asked the Minister of Health whether he is satisfied with the response from local authorities to Circular 2729 in connection with the provision of home helps?
My right hon. Friend knows that many local authorities are doing all that is possible to provide a service of home helps, but he has heard from several districts of the extreme difficulty experienced in finding a sufficient number of the right women able and willing to undertake this work.
Is there a sufficient number of personnel to ensure that the scheme operates in the rural areas? May I also ask whether it is possible to employ home helps for the pre-natal period as well as the post-natal period?
As to the number of personnel available, that question should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service. As my hon. Friend is aware, in this circular local authorities were asked if they could not provide the number of home helps required, to communicate with the local office of the Ministry of Labour and National Service. My hon. Friend will agree with me that there is a great shortage of domestic workers. That matter should be taken up with the Ministry of Labour and National Service.
Should not these helps be employed for the pre-natal as well as the post-natal period?
I think that these cases have to be judged on their merits where actual help is required. I do not think I can go further than that.
Is there any liaison between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour? What is the procedure for one Department knowing what the other is doing?
I think that one Department in this case does know what the other is doing, but my hon. Friend will agree that the fact of knowing has not led to the production of enough of the domestic workers required. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health is in communication with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service. Local authorities have been asked to state their needs to the local office of the Ministry of Labour and National Service.
Is not the shortage due to the fact that most domestic workers are consistently underpaid?
No, I do not think that is the reason in this case.