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Ministry Of Health

Volume 645: debated on Monday 24 July 1961

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Barbiturate Drugs


asked the Minister of Health what steps are taken to warn persons for whom barbiturate drugs are prescribed that it is dangerous to consume alcohol within a short time of the taking of such drugs.

This is a matter for the doctor, who is reminded in both the British National Formulary and the Comprehensive Handbook on Prescribing of the need to warn the patient.

Does my hon. Friend recall that in an Answer which she gave me on 17th April it was shown that the number of deaths which had been caused by a combination of alcohol and bibiturate drugs was twice as great in 1960 as in 1959? Will she, therefore, consider, in addition to the instructions sent to practitioners, issuing regulations to dispensers which would require them to use a label for the containers of all barbiturate drugs, warning the person concerned of the dangers?

The figures which I gave my hon. and gallant Friend on the previous occasion reflect not necessarily an increase in this type of case but an increase in the awareness of coroners. I am sure that the right person to issue the warning is the doctor who prescribes the barbiturates. Nevertheless, there has been publicity in the national Press, and I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend's Question today will add to the public knowledge of the risk of taking the two things together.

Russian Ballet Dancers (Dental Treatment)


asked the Minister of Health what dental treatment has been provided for Russian ballet dancers under the National Health Service recently; and what was the cost.

I am sending my hon. Friend details of the treatment. The net cost, on latest information, was just over £100.

As this service is expressly for the people of Britain, does my right hon. Friend realise that people who pay for this service object to it being abused and, particularly, to jumping of the queue when others who have to pay for the service have to wait as much as three months for the service of the dentist? Can he offer any suggestions for overcoming this difficulty.

I am considering if this sort of case can practicably be avoided in future.

Does the Minister think that the National Health Service has ever had better advertisement for £100 in the whole of its existence? Will he resist all pressure from the benches behind him to reduce the availability of the Health Service to visitors to this country?

The Health Service is available primarily for the people of this country, as my hon. Friend rightly said. But, of course—and, I think, we are at one on this—we provide emergency and Good Samaritan treatment for the stranger within our gates. As I have said, however, I am considering whether a case of this kind can practicably be avoided in future.

Can my right hon. Friend give any indication of the extent to which there is abuse of these provisions, if at all? Can he give any figure for the average annual cost to this country of providing free medical treatment to visitors?

I have explained that free medical treatment is not, except within the limits I mentioned, available to visitors, and the total annual cost, though it cannot be precisely estimated, must be relatively very small.

When the Minister refers to Good Samaritan treatment, can he say whether there is any Biblical precedent for the idea that we should do our best to see that the good deed is not repeated?

Prescription Charges


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the decision of the Annual Conference of Local Medical Committees held on 15th June which registered opposition to the increased prescription charges; and if, in view of this new evidence from the majority of general practitioners in the National Health Service, he will now abolish these charges.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes" and to the second part "No".

Is the Minister aware that last Wednesday 80,000 doctors represented at the British Medical Association's Annual Conference also came out against prescription charges? What further evidence does he want us to produce before he will consider changing his pernicious policy?

I am not aware that evidence bearing on the matter was produced either at the debate to which the hon. Member refers in his Question or at that referred to in his supplementary question. Certainly no reasons were given to count against the grounds on which this House came to its decision.


asked the Minister of Health what steps he has taken to ascertain the effects on dispensing chemists of the increased prescription charges; and if he will make a statement.

Is the Minister aware of the great dissatisfaction amongst dispensing chemists at the present situation, at the change in the dispensing habits, from people coming at the end of the week—at pay day—rather than at the beginning? Can he tell the House Whether there is any threat of a strike on the part of dispensing chemists? If so, What emergency plan has he to meet the desire of patients to have their medicines?

The second part of the hon. Member's supplementary question seems to be a different question. As regards the first part, I have had no representations on a change in the dispensing habits to which he refers.

Has not the increased prescription charge led to a demand for a very considerable increase in dispensing fees by chemists? Is not the right hon. Gentleman's saving going to be a very expensive one in the end?

It is much too soon to know whether there is any reduction in chemists' income as a result of or since the increase in the prescription charge.

Orange Juice


asked the Minister of Health to what extent his revised National Health Service leaflet has publicised the fact that concentrated orange juice is now available to all children up to the age of five years.


asked the Minister of Health to what extent he is giving publicity to the amount of concentrated orange juice now available from the West Indies for children up to five years of age.


asked the Minister of Health if he will take more vigorous steps to publicise the fact that orange juice is available to children under five years of age, in view of the need to assist the citrus industry of the West Indies.

The fact that orange juice is available for children up to five is made clear in the publicity already undertaken and in further publicity my right hon. Friend has in hand. I am sending examples to the hon. Members.

In view of the fact that very considerable quantities of orange juice can be supplied by the West Indies and British Honduras, would not the Minister consider initiating a nationwide publicity campaign to popularise this welfare food, not only in the interests of the children up to the age of five but also in the interests of the economy of the West Indies?

Orange juice is good for children up to the age of five, but it is not essential. I do not think my Department could undertake a publicity campaign on the lines that "Orange juice is good for you," but we do all we can to make known in the appropriate circles, particularly to the mothers concerned—they are the most interested parties—the fact that orange juice certainly is good and that it is good value.

It may not be necessary, but would my hon. Friend agree that this concentrated orange juice does, in fact, provide one of the best and cheapest farms of Vitamin C for children, and also, in the interests of the economy of the West Indies, particularly of British Honduras, will she really give as much publicity as she possibly can to it?

My hon. Friend is quite right: one bottle of orange juice is worth seven oranges; it is good value, as I said earlier to the House. In addition to the publicity in the leaflets we hand out and through the facts we make known to editors of journals, I hope that an announcement is to be made on the B.B.C. on Friday of this week.

Would the hon. Lady not agree that the best service she could do, not only to the West Indies citrus fruit producers but to the mothers and children of this country, would be to restore the subsidy which was withdrawn a few months ago?

No. As I have already said, this is extremely good value and far better value for a mother than fresh oranges she might buy.

Children, Cornwall (Special Establishments)


asked the Minister of Health how many establishments exist in Cornwall for giving special treatment to children who are mentally below the standard for normal education; and what progress he expects to make in the provision of additional establishments of this kind.

Six training centres and one hospital. Plans for a new centre were approved this year and another is in the county council's programme for next year. Additional hospital provision is under consideration.

Would my hon. Friend bear in mind that this is a very urgent problem in Cornwall, causing great anxiety to many parents of these subnormal and backward Children, and will she do her utmost to expedite the plans she has already announced this afternoon?



asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the increasing control of the British drug industry by United States firms; what proportion of the National Health Service drug bill is paid to United States controlled firms; and what action he proposes to take to limit the amount of drugs purchased from such firms.

The answer to the first and third parts of the Question is in the negative; I regret that the information asked for in the second part is not available.

Does the Minister agree that some of the American firms have been responsible for the high-pressure type of salesmanship which seems to have led to a waste in drugs? Have any representations been made to them to cease some of these practices so that we can get greater economy in the drug bill?

I am anxious by any means to ensure that the National Health Service gets the drugs it needs on the best possible terms, but I do not think that that would be done by discriminating against one set of firms as such. The Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry has taken some quite successful steps in recent years to increase the standards of sales promotion in some quarters.

Council Of Europe (Recommendations)


asked the Lord Privy Seal what action is being taken by the representative of Her Majesty's Government on the Committee of Ministers in pursuance of Council of Europe Recommendation No. 276 concerning compulsory road education in schools.

The United Kingdom Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe has agreed with other members of the Committee of Ministers' Deputies that this Recommendation should be transmitted for opinion to the Committee of Cultural Experts.

In view of the demonstrated importance of making this a compulsory subject in school curricula, as demonstrated by the experience of those countries which have already done so, will the Government stress this very strongly on behalf of this country in the discussions which are taking place and encourage the proposal that there should be a conference of experts to discuss very thoroughly such experience and the advantages of making it a compulsory subject?

All matters relating to subjects in schools in this country are for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education.


asked the Lord Privy Seal what action is being taken by the representatives of Her Majesty's Government on the Committee of Ministers in pursuance of Council of Europe Recommendation No. 279 concerning technical assistance to Africa.

The Committee of Ministers at Deputy level decided at its last meeting to postpone consideration of this recommendation until the Council of Europe Secretariat had completed a study on how it should be put into effect. The United Kingdom representative concurred in this decision.

House Of Commons Catering


asked the hon. Member for Holland with Boston, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, whether his attention had been drawn to the Motion on House of Commons Dining Rooms; what action he proposes to take in the matter; and whether he will make a statement.

Yes, Sir. The Committee considered this matter fully at its meeting on Wednesday last. It is sympathetic with the sentiments implied in the Motion, and is unanimous in deprecating any use of the Dining Rooms which would be in any way likely to bring this House into discredit. It does not feel, however, that it can take any action in this matter apart from strictly enforcing Rule 3 of the rules of booking. The Committee does not feel that it would be desirable or appropriate for the Committee to possess the powers of cross-examining Members which this Motion seeks to give them.

I am satisfied that the great majority of functions which take place give no reasonable cause for complaint whatsoever. I appeal to all right hon. and hon. Members to be vigilant in regard to functions for which they accept responsibility, so that the dignity of the House may be fully maintained.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I am very grateful for his sympathetic reply to my Question? Will he take such steps as are open to him and his Committee to remind hon. Members of their heavy responsibility in this matter, since his Committee has the repute and dignity of the House in its hands in this respect?

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I ask Members who use the services of the Refreshment Department to be so good as to remember that they are in the position of hosts and those who come should be regarded as their personal guests. I am quite sure that they will accept full responsibility for the kind of people who come here.

Common Market


asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is now in a position to state what special settlement he will seek to negotiate on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, when he enters into further negotiations with the six Foreign Ministers of the European Economic Community on Great Britain's application for membership of the Common Market.

I would ask the hon. Gentleman to await the statement which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister hopes to make on these matters on 31st July.

In view of that, will the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will make quite clear to the country what the Government hope to achieve and what they are prepared to relinquish before they proceed any further in negotiating our participation in the European Economic Community?

Will my right hon. Friend tell me whether, before he attempts to make any settlement to bring about this bigamous marriage by Britain with the wench across the water, he will allow a decent lapse of time for our divorce from the British Commonwealth on grounds of desertion so that at least it can appear as if we are acting in good faith?

I have no desire to become involved in my hon. Friend's matrimonial affairs.