Clause 7. — (Removal of Hardships.)

Part of Orders of the Day — National Health Service (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th December 1949.

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Photo of Sir Hugh Munro-Lucas-Tooth Sir Hugh Munro-Lucas-Tooth , Hendon South 12:00 am, 9th December 1949

Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I will immediately resume my seat when you call me to Order, but I do not think it is for the right hon. Gentleman to attempt to divert attention from the real issue before the House by attempting to put points of Order in this way. The fact of the matter is that when we asked the right hon. Gentleman what is intended by this new Clause, he said quite candidly, because he had no other course to take, "I do not know the answer." That is not a satisfactory position for the House to find itself in when debating whether or not to add such a Clause as this to the Bill.

Then the right hon. Gentleman—speaking, according to his own view, entirely out of Order—rebutted altogether the suggestion that this Clause had anything to do with the cuts, and spoke of the proposal as a temporary easement for the general practitioner, and went on to add in parenthesis "If it becomes practicable." In other words, it appears that the right hon. Gentleman is doubtful whether this Clause will ever become effective. That is the most extraordinary position for the House to find itself in. We believe that the kind of policy indicated by this Clause is the right kind of policy to pursue at the present juncture of our financial affairs and having regard to the needs of the health scheme, but we are in great difficulty in knowing what is the proper attitude to the right hon. Gentleman when he comes forward with proposals about which he says quite candidly that he does not know the answers.

This is a somewhat dishonest procedure being followed by the Government. We started with a firm promise that this proposal would save the country a sum of £10 million. It then appeared that this sum would not become fully effective immediately but must await first, legislation and then regulations. It is quite clear, however, that the Government still intended the country to believe that the saving would be made reasonably early. I think, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that I am in Order in quoting the statement of a responsible Minister in another place. Lord Shepherd was asked specifically at what date it was intended to bring in these cuts, and he stated: A certain amount of it will be in this year, but we shall get the full fruits in a full year. It would be interesting to know what the right hon. Gentleman understands by "the full fruits." having regard to his statement this morning, but, letting that pass for the moment, it is clear that when this Clause was being discussed in another place it was fully intended that there should be some substantial saving during the current financial year. I press the Govrenment to make a much more specific statement about when they intend to introduce what is proposed under this Clause. If we get no more than we have had today so far, it will be open for the Opposition to say that here is a case where the Government are paying nothing but lip service to the cuts and, because they know they will be unpopular, they are deliberately putting them off until after the General Election.

When we come to decide how to vote on this proposal, the advice I would give to any of my hon. Friends who sought it would be that we ought to support the Clause because the principle involved is the right one, and because the details, when they come to be laid before the House, can be debated. The right hon. Gentleman has given a guarantee that he will lay the proposals before the House before they become effective. Our rights in that respect, therefore, are reserved. In these circumstances I shall support the Motion and I only hope that the policy will be made effective at a reasonably early date.