Orders of the Day — National Health Service Contributions Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th June 1957.

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Photo of Dr Dickson Mabon Dr Dickson Mabon , Greenock 12:00 am, 6th June 1957

I may be infringing on some understanding between the two Front Benches, but I want briefly in the few minutes that I propose to speak to reinforce the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) in regard to the handling of the Bill by the Scottish Ministers. Not till well on in the process of the Bill through its various Parliamentary stages did we see hair or hide of any of the Scottish Ministers. Indeed, I commented at one stage that, in some regards, it might be just as wise for us to deal with the Minister of Health.

The intervention by the Joint Under-Secretary during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North urges me to make this point quite straight to him. I strongly object to the idea that the National Health Service in Scotland merely tags along behind the National Health Service in England and that it is desirable for the English and Welsh Minister, some time or other, to handle the affairs of the Scottish Health Service. If it were true that the principles and the administration of the Service are the same throughout the United Kingdom, as one would assume from the comments of the hon. Gentleman, then one wonders why there was ever a separate Act of Parliament in respect of the Service for Scotland.

As we know, the principles in both countries are appreciably different, and the practice can be substantially different. We in Scotland are very proud of the fact that we have variations compared with the English practice in different fields. Though they may sometimes not be in advance of the English practice in social administration in certain respects, they are certainly very much in advance of it in other respects. It is certainly true that in health matters we in Scotland, with our proud medical traditions, could and should be well ahead of England in Health Service practice.

I certainly think that in a Bill of this sort we should have heard something before today from the Secretary of State or the Joint Under-Secretary regarding the administration of the Bill in relation to Scotland. I do not think that we can accept the doctrine that the Joint Under-Secretary can simply shuffle on to the Minister of Health the responsibilities of Scotland in regard to the Bill or in regard to the administration of the Service in Scotland as a whole. We have seen that happen in recent negotiations with the British Medical Association, although. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I know that is quite outside the scope of the Bill. There, too, we have seen Scottish affairs handled in the same way as they are being handled under the Bill. My comments are not strictures born of party prejudice; they are engendered by a great deal of concern in this House about the Scottish Health Service.

I do not like the Bill. I think that it is all wrong. Although hon. Members opposite may disagree with the views expressed on this side of the House, I think they ought to understand why we disagree with them. They ought to give us the credit of realising that many on this side of the House object to the contributory element being expanded. We object also to it being made a principle of the method by which this social service is financed.

I hope that when the Minister replies to the debate he will credit us with believing these things and will understand why we stated our previous objections to the Bill so clearly. To say, as the Minister has, that the present Tory Government by behaving in conformity with the past Labour Government are thereby discharging their social obligations is to my mind a false argument and one which cannot stand the test of time.