Abortion Act, 1967 (Offences)
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make it his policy to report to the General Medical Council each case where a medical practitioner is found guilty of an offence under the Abortion Act, 1967, for failure to notify an operation to his Chief Medical Officer.
My Chief Medical Officer will inform the General Medical Council of any conviction of a medical practitioner for an offence under the Abortion Act of which he becomes aware.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that answer will be generally welcomed but that there was a particular case to which I drew his attention in which this happened? Is he saying that his Chief Medical Officer was unaware of this? If so, will he have words with his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary about co-ordination so that his Department is aware of cases in which doctors are convicted?
It was as a result of a special check made by my Chief Medical Officer that the particular case to which the hon. Member refers came to light, and it is as a result of that that my Chief Medical Officer and I have evolved the new procedure to which I have referred.
Regional Hospital Boards (Expenditure)
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what discussions his Department is to have with regional hospital boards as to the spending on hospital facilities of the moneys announced by him on 22nd November.
The extra capital which I announced on 22nd November will be discussed in the normal manner between boards and my Department. The manner in which the extra revenue is spent is, within general priorities of which boards are aware, a matter for the individual hospital authorities to decide.—[Vol. 826, c. 957–64.]
I thank the Minister for that reply, but will he give encouragement to hospitals to spend this money on projects which will be of benefit to patients? I am thinking in particular of transport facilities to take patients out of the hospital environment in which so many have to spend so many years of their lives. This is the kind of project that is urgently needed, and encouragement from the Minister would be welcomed by hospitals and patients.
At first hearing it sounds as if the hon. Gentleman's sensible idea is one that he might suggest to the local League of Friends. I have already told hospital authorities my own priorities, which inevitably must be limited if they are to be effective.
Junior Hospital Doctors (Conditions Of Service)
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps he is taking to reduce the number of hours worked a week by junior hospital doctors.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will reduce the number of hours stipulated as normal in a working week for a junior hospital doctor from 100 and thus extend the payment for overtime pay.
I have asked hospital authorities to do all they can, by improved organisation of medical work and in other ways, to reduce the long hours on duty and on call undertaken by many junior doctors. Extra-duty payments are related not to a normal working week but to minimum off duty time.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the present average of 88 hours a week worked by junior hospital doctors, as has been found in a recent report, can lead to low morale, inefficiency and even danger to patients? Will he therefore take steps to introduce a 40-hour week as recommended in the same report?
The report to which the hon. Lady refers is by now a little out of date, and I do not think we can be sure of the figures. I have therefore asked hospital authorities to make a return to me of the hours worked by, and other relevant details about, junior hospital doctors. I hope to receive this information during the coming year and to make use of it in guidance.
Is it not time that the right hon. Gentleman cut across the British Medical Association and got into direct communication with the Junior Hospital Doctors' Association on questions such as this? Would he try to do away with the problem involved in the system of on-call being regarded as one task and the actual hours of work another? Is it not ridiculous that they get no payment until they have been on call or on duty for 100 hours?
These are complicated issues. I have no reason to think that I am not getting the full facts, but I need more information. This is why I have sought it from the hospitals in the way I have described.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I can give him evidence of doctors who are working 110 hours a week, who in some cases work 36 hours consecutively without going to bed, and who in such circumstances unfortunately can make serious mistakes? Is he further aware that the hospital involved could have advertised for additional staff but refused to do so, and therefore has not helped to reduce the shortage of staff, because it says that it has not enough money to cope with the situation?
There is an infinite range of situations. It would help if the hon. Gentleman sent me details. I hope that hon. Members will not describe as "at work" what is in effect a combination of being at work and on call. I do not minimise the importance of being on call, but it is not the same.
The right hon. Gentleman must be aware of a recent report which showed that an average of 88 hours a week was being worked by junior hospital doctors.
I think the hon. Lady is referring to the report which I have in my hand, which was carried out by the consultant division of my Department and which relates to three years ago.
Then perhaps the hon. Lady will send me details of what she has in mind.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will establish a committee of inquiry into the salaries and conditions of service of junior doctors.
An independent Review Body advises the Government on the remuneration of all doctors. Conditions of service are under continuous review by a joint negotiating committee consisting of representatives of the Health Departments and of the Negotiating Sub-Committee of the Central Committee for Hospital Medical Services, which includes representatives of junior doctors. I see no need for a new committee of inquiry.
Is the Minister aware that some consultants treat their housemen as shopkeepers in the 18th century treated their apprentices, and that there is need to ask the junior doctors themselves about the conditions under which they work rather than to ask the hospital authorities? Is he further aware that the remuneration paid to housemen is absolutely disgusting when compared with the remuneration of the consultants?
Of the 18 members of the Central Committee for Hospital Medical Services, four are from the Hospital Junior Staffs Group, and I expect that they make their voice fully heard on that committee.
Mammography Screening Services
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what plans he has to extend the mammography screening services available to National Health Service patients.
An expert committee on breast cancer screening is looking into the question, but there is no mammography screening service in this country at present and there are no plans to introduce one.
I am afraid that I regard that answer as very unsatisfactory because there is, in fact, a screening system operating in this country. It is a private service and works very effectively. I know this from personal experience since I have worked in it.
Order. Is this a question?
Yes, Mr. Speaker; that is coming up. Is my hon. Friend aware that x-ray screening for cancer breast has proved extremely effective in New York, and that studies made in this country show that carcinoma of the breast can be detected by using x-ray mammography before it can actually be felt? Is he further aware that this service in this country is confined entirely to those who are rich enough to pay, and does he not agree with me that it should be extended to the National Health Service?
I am very glad to have been made aware by a rhetorical question of my hon. Friend's own private service in this matter. We have set up an expert committee to study mammography whose terms of reference include advice on whether we should set up a pilot service.
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.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will seek to amend the regulations governing the attendance allowance to include those who are so severely disabled as to need constant attendance night or day instead of night and day; if he will estimate how many additional people would become eligible; and what would be the extra cost.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will now set up a study of the payment of the new attendance allowance to the severely disabled in order to decide whether to amend the criteria for payment in order to give help to more of the disabled.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many of the unsuccessful applicants for an attendance allowance he estimates were refused because of the requirement that they must need repeated or prolonged attendance during the night as well as constant attendance during the day.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what estimate he has made of the attendance allowance applications which have been turned down because of the day and night regulations; what representations he has received on this subject from the Disablement Income Group; and if he will make a statement.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will amend the forms for the claim for attendance allowance for the chronically sick and disabled so that the categories of patients who may obtain benefit will be widened.
Up to 14th December about 24,000 of those who had claimed attendance allowance had failed to qualify because they did not satisfy the medical requirements. No information is available about how many did so because they need attention only during the day.As to extension, I cannot add to my reply to similar Questions on 30th November. Up to 250,000 further disabled people might qualify for the allowance if the present statutory requirements were amended to relate to attendance by day or by night instead of by day and by night together, at a cost which would depend on the rate of allowance which might be paid in such circumstances. I have just received general representations from the Disablement Income Group about widening the scope of the allowance.—[Vol. 827, c. 235–8.]
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that thousands of people will be grateful for the attendance allowance and, since this is a time for good will to all men, may I say that the right hon. Gentleman can claim credit for that and that I thank him for it? Is he also aware that at the time these regulations were passed there was a feeling that this was in the form of an experiment and that many of us, in the light of this experiment, have become distressed at the way in which many disabled people have been left outside the regulations? Is he further aware that my Question asks the parliamentary draftsman to change only one word and that that one word will be a whole volume of well being for the disabled?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The Government were very glad to have the opportunity to put into legislation an idea which the previous Government had and to bring into payment to large numbers of people a benefit which we all welcome. However, it was inevitable, and was always made plain, that we should have to tackle this new and large job in stages. Whenever matters are tackled in stages, there are always hard cases. I ask the House to draw comfort from the fact that in addition to 50,000 awards already made, which is as many as we anticipated, there are a further 40,000 claims yet undecided.
Will my right hon. Friend consider asking the Attendance Allowance Board to submit a report containing its recommendations on ways in which the regulations might be varied in order to include a substantial number of severely disabled people, most of whom would be included if the regulations could be amended?
As soon as the Government have made an appraisal of the implications of the next step, both for timing and for money, I shall be delighted to invite the Attendance Allowance Board to submit a report.
The right hon. Gentleman will be aware how grateful hon. Members are for his replies, but will he consider the situation of very badly disabled people who need constant attendance? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many able-bodied men and women cannot go out to work because they have to spend all their time looking after disabled people and that, if the right hon. Gentleman modified the regulations to say "day or night", it would lead to considerable savings for his Department? Will he reconsider this matter?
I fear that I cannot. We are tackling this matter in stages. When the next stage comes, it will take on board a larger number, including those to whom the hon. Gentleman has referred. But if any hon. Member knows of cases which he considers satisfy the day and night qualification, but which have been refused, I beg him to advise his constituents to apply to the Attendance Allowance Board for a review.
Will my right hon. Friend agree that a much fairer system would result if the form were slightly modified? My right hon. Friend will be aware that, at the moment, one has to put a tick by a group of complaints. This means that the general practitioner has to say whether the person concerned is or is not in a certain position, and no variation is allowed. Will my right hon. Friend consider amending the form so that less allowance is made for the kindliness of the general practitioner and more instruction is given from the centre?
Ministers are always a little threatened by coalitions of the kind that there is on this subject. Subject to the general unwillingness of the Government to bring in stage two until the time is ripe in terms of availability of finance, knowledge and machinery, I shall gladly discuss my hon. Friend's point with the Attendance Allowance Board.
While we appreciate the difficulties and the limitations imposed by the Treasury, surely the time is now ripe for the removal of this unreasonable condition? Will the right hon. Gentleman accept from me a categorical assurance that hon. Members on both sides of the House want to see this condition removed now and the attendance allowance given to those who require attendance during the day or the night?
Of course I understand and share this attitude. But hon. Members will recognise that, gradually, we have dealt with, and are dealing with, the most desperately urgent cases first. The next stage, when it comes, will bring in a lot more.
Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that there is now a strong and compelling case, supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House, for some widening of the regulations? Will the right hon. Gentleman publish his reply to the Disablement Income Group and make a further statement to the House at the earliest possible date?
I shall remain under questioning on this subject. Certainly I undertake to send the hon. Gentleman a copy of my reply to the Disablement Income Group.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied with the latest total number of applications for attendance allowance and the number of the applications allowed, particularly in the regions and areas of low family income; and if he will make a statement.
Yes, Sir. Up to 14th December some 115,000 claims had been received and, out of the 74,000 completely dealt with by that date, just over 50,000 had been allowed, including those allowed on review. I will, with permission, circulate regional details in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that reply. Can he explain how his Department can be satisfied with those figures when, apparently, it does not know what the figures are on a county basis and, in fact, has refused to provide such figures? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, if this analysis of applications were made, it would be a much fairer way of assessing the problem? Does he agree, further, that if these figures were available they would also be helpful to the social services departments of the county councils in their attempts to identify the disabled?
We have to balance the cost of requiring information and confidentiality of those who receive benefits against the wider use which might be made of more detailed knowledge. As a result of the hon. Gentleman's Question, the regional analysis given today will, I think, come fairly close to giving information about county performances.
Following is the information:
Number of claims received up to 14th December approximately
Number of applicants who, at the initial stage, were found to satisfy the medical conditions
|Yorkshire and Humberside||10,200||4,700|
|East Midlands and East Anglia||11,000||6,400|
|North Western (Manchester)||8,500||3,700|
|North Western (Merseyside)||8,600||4,100|
* There is inevitably some time lag between the medical conditions being found to be satisfied and an award actually being made to a claimant.
Benefits (Application Forms)
asked the Secretary of State for Social Service what steps he is now taking to simplify the claiming of benefits by possible reductions in the number of forms and in other ways.
I announced on 13th May, 1971, that discussions were being held with local authority associations on the feasibility of using a single claim form for a wide range of benefits. In addition, we have extended the use of the "passport" principle from supplementary benefit to the new family income supplement.—[Vol. 817, c. 154–5.]
On top of the many improvements in the social services already made by the Government during their first 18 months in office, will my right hon. Friend accept that any further simplification of the claiming machinery will be welcomed by many people as another major step forward? Will my right hon. Friend pursue this matter if he finds it possible to do so?
Yes, certainly. The previous Administration initiated the preliminary studies for a single claim form covering a number of benefits. This Government have opened discussions with the local authority associations and, during the coming year, with the help of the local authority associations, I hope to be able to start a pilot experiment.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if, in view of the current unemployment figures, he will now suspend the four-week rule whereby persons deemed not to be seeking work may have their benefit stopped.
No, Sir. The rate of unemployment varies throughout the country, so in areas where the Department of Employment advise that unskilled work can be obtained without difficulty the arrangements for allowances initially limited to four weeks continue. These areas are under constant review.
Does not the hon. Gentleman feel, however, that with more than 922,000 people currently unemployed, his officers would be far better employed trying to help unemployed people with their financial and other problems than hounding them in the way in which they are being hounded at present?
The rule does not operate in any of the offices in the Northern, Yorkshire and Humberside, and two North-Western Regions of England, or in Scotland and Wales. Where it operates, it applies only to the fit, single person under 45 years of age.
While the unemployment figures are deeply worrying, cannot some comfort be drawn from the fact that the number who have been unemployed for more than six months has not risen to anything like the same extent?
Yes. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing out that true fact.
The Minister has read out a list of areas which are exempt. Why does the rule apply to Bolsover?
It applies only in the areas where jobs are available. In those areas, if at the end of four weeks a person has not been able to find work and is genuinely eligible for work, he still gets his allowances.
Invalid Vehicle Service
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is now able to announce the result of the review of the invalid vehicle service.
I refer my hon. Friend to the reply my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) on 16th December.—[Vol. 828, c. 186–7.]
My hon. Friend will recall our correspondence about a constituent of mine who is unable to follow his usual occupation because he requires a certain minimum temperature which is not provided by the present vehicle heater. It may be that by means of greater flexibility in the rules or in the design of the vehicle, which would enable people to work who are not able to do so at present, there would be no extra expenditure necessary from Government funds.
Flexibility of both kinds is under consideration in the review.
Will the hon. Gentleman ask his right hon. Friend, in making the promised announcement, to ensure that, at the least, it covers the three special categories of haemophiliacs, disabled mothers and disabled passengers, whose case was pressed with the Prime Minister a day or two ago by a deputation led by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris)? I understand that the announcement is promised for the New Year. Can the hon. Gentleman assure the House that it will not be made during the parliamentary Recess?
I can certainly reassure the right hon. Lady about the last question. The deputation was led jointly by the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) and my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten). The points about which the right hon. Lady seeks a pre-emptive statement will certainly be considered, but it would be improper for me to comment upon them before an announcement is made to the House.
Does my hon. Friend recognise that there has been a considerable slippage in the announcement of the timing of this review and, as it is rumoured that Government changes are in the air, can my hon. Friend give me an assurance that if he is promoted, deservedly, to higher office, his replacement will not start all over again?
I shall endeavour, wherever I move, to take the interests of the invalid vehicle service with me.
Order. Ministers must address the Chair. Then I might have a chance to share in what is being said.
The time spent on the review has been extended but time spent on improvement is time well spent.
Human Tissue Act
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will seek to amend the Human Tissue Act, with a view to implementing the recommendations of the committee under Sir Hector MacLennan on organ transplants.
The matter is still under review and I cannot yet add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I said in our replies to the hon. Member on 15th and 22nd June, 1971.—[Vol. 819, c. 229–30, 1180–1.]
Does "under review" mean that the MacLennan's Committee Report has been pigeon-holed and, if so, what plans does the Department have to face up to this urgent problem of supplying transplant organs to the differing blood groups?
It has not been pigeonholed, but there are at least three reports which have come out recently which have to be studied together before Government policy on this subject can be finalised.
Would my right hon. Friend confirm that the controversy about heart transplants will not be allowed by the Government to impede the development of other organ transplants, kidney transplants in particular, on which so much progress is being made in my constituency and other constituencies?
So far as it emanates from me, the answer is surely, "Yes".
Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that Sir Hector MacLennan's Committee reported 2½ years ago and that the Committee comprised many distinguished people? Does he appreciate that while he is studying many hundreds of people are dying, people who require kidney transplants but for whom donors are not available?
I am not sure that I can accept the terms of the hon. Lady's supplementary—
It is true.
but it does not follow, even if it were true, that a change in the law would necessarily produce the extra kidneys for transplants. It is this delicate question which we are studying.
Casualty Departments (Staff Shortages)
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what progress has been made in his review of staff shortages in casualty departments, in particular in the Home Counties; and if he will make a statement.
If my hon. Friend has in mind my Department's discussions with representatives of the medical profession, these showed that an improved career structure is necessary to attract young doctors to these departments. As I said in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Dr. Stuttaford) on 29th November, boards have been asked to formulate proposals for up to 30 new consultant posts as an initial dedevelopment.—[Vol. 827, c. 40.]
While thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that, particularly at the onset of Christmas, with the concentration in the Press on accidents, there is concern among many over the absence of casualty facilities in certain areas, particularly, if my information is correct, in the Greater London Area and the Home Counties? May I put to him that only the development of a new career structure, making this sort of casualty department post truly attractive to young doctors, will solve the problem in the long term?
I take my hon. Friend's point about the anxiety over casualty departments. I am sure that he and the public will be reassured by the prospect of 30 new consultant posts.
As we are short of doctors throughout the country, cannot something be done to make the profession more attractive? Would the hon. Gentleman ask his right hon. Friend to consult his Cabinet colleagues so that more places can be made available in medical schools for young medical students and in particular for young women medical students whose numbers are well below the number of male medical students?
That is a much wider question. Making the casualty department post attractive is a genuine and specific difficulty which we are trying to overcome.
Can my hon. Friend tell me what success he has had in restoring casualty department services to the Norfolk and Norwich areas?
On further notice I will be able to look into the question and advise my hon. Friend about that.
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that the position in casualty departments might be helped if the Department looked at the situation the other way round? Instead of having junior doctors in casualty departments, will he try to inculcate into hospital management boards the idea that there should be a senior hospital surgeon present to deal with casualties? Does he realise that this would do two things? First, it would decrease the serious results of accidents and, secondly, it would allow the senior hospital surgeon to play his full part in this kind of work along with the more junior doctors.
I will reflect upon what the hon. Gentleman suggested, but I am sure he appreciates that the difficulty has to do with the wide variety of special needs which arise in casualty departments having to be co-ordinated with the specialities of the consultants.
Family Income Supplement
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the global sum paid to successful applicants for family income supplement, and what is the average payment per claim.
I estimate that up to 17th December nearly £2 million had been paid in family income supplements for people in full-time work. The average of the weekly payments is £1·72.
Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the first figure suggests that this scheme is still not widely enough known? What further steps does he think he could take to give greater publicity to it? Does not the second figure show the need for more generous treatment among those cases which have been reported?
I have three things to say in answer to that. First, I have now got the result of the review which I promised the House would be made into the numbers eligible. My original estimate on Second Reading was 164,000 households plus 25,000 on wage stop. The latest survey shows that the comparable figures are 140,000, with a take up of 68,000, plus 25,000 on wage stop. That makes a total of 93,000, or 50 per cent. of the original estimate. Secondly, the benefit per household at £1·72 is nearly double the original estimate. Thirdly, I am announcing in reply to a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) that the Government are proposing, subject to parliamentary approval of the regulations, to increase the prescribed amounts by £2 as from 1st April and to increase the maximum payment for any households from £4 to £5. These together will improve the effectiveness of the supplement.
How can the right hon. Gentleman be so self-satisfied about a scheme which is the result of the extension of means-testing beyond any reasonable limits and about a situation when men on certain incomes can be awarded a wage or salary increase of up to £3·50 and yet actually receive very little as a result of the biting of the means-testing system?
The hon. Gentleman does no service in minimising the fact that there are 93,000 families, the very poorest families, in receipt of this supplement. I am not self-satisfied, but I believe that to have 93,000 of the poorest families out of a total of about 160,000 receiving much more than we originally expected is of importance. Secondly a much large proportion than 50 per cent.—probably about 75 per cent.—of those entitled to more than £2 a week are receiving awards. The great shortfall is in awards to those entitled to receive less than £2 a week. Consequently we are reaching a relatively high proportion of those entitled to most, namely the poorest.
On a point of order. The Secretary of State for Social Services, on Question No. 20, in my view deliberately misled the House when he referred to the family income supplement allowances being raised from £4 to £5 on the significant date, 1st April, 1972. What hg failed to make clear—
It was on that date—[Interruption]
Order. The content of an answer is not a matter for the Chair.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many applications for family income supplement have been received in Scotland, and how many have been granted.
Over 9,000 families in Scotland are now receiving family income supplements. Approximately another 5,000 are receiving additional supplementary benefit under Section 13 of the Family Income Supplements Act. I regret that information about numbers of claims is available only for Great Britain as a whole.
I am sure that the Minister will be disappointed at the low take-up of this benefit. Would he consult the Secretary of State for Scotland and perhaps the directors of social work with a view to finding some basis for an approach to possibly eligible claimants to this and the other 42 means-tested benefits?
Most of the 42 means-tested benefits are, of course, local authority housing rent benefits which are not at the moment a matter for national intervention. I must confess that I yearn for a way of reaching individual households, but I am warned that it would be very unpopular indeed to comb areas to find people who are entitled. We are looking for a needle in a haystack, for about half of 1 per cent. of the households in this country who remain un-reached but eligible for family income supplement.
Will my right hon. Friend accept that hon. Members on this side will be delighted at his announcement of an increase in the rate of benefit under the supplement?
I thank my hon. Friend.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not see that a take-up of only 50 per cent. after six months must call into question his selectivist strategy of first of all identifying and then trying to help the needy? This is what he is demonstrably failing to do.
I am not satisfied with the take-up—I am not concealing that— but the hon. Gentleman should bear in mind that we are now spending about three-quarters of the Estimate presented to Parliament because we are reaching those who are justified to receive the larger amount. But I remain dissatisfied with the take-up. The Government will continue to seek to improve it, and I believe that, over the nine months, we shall do so.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what sum of money has been withheld from persons currently unemployed in Scotland and in receipt of supplementary benefit because of the operation of the wage stop rule, and what was the corresponding sum in June, 1970.
I regret that this information is not available, as no separate figures of the amounts are kept for Scotland.
Why are not these figures kept, since they would be very useful for hon. Members? Would the hon. Gentleman undertake to look at the unfairness of the way in which the wage stop operates, in the sense that it operates with reference to the basic wage, without taking into account the earnings of the man who has become unemployed? Would the hon. Gentleman not reconsider the possibility of relating the wage stop provision to the average earnings over the previous six months when the man was employed?
Up-to-date figures of the number of people involved will be available in a few months. Perhaps I may remind the hon. Gentleman that over 3,000 people in Scotland have benefited as a result of the family income supplement. Either they have been removed from the wage stop entirely as a result of this or the amount of supplementary benefit which is being paid to them has been increased as a result of this.
Supplementary Benefit Payments (Scotland)
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many persons at present unemployed in Scotland are in receipt of supplementary benefit, and what was the corresponding figure in June, 1970.
In November, 1971, 68,000 wholly unemployed persons were receiving supplementary benefit in Scotland. This compares with 39,000 in June, 1970.
Is the hon. Member aware that, contrary to what one of his hon. Friends said, a prolonged rate of high unemployment is bound to create a greater number of long-term unemployed? Would he not agree that the 312 days' period for unemployment benefit should be greatly extended? Would he not agree that being unemployed is bad enough but that having to rely on supplementary benefit after one year is degrading and unjust?
I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, but unemployment benefit within the National Insurance Scheme is largely intended for comparatively short periods—up to one year in the case of the present arrangements. We feel, as indeed did previous Governments, that further periods over and above that are best dealt with through supplementary benefit arrangements.
Would the hon. Gentleman at least agree to review the procedure for wage stop under which disabled people have their incomes reduced on the grounds that they are capable of light work, which they find it almost impossible to obtain?
I will gladly look at that point. But the vast majority of people on benefit have gained, either directly or indirectly, as a result of the introduction of the family income supplement.
asked the Prime Minister if he will pay an official visit to Cornwall.
I have been asked to reply.My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to do so.
While of course recognising the Home Secretary's natural reluctance to go to any part of the country where the place names might remind him of Irish priests, may I ask him to urge his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to consider the fact that the December unemployment figures now show a 30 per cent. rise in 12 months for male unemployment in Cornwall? Will he recognise that this is a direct result of the Government's butchering of the previous Government's regional policies and that this is the worst Government for Cornwall in 50 years?
Naturally, I do not accept any of the premises of that supplementary question. My right hon. Friend and the rest of the Government are aware of the problems of Cornwall, which will benefit a good deal, in particular, from the infrastructure programme announced by my right hon. Friend.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, if the Prime Minister were to go to Cornwall, he could see for himself the developments, particularly in the road-building programme, which are taking place under this Government?
That is quite true. It is somewhat surprising that some of those who spend a good deal of time there do not equally recognise the facts.
Since the whole of Cornwall, with one minor exception, is now a development area—and North Devon as well; since the Prime Minister's euphemism of unemployment being explained as "thinning out" in industry does not apply to the South West; and since the figures in my constituency have already reached 12·6 per cent., does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the time has come for a senior Minister to come down to the South West to meet trade unionists, industrialists and others who are trying to create jobs, to try to give them some encouragement and to hear what they have to say?
That is a suggestion worth considering. The problem of Cornwall has always been particularly a seasonal one: I accept that the rates of unemployment there are high, but I would emphasise that development area status means that they will get more benefit from the Government's measures.
European Economic Community
asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a further statement on the proposed summit meeting between the members of the European Economic Community and the four applicant countries.
I have been asked to reply.It was agreed at the meeting in Rome on 6th November of the Foreign Ministers of the Ten that the preparation and convening of a summit conference of the Ten during 1972 should be a matter for all ten countries. As yet, the time and location of the conference have not been settled. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's support was clearly expressed in his Zurich speech in September.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. What arrangements have been made for keeping the applicant countries in touch with members of the Six on matters of mutual concern in the period between the signing of the Treaty and full membership?
Everyone accepts that it is very important that the various countries should keep in touch on these matters. I could not give detailed arrangements, but the principle of close and continuous consultation is certainly accepted.
The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) mentioned keeping the applicant countries in touch. Could the right hon. Gentleman arrange to keep the House in touch by arranging for us to have a sight of the 2,000-odd regulations which we shall be asked to pass in toto? The Treaty will be signed in January, and we cannot get copies of these regulations. Surely we are entitled to see them before we sign.
I am sure that, when the House comes to consider these matters, all necessary information will be made available.
Microbiological Research Establishment, Porton
asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the public statement, a copy of which has been sent to him, by the director-designate of the Microbiological Research Establishment, Porton, that in the long run the establishment might appropriately be transferred from the Ministry of Defence to the Department of Health and Social Services, he will take steps to co-ordinate the activities of the two Departments to implement the transfer.
I have been asked to reply.No, Sir. The Government, like our predecessors, are keeping the question of departmental responsibility for the establishment under review. This was the gist of the Director's statement.
If the Americans can transfer their biological warfare capability to their Department of Health, why cannot we begin to do the same?
Because the administration of Government in this country should be based on what suits us and not on what suits other people.
Will the Government, in their review of this matter, keep very carefully in mind the fact that the Select Committee on Science and Technology visited Porton and reported to the House on this issue in March, 1969, that in view of the enormous vulnerability of the United Kingdom from this type of warfare, it was essential to keep our defence interests uppermost?
That was a very important report indeed. This matter has been considered many times and the considerations involved have to be balanced. The time may come when it will be desirable to make a change, but we do not believe that that time has yet arrived.
Will the Home Secretary ask the Prime Minister to consider this question again, particularly as there has been a considerable change since the report and the point made in it to which the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) referred? Will he urge his right hon. Friend to look at the whole issue again with a view to taking an urgent decision, for is it not the case that this type of warfare has been so widely outlawed that we should recognise this fact by making the change which my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) suggests?
I do not think there is any doubt about the view of Her Majesty's Government on the question of biological warfare. The main point is whether this institution should be managed as part of the defence or as part of the non-defence sector of government. We look at this matter from time to time, as previous Administrations have done. If at any time it appeared that on balance it would be wise to make a change, it would be made.
United States Of America (Prime Minister's Visit)
asked the Prime Minister what plans he now has to seek to pay an official visit to the United States of America.
I have been asked to reply.My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to do so; although, as the House will be aware, he is currently engaged in talks with the President of the United States in Bermuda.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that whether or not the Prime Minister makes an early visit to the United States, the British Government should make it clear at the earliest opportunity that the so-called historic monetary settlement announced this week will not be regarded by us as being in any way complete until it contains a provision for continuous review and control?
I am not certain what the hon. Gentleman has in mind, but I think that the agreement reached in the last few days has indeed been of historic importance. It will be of great benefit to all nations in their trading activities.
There is one point arising out of this Question on which I would like the view of the Home Secretary in view of his great experience in these matters. The outcome of the monetary agreement is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, having negotiated to keep our competitive position at almost all costs, has, as far as I can see, accepted an upward revaluation of sterling against the dollar at least as high as, and possibly higher than, anything previously envisaged. What, then, were the negotiations about from our point of view?
The right hon. Gentleman is well aware that the negotiations were about a new pattern of rates and a degree of flexibility of rates. Comparing the movements of the dollar and of the yen in particular and of the deutschemark, I believe that the bargain struck was very favourable from Britain's point of view.
Although it would not be reasonable to suggest that the Prime Minister should pay an immediate visit to the United States in view of the current talks, and accepting that this country has probably more influence in the matter than the United States owing to the policy of neutrality which was rightly accepted by Her Majesty's Government in the recent war between Pakistan and India, may we be assured that, as a result of the present talks, both countries will use all the influence at their command to persuade the Indian Government, who have accepted the obligations of the Geneva Convention, to do everything in their power to prevent the appalling atrocities which are currently taking place in East Pakistan and Bangladesh and about which we read every day in our newspapers?
I am sure that that would be the wish of the entire House.
While the present discussions that are going on between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the President of the United States are within Her Majesty's Dominions, is it not about time that the President received an invitation to pay a State visit to this country, having regard to the visits paid by our Head of State to America?
I am sure that my right hon. Friend will bear that suggestion in mind.
asked the Prime Minister when he next plans to make an official visit to the North-West region.
I have been asked to reply.My right hon. Friend visited the region on 29th October, when he met the North-West Economic Planning Council, the North-West Industrial Development Association and the British Textile Employers' Association. He has at present no plans for a further visit.
Is the Home Secretary aware of the need to pay more attention to the North-West in view of the fact that since that visit of the Prime Minister the position has continued to deteriorate? Is he aware that in the last year 53,000 jobs have been lost in textiles alone, and that according to the statistics of wholly unemployed issued on 16th December to the Press by the Department of Employment, the seasonally corrected figure for the North-West rose six times as much as the figure for Scotland, six times as much as the figure for Cornwall and 25 times as much as the figure for the North of England? Will the Government now take the advice of the North-West Development Association and pay some attention to the needs of this area?
The hon. Gentleman will also recognise that the wholly unemployed rate in Oldham remains below the national average. The textile industry will, of course, benefit considerably from the retention of the quota system, and the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) will help considerably over the question of marks of origin.
Will my right hon. Friend convey to the Prime Minister the appreciation that is felt in North-East Lancashire—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—Great appreciation is felt over this—about the decision of the Government to continue the quota system in the coming year, and their decision not to press ahead with the original plan to abolish the payment of unemployment benefit for the first six days out of work?
Yes, Sir. Certainly I will. It is noticeable that the points made by my hon. Friend were singularly lacking in the supplementary questions put by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
Has the right hon. Gentleman noted the structural industrial change that has come about in the North-West, and particularly in the Greater Manchester area, affecting basic heavy industries? Is he aware that this has been leading to a great increase in unemployment and that this, coupled with a lack of alternative jobs, has created a situation in which the region now has an unemployment figure of 136,000? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Government should conduct a full-scale inquiry into this structural change and that any recommendations resulting from it should be implemented as soon as possible to rectify the position?
I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government are well aware of the nature of the problem of unemployment in the North-West region. I recall how a few years ago there were structural changes in engineering and textiles and how the North-West carried them through with great success. I am sure that the area is resilient enough to carry other structural changes as well.
Foreign Investment (Scotland)
asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the degree of co-ordination between the Department of Trade and Industry and the Scottish Office with regard to the attraction of foreign investment to Scotland.
I have been asked to reply.Yes, Sir. There is already close coordination between all Departments concerned with the promotion of inward investment in Scotland as well as in other parts of the country.
Is the right hon. Gentleman in a position to give figures to indicate the increase in direct investment by foreign countries, particularly Germany, in Scotland in view of the extensive campaign which is being conducted by Her Majesty's Government in that European country? Are there figures available or has this campaign failed to produce direct investment from Germany, just as the Government have failed to stimulate investment from indigenous sources?
I could not give the figures without notice. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman recognises the efforts that are being made by the Government to promote investment by this means in Scotland. It is a little early to expect a visit made last month to produce new factories this month.
Prime Minister (Correspondence)
asked the Prime Minister what proportion of the letters he receives regarding unemployment is from women.
I have been asked to reply.Statistics are not kept which classify letters by particular categories of correspondent.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, whatever the proportion may be, it is likely to increase sharply in the next week or two because last weekend thousands of women in Scotland took part in a demonstration against the present level of unemployment and that, as a result, the Prime Minister will be receiving scores of letters from them protesting against the present situation in which thousands of men in Scotland must face the degradation of the dole queue for the first time in their lives? Do the Government accept responsibility for the present level of unemployment? Can we look forward to new and imaginative measures in the near future to improve the situation?
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is always happy to receive positive suggestions as to how to improve the situation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Resign."]—I would call that a negative rather than a positive suggestion.
Nevertheless, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite should do it.
That suggestion comes ill from the Labour Party, who left behind a legacy of growing inflation.
Would my right hon. Friend accept the positive recommendation that he should look at the discrimination against the employment of women in certain professions? Is he aware that they are still not able to serve in either the ministry of the church or membership of the Stock Exchange, and so are prevented from serving either God or Mammon?
Without accepting the dichotomy put forward by my hon. Friend, I must say that the Government have taken a number of measures to reduce discrimination against women in this country, and no doubt further measures will be introduced.
If the right hon. Gentleman is looking for positive suggestions about unemployment, both for men and for women, has he had drawn to his attention the proposal by a number of Labour councillors in Liverpool, who have suggested that if the Government are prepared to give financial aid to the City of Liverpool, instead of that which is now being paid out in unemployment and other benefits, they could almost immediately create 10,000 jobs in Liverpool, where at present 53,000 are unemployed, including 8,000 building operatives?
I have not seen that particular suggestion. I am always a little sceptical about any plans which suggest that they will immediately create more employment.
Would the right hon. Gentleman revert to the earlier question whether the Government will now accept responsibility for the present level of unemployment? His only answer to that question is that he hopes to get some suggestions from several thousand letters. It is his responsibility, and if he wants a constructive suggestion, will he follow the negative one and resign, so that we can take his place?
The Government are responsible for all aspects of economic policy. But we inherited a situation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Not again."]—The Leader of the Opposition was dining out for seven years on the £800 million deficit. We inherited a situation in which inflation was causing great difficulties. One of the main causes of unemployment is the pricing out of the labour market of many people whom industry cannot afford to employ at the rates necessary at the moment.