§ Mrs. Viginia Bottomley
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what the range of spectacle vouchers and their values will be on introduction of the scheme on 1 July.
§ Mr. Hayhoe
The Government's measures to end the opticians' monopoly on the supply of spectacles and to remove unjusified barriers to advertising have had their intended effect. Prices have come down, budget price spectacles are widely available and the standards of services have improved.
The voucher scheme being introduced on 1 July will allow children and those on low incomes to share in the advantage of consumer choice. They will no longer he restricted to the existing range of National Health Service frames, most of which have remained unchanged over many years.
Instead they will be provided with vouchers so that they can shop around for the best buy from the many low-price frames that will become increasingly available. They may, if they wish, use their vouchers towards the cost of more expensive frames that are on the market at more competitive prices than formerly. Sight-tests will, of course, remain free.
I am pleased to announce that the necessary financial help will be provided through a range of six vouchers. There will be three vouchers for single vision spectacles with values of £14.25, £22 and £33, depending on the complexity of the individual prescription. Similarly there will be three vouchers for bifocal spectacles with values of £27, £42 and £66. Certain additions will be made for clinically necessary prisms and tints. For those requiring complex lenses, but who do not qualify on income grounds, the help currently provided will be continued by means of vouchers intended as a contribution towards the cost of their spectacles. These will be priced at minimum values of £2 for complex single vision spectacles and £14 for complex bifocals but may be as high as £11 and £26 where both prisms and tints are required.
The Government are satisfied that in the currently more competitive spectacle market these vouchers will allow people to be assured of a basic pair of spectacles suitable for their clinical needs.