HC Deb 24 October 1950 vol 478 cc2676-8
11. Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement regarding the result of the 8 per cent. cut in their-dispensing fee on the chemists of Scotland.

Miss Herbison

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the statement made by my right hon. Friend in reply to the hon. Member for Fife, East (Mr. Stewart) on 18th September last. In particular, I want to emphasise that this provisional reduction, which amounts to 8 per cent. of total payments and not 8 per cent. of dispensing fees only, is essentially a device to enable negotiation or arbitration to reach a settlement with retrospective effect in favour of the Service and not only of the chemists. It is not a substantive cut in remuneration.

Since that statement, my right hon. Friend has had a meeting with representatives of the chemists, and both parties are considering various aspects of the position further in the light of the frank discussion which took place. Meanwhile, the Whitley Council are attempting to reach agreement on procedure for an early reference to arbitration.

Sir T. Moore

I hesitate to heckle the hon. Lady—[HON. MEMBER: "Why?"]—for whom I have a great regard, but is she satisfied and are the Government satisfied that they are really treating the chemists fairly in regard to this cut, and are they treating the chemists fairly in regard to payments as a whole for what the chemists supply?

Miss Herbison

The latter part of the supplementary question does not arise from the original Question, and I am certain that when the hon. and gallant Member reads the reply I have given he will be satisfied that every attempt is being made to give justice to the chemists and to the nation as a whole.

Mr. Linstead

May I ask the hon. Lady whether her right hon. Friend is conscious of the need for getting this deadlock settled before the end of November, when the notices which the chemists have given expire and there may be a breakdown in the service? Is the danger of that understood by her right hon. Friend?

Miss Herbison

That is perfectly understood by my right hon. Friend.

Mr. J. N. Browne

Will the hon. Lady agree that all this would never have happened if the pricing bureau had not broken down? Is she further aware that the pricing bureau has only priced four out of 26 months and about 20 tons of prescriptions had to be sent back to Edinburgh unsorted and unpriced? Should she not put her own house in order first?

Miss Herbison

That is a completely different question from the one on the Order Paper, which does not affect that supplementary question.