HC Deb 08 August 1972 vol 842 cc1478-9
20. Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what plans he now has to improve the rates of pay of ancillary workers within the National Health Service and to expedite wage negotiations in this sector.

Mr. Alison

The current agreement of the Ancillary Staffs Council runs until December; negotiations for revised rates of pay are expected to begin in September.

Mrs. Oppenheim

Does my hon. Friend agree that the machinery for negotiations within the Health Service is extremely ponderous and that ancillary workers on the lowest rate of pay are receiving what by any standards is very poor pay? Is my hon. Friend aware that these workers have refused to go on strike out of consideration for the patients in the hospitals in which they serve? Will my hon. Friend show these ancillary workers similar consideration?

Mr. Alison

There is no doubt that ancillary workers are amongst the lower-paid workers. The 1971 pay settlement increased the wages bill by 7.6 per cent. Another wage claim is presently expected, about which I should not comment at present.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Is the Under-Secretary aware that unless the ancillary services are properly manned—that is, radiographers, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physiotherapists and nurses, all of whom are very important to the functioning of a realistic Health Service—there cannot be a fully staffed and effective Health Service? To secure this, realistic rates of pay should be given to these people now to increase recruitment for the future.

Mr. Alison

I fully support the hon. Gentleman's exposition of the vital part played by the various ancillary workers, of whom there are many different categories. I have no doubt that realism is present on both sides in the negotiations which take place in the Whitley Councils.

Mr. Ashley

Is the Under-Secretary aware that some of the rates of pay which were referred to by the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mrs. Sally Oppenheim) are quite shocking and that, far from the units being fully staffed, some people are leaving the service because of the rates of pay? As the Prime Minister has expressed great interest in the lower paid in his discussions with the Trades Union Congress, will the Government take action on this very important point?

Mr. Alison

I have conceded, regretfully, that ancillary workers are amongst the lower-paid workers, but I remind the hon. Gentleman of the substantial increases accorded in 1971, and no doubt a claim will be made presently for 1972 by the trade union concerned.