HC Deb 01 April 1968 vol 762 cc125-7

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Snow

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 12, line 17, leave out 'ill' and insert 'suffering from illness'.

I think it would be helpful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if we could consider this Amendment with Amendment No. 2.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If the House agrees I think it would be agreeable to take the two Amendments together.

Mr. Snow

In Committee, when considering Clause 13, the Opposition moved an Amendment to insert, "mentally or physically handicapped" after "aged" in line 18, on the ground that handicapped persons might not necessarily be suffering from illness as defined in the National Health Service Act, 1946, and in consequence might not be included among the categories of persons for whom domestic help should be provided. I undertook to consider the matter further and, if it proved desirable, to bring forward an Amendment on Report. I also said that we thought there was possibly a small element who might not attract support in this way and we would look at that matter.

Examination of "physically handicapped persons" after the debate in Committee showed that there are certain categories who are not ill and so are not covered by the Clause as drafted whom it would seem right in principle to cover as they are as much in need of domestic help as others for whom help might be provided. This Amendment, therefore, is proposed to cover persons handicapped as a result of illness, which includes injury by virtue of the statutory definition, or by congenital deformity. This is wide enough to include blindness, about which questions were asked. Blindness and other handicapped conditions, if not caused by injury or congenital deformity, can have arisen from illness.

Mental disorder, which would include the mentally handicapped, is also covered by the Clause as originally drafted because the mentally disordered are ill. In the absence of its own definition, the word "ill" should be interpreted in the light of the definition of "illness" in the National Health Service Act, 1946, as amended by the Mental Health Act, 1959. Illness includes mental disorder within the meaning of the Mental Health Act, 1959, and any injury or disability requiring medical or dental treatment or nursing, but, in order to remove any possible doubt, it is proposed in these Amendments to substitute "suffering from illness", for "ill". That would be achieved by these Amendments. I hope that that explanation and the reasons I have given for these Amendments satisfy hon. Members who may have had some doubts, and carry out what we undertook to do.

Mr. Gower

No doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean) will comment on the second Amendment, which appears to be an attempt to deal with the point made in Committee, and I submit that the first Amendment is nonsense. To ask the House of Commons to substitute for "ill" the words "suffering from illness", seems the acme of absurdity. From the Oxford English Dictionary it is obvious that the word "ill" means "suffering from illness". I was always warned against circumlocution. I do not think we should agree to the Government putting in such a bad circumlocution as this. We must insist upon the simpler term "ill" rather than "suffering from illness". This may seem a trivial point, but sometimes we should stand up for the purity of language.

Mr. Snow

I do not comment on the suggestion of triviality, but the word "ill" does not have the same definition. It is more suitable to use the word "illness", for which there is a proper definition in the Act.

Mr. Dean

The House is obliged to the Parliamentary Secretary for his explanation, particularly of Amendment No. 2, which appears substantially to meet the point we made in Committee. It is of the greatest importance when dealing with services such as home help and laundry services that people suffering from illness or recovering from illness should have those services as comprehensive and wide as possible to cover all categories. The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned the blind, mentally disordered, and other categories which were debated in Committee. We are glad that the points we made have been taken by the hon. Gentleman and that he has brought forward these Amendments to make the Clause much more comprehensive than it was previously.

Dr. Winstanley

I appreciate that the Parliamentary Secretary explained that we are using the statutory definition of illness contained in the 1946 Act and that this includes injury. Where "handicapped" is picked out in a special way there seems to be a remote possibility of misinterpretation, and I wonder whether we are defining a particular kind of handicap arising from illness or by congenital deformity. Is the Parliamentary Secretary entirely satisfied that no further explanation is necessary to make quite clear that "handicapped" arising from injury also qualifies, as I know he intends it should?

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: No. 2, in line 18, after 'aged' insert 'handicapped as a result of having suffered from illness or by congenital deformity'.—[Mr. Snow.]

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