HC Deb 04 November 1968 vol 772 cc457-9
3. Mr. Dance

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will explain the Government's broad objectives which his predecessor stated were adequately secured by the decision not to reduce the age for exemption from prescription charges to 60 years of age for women.

45. Mr. Scott-Hopkins

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will now take steps to exempt women pensioners between the ages of 60 and 65 years from the payment of prescription charges.

Mr. Crossman

We exempted those most likely to suffer hardship through paying the charges. I have no proposals for extending the categories entitled to exemption.

Mr. Dance

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this decision is causing great hardship to those on the borderline of receiving supplementary pensions? I know of many cases, but one in particular where a woman aged 61, who is disabled and cannot work, is having to pay 5s. a week for her prescription. It is very hard on her.

Mr. Crossman

I am sure that all borderline; cases cause hardship. But wherever we draw the line there is still a borderline case.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that with a retirement age of 60 for women and 65 for men, women should be entitled to the exemption made for them between the ages of 60 and 65 as there is grave hardship throughout the country, and particularly in my constituency?

Mr. Crossman

I cannot draw the same conclusion. I do not think there is any evidence that women between the ages of 60 and 65 are more likely to need frequent prescriptions than men of that age. We did not draw the line at the age of retirement, but at a certain age when we thought the likelihood would be increased.

Miss Herbison

Will my right hon. Friend take into account that there are many women between 60 and 65 years of age who are dependent on husbands who have retired at 65, because it is in these categories that real suffering is obtaining at present?

Mr. Crossman

Yes. I agree with my right hon. Friend who, as usual, has put her finger on it. This is a genuine area which I am prepared to consider. But I do not think that we should extend the exemption.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

5. Dr. David Kerr

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what percentage of prescriptions dispensed since the introduction of charges have been subject to exemption.

Mr. Ennals

Forty-nine per cent. during the period from 10th June to 31st July.

Dr. Kerr

Is not my hon. Friend appreciative of the fact that this excludes those claiming exemption under the Social Security Regulations, and those who will benefit by the new season ticket system? Does not he agree that with this newly discovered access of support from Bromsgrove and West Derbyshire we might look again at the whole system of prescription charges, perhaps with a view to doing away with them altogether?

Mr. Ennals

I cannot agree with my hon. Friend's conclusion. Apart from the 49 per cent. to which I referred, a further 2 per cent. of prescription charges are refunded, which makes the figure 51 per cent. This is roughly the figure which was estimated by my right hon. Friends, and I cannot suggest that we can now review it.

25. Dr. John Dunwoody

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is his present estimate of the total revenue from prescription charges in the first 12 months of the operation.

Mr. Ennals

Some £16 to £17 million, including money received for pre-payment certificates.

Dr. Dunwoody

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Can he assure us that, as this seems to fall a little short of the original estimates of the revenue which would be obtained, there will be no question at the end of the year of altering the charge to make the total up to the original estimate?

Mr. Ennals

I see no reason for my hon. Friend's concern. In fact, the figure is running almost exactly as had been anticipated. After all, the scheme was introduced only in June and, apart from the savings to which I referred, there are also some savings through the reduction in the number of prescriptions. My present expectation is that the figure will be approximately £25 million in a full year, as my right hon. Friend announced.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

What will the net figure be after expenses have been deducted?

Mr. Ennals

The net expenses will be quite small. I cannot give an exact figure.

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