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Clause 5—(Evasion Of Charges)

Volume 499: debated on Thursday 24 April 1952

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Motion made, and Question proposed "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

May I ask one of the Ministers to give a very short explanation of the justification of this particular Clause? This Clause introduces into the National Health Service something entirely new, and instead of making beneficiaries under the Health Service it imposes charges and also penal provisions against the people who come under the Service. It goes on first to give a person the right to recover money as a matter of a civil debt contract. I ask the Government without embellishment—because I do not want to take up the time of the Committee, as it is circumscribed—what justification there is for this entirely new principle of penal sanction against the people in the Health Service, and would it not have been sufficient for the purpose to have confined the power to that contained in the last part of the Clause, namely, recovery of the amount in question by way of civil debt?

The explanation is quite simple. We are trying to make the collection of the charges as simple as possible without people producing documents but merely by their making a declaration. If persons want to recover the money because they are beneficiaries under the National Assistance Board, all they have to do is to produce their books. But it is possible that somebody else may use a person's book, and if there are dishonest people who would make a false representation in that way, most reasonably-minded people would think that that is a case where some effective punishment should be provided if it is necessary.

But will the right hon. Gentleman admit that this is a direct result of the introduction of these charges? It was something which could not have flowed from the charges which were provided in the Act of last year. Consequently, if the right hon. Gentleman is allowing such sums to be recovered by way of civil debt, why not consider that as sufficient remedy for the people administering the Service, instead of introducing this entirely new principle, for which he can pray in aid no previous Measure of a Labour Government? Is it not merely evidence of the very vicious and obnoxious principle embodied in this particular Bill?

I should like to take up the Minister's statement about one person producing another person's book for the purpose of obtaining a receipt in order to have refunded the amount of money paid at the chemist's. This seems to me to be a very peculiar situation. What is going to happen if the person in receipt of National Assistance is a chronic sick person at home who cannot go to the chemist or produce the book personally? Is it going to be a punishable offence if the next-door neighbour says out of the kindness of her heart—as they usually do—"I will take your book and your prescription to the chemist and I will obtain your medicine"? If I am to receive a receipt in order to get my shilling back again, I have to produce the book.

10.15 p.m.

Suppose the chemist says: "You are producing a book which does not belong to you and are asking for a receipt on a book of which you are not the owner." Is that to be considered a crime? I see that the Minister indicates dissent, but what provision has he made for that? A person may never be able to go to the chemist's. Suppose an aged or sick person goes to visit a relative. I hope the Minister is taking note of this point, which is of the greatest importance. Suppose the relative is some distance away from the place where the money is usually collected or from the usual chemist. Another doctor is called in, because his own doctor may be miles away. The prescription will cost 1s. The book of somebody who is completely unknown will be produced at the chemist's for the purpose of getting the money back.

Can the chemist say: "This is not your book. It has nothing to do with you. You are getting medicine for somebody else, but I doubt whether you should have it, and I am going to make some inquiries regarding the matter"? This position arises out of the getting of receipts and the need for telling people that you are in receipt of National Assistance and need the money.

Let me put another point to the Minister. I attended a public meeting last week at which I was referring to these charges. A chemist in the audience asked me a question. I am always open to questions. The question which he asked was: "If a person brings me a prescription that he has received from his doctor and asks me how much it is going to cost, I may look at it and say that I can make the prescription up for 6d. I may ask him to pay me the 6d. so that he need not bother about getting a return of the shilling. What is to be the position in that case?" A person goes along with a book which shows that he is in receipt of National Assistance, and he asks for a receipt. The chemist suggests that he need not bother about the receipt because the medicine will only cost 6d. What provision has been made for that case? Is it to be an offence for a person to pay 6d. to a chemist rather than pay 1s., and is he to be able to get the 6d. refunded?

This matter is open to all sorts of abuses, and these particular Clauses of the Bill will take a lot of implementation. I have heard hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite talk about snoopers when they were in Opposition. A large number of snoopers will be needed to find out whether persons are committing an offence under the Bill, because the Government are making a very silly application of this principle in relation to medicines. Can we have an explanation of what will be an offence under the Bill, in the circumstances which I have described?

It may seem silly, but it is not. It will happen regularly, because there are thousands of people who cannot take their books to the chemist. These are matters of fundamental importance. The Government will meet them extensively when they try to put the Act into operation, and we and the people who will have to take advantage of this situation ought to be told plainly what are their rights and whether this will be considered a breach of the law for which a penalty can be imposed.

Of course it would not be an offence to act on behalf of a neighbour or friend. What is an offence here is knowingly making any false statement or misrepresentation—

That is not making a false representation. One instance would be if a person set out to be somebody else knowingly. But that is not the only case. As the hon. Lady will remember, in Clause 2 we have excluded the expectant mother or one who has borne a child within the previous 12 months, or those under 21. We do not suggest that they should have to take any special document to the dentist in order to be exempted from the charge. If, however, a woman falsely represented that she had borne a child within the previous 12 months and it was afterwards discovered that she was getting treatment for nothing, she could be charged with knowingly making a false statement.

But are there not already sufficient powers to cover that?

I am advised not. That is why we are putting it in. These are three exceptions in a field where others will be charged.

Would not there be available an ordinary common law charge of attempted fraud? Why introduce this into the structure of the National Health Service where it has not appeared before? Surely the right hon. Gentleman consulted the Law Officers on this matter, including the Law Officers of Scotland?

Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 293 Noes, 274.

Division No. 101.]

AYES

[10.24 p.m.

Aitken, W. T.Fletcher, Walter (Bury)Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)Fletcher-Cooke, C.Mackeson, Brig. H. R.
Alport, C. J. M.Fort, R.McKibbin, A. J.
Amery, Heathcoat (Tiverton)Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)McKie, J. H. (Galloway)
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.)
Arbuthnot, JohnFyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David MaxwellMacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)Gage, C. H.Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)
Astor, Hon. J. J. (Plymouth, Sutton)Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Bucks, Wycombe)Gammons, L. D.Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)
Baker, P. A. D.Garner-Evans, E. H.Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. LloydMarkham, Maj. S. F.
Baldwin, A. E.Glyn, Sir RalphMarlowe, A. A. H.
Banks, Col. C.Godber, J. B.Marples, A. E.
Barber, A. P. L.Gough, G. F. H.Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)
Barlow, Sir JohnGower, H. R.Marshall, Sidney (Sutton)
Baxter, A. B.Gridley, Sir ArnoldMaude, Angus
Beach, Maj. HicksGrimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)Maudling, R.
Beamish, Maj. TuftonGrimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)Harden, J. R. E.Medlicott, Brig. F.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)Hare, Hon. J. H.Mellor, Sir John
Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)Molson, A. H. E.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)Harris, Reader (Heston)Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter
Bennett, William (Woodside)Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)Mcore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)Harvey, Air Cdre A V. (Macclesfield)Morrison, John (Salisbury)
Birch, NigelHarvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.
Bishop, F. P.Harvie-Watt, Sir GeorgeNabarro, G. D. N.
Black, C. W.Hay, JohnNicholls, Harmar
Boothby, R. J. C.Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)
Bossom, A. C.Heald, Sir LionelNicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Heath, EdwardNield, Basil (Chester)
Boyle, Sir EdwardHenderson, John (Cathcart)Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.
Braine, B. R.Higgs, J. M. C.Nugent, G. R. H.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)Nutting, Anthony
Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr G. (Bristol, N. W.)Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)Odey, G. W.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.Hinchingbrooke, ViscountO'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Antrim, N.)
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)Hirst, GeoffreyOrmsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.
Brooman-White, R. C.Holland-Martin, C. J.Orr, Copt L. P. S.
Browne, Jack (Govan)Hollis, M. C.Orr-Ewing Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.Hope, Lord JohnOrr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)
Bullard, D. G.Hopkinson, HenryOsborne, C.
Bullock, Capt. M.Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.Partridge, E.
Bullus, Wing-Commander E. E.Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. FlorencePeake, Rt. Hon. O.
Burden, F. F. A.Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)Perkins, W. R. D.
Butcher, H. W.Howard, Greville (St. Ives)Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Carr, Robert (Mitcham)Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)Peyton, J. W. W.
Carson, Hon. E.Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)Pitkington, Capt. R. A.
Cary, Sir RobertHulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J.Pitman, I. J.
Channon, H.Hurd, A. R.Powell, J. Enoch
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.
Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)Profumo, J. D.
Cole, NormanHyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.Raikes, H. V.
Colegate, W. A.Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.Rayner, Brig. R.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E.Jenkins, R. C. D. (Dulwich)Redmayne, M.
Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. AlbertJennings, R.Remnant, Hon. P.
Cooper-Key, E. M.Johnson, Eric (Blackley)Renton, D. L. M.
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)Roberts, Peter (Henley)
Cranborne, ViscountJones, A. (Hall Green)Robertson, Sir David
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Kaberry, D.Robson-Brown, W.
Crouch, R. F.Keeling, Sir EdwardRodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Crowder, John E. (Finchley)Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)Roper, Sir Harold
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)Lambert, Hon. G.Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Cuthbert, W. N.Lambton, ViscountRussell, R. S.
Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh S.)Lancaster, Col. C. G.Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.
Davidson, ViscountessLangford-Holt, J. A.Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Deedes, W. F.Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.
Digby, S. WingfieldLeather, E. H. C.Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas
Dodds-Parker, A. D.Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A H.Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.Leah, P. R. (Petersfield)Scott, R. Donald
Donner, P. W.Lindsay, MartinScott-Miller, Comdr. R.
Doughty, C. J. A.Linstead, H. N.Shepherd, William
Drayson, G. B.Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Drewe, C.Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.Smithere, Peter (Winchester)
Duthie, W. S.Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S. W.)Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)
Eccles, Rt. Hon. D. M.Low, A. R. W.Snadden, W. McN.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)Soames, Capt. C.
Erroll, F. J.Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)Spearman, A. C. M.
Fell, A.Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughSpeir, R. M.
Finlay, GraemeMcAdden, S. J.Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)
Fisher, NigelMcCallum, Major D.Specs, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)
Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard

Stevens, G. P.Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)Watkinson, H. A.
Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)Thorneycroft, R. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster
Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.Wellwood, W.
Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.Tilney, JohnWhite, Baker (Canterbury)
Storey, S.Turner, H. F. L.Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)
Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)Turton, R. H.Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)Tweedsmuir, LadyWiliams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Sutcliffe, H.Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.,Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)Vosper, D. F.Wills, G.
Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)Wakefield, Sir Wavell (Marylebone)Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Teeling, W.Walker-Smith, D. C.Wood, Hon. R.
Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)York, C.
Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Studholme and Mr. Oakshott.

NOES

Acland, Sir RichardEdelman, M.King, Dr. H. M.
Adams, RichardEdwards, John (Brighouse)Kinley, J.
Albu, A. H.Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)
Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)Lever, Harold (Cheetham)
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.Ewart, R.Lewis, Arthur
Awbery, S. S.Field, W. J.Lindgren, G. S.
Ayles, W. H.Fienburgh, W.Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.
Bacon, Miss AliceFinch, H. J.Logan, D. G.
Baird, J.Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)MacColl, J. E.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.Foot, M. M.McGhee, H. G.
Bartley, P.Forman, J. C.McGovern, J.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.Freeman, John (Watford)McInnes, J.
Bence, C. R.Freeman, Peter (Newport)McKay, John (Wallsend)
Benn, WedgwoodGaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.McLeavy, F.
Benson, G.Gibson, C. W.MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)
Beswick, F.Glanville, JamesMcNeil, Rt. Hon. H.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)Gooch, E. G.MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Blackburn, F.Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.Mainwaring, W. H.
Blenkinsop, A.Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Blyton, W. R.Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wakefield)Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Boardman, H.Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.Mann, Mrs. Jean
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.Grey, C. F.Manuel, A. C.
Bowden, H. W.Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.
Bowen, E. R.Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Mayhew, C. P.
Bowles, F. G.Griffiths, William (Exchange)Mellish, R. J.
Braddock, Mrs. ElizabethGrimond, J.Mikardo, Ian
Brockway, A. F.Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)Mitchison, G. R.
Brook, Dryden (Halifax)Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)Monslow, W.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Hall, John (Gateshead, W.)Moody, A. S.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)Hamilton, W. W.Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.
Brown, Thomas (Ince)Hannan, W.Morley, R.
Burke, W. A.Hardy, E. A.Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)
Burton, Miss F. E.Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)Hastings, S.Mort, D. L.
Callaghan, L. J.Hayman, F. H.Moyle, A.
Castle, Mrs. B. A.Healey, Denis (Leads, S. E.)Mulley, F. W.
Champion, A. J.Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)Murray, J. D.
Chapman, W. D.Herbison, Miss M.Nelly, W.
Chetwynd, G. R.Hewitson, Capt. M.Neal, Harold (Bolsover)
Clunie, J.Hobson, C. R.O'Brien, T.
Cocks, F. S.Holman, P.Oldfield, W. H.
Coldrick, W.Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)Oliver, G. H.
Collick, P. H.Holt, A. F.Orbach, M.
Cook, T. F.Houghton, DouglasOswald, T.
Corbet, Mrs. FredaHoy, J. H.Padley, W. E.
Cove, W. G.Hubbard, T. F.Paget, R. T.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)
Crosland, C. A. R.Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Crossman, R. H. S.Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)Pannell, Charles
Cullen, Mrs. A.Hynd, H. (Accrington)Pargiter, G. A.
Daines, P.Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Parker, J.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)Paton, J.
Darling, George (Hillsborough)Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)Pearson, A.
Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.Peart, T. F.
Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)Janner, B.Plummer, Sir Leslie
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.Porter, G.
Davies, Harold (Leek)Jeger, George (Goole)Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
de Freitas, GeoffreyJenkins, R. H. (Stetchford)Proctor, W. T.
Deer, G.Johnson, James (Rugby)Pryde, D. J.
Delargy, H. J.Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)Rankin, John
Dodds, N. N.Jones, David (Hartlepool)Reeves, J.
Donnelly, D. L.Joins, Jack (Rotherham)Reid, Thomas (Swindon)
Driberg, T. E. N.Keenan, W.Reid, William (Camlachie)
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)Kenyon, C.Rhodes, H.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.Richards, R.

Robens, Rt. Hon. A.Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.West, D. G.
Roberts, Albert (Normanton)Swingler, S. T.Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John
Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)Sylvester, G. O.White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)
Ross, WilliamTaylor, John (West Lothian)Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Royle, C.Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)Wigg, George
Schofield, S. (Barnsley)Thomas, David (Aberdare)Wilcock, Group Captain, C. A. B.
Shackleton, E. A. A.Thomas, George (Cardiff)Wilkins, W. A.
Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir HartleyThomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)Willey, Frederick (Sunderland, N.)
Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)Willey, Octavius (Cleveland)
Short, E. W.Thurtle, ErnestWilliams, David (Neath)
Silverman, Julius (Erdington)Timmons, J.Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)Tomney, F.Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Simmons, G. J. (Brierley Hill)Turner-Samuels, M.Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)Ungoed-Thomas, Sir LynnWilliams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)Usborne, H. C.Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Snow, J. W.Viant, S. P.Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Sorensen, R. W.Wade, D. W.Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir FrankWallace, H. W.Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Sparks, J. A.Watkins, T. E.Wyatt, W. L.
Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)Yates, V. F.
Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.Weitzman, D.Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)Wells, William (Walsall)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Arthur Allen.