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Whitley Councils

Volume 828: debated on Tuesday 21 December 1971

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when was the functioning of Whitley Councils for the National Health Service last reviewed; and, in particular, what conclusions were arrived at concerning Professional and Technical Council B and committees.

The functioning of the Whitley Councils and their committees is a matter for the two sides; no big change has been made recently in the Professional and Technical B Council.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is intense dissatisfaction among hospital technicians about the present so-called negotiating machinery, and that only yesterday negotiations broke down on a claim launched in 1968 for parity between cardiology technicians and physics technicians? Therefore, will he undertake to inquire into these matters with a view to introducing genuine, free, collective bargaining?

There would be even more intense dissatisfaction if a Minister unilaterally were to start interfering with negotiating arrangements of staff sides. Therefore, I must leave it to the staff sides to sort out their own relationships.

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the intense dissatisfaction among the medical laboratory technicians, of which we have all had evidence. He will also be aware that dissatisfaction with Whitley Council machinery goes wider than the Professional and Technical Council B. Is he not being pressed to set up an independent inquiry into the whole functioning of the Whitley Council machinery? If he is, how can he dismiss the matter so lightly?

May I first say that I welcome the right hon. Lady back to her old interests on the Front Bench. On the wider question, much dissatisfaction has been expressed about the working of the Whitley Council machinery, but I am not at all clear about any way in which to make any decisive change. The question before me is about one particular council where there has been a running conflict about the representation on the staff side, and that must remain for the staff side to settle.