Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Molloy: My Lords, is the Minister aware that her reply will be welcomed by many voluntary organisations which assist British nurses--in particular, our Royal British Legion?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful, as always, to my noble friend for drawing attention to the very good work of voluntary organisations such as the Royal British Legion. They are essential to continuing and developing the strategy that I described.

Baroness Robson of Kiddington: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the reputation of the National Health Service rests largely on the dedication and devotion of the nurses who have served us for the past 50 years, and that the future of the NHS depends enormously on their continued dedication? Is the noble Baroness therefore concerned that the pay award will be implemented in two stages so that the figure is not 3.7 per cent. over a year? In addition, the shortage of applications to the nursing schools, and the fact that 25 per cent. of older nurses will retire, will inevitably cause a great strain on the National Health Service.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am second to none in commending the extraordinary role that nurses have played during the 50 years of the NHS. This Government have accorded particular emphasis to the whole of the staff of the NHS and their general

17 Feb 1998 : Column 141

dedication and skill. That is why, for the first time, we are developing a human resources strategy for the 1 million people who work for the NHS, all of whose contributions are valued and understood.

We are aware of the shortages that exist. That is why we are paying special attention in the short term to recruitment and, even more importantly, to retention. As the noble Baroness may have seen in a report today, a recent survey into the reasons for nurses not returning to the profession once they have left to marry or take alternative employment, points to the hours that they are expected to work rather than to their pay. It is a matter that we are urgently addressing.

The Earl of Halsbury: My Lords, does the Minister recall that when I was chairman of the body that set up the review body which settled nurses' pay for a long time to come, we equated the salary of a ward sister with that of a station sergeant in the police force? What has become of that equation?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, the review body, on whose independence we rely as when it was originally established, states that there has not been any significant change in the relative position of nurses and their main comparators since 1990. The growth in real average earnings for nurses during that period has been 14 per cent., as compared with 12 per cent. for all employees.

Baroness Cox: My Lords, I declare an interest as vice-president of the Royal College of Nursing. Does the Minister agree that there are serious problems at present in terms of nursing morale and the retention of senior nurses? Will she therefore further agree that it is very important that the new discretionary salary points recommended for senior nurses by the review body should be implemented immediately, and not be delayed as is proposed, if we are to stem the tide of more and more senior nurses leaving the health service?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I precisely agree with the noble Baroness, who speaks with authority about the particular role of senior nurses. As I said in answer to the original Question, we have accepted that point in principle. It is being considered in the broad structure of the NHS pay review strategy which we are developing. Interestingly, as the noble Baroness is probably aware, the Royal College of Nursing, in its own review of the reasons why people left the profession, did not put pay among the top five. Other reasons, such as promotion, a desire to gain broader experience and lack of development opportunities were placed higher--as was the issue of unsocial hours to which I referred in my reply to the noble Baroness, Lady Robson.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend will draw to the attention of the House the fact that it was the Labour Government of 1974-79 (in which, incidentally, I was health Minister for Scotland) which substantially reduced the working

17 Feb 1998 : Column 142

hours of nurses. I encourage the Minister to go down the path that she hinted at earlier and implement another substantial decrease in nurses' working hours.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, as always, I should hope to follow in the distinguished footsteps of my noble friend. However, in the context of today's employment practices, it may be flexibility of working hours rather than the numbers of hours worked which needs to be examined more closely in relation to nursing.

Earl Russell: My Lords, will the Minister clarify two figures that she gave in her first Answer? In dealing with a phased award, what is the percentage rate of the award averaged over 12 months? When she said that it was the most generous award for the past six years, did that claim relate to the final figure or to the average over 12 months?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I was quoting the final figure: 3.8 per cent. As to the average over 12 months, I am sure that the noble Earl's mental arithmetic is better than mine. I shall have to write to him to establish that.

Party Political Broadcasts

2.54 p.m.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What response they are making to the proposals of the broadcasting authorities to alter the arrangements for party political broadcasts.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the arrangements for party political broadcasts are for broadcasters to decide. The Government welcome their decision to consult political parties, voters, viewers and listeners before proceeding with their proposals. The Government do not intend themselves to respond to the consultation. However, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport will keep himself informed of progress on this, as on other broadcasting matters.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, with respect, is that not a slightly naive Answer? Is the Minister aware that the arrangements for party political broadcasts are normally a parliamentary matter in a committee that sits in Parliament under the chairmanship of the Government Chief Whip, unless arrangements have changed since my day? Given the domination of broadcasting in terms of political influence, is it not one of the great bulwarks of our democracy that political parties cannot buy broadcasting time--whereas in the United States, for instance, the vast sums that are needed for such broadcasts are one of the sources of corruption in the American political system? Is not the proposal to abolish party political broadcasts entirely between elections the thin end of a very dangerous wedge?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am sure the whole House will agree that we would not wish to

17 Feb 1998 : Column 143

introduce in this country the practice that obtains in America and other countries of having paid broadcasts on television and radio involving vast sums of money. As to the issue of responses to the broadcasters' proposals, it is in the first instance the responsibility of political parties and those concerned outside with the democratic process rather than with the Government formally as such.

Baroness Flather: My Lords, is the Minister aware that, during the last election, there was a party political broadcast by the BNP in which animal noises were superimposed on a street scene in Brixton? Some of the broadcasters chose not to make any changes. The BBC showed the broadcast in its entirety; LWT removed the animal noises. The broadcast gave great offence to a large number of people who also have rights to be protected from that type of party political broadcast. Further, is the Minister aware that the broadcast ended with an inference that the last great war was fought for the sake of keeping this country for the indigenous white British? As the Minister knows perfectly well, the British were not alone in fighting against the fascists; many of us fought with the British against them. It does not do much good for the relationships between communities to find that we have fascists telling us what to do in party political broadcasts.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am very well aware of the issues raised by the noble Baroness. I am sure that many in this House will share her views about that particular broadcast. Broadcasters have to comply with the law of the land--for example, in relation to racial hatred--and they have to ensure that programme material does not offend against taste and decency. I understand that the complaints were investigated by the broadcasting authority but were not ultimately upheld. However, the broadcasters have been asked to consider the issues raised. I have no doubt that they will take very great notice of the point that the noble Baroness raises.

Lord McNally: My Lords, would not the request to the broadcasters to drop party political broadcasts have more credibility if they showed more interest in reporting politics and Parliament seriously during prime time and showing serious political programmes and news in prime time, rather than wanting to clear their schedules of anything that seems likely to fulfil their mandate to inform?


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page