HC Deb 03 May 1971 vol 816 cc1003-5
26. Mr. Nicholas Edwards

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what percentage of the population of Wales at present receives exemption from prescription charges and obtains free spectacles and dental treatment; and what proportion of Welsh schoolchildren has school meals paid for.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

About 40 per cent. of the population of Wales has been eligible for exemption from prescription charges and for free dental treatment; about 30 per cent. for free spectacles. Information about the numbers receiving exemption or free treatment is not available. 10.4 per cent. of the pupils in schools in Wales receive free meals. These percentages are expected to increase as a result of the new exemption rules recently introduced by the Government.

Mr. Edwards

While noting the fact that 40 per cent. of the population of Wales receives exemption from prescription charges and welcoming the additional resources being allocated to those most in need, may I ask my hon. Friend whether any part of the current advertising campaign to encourage take-up is being specifically directed at Wales, particularly to those who speak the Welsh language?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

Yes. I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State on 14th April wrote to lord mayors, mayors and chairmen of local councils asking for their help in giving wide publicity to the new arrangements. Notices in Welsh setting out the new prescription charges and a general information leaflet have been prepared and issued.

Mr. Alec Jones

Will the hon. Gentleman take into account that many of the newspaper advertisements about exemptions from prescription charges, certainly in Wales, are misleading? I do not say that they are deliberately misleading, but they are having the effect of misleading older married couples who read into the advertisements that they are entitled to free prescriptions provided that their income is less than £16.45, whereas many of my constituents are not entitled to free prescriptions even though their weekly income is less than £12.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

We will look into this matter immediately. I accept the general feeling that the exemption should be as widely known as possible. I should only add that the publicity campaign is not restricted to the newspapers. It is, in addition, on television and radio.