HL Deb 05 May 1975 vol 360 cc166-83

6.19 p.m.

Lord HILL of LUTON rose to move, That this House takes note of the Ninth and Fifteenth Reports of the European Communities Committee on Freedom of Establishment. The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships may recall that on 9th December last I invited the House to take note of the Eighth Report from the Select Committee for 1974. On that occasion. I concentrated my remarks on the Community's proposals for the freedom of establishment of the professions and their mutual recognition of each other's qualifications, taking doctors as an example—indeed, as the first case. The Community intended the changes affecting the medical profession to be the model, other professions following with appropriate adaptations on the same pattern. I now invite your Lordships to note that the same principles are proposed for application to some other professions, notably nurses and midwives, opticians and accountants; and, incidentally, work has begun in relation to architects.

There is one important change, I am glad to say, in the Community's proposals affecting doctors. Noble Lords may recall that reference was made in last December's debate to the Community's attitude to a language requirement, a requirement that the incoming doctor should speak our language, regarding it as a not unimportant part of communication with patients. Much concern was expressed in our short debate on this point. We had been told, and quite firmly, and I so informed your Lordships, that the Treaty of Rome did not permit a language requirement; that such a requirement would he discrimination of a kind forbidden by the Treaty. I am glad to inform your Lordships that, despite the firmness of the view then expressed, that a language requirement would be in breach of the Treaty, common sense has now prevailed and the right honourable lady the Secretary of State for Social Services informed the other place on 24th February: We obtained agreement to an additional provision in the Directives which will enable Member States to see that doctors acquire the linguistic knowledge necessary for the exercise of their profession in the country to which they are moving. She went on to add: A Committee of officials of Member States will be set up to collect information and to consider any difficulties which may arise as a result of the implementation of the Directives. This is a welcome change, which I would not venture to suggest that the debate in this House had anything to do with. But let us welcome it.

My Lords, how the Community has found it possible to reinterpret the Treaty, I do not know. But it has been done, and it is to be welcomed. The arrangements for the medical profession have now been agreed in principle, with the general approval of the profession in this country, by the Council of Ministers and await only the withdrawal of a Danish reserve before they become Community Law. They are expected to come into operation next year. No more has been heard of the progress in relation to proposals concerning veterinary surgeons and dentists; but no doubt they are in the machine.

Before I mention some other professions, may I invite your Lordships, those who study the draft Directives, to ignore the word "self-employed" in relation to the professions. For complex reasons, and by a complicated process which I described to your Lordships last time, it has been found possible to interpret the Directives in relation to both employed and self-employed. Therefore the word "self-employed" should be ignored. Secondly, in the earlier cases, the drafts began with draft Directives requiring the abolition of restrictions on the freedom of professions to set up in regular or temporary practice in another Member State. That position has now become simplified following the judgment of the European Court in the so-called Reyners case. I will not weary your Lordships with its details. The decision amounts to this. The Treaty itself requires the abolition of such restrictions based on nationality and no Directives on that point are necessary. The result is the same; but the number of Directives is accordingly reduced.

I come now to the proposals affecting midwives. The proposed Directive, as you would expect, requires Member States to recognise the midwifery qualifications of other Member States and goes on to provide for a minimum period of training, theoretical and practical, as a prerequisite to the recognition of qualification throughout the Community in the future. The Directive would apply equally to men and women. While our own midwifery profession is not unsympathetic to the proposals as a whole, they are united in their opposition to the admittance of men to the midwifery profession in this country. In this country, the midwifery door is closed to men as midwives but not as obstetricians or gynaecologists. Our own midwifery organisations dislike this proposal intensely. There are some male midwives in some of the other Member States, but I am told that it is a mere handful. In one Member State which does recognise men in the midwifery profession, the total number is 300 and five of them are men.

Among the arguments used by the mid-wifery organisations is one that the recognition and use of male midwives would involve considerable chaperonage and so a great deal of waste of human time and effort. Among the other points on which they are not yet satisfied are training methods. They are, it seems, so diverse in the different Member States that, in the view of our own representative bodies of midwives, interchangeability should not take place without in some cases courses of additional training. In every case, it should not be thought that we are superior in our professional standards, although in many cases we are. There are significant differences in training which lead midwives to argue that there would have to be a period of adjustment before a midwife trained in one Member State could be accepted for practice in another.

But the point is still unresolved. The problem of the admission of the male midwife is not a large problem; nor indeed is the whole problem, for 99 per cent. of the midwives in this country are employed by public authorities, central and local. Whatever else the Treaty of Rome does, it does not remove the right of an employing body to choose the people it wants to appoint, provided there is no discrimination on grounds of nationality. So in practice it could be said that the problems are more apparent than real so far as this country is concerned. At least the midwives themselves believe so. I confess I have a niggling doubt as to whether the selection of successful candidates on the grounds that they are better qualified than others might be held to be contrary to our obligations under the Treaty of Rome.

I come now to the nurses. The Directives are broadly on the same lines as for midwives. Our nursing organisations who came to see us welcomed the principle of mobility, although they expressed concern about the absence of a language requirement. Presumably what was done in the case of the doctors will be repeated here. Their only other concern of substance, naturally enough, is that reasonable safeguards shall be built in to cover nurses who qualify or have qualified before the basic standards of the Community are laid down.

Let us now move to another sphere of human activity, the accountants. In this case, the Community's consideration under the heading of the freedom of establishment is in its earliest stage. So far they have not reached any draft conclusions on the qualifications for performing the statutory audits. That is to come later. For the moment, Brussels is concerned with identifiying the qualifications of accountants to be stipulated as being necessary before a person can engage in accountancy activities in other Member States. Auditing is excluded for the time being. It is hardly a problem in this country. Anybody can practice in this country as an accountant. It is not quite so simple on the Continent. At the moment, the qualifying bodies in this country are being looked at in the examination for this interim non-auditing phase. There is some doubt about two of our qualifying bodies, the Institute of Cost and Management Accountants, and the Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, but consideration is going on. I suspect that the real problems here will arise on the more important question of mutual recognition of qualifications in order to achieve freedom of establishment in the field of statutory audits. That problem has not yet been approached.

Much greater difficulties arise with regard to the fourth profession in this series. The profession is that of opticians. There is a long history in this country of the two wings of this profession, characterised in the past by much controversy. On the one hand, there are the opticians who test sight and prescribe as well as supply spectacles. They were once called "sight testing opticians ", but now they are called "ophthalmic ", opticians ". On the other hand—a different qualification—there are the dispensing opticians who dispense the prescriptions of medical practitioners.

In recent years, the difficulties and controversies have been resolved and these two parts of the opticians' profession have come to live and work amicably side by side in their respective fields. But in the context of Europe the situation is different. The problem, put at its simplest, is this: Continental professions, for the most part, are differently organised. Not only do they dispense prescriptions from doctors, but they make the spectacles. In a great many cases (about 90 to 95 per cent.) they are spectacle makers and dispensers. Indeed, it is thought that only about 5 per cent. of Continental opticians could be considered at ophthalmic opticians, as sight testing opticians. If the proposals were to go through in their present form, they would be entitled to do something here for which they have had no training whatever—the testing of sight. Secondly, the present drafts oblige an optician to seek medical opinion whenever he suspects a pathological defect. But it is seriously doubted whether the course of training proposed in the draft Directives would qualify an optician for this skilled and often difficult work. Thirdly, because of the different structure of the professions, the draft Directives take no account of the training, responsibilities and scope of those who are recognised here as dispensing opticians.

To sum up, the qualifications of opticians, the kinds of work they ordinarily do, are so different as between the Continent and ourselves that harmonisation would seem to be impossible without a fundamental reorganisation of methods, systems and classifications either here or on the Continent, or both. The Select Committee, on the recommendation of the Sub-Committee to which the problem was referred, sympathise with the views of our opticians. They just cannot see how the adaptation can be secured without a fundamental change of professional structure. Without such a change they believe the public interest here would be greatly harmed. This is the first case involving the freedom of establishment in which we have met such fundamental differences and in which we think that such differences of professional structure have stood in the way of the application of the principle of freedom of establishment within a foreseeable time.

It is this set of proposals—plus the problem of the male midwife—which the Select Committee would wish particularly to bring to the notice of your Lordships. In general, the professions hitherto involved, as we have discovered, are by no means opposed to the general principle of the freedom of establishment, particularly now that the principle of an advisory committee, representative of such professions to work beside the Commission, has been established for the doctors and is likely to be established for other professions. The language difficulty is no longer an issue, but in two professions we have run across difficult problems which I have briefly described to your Lordships. Behind all this tedious detail there is a consideration of immense importance not merely to the professions but to the public as a whole, though the public may not easily recognise it. It is that nothing should be done to lower the professional standards in this country, even in the pursuit of the ideal of interchangeability and the freedom of establishment. Here our own high standards—and they are high—stem, for the most part, from the professions themselves. On the Continent they tend to be derived from the law rather than from the professions' own bodies. We need to be continually vigilant, and it is as part of this vigilance that the Select Committee would wish to make these Reports to the House and bring attention to two very considerable difficulties with which it has been confronted. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the Ninth and Fifteenth Reports of the European Communities Committee on Freedom of Establishment.—(Lord Hill of Litton.)

6.38 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to ask your Lordships to listen for a few minutes regarding the problem of opticians to which the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, referred. It has been put to me that it is my duty to speak tonight since the Opticians Act, which is under consideration, is one which is based on the Report I presented in 1948. What is involved in the document in front of us tonight is, as the noble Lord has said, the risk of standards declining, and of our throwing away much of the progress we have made, certainly in the past 25 years and perhaps in the past 50 years.

I came to your Lordships' House 28 years ago, just as we were about to build up the Health Service, and the late Aneurin Bevan asked me whether I would take the chair of an Interdepartmental Committee to look into the question of registration of opticians. With the Minister of Health and his senior civil servants I learned that 20 years previously an Interdepartmental Committee had been appointed to look into the Optical Practitioners Registration Bill of 1927. The chairman of that Committee was Mr. Merriman, KC, MP, who subsequently was to come to your Lordships' House as Lord Merriman of Knutsford.

That Committee produced a majority Report and a minority Report, both of which were controversial, and it was against the knowledge of this earlier background that this new Committee came to be set up. I was given to serve with me persons from various organisations, distinguished members of the medical profession, of optical organisations, scientists, educationists and hospital representatives. In the three years that followed, we took evidence from five medical organisations, 13 optical organisations and five training institutions. In addition, we received lengthy documents from 14 other sources. Our evidence was varied, coming from organisations such as the BMA, the Institute of Ophthalmology, the Royal Society and the Association of Municipal Corporations, all of whom had important points to make to us.

As a result of all this we did not report until 1952, and by that time there had been a change of Government following a General Election. The new Conservative Government, with their own programme of legislation, had to get on with their job, and it was not possible for that Government immediately to espouse the kind of legislation we recommended. We recommended the establishment of a General Optical Council, not unlike the General Medical Council but with rather larger powers, in one way, because adequate standards of education and examination had to be maintained. We visualised—and this was the most important point, I think, in the light of the original EEC proposal—that thereafter spectacles would be provided to the public only by those registered by the Privy Council-appointed GOC. They would be appointed and registered under two heads: the ophthalmic and the dispensing, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hill, has referred.

At that time it was still possible to buy a pair of spectacles quite casually. Within a short distance of this district there was a jeweller's shop with a notice outside saying "sight testing ", and some chemist's shops offered similar facilities. You could walk into a branch of a large chain store and you would then get to know what was going on. I did this in order to check on the evidence that had been given to my Committee. I went to three branches of the same chain store, and each time I was given a card by the young lady on the other side of the counter and asked to read down as far as I could, to the smallest-sized print I could see, and then tell her the number in the margin at that point. I found myself leaving the first place with a 14; I left the second with a 15 and the third with a 12. I mentioned this to your Lordships in 1953, in the debate on the Report. I venture to remind your Lordships of this detail to get it on the Record because some of the opposition to the Opticians Bill related to this kind of consideration.

The Bill was prepared by the Conservative Government, emanating from a draft Bill which some lucky winner of the ballot in another place could pick up. In due course, Sir Ronald Russell, whose death last year was regretted by many of us, put up the Bill and did some good work on it. There were many nights spent in Committee rooms in another place. There were lobbies by small shopkeepers and so on, all aiming at the same thing, namely, to leave things as they were. The whole content of that Act of 1948 will have been in vain if now, by one small step, we sweep away everything because 5 per cent. of the Continental opticians can come in within the definition of our legislative requirements.

I have just received the annual report of the General Optical Council for the year ended 31st December 1974. Mention is there made that they are concerned about the effects of entry into the EEC on the optical profession of this country. Ever since they were set up, the GOC have seen nothing but improvements, for many of which they have been responsible. They now see a profession that, in addition to having excellent qualifying organisations, now has degrees available in universities. Therefore, my Lords, it is essential for us to remember that what was done in 1948 and again in 1958 was an attempt to improve the standard of services to the public and to keep them away from quackery. If we are not careful, and unless we can get the situation altered, we might find ourselves back to the original position.

I would therefore end by congratulating the Committee on their final paragraphs on page 14, and I should also like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Hill of Luton, who was kind enough to ensure that I was at the meeting of the Sub-Committee to hear the evidence given. He also reminded me that this debate was taking place tonight, to make certain that I did not forget about it. Perhaps I might quote from the Select Committee Report on page 14: … the Government should insist that recognition should be given to the different ways in which the opticians' profession has grown up in this country and on the Continent. They concluded that only basic changes in the structure and classification of the optical profession in other Member States could make this inter, changeability possible, without harm to the public. And our job here is to keep the public from harm.

6.48 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to speak tonight and I shall do so only briefly; but I was lured into it by the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton. I felt it would be churlish if I did not, from these Benches, express great gratitude to the noble Lord and his Committee for these extremely interesting debates which we have on occasion on the freedom of establishment.

It is very satisfactory that all these draft Directives—all of which, I think I am right in saying, were drawn up at a time when we were not a member of the Community—have proved to be adaptable to the degree that they have. No doubt all will eventually be acceptable to us. I was particularly happy to hear what the noble Lord said about the overcoming of difficulty on speaking the language as far as the doctors' Directive was concerned. I would not wish to inquire how this difficulty was overcome, but I am delighted that it has been.

If I may, I should like to say just one word about the veterinary profession, because I remember from my happy days at the Department of Health that the veterinary profession were as keen as anybody to get some sort of freedom of establishment agreement within the Community. They had made tremendous strides and taken a terrific interest in what was going on in Brussels, and at one time it looked as though they were leading the field. Therefore, I am sorry to see that the Report says that it is understood it is unlikely that a final decision will be reached in the near future, because at one time it looked as though members of that profession were very keen to participate and were well on the way to doing so.

So far as the midwives are concerned, I must confess I have great sympathy with them in wishing to exclude the male midwife. There are undoubtedly certain people—some on religious grounds—who do not wish to be treated by a male midwife. Although it can be said that they would have freedom of choice, there would in practice be grave difficulties with rota systems. There might well be a male midwife as the only person on duty. A woman would require the services of a midwife and would have to accept the only person on duty, who happened to be a male midwife. There is also the difficulty that the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, referred to if, in fact, when a male midwife is used there must be a chaperon. This seems to me a terrible duplication of effort and rather makes a nonsense of the proposal that there should be, indiscriminately, male or female midwives. However, I have no doubt that this is a matter we shall come to when the Sex Discrimination Bill reaches this House.

I am therefore happy that progress is being made. The question of ophthalmic opticians and dispensing opticians is a terrifyingly difficult one. If anybody can see his way to finding a compromise solution here, he is deserving of great congratulation. Can the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, give us some idea as to where we stand now with these Directives? Can he say whether any of them are now in a state when they can finally be agreed, and what kind of time-table is likely to ensue with the final agreement to them—especially regarding the doctors, which is the first one?

6.52 p.m.


My Lords, this has indeed been a useful debate and, as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has just said, an extremely interesting one, in particular because of the way my noble friend Lord Hill of Luton introduced this important subject. May I say at the outset that all these Directives to which the Scrutiny Committee have drawn the attention of the House are still at an early stage of consideration within the Community. The Directives are in each case old proposals. designed originally for the Community of Six. Clearly in the context of a membership of Nine a fresh appraisal is necessary, particularly in the case of the opticians' profession, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, referred and was powerfully reinforced by the informed contribution we heard from my noble friend Lord Crook. Clearly in that profession the difficulties that arise from the different structures of the profession here and on the Continent illustrate the need for a reappraisal of the Directive. But it applies to the other Directives as well.

The explanatory memoranda on them pointed out that the Directives on accountants, on opticians and midwives and on veterinary surgeons, are not at present under active consideration. They contain imperfections to which the Scrutiny Committee's Report and the explanatory memoranda, as well as the speeches we have heard, have drawn attention. The one set of Directives on which discussion has been resumed is, as we have heard, that on nurses. The revised explanatory memorandum outlining the state of play has just been put to the Scrutiny Committee, but was not of course included in the Report which formed the basis of the speech with which this debate was introduced. We shall certainly work hard for the improvements in the ways indicated before endorsing them in the Council of Ministers. I can assure the House that the Departments concerned will take most careful note of all the points raised in this debate in determining their line for negotiation. So much for the position in regard to the various Directives. The nurses' one is that now under active consideration; the others, I fear, await their turn for active reappraisal.

There remains the general question of whether, through an extension of freedom of establishment within the European Economic Community, this country will have to accept a diminution of the standards to which we have rightly become accustomed. I hope that I can set these fears at rest. In the case of these Directives not only is the Community not yet ready to take decisions upon them, but the Commission also withdrew some of their proposals in the light of the judgment passed in the European Court in the Reyners case. That judgment has perhaps given us a breathing space to look at the proposals from the standpoint of an enlarged Community, with the wider interests and the new problems which arise from the fact of enlarged membership. There has also, I think, since these Directives were first tabled, been a change of attitude in the Community towards establishment matters. Whether that is due in part or wholly to the success of renegotiation it is not for me, on this non-polemical occasion, to urge. But it is true that over the past two years, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, as a former Minister of State dealing with these matters, would agree, there has been an increased understanding by the Community of the need for more resiliency and flexibility, as well as an increased understanding in this country of how the Community works.

May I remind the House of the resolution passed last June by the Council on the mutual recognition of diplomas and certificates. This, I think, meets the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, on interchangeability based upon assured standards. The quotation is: that future work on the mutual recognition of diplomas, certificates and other evidence of formal qualifications should be guided by the desire for a flexible and qualitative approach. That is a resolution, a decision of the Council, which lays the basis for future action in regard to interchangeability.

The noble Lord referred to the Reyners case, with which of course we associate the Binshergen case. The upshot of those two cases is that nationals of any Member State have, generally speaking, the right to carry on activities on their own account in any other Member State free from nationality or residence restrictions imposed by law in that State. But as the Report also observes, such restrictions are very rare in the United Kingdom and the effect of these decisions in this country is therefore likely to be minimal. This is the more so since the Binsbergen judgment made it quite clear that Member States fully retained the right to impose whatever requirements concerning professional organisation, qualifications, ethics, supervision and liability are necessary in the public interest.

So these two useful judgments have made the position absolutely clear, and also absolutely workable from the point of view of those who are concerned with the right of countries properly to safeguard standards, and indeed standards of qualification. Moreover, where the activity involved is regulated in such ways the Member State may also require the person carrying it on to be registered in that State, if that is necessary to exercise proper supervision of his or her professional activities. Member States thus retain ample control over professional standards under the Treaty provisions. The formal co-ordination of freedom of establishment at a Community level and any further measures of liberalisation involving mutual recognition of professional qualifications can be effected only by Directives. In practice, such Directives are not made unless in substance they command the unanimous consent of all Member States—including, of course, the United Kingdom.

It is two years since the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, so succinctly described the way in which Directives are processed in the Community. He may recall that on 10th April 1973, speaking from this place, he gave a most helpful, cogent and clear explanation of the processes whereby at every stage effective consultation is carried on until the point is reached where a Directive is ready for adoption. As I said previously, in those two years a clearer impression has emerged of the consultation which is possible at every stage not only between Member States, but between Community authorities and agencies and professions. Furthermore, we now have the opportunity for Parliament to scrutinise draft proposals, and I should like to emphasise the weight given by Her Majesty's Government to all views and interests which are expressed when Ministers come to the point of reaching a decision to approve any Directive.

If I may return for one moment to the question of standards and qualifications, where we have standards it is our duty to ensure that these are allowed for in Community legislation and, where other countries treat matters differently, to ensure, on the advice of our own experts, that by granting their professionals establishment here we do not diminish or dilute our own standards. We also think it right to work into these Directives adequate provision for supervision of their implementation through advisory committees or other methods, to ensure that the expertise of the professions has a decisive say in such matters—a point which the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, raised in his speech. As the noble Lord said, this can best be illustrated by the case of Directives on the freedom of establishment for doctors which were approved in principle by the Council in February. These Directives had been considered by the House on 9th December and subsequently in another place. I do not think your Lordships expressed any deep reservations on them but, both here and in another place, there was anxiety on the matter of language qualifications and the need to ensure that doctors wishing to establish themselves in another Member country could speak the language.

The noble Lord quoted from the speech which was made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Security. I could add to that the fact that her Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State attended the Council and was able to secure those acceptable modifications of the Directives to which the noble Lord has referred. This was a sensible and I think pragmatic solution and is a very good example of what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, meant when he said that increasingly the Community is showing itself to be an adaptable instrument of inter-State Government.

The Directives on doctors have some formalities to pass through, but we expect them to be completed soon. Differently from the other Directives which are referred to in the Reports, this one is well on the way to being finalised and, indeed, adopted. Throughout the process of discussing these Directives, the Government have worked most closely with the British Medical Association. Indeed, the establishment of a strong advisory committee to supervise the running of the Directives was our suggestion as a country—based, of course, on the advice we ourselves had received from the profession.

In conclusion, may I say that this is part of a wider problem—that of looking after British interests as we advance the interests of the Community as a whole. We believe that if the United Kingdom remains a member of the Community, as I hope and expect it will, we shall be in a position in all spheres adequately to protect our interests, and not in a negative way. It is possible that there will have to be interim situations unless and until there are properly worked out and acceptable arrangements within the Community, but there will be no difficulty about that kind of interim arrangement. We accept the principle which is enshrined in the Treaty, that nationals of Community countries should be able to establish themselves elsewhere in the EEC; but we shall proceed with great care, taking each proposal as it comes forward on its merits. What may be appropriate for one profession may not suit another. We must recognise that the other member countries have high standards, and that they attach equal importance to the need to preserve them. As the noble Lord has pointed out, we are not always ahead of our friends and partners in every particular. In many cases I imagine that we are, but there are examples where they may be somewhat ahead of us, and in negotiating with them it is as well to remember that they, too, have standards and preoccupations of a proper character which they need to protect. If we act in this pragmatic spirit, we have much to gain by the greater extension of freedom of establishment, and short but very useful and informed debates cannot but help in a practical way the gradual extension of the principle of establishment in the Community.

7.8 p.m.

Viscount AMORY

My Lords, I was very interested when the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, said that it is his opinion that the degree of flexibility in these EEC Regulations is tending to increase. My noble friend Lord Aberdare said the same thing when he mentioned that there is an increasing degree of adaptability. That is most encouraging. From the reports which have been made to us already, certainly it is my impression that at first sight these Regulations look terrifyingly rigid: but when they are inspected and discussed it is found that there is more flexibility in them than had been thought, and that probably the degree of flexibility has improved over the last year. Again, that is extremely encouraging. Where the standards of others are higher we must see whether we can raise ours; but in those cases where our standards are higher than theirs our representatives must do their utmost to see whether they can "sellour higher standards to them.

My noble friend Lord Hill of Luton mentioned that in many cases we are accustomed to laying more responsibility on the profession itself and less on the law than is the case in some other countries. It seems to me that where it is possible to lay responsibility on the profession itself, this is the best way of doing it. I have one question to ask my noble friend Lord Hill of Luton. I apologise for asking any question at all, in view of the tremendous clarity of his statement. I think I heard him say that our nurses were worried at the lack of language qualification. I was not quite sure what that meant; whether it meant that they were worried because there was not a language qualification, or were worried that they might not be able to manage the language qualification if there was one. There are many other qualities which one could rate higher than a language qualification, but perhaps my noble friend Lord Hill will explain whether I heard aright and, if so, will make sure that I have got the right end of the stick.

7.10 p.m.


My Lords, I will be very brief. May I first express appreciation to those noble Lords who have taken part in this brief debate, specially to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, for his characteristically informative and helpful reply. To answer the question put to me by the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, I referred to the concern of the nurses with regard to language, but we met the nurses and they expressed that concern before the news of the change of attitude in relation to doctors, and it may reasonably be assumed that it will apply to nurses.

There is one other point stemming from what the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, said with regard to the relative speed about the doctors. The nurses are on the way and one nevers knows when the others will put on a kind of Malcolm Macdonald spurt for goal. There are some odd things happening. Recently we have had the freedom of establishment proposal relating to pedlars—those who do door-to-door trading. We let our pedlars do what they like—even decide whether they will observe the law by registering under the Pedlars Act. But there is a big fat document and it appears that peddling is far more important on the Continent. I understand that there are even intinerant undertakers at work on the Continent, but we remind ourselves from time to time that we got on very well without a great deal of regulation of many activities.

Vigilance is necessary, for in this vast organisation it is not always easy to get an intimation of what is on its way. Sometimes when you see what is on its way you ask yourself: What sense of priorities led that one to come before the rest? Nevertheless, vigilance is being observed and I am particularly grateful for the helpful additional information given by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, and I agree with him that, bit by bit, things are getting better. Who are we to complain about drafts that were prepared before we joined, even though it is more difficult to tackle ideas that have been expressed on paper, for once something is on paper it is not so easy to eliminate it, as we have discovered from time to time.

On Question, Motion agreed to.