HC Deb 28 November 1960 vol 631 cc25-6
35. Mr. A. Evans

asked the Minister of Health if he will state the number of cases brought to his notice of foreigners entering, or attempting to enter, this country for the purpose of medical treatment under the National Health Service.

Mr. Powell

In 1959, 1,503 aliens were reported as entering, or attempting to enter, this country for medical treatment. Six of these were refused entry. Steps were taken to ensure that the remainder paid for the treatment.

36. Mr. A. Evans

asked the Minister of Health if he will give an estimate of the cost of the use of the National Health Service by foreign visitors; and what proportion this is of the total cost of the National Health Service.

Mr. Powell

No reliable estimate can be made but the proportion must be very small indeed.

Mr. Evans

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that in this matter he will follow the policy of all those Ministers who have held office since the inception of the National Health Service Scheme? Will he refrain from looking at this matter from a narrow nationalistic point of view or with the idea of making petty enocomies?

Mr. Powell

This thing is an abuse. However relatively small the cost, it ought, so far as is practicable, to be prevented. There has been no difference in policy in this matter since the original Act.

Mr. K. Robinson

Would not the Minister agree that in this matter energy would be better spent trying to achieve reciprocity with other countries and not in any way tampering with the wholly civilised and reasonable provisions of the British National Health Service?

Mr. Powell

It is the provisions of the Act which I am endeavouring in this respect to carry out.

Mr. John Hall

If my right hon. Friend is able to estimate that the cost is a very small proportion of the total cost, is he able to say how small is the proportion?

Mr. Powell

No, because although I know how many aliens enter this country year by year, I cannot form an estimate of how much each of them may cost the National Health Service. Even if we assess this at a very high figure indeed, an absurdly high figure, the proportion of the total cost must still be infinitesimal.

Mr. M. Foot

Is the Minister aware that when the Service was first introduced the idea of giving treatment to sick foreigners was not regarded as an abuse but that we gloried in it? Does not he think that he would sustain the traditions of this House much better if he repudiated the attempts of his hon. Friends to undermine this Service?

Mr. Powell

I think the hon. Member is under a misapprehension. There has never been any question about persons from abroad who fall sick in this country receiving attention under the National Health Service. That has not been in question from either side of the House. But it is not in accordance with the intention of the Act that aliens should come to this country for the purpose of getting treatment under the Act.