§ 14. Mr. William Hamilton
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many representations he has received from individuals and organisations, respectively, against the proposed increased dental charges; and what reply he has sent.
Mr. Edward Taylor
Thirteen from hon. Members, five from executive councils and one each from a local dental committee and a dental practitioner. I am sending the hon. Gentleman an example of the reply to hon. Members.
§ Mr. Hamilton
That will be a miserable reply. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the charges have been condemned by the dental profession and everyone concerned with dental health except the Secretary of State for Social Services? Can he confirm that anyone visiting a dentist may be liable to pay up to £10 for treatment?
The hon. Gentleman should read the reply I have sent before reaching any alarming conclusions. I think it is a very good reply, and I am sure he will learn a great deal from it.
Earl of Dalkeith
Is it not a fact that a large proportion of children do not take advantage of the free services available to them? Therefore, will my hon. Friend do what he can to encourage them to take preventive treatment and advice from their dentists at an age when they qualify to get it free?
Yes, Sir. About 40 per cent. of dental patients, including nursing mothers and children, will still be entitled to free treatment. The Government intend to launch a campaign shortly to inform people of their entitlement to dental and other services and to encourage them to take un the benefits available. I fully agree with the important point my hon. Friend has raised.
§ Mr. David Steel
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the logic of his reply to me and, presumably, other hon. Members about the reduction of the age for free treatment to 18 encouraging people to look after their teeth before the charges come in could be applied right down to 16, 12 and even six if he carried it any further?
I think the hon. Gentleman will accept that the whole period up to the age of 18 is very important for dental health. That is an appropriate age to introduce charges. The letter fully sets out the reasons for the decision.