HC Deb 03 July 1968 vol 767 cc1475-6
9. Mr. Dewar

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what he estimates the cost to be of exempting from the payment of prescription charges those women be-between the age of 60 and 65 years who are in receipt of a retirement pension; and how many persons would be affected.

Mr. Millan

It is not possible to provide an estimate of the cost of exempting this section of the population. The latest available figure for the number of women in Scotland between the ages of 60 and 65 and in receipt of retirement pension is 68,300.

Mr. Dewar

Would my hon. Friend not accept that if a woman does not decide at 60 to opt to retire on pension, she may be in the same financial position as a man or woman over 65 and may be in the same health position, and that if he is not prepared to reconsider the matter, we are creating an underprivileged section of old age pensioners?

Mr. Millan

I do not think so. If my hon. Friend applies the test of income, there are separate grounds for exemption on the basis of income. Comparing men and women between 60 and 65 is rather a different matter. As has been pointed out on more than one occasion, there is no evidence that, in that age group, the number of prescriptions required by women is greater than that required by men. Indeed, the evidence rather points in the opposite direction.

Mr. MacArthur

Will the hon. Gentleman consider the difficulties faced by elderly people in remote areas in following the procedures required of them now? Will he bear in mind that there is a need for flexibility to meet the requirements of people living some way away from a chemist in the local town?

Mr. Millan

I am not sure what these difficulties are which are peculiar to people living in remoter areas. If the hon. Gentleman likes to send me details, I shall look at them.