HC Deb 01 July 1963 vol 680 cc6-7
18. Mr. K. Lewis

asked the Minister of Health how many British delegates attended the thirteenth International Hospital Congress in Paris in June 1963 with expenses paid out of public funds; how many attended with expenses paid out of hospital free money funds; what was the cost both to the Exchequer and to free money funds; and what instructions he has issued for future attendance at this annual congress and other overseas study tours.

Mr. Braine

There were 62 from England and Wales, with expenses met from public or endowment funds; I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of the instructions, and will give him the figures of cost when available.

Mr. Lewis

Is my hon. Friend aware that there has been a suggestion that the Ministry intends to limit the numbers of those who attend these conferences? While no one who is reasonable—and I would count myself as being fairly reasonable in these matters—would want to stop a fair number going to these conferences, does not my hon. Friend think that it becomes ridiculous when it is open to area boards and management committees to send as many people as they like out of public funds or free money?

Mr. Braine

I am sure we would all agree that my hon. Friend is reasonable in this matter as in everything else. Whilst not in any way discounting what he has said, the figures of attendance this year are not large in relation to the size of the hospital service, and I would not wish it to be thought that we have nothing to learn from or contribute to international meetings. Nevertheless, I am sure that my right hon. Friend will very much bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. K. Robinson

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that these congresses and study tours—not one of which, incidentally, I have attended in 12 years' membership of a regional board—are of considerable value to members of hospital authorities? In so far as they offer also a minimal amount of pleasure, is not that some compensation for the enormous amount of voluntary work that these people do, and will the Minister do something to curb his hon. Friend's Scrooge-like propensities?

Mr. Braine

I wholly reject the charge levelled by the hon. Member at my hon. Friend. In matters of this kind a reasonable balance clearly has to be maintained. These conferences are valuable to those who attend, and the exchange of ideas is of great value to all concerned; but this is a matter which has to be watched.