HC Deb 04 July 1955 vol 543 cc768-9
50. Mr. W. Griffiths

asked the Minister of Health whether, having regard to the reduction in the number of students coming forward to qualify as ophthalmic opticians and the increase in unqualified optical services being offered by itinerant quack opticians, he will take early steps to prepare a Bill for the registration of opticians, based on the report of the Crook Committee; and if he will introduce such legislation in the present Session of Parliament.

60. Mr. Blenkinsop

asked the Minister of Health when he will introduce a Bill for the registration of opticians.

Miss Hornsby-Smith

My right hon. Friend is afraid that legislation on this subject must wait until Parliamentary time is available, and he cannot say when this will be.

Mr. Griffiths

Is the hon. Lady aware that sales of spectacles in chain stores have been increasing very sharply recently and in absolute contrast to what happened in 1948 after the introduction of the National Health Service, when such sales dwindled practically to nil, and that this matter is causing great concern among hospital workers? Can she give the House an assurance that the declaration of the Minister when he took office that he did not want to be a Minister noted for introducing legislation is not the reason for not going ahead with this very important matter?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

No, I can assure the hon. Member that the reply I have given is an accurate one. Certainly, a large measure of agreement has been reached in discussions with the professional bodies. We have every intention of introducing necessary legislation when Parliamentary time can be found.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Is the hon. Lady not aware of the very serious difficulties which arise in the medical profession due to the lack of registered opticians? Can the Minister not urge more vigorously that the small amount of time which would be needed to present a Bill should be given?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

Issues affecting professional bodies very rarely take up a small amount of time, but I can assure the hon. Member that we are aware of representations of the professions and they know of our intention to introduce legislation as soon as we can.

Dr. Summerskill

Whilst not agreeing with the last statement of the hon. Lady, may I ask if she can give an undertaking that this important legislation will be introduced immediately after the Recess, as she will agree that the work of opticians is of vital importance, to the people and legislation is very much overdue?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

I am afraid I cannot give the assurance as to date beyond what I have already said.