§ 1. Miss Burton
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, as old-age pensioners have received no direct financial benefit from his Budget, he will include in the draft Finance Bill provisions abolishing the charge on prescriptions.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Derek Heathcoat Amory)
No, Sir. If old-age pensioners are in need, and satisfy the conditions for assistance the prescription charge can already be refunded to them.
§ Miss Burton
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have had letters from many old-age pensioners in Coventry, one of which says:Failing health is attendant upon old age and therefore prescriptions are a heavy toll upon our meagre budget. Surely 2d. off beer is no help for the sick and aged.Is the Chancellor further aware that old people on National Assistance find it very difficult to satisfy the requirements for a refund, and would he not look at the matter again?.
If there is any administrative difficulty, I am sure that if the hon. Lady puts down a Question to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health he will give her the information she requires.
Mr. H. Wilson
But is not the Chancellor aware that these vicious charges 190 were imposed by the present Prime Minister, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he was facing, as he said, a very serious economic crisis? Since we are supposed to be more prosperous now, ought not these charges and impositions to be the first to be removed? Is the right hon. Gentleman not further aware that this operates very unfairly as between different types of sick people, as some degrees of chronic illness require far more prescriptions per month than do others?.
I am sure, again, that any question about the details of the charge should be referred to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health..
§ 2. Miss Burton
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, as old-age pensioners have received no direct financial benefit from his Budget, he will include in the draft Finance Bill provisions reducing for them the cost of a radio and television licence.
No, Sir. This would not be practicable, nor has selective relief from indirect taxation been found a satisfactory way of relieving hardship.
§ Miss Burton
Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer aware that it would cost £26 million in a full financial year to give the old-age pensioners another 2s. a week? Would it not be correct to state that he could do that, abolish prescription charges and reduce the cost of television and radio licences for the same amount as he conceded on beer, namely, £36 million?
No doubt all the items to which the hon. Lady has referred will be mentioned in our discussions on the Finance Bill.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
Is my right hon. Friend aware that old-age pensioners are obliged to him for abolishing the Purchase Tax on replacement tubes for their television sets?
Mr. H. Wilson
And is not the Chancellor further aware that we moved an Amendment to last year's Finance Bill to do just that but that he and his hon. and gallant Friend voted against it?