HC Deb 21 January 1997 vol 288 cc734-5
10. Mr. Robert Ainsworth

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the efficacy of local pay bargaining as a means of determining pay awards for NHS staff. [10365]

Mr. Dorrell

Local pay is delivering fair and affordable rewards to staff while supporting the development of flexible and responsive health services.

Mr. Ainsworth

Is the Secretary of State aware of the recent comments made by Ken Jarrold, the director of human resources of the national health service executive? He said that local pay arrangements would be considered successful only if deals had been made in 50 per cent. of NHS trusts. Surely the right hon. Gentleman is aware that, to date, almost a year after the system was set up, settlements have been reached in only 25 per cent. of NHS trusts. Does he agree with the director's comments or does he not?

Mr. Dorrell

The hon. Gentleman has got the facts wrong. As of last Friday, 228 trusts had agreed local deals with their staff. They represent 53 per cent. of all trusts. The substantive question that parties must answer is whether they are in favour of accepting the recommendations of the independent review bodies. The independent nurses' pay review body recommended a system of local pay. The question that every party must answer is whether it is in favour of the continuation of those review bodies and of respecting their advice. The Government are in favour of respecting their advice, which is why we accepted their recommendation in favour of local pay, and why we are implementing it.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my right hon. Friend remember a time when pay was agreed centrally, when there was civil war in the Labour party, and when there was a pay freeze, which led to the winter of discontent? Is that not the likely scenario ahead of us if we ever get a Labour Government?

Mr. Dorrell

My hon. Friend has quite an authoritative figure on his side. No less a figure than the right hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) was busy yesterday warning nurses: Pay squeeze here to stay, Brown warns the nurses". It will be interesting to see how quickly Labour Members have learnt their party's new lines when they meet members of the Royal College of Nursing in their constituencies.