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Nhs Staff (Pay)

Volume 84: debated on Monday 21 October 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had during the summer Adjournment with the chairmen of Welsh health authorities regarding the funding of pay increases for National Health Service staff in Wales.

My right hon. Friend met chairmen to discuss this and other matters on 26 July, the day on which the House adjourned.

May I take this opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend on his very well-merited appointment?

Is he aware that if local health authorities are obliged to fund nationally-agreed pay increases out of budgets which were not prepared in expectation of those increases. their ability to maintain their level of services may be impaired, including the provision of matching finance for projects for which large sums of money have been raised by local effort?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales discussed this when he met the chairmen of health authorities on 26 July. It was agreed that health authorities could manage for the year 1985–86 within the resources available to them. Of course we recognise the difficulties when health authorities have to accept pay rises that are higher than those for which they budgeted. My right hon. Friend will continue to keep the matter under review, especially during the current public expenditure round. It would be wrong of me to look forward to 1986–87 while those discussions are taking place.

I too, welcome the Under-Secretary of State to his new and onerous responsibilities. I hope that he will have an enjoyable, though brief, spell in the Welsh Office.

Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the meetings that had to be cancelled because of the change in ministerial responsibility, which had been arranged by his hon. Friend the Member for Conwy (Mr. Roberts), will be reconvened as rapidly as possible, in particular the meeting with the Gwynedd health authority to discuss the financial position in Gwynedd arising from the impact of wage increases not being fully funded? Will he ensure that no decisions are taken in Gwynedd until that meeting has taken place and an opportunity has arisen for him to appreciate the full impact of the situation in Gwynedd?

I thank the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend for their kind remarks in prefacing their questions. In response to the point raised by the hon. Gentleman, I am conscious that my hon. Friend the Member for Conwy (Mr. Roberts) was due to have a series of meetings with the health authorities. We plan to go ahead with those meetings. As for any changes that may be made to the services in Gwynedd, this is a matter for that health authority to decide. I am prepared at that meeting to discuss with it any issues that may arise.

May I also congratulate my hon. Friend and wish him success in his new job? He will receive much personal support from his right hon. and hon. Friends.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the National Health Service staff pay problem has put particular strain on the new hospital at Ysbyty, Gwynedd? Although that hospital provides facilities in excess of those provided previously. does he accept that when facilities are provided the public do not understand why they cannot be used to their full potential?

We are aware of the difficulties caused by the pay settlement. However, the issue must be seen against the background of increases in resources for the health authorities. The real growth in resources for Gwynedd between 1978–79 and 1984–85 was about 30 percent.

May I also congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his appointment?

Does the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that pay increases for nurses in south Wales can be achieved only if major cuts are made in the Health Service and in facilities for patients? Is it not hypocritical of the Government to suggest that they are making extra money available when they are not even funding the full pay review award originally granted to nurses?

Following the meeting with the chairmen of the health authorities it was made clear that the increases could be absorbed in the current year without making the changes to which the hon. Gentleman refers