Orders of the Day — National Health Service (Nursing, Medical and Other Professional Staffs)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th March 1962.

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Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East 12:00 am, 27th March 1962

Surely the position is that the economic crisis which has been used as a justification for treating the nurses so unjustly is a crisis of the Government's own making. The hon. Member for Yarmouth gave us some old-fashioned Conservative philosophy, some pre-Macmillan, pre-"You're all right Jack" philosophy, and came near to expressing a point of view which is very acceptable to hon. Members on this side of the House. He said that it was an unworthy society in which nurses were paid such a niggardly reward, while other people, whose services to the community were less worthy, were being paid more generously.

Unfortunately, the hon. Member compared nurses with workers in a motor car factory. It would have been more accurate and illuminating to have compared a nurse with a property speculator or someone making a tax-free fortune on capital gains. That would have indicated the times in which we are living. Of course, it is a fact that for years now we have had a Government who have given that kind of people their head, who have worked on the basis that if people have a flair for making money, if they have a streak of unscrupulousness or an ability to do well for themselves, they ought to have freedom to go ahead and to make as much money as possible, and that as many as possible who can do this should be allowed to do it.

What has happened is that these people in our society have done well. Alongside the people with money-making ability are the people who have been able to organise themselves either in industrial trade unions or in such bodies as the B.M.A. so that they have been able to protect themselves. But the people whom we are discussing, the nurses and others, have been left out because of the economic climate which the Government have deliberately created.

In the medical services of the country today we have the nurses and others who do a job which demands a sense of vocation and of dedication, people who do this vital job for the community of helping to cure our ills. But these are the very people who are being asked to bear the brunt, the main burden and sacrifice, of helping to cure the ills of a society which have been created by the Government's policies.

This is what is so utterly wrong and so completely indefensible about the Government's position in the matter. Nurses have been poorly paid, insultingly paid, precisely because the Government have run the economy in the way they have in recent years. When hon. Members on this side of the House make the plea for the nurses and others, they are not only speaking up for their constituents but are making, quite legitimately, the kind of criticism of the Government that lies at the heart of the difference between the policies of the Conservative Party and those of the Labour Party. Had a Labour Government been in office this situation would not have arisen. No Labour Government would have allowed those in the public service section of the community to be made the victims simply because they allowed those who had the economic power to forge ahead without regard for the health of the community as a whole. This is our indictment of the Government and this is why we have kept the House up so late. I believe that it has been justified.