HC Deb 13 June 1972 vol 838 cc1230-1
1. Mr. David Clark

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what recent representations he has received asking him to raise the age of exemption for the payment of prescription charges from 15 years of age to 16 years, on the raising of the school leaving age

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Michael Alison)

Eighteen letters since the beginning of the year. Replies have explained that no relationship is intended between the age limit for automatic exemption from prescription charges and the age of ending full-time education.

Mr. Clark

Does not the Minister accept that it is a little illogical for the State to accept full responsibility for the education of a child and not to accept full responsibility for the health of a child?

Mr. Alison

The hon. Gentleman's own Administration drew the line at the age of 15 for the logical reason that up to that age a wide variety of childhood ailments was prevalent. Above that age we think it is reasonable to move to the general system of exemption which exists for other sections of the population.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Is my hon. Friend aware how much hardship this causes to parents who keep their children on at school? Will he seriously consider changing his mind on this question?

Mr. Alison

I hope that my hon. Friend and her constituents are aware of the wide range of exemptions available where hardship arises. As many as 50 per cent, of all prescriptions are prescribed free.

Dr. Summerskill

How does the hon. Gentleman justify charging a child of 15 when it is sick and not charging a child of 14 when it is sick, neither of whom will be wage-earners when the school leaving age is raised? Is not this illogical as well as mean and unjust?

Mr. Alison

On the point of meanness and injustice, I hope that the hon. Lady appreciates that the present arrangements date from the re-introduction of prescription charges by her own Administration. Children of 15 do not themselves pay prescription charges. They are dependants, and the normal exemption arrangements apply for the parents where hardship arises.