asked the Prime Minister if he will set up new machinery to co-ordinate the policies of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance with regard to the medical problems of pensioners and people on National Assistance, and especially to assess the degree of hardship arising out of prescription and other National Health Service charges.
In that case, would the Prime Minister ask a few chemists or doctors to tell him about the hardships that are occasioned by these charges? Does not he think that the sick might perhaps share in the pre-election largesse by having the charges abolished altogether now?
No, Sir. I do not think that, but if the hon. Gentleman has any knowledge of any real hardship—[Interruption.]—I was saying that if the hon. Gentleman knows of any cases of hardship and will give me the details, I will see that the Minister looks into them to see if there is any case for adapting the procedure.
Mr. H. Wilson:
Since the individual prescription charges were put on by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1956 economic crisis and since the charges were doubled by the present Leader of he House in the 1961 economic crisis, does not the right hon. Gentleman, who keeps saying that the economy has never been stronger, feel that it is now strong enough to remove these charges which bear so heavily on the sick and disabled?
That is really not the Question, with respect to the right hon. Gentleman. The Question asks whether there should not be some new procedure for refunding, and I have said that I would be willing to consider that, certainly if the hardship is proved. But, of course, the suggestion that the right hon. Gentleman made is rather outside the scope of the Question.
Might this be an appropriate, if perhaps strictly out of order, moment to congratulate the Prime Minister up on becoming a grandfather? May we perhaps expect some sympathy from him for the elderly now? Will he look at this matter again, because it is the elderly who particularly need help? Since the right hon. Gentleman may soon find himself in the position of wanting more sympathy, may we expect him to have more sympathy for the old people, on whom this falls particularly hardly? Will he reconsider this matter, because surely we should now get away from these prescription charges?
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman but I hope that my granddaughter will not want any prescriptions, at any rate yet awhile. I will of course, reconsider the procedure if hardship is proved, and I should like to know more about this from the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson).