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Press Report

Volume 415: debated on Thursday 8 November 1945

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(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the public anxiety aroused, he is now in a position to state the decision reached by His Majesty's Government as to the future of the hospitals, both voluntary and municipal?

:On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Before the Prime Minister replies may I, with great respect, ask you why you have seen fit to allow this Question to be put as a Private Notice Question?

This is the third time I have been asked this question recently. It is not usual for the Leader of the Opposition to put down a Question on the Order Paper and this is one of the ways in which he can put a Question. It has always been used, and I trust it will be used now, with discretion, and that Private Notice Questions will be put in a reasonable way.

Are we all entitled to submit to you Questions which are based merely on newspaper reports?

The hon. Member can submit any Question he likes to me. It does not follow that they will be allowed to be asked.

The Government cannot be held responsible for any anxieties which may be caused by unauthorised statements in the Press; they are not in a position to make any statement in the matter at present.

:Will the Prime Minister take into consideration that considerable harm has been done by this statement, this unauthorised statement, from many points of view, and that the springs of private charity may be dried up before the tides of public benevolence begin to flow? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that literally from day to day people are giving large sums to the voluntary hospitals or are leaving them, under bequests, and that great disturbance has been caused by this unauthorised publication? Has he made or taken any steps to ascertain how this leakage occurred and what is the foundation of it?

:I am not prepared to admit that there was a leakage. I have made inquiries and cannot find that there has been any leakage. I know that my right hon. Friend is well aware of the enterprise, intelligent anticipation and sometimes imagination of the Press. I am sure that the Press will take full notice of my right hon. Friend's admonition. I hope that the general public will not be deterred, in view of the statement.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the "Daily Herald," the official organ of the Socialist Party, published a statement beginning, "The Cabinet have decided," and so on? Can he not use his influence, which I trust is greater under present conditions than it was in the late Administration, with that organ? In any case, will he not say something to give stability to the position until he is prepared with the proposals for changes?

:I am sure my right hon. Friend knows the difficulty I should be in if I tried to subedit the newspapers. As a matter of fact, this story first arose in the "Sunday Pictorial," which is not an organ connected with this party.

Has the Prime Minister noticed the very guilty expression on the face of his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health?

:Will the Prime Minister give the House an assurance that the Government will not be intimidated by what has taken place?

:Whilst they are keeping up their courage, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether we may now take it that these are idle and unauthorised rumours, that when the Government have a plan they will announce it and that they will try to keep their own secrets till the proper moment comes?

:The right hon. Gentleman may take it that, at the right time, a statement will be made by the Government, but he must not assume that everything he sees in the Press—

I never assume anything whether from the "Daily Express" or from any other paper. It is better to keep off these controversies about newspapers. Our intention is that a statement shall be made to the House of Commons. We cannot be held responsible for intelligent, or unintelligent, anticipations or imaginations in any section of the Press.

:With the permission of the House I would like to make a statement.

My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Labour and National Service and I have been considering what action can be taken to remedy the present shortage of nurses and domestic staff in hospitals. We have consulted with representatives of all those concerned in this matter, including the hospital authorities and the organisations and trade unions representing nurses, midwives and domestic staff. An agreed statement has been drawn up which will be issued on 10th November as a Stationery Office publication. The statement deals with the extent of the need and the causes of shortage and outlines the administrative measures which will be taken in an endeavour to remedy the present unsatisfactory position.

An urgent appeal is made in the statement to men and women to offer their services in one or other of the many fields of hospital work and this appeal will be supported by appropriate publicity. At the same time, publicity is not in itself sufficient. Conditions of service are of equal or greater importance, and codes have been drawn up in agreement with all concerned, defining the conditions of service which it will be the aim of the Government and hospital authorities to ensure for all who offer their services. The Government recognise that there are, of course, many long-term problems relating, for example, to the training of nurses and the prevention of wastage which cannot be dealt with fully in the statement and will require continuous study. They will give close attention to these matters.

It will be available to Members in the ordinary way in the Stationery Office. Is my hon. Friend referring to the Statement or the Code?

:I am referring to the Paper which is going to be issued. Will it be a Command Paper or a Paper which can only be got on a green form? I am suggesting that it should be a Command Paper.

:Is the Minister in position to say whether there is any question of compulsory service in these proposals?

:I think the hon. Member ought to await the publication of the Paper. It is a long document and concerns very many detailed items.