HC Deb 13 July 1971 vol 821 cc200-1
18. Mr. Scott-Hopkins

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will take steps to lower the age for free prescriptions for retirement pensioners from 65 to 60 years of age.

Mr. Alison

No, Sir. The existing arrangements already ensure that help can be given where it is needed.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

That is not really a satisfactory reply. Does not my hon. Friend realise that many women between the ages of 60 and 65 have special need for prescriptions but they are outside the scope of the answer which he has given? Will he, therefore, look at the matter again and see whether the age could be reduced to 60, in particular for women?

Mr. Alison

There is no evidence that women or men between the ages of 60 and 65 have a special requirement for extra medicine arising simply from that age range. Where income difficulties arise, there are exemption provisions.

Mr. Molloy

But will not the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that his reply will be most disappointing to many people between 60 and 65 years of age? As successive Governments have invaded the fundamental principle of a free National Health Service, will he not accept that all the labour and administrative paraphernalia involved in charging for prescriptions makes it not worth the candle, and the quicker we get back to the basic principle of a free National Health Service the better it will be for everyone?

Mr. Alison

I note what the hon. Gentleman says. The age exemption provisions are generous, and we cannot overlook the substantial savings which accrue for other benefits in the National Health Service which arise from this source.