Clause 1. — (Charges for Certain Drugs, Medicines and Appliances.)

Part of Orders of the Day — National Health Service Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd April 1952.

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Photo of Sir Hugh Linstead Sir Hugh Linstead , Wandsworth Putney 12:00 am, 3rd April 1952

We can all contribute most to the utility of this discussion if we try to continue it in the spirit introduced by the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Messer) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn). The bulk of us here are anxious to make the best possible Health Service we can in the interests of the sick and the poorer classes of the community in this country in the light of our financial responsibilities.

The real difference between, not entirely the two sides of the House, but, unfortunately, virtually that, is that there are some of us who put as the first priority at the present time our re-armament responsibilities, while there are others who, for reasons we can perfectly appreciate, put as the first priority the social services. When there is a clash of those two points of view it is possible for discussion to go on for a very long time without an appearance of the agreement and good will which I believe is present among most of us on both sides of the Committee.

My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain MacLeod), was charged by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop), with having gone too far in his advocacy of some charges being an essential feature of our social services. I am one of those who believe that we should move as and when we can towards the conception of a free Health Service; but I should like to say—though not in defence of my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West, who does not need defending by me—that we are in danger, in the Health Service in particular, of forgetting one very fundamental thing. That is, that no State can take away from an individual the responsibility for his own health.

There is a very great danger that in our desire to spread our social services in every quarter we will make that fundamental mistake. I think most of us take it for granted that the State is greatly concerned with the health of the individual and must of necessity be so; but the State may make a great mistake if it so emphasises the freedom and extent of its services as to take away from the individual man that sense of responsibility.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East, urged very strongly that we should declare where we stood on the question of the temporary nature of the various charges of this kind. He and his hon. Friends should bear in mind that there is a very grave danger, which we must all appreciate, of the social services and their benefits becoming bargaining counters in the political game. In the long run, if that does happen, first of all Parliament suffers, and second, the beneficiaries suffer. I think we noticed in the Second Reading debate a tendency for this question to become merely a bargaining counter in the political game. I do not think that the Government would be justified in putting a two-year period into this Clause at the present time. I do not believe that they or anybody else in this Committee is entitled to say "We are certain that in two years' time we shall be out of our financial crisis."