HC Deb 25 July 1950 vol 478 cc36-8W
81. Mr. Odey

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that, owing to the breaking-off of negotiations by his Department with the Surgical Instruments Manufacturers Association, there is a grave shortage of surgical appliances in hospitals in the London area and in the provinces; and what alternative arrangements he is making to maintain supplies adequate to the demand.

Mr. Marquand

My Department has had talks with the Surgical Instrument Manufacturers' Association about the prices to be paid for surgical boots and appliances supplied for the current year to the National Health Service. Negotiations are still proceeding with certain members of that Association. Satisfactory contracts have been made with 713 firms. These constitute more than 75 per cent. of the firms under contract last year, and include many members of the Association. I am satisfied that the number of firms already under contract will ensure that there is no shortage of supplies. But some hospitals may have to place orders with firms other than those to which they have been accustomed.

82. Mr. Carr

asked the Minister of Pensions why his Department has failed to renew contracts for surgical appliances with many of the suppliers; and whether he is aware that this failure will cause not only hardship to patients but also the dismissal of craftsmen skilled in this trade.

Mr. Marquand

I would refer the hon. Member to the replies given today to the hon. Members for Louth (Mr. Osborne) and Beverley (Mr. Odey). I am prepared to renew contracts with these firms on the same fair and reasonable terms as those already accepted by 713 contractors.

Lieut.-Colonel Kingsmill

asked the Minister of Pensions how many contracts to date for year 1951 have been placed for surgical boots and appliances with the co-operative societies; and how many through the Surgical Instrument Manufacturers' Association.

Mr. Marquand

For the year 1950–51 contracts have so far been placed with 36 co-operative societies. I have not a complete list of members of the Surgical Instrument Manufacturers' Association but of 94 members who are known to be suppliers of surgical boots and appliances, contracts have been placed with 55 and negotiations are proceeding with 18 others.

Mr. Osborne

asked the Minister of Pensions if he will permit pensioners to purchase surgical boots from any supplier provided they are prepared to pay the extra cost of better quality boots; and if he will make a statement on the conference about this subject recently held at Blackpool with representatives of the Surgical Instrument Makers' Association.

Mr. Marquand

As explained in reply to a Question put by the hon. Member to the Minister of Health on 20th July, the surgical boots supplied by my Department are made from best quality materials requiring a high standard of workmanship. I am satisfied that the requirements of war pensioners are fully safeguarded by the terms of the manufacturers' contracts and by technical inspection. As regards the second part of the Question, my Department has made contracts for the supply of surgical boots and appliances with 713 firms throughout the country, at prices which are considered by them reasonable and fair. I am aware that a minority of contractors have refused the terms offered by my Department but I hope that they will re-open negotiations. I must however say quite definitely that I am not prepared to enter into contracts at excessive prices.

Forward to