asked the Minister of Health for what reason a meeting of the Professional and Technical Staffs Council A of the Whitley Councils for the Health Services (Great Britain), summoned for 10th December for the purpose of the first joint discussion of a claim tabled by the Staff Side in September for an improvement in the salary scales of radiographers, was cancelled at short notice without explanation.
Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that for a claim of this character to lie on the table for more than three months is likely to undermine still further the confidence of the staff in the efficacy of the Whitley Council system? Will he not take some steps to ensure that that confidence has some chance of being restored to the staff? It is three months, and still no indication has come from the Management Side of its attitude to a claim of this importance.
As the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, the Management Side has to consider this claim in the context of the difficult economic situation of the time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] It is perhaps natural that it should want time to consider a claim and its implications.
Does not the last part of that reply show that the people in the National Health Service who are concerned were right in thinking that the cancellation of the meeting was due to the previous attitude of the Government on the 3 per cent. award that was given to other workers? Surely, in a service which is so important to the health of the nation and in which there is a shortage of radiographers, it is time the Government were taking this matter much more seriously?
The Government do take all these matters seriously. The considerations which the hon. Lady mentions are no doubt important, but they have to be seen in the context of the general economic situation, which is also important at all times, but particularly at this time.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman not aware that this is a very special category of workers, that there is a grave shortage of them, and that it is well known that their work involves a risk to health? In view of those facts, how can the Minister justify the delay? Would he not give an undertaking that the matter shall be considered forthwith?
The matter has not yet reached the stage of Ministerial consideration under the statutory regulations, because it is still under consideration by the Management Side of the Whitley Council.
Does not the Minister realise that if he gives an appearance of using this machinery as a means of sheltering himself he will destroy faith in collective bargaining? Does he not realise that the right way to handle this matter, if he wants to veto it, is not to delay meetings of the Whitley Council but to allow the Council to meet and to reach its conclusion on the facts presented to it, and then for the Government to step in and take whatever misguided action they think appropriate?
The hon. Gentleman refers to what I wish to do. I want to make it quite clear that I have not yet made any decision as to the exercise of my statutory duty in the hypothetical event of a recommendation being made.
asked the Minister of Health what progress has been made towards a settlement of the claim, tabled in March, 1957, by the Staff Side of the Professional and Technical Staffs Council A of the Whitley Councils for the Health Services (Great Britain) for an improvement in the payment to radiographers for emergency work.
The Whitley Council met to discuss the claim in April. I understand that supporting evidence then requested by the Management Side was produced by the Staff Side at the end of September and is under consideration.
Is this not another example of the lethargy with which Whitley Councils are allowed to proceed? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that, according to my information, the claim was lodged in March, there was the meeting in April to which the Minister refers, when the Management Side, without specifying what information it required, intimated that it could not decide the issue until it had further information, and that it was not until September, after repeated efforts, that the Staff Side succeeded in eliciting from the Management Side what information it required?
Is he further aware that that information was supplied in September, since when there has been complete silence on the matter? Will he not take steps through his representative on the Council to ensure more efficacious and speedy working of the Whitley Council? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman not prepared to exercise his power in certain circumstances to over-ride the decisions of the Council and accept responsibility in this direction?
No, Sir. I understand that the Staff Side took the view that it required guidance as to what sort of supporting evidence was required by the Management Side. My understanding also is that it did not seek for such guidance until five months after the initial meeting of the Council. In regard to speeding up the proceedings, the Staff Side did not, in fact, ask for this claim to be placed on the agenda of a meeting of the Council which had been arranged for 10th December.
Is the Minister aware that many of us have had great difficulty and trouble in the past in convincing workers of the fairness and efficacy of arbitration? Is he further aware that if we get many more evidences of this kind the workers' faith in arbitration as impartial machinery will be very seriously jeopardised?
The hon. Gentleman cannot quite have comprehended my reply to the supplementary question of his hon. Friend the Member for Waltham-stow, West (Mr. Redhead). It took the Staff Side five months to ask for the guidance that it thought it needed or to supply the information required.
Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise that, in the experience of those with knowledge of every side of industrial matters, what causes and aggravates disputes is for a long time to elapse before a decision is made? Will he take steps to speed up the process?
While thanking the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the figures that he promises, may I ask him whether the percentage increases that the figures reveal show that the staffs concerned had an increase in the period in question of the order of 30 per cent. to 35 per cent., compared with a rising cost of living in the same period of more than 50 per cent.; and that in every case the percentage increase is markedly less than has been conceded in any other field of the public service? Does not the inadequacy of the salaries supply an additional reason for expedition in dealing with the claim?
The rise in the Index of Retail Prices in the period in question was 49 per cent. If the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to study the figures which he will see in the OFFICIAL REPORT, he will observe eight percentages specified therein, the lowest of which is 27. There are then some in the 30s. two in the 40s. and one in the 50s.
Do not these figures clearly show, as is well known surely to both sides of the House, that the salaries of public servants always lag behind general rises in wages and usually behind rises in the cost-of-living index? On that basis, how can we refuse, if there is to be common justice, to accept and admit this claim?
The first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question seems to be another way of saying that people in the public services are the greatest sufferers from inflation. That is why it is in the interests of all concerned, and not least of these people, that inflationary pressures should be prevented. Even the most superficial study of the policies of right hon. Gentlemen opposite shows that a return to power of the Labour Government would mean continuance and aggravation of inflation.
Has not the Minister a great responsibility in these matters? Is he not aware that these radiographers are exposed to a risk to health? Could he not therefore concern himself particularly with these negotiations and try to speed them up in order that these workers should receive justice?
I am not sure to which set of negotiations the right hon. Lady is now referring, because we have had two Questions on different aspects of radiographers' claims. I think I dealt with both those matters in reply to the earlier Questions.
|Grade of Radiographer||At the inception of the National Health Service 5th July, 1948||Present scales||Percentage increase of mean of scales|
|Radiographer under supervision||310×12½–360||420×15–465||35|
|Radiographer under supervision but in a Senior post.||310×12½–360||485×15–545||57|
|Radiographer under supervision but acting as deputy to a Superintendent.||360×15–435||510×15–570||39|
|Single-handed||(a) 347½×12½–360||470×15–545||(a) 47|
|(b) 360×15–435 (according to nature of post or experience required.)||×25–570||(b) 31|
|Senior in charge of 1–2 staff||360×15–435||485×15–545||33|
|Superintendent I in charge of 3–7 staff.||450×25–575 after 10 years' service in the grade by 25–600||585×25–710||27|
|Superintendent II in charge of 8 or more staff.||450×25–575 after 10 years' service in the grade by 25–600||675×27½–812½||45|
|Assistant Teacher||No grade||515×15–575||—|
|Superintendent and Tutor||450×25–575 after 10 years' service in the grade by 25–600 plus such further sum as may be mutually agreed between the individual hospital/training school and the radiographer||I (i/c 3–7 staff):||Various|
|II (i/c 8 or more):||Various|