HC Deb 22 January 1974 vol 867 cc1417-9
1 Mr. Pavitt

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many times he met the organisations representing the nursing profession to resolve the dispute over the salaries for regional and area nursing officers ; which organisations were present ; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Social Services (Sir Keith Joseph)

I saw representatives of the Staff Side of the Nurses and Midwives Whitley Council three times during the course of these negotiations, including one occasion when a deputation was received by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. The Staff Side membership covers 12 organisations and was represented by its chairman, vice-chairman and secretary. Following these meetings, discussions were resumed between the two sides of the council and I have subsequently been able to approve an improvement on the provisional salaries previously announced.

Mr. Pavitt

How significant was the Prime Minister's intervention in this matter? As the Secretary of State's first pay decision was made under his NHS powers and he made that decision against the wishes of the Nurses Council, will he now be making a similar kind of promulgation? Is he aware that if he does so, although the Nurses Council will acquiesce it will not accept that as being the final word, as injustice will still exist, and will wish to continue negotiations even if he promulgates this fresh decision which, thank goodness, is likely to be a little more favourable than his first decision?

Sir K. Joseph

My right hon. Friend's interest was great and his intervention was effective. I have been requested by both Management Side and the Staff Side to apply the revised salaries, although the Staff Side has made it abundantly clear, as the hon. Gentleman has said, that it does not accept them for the continuing future but awaits the review promised for 1975.

Dame Irene Ward

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, as Vice-President of the Royal College of Nursing, I am fully behind the nurses, as I believe he is? May I ask him to remember that if he wants any help with the Treasury, I am the woman?

Sir K. Joseph

I continually frighten the Treasury with my hon. Friends displeasure if we do not achieve the results that we both want.

Mr. Molloy

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are some holders of ancillary posts in the hospital service who may not be properly remunerated but who nevertheless receive more in salary than nurses who have extra responsibility? Will the right hon. Gentleman examine that situation to see how it can be rectified?

Sir K. Joseph

Yes, but the Question is on the subject of the top administrative nursing posts.

14. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the total salary increase under phase 3 for a third-year student nurse, a newly qualified staff nurse, and a sister, respectively, within the National Health Service.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Michael Alison)

This is a matter for consideration by the Nurses and Midwives Whitley Council at the appropriate time.

Mr. Hamilton

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this House is getting sick and tired of that kind of answer? Does not he recognise that whatever the increase is it will be considerably less than the forecast increase in the cost of living over the next 12 months, which is commonly recognised to be in the region of 15 per cent.? To reduce the standard of living of the most dedicated public servants in the country is an outrage which should be put right by the Government forthwith.

Mr. Alison

I cannot comment on the substance of what may emerge from the negotiations about to be set in train. If the hon. Gentleman is sick and tired of my answers, I can only tell him that so long as the Whitley Councils continue in existence, inevitably such answers will continue to follow the hon. Gentleman's questions.

Dr. Summerskill

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there are some fully-trained nurses and ward sisters who, after deductions, earn only 60p an hour and that this traditional exploitation of nurses is one factor in causing the serious shortage? If the Government claim to be helping the low paid, they cannot contract out of helping the nurses by shifting the responsibility to the Whitley Council.

Mr. Alison

I have no doubt that the point made by the hon. Lady, if it has substance, will be presented to the Whitley Council by the Staff Side.

The House must be encouraged by the substantial increase over recent years in the numbers of nurses, particularly in long-stay hospitals.