HC Deb 22 June 1948 vol 452 cc1115-8
27. Captain John Crowder

asked the Minister of Pensions whether patients applying for artificial limbs under the National Health Scheme after 5th July will only be supplied with one type of limb; and whether orders will be placed only with his Department's sole contractors.

29. Squadron-Leader Fleming

asked the Minister of Pensions whether, after 5th July, 1948, disabled ex-Service men in the Manchester area will continue to have their artificial limbs repaired by the original makers; or to whom must they apply for major refitting or repairs.

32. Sir John Mellor

asked the Minister of Pensions why, under the National Health Service, artificial limbs may be supplied by two firms only, to the exclusion of all other makers; and whether he will enable users to choose any make of limb preferred, provided additional expense does not fall upon public funds.

Mr. Buchanan

This matter is under consideration. I hope shortly to be able to make a statement.

Captain Crowder

Is it the present position that a disabled man who wants his artificial limb repaired will have to pay for it himself unless he goes to one of the Government's sole contractors?

Mr. Buchanan

The present position is that the scheme is not started, so that at present a person other than an ex-Service man must pay for it unless he comes under a Ministry of Labour scheme. However, this matter is being considered, and I would like to leave it at that at the moment.

Sir J. Mellor

Could not the Minister at least give an assurance in the terms of the second part of my Question No. 32? Cannot he give an assurance that users will be permitted to make their own choice provided no additional expense falls on public funds?

Mr. Buchanan

I hope people will be reasonable on this matter. I hope I am not an unreasonable Minister, and I hope that the people I am negotiating with in this matter will bear in mind the general interests of the community. If all of us are reasonable, I am sure we can work it out in a reasonable way.

Mr. Tolley

Will my right hon. Friend make a statement at the earliest possible moment? I can assure him that many disabled men are showing real concern at the fact that in all probability in the future they will not be able to go to the makers for repairs and replacements, and they are disturbed as to what their future is likely to be.

Mr. Buchanan

In my view they need not be disturbed at all. I do not want any Party conflict on this, but nobody need be disturbed. The limb we make now is made for the persons who served in His Majesty's Forces during the war. That has been done for years without any reasonable complaint. I take it that if those who have this limb are fairly satisfied, it is not a bad limb for other people as well.

28. Mr. H. D. Hughes

asked the Minister of Pensions whether non-pensionable limbless ex-Service men in employment are entitled to receive a duplicate issue of artificial limbs.

Mr. Buchanan

All ex-Service men who lost a limb during war service are provided with a duplicate artificial limb. Under the National Health Service duplicate artificial limbs will be provided on the same lines as to the war disabled.

33. Mr. Gammans

asked the Minister of Pensions why, under the new Health Act, only one firm has been selected to make artificial legs and one other firm to make artificial arms; why the remaining 25 limb-making firms are excluded; and to what extent artificial limbs are being made on semi-mass production lines.

Mr. Buchanan

The matters referred to in the first part of the Question are under review and I hope to make a statement shortly. As regards the last part of the Question all artificial limbs supplied by the Ministry of Pensions are fitted to the needs of the individual although as in other productions some parts are made in quantity.

Mr. Gammans

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that, if this policy is pursued, it will put out of business some very highly skilled firms in this country; and will he say what exactly is the meaning of the suggestion that these artificial limbs are to be made on semi-mass production lines? Does that mean that applications must be on semi-mass production lines?

Mr. Buchanan

I would like to know who said that. I have not said it. No hon. Member has a right to rise and say I have said something which I have not said. What I have said is that, as regards the last part of the Question, all artificial limbs supplied by the Minister of Pensions are fitted to the needs of the individual. Some parts, however, are made in quantity, but each leg is made to suit the individual.

Colonel Ropner

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that his policy is not to establish anything in the way of a monopoly in the making of artificial limbs? Is he aware that, rightly or wrongly, there is an impression amongst these unfortunate men and women that something is happening behind the scenes which will limit their choice of the manufacturer of the artificial limbs?

Mr. Buchanan

I have already given a full answer to this Question when it was raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Finchley (Captain Crowder), the hon. and gallant Member for Manchester, Withington (Squadron-Leader Fleming) and the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor). Having talked with the people concerned in this matter I hope to make a reasonable adjustment.

Mr. Donner

Can the Minister give an assurance that the present delays will be brought to an end, because they are causing great suffering to many unfortunate people who cannot now get their artificial limbs as a result.

Mr. Buchanan

Nobody who needs or wishes to have an artificial limb need be without it. The present scheme applies, until 5th July, to ex-Service men and to people who come under contract with the Minister of Labour. We are meeting in full, with a first-class limb, the demands of every one of those people. The issue before us is what will happen after 5th July. We are hoping to come to an amicable agreement.

Mr. John Hynd

Will the Minister tell the House when this so-called monopoly was first established?

Mr. Buchanan

This so-called monopoly has been going on all the time. For a long time the main contractor has had the monopoly of supplying limbs to those who suffered as a result of the war.

Mr. Gammans

In view of the fact that the Minister is not able to give an assurance that a monopoly will not be set up in artificial limbs—[HON. MEMBERS: "He said so"]—I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

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