HC Deb 28 June 1965 vol 715 cc22-4
32. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Minister of Health if he will review the machinery he now uses for maintaining contact with general practitioners within the National Health Service with a view to recognising one national assembly only with the right to represent all doctors, and that to be based on local medical committees which shall have an increased democratic function to fulfil.

Mr. K. Robinson

I share my hon. Friend's wish that I should maintain contact with the whole body of general practitioners and there is already machinery, based on local medical committees, whereby I can do this.

It is primarily for the profession to decide how they wish to be represented in negotiations with me.

Mr. Pavitt

While I do not wish to interfere with the profession's right to decide its own negotiating machinery, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend does not agree that it is very confusing to have these three national conferences, which have recently met, talking about resignations? Would it not facilitate the negotiations if the profession had only one conference? Would my right hon. Friend look again at the powers which he gives to local medical committees? They have conducted a ballot about resignation. I understand that that is not my right hon. Friend's responsibility. Is it, therefore, admissible that this kind of undemocratic machinery should exist as part of the framework?

Mr. Robinson

It is a fact that what local medical committees do in that connection is a matter not for me but for the profession. I agree with my hon. Friend that the position, with these various bodies taking decisions, is confusing, but it arises out of the structure of the medical profession, which I am always assured is completely democratic. Perhaps that is why it is rather complicated. However, I am not at all sure that the matter would be simplified if all doctors were represented by a single negotiating body in their discussions with me.

Mr. Wood

Will the right hon. Gentleman resist the suggestion by his hon. Friend that he should restrict the freedom of doctors to band together in any association that they want? We believe with the right hon. Gentleman that this is a matter rightly left to the doctors, and I hope that he will confirm that that is his view.

Mr. Robinson

I am certainly very willing to leave it to the doctors. I do not accept the suggestion by the right hon. Gentleman that that was what my hon. Friend was putting forward. I think that what my hon. Friend wanted to do was to see whether there was some way of simplifying the machinery. If there is to be simplification, I think that it must come through the initiative of the profession itself.

Dr. Wyndham Davies

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider some action in regard to the Chairman of the Birmingham Executive Council, Mr. Rhydderch, who, in a very tense situation in relation to general practitioners in Birmingham, is issuing inflammatory political statements?

Mr. Robinson

I do not accept for a moment the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of the action of the Chairman of the Executive Council in Birmingham, who is faced with a difficult situation. If the hon. Gentleman has any questions to ask about the situation in Birmingham, I should be glad if he would put them on the Order Paper.

Mr. Pavitt

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I was not seeking to interfere with the right of doctors to have their own machinery, but my hope is that in the negotiations it might be in their own interests if he would seek to persuade them to have a more streamlined and effective method, which would be for their own good and the good of the country?