HC Deb 02 July 1968 vol 767 cc1303-4
Q6. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Prime Minister if he will co-ordinate the activities of the Lord President of the Council, the Minister of Health and the Minister for Social Security, with a view to the preparation of a declaration of policy for the National Health Service as and when economic conditions improve.

The Prime Minister

As to co-ordination, the House already knows that my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council is supervising the planning and timetable for amalgamation of the Ministries of Health and Social Security. As to the policies for the development of the National Health Service, these are kept under continuous review but no early statement is in prospect.

Mr. Pavitt

Will my right hon. Friend reaffirm that it remains not only his policy but the policy of Her Majesty's Government to restore the principle of free of payment at the time of need in the health services? Will he take steps by progressive stages to that end when the economic situation permits?

The Prime Minister

I will confirm— or reconfirm—what I said to my hon. Friend, which was not the exact words which he has just used: that when the economic situation permits more expenditure on the National Health Service, we shall consider that proposal against other high priorities in the matter of the Health Service. No decision has been taken. It is certainly premature at this stage to feel that we are in a position to begin thinking about it.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

Will the Prime Minister meanwhile tell the House who speaks in the Cabinet on health and social security matters? Is it the Lord President of the Council, or are Departmental Ministers called in?

The Prime Minister

It is not usual to discuss Cabinet arrangements, but the hon. Member might like to know—I think that he does know—that at the present time, as always in the past, those Ministers are present whenever there is anything directly or even indirectly affecting their Departments, and, of course, they have full rights of speaking.

Mr. Thorpe

Whatever the method of co-ordination, will the Prime Minister confirm that it is his Government's intention at the earliest possible moment to return to the principle of a free Health Service?

The Prime Minister

I have already answered that in relation to the question from my hon. Friend. I have said that when more money is available—and it would be foolish at this stage to say that that is in sight at the present time— for the Health Service, we shall consider various priority claims for that expenditure. We are, of course, carrying out a record hospital building programme of nearly double the rate which we inherited. There are, however, many hon. Members who would feel that it should be stepped up further before other things were considered.

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