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Merchant Seamen

Volume 463: debated on Thursday 7 April 1949

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30.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that members of the Merchant Navy, although contributors to the National Health Service, are unable to make full use of the benefits of that service; and what action he proposes to take.

Merchant seamen, like anyone else who goes abroad, are not able to obtain treatment under the National Health Service while out of this country. It is the Government's intention to negotiate reciprocal arrangements with other countries wherever the opportunity arises.

When is that opportunity likely to arise? How many such arrangements are being negotiated at the moment?

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider the fact that these men have not been able to obtain dental service owing to queuing and shortages? Would he consider establishing an emergency organisation in certain ports, to meet this problem.

That is an entirely different question, but I will make inquiries to find out whether sufficient facilities are available in ports.

Has my right hon. Friend observed that this Question seems to arise out of a very common and widespread misunderstanding about the way in which the National Health Service is financed? As he has repeatedly told the House, it is not, in the main, financed out of the weekly contributions. Will he take steps to make that more widely known?

I have tried, over and over again, to educate public opinion on this matter, and my hon. Friend's supplementary question will add to that education.