HC Deb 22 July 1941 vol 373 cc827-9

Considered in Committee.

[Colonel CLIFTON BROWN in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 to 14 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

First Schedule agreed to.

SECOND SCHEDULE.—(Rates of Contributions.)

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this be the Second Schedule to the Bill."

Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)

I know that there is a great deal of difficulty in getting consistency in these allowances. I want to refer to the effect that this will have upon blind people. I do not want to labour the point; but so complicated are the arrangements as they relate to the provision of assistance to blind people that in some circumstances blind people can actually suffer as a consequence of this provision. I do not want to do more than draw attention to the matter, in the hope that the Minister will turn his attention to it and see whether something can be done. It is logical that when people come before a public assistance committee their first 10s. 6d., instead of the first 7s. 6d., should be ignored. When we deal with blind people there is this strange situation, that they draw their incomes not from one, but from more than one, source. Consequently, a county council or county borough council which may be responsible for a scheme under the Blind Persons Act arrange, for instance, that the person shall have a maximum income. They make an allowance out of public funds to bring the income of the blind person up to a maximum of, say, 30s. a week. The Middlesex County Council, whose scheme is one of the best in the country, enables any blind person to have his income made up to a maximum of 27s. 6d. That has recently been increased. What is happening here is that, whereas previously we ignored 7s. 6d., we shall now ignore 10s., but it will not make a penny difference to the income of the blind person. If we should ignore the amount that could be drawn, then the local authority would really be putting the difference into its pocket, and the blind person would get no benefit. I am sure that if the Minister will give his attention to this matter, something may perhaps be done.

We are surely considering the position of the individual, and in considering the blind people, in whom I am very interested, we have this strange situation. They are not getting a grant from public funds merely because they are poor. Many of the people on public assistance have throughout their lifetime earned money and have had some of the joys of life, but blind people do not have that opportunity. They are not merely poor. They are poor because they are blind, and therefore possibly it is not just a question of the exigencies of the moment or of the fluctuations which take place in industry. This thing is permanent in their lives. The solution would be to ensure these people a definite income from national sources, and it is because of the peculiar position of these people that I hope that some consideration may be given to their exceptional case and that something will be done.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Ernest Brown)

I am sure that the House is indebted to the hon. Member for stating this case on this Bill, but this is not the appropriate place in which to do anything about it. However, he has called my attention to the matter, and I can assure him that I shall keep my eye on the subject.

Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)

May I ask the Minister whether, in the new survey, the position of the blind in relation to social services will be considered?

Mr. Brown

The survey will be so wide that nobody of this kind can remain outside it.

Mr. Griffiths

Is it specifically inside?

Mr. Brown

I could not say without notice, but the matter is engaging the attention of the Committee.

Question, "That this be the Second Schedule to the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Third Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment; read the Third time, and passed.