HC Deb 27 July 1988 vol 138 cc391-3
4. Mr. Doran

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what guidelines he has given to health boards with regard to the regrading of nurses.

12. Mr. McAvoy

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received concerning nurse regarding.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Forsyth)

The Scottish Home and Health Department issued written guidance covering organisational and implementation arrangements to health boards on 13 May. Copies have been placed in the House Library.

I have received five letters on the subject and I shall be meeting representatives of the Royal College of Nursing on 8 August to discuss this.

Mr. Doran

We have become used to cynical manipulation of the figures, particularly by Conservative Members, when we discuss the Health Service. Is the Minister aware that a substantial proportion of the nurses who were supposed to receive the recently announced pay award of 15.9 per cent., of which the Government made great play, will get less than half that trumpeted amount? What calculations has he made of how the award will be distributed? How many of those who will receive it will get less than the advertised amount?

Mr. Forsyth

Speaking of the manipulation of figures, the hon. Gentleman should be accurate. The figure is 15.3 per cent., not 15.9 per cent. I am sure that he wants me to be accurate.

The hon. Gentleman probably knows that a review of grading is going on, and it is not possible at this stage to give the precise amount that each nurse will receive according to her grade. To ensure that every nurse gets some increase there has been an interim award of 4 per cent. The average increase will be 15.3 per cent. The hon. Gentleman should reflect that the Government whom he supported cut nurses' pay by more than 20 per cent.

Mr. McAvoy

In view of the Minister's announcement of his meeting with the nurses, will he give a commitment that he will make every possible effort to give positive reassurance to the nurses at that meeting that the principles of regrading will be honoured?

Mr. Forsyth

I shall be happy to give that assurance, of which I think the Royal College of Nursing is aware. We have taken steps to ensure that the health boards are given guidance and that management has enough training and expertise to carry out the grading review as quickly as possible. We expect it to be achieved by the end of October. A nursing sister with substantial clinical responsibilities on the ward will find that her real pay has improved by more than 50 per cent. since 1979 as a result of the Government's commitment to the Health Service and to nursing within it.

Mr. Jack

Does my hon. Friend agree that a 44 per cent. increase in the real pay of nurses in Scotland since 1979, the regrading exercise, the pay increase and the hospital building programme north of the border show a real commitment to developing a high quality Health Service in Scotland?

Mr. Forsyth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The Health Service has never been better funded and now has the biggest capital investment programme in its history. It has never had more doctors and nurses, and they have never been better paid. That is because of the success of the Government's economic policies in delivering the resources to provide that care. The last Labour Government failed the Health Service because their economic policies failed the nation.

Mr. Ernie Ross

The Minister has rattled off success stories in Scotland. Will he tell the House why it is that the nurses' representatives in the Health Service in Scotland do not accept the Minister's statement? Will he also give a guarantee that the actual cost of the regrading will be met by his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State when it has been concluded? Will he answer the original question and tell us what guidelines he is giving?

Mr. Forsyth

The vast majority of nurses who eschew strike action are members of the Royal College of Nursing. The hon. Gentleman is referring to remarks made by the Confederation of Health Service Employees in Scotland. I deplore the campaign of rumour and innuendo that the confederation has mounted. It has suggested that nurses will be made redundant as a result of the regrading exercise. That is completely untrue. It has suggested that nurses' pay will be cut, which is also untrue. I can only imagine that such trade unions are piqued by the success of the Royal College of Nursing in delivering better terms and conditions for its members while not taking any part in strike action.

Sir Hector Monro

Bearing in mind that the Labour Government cut nurses' pay in real terms, does my hon. Friend agree that the present pay award has been well received by nurses? Is it not ludicrous that the Opposition should ask for an open cheque for the payment of the very large award that we have made, bearing in mind that the sum was recommended by an independent review body?

Mr. Forsyth

I agree completely with my hon. Friend. The 15.3 per cent. increase in the nurses' pay bill was calculated not by the Government, but by the review body. The Government gave a commitment to fund that cost, which amounts to £803 million for the United Kingdom and to £92 million for Scotland. That is a substantial additional resource for the Health Service, and a responsible Opposition should welcome that and give the Government credit for what they have achieved.

Mr. Galbraith

The Minister will know that to fund the review body awards, including that for the nurses in the regrading exercise, he allocated £21.6 million to the Greater Glasgow health board. Has he read the minute of the finance and general purposes committee of the Greater Glasgow health board of Tuesday 3 May? Item 53 is headed "National Health Service pay body awards 1988–89" and paragraph 2 reads——

Mr. Speaker

Paraphrase it, please.

Mr. Galbraith

It was expected that the amount allocated—£21.6 million—would be £6 million less than the cost of the pay review body award. The minute goes on to say that the board would have to find the extra £6 million from its own reserves. Is that what the Minister means when he talks about fully funding the nurses' pay award? Why does the Minister constantly maintain that he will fund it fully, when he knows that he will not?

Mr. Forsyth

I have already explained to the hon. Gentleman that the sums were based on the estimates that were made by the review body. I must confess that I have not read the minute to which he referred. However, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that I have had no representations from the Greater Glasgow health board to that effect. Also, the board has taken the unusual step of refuting some of the scaremongering that has come from the trade unions and others. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman chooses to associate himself with such action.

Forward to