HC Deb 04 December 1973 vol 865 cc1078-9
21. Mr. Lamborn

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what percentage increase hospitals have been instructed to place on prices of staff meals since 31st March 1973.

Sir K. Joseph

For meals supplied at nationally negotiated prices the only increase since 31st March 1973 has been in respect of value added tax. For other meals which are supplied at locally fixed prices, and are also subject to VAT, no increase was made during stage 1 of the counter-inflation policy but hospitals have been advised that prices could be increased to take account of rises in the costs of ingredients after 6th November 1972. The percentage increases vary from place to place.

Mr. Lamborn

The right hon. Gentleman said that hospitals had been instructed that they could impose increases but my information is that they have been instructed that they should impose them. These have been interpreted as being 25 per cent., other than for the specially negotiated meals, plus 10 per cent. VAT. That is certainly the case in the hospitals with which I am associated. This has caused particular hardship for the student nurses, especially first-year student nurses, who are left with a little over £40 a month and can barely afford food at the prices currently obtaining in many hospitals.

Sir K. Joseph

I certainly authorised advice to hospitals on the effect of increasing ingredient costs on the non-nationally negotiated meals. However, food prices have been rising and, unless the hospitals are to provide larger subsidies for all those who eat in them, they have to raise prices.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether, when the Whitley Council negotiates increases for nurses, it takes into account the certainty that the price of meals taken inside a hospital will increase immediately the nurses get their salary increase? If it does not take that into account, will he authorise it to do so?

Sir K. Joseph

I think it is bound to recognise that some prices, whether taken inside a hospital or not, may at the time be rising.