HC Deb 18 June 1974 vol 875 cc200-1
17. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will make a statement on the steps she now intends to take to improve the wages and conditions of nurses and other ancillary staff within the National Health Service.

31. Mr. Sillars

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what further discussions she has had with nurses' organisations about pay and conditions in the hospital service.

Mrs. Castle

I would refer my hon. Friends to the statement I made about nurses and other ancillary staff during the debate on National Health Service pay on 23rd May.—[Vol. 874, c. 691.]

Mr. Hamilton

Does my right hon. Friend understand that it is generally recognised that successive Labour Governments have been far more generous in their treatment of nurses than have any Tory Government since 1945, but that all of them have been mean, and that on any reckoning nurses will not receive any increase proposed by Halsbury until the autumn? Meanwhile, inflation is continuing and the standard of living of nurses and ancillary staff is going down. Therefore, will my right hon. Friend reconsider the provision of an interim settlement, at least to prevent the reduction of the standard of living of nurses and others working in the hospital service?

Mrs. Castle

Of course, I have given consideration to an interim payment, but I have come to the conclusion that it is in the best interests of nurses that the inquiry body should be free and unfettered by an arbitary down payment, in order that it can conduct the thoroughgoing inquiry for which the nurses have asked. There can be no question of the nurses' standard of living go down pending the outcome of the inquiry, because they benefit from the threshold agreement. The nurses have already had not only their £2.25 stage 3 increase but £1.20 from the first threshold agreement increases that took place a short while ago, and they will continue so to benefit. What matters is that I have undertaken that the findings and awards shall be backdated from the date of the announcement—that is, from 23rd of last month.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Will the right hon. Lady change her mind and make an interim payment to the nurses, as it is obvious that the Halsbury Committee will recommend an increase for the nurses so that the National Health Service can be saved from collapse.

Will the right hon. Lady also tell the House on how many occasions she has been a private patient—queue-jumping, as one of her hon. Friends described it—and say when was the last occasion?

Mrs. Castle

If the hon. Lady wants to repeat Private Eye fabrications in the House, will she please not do it under the guise of caring for the nurses? Will she have the courage and honesty to say directly what she is alleging? As for the hon. Lady's pseudo-concern for the nurses, I remind her that she had plenty of opportunity to make a row on their behalf during the two years that the Conservative Government denied them the revaluation which I have introduced immediately.