HC Deb 09 February 1982 vol 17 cc845-6
5. Mr. Peter Bottomley

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what has been the average increase in basic salaries of nurses employed in the National Health Service since April 1979.

The Secretary of State for Social Services (Mr. Norman Fowler)

The average increase in basic salaries of nurses employed in the National Health Service since April 1979—including the 1 April 1979 pay settlement—ranges from 100 per cent. for area nursing officers at the maximum of their pay scale, to 63 per cent. for ward sisters at both the minimum and maximum of their pay scale, to 42 per cent. for nursing auxiliaries at the minimum of their scale. These differential pay increases have been negotiated by the Nurses and Midwives Whitley Council according to their priorities.

Mr. Bottomley

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with the progress being made at the present negotiations? Does he agree that the relative level of nurses' pay is determined not only by the outcome of their negotiations but by how many other groups in the community insist on a pay increase that is substantially more than the nurses are likely to get?

Mr. Fowler

As a matter of overall Government policy, we have made it clear time and again drat the pay awards that are made must be related to what the nation can afford. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend's remarks. The negotiation is a matter for the Whitley council. It has not yet begun, although it will begin later this month.

Mr. William Hamilton

Is it not true that in the same period the Armed Forces and the police have had substantially higher pay increases than the nurses? Does he not agree that a nurse is as important to the community as a policeman or a soldier?

Mr. Fowler

I entirely accept what the hon. Gentleman said. I am committed to seeking fair treatment for the nurses. I pay tribute to their work. The hon. Gentleman takes me on to his question about long-term arrangements. I shall reserve my comments until that question is asked.

Mr. Alton

Has the Secretary of State had time to consider my representations to his Department about the possibility of introducing special allowances for nurses working in inner city areas? Is he aware that some nurses have to tolerate conditions that would make those faced by people such as Florence Nightingale seem mild in comparison? Is he aware also that some nurses have had to put up with their cars being burnt out and that others have been stoned whilst in uniform in one of our cities?

Mr. Fowler

I am aware of the problems, although I do not accept for one moment that what the hon. Gentleman has described is a generalisation that can be applied to all inner city areas. Clearly, there are problems in inner city areas which the Government would like to tackle.

Mr. McCrindle

If the Government could be sure that other employees in the public sector would not jump on the bandwagon, would my right hon. Friend turn his attention favourably to a settlement for the nurses of considerably over 4 per cent.?

Mr. Fowler

I am not prepared to be drawn prior to the meeting of the Whitley council, which has not begun to consider the claim and which will not meet for the first time until later this month.

Mrs. Dunwoody

If the Minister has said to the staff side that he requires it to do the homework, and if it has told him how he can work out comparable rates with people outside the nursing profession, why does he not come clean and admit that he is cutting back on the standard of nurses' pay, because he has done so in two previous years as well?

Mr. Fowler

That is absolute rubbish. I shall give the hon. Lady the figures. We have devoted an extra£1 billion to the nurses' pay bill, and there has been an increase of 76 per cent. in the nurses' pay bill since this Government took office. That shows the value that the Government place on nurses.