HL Deb 25 November 1996 vol 576 cc33-4

4.30 p.m.

Baroness Cumberlege rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 30th October be approved [2nd Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, these regulations amend Section 45(2)(c) of the Dentists Act and raise the fees which dental auxiliaries pay for first enrolment from £7 to £10; for retention on the roll from £10 to £20; and for restoration of a name onto the roll from £2 to £5. The amendment has been requested by the General Dental Council which is required by Section 45(2)(c) of the Dentists Act to maintain rolls of registered dental therapists and hygienists, collectively known as dental auxiliaries.

The council has had to meet significantly increased costs during the past 12 months in a variety of areas, in particular in connection with extensive repairs to their building. The last increase in retention fees for dental auxiliaries was five years ago. The 382 dental therapists and 3,813 dental hygienists who are currently enrolled with the council carry out sterling work in support of the nation's 29,000 dentists. It is right that they should be registered and that their activity should be regulated. However, that costs money. The proposal will increase the income of the General Dental Council by about £42,000 per year and help to meet the increased costs which I have outlined today. I am sure that the proposed modest increases in fees are entirely appropriate.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 30th October be approved—[2nd Report from the Joint Committee].—(Baroness Cumberlege.)

Lord Carter

My Lords, the House will be extremely grateful to the Minister for explaining the regulations. They provide a welcome opportunity to discuss a small but important subject relating to NHS dentistry. Moreover, they give us an ideal opportunity to discuss in depth and at length the general state of NHS dentistry and I am sure that the Minister is fully briefed for such a debate. However, bearing in mind the amount of business on the Order Paper for today, and the fact that I have tabled an Unstarred Question for later, I do not propose to discuss the matter.

As the Minister said, the measure before us deals with a small but necessary change to the administration of the registration of dental hygienists and therapists, and not the more urgent issues that we believe are facing NHS dentistry. As the noble Baroness pointed out, the registration fees have not risen for some time. While few hygienists and therapists will be itching to reach further into their pockets, I am sure that the majority will consider the increases suggested by the General Dental Council to be fair and long overdue.

We all benefit from the current high professional standards of those who work as dental auxiliaries. An effective registration system is fundamental in order to maintain those high standards. We are, therefore, happy to support the measure today and a wider debate on NHS dentistry as a whole must wait for another day.

On Question, Motion agreed to.