HC Deb 08 December 1958 vol 597 cc2-3
4. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Minister of Health if he will state the total average amounts paid to medical men under the merit scheme since it was put into operation in Stoke-on-Trent, Manchester, Salford, and London, respectively.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I regret that the information is not available.

Mr. Smith

It should be available. Does the Minister agree that, from his experience, it is never good to administer a merit scheme in secrecy? Is he aware that this situation is causing great concern to the most conscientious medical people? If he agrees with that reasoning, is he prepared to give the matter his personal reconsideration?

Mr. Walker-Smith

Two points are involved here. First, in regard to the availability of the information, I am sure that the hon. Member will agree that the assembly of this information would be a complicated and time-consuming task — [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—because it would entail the examination of about 2,000 pay records over a period of nearly ten years, and would require consideration of the various types of consultant who have received merit awards for part of the period in question and then changed their districts, and so on.

On the other aspect of the question, the hon. Member will no doubt be familiar with the views put on record by the Government to the Royal Commission, but when we have the Commission's Report we can look at all this in the context of what the Report says.

Dr. Summerskill

Is the Minister aware that this is the only case, at least in his Ministry, where public money is distributed without this House having an opportunity of knowing how much is distributed, and why? If this is to continue, may I ask why general practitioners also are not given merit awards?

Mr. Walker-Smith

The reason for the continuance of this scheme to date is that it has given broad satisfaction, at any rate to the profession concerned; and so far, even those who criticise it—I accept that they criticise in good faith—have not been able to find a satisfactory alternative method. Evidence has been given to the Royal Commission, not only by the Government but by the interests concerned, and we can consider this matter in the light of its Report, and having regard to the evidence.