HC Deb 23 March 1976 vol 908 cc181-3
4. Mrs. Chalker

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when she expects each area health authority to have offered the new contract to its junior hospital doctors.

5. Mr. Nicholas Winterton

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she is satisfied with the implementation of the junior doctors' contract of service.

The Secretary of State for Social Services (Mrs. Barbara Castle)

The draft implementation circular to which I referred in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Marquand) on 9th March was agreed by the Staff Side on 11th March, and the circular was issued to employing authorities the following day. The completion of individual contracts depends on agreement locally between the junior and his authority; and authorities who have not yet completed this process have been asked now to do so with the minimum of delay.

Mrs. Chalker

I thank the right hon. Lady for that reply. Will she give an assurance that the meeting tomorrow morning between the Hospital Junior Staffs Committee and officials of her Department will have the authority to decide upon the final contract which was, in essence, first given to her Department more than three years ago?

Mrs. Castle

I assure the hon. Lady that we have finalised our discussions with the Hospital Junior Staffs Committee about the implementation circular, and there is no difficulty about that. It went out immediately the hospital juniors had approved it. It is a matter now of getting contracts offered locally within the context of the policy we have agreed with them.

Mr. Pavitt

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that within the last four years the pay of junior hospital doctors has doubled? The pay of a senior registrar four years ago was £71 a week, and it is now £139. Did not junior hospital doctors receive, under the Labour Government, double the rate of increase that they received under the Conservative Government?

Mrs. Castle

I agree with my hon. Friend. There is no doubt that those working in the health service at all levels have had more generous treatment under the Labour Government than at any time in the history of the National Health Service.

Mr. Winterton

Is the Secretary of State aware that, unfortunately, many junior hospital doctors have little trust in the Government, and that the delay in finalising the new contracts will jeopardise the recent settlement? Will the Secretary of State give a categoric assurance that no doctor will have to wait until May to obtain his overtime payment?

Mrs. Castle

Some of the delay has not rested with my Department. The timetable shows that we have been as expeditious as we could be in getting out the circular on the new contract. As soon as the HJSC had accepted the circular—we consulted it at every stage—we sent it out, on the following day. There is no delay on our part. I am as anxious as anyone that we should continue to sustain the better relationships with the juniors that we have managed to build in the long talks we have had over their new contract. I have asked the authorities to get the payments into operation if possible by the end of April.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that one of the grievances of junior doctors was the excessive hours they worked? If that is the case, will my right hon. Friend look closely at certain reports that have appeared in the Press and elsewhere that many doctors are going across to the Continent and receiving considerable fees for work they do there in their spare time?

Mrs. Castle

The freedom of movement provisions of the EEC apply here. My hon. Friend is quite right about that. I agree with him that one of the problems has been the excessive hours worked by juniors. Part of the agreement that I finally reached with them was that we should proceed to a joint examination of the problem of these excessive hours. I am only too anxious to press ahead with that.

Dr. Vaughan

Does the Secretary of State realise that it is the contract that is the difficulty, and that that has still to be settled? Would it not be much more helpful if she admitted that she has made the most appalling muddle over the payment of the junior doctors, and put some urgency into her negotiations?

Mrs. Castle

The hon. Gentleman always hopes to sustain any reputation he may have in the House by distortion of the facts. We are well aware of that. His supplementary question does not merit an answer, in the light of what I have told the House.