HC Deb 06 April 1982 vol 21 cc821-2
13. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what effect he expects the rise in optical charges to have on the numbers of people using the optical services.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

On past experience, I would expect there to be a small initial drop in the number of sight tests and dispensings, followed by a resumption in the underlying upward trend.

Mr. Douglas

Does the Minister accept that he is driving people away from a service that is concerned with optical health in relation to total health and towards a service that is related purely to market considerations?

Mr. Finsberg

No, Sir. I remind the hon. Gentleman that, even with the new charges, the contribution from charges will be less than one-third of the total costs.

Mr. Ward

Does my hon. Friend agree that he could do something to help in the matter of increased optical charges if he removed the present monopoly from the optical profession?

Mr. Finsberg

As my hon. Friend knows, the Office of Fair Trading is investigating certain commercial aspects of that matter. We hope to have its report by the end of the year, when we shall consider it.

Mr. Terry Davis

When will the Government do something to publicise the circumstances in which people can claim exemption from optical charges?

Mr. Finsberg

As the hon. Gentleman knows, each year we publish a helpful leaflet. Already about 1.2 million people are either exempt from those charges or have partial rebates. We shall consider whether we can do something better.

Dr. M. S. Miller

Is the Minister satisfied that people are getting a fair deal in respect of optical services?

Mr. Finsberg

As someone who had a new pair of glasses two weeks ago on the National Health Service, yes.