§ 5. Lord Balniel
asked the Minister of Social Security whether she will make a statement about those aspects of policy for the refunding of prescription charges which fall within the responsibility of her Department.
§ 17. Mr. Fisher
asked the Minister of Social Security what progress is being made towards devising a system whereby 5 families whose incomes are below supplementary benefit level will be exempted from payment of prescription charges.
§ 54. Mr. Dickens
asked the Minister of Social Security for how long her Department will be required to administer the system of refunds of prescription charges before a system of exemptions is introduced.
§ Mrs. Hart
I will make a statement as soon as I can, but I am not yet ready to do so.
I am discussing with my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Health, the practicability of applying to the hardship cases the exemption procedures mentioned in his written answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) on 29th February. I shall make every endeavour to see that, so far as we can, we use these exemption procedures rather than refunds for as many cases as possible from the outset.—[Vol. 759, c. 416.]
§ Lord Balniel
Are the reports in the weekend Press correct, that there is to be a gap between the introduction of prescription charges and the exemption and refund arrangements which then come into force?
§ Mr. Fisher
Can the Minister give us an assurance that she will look into this question? When she is doing so will she bear in mind the fact that it is the initial payment which has to be made by the poor people which is likely to cause difficulty, and that the refund afterwards does not cover these sorts of cases?
§ 50. Mr. Pavitt
asked the Minister of Social Security whether all local offices of her Department will deal with applications for refunds of prescription charges.
§ Mr. Pavitt
Has my right hon. Friend made any costing of what will be incurred in public expenditure, and would she agree that it may well be £1 for every half-crown prescription?
§ Mrs. Hart
I cannot make an estimate of the costing at the moment because so much depends on how successful my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health is in introducing the exemption procedure rather than the refund procedure for those categories of people who were previously covered only by refunds.
§ 61. Mr. Robert Edwards
asked the Minister of Social Security what is the expected weekly number of applicants for refunds of prescription charges by persons aged 65 and over.
§ 66. Mr. Alfred Morris
asked the Minister of Social Security what is the expected weekly number of applications for refunds of prescription charges by expectant and nursing mothers.
§ Mrs. Hart
The numbers will depend on the exemption arrangements which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health is able to make. In the cases that remain for my Department to deal with on grounds of hardship, we are considering whether it will be practicable to introduce arrangements for exemption rather than refund in as many cases as possible.
§ Mr. Orme
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the work on which her Ministry is now engaged is a futile exercise which will cost countless millions of £s in the long run? Is she further aware that if she finishes up with the sort of thing outlined in the Daily Telegraph this morning, with cards being issued, all to save £12 million to £13 million, the whole thing will be absolutely ridiculous?
§ Mrs. Hart
My hon. Friend's supplementary question, as he is probably aware, is strictly a question for my right 7 hon. Friend the Minister of Health. I am concerned with identifying, and, where possible, assisting, those groups of people who would be in hardship if they had to pay prescription charges.
§ Mr. Lubbock
Has the Minister identified as one group which is likely to suffer hardship from the imposition of prescription charges students in full-time higher education whose increased grant is being withheld by the Government? Will she see that this group is exempted?
§ 55. Mr. English
asked the Minister of Social Security what proportion of persons not receiving National Assistance, but entitled to refunds of prescription charges, claimed them in 1964.
§ Mr. English
Is my right hon. Friend aware that refunds in themselves are merely a way of excluding from benefit the poorest and less educated sections of persons entitled?
§ Mrs. Hart
I am very well aware—and I believe that this relates to the question—that there will be real need for a general entitlement campaign. This should cover not only prescription charges, which will be a matter for the Minister of Health, but all other benefits to which people are entitled in this particular group of families, in which the father is in work but his wages are below the supplementary benefit level. I am at present considering such an entitlement campaign, which I hope to be able to carry out in the early summer.