§ Mr. Sutcliffe
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what considerations led him not to exempt life-saving drugs for long-term cancer patients from prescription charge. 
§ Mr. Malone
Exemption from prescription charges on medical grounds was introduced in 1968. A limited list of qualifying medical conditions, which require life-long medication, has applied since then.
When these arrangements were established, general exemption and charge remission arrangements were not as extensive as they are today. In 1996–97, we expect about 85 per cent. of prescription items to be dispensed free, whereas in 1968 the comparable figure was about 42 per cent.