Yes, Sir. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I have agreed to meet a deputation from the Staff Side of the General Whitley Council for the Health Services on Wednesday. I have nothing further to add to what I have said in the House on 6th November and on a number of occasions since.
As the Minister has had considerable time for reflection and is now in a position to measure the ill-fated consequence of his unfortunate decision, and in view of the meeting due next Wednesday, may I ask whether he thinks it worth while selling the Whitley Council down the river for a mere saving of 7d. in the £ in respect of a body of people who are relatively the lowest-paid people in the public service? In view of the Minister's veto in this case, does it make sense for his representatives to agree to a decision increasing scales of pay by 5 per cent. to which, it is reported in The Times today, the Minister has given approval?
I cannot accept all the implications in the supplementary questions from the hon. Gentleman. He has referred to points which have been debated at length in this House within the last few weeks. In particular, I cannot accept his suggestion that the action taken by my right hon. Friend and myself was in derogation of the proper functions of the Whitley Council. I have already explained more than once in this House that there are two clear stages in this matter and my right hon. Friend and myself acted in furtherance of our express statutory duty at the appropriate stage.
The gentlemen who are coming to see my right hon. Friend and myself on Wednesday are from the Staff Side of the General Whitley Council for the National Health Services. They will put forward whatever points they have in mind, and my right hon. Friend and myself will, of course, give them careful consideration.
May I repeat my question? Will the Minister begin his discussion with the representatives of the Staff Side by indicating to them that he is free to consider the whole position, including a review or reversal of his previous decision, if they convince him that that is necessary?
I do not anticipate that it will be I who will open this discussion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] We have been asked to receive this deputation, and I repeat that we shall consider carefully what they say; and what we say to them will be attuned to what they say to us.
The reason for meeting them is, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, that they put forward a request to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that he should meet them. He indicated to them that it would be appropriate, at any rate in the first instance, for them to see my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and myself as being the Ministers immediately concerned. They took up that suggestion and asked for the interview, and it has been arranged for Wednesday.