§ 1. Mrs. Castle
asked the Minister of Health what study he has made of the petition signed by 810,000 old-age pensioners and others which was presented to the House of Commons by the hon. Member for Blackburn on 13th March calling for the abolition of all prescription charges; and what action he intends to take upon it.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Enoch Powell)
I have nothing to add to my reply to the hon. Members for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) and for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) on 11th December.
§ Mrs. Castle
Does the Minister intend to ignore this powerful plea? Does not he know that Members of Parliament are receiving fresh evidence every week of the personal hardships and the medical harm caused by these prescription charges, and will he not try to retrieve at least some part of the Government's tattered reputation by abolishing them?
§ Mr. Powell
As I said in the Answer to which I have referred, I am watching the position; but I find no ground for 901 altering the charges or for believing that the money yielded is not better employed in the National Health Service otherwise than by reducing the charges.
§ Mr. K. Robinson
What evidence does the Minister need to convince him that the charges are causing real hardship and are acting as a deterrent to treatment? Is he quite impervious to argument in this matter?
§ Mr. Powell
There is no ground for thinking that they are acting as a deterrent to treatment. There are no figures or trends which suggest that at all.
§ Mrs. Braddock
Is the Minister aware that the 800,000 old-age pensioners who signed this petition are wondering exactly what is done when petitions of this sort are signed? They have heard nothing about it. There has been very little reference to it. Does the Minister realise that very many of those who signed the petition are asking whether it is any use making representations to a democratic body and then not hearing anything about it?