§ 4.30 p.m.
§ LORD RUSHCLIFFE rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether any decision has yet been taken in regard to the termination of the Mental Nurses (Employment and Offences) Orders, 1941–1944. The noble Lord said: My Lords, you may remember that on February 12 last we discussed on Third Reading the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Bill, and that in the course of the debate which followed, the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack told us—he said with great reluctance, which I am sure we fully accepted—that he was unable at that time to give a date when the nurses in mental hospitals would be released from the operation of the Mental Nurses (Employment and Offences) Orders, 1941–44. He also said that he would be only too glad to make a statement in this House when he was in a position to tell us that a decision had been reached. The purpose of my question is to ask him whether such a decision has been reached, and, if so, whether he would be good enough to tell us what it is.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for giving me the opportunity of making a statement on this matter. As announced by the Minister of Labour and National Service on December 13, the general controls on the movement of nurses and midwives will cease to operate on June 20. It has accordingly been decided that the Mental Nurses (Employment and Offences) Orders shall be revoked and cease to operate on that date. It is appreciated that the revocation of these Orders may cause temporary difficulties in retaining staffs in some institutions. Might I for myself add this observation? These nurses have always shown that they prefer the interests and convenience of their patients to their own 593 interests, and I believe that they will not fail us at this time. If the Orders were not revoked, the Mental Nursing Service would, after June 20, be the only branch of nursing subject to restrictions of this kind. That would be a grave handicap to future recruitment to the Service, and, after the fullest consideration, we have come to the conclusion that the balance of advantage lies in withdrawing the Orders on June 20. I understand that the Secretary of State has taken a similar decision regarding the revocation of the Orders in Scotland.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, I think the House will be very grateful to the Lord Chancellor for being able, so so soon after our debate, not only to report to us, but to report in such a satisfactory way. We must all be extremely glad that it has been found possible to bring these Orders to an end. No tribute can be too high to pay to the people who have given their whole life and service to this extremely onerous and very often disagreeable work. All your Lordships felt, while recognizing that to the full, indeed because they recognized it so fully, that it would be a grave hardship if they were to be compulsorily retained at this 594 work, which many of them (some of them, certainly) had undertaken under the emergency of war. I am bound to say that if they had to continue at it, it would have been very unfortunate. It was, however, a very difficult decision to take, because there was the possibility of a gap. On the other hand, I am sure that this is a case where justice and fairness to those who are in the Service will have its own due reward, as the Lord Chancellor has said, in assisting recruitment in future. I think this is an instance where we can all accept congratulations. We congratulate the Lord Chancellor. We thank him for the personal trouble he has taken, which I know is considerable, over this matter. I am sure all your Lordships will be glad that we went into it on a previous occasion so fully, and that the result of our combined efforts is so satisfactory.