HC Deb 19 June 1974 vol 875 cc466-7
12. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will initiate an inquiry into the pay and conditions of nursing and other staff working within the health service.

Mr. Robert Hughes

I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement made in the House on 23rd May by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.—[Vol. 874, c. 686–97.]

Mr. Hamilton

Does my hon. Friend recognise that the whole House appreciates the very sympathetic approach of the present Government to this matter, compared with the clobbering which the nurses got from successive Tory Governments? Will he give an assurance that this is one of the services that will not be denationalised? Will he also try to knock some sense into our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services to get her to provide an interim settlement pending the Halsbury proposals? If she will not do it, will my hon. Friend not attempt to do in Scotland what she says cannot be done in the rest of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Hughes

I affirm that there is absolutely no question of the National Health Service's being denationalised. It is the core of the Labour Party's philosophy and of the health care of our people. It has done and will continue to do a magnificent job. I agree that those working in it, particularly the nurses, have suffered each time there has been a statutory incomes policy, wage freeze and the rest, going back to earlier days.

I am satisfied that we shall do all we can to improve conditions. I believe that the decision to establish the independent review body to report early, and our promise to backdate payments to 23rd May, are a guarantee of good faith to the nurses. I hope that they will accept that we are doing all we can to improve their conditions and will let us get on with the job.

Mr. Ancram

When the Halsbury Committee does report, will the hon. Gentleman ensure that the benefits that we hope will accrue to the nurses will be extended to include the paramedical services, which are particularly suffering? I am sure that the hon. Gentleman accepts that many paramedical workers in responsible professional positions are getting no more than shorthand typists are getting fresh out of school.

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Gentleman should be aware that such an undertaking was given on the day that the setting up of a review body was announced. Therefore, no assurance is needed from me, except to say that I reaffirm it and agree with it.