HC Deb 23 March 1976 vol 908 cc192-3
14. Sir T. Kitson

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether she proposes to hold further consultations with the medical profession on the abolition of private pay beds.

Mrs. Castle

I have already had an exchange of views with representatives of the professions on various aspects of the proposals of 15th December, and my Chief Medical Officer will shortly be meeting a sub-committee of the Joint Consultants Committee for discussions on the list of 1,000 pay beds which the Government are committed by the proposals of 15th December to publish as a schedule to the forthcoming Bill.

Sir T. Kitson

How did the Secretary of State come to the conclusion that private pay beds are bad for the British but good for foreigners?

Mrs. Castle

The hon. Member is quite wrong in his interpretation of the situation. There is a further Question on this point later on the Order Paper.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

I do not wish to nobble my right hon. Friend, but does she not agree that her proposal to increase the price of pay beds can only serve to put them out of the reach of those of modest means, so that only those of ample resources can use them? Is that not defeating the philosophy of Socialism?

Mrs. Castle

I afraid that my hon. Friend does not understand that I am bound by statute to review the charges for pay beds every year, in the light of rising costs, and to adjust them accordingly. No decision on the figure has yet been made and therefore reports in the Press are pure speculation.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Is the right hon. Lady aware that she has now dodged the question twice? Will she now explain why it is immoral for the British to be in pay beds but perfectly all right for Arab Sheikhs?

Mrs. Castle

I have not dodged the questions. I am always sorry when Questions put to me on this matter are not reached. The procedures of the House put me in some difficulty. I have set out in detail for many hon. Members exactly what I said in the Middle East. I have made it clear that I am not proposing a policy for overseas patients which is different from that for the British.