National Health Service Charges

Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Health – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th April 1959.

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Photo of Mr Arthur Blenkinsop Mr Arthur Blenkinsop , Newcastle upon Tyne East 12:00 am, 13th April 1959

asked the Minister of Health, in view of the recent representations which have been made to him, including those by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East, if he will now take steps to reduce the charges imposed under the provisions of the National Health Service Act, 1952.

Photo of Mr Derek Walker-Smith Mr Derek Walker-Smith , Hertfordshire East

These charges are being continued at present, but, as I have previously informed the hon. Member, I always keep under consideration all relevant circumstances relating to the financing of the Health Service.

Photo of Mr Arthur Blenkinsop Mr Arthur Blenkinsop , Newcastle upon Tyne East

Has the right hon. Gentleman not made effective representations to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, making it clear that at least in his view these charges should be done away with long before a reduction of 2d. a pint in the price of beer?

Photo of Mr Derek Walker-Smith Mr Derek Walker-Smith , Hertfordshire East

I am sure the hon. Member needs no instruction from nie or anybody else about the constitutional principles of the collective responsibilities of Ministers.

Photo of Mr Arthur Blenkinsop Mr Arthur Blenkinsop , Newcastle upon Tyne East

Is the Minister in fact saying that these charges are under review and that he will make a statement to the House shortly about their reduction?

Photo of Mr Derek Walker-Smith Mr Derek Walker-Smith , Hertfordshire East

There is nothing in my Answer which prophesies a statement from me on this subject, but it is clear from it that I have under consideration all relevant circumstances relating to the financing of the Service.

Photo of Sir Raymond Gower Sir Raymond Gower , Barry

Does not my right hon. Friend think it strange that those who now wish to remove these charges should have been prepared to bring in legislation enabling them to be introduced when they were in office?

Photo of Mr Derek Walker-Smith Mr Derek Walker-Smith , Hertfordshire East

I agree with my hon. Friend on that, and what the House may find even more strange is the somewhat disingenuous way in which the hon. Member put his Question, referring only to the National Health Service Act, 1952, under which only a small minority of these charges are imposed, and omitting altogether any reference to the 1949 and 1951 Acts, both of which were passed under the administration of the hon. Member's Party.

Photo of Mr Arthur Blenkinsop Mr Arthur Blenkinsop , Newcastle upon Tyne East

Is not the Minister aware that the 1949 Act imposed only temporary charges, which would have gone out of existence long before now if the Minister's Administration had not made them permanent in the 1952 Act, and introduced new ones?

Photo of Mr Derek Walker-Smith Mr Derek Walker-Smith , Hertfordshire East

That is a brave effort to meet an impossible point, but I notice that even the hon. Member's rashness stops short of trying to explain away Section 1 of the 1951 Act, to which he did not refer in his Question.