Particular aspects of the remuneration of general practitioners come under review as part of the regular discussions between the Department and the profession. This continuing examination has not disclosed a need for a more fundamental review.
Is the Minister aware that there is a small number of unscrupulous doctors who con the Health Service by taking on assistants and receiving full pay from the family practitioner committees, while paying less than the full rate for the job? Will the Minister stamp out this abuse by asking doctors to declare their income from medical sources to the family practitioner committees?
Financial arrangements settled between partners or between a principal and his assistant are matters for the doctors themselves, not for me. I shall look into my hon. Friend's suggestion, however.
Will the Minister take another look at the grievance of many practitioners, which is that if they employ their wives as secretaries or receptionists they are not allowed to claim any practice expenses? Since Members of Parliament are entitled to claim a secretarial allowance if they employ their wives as secretaries, why should not the same arrangements apply to doctors?
Successive Governments have taken the line that it is difficult to draw a clear distinction between a wife being employed on duties for which the salaries are reimbursed for unrelated staff by the family practitioner committees and the normal functions that wives undertake, whether for Members of Parliament or for doctors. This is a difficult distinction to draw, and because I felt increasing concern about it I asked the negotiating bodies to look at it again, with a view to producing a system that is fair to both sides. Discussions have already commenced on that. I share the right hon. Gentleman's unease, particularly in view of the precedent that he mentioned.
Since general practitioner remuneration rests upon the Spens Reports and the arrangements made by Mr. Kenneth Robinson in a former Labour Government, and since the system is altogether antiquated, will my hon. Friend offer an alternative to the GPs with a more rational pay scale, probably on the basis of a salaried service?