HL Deb 23 January 1945 vol 134 cc647-8

3.4 P.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I think I may explain the objects of this Bill in a very few sentences, and this may suit the convenience of the House rather well as I see there are still two Motions and one question on the Order Paper for this afternoon. The object of the Bill is to correct a drafting error that occurred in the Nurses Act and the Nurses (Scotland) Act—an error with serious consequences, which was unfortunately overlooked when these measures passed through Parliament in 1943. These two Nurses Acts were intended as a safeguard for private patients or hospital authorities by protecting them from unfair treatment, such as a demand for excessive fees or the ministrations of an unqualified nurse on the part of nursing agencies to whom they might apply for assistance in cases of illness. In order to prevent the occurence of such abuses, the Acts laid down certain conditions to which those who run these agencies or nurses' co-operatives, as they are commonly called, would be obliged in future to conform. These regulations included the duty only to supply nurses with accepted professional qualifications, to keep detailed records in every case and to obtain a licence from the local licensing authority.

At the time Part II of this Act was reexamined by the Minister to fix the date on which its provisions were to become operative, it was first noted that the expression in the Act "agency for the supply of nurses" was so broad and indefinite that it might be taken to cover such perfectly innocuous organizations as county and district nursing associations. Those of your Lordships who live in the country know what excellent work district nurses, sent out to visit by their local associations, do in poor homes. Not only do these district nursing associations, being voluntary bodies, enjoy a reputation unimpaired by the sort of conduct against which these Acts were aimed, but some of the smaller associations in country districts might even find it impossible to carry on their ordinary nursing duties if they were obliged to conform to the regulations I have just described. The only way to safeguard these district nursing associations and at the same time to apply the necessary measure of control prescribed in the Nurses Acts for the nurses co-operatives, was to narrow down the meaning of "agency for the supply of nurses" so as expressly to exclude those bodies with whom no one has ever desired to interfere.

The present Bill would exempt from the regulatory provision of Part II of the Nurses Acts district and county nursing associations and other organizations doing similar work in rural areas. Your Lordships will notice that it is a very short Bill with only three clauses, of which the third clause relates to the title. Clause 1 deals with the matter for England and Wales and Clause 2 does the same thing for Scotland. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(The Earl of Listowel.)

On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.