hornsby-Smith

I made the accusation against the London County Council; that is the purpose of raising the matter on the Adjournment. But I have cast no reflection on the Medical Practices Committee. If they have only one name submitted to them, and figures show that there is a rising population, they have to appoint that one person. They assured me that only one name had been submitted, but I found that the London County Council had other names which were not passed to the Medical Practices Committee. The fault does not lie with that Committee.

Mr. Blenkinsop

So far as that part of her speech is concerned, I hope the hon. Lady will either withdraw the implication behind her remarks more fully than she has done so far, or that she will substantiate them more fully at a time when we can have a full opportunity of discussing the matter properly.

On the broader issue which I understood she was raising, it is a fact that any doctor may apply to go on to the list in any area and can be refused only if the area is over-doctored. It is the case that vacancies are advertised only when a sitting doctor withdraws or when the area is classified as being under-doctored. It is only then that advertisement takes place. It is the natural and inevitable practice, and one which is desired by the medical profession, that a doctor has full liberty to apply to go into an area, provided that it is not over-doctored. The Medical Practices Committee have every right to accept him; in fact, they cannot refuse him unless the area is over-doctored.

The argument which has been put forward by the hon. Lady seems to me fantastic. The whole medical profession desire to have this freedom for doctors to set up practice, and the question of advertisement arises only where there is a withdrawal of an existing doctor or where the area is under-doctored. The applications go, of course, to the Medical Practices Committee, through the local executive council. Applications for houses go, of course, to the London County Council.

I cannot see that any suggestion of collusion or anything of the sort can be properly brought against the London County Council. I would say also that any doctor can apply to the Medical Practices Committee, who will grant provisional permission to practise, contingent on accommodation being granted. That is the normal case here.

I had understood that the hon. Lady intended to question the desirability of additional practices being established in St. Paul's Cray, because a question about this has been raised by the Kent and Canterbury Executive Council. A letter has been sent to the Minister about it. With regard to the other matters which the hon. Lady raised, I can only say that she has given us very little notice to investigate what are, and what I hope she realises are, very serious charges. I repeat my request to her that she should secure a fuller opportunity either to substantiate those charges or to withdraw them in toto.

7.52 p.m.

Dr. Hill (Luton)

I should like to refer to the latter part of the Parliamentary Secretary's answer. He has stated the position fairly. This machinery of the Medical Practices Committee has been evolved in order to secure a better distribution of doctors and to secure that, where it is desired to attract a doctor to an under-doctored area, there is the proper machinery afforded to all doctors who wish to apply to do so and to have their applications considered. This is a particular instance of a general difficulty underlying the mechanics of the Medical Practices Committee.

Put plainly, it is this: if a vacancy should arise through the death or retirement of a doctor, and it is decided to fill that vacancy, and the full procedure of advertisement and selection has been followed, then if a doctor—whether he is an applicant or not—has obtained, by purchase or otherwise, the use of the professional premises from which the practice was conducted, or the only appropriate professional premises in the area, it is very difficult to make an effective choice of any other person. I am not stating this in a controversial way; that is the difficulty which the Medical Practices Committee, with the co-operation of the profession, are trying to tackle—the way of short-circuiting a proper form of selection.

Mr. Tomney

So that a man can be in possession of the premises without having the appointment on an estate.

Dr. Hill

Yes, but I was giving the instance of the closed area, or the vacancy which has to be filled in any area, in order to give the illustration about advertisement. In other words, a medical practice cannot be conducted without the appropriate professional premises, and while there remains the loophole of the premises being dealt with differently, there is this impediment in the existing machinery. I stated that because I believe a knowledge of it to be necessary to the understanding of this problem. That is the difficulty we are seeking to overcome.

In this case the position seems to be, in effect, that the London County Council believe that additional doctors are needed on the estate. I say that because they built the house for the purpose. The London County Council, believing that, sought to secure the appointment of an additional doctor. As I understand the gravamen of the charge it is this: that the London County Council, in some way or another—and I do not know the method, and I am not criticising the method—selects a doctor for the tenancy of the house, and, having made that selection for the occupancy of the house, then puts forward that name to the Medical Practices Committee as its recommendation for the person to be selected. In fact, the Medical Practices Committee, whatever it may think of the selection or of the London County Council, has no alternative but to take that nominee. Those are the facts as I understand them to have been narrated. I have no personal knowledge of the facts.

If that be the case there is, I think, a very good reason for the London County Council to follow another method: to inform the official machinery of the vacancy, and to ask for the necessary advertisement to be published, so that the necessary selection can be made through the proper machinery; and, having done that, to allot to the selected doctor the house it has built to be used as the doctors' house on the estate.

I do ask—whatever other issues may be involved in this—that we look at the general problem which seems, I think, to have particular application in this case. I think the House will agree that, there having been established in the early years of the National Health Service this new machinery which is being adapted as we go along to meet particular difficulties, it would be a pity if the system were short-circuited by a local authority, however it did it, in naming a doctor as the tenant of the house and in fact saying, "This doctor is to be the new doctor in practice on the estate." We should have one general method, approved by the Ministry and under the supervision of the Medical Practices Committees, to avoid this particular instance of tenancy being the best part of the law.

I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to look into this aspect of the matter, partly to protect the local authorities from the invidious task of picking out a doctor, but substantially in order that the system of selection shall apply whether the house has been built by the local authority or not.

7.58 p.m.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I should just like to add a word about the point which the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) has raised, which, of course, applies quite widely in connection with the filling of vacancies where a doctor has, perhaps, died and his premises may be available for some incoming doctor. It has been the case, as the hon. Member is probably fully aware, that in some cases a particular doctor has secured the premises and that has, in fact, determined the choice of the Medical Practices Committee. He has quite rightly said that this is a matter which is under consideration between the Ministry and the British Medical Association, to try to find some suitable way of dealing with what is a real difficulty.

I quite appreciate the points that he has raised, and we should be prepared to look into the question of the practice of either the London County Council or any other authority in relation to this particular problem. What I resented so deeply—and still do—was the implication that this was tied up with some preferential treatment for alleged Communist supporters. I quite appreciate that there is a problem in relation to doctors' premises, because it is very frequently the case that unless a doctor has the premises from which to practise made available to him, either the premises that have been vacated by some previous doctor, or some premises that have been provided specially by a local authority, then the selection of the Medical Practices Committee is largely rendered nugatory.

I appreciate that point, and I can give the assurance that we will look into the question of the practice, not only of one particular authority, but of authorities generally, in relation to the discussions we are already having with the British Medical Association to try to clear up what is undoubtedly a very difficult problem.

8.0 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)

I am sure that the House will have noticed with great interest the remarkable change in tone of the Parlia- mentary Secretary between his first speech and his second speech. In his second speech he has conceded the whole case made by my hon. Friend, and treated it in a reasonable manner.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I was undoubtedly a good deal incensed by what I still regard as the wholly unjustifiable aspersions that were being cast upon highly responsible bodies without our having been given any notice at all.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

The hon. Gentleman can scarcely get out of it with that. He proceeded to substantiate the accusation made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Miss Hornsby-Smith), who gave chapter and verse. He said that the selection by the Medical Practices Committee in these circumstances "is largely nugatory." That is a stronger case even than was made by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Blenkinsop

The point that was so questionable to raise in the House, and the allegation that was so questionable, was the allegation that doctors with Communist views were being appointed, which were made against both the Medical Practices Committee and the London County Council, and the question of the desirability or otherwise of appointing Communists as practitioners.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

I am afraid that evil communications corrupt good manners, and I think the hon. Gentleman has been in close association with his right hon. Friend. He will not find in HANSARD, nor will anybody else, the slightest suggestion by my hon. Friend, or any imputation whatever of any kind against the Medical Practices Committee. When the hon. Gentleman brought up that issue just now it was either a singular lapse of memory on his part or a maladroit attempt to drag a red herring across the problem and the case made by my hon. Friend.

I do not intend to devote too much time to his speech, because, as he said, he was incensed, and his blood pressure had risen. He was not quite responsible for what he was saying.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I made it clear that after the debate that we had had last night on questions of the rights of individuals—which were raised, quite properly, by hon. Members on his side of the House—it was only proper that they should remember some of the arguments they raised then, when discussing these very important professional matters. I think I had every right—and I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree—to be incensed at the manner in which those allegations were made.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

The Parliamentary Secretary is trying to ride away from this question. He had afterwards to admit, on the representations of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) that, in certain circumstances, the machinery of his own Act was being rendered entirely nugatory; that is to say, that the selection—and this is the gravamen of the charge made by my hon. Friend—of a doctor was being brought about not by the Medical Practices Committee, but by the chance of the allocation of a house to a person who was applying. That was the case that was being made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I am grateful to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for giving way so frequently, but it is important to get this matter clear. I quite appreciate the argument and the point put forward by the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill). We should have listened with much less heat to the point raised by the hon. Lady the Member for Chislehurst (Miss Hornsby-Smith) had she not introduced a wild and wholly undocumented charge about Communism and its relations with these bodies. I think that if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will look at HANSARD tomorrow he will see that there was every justification for the attitude I took.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

I do my best to give way on every possible occasion because we are anxious to get this matter straight, but I listened with great interest to the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst, and, for greater accuracy, I took them down; and the charge which she brought to the notice of this honourable House, and, in particular, the documentation which she supplied, was that a certain doctor had been granted a house by the L.C.C., that his name was put forward to the Medical Practices Committee, that he said, "I have been granted the doctor's house," and that, on that account, he was given the practice.

The Parliamentary Secretary went all the way in admitting that, and, indeed, said himself that there were a number of these cases. He said that, in connection with that local authority and with other local authorities, he was going into the matter with the British Medical Council and other bodies concerned; and he gave an undertaking to the House, which, I am sure, the House will be grateful to have, that he was continuing to press this inquiry and would go into this very problem. He himself said that this was a question that rendered nugatory the enormously important machinery of the Medical Practices Committee—and the hon. Member for Luton will agree this was one of the key points in the whole of the discussions on the National Health Service Act when it was going through Parliament.

My hon. Friend's case was that the doctor was being selected by the L.C.C. and not by the Medical Practices Committee, and this point was conceded in the second speech of the Parliamentary Secretary.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman took a careful note of what the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Miss Hornsby-Smith) said. Did he not note the references to Communism and Communists, and does he not think that those references to Communism were an attempt to influence the argument by introducing political hysteria and prejudice?

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

Certainly not. It did not influence the argument at all. I am coming to that point.

It did not influence the argument, for the Minister conceded the whole case which my hon. Friend was making. She made three points. First, that the house having been obtained the doctor in question could put forward his application and say, "I have the house." Second, that the authority allotting the house, to all intents and purposes allotted him the practice. I am sure that the House will agree that those two points were subsequently conceded in toto by the spokesman for the Government.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

That is getting away from the case.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

I am not in the habit of getting away from any case. When it comes to getting away from a case there are few more adept than the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) in getting away from a case. I say this, that my hon. Friend then said that this led, in practice, to the selection of undesirable persons. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, and she gave her opinion that these persons, were, in fact, persons who had certain——

Mr. Manuel

The hon. Lady said they were Communists.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

I did not wish to use the word. It seems to excite hon. Gentlemen opposite so much, that when they hear the word "Communist" or "Communism" they get a rush of blood to the head and forget entirely all the other arguments. Indeed, in this case, as we have seen, the word so much excited the Parliamentary Secretary that he entirely failed to reply to the case made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst, and it was not until he was recalled to the point by the hon. Member for Luton, who did not use the naughty word and did not succeed in exciting the Minister, that he got to the case.

As to whether the persons were or were not undesirable, I am certainly in no position to judge. My hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst is entitled to her own political opinions, as, indeed, all in this House are entitled to their own political opinions; and she is entitled to consider that the proportion of people with views x is larger than the proportion in the country as a whole or even in the City of London. She said that it was an odd coincidence that this large proportion of persons with political views x had been selected. We can imagine the feeling of the Minister if they had all been Conservatives.

Mr. Blenkinsop

What we want to get from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is a clear enunciation as to whether or not he believes, as apparently the hon. Lady believes, that political considerations should be taken into account at all in the appointment of doctors to practices.

Miss Hornsby-Smith

I have had so much misrepresentation of what I said that I think I might reply to the hon. Gentleman by saying that at no time did I say that political opinions should influence the choice. The whole weight of my argument was to the effect that the properly constituted authority, the Medical Practices Committee, should be able to perform its proper function of selection. I said that it was because of their very active political work that I first had shoals of protests about these gentlemen, and that gave rise to my investigating, with the various medical bodies, how many applications there had been when they were selected.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

It is clear that the hon. Lady has replied to the hon. Gentleman's question, but if he wishes it from me he can certainly have it from me.

I certainly think it most inadvisable that political opinions should be brought in on either the one side or the other. I must say that I have heard the question of political opinions brought in by the Parliamentary Secretary and his right hon. Friend on occasions with a great deal more vehemence than was used by my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst in referring to the proportion of persons of one political opinion or the other who happened to have been allocated to this practice. I could give chapter and verse but I will not do so, because we do not wish to raise heat unduly. I fear that if my professional colleague the hon. Member for Luton were to have another accession of blood pressure he might suffer permanent damage, and none of us would wish that to happen. My hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst raised a perfectly proper point, to which the Minister agreed, that by choosing the houses the L.C.C. were virtually allocating the practices.

Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)

This has all been said.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

Then it is a good thing that we are all agreed that it was a perfectly proper thing for my hon. Friend to say. I am sure my hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that the extreme exacerbation of the Debate was not due to the main gravamen of her charge and that everybody now agrees that this is a thing which should be got rid of and that the House as a whole is grateful to her for raising the point.

Mr. Dames

I have been listening patiently to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for five minutes, endeavouring to understand the point he is trying to make. Could he help us by coming to the point, so that we may follow his remarks?

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

There is no difficulty about coming to the point, which is that the L.C.C. is contravening the will and intention of this House in relation to the medical practices in a certain estate. That is agreed by the Minister, who is at present investigating ways to get rid of that.

Mr. Blenkinsop

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is up to his old games of trying to twist words into meaning more than they ever denoted. What I said was that we are quite well aware that where a doctor has gone out of practice and a practitioner has taken over his premises in advance of a decision by the Medical Practices Committee, they are put in a very difficult position. That matter is under discussion. I have also said that in so far as it is true that local authorities are adopting the practice of making decisions as to which doctors' houses shall be allocated to which particular doctors, we shall take this into account in the discussions we are carrying on with the British Medical Association. I am not accepting merely on the views put forward here tonight that that has already happened. Naturally, I must have full and proper evidence of it.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

The hon. Gentleman now concedes that if it has not happened, the presumption that it is happening is so strong that he is in active negotiation with the B.M.A. to prevent these hypothetical cases arising, and that he is also——

Mr. Blenkinsop

No. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is very wily. I am quite used to the way in which he spins out his words and makes up new stories, but I do not believe that he should be allowed to get away with that. I did not say that at all. I said that in so far as this was occurring, we would take it into account in our discussions with the B.M.A.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

That is exactly what I said. We now have it from the Minister who, a few moments ago, was trying to raise the utmost prejudice against my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst because she was saying exactly the same thing. In so far as it is occurring, anyhow, the Minister is investigating it. In so far as it is occurring, it is, in his own words, rendering the selection by the Medical Practices Committee largely nugatory.

Mr. Daines

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has already said it six times.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

To get it through the skull of the hon. Member it is necessary to say it 16 times, and I am——

Mr. J. Hudson

On a point of order. After that confession of repeating the same thing 16 times, does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman now come under any rule of the House for resorting to tedious repetition?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)

That does not arise until I have taken notice of the fact that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has repeated himself tediously. I would respectfully remind the House that we are not in Committee.

Mr. Daines

Further to that point of order. The right hon. and gallant Member has already said that he has repeated it six times to get it through my skull. On his own confession, therefore, he must be guilty of tedious reiteration.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

It had not occurred to me up to this point.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

On the question of "iteration," it is necessary to iterate several times to get it through the hon. Member's skull. On the question of "tedious," Mr. Speaker or Mr. Deputy-Speaker alone is the judge. The House has often been the victim of opinions expressed by Mr. Speaker, and as he is the judge of what goes on here it will often continue to be so. I can only regret that the arithmetic of the other hon. Member who interrupted is so poor that he cannot distinguish between six and 16, but that is all that one can expect from the kind of interruption which he made.

Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)

Cut the cackle and get on with the business.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

I can see why hon. Members opposite are so nervous about this. This is what makes them so annoyed. They are annoyed and frightened because the Medical Practices Committee is being sidetracked by the action of a local authority, and as a hypothetical chance that this has been happening has been conceded by the Minister they are afraid they will not be able to get away from it by their usual practice of blunt denial.

The House, then, is all at one that a valuable service has been performed this evening by my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst and that a grievance has ben aroused which the Minister has said he is now inquiring into.

Mr. Thomas

Are we to conclude from what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has just said that all he has said so far is about this one hypothetical chance?

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

The hon. Member cannot have been listening to his own Minister. What I have been saying up to now has been founded on the words of his own Minister. I am not surprised that he did not understand the words of his own Minister because he delivered two entirely contradictory speeches; but tomorrow morning we will be able to read it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Blenkinsop rose

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

If the hon. Gentleman is to speak again, he must ask for the leave of the House.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I merely intervened, and the right hon. Gentleman gave way, on a point he had just made. The right hon. Gentleman must not put words into my mouth which I did not use. I dealt fairly with the major serious challenge made by the hon. Lady in the first remarks I made to the House. It is true that there were further matters that I dealt with when they were put forward much more logically by the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill).

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

If the Minister looks it up he will see that he did not deal in his speech with the grave charge made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst, but that it required the second intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, to bring this charge to his notice. I sympathise with him in that and I pity him in that, but I cannot resile from my position that he did not deal with it in his first speech. What we would like to know further—[An HON. MEMBER: "Oh."] Has the hon. Member any remark to make?—[An HON. MEMBER: "Oh no, go on."] I thought we should come to agreement.

Mr. Daines

I must say that when the hon. Member for Luton finished the case we knew just where we were, but the further the right hon. and gallant Gentleman goes the more confused we get in trying to understand the problem.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

What a pity. The hon. Member will no doubt have to spend more time in this House in order to learn the business of listening to debate and to appreciate the arguments brought forward. I know it is difficult for a Socialist to listen to any argument, but in time he will come to it. Let him endure and the process will work. The Minister said that this matter was being gone into. He said he would be prepared to look into the practice of the L.C.C. or anyone on this problem in relation to doctor's premises. Can we ask how far he has got? Has he already started the discussions?

Mr. Tomney

When we get to the gravamen of the charge, could we also have the gravedigger?

Lieut. - Colonel Elliot

The hon. Member's humour is perhaps a little laboured. If he might think again and think longer when he wishes to make a joke in the House perhaps it will receive the approval of friends of his on the opposite benches, which he has singularly failed to achieve in the jejune interruption he made.

I was asking the Minister—since he can only speak again by leave of the House and I am sure that we will be willing to grant that leave—how far he has got with the discussions he thinks necessary to deal with these hypothetical cases and when he thinks he will be able to report to the House on the proposals he will no doubt have to bring forward to deal with it? These are points which arise further from his second speech, and I am sure that the House, and especially my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst, will be glad to hear his answers.

Mr. Blenkinsop

With the leave of the House—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—all I would say is that the general problem has been under consideration with the British Medical Association for some time. The——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

As some hon. Members said "No," the hon. Gentleman is not entitled to continue to speak, leave having been refused.