HC Deb 27 February 1978 vol 945 cc50-1W
Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on progress on Lord McCarthy's Report on the operation of the Whitley Council system.

Mr. Ennals

Lord McCarthy's report contained wide-ranging recommendations designed to improve the Whitley Council system under which the pay and conditions of service of the majority of National Health Service employees in Great Britain are negotiated. Following widespread consultation, Health Ministers have today sent to NHS management in Great Britain and to the NHS staff side a paper summarising the response of interested parties to each recommendation in the report, action already taken on some recommendations and the scope for action on others.

The paper includes the Government's acceptance last year of the recommendations on the role of Government, in particular that the Health Departments should define their areas of concern in Whitley negotiations and outside those areas employing authority members should determine the content of offers made by the management side. It also records the new arrangements which took effect in October 1977 for appointing Whitley members and for enabling them to be accountable to their appointing authorities.

On the remaining major matters, the conclusions in the paper may be summarised as follows. The recommendations on pay principles, the structure and working of existing Whitley Councils and the use of third parties are accepted. The recommendations that the management side secretariat should continue to be provided by the Department of Health and Social Security but be subject to a new form of supervision by management sides, and the recommendation that a separate Chief Officers' Whitley Council would not be justified, are to be reconsidered centrally at the request of regional health authority chairmen in England.

Whitley Councils below national level with the functions suggested attracted little support, but the General Whitley Council is to be invited to resume its negotiations to produce an agreement on joint consultative machinery for the National Health Service. Individual Whitley Councils are considering the scope for more flexibility in their agreements. The staff side and its constituent organisations are still considering their action on the recommendations which relate to their Whitley Council functions.

The Whitley Councils are independent bodies, and change in their constitution or function must rest on their agreement. The Government hope that all parties to the Whitley machinery will develop and build on the many recommendations made by Lord McCarthy which have commanded substantial support.