Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, attacked Patricia Hewitt in the House of Commons for her claim “we do not take nurses from…Africa” when the Government has issued 52,000 work permits for doctors and nurses from Africa. Speaking afterwards he said, “Labour have not only caused a crisis here in our health service but damaged the health services of poor countries.”

    “According to Government figures between 2000 and 2005, a staggering total of 52,098 doctors and nurses were given work permits to work here in the UK.(1)”

    “This is a shameful record. It is even more shameful for the Government to claim they have a “uniquely ethical policy” that the NHS should not take nurses and doctors from Africa when they have issued over 50,000 work permits. Yet when I raised this issue in the House of Commons Miss Hewitt refused to apologise and also falsely claimed this issue has been satisfactorily resolved.”

    “Very recently, partial restrictions on issuing work permits to certain grades of nurses have been issued. This is because Labour’s mishandling of the NHS means there are not enough jobs for UK nurses.”



    1) These figures come from a Written Parliamentary Question given below:

    Work Permits
    Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many work permits were issued for (a) doctors and (b) nurses and auxiliary nurses from (i) Nigeria, (ii) Ghana and (iii) other African countries in each of the last 10 years. [65742]
    Mr. McNulty: The following table displays the number of work permits issued for (a) doctors and (b) nurses and auxiliary nurses from (i) Nigeria, (ii) Ghana and (iii) other African countries each year since 2000. Figures of permits issued prior to 2000 are not available due to a change in Home Office IT systems.

    Nationality/occupation 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 Total
    Doctor 0 7 10 18 19 18 72
    Nurse 310 527 631 763 743 640 3,614
    Total 310 534 641 781 762 658 3,686

    Doctor 0 28 55 64 88 97 332
    Nurse 916 1,160 1,703 1,316 1,329 1,151 7,575
    Total 916 1,188 1,758 1,380 1,417 1,248 7,907

    Other African countries
    Doctor 0 229 1,000 830 718 472 3,249
    Nurse 3,406 5,720 7,518 7,540 7,405 5,667 37,256
    Total 3,406 5,949 8,518 8,370 8,123 6,1391 40,505

    Total 4,632 7,671 10,917 10,531 10,302 8,045 52,098
    2 May 2006 : Column 1437W

    2) The exchanges between Peter Lilley MP and Patricia Hewitt are given below:

    “Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): How does the Secretary of State square what she has just said about having an ethical policy on recruiting from Africa with the fact that the Government have issued work permits for 50,000 nurses and doctors from Africa since 2000? Is it not clear that they are coming to agencies in order to get round the ban on direct recruitment to the NHS?

    Ms Hewitt: As I have just said, we have stopped the process of direct recruitment-[Hon. Members: “Ah!”] No, we have stopped the process of direct recruitment
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    into the NHS of nurses from developing countries in Africa and elsewhere. There is, however, a real problem with some agencies that recruit people from those countries. I am not sure what level of regulation the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting, but that practice is difficult to control. We try to ensure, however, that they sign up to exactly the same principles as we have agreed for the NHS, and that people who come in through that route are not subsequently re-employed in the NHS.”

    Hansard, House of Commons, Tuesday 22 May 2007 Column 1089

    “Mr. Lilley: I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. On the subject of weasel words, does she understand why Opposition Members sometimes find it difficult to put full credence in all the figures that she uses? That was illustrated yesterday, when she told my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride), who asked about the recruitment of nurses from Africa, that, because of the Government’s uniquely ethical policy,

    “we do not take nurses from…Africa.”-[ Official Report,22 May 2007; Vol. 460, c. 1089.]

    When I pointed out that the Government have issued 50,000 work permits for nurses from Africa since 2000, her defence was that it did not really count because they came in via agencies rather than directly to the NHS and that that was difficult to stop. Can she tell us what is uniquely ethical about circumventing one’s promises in that way and telling the House that we do not take nurses from Africa when we have given out 50,000 work permits? Why is that so difficult to stop when it is the Government who give out the work permits?

    Ms Hewitt: The right hon. Gentleman should talk to Health Ministers in the Governments in Africa, with whom we have reached agreements on this very point. Let me also remind him that only last year we took nursing jobs off the skills shortage list in order to ensure that the jobs went to nurses here.”

    Hansard, House of Commons, Wednesday 23 May 2007 Column 1364