HC Deb 22 April 1970 vol 800 cc405-6
17. Mr. Dempsey

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that pupils attending special schools and under 16 years of age are not exempt from prescription charges; and if he will take steps to end this anomaly.

Mr. Millan

There is exemption for children up to the fifteenth birthday. I do not think any alteration of the existing arrangements is necessary.

Mr. Dempsey

But is my hon. Friend not overlooking the fact that these children at special schools due to physical handicaps are compelled to have a shorter day in school and consequently have a longer school life? Why should they be penalised from the age of 15 to 16 because of their physical disability? Will not my hon. Friend look again at the exemptions in regard to school children?

Mr. Millan

But my hon. Friend must understand that the exemption provision was on an age basis, not on the basis of whether or not a particular child was continuing at school. I do not think there is any case for changing this provision for the kind of children he has in mind. There are special arrangements for the chronic sick, and also provisions for exemption in the case of hardship.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that some school children have to stay on well after the age of 15 until the end of the term, and that one child in my constituency was in court on Monday of this week for this very reason? Might there not be a case for suggesting that the period should be not necessarily until 14 to 16 but until the last legal day they must stay on at school?

Mr. Millan

There are considerable complications involved. The last legal day until which a child has to stay on at school is not a particular birthday but depends on the incidence of leaving dates. I know the motives and feelings behind this question, but I do not think the case for a change has been made out.

Mr. Sillars

Would the Minister take the point that the only real way to rid the system of anomalies is to abolish prescription charges altogether?

Mr. Millan

I take the point, but that is a rather wider question which we have debated on many occasions.