HC Deb 15 April 1957 vol 568 cc1529-31
9. Mrs. Castle

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what amendments he proposes to make to the National Assistance (Determination of Need) Regulations in order to meet the needs of the chronic sick who are suffering hardship as a result of the increase in the prescription charges.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The initiative in proposing amendments to the National Assistance (Determination of Need) Regulations is not mine but rests clearly on the National Assistance Board; but I have no evidence that the present arrangements for the refund of prescription charges are not working satisfactorily.

and what was the proportion in October, 1946.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I assume that the hon. Gentleman has in mind the National Insurance retirement pension rather than the non-contributory old-age pension, and, as the Answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Allaun

Is the Minister aware that this is a diminishing proportion? Is it his contention that as production and incomes advance the old-age pensioner must stand still, or, in terms of purchasing power, actually go backwards?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I think the hon. Member knows that the general view has been taken in the Phillips Report and in other directions that this is one, but only one, of the factors that have to be taken into account in considering what is the correct rate of payment.

Following are the figures

Mrs. Castle

Is not it a fact that at present no old-age pensioner can get repayment of these prescription charges unless his or her income is on the present National Assistance level? Does not this mean that hardship is caused, and will the right hon. Gentleman at least take steps to approach the National Assistance Board to discuss the possibility of the chronic sick being included in the same category as blind persons and T.B. persons under the National Assistance Regulations?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The Assistance Board discharges its duty to persons at or about the Assistance level. The questions which the hon. Lady raises as to whether refunds should operate higher up the income scale are clearly not for me but for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health.