§ Mr. Key
May I be first on this side of the House to congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on his first appearance at the Dispatch Box in his new post—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear".]—and say how warming it is to find such a robust and positive attitude at the Dispatch Box? Given that the average target pay for general practitioners is now about £28,000 and that that represents only one of a number of variable factors, for which it is hard for anyone to budget, is there any hope of a unitary Health Service as long as we have family practitioner committees? Should not family practitioner committees be abolished and brought within the district authority health service?
§ Mr. Clarke
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks and for the lively reaction behind me. I suspect that that will not be the only lively reaction behind me before this day is out.
We are looking at the future of the family practitioner committees, just as we are looking at practically every aspect of the service in the current review. My hon. Friend will recall that we set up the FPCs on their present basis only three or four years ago and, whatever we do, we must ensure that we consider the special qualities of the family practitioner services and of the family doctor service in particular. We do not want the family doctor service to be overlooked by being drawn into the net of the general hospital service.
§ Mr. Fearn
Will the Secretary of State comment also on the pay scales of junior doctors and tell us whether they have had the same increases during the past 10 years as those he has just mentioned? Will the Secretary of State relate that information to the hours of work that junior doctors are now putting in?
§ Mr. Clarke
Junior doctors also are much better paid than they were—and certainly they deserve to be, because of their heavy commitment to the service. We are looking yet again at the vexed question of the hours of work of junior hospital doctors, which has been tackled by this Government on more than one occasion and to which I am glad we have made some worthwhile improvements. The fact is that getting things improved requires the commitment of the Government, the authorities and the whole profession. Although at every level the representatives of the profession are fully supportive of what we are trying to do, we sometimes encounter local practice where consultants are not as helpful as they might be about the type of cover that they want. I have also encountered some junior doctors who do not really want their hours reduced because they do not like the fall in pay that goes with it. At the moment we are trying to get rid of one-in-two rotas—and so we ought.