The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Derek Heathcoat Amory):
No, Sir. If old-age pensioners are in need, and satisfy the conditions for assistance the prescription charge can already be refunded to them.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have had letters from many old-age pensioners in Coventry, one of which says:
Failing health is attendant upon old age and therefore prescriptions are a heavy toll upon our meagre budget. Surely 2d. off beer is no help for the sick and aged.
Is the Chancellor further aware that old people on National Assistance find it very difficult to satisfy the requirements for a refund, and would he not look at the matter again?.
If there is any administrative difficulty, I am sure that if the hon. Lady puts down a Question to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health he will give her the information she requires.
Mr. H. Wilson:
But is not the Chancellor aware that these vicious charges were imposed by the present Prime Minister, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he was facing, as he said, a very serious economic crisis? Since we are supposed to be more prosperous now, ought not these charges and impositions to be the first to be removed? Is the right hon. Gentleman not further aware that this operates very unfairly as between different types of sick people, as some degrees of chronic illness require far more prescriptions per month than do others?.
Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer aware that it would cost £26 million in a full financial year to give the old-age pensioners another 2s. a week? Would it not be correct to state that he could do that, abolish prescription charges and reduce the cost of television and radio licences for the same amount as he conceded on beer, namely, £36 million?