HC Deb 23 October 1961 vol 646 cc532-4
4. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Minister of Health when he received the claim of the dispensing chemists for professional fees and increased remuneration; what reply he has made; and what steps he is taking to ensure the dispensing of prescriptions in the event of the chemists giving notice to terminate their contracts and withdraw from the National Health Service.

Mr. Powell

On 8th June. I am sending the hon. Member a copy of my replies sent on 22nd September and 20th October after full discussions with the chemists. The last part of the Question is hypothetical.

Mr. Robinson

It may be hypothetical, but it may be very important in the fairly near future. May we know what steps the Minister is prepared to take? Is he aware that we recognise his reply to the chemists as being in line with the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee, and that we also say that it would have been quite impossible in any circumstances to grant the chemists an increase in remuneration at a time when wage and salary earners in he Health Service were subject to the wage freeze?

Mr. Powell

It would be difficult in any circumstances to grant a claim which involved an increase in profits of that order, but I must decline to answer the hon. Member's hypothetical question.

Sir H. Linstead

I am sure my right hon. Friend will recognise that this cut in the chemists' remuneration is coming at a time when the number of prescriptions will already be reduced because of the 2s. charge. Can he tell the House how much he expects the saving effected by this cut to be?

Mr. Powell

It is between £1½ million and £2 million per annum, but I should point out that the calculation of chemists' profits which is involved takes account of the known effect so far of the increased prescription charges.

Mr. Lipton

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that large numbers of chemists are still profoundly dissatisfied with his answer to their claim which he mentioned in his original reply?

19. Mr. Denis Howell

asked the Minister of Health what action he has taken following the Third Report of the Committee of Public Accounts relating to chemists' remuneration.

Mr. Powell

I have arranged for a differential system of remuneration to be introduced next week and have invited the chemists to co-operate in a simpler inquiry into their current costs. I am considering the recommendation as to differential prices in the drug tariff.

Mr. Howell

Can the Minister tell us whether the principles upon which the chemists are making a claim were investigated in full by the Committee of Public Accounts, which has reported, and whether any new principles are involved in this claim as compared with those which the Committee fully investigated before making its recommendation.

Mr. Powell

The claim made by the Chemists Contractors' Committee did not involve a differential system such as was recommended by the Public Accounts Committee, and such as I am now bringing into effect.