HC Deb 28 January 1963 vol 670 cc557-9
33. Mr. Denis Howell

asked the Minister of Health why cadet nurses have their pay reduced when attending edu- cational classes to equip them for their work.

Mr. Powell

Full pay is not justified when the working week is reduced by two days or more.

Mr. Howell

Is not this probably the most scandalous answer any Minister has given to any Question in this Parliament? Will the Minister take it from me, as only one of many people at the hospital management level trying to grapple with the situation, that there is no reason at all why the Government should behave worse than any other employer in this context? How can we get these young girls, who have not quite got the new nursing standards laid down by the General Nursing Council, if this is the way in which they are treated? If they require two days' educational work a week, those in hospital management send them to get it. [HON. MEMBERS:"Speech."] And a very good speech, too. We send them for this education, and then get the shocking instruction from the Ministry, which is creating havoc throughout the hospital world, that their pay is to be stopped—and as it is they get only miserable pay.

Mr. Powell

There is no such new instruction. This has always been the practice in regard to nursing cadets. It is entirely wrong that staff whose working week is reduced by two days or more— not just nursing cadets but a whole range of junior staff—should be paid on full rates. That has not been the practice.

Dame Irene Ward

In view of this extraordinary position, can my right hon. Friend say whether the present regulations governing nursing cadets are the kind of regulation which would apply to day-release in industry, having regard to the difficulty which we have in persuading employers to allow day-release? Is there not some inconsistency in the whole matter which requires consideration?

Mr. Powell

As I have said, these regulations are not new in the hospital service, and I am not aware that they are out of line with general practice.

Mr. K. Robinson

Why is every discouragement placed in the way of nursing cadets—on recruitment, pay and working conditions? Why must the National Health Service be the worst employer in the country in this respect? How much would it cost to put this ridiculous anomaly right?

Mr. Powell

This is not a new discouragement. In fact, my Department has recently suggested that, instead of the previous practice of one day's release, hospital authorities should now make two days' release normal.

Mrs. Slater

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that even local authorities are encouraged to release their staff on full pay to go to educational courses? In view of the terrible shortage of nurses, will not the Minister consider changing an old practice to make a bad one into a new and good one?

Mr. Powell

I will certainly confirm that this practice is in line with the practice generally. I will certainly take that into consideration, but this has for a long time been the recognised practice in this Service. It applies not only to nursing cadets but to a whole range of staff. I will certainly consider it in view of the practice generally.

Mr. G. Brown

May we take it from that last reply that the Minister is now saying that he will reconsider this practice? Will he take it from us that there is no major employer that any of us knows of or that the Ministry of Labour could tell him of who does not pay when his junior staff are released with his permission and authority for classes to enable them to improve in their job?

Mr. Powell

I think there may be a misunderstanding. This release is for general education and not for further training in the specific employment. However, I repeat that I will consider this practice in the light of comparable practice generally.