§ Mr. Nott
I beg to move Amendment No. 89, in page 114, line 2, after 'security', insert 'or secondary security'.
This is a purely technical Government drafting Amendment to correct a defect in the existing wording of Schedule 5, Group 5. I shall be happy to describe it to the House if it so wished.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Nott
I beg to move Amendment No. 181, in page 115, line 6, at end insert:'(h) the register of dispensers of hearing aids and the register of persons employing such dispensers maintained under section 2 of the Hearing Aid Council Act 1968'.
§ Mr. Speaker
With this Amendment it would be for the convenience of the House to discuss Amendment No. 90, in line 6, at end insert:'(h) the register of hearing aid dispensers kept under the Hearing Aid Council Act 1968'.
Amendment No. 92, in line 7, at end insert:
'or registered hearing aid dispenser'.
§ Mr. Nott
The effect of Amendment No. 181 is to exempt the supply of services, and in connection with it the supply of goods, by persons on the register of dispensers of hearing aids and the register of persons employing such dispensers maintained under Section 2 of the Hearing Aid Council Act, 1968.
As the House knows, my right hon. Friend felt that there was a strong case for relief in the medical sector. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] My right hon. Friend felt that it was appropriate in the case of the medical professions that the form that this relief should take should be exemption. The essential question in formulating the relief was to decide where, with a tax which in principle is comprehensive, the line should be drawn. We deliberately considered, in consultation with the Department of Health and Social Security, whether hearing aid dispensers should be within the scope of the exemption before the legislation was drafted. We took into account the fact that there was a statutory register of dispensers and that the treatment provided by hearing aid dispensers was subject to a strict code of practice.
However, as I explained in Standing Committee and in Committee of the whole House, we felt that on balance the hearing aid dispensers were not sufficiently akin to the other medical professions with statutory registers which we had decided to exempt. But this was a finely balanced position and, as I told the Standing Committee, we undertook to reconsider the arguments. In the light of the further discussions which my colleagues and I have had on this matter with the Department of Health and Social Security, we have decided that it would be appropriate to add the registered hearing aid dispensers to the list of professions in Schedule 5, Group 7, Item 1.
1648 The Government Amendment applies to both dispensers and their materials. There are two registers under the Hearing Aid Council Act, one for qualified dispensers and one for employers of such dispensers. I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton), and others of my hon. Friends including my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. William Clark), who made points about this matter in Standing Committee.
§ Mr. Nott
Hon. Members of the Opposition have been peculiarly ungracious and I shall not follow that bad example. I was about to thank the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) for the comments he made and the help we received from him.
I am glad to say we have considered the matter as we promised, quite contrary to what was said by the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Brian Walden). I noted his words in Standing Committee but I shall not repeat them now. In spite of that, however, we are glad to make this change and I hope that it will meet with the approval of the House.
§ Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Willesden, West)
It would be extremely ungracious and churlish of me if I did not express the thanks of so many people to the hon. Gentleman and the Government for this concession.
I commiserate with the hon. Gentleman because this matter is extremely complicated. Audiology and otology are complicated matters. Even the Department of Trade and Industry at times has had to consult me about the meaning of my Ten-Minute Rule Bill. I commiserate with the hon. Gentleman in the problems he faced in Committee.
On behalf of so many hard of hearing people, the British Association of the Hard of Hearing and the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, and new organisations such as Breakthrough, I appreciate that this has been done and that the fine-edged decision has fallen on the right side of the edge.
1649 I join in the expressions of thanks to hon. Members on the Government benches, particularly to the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne), for conducting my Amendment in Standing Committee. I was not a member of the Committee. The hon. Gentleman stood in so valiantly and fought the case so hard that I wish to express my thanks to him, and to the Father of the House. I hope it will not be taken amiss if I also mention my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and the rather difficult position into which he got in Standing Committee in using me from time to time as though I were in the box.
I hope that in other matters where the disabled, the deaf or the blind approach and pressurise the Minister from both sides of the House, he will extend as much sympathy as he has done on this occasion.
§ Mr. J. Bruce-Gardyne (South Augus)
We are in danger of becoming a mutual admiration society. However, I cannot allow the Amendment to go through without expressing my thanks to my hon. Friend the Minister of State and to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security. They have taken an enormous amount of trouble over this matter. We have had a number of meetings with them and they have been extremely sympathetic. We have given them much trouble.
I am sure that my hon. Friends have come to the right conclusion. I am extremely grateful to them for that. I join with the thanks expressed to hon. Members of the Opposition and to my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton).
I hope that when next we sit in Committee dealing with a Finance Bill and one of my right hon. or hon. Friends urges one of us to withdraw an Amendment on the understanding that it will be considered before Report, we shall not be told by the Opposition that we are most unwise to take those words in the sense that they are meant. I hope that this will not be forgotten.
I thank my hon. Friend the Minister of State very much indeed for what he has done.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian Walden
I join my hon. Friends in thanking the Minister warmly for the concession but I have a point to put which, though only marginally related to the Amendment, is of some significance.
In passing I must say that I feel hurt, neglected and unloved because the Minister did not thank me. However, there it is. When I said in Committee that the concession would not be made, I was of course fishing to get the concession then. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Of course. Then, when the hon. Member for Surrey, East (Mr. William Clark) told the Committee that a Conservative Minister would not betray his own backbenchers. I knew that we should win.
I come now to the point I wish to put to the Minister. I do not ask him to comment on it now; I want him to note it. I suspect that the difficulty arose, and we wasted a good deal of time in Committee on it, because these people come under the Department of Trade and Industry. I am certain that they should not. I suspect that what happened was that they just did not turn up on the list on which they should have appeared, the Department of Trade and Industry did not get in touch, or the Treasury did not get in touch—I am not apportioning any blame—and that is how it arose.
These people should not be under the DTI. I inquired how they got there in the first place and I was told that the real reason was that there was some thought that there might be State manufacture of hearing aids and, that being so, the DTI was thought to be the appropriate Department.
I thank the Minister sincerely for the concession. His decision will affect a considerable number of people. I add only that it might not be a bad idea if the Treasury had a word with the DTI and with the other Departments concerned and had the matter raised at such a level as to make possible the transfer of these people away from the Department of Trade and Industry, where they probably should not have been in the first place.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Brian Walden), on this occasion I am one of the unloved—and rightly so— 1651 because, although I went on at inordinate length on this subject, I was able to do so in an informed way only because I was, so to speak, acting as ventriloquist for my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt).
I put a Question subsequently to the Lord President about facilities which should be available to the Opposition to use the Box for their advisers, and I received a very dusty answer. The truth is that I could not conceivably have argued the case, and replied time and again to the Minister, without the guidance and help of my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, West, a member of the Medical Research Council and a man with expert knowledge and great general experience in these matters. I feel, therefore, that this is an instance which makes the case for the Opposition having facilities in the Box.
One can only say that this is one more example of the occasions when the Treasury, it seems to us, did not take the medical advice which is available to it in Alexander Fleming House and elsewhere. We had it with children's shoes. Sir George Godber was not consulted. We had it with telephones for the elderly. Sir George Godber was not consulted. Here, too, the Treasury got into trouble precisely because it did not see fit to obtain the medical advice which was available to it in other Government Departments.
§ Mr. Nott
Perhaps I may add that my hon. Friends the Chief Secretary and the Fiancial Secretary have noted some remarks which he made recently in New Scientist. I shall not quote them. They were very pleasant. I am happy to reciprocate now and say that I wish him not to be left out.
I must, however, comment on the hon. Gentleman's observations about consultation between the Treasury and the 1652 Department of Health and Social Security. He is quite wrong. There was the closest consultation, as I said, even before the Bill was published, between the Department of Health and Social Security and the Treasury on this matter. That consultation continued during the Committee stage and it still continues. The hon. Gentleman's observations on that matter are simply not accurate.
§ Amendment agreed to.