HC Deb 26 January 1956 vol 548 cc399-402
Mr. Turton

I beg to move, in page 19, line 3, at the end to insert: nor a society registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts, 1893 to 1954. When I examined what had gone on in the Committee, I noted with close attention the suggestions made by the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) and the hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Oram). I was most anxious to meet their point of view. I am not by nature one who enjoys banning things, especially banning bodies that have high ethical and professional standards. I considered whether we could provide some way of achieving their object and at the same time securing those high ethical professional standards.

My attention was drawn to Section 10 (1) of the Prevention of Fraud (Investments) Act, 1939, which empowers the Registrar of Industrial and Provident Societies to remove from the Register societies which do not comply with its strict requirements. It appeared to me that there was a safeguard that could be exercised to secure that either a bona-fide co-operative society or a philanthropic dental society carrying on its work to the satisfaction of all concerned would have its position safeguarded.

I would refer hon. Gentlemen to that section. The Registrar can register a society if he is satisfied

  1. "(a) that the society is a bona-fide co-operative society, or
  2. (b) that … the business of the society is being, or is intended to be, conducted—
    1. (i) mainly for the purpose of improving the conditions of living, or otherwise promoting the social well-being, of members of the working classes, or
    2. (ii) otherwise for the benefit of the community."
He can remove from the Register any society that is not complying with those conditions. It is important when conferring these benefits to do so fairly to all newcomers who can pass the requisite high professional and ethical standards.

If the Co-operative Dental Association wanted to extend into Scotland it would not perhaps be a proper solution for it to do so merely by amalgamation. I know that there is among Scottish Members a high national pride. They might not like the invasion of the Co-operative Dental Association into their territory and might prefer to start a new body on their own. If they did, that would be possible, under the terms of the Amendment which I am moving.

5.0 p.m.

I have said that J am not keen on monopolies, and if we allow one body that comes under Section 10 of the Prevention of Fraud (Investments) Act, 1939, it is only fair to allow other philanthropic bodies if they are able to satisfy the very strict tests of that Section. I say that because after I had tabled this Amendment—which was intended to meet the point of view of the hon. Member for Oxbridge—I was surprised to find that he had tabled an Amendment which seeks so to limit the purpose of mine that only the bona-fide co-operative society would have the advantage and the other bodies covered by Section 10 of the Prevention of Fraud (Investments) Act would be excluded.

I hope that on reconsideration the hon. Member will not move his Amendment, because my purpose is to find a satisfactory solution. During the Committee stage he himself said that he did not seek a monopoly for the Co-operative Dental Association, and I had hoped that he would, therefore, have supported my Amendment. That which he originally put down was very similar to mine but, as he will recollect, the wording did not fit into the Bill. I think it started with the word "to" and would not, therefore, have been in order.

We have no wish to make it any easier for those organisations and bodies which. since 1946, have operated to the detriment of the professional and ethical standards which we are trying to maintain. As my right hon. predecessor told the House and the Committee, there has been clear evidence that the standards of the dental companies have been much lower that those observed by both the professional dentists and by the Co-operative Dental Association. This Amendment will not make it any easier for any such new company to carry on. Such bodies, I am advised, would not pass the very strict standards laid down by the Registrar. For those reasons, I hope that the House will accept this Amendment.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The next Amendment to the Amendment proposed, standing in the name of the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick), is really a limiting Amendment. I am quite willing to call for a Division, but I think that the debate should be on the Amendment proposed. That would not limit discussion.

Mr. Beswick

I agree that it may be more for the convenience of the House if I speak to the Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman. First, I should like to thank him for the generous spirit he has shown to the views which we expressed during the Committee stage. I quibble only about one minor matter-cur original Amendment actually started with the word "or" and not "to," and would, therefore, have fitted into the Bill. That, however, does not detract from what the Minister has said.

As the right hon. Gentleman has said, we sought during the Committee stage to omit Clause 24 altogether and the complete ban which went with that Clause on the institution of new corporate bodies in the field of dentistry. We felt that that prohibition was far too wide. We quoted as an example a particular co-operative association which the Minister's predecessor himself had shown as having a professional standard higher than that of the average private practitioners.

Such an organisation would in future have been prevented from offering the public a dental service. The difficulty was that although the Minister accepted our argument that, as it stood, Clause 24 kept out the good as well as the bad concerns, he was unable to accept our original Amendment because that would have let in the bad as well as the good, and he told us just how bad some of the bad organisations were.

We took very much to heart the warnings of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, and it was in an endeavour to get a form of words which was more selective and discriminating that we put down our subsequent Amendment, and the Amendment to that proposed by the Minister. If the Minster assures us that the form of words which we originally put forward—and which he now advances as an Amendment of his own—is sufficiently adequate to keep out those undesirable elements previously referred to, we shall be very happy to accept it. We appreciate the sympathy with which he has read what we had to say during the Committee stage. I will not move my Amendment, but will, instead, accept the right hon. Gentleman's.

Amendment agreed to.