HC Deb 24 July 1979 vol 971 cc325-8
3. Mr. Race

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will list the reductions in manpower and services to patients in each regional and area health authority which will flow from the Government's refusal to finance the whole of the Clegg pay awards for ancillary staff and ambulancemen.

The Secretary of State for Social Services (Mr. Patrick Jenkin)

Since the Government have not refused to finance these Clegg awards, the question is misconceived.

Mr. Race

Is it not true that the financing of the awards is to be reduced by the Government by £22 million even though they have said that they will implement the findings of the Clegg report for ancillary staff and ambulance men? Is it not also the case that this will form part of the £100 million shortfall in the cash limits, which will mean substantial reductions in the National Health Service in every area and regional health authority in the country? Did not the Chancellor of the Exchequer cynically and deliberately mislead the House when he said in his Budget Statement that there were to be no cuts in the National Health Service? When will the right hon. Gentleman, as a spending Minister, make clear to the mad monetarists at the Treasury that he is responsible for the National Health Service and needs more finance?

Mr. Jenkin

On the funding of the Clegg awards, the Government are adhering precisely to the policy of their predecessors, on which the hon. Gentleman fought the last election.

Mr. Paul Dean

Will my right hon. Friend do his utmost to ensure that this pay award and others in the future are firmly tied to no-strike agreements so that patients do not have to suffer the inconvenience and hardship that occurred last winter?

Mr. Jenkin

I believe that all parties in the House and in the Health Service are as anxious as I am to avoid any repetition of the events that struck the Service last winter. These are matters for the Whitley Councils to come to terms with. I hope that when they embark upon negotiations in the next pay round it will be possible to make some advance in the direction that my hon. Friend wants.

Mr. Ennals

Does the Secretary of State accept the conclusion of the letter from the chairman of the South-West Thames regional health authority that the squeeze imposed by the Government as a result of their Budget may lead to a doubling or a trebling of waiting lists and the closure of wards and hospitals on a scale not seen before? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have just come from the Westminster hospital, where I was told that 10 wards are due to close as a result of the squeeze imposed by him? When will he come clean with the House and the country?

Mr. Jenkin

I have made clear that the policy of the Government is exactly the same as that of our predecessors, both on the funding of the Clegg awards and the offset of £23.4 million which the right hon. Gentleman announced before the election, and the fact that we were asking health authorities to abide by the cash limits laid down by the previous Government. As I said in the debate in the House recently, this will lead to a squeeze on cash limits overall of between £90 million and £100 million. This means that health authorities will need carefully to review their priorities in the current year. Neither the National Health Service nor any other part of the public sector can escape the logic of the proposition that the more that is taken out in pay, the less there is for everything else.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Now that the public service unions have embraced the principle of comparability as their byword, is it not time to point out to all those employed in the Health Service and elsewhere in the public sector that, as in the private sector, there must be some trade-off between the level of settlements and the scale of employment?

Mr. Jenkin

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is a matter which I would expect the management side of the Whitley Councils to point out to the staff side during pay negotiations.

Mr. Moyle

Is it not clear that the circular issued by my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) on 11 April is a light age away from current circumstances in view of the heavy burdens that this Government, by their own decision, have placed on the Health Service in the last two or three months? Will the right hon. Gentleman now give a clear undertaking that his Government will meet the pay rates of the Clegg award for the existing labour force? Otherwise, he will be laying a further burden on the National Health Service. The right hon. Gentleman is prepared to consider paying 35 per cent. extra to the doctors over the next few months. Why not treat the ambulance-men and the ancillary workers in the same way? Or are we to regard the Prime Minister's speech at Beeston on 18 April, when she promised to keep the National Health Service fully funded, as a cynical exercise in electioneering?

Mr. Jenkin

It is interesting to recognise that the right hon. Gentleman's party would perhaps not have honoured the findings of the doctors and dentists review body to which, we understand, it had committed itself before the election. No doubt the medical profession will take note accordingly. I have made clear that additions to cash limits will be provided for the purpose of funding acceptable awards. The arrangements for this have been stated many times in the House.