HC Deb 28 November 1966 vol 737 cc29-30
51. Mr. Molloy

asked the Minister of Health what plans are envisaged for a comprehensive review of pay and conditions for nurses; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Kenneth Robinson)

The pay and conditions of service of nursing staff in the National Health Service are matters in the first instance for the Nurses and Midwives Whitley Council. The pay agreement made by the Council in 1965 provided that it would run for two years from 1st July, 1965 and that during this time no major issue should be raised except with the consent of both sides.

Mr. Molloy

Would not my right hon Friend agree that since that meeting of the Whitley Council there is now an urgent need for a special examination of the problem affecting nurses? Would he also comment on the fact that private agencies have sprung up recruiting nurses, which are not in any way connected with the Ministry or local authority organisations?

Mr. Robinson

Nursing agencies are no new thing. If my hon. Friend wants to ask me a question about the relationship to the National Health Service perhaps he would put it on the Order Paper. I can assure him that there are claims for a reduction in working hours and also for overtime pay, but so far there is no claim for a general review of pay before the Whitley Council.

Mr. William Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend say whether, within the context of the prices and incomes policy, the wages and conditions of nurses come within the category of lower-paid workers, because if they do not they jolly well should?

Mr. Robinson

This is not an interpretation which I ought to give off the cuff at Question Time.

Mr. Dean

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that there is a good deal of confusion among nurses and other staff about how they will be affected during the period of severe restraint? Can the right hon. Gentleman clear this up as soon as possible?

Mr. Robinson

The consideration of nurses' remuneration will not come within the period of severe restraint because the two years to which I have referred do not expire until 1st July.