HC Deb 17 November 1966 vol 736 cc630-2
Q7. Dr. David Owen

asked the Prime Minister if he will advise the setting up of a Royal Commission or an independent committee of inquiry to review all aspects of disablement.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. Many aspects of this problem are already under review and everything possible is being done to improve the services for disabled people. I do not think that a new inquiry now would be likely to move matters forward any faster.

Dr. Owen

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the consideration he has given to this matter, but will he agree to look at it in some years' time because the problem of the disabled is very severe, involving a lot of Ministries, and it does need review?

The Prime Minister

I agree with what my hon. Friend has said, and I know his very keen and practical interest in this matter. Naturally, it could be kept under review, but I hope that, by the time to which my hon. Friend refers, there will be action being taken rather than a review or inquiry required.

Dr. Winstanley

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that disabled persons at present receive services from 12 separate sources and that, because so many are responsible, there is a tendency for no one to accept responsibility? Is there not a need for integration?

The Prime Minister

There is always this problem, and a number of Government Departments are inevitably involved—Health, Social Security, Education, Housing and Local Government for local authority services—but I have looked into it very carefully and I do not believe that it would be in the best interests of those concerned if we tried to centralise administration and have something in the nature of a disabled persons' department. All these Departments have a job to do, and I am satisfied that there is proper co-ordination between them.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

Would not a research unit within the Ministry of Social Security of the kind which has already been advocated go a fair way to meeting some of the difficulties? Will the right hon. Gentleman again consider setting up such a unit to take account of the problems not only of the disabled but of all those in need, particularly when a number of different authorities and different people are involved?

The Prime Minister

I understand the force of that argument, but a great deal of research has been done and is being done on this problem. A great deal is known about it. The problem is one of priorities and of finding the funds to do everything one wants to be able to do within the social service field, in which there are some very important competing claims.

Mr. Hogg

Although the needs of chronically disabled and incapacitated persons are the same, do not the different rates of compensation—very largely quite inadequate rates over a wide range—constitute one of the holes in our present social security system, and is there not need for a comprehensive review of the whole matter?

The Prime Minister

The question of the rates for the chronic sick and the disabled, both industrially and war disabled, is a difficult one and by no means so simple as, I think, the right hon. and learned Gentleman may be suggesting. This is constantly being looked at, but I think that it must be part of the ordinary working of the Departments concerned. I am not sure that a review or Royal Commission as suggested would do very much to help in that particular problem.

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