§ Mr. Ashdown
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many people in receipt of invalidity benefit are entitled to free prescriptions.
§ Mr. Newton
Precise figures are not available. However it is estimated that of the 633,000 people in receipt of invalidity benefit in May 1981, some 8 per cent. were automatically exempt from prescription charges on age grounds and a further 7 per cent were automatically exempt because they were in receipt of supplementary benefit. An unknown proportion of the remainder would have been exempt because they suffered from one of the specified medical conditions, were in receipt of family income supplement or because their income was below the level at which low income exemption was then available.
§ Mr. Ashdown
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will consider making prescriptions free for all people in receipt of invalidity benefit.
§ Mr. John Patten
While we have considerable sympathy for people whose condition makes them eligible for invalidity benefit, we have to recognise that an argument could be advanced for the extension of exemption from prescription charges to many separate groups of people. In fairness we cannot take any one group in isolation, and to include them all would cost the National Health Service a great deal of money. I cannot therefore agree to extend exemption in the way suggested.