HC Deb 11 December 1974 vol 883 cc494-6
8. Mr. Monro

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many of the 18 appointments to area health boards in August 1974 were to members of the Labour Party, or to persons to sit as Labour members of local district or regional authorities; and how many are qualified nurses.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Nomination forms for health board membership do not ask for information about the political affiliation of those nominated. Two of the 18 new members are qualified nurses.

Mr. Monro

Does the hon. Gentleman remember attacks on the Conservative Party last year on the lack of serving nurses appointed to health boards, and the work that we put in to make non-political appointments? Is he aware that of the 18 appointments made in August, none is a serving nurse—although at least two are qualified—and at least 15 are well-known members of the Labour Party, including the political agent of the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton)?

Mr. Hughes

I am well aware of the attacks that were made on the hon. Gentleman—in an Adjournment debate a year ago—in respect of his right hon. Friend's appointments. I recall that at that time the hon. Gentleman said that he was not ashamed of the appointments that had been made. Neither am I ashamed of the appointments made by my right hon. Friend. We have taken the view that in these 18 appointments— which were to fill vacancies—we should work towards the spread of appointments laid down in the consultative document. There are, in fact, two qualified nurses among the recent appointments, but more will be considered as and when the next round of appointments takes place in the new year.

Mr. Alexander Wilson

Will my hon. Friend complete the education of the House, and particularly of Scottish Members, by giving us information on how many appointments made before August 1974 were of members of the Conservative Party?

Mr. Hughes

I do not have that information, but there was widespread discontent at the last round of appointments. I believe that we have gone some way to resolve some of the discontent.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Is it not dodging the issue for the Minister calmly to stand up and say that political affiliations are not inquired into? The fact is that when the Labour Party is in power there is a bias towards Labour appointments and when the Conservative Party is in power there is a bias towards Conservative appointments. Will he—

Mr. Skinner

How did the hon. Gentleman get to Strasbourg?

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Russell Johnston

Will he confirm that membership of a party other than the Labour and Conservative Parties is not a disadvantage to people who make themselves available for public service?

Mr. Hughes

No nominee for appointment to a health board is debarred because of membership of any political party or, indeed, of none. That is as it should be. In making the appointments we take great care to ensure that people of experience and personal quality who can do the job are appointed. From time to time members of political parties will be appointed, but this is only natural when they are selected to reflect the character and views of the areas from which they come.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

I congratulate my hon. Friend on redressing the balance and restoring the equilibrium disturbed by the Tory Government. Regarding the health councils which are shortly to be appointed, will my hon. Friend make absolutely sure that voluntary organisations, including, for example, the Co-operative movement—against which the then Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro), had a grievance at the time—will not be excluded from the list from which selections are made?

Mr. Hughes

We are in the process of looking at the schemes drawn up by health boards for representation on local health councils and we shall take into consideration the point made by my hon. Friend.

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