HC Deb 13 February 1968 vol 758 cc1122-5
20. Mr. Kenneth Lewis

asked the Minister of Health what estimate he has made of the increased numbers of civil servants which will be required in his Department on the basis that the recommendations of the Sainsbury Committee are implemented.

24. Mr. Fisher

asked the Minister of Health whether he can make an estimate of the number of additional civil servants and their total salaries which would be required by his Department in order to implement the recommendations of the Sainsbury Committee.

Mr. K. Robinson

Until the Government have reached conclusions on the Committee's recommendations, there would be little purpose in making such an estimate.

Mr. Lewis

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the independent member on this Committee, Lord Sainsbury, is apparently reported to have joined an extreme Left-wing group to pressurise that this report should be fully implemented? This is somewhat unusual for an independent chairman. Will he point out to the noble Lord that there is a restriction on increasing the numbers of civil servants and this must mean that not all the recommendations in the Report will be implemented?

Mr. Robinson

I do not know what on earth the hon. Gentleman means by his initial remarks about the chairman of the Committee. I think that he would be most unlikely to join an extreme Left-wing group. Certainly we are all aware of the Government's policy to restrain the growth of civil servants as a whole, but the Committee made the point in its Report that the cost of additional staff required should be measured against its conclusion that the National Health Service drug bill had been inflated by excessive prices over the last three years.

Mr. Fisher

As the Committee also acknowledge that its proposals would entail a whole new division in the Ministry of Health, surely it is relevant for the House to know what this figure is likely to be to assess whether the saving is likely to be worth the cost of collecting it?

Mr. Robinson

If it is desirable to give this information in due course when the Government have reached conclusions, I will give it.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that he will not be discouraged from implementing the recommendations of the Sainsbury Report by any such considerations as are contained in these Questions?

Mr. Robinson

I am never discouraged by hon. Gentlemen opposite.

23. Mr. Fisher

asked the Minister of Health what is the precise amount referred to in the Report of the Sainsbury Committee by which the National Health Service has been overcharged by the pharmaceutical industry over a period of three years.

Mr. K. Robinson

The Committee's statement was: The figures suggest that the cost to the National Health Service has been inflated by excessive prices to the extent of several millions of pounds over this period of three years.

Mr. Fisher

How many millions is "several"? Surely the right hon. Gentleman must know the answer to this, because the Committee's whole case against the industry is based on it. Surely the House is entitled to know the answer to enable us to assess the value of the Report, especially as one of the major companies was criticised and the charge made against it has since been shown to be disingenuous, to put it mildly.

Mr. Robinson

No, Sir. I do not think that the Committee is obliged to put a gloss on its Report to satisfy the hon. Gentleman. I can only repeat what the Committee said, and I do not think it is true to say that the Committee mounted a case against the industry. I would have thought that it was a very fair Report.

Mr. Molloy

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of the reports are leading many Members to believe that somebody is on a big fiddle in this industry? Is it not about time that my right hon. Friend considered a much greater degree of public control and ownership of this industry?

Mr. Robinson

As my hon. Friend knows, this aspect of the problem was specifically considered by the Sainsbury Committee and it produced a clear negative report on this issue.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it has been privately estimated that savings from implementing the Sainsbury recommendations might amount to about£2 million a year? Would he agree that the savings under the voluntary price regulation scheme have been of the nature of£4½. million a year?

Mr. Robinson

I do not know who made that estimate. I wonder whether it was made by some members of the pharmaceutical industry itself. I can only say that some of my hon. Friends estimate that figure at more than£25 million. I would not like to say where, in that wide bracket, the true figure is likely to fall.