HC Deb 18 April 1950 vol 474 cc59-60

So by far the largest item is the increased cost of the National Health Service. As to that the Committee will recollect that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health stated in the course of the Debate on the Supplementary Estimate for the Health Services, that we must now regard the period of their initiation as passed so that there is no excuse for exceeding the estimates in the coming 12 months. My right hon. Friend also stated that further measures of control must be exercised to help to make certain that the annual estimate for the Service as a whole is not exceeded.

It is clear that it is not possible in existing circumstances to permit any overall increase in the expenditure on the Health Services. Any expansion in one part of the Service must in future be met by economies or, if necessary, by contraction in others. In exercising this essential control over total expenditure, regard will of course be had to priorities. My right hon. Friends have I believe the necessary powers, but should these prove to be insufficient, an Amending Act will be introduced. It is not proposed to impose any charge immediately in connection with prescriptions, since it is hoped that a more easily administered method of economising in this branch of expenditure can be introduced shortly. The power to charge will, of course, remain so that it can be used later if it is needed.