HC Deb 09 June 1981 vol 6 cc260-1
17. Mr. Soley

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, pursuant to his answer of 11 May, Official Report, column 193, what assessment he has made of the effect on National Health Service services of an increase in ambulancemen's pay of more than 6 per cent.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Pay increases above the 6 per cent. cash limit would involve reducing services to patients —how much would depend on the knock-on effect on other settlements in the NHS.

Mr. Soley

As we seek to keep people out of hospital and as a good ambulance service is necessary for that, especially for the elderly and the infirm, why could not a better pay structure lead to an improved service? Is not the present offer an insult to the ambulancemen in view of today's offer to the chairman of British Leyland?

Mr. Jenkin

The hon. Gentleman should recognise that, since the Government came to office, ambulancemen have already had pay increases of 54 per cent. I am giving the figures for qualified ambulancemen. If this offer is included, their average earnings will be 66 per cent. higher than when we came into office. The existing offer is 7¾per cent. on basic rates spread over 15 months. The average earnings of leading ambulancemen is £184 a week in London and £163 a week outside London. I believe that the offer is fair. I hope that the ambulancemen will think twice before raking industrial action which is bound to hit patients who require treatment in hospital, particularly the elderly.

Mr. Paul Dean

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be wholly deplorable if the ambulancemen were to withdraw their labour and thus take it out on the sick?

Mr. Jenkin

I deplore the decision to take industrial action and to seek more money for a group of people who, by no stretch of the imagination, could be regarded as underpaid. The management side of the Whitley council offered to discuss the whole range of terms and conditions, including the possibility of a salaried service for ambulancemen, putting them in this respect more on a par with firemen. When one considers that, the decision to walk out and to take industrial action is disgraceful.