HC Deb 18 January 1983 vol 35 cc165-6
14. Mr. Tilley

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what has been the cost of administering charges for hospital treatment of overseas visitors since 1 October.

Mr. Fowler

This information is not available.

Mr. Tilley

Is the Minister aware that first impressions suggest that the Opposition's predictions are proving correct and the new system is wasting the efforts of hospital staff and administrators, adding to the administrative costs, confusing and inconveniencing patients and adding hardly anything in terms of increased revenue? How soon will the Minister conduct a review to see whether that is correct? If that is correct, will he give a pledge here and now that he will withdraw the new system?

Mr. Fowler

The scheme has been operating for only three months. It would be silly to come to firm conclusions now. There is absolutely no evidence of extra staff being taken on. I have no reason to doubt the original findings of the working party, which concluded, before the setting up of the scheme, that the administrative costs would be minimal.

Mr. Terry Davis

Is it not both common sense and good business practice to ensure that the cost of administering charges is less than the revenue collected? What is the Minister afraid of?

Mr. Fowler

The Minister is not afraid of anything. If the hon. Gentleman wants to swap common sense, the general principle that we are applying is this. When we go to the United States or Japan, we have to pay charges and we have to insure. The Government say that there is no reason why visitors who come from the United States to this country should not also have to pay charges.