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Volume 929: debated on Tuesday 5 April 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will make a statement on the free movement of doctors between Great Britain and the other EEC countries.

As my hon. Friend explained in his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt) on 14th December—[Vol. 922, c. 636.]—some complex legal issues have had to be resolved before an Order in Council can be made making the changes in United Kingdom law necessary to implement the EEC Medical Directives in full. In particular, we have been considering how best to implement the provisions of the Directives requiring member States to see to it that the doctors concerned acquire the linguistic knowledge necessary for the exercise of their profession in the host country. In the consultative document on the implementation of the Directives issued in March 1976, it was proposed that the General Medical Council should be empowered in appropriate cases to defer the registration of doctors from other EEC member States if their linguistic knowledge was inadequate. Following further consideration of the legal questions involved, we are now advised that our original proposals are likely to be unacceptable in terms of our EEC obligations.In the light of this, we now intend to provide that all appropriately qualified EEC doctors should be given immediate registration in the United Kingdom, but that registration should be restricted to a period of six months unless the doctor has satisfied the General Medical Council that he has the necessary knowledge of English. If by the end of the six-month period he doctor fails to provide proof of adequate knowledge of English his registration will lapse unless the Registrar considers that there are circumstances justifying an extension of the period. Health authorities and others considering the suitability of a doctor for employment will be made aware by the limitation on the period of registration that there is doubt about the applicant's knowledge of English.Now this matter has been resolved, the Order in Council will be made at the earliest possible opportunity.