§ Mr. Mellor
My right hon and learned Friend has done so today.
The Government welcome the Committee's interest in this matter, and have carefully studied its report and recommendations. The Government wish to take this opportunity of emphasising the importance that they attach to the role of the midwifery profession within the National Health Service and their recognition of the skilful and dedicated contribution that midwives make to the welfare of mothers and babies.
The Government followed the principle set out in the Committee's fourth recommendation—that future regrading exercises for NHS staff be separated from assimilation to the new pay scales—when implementing the new grading structure for nursing and midwifery educational staff, but for the reasons given in their response are unable to accept the remaining recommendations.
In the Government's view, it is important that the Committee's report should be considered in the wider context. Since March 1988 alone, midwives' pay has increased by over 28 per cent. on average, and the pay of midwives, like that of nurses and health visitors, is now at its highest-ever level in real terms. For the nine out of 10 staff midwives graded E or above in the new clinical grading structure, and the three out of four midwifery 471W sisters graded G, pay levels are now 50 per cent. higher in real terms than they were in 1979. Moreover, the new structure gives midwives, like nurses and health visitors, better clinical career prospects than ever before.