asked the Minister of National Insurance why the advice of the National Insurance Advisory Committee is required to prove that 5s. per week is insufficient to meet the needs of tubercular and other long-term hospital patients for tobacco and/or cigarettes, haircuts, razor blades, toothpaste, stamps, writing materials, newspapers, magazines, books, clothes maintenance, and even an occasional drink.
This is a matter on which I am required by Section 77 of the National Insurance Act, 1946, to submit a preliminary draft regulation to the National Insurance Advisory Committee and to consider the Committee's Report before making substantive regulations. I am sending the hon. Member a copy of a circular issued by the Ministry of Health from which he will see that hospitals under the National Health Service are empowered to provide for their patients most of the articles enumerated in the Question.
Will the Minister take my assurance that the patients in the hospital which prompted this Question receive none of these articles? For his information, it is the County Hospital at Wick. Is it not a fact that these invalids receive 13s. a week in the bad old days of Toryism before the 1948 Act whereas they are now receiving 5s. a week? In an obvious case of hardship like this why does not the Minister act rather than wait from 5th July, 1948, to now?
First of all, I deny the statement about the old benefits and the new. Secondly, the whole matter is being investigated very carefully by the Advisory Committee. I am expecting their report within the next week or two. I shall publish it, and then there will be a full opportunity of discussing what we shall make as substantive regulations.
Can the Minister say how long this matter has been under consideration?
This is a very important matter which involves much more than the payment of benefit; it involves the whole treatment of long-term patients in hospital. The Committee has gone into it carefully, has received a large number of representations and discussed it with workers in this field, and I am sure that its Report and recommendations will be after the fullest consultation.
When will the Report be ready?
I have already said that I am expecting the Report within the next week or two.