HC Deb 15 July 1970 vol 803 cc1580-610
Mr. Alec Jones (Rhondda, West)

I beg to move Amendment No. 16, in page 3, line 16, at beginning insert: (1) Notwithstanding anything in section 7 of this Act all payments under this section shall be payable out of the National Insurance Fund.

The Temporary Chairman

I suggest that it would be convenient for the Committee to discuss at the same time the following Amendments: No. 5 in line 20, leave out 'the' and insert 'a'.

No. 6 in line 21, leave out 'of' and insert: 'to be prescribed of not less than'.

Mr. Jones

In view of some of the procedural difficulties which we experienced when dealing with the first series of Amendments, perhaps I should indicate that Amendment No. 16 is a paving proposal designed to enable us to discuss the amount of the weekly rate of attendance allowance. We are not anxious to add fresh burdens to the National Insurance Fund, and I stress that this is merely a quaint procedure to enable us to discuss the subject.

Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 are probing in so far as we want to know how the Government view the level of the attendance allowance; and perhaps they will give us their feelings on how matters will develop in the immediate future.

We are anxious to ensure that the attendance allowance does not drop, whatever the circumstances, below £4. Indeed, this sum is, we believe, inadequate and should be increased by way of regulation rather than by having to wait for a new Measure. My hon. Friends are naturally pleased with the Clause in that it is part of our old Bill. One might say that it was fathered by David Ennals, who has deep personal experience of handicapped and severely disabled people and a close understanding of this subject. I take it that the understanding of David Ennals is now shared by almost every hon. Member.

We might pay tribute also to the work of groups like the Disablement Income Group and the Campaign for the Young Chronic Sick, which played a great part in awakening the conscience of the House and the country to the problems of the disabled. So we are pleased that the Government have taken over this part of our Bill. We are sorry that they have not had the wisdom to take over all of it, but we are grateful for small mercies.

The Amendments express the concern of most hon. Members about the amount being paid for the attendance allowance. This subject does not divide the parties. Because it is a small level—it was referred to in Committee on the previous Bill as a foot in the door—we must be careful that we do not add the word "constant" before it. It could not be described as a constant attendance allowance when it is only £4 a week.

The theme of the need to increase the allowance ran through many of the speeches on Second Reading. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris), who has played a great part in helping the disabled, made this point. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) made this point and said that there was a real need for a complete review and a generous increase in the allowance.

Certainly, those of us who were privileged or cursed to spend so many hours in Committee on the previous Bill heard the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Fortescue), who played a leading part for the Opposition, suggest that the stumbling block to any increase or extension was Treasury puritanism. Now that his ally and friend the Under-Secretary has had some experience of this puritanism, I am sorry—he must also be sorry—that he has not been able to overcome it. There are some serious problems, because the real value of the allowance could be eroded by three factors—taxation, the passage of time and inflation. The Secretary of State should have the powers—which the House would give relatively willingly—to increase the allowance by regulation.

Taxation was mentioned on Second Reading. One of my hon. Friends was sure that it would not be taxable, but many were concerned at the possibility that it might be. It would be a case of giving with one hand and taking away with the other. The Under-Secretary said that this was a matter for the Chancellor. Technically it is, but it is also a matter for the House. If the allowance were taxable, that would be a further reason for the Secretary of State to have these powers.

The time element might also affect the value before any allowance was paid. The Secretary of State said that it would not be wise to suggest that we could hope to pay it before April, 1972. So there are nearly two years to go. By then, what will this £4 be worth? The Secretary of State should insure against this as I have suggested.

6.15 p.m.

Inflation is a favourite theme of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who suggested recently that it was galloping inflation. If that is so, the attendance allowance, small as it is, needs special protection. At least our Bill provided this protection, since it would have given the Secretary of State the power, even duty, in his two-yearly review, to maintain the value of the allowance. This would have ensured that this much-needed allowance was kept in line with any rise in the cost of living. This is one of the dangers of dealing piecemeal with major social problems by picking little pieces out of a comprehensive social security measure.

I am urging the Government, not to accept the Amendments—they were devised only to allow a discussion—but to consider favourably the principles behind them and bring forward an Amendment in another place to ensure that the Secretary of State can increase the allowance or at least maintain its value.

[Miss HARVIE ANDERSON in the Chair]

Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

This series of Amendments are designed not to alter the value of the attendance allowance in the Bill but to lay down for the future the leglislative machinery by which changes will be effected. The view of the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones) and his hon. Friends is that future changes should be effected not by legislation but by Statutory Instrument. That of course is done with supplementary benefits, but I doubt whether it is, on balance, for this kind of benefit a better way of doing it than by legislation.

There is a certain delusive simplicity about proceeding by Statutory Instrument, but there is, of course, one considerable snag. One can move to amend a Bill. If one does not think that the increase is adequate, and one uses the device which hon. Members are using now of seeking to charge the cost of the provision on the National Insurance Fund, one can move an Amendment. But if we are presented with a Statutory Instrument we can vote only "Aye" or "No", and if an increase that we judge insufficient is put forward by the Government the Committee and the House are in the difficult position of having either to reject the increase or to accept an increase that they regard as inadequate. I therefore differ from the hon. Member in his belief that there are advantages in proceeding by way of Statutory Instrument.

There is a further practical snag. Generally speaking, Statutory Instruments are dealt with at Ten o'clock at night and are subject to a time limit of one-and-a-half hours. When a Bill is in Committee, if the Committee does not like what the Government are proposing the matter can be argued for a considerable time, and the Government can be pressed hard to improve the position. With a Statutory Instrument the Govenment has only to wait until half-past Eleven o'clock at night, and the Question is then put.

I know that in the Bill bought forward in the last Parliament by the right hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Crossman) all National Insurance benefits were liable to be changed by way of Statutory Instrument. Had that Bill come back on Report I should have opposed that provision, for the reasons I have given. I therefore hope that my hon. Friend will stand by the provision in the Bill and ensure that future changes are dealt with by legislation.

There is a special reason in favour of that proposition in respect of this benefit. As some of us urged on the Government last Friday, in the Second Reading debate, this very welcome proposal is only the first instalment of what we expect to be done for the disabled. There will have to be comprehensive legislation on the subject, and I should like to hear anything that my hon. Friend has to say about that. Surely the appropriate place in which to adjust the level of this benefit is in that future Bill, when other provision for the same people is being made. They can be fitted together, whereas if this Amendment is made the Government will have to legislate separately for the disabled in other aspects, and will have to proceed quite separately again by way of Statutory Instrument in order to change the attendance allowance. That will be inappropriate and inconvenient.

How does my hon. Friend see the prospect of future increases in this benefit? Is it the intention that it should be increased whenever the general level of National Insurance benefit is increased? On the other hand, is it—because of its special nature—to be related particularly closely to changes in wage levels, as distinct from the index of retail prices? What is the thinking of the Government about future changes in this benefit? It is a benefit to which many of us attach the greatest importance. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will keep a benevolent eye on its level and see that it is not eroded by any changes in the economy generally, but it would be helpful if some indication could be given as to the way in which the Government see the future of this benefit, and what their intentions are about increasing it from time to time.

Subject to what my hon. Friend may say it seems to me that the practical method of doing it is very much better effected by legislation than by Statutory Instrument.

Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)

It seems that I am coming to the same fight with different people in front of me. For a long time I have maintained that if we applied the best technology to disabled people we could keep them out of institutions which are very expensive to maintain. The Minister is looking for methods that will enable him to save public expenditure, and I suggest that he could save money, paradoxically, by increasing the constant attendance allowance.

If that allowance were raised sufficiently, people who are now in institutions and hospitals could manage in their own homes, given two things—first, sufficient money to allow people to look after them at an economic level and, secondly, the benefit of the advanced technology that we possess which enables the extremely disabled to earn their livings and to control their own environments. I am thinking in terms of tetraplegics, paraplegics, and people with advanced multiple sclerosis. They could be kept out of institutions and looked after by their loved ones in their own homes, provided the amount of money made available for attendance was increased.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that it would be morally just to do this. I argue that it is also economically sound. I keep quoting to the House a classic case of a man who contracted polio in Malaysia in 1964, and is now completely paralysed, but who is now paying income tax. We are a compassionate society, in the sense that we do not shoot such people. If we do not shoot them we have a moral obligation to look after them adequately as long as they live—and "adequately" means giving them every means to enable them to survive and lead a full life. This country is blessed with technologies that enable people to do this.

The case to which I refer is that of a person who is quite well known. He contracted polio in 1954 and is now using P.O.S.S.U.M. equipment, which enables him to survive on his own. He is now paying income tax, although he is completely paralysed, even to the extent that he cannot breathe. He is therefore also on a respirator. Yet that man is paying income tax.

If our compassionate society had said to that man, "We shall put you in hospital", he would have been in an intensive care unit, costing between £80 and £100 a week. If my mathematics are correct we would have spent £75,000 if that man had not been allowed to go home. I have no doubt that the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary would like to do as much as they can for these people, and it is tragic to think that the Financial Secretary who, in the last Parliament, as his party's spokesman on health matters, was dedicated to help these people, will now find himself in the cold grip of the Treasury, which is prepared to pay lip service to value-analysis and cost-benefit is decidedly slow in producing results.

I ask the right hon. Gentleman to be bold in this respect and to chance his arm just for once. He will have the support of hon. Members, on the ground that what he is doing is morally right. If he considers this matter carefully he will find that this proposition is economically sound. The remarkable thing is that in all the years that I have argued this case nobody on the Treasury Bench has attempted to shoot me down. Ministers have admitted I am right and have then quietly closed their eyes and walked away. If the right hon. Gentleman would consider this question again and find out how many people who are now in institutions could be transferred to their own homes he would see that in the long run he might make a considerable financial saving for his Department.

6.30 p.m.

I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that he has a time bomb ticking away in his Department—the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons' Act introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris), and which, I gather, has not yet really been costed. The remarkable thing I want to bring home to the right hon. Gentleman is that that Act started as a piece of blank paper which got 30 Clauses on it, some provided by hon. and right hon. Members on this side and some by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on that side. We had a long consideration of the Bill, and on no occasion did the House divide or the Committee on the Bill divide, and there was not even a Division in another place. That tends to show the universal acceptance of the concept behind that Act. If that Act is to be made a living reality constant attendance allowance will have a very large part to play indeed, and I would urge the right hon. Gentleman, in looking at his books, to consider whether or not he would be better off increasing the disability allowance, which would be of tremendous benefit to the disabled and which, at the same time, might enable him to save money for his Department.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

I think it was an eminent Russian who promulgated the doctrine of constant revolution. One might say of this Bill that it is a product of constant lifting. Two of the provisions of my Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons' Bill went to my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man), and I am very glad that he included those two provisions in his National Superannuation Bill. It is argued that many of the provisions of this National Insurance Bill have been taken from my right hon. Friend, including one of mine. At the same time the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) can say that he is a victim of lifting in that one of the main provisions of this Bill was a provision he advanced in his Private Member's Bill.

Notwithstanding all that, I must emphasise that this is an extremely important group of Amendments. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones) on the way in which he introduced them. They are Amendments, particularly Amendment No. 6, which permit the necessary prescribing of the amount of the constant attendance allowance. I entirely agree with the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) that this provision must be seen as only part—a very minor part—of an entirely new financial deal for the severely disabled. I am certain that the right hon. Gentleman, no less than the Under-Secretary of State, will want to emphasise that this is only one stage towards improving the financial status, and, therefore, the dignity of every one of our severely disable fellow citizens.

It may be argued that if my right hon. and hon. Friends criticise this Clause 4 they are criticising a provision which they were sponsoring in the last Parliament, but this was only one provision—constant attendance allowance was only one provision—of many to improve the financial standing of disabled families. If there had been an invalidity pension, if there had been other provisions put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East, there would not have been grounds for criticising the amount of the constant attendance allowance. Of course, if this is to be the only provision financially to help the disabled, then there is a case for subjecting it to the closest possible scrutiny.

There are those who have mentioned the vital importance of ensuring that this is a non-taxable allowance. There have been references from time to time to the Treasury. If there is a mandarin from the Treasury within earshot of this Chamber I would say to him that he must take it from the Committee, both sides of it, that we are determined that the constant attendance allowance shall be a non-taxable allowance.

There is the question of inflation. Amendment No. 6 says that the allowance shall be one of at least £4 a week. Forward-looking Members on both sides are completely committed to the idea of avoiding the erosion of social benefits. The figure of £4 is regarded by many people as unsatisfactory as an isolated benefit, isolated, that is, from the provision of an invalidity pension. I would say to the Under-Secretary of State that I hope he will accept the spirit of Amendment No. 6. I know his very warm personal concern for the problems of disabled people, and I am quite certain that he will regard the £4 as a minimum amount.

One cannot really speak of a figure of £4 as a constant attendance allowance. As many hon. Members pointed out in the debate on Second Reading on Friday, it costs £20 for a 48-hour week to have someone to look after a disabled person in London. The National Campaign for the Chronically Sick has rightly emphasised that there are 168 hours in a week. That is why many people feel that the figure of £4 is derisory, inadequate, indefensible.

I would mention two cases which I particularly have in mind. The first is that of a constituent of mine, a young woman who is old beyond her years; one could never tell her age by her appearance. Her mother is grievously ill, disabled by rheumatoid arthritis; her father has an extremely serious lung condition; her sister is a spastic. At present my constituent works part time; she receives £4 a week from the Supplementary Benefits Commission to enable her to give part-time care to her disabled parents and her disabled sister. Will the Under-Secretary of State tell me how my constituent, who is at present receiving £4 from the Supplementary Benefits Commission, will benefit from the attendance allowance of £4?

Mr. Dean

Will the hon. Gentleman say whether his constituent is receiving £4 from the Supplementary Benefits Commission specifically for attendance or as part of a normal scale?

Mr. Morris

It is in fact of the nature of an attendance allowance. The Commission disregards her part-time earnings and allows her £4 a week to enable her better to care for her father, mother and sister.

The Under-Secretary of State said: The allowance will be added to the requirements of supplementary benefit recipients, who will therefore benefit from it except in so far as their payments from the Supplementary Benefits Commission may already include a discretionary addition for attendance, in which case they will benefit to the extent that the allowance exceeds the amount of the discretionary allowance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1970; Vol. 803, c. 1093.] My constituent receives exactly the same amount as the proposed attendance allowance. I do not expect the Under-Secretary of State to give an answer about a particular case today, but I ask him seriously to look into cases of that kind and to try to preserve the value of benefits at present received by people caring for the severely disabled.

My second case is a man in London whose severely disabled wife is suffering from advanced multiple sclerosis. He receives a payment from the Supplementary Benefits Commission. He points out that he is in constant attendance on his wife and that he is very hard pressed financially. He believes the proposed allowance will be of no benefit to him in that it will be overtaken by what he already receives from the Commission.

These two cases prove that when we have disposed of the Amendments we should not think that we have solved the problem of families with one or more disabled members. I am certain that at a later stage in our consideration of the Bill the Under-Secretary of State or his right hon. Friend will seek to speak as fully as possible about the problems which I have raised. I hope, if possible, he will deal also with the cases which I have mentioned.

Sir B. Rhys Williams

As I have listened to the speakers, it has been difficult for me not to be convinced by each in turn. I was particularly impressed with the argument of the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) which was full of good sense. Nevertheless, I am most convinced, as I generally am, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). This is yet another occasion when Parliament should not allow power to pass out of its hands. If legislation is constantly allowed to go through which takes out of Parliament's hands the decision either as to the increase in contributions or the increase in benefits, we shall ultimately lose control of the administration of the Welfare State.

I recognise that the inflation which is troubling us all may soon be held to make this allowance obsolete, and I look forward to hearing what the Under-Secretary of State has to say about the Government's intentions for periodic reviews of the allowance. It would be a mistake to assume that inflation will go roaring ahead. Parliament has now accepted that fact and hands it to the Department to look after the consequences. The more we oil the wheels of the vehicle of inflation the faster it will go, and the more obstacles we put in the way of inflation by bringing back to the House of Commons the consideration of questions of this kind, the better it will be. We are making a good start with this allowance. If all hon. Members feel the same about the attendance allowance as those of us who are in the Chamber now, it will not be long before there is strong pressure for the Government to increase the amount.

6.45 p.m.

Dame Irene Ward

Different points of view have been presented in this interesting discussion, and I find it difficult to make up my mind whose advice to follow. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) expressed a strong view in favour of legislation in Parliament. Although that might be substantially a sound argument, I have been in Parliament a very long time and, having battled over long years even with my own party, I know how easy it is for matters of this kind to get to the bottom of the Cabinet agenda. It rather depends on the power and interest of the Minister concerned. I would be perfectly prepared to follow legislation by Parliament with my right hon. Friend and the Under-Secretary of State, but I do not know how firm the Secretary of State could be if he were faced with a Cabinet agenda containing a large number of important national issues, and legislation by Parliament might be a difficult line to adopt.

On the other hand, my right hon. Friend said firmly that we should have to legislate in depth for the chronically sick and disabled. I wonder how long that will take. The Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, 1970, which was sponsored by the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) would provide a fine situation for the chronically sick and disabled if its principles were adopted at every level all over the country. It could be argued in the Cabinet that as we have this Act no other legislation is necessary.

I well remember one of my small but, I hope, effective battles for Service widows during the Conservative Administration. I would not like to have to live through that kind of period again.

I am proud to pay tribute to the present Foreign Secretary for his actions in this matter when he was Prime Minister. When he asked me to see him in Downing Street he said, "Irene, are you quite certain you are telling me the truth?" I convinced him that I was telling him the truth, and when I remember all the people who had been battling for the Service widows for many years without effect, I feel that we then made a move forward, though not nearly far enough.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) that we should retain these matters within Parliament's control. But legislation so easily gets squeezed out. I have not made up my mind on this matter and I shall await to hear what the Under-Secretary of State has to say. In our peculiar system of legislation nobody ever knows exactly where the Treasury operates. It is one of the weaknesses of Parliament that it is almost impossible to get at the Treasury.

I feel reassured that we at least have at the Treasury two Ministers who are interested in the matters which are now under discussion and I believe that they will be effective there. But they may not necessarily be there for ever. If they become obstreperous with the Treasury they might be moved to some other positions in Government.

I hope that the constant attendance allowance will not come into the tax system. I would object if it did, and I hope that we can get that matter quite clear.

It would be possible to include the allowance in the automatic survey which now applies to other pension matters. An automatic review every two years gives an opportunity which could not be overridden by the Cabinet saying that it had too long an agenda to consider the matter.

I am not saying that the Treasury is necessarily always wrong, but its priorities might be different. I have tremendous admiration for senior civil servants and the advice which they tender. But senior civil servants never come up to my constituency to see the effect on people of the matters which we are discussing today. Therefore, although good advice may be tendered, the grass roots approach may be missing. As far as I am concerned, the matter is wide open and I look forward to hearing what my hon. Friend has to say in reply.

Mr. Dean

As always in debates on disability we have had thoughtful, bipartisan contributions from both sides of the Committee. Indeed, governments of all colours in recent years have tried to do more to help the disabled in the community.

The hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones) explained that this was a probing Amendment which was put down more to get discussion on this important topic than to press the particular points contained in the Amendment.

I will deal straight away with the point about possible taxation of attendance allowance. It will be recollected that during the Second Reading debate on Friday strong arguments were advanced by both sides that this allowance should not be taxed. Some very hard things were said about my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer—not about him personally, but in his capacity of presiding over the Treasury. Indeed, we have heard hard things said today about the Treasury. But I am equally glad that tributes have been paid to my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friends who now occupy offices in the Treasury. It is no accident that every one of them has had direct experience of the social services in quite recent years.

I am glad to be able to tell the Committee that I am authorised to say that in present circumstances the Government accept that the allowance should not be taxed. The intention is that the necessary provision should be made in next year's Finance Bill. I hope that shows that the Treasury puritanism which has sometimes been referred to is not always a fair criticism.

I should like to deal with the procedural point which has been raised as to whether it is better to make any subsequent changes which may be made in the allowance by statutory instrument or by new legislation. I thought that the arguments which were advanced by both my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) and my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) with their great experience in these matters carried a great deal of weight. My right hon. Friend made the point that the advantage of legislation as opposed to statutory instrument is that it is possible to amend. Surely when we are starting with a new allowance of which we have all to gain experience, it is an additional reason perhaps in any subsequent changes or improvements which may be made for using this procedure rather than the statutory instrument procedure.

I turn to the point which was raised by the hon. Member for Rhondda, West about the rate. The hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris), who has an effective Act to his credit on the Statute Book which was supported in all parts of the House, said that the £4 was derisory. But I am sure he will agree that it is a good start. A start must be made somewhere. It is in fact the figure selected by the previous Administration as appropriate for this Measure.

We should bear in mind that in a great many cases this will be a cash addition to other benefits which needy disabled families are receiving, such as national insurance benefits of various kinds and supplementary benefit. The Government do not claim that this can in any sense meet the complete cost of attendance. Of course it cannot. The complete cost of attendance is far in excess of £4, but at least it gives this additional help which may well enable some families, who are possibly finding things difficult, to look after relatives in their own home. It will certainly give them help in fulfilling those needs.

7.0 p.m.

I was asked by a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite what the Government's intentions were to what was called the erosion of this benefit. In his Second Reading speech, my right hon. Friend said that this benefit, like any other National Insurance or supplementary benefit, will be reviewed from time to time. It would be surprising if reviews were to take place in all other benefits, which has been the normal course now for many years, and this benefit were to be left out of the reviews. There is no intention on the part of my right hon. Friend to make this benefit the one exception which is not reviewed from time to time.

That leads to the other point put to me by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames, namely, whether this can be regarded as a first instalment. Certainly we regard it as a first step in dealing with the cash problems of civilian disability, as it has been called. My right hon. Friend is now studying urgently the whole problem of disability. There is a great deal of work still to be done on it. The hon. Member for Rotherham, who was recently at the Ministry, will no doubt admit that there is a great deal of study still to be done of what the problem really is and, therefore, how best to deal with it.

Mr. O'Malley

The hon. Gentleman says that there is a great deal of work to be done on the subject. As he knows, it was the intention of the previous Administration to assemble a nucleus of the Attendance Allowance Board in advance of the Royal Assent to their Bill. Is it the intention of the present Administration to set up a nucleus of people to do the necessary work?

Mr. Dean

We very much hope, with the agreement of Parliament, that this Bill will receive the Royal Assent in a matter of weeks. That will enable us to go ahead with the fairly long process of preparatory work which has to be done before this allowance can be paid. I gladly give the hon. Gentleman the assurance for which he asks.

The hon. Member for Wythenshawe mentioned two cases of people who had given up jobs to look after disabled relatives. Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman and the Committee by explaining our general attitude here, particularly with regard to supplementary benefit. Experience suggests that people who qualify for attendance allowance are, for the most part, cared for by their families rather than by some commercial arrangement, so that there will be no existing exceptional circumstances additions for attendance needs to be taken into account in these cases.

In some thousands of cases where a daughter or another person has to give up work to look after a sick or aged relative, the Supplementary Benefits Commission pays an ordinary supplementary allowance to the daughter without requiring her to register for work as well as, normally, a supplementary pension to the relative. If in such a case the relative qualifies for an attendance allowance, this will not affect the supplementary allowance paid to the daughter. In other words, there will be an increase of £4 in the household's total income. I think that the hon. Gentleman will find that in the cases that he has quoted there will be the full increase coming in to those families to assist them with the work that they have with these severely disabled relatives.

I hope that I have been able to deal with the matters raised by both sides of the Committee. The hon. Member for Rhondda, West said that the intention was that this should be a probing Amendment. In view of what I have said, I hope that the Committee will not feel it necessary to press it to a Division.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Will the hon. Gentleman try to give us, fairly quickly, an assessment of the possible saving to his Department of moving out of hospital people who seem to be there permanently and having them taken care of in their own homes, providing that an adequate attendance allowance is paid and technical facilities are made available to enable them to control their own environments? Are we likely to have some figures on this fairly soon? All the figures that I have suggest that the Government could save money by doing it.

Mr. Dean

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. Certainly that is a valid point which we have in mind. It is very difficult to say what savings would be likely. One does not have sufficient information at this point to know how many people in hospital at present could come out were the necessary help available in their homes. If the hon. Gentleman has any information which perhaps we have not got, I would be grateful to have it.

Mr. Houghton

We are grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said, although we are not completely reassured about the review of the amount of this allowance. Reference has been made to Treasury Ministers. We have not seen much of them in these debates. We should bear in mind that what we are discussing under this group of Amendments is a charge upon the Exchequer and not a National Insurance benefit. When the hon. Gentleman says that this benefit will be reviewed along with all other National Insurance benefits, it must be borne in mind that this is not a National Insurance benefit. We take it that what he means is that when National Insurance benefits are reviewed all allied benefits will be reviewed at the same time. We should like to feel that this will be tied up with the revision of National Insurance benefits and not left aside.

Mr. Dean

My words were, … along with National Insurance benefits and supplementary benefits. That was intended to be a comprehensive phrase.

Mr. Houghton

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I had it in mind that family allowances, which are another benefit not in the National Insurance scheme, got left for 11 years without improvement when National Insurance benefits were being reviewed approximately every 2 years. We have this little anxiety about the review of this benefit.

The Committee is showing that there is growing interest in the problems of the disabled. That is welcome and overdue. I for one expressed great disappointment that the Labour Government did not make speedier progress to deal with some of the problems of groups of persons who were not properly provided for under our social service system. However, we were doing bigger things at the time. We were engaged in a review of earnings-related benefits for sickness and unemployment and bringing about some of the bigger changes in the level of National Insurance benefits. It is difficult to do everything at once. However, those who are often referred to as "the forgotten people" must claim the attention of the Committee and the country, because it is among them that the gravest forms of neglect and hardship are to be found.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones) said at the outset, we tabled Amendments in this form for the purpose of getting a debate on this subject and do not propose to divide the Committee on them. For one thing, we do not want to transfer this benefit from the Exchequer to the National Insurance scheme. If we did that it would raise the whole question of contributory entitlement. We do not want to do that, so we do not intend to press Amendment 16, which would do precisely that.

Nevertheless, we wonder whether, by the time this benefit comes into payment, it will have lost some of its value. The spring of 1972 is quite a long way off and, when one recalls that the previous Government were talking about an attendance allowance of this level about 12 months ago, one must be conscious of the possibility of the benefit losing its value more rapidly than we would like to contemplate.

We do not want to see this benefit eroded by the fall in the value of money in the next 12 months, so making it less than its present worth. It is small enough, in all conscience, and a great many hon. Members would like to see it higher. Under the Labour scheme it was linked with an invalidity benefit and a number of other benefits were to apply.

It is difficult to envisage the position of the disabled as a whole as we deal with this matter in a piece-meal way as part of our social services. Perhaps it is time we had a charter for the disabled; the disabled person in society, the money benefits that are provided, the facilities that are made available and the living accommodation and equipment that is needed, to say nothing of the opportunities and jobs that should be available for the disabled. We will not be wholly comforted about the position of the disabled until we can see the whole picture more clearly. I am, therefore, glad that the right hon. Gentleman has much work in hand on this subject.

Mr. Alec Jones

I indicated at the outset that I would not press the Amendment. I endorse everything said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) and we are indeed glad that the Government have accepted that this allowance should be tax free. In view of what has been said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Sir B. Rhys Williams

I beg to move Amendment No. 7, in line 39, leave out 'six months' and insert 'one month'.

The Deputy Chairman

I suggest that it would be convenient for the Committee to discuss at the same time Amendment No. 12, in Clause 6, page 5, line 17, leave out 'six months' and insert 'one month'.

Sir B. Rhys Williams

I feel obliged to comment that it would have added strength to my Amendment if the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), in whose name Amendment No. 12 stands, had chosen to add his name to it. While we are used to the bell-like tones which carry a ring of sincerity, it would always be welcomed if he would be ready to add his name to certain Amendments which I draft; that is, if he agrees with them. However, I am sure that this Amendment has the support of hon. Members on both sides.

7.15 p.m.

The object of the lapse of time requirement is clear, and it is right that there should be some restriction, for a number of reasons. However, is it necessary for it to be as long as that suggested in the Bill? The period is lifted from the previous Measure, and we went over all this ground in Committee on that occasion. I recall that we were not able to gain our point when we discussed it previously and, when the Bill fell, it contained this six months' provision.

I appreciate the object of the six months' lapse of time requirement; that it is to prevent short-term cases being considered for benefit which are outside the intentions of the Bill. It was suggested on one occasion that a person suffering from influenza might claim to be disabled and in need of a constant allowance. It would, of course, be ridiculous to import short-term matters of that kind into the Bill.

It has been pointed out that we can have no clear idea of the number of people who are likely to apply for this benefit to the Attendance Allowance Board, though the number may be in six figures in the first instance. Obviously not all will be approved, though each will deserve medical attention and consideration. This means that an enormous administrative problem lies ahead, which inevitably points to the fact that a great deal of work is in store if we are to administer the Bill humanely.

Should we strive to extend the definition of eligibility for the attendance allowance or seek to reduce the period of ineligibility for those caught by the Bill? My right hon. Friend may say that both are highly desirable objectives but that neither is immediately possible. He might consider the idea that after six months has gone by, those then approved for the allowance by the Board might be given a retrospective concession for the allowance, which would involve only about £100, which is not a large lump sum for a person who will probably spend the rest of his or her life in a state of very serious disability.

In general, hon. Members are bound to feel the need for more data about this problem of disability. We look forward to the publication at an early date of the results of the inquiries which the present and former Governments undertook into the whole question of disability. When we have been able to study this data our discussions will have more meaning.

I support what was said on an earlier Amendment about the need, which is becoming increasingly obvious, for comprehensive legislation on the whole question of disability. I hope that my right hon. Friend will give his views on the reduction which I propose in the Amendment.

Mr. Alec Jones

I support Amendment No. 7, which was moved so ably by my fellow countryman the hon. Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams), and naturally I support Amendment No. 12 which stands in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) and some of my hon. Friends, including myself. It is almost an accident of fate that we have two Amendments of this type, and their presence on the Notice Paper indicates that on many subjects there is close agreement between the two sides of the Committee, especially in regard to the attendance allowance.

The hon. Member for Kensington, South and I feel that people entitled to draw attendance allowance should be able to draw it at the end of one month rather than having to wait for six months. The hon. Gentleman will remember that we had many arguments about this in Standing Committee in the last Parliament, when his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Fortescue) said that he was puzzled to find an explanation for the then Government's choice of a period of six months. He told us that he was trying to find our reasoning behind choosing that period. Tonight, however, I hope that the hon. Gentleman and I will have support from both sides, and that the Secretary of State will see the wisdom of accepting the Amendment.

We know some of the answers that we are likely to get, because when we were in Government we got them from my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) who was the Minister responsible in the Committee. One argument against reducing the period was the administrative difficulty of doing so. My hon. Friend said that a larger number of cases would have to be dealt with. I put it to the Secretary of State that administrative difficulties are not unlike any other sort of difficulties—they exist only to be overcome—and I am sure that with his ingenuity the right hon. Gentleman can find a way of surmounting this obstacle, if it is only administrative.

It is important to realise that often times it is in the early days of a disability that the need is greatest. It is then very often that the disabled person has to make the most difficult adjustments, which can be physical or psychological or financial, or all three. It is in the early days that we should make the finance available by paying this allowance, small though it is.

I remember in Committee the hon. Member for Garston giving the case of a man who might lose both legs in an accident so that there was an immediate disability, and the immediate needs were likely to be greatest. The question was then posed: why should a man with a degree of disability that is not likely to improve have to wait six months before getting an attendance allowance which he needs, and needs particularly in those early days? His need for assistance of one kind or another could well become less in time as he began to adjust himself, if that were possible, to his disability. The Bill as at present worded would deny that man his allowance just when he needed it most.

It was said in that earlier Committee that if the qualifying period of six months were removed altogether it would cost £5 million initially, with an extra £½ million each year. We do not suggest complete abolition, which means that the cost is likely to be slightly smaller. But cost should not be the main consideration here. The cost would be smaller, but the benefit to those needing the allowance quickly would be very great indeed.

Mr. William Wilson (Coventry, South)

Very strong words are used in the definition of disablement: … severely disabled physically or mentally … continual supervision … frequent attention … prolonged or repeated attention … And, again: severely disabled mentally or physically … continual supervision … It is quite apparent from that definition that only the most serious cases will be caught by the Clause. Bearing in mind the severity of the disablement there must be before the provisions of the Clause can be invoked, it is too much to say that disability must continue for six months before the benefit of attendance allowance can be provided. To reduce the period from six months to one month is sensible.

A further point occurs to me. If a person has to wait for six months, it is not possible to foresee at the commencement of that period that the required disability will necessarily last for six months. There will have to be some thinking back for the purpose of certification. In order to conform with the definition, the question will have to be asked: when did the disability originally arise? If the waiting period is one month, the difficulty of that task is considerably reduced. Administratively, it may be much easier for the Clause to function if the period is reduced, and acceptance of the Amendment is the only human thing to do.

[Mr. PROBERT in the Chair]

The Secretary of State for Social Services (Sir Keith Joseph)

It is a help in this Committee stage that hon. Members on both sides have been over this course before and so are familiar with what I am about to say. I suppose it is more helpful to them than it is to me. But I must say that the case is put very plausibly. I do not have to meet the argument, which would have been easy to resist, that the money should go to those who are suffering from acute or short illnesses. That case has not been put.

What hon. Members have been saying, with some plausibility, is that where a disability or an illness that lasts six months or longer affects a family or a household, the money should be paid from the first month. But the problem is that, unlike a case put by the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones), many disabilities will not be completely obvious. It is true that if an individual suffers the tragedy of losing, say, both legs, it is very likely that he will be disabled, unless he dies—and I have to add those words "unless he dies." But we are dealing here with a very wide spectrum of disability, and most of the disabling burdens on individuals will be far less obviously continuous than the loss of two legs by amputation, and it is no good waving aside the problem of evidence or definition as one that ingenuity can overcome.

We have here, by common agreement, the first step in helping the disabled. We are concentrating, and the party opposite concentrated, on the most severe cases. We are seeking to help, by a modest but very useful increase in cash resources, those households which show that they have to cope with continuing disability of a very severe order. We are at one and the same time reducing the burden of evidence, and reducing, as I shall seek to show, the danger of shock to the individual concerned, by limiting the cash benefit to those who have proved by six months' continuous severe disability and the requirements of attendance laid down in the Bill that they are within this narrow but important first step of our objective.

7.30 p.m.

The hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. William Wilson) said that if the benefit were restricted to those who had been disabled for six months, there would be a real problem in establishing when the six months' period had begun. He is right. There can be some insidious disabilities which creep up on individuals, and in this sort of case we need the help of such an award, but, much as I was attracted by the introduction given to the Amendment by my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams), the Committee would be very wrong to dismiss as unimportant the extra cost of trying to make some retrospective payment in cases which establish themselves under the conditions of the Bill. Five million pounds, or something of that order, would not necessarily be spent in precisely the way proposed by these Amendments.

If we were disposing of a larger sum of money it might be that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee would wish to do something more in another way. I do not blame hon. Members for probing the implications of this move but I ask them before making a final judgment to consider the financial state of a household during the early months of such a severe disability as we are discussing. There is already the earnings-related provision under the previous Government's legislation that in sickness brings to anyone who has earned above a certain amount an additional benefit. In many cases a severely disabled person will have been in hospital or under treatment with local statutory services.

I accept that there will be hardship in households afflicted by severe disability both before and after the payment is made. It is common ground that the £4, even tax free, is not nearly enough to compensate for the extra burden on the household. It is not as if there were a magic point when a payment is made and all hardship ceases. I question whether my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, South, with his wide sympathy in this whole field, would wish to divert £5 million to this particular purpose. What could we do with £5 million in other parts of the social services?

Mr. McGuire

There is an important point to which I thought the right hon. Gentleman would come back. The right hon. Gentleman, in replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South (Mr. William Wilson), gave a graphic illustration of a disability which is very obvious. He mentioned a double leg amputation, and appeared to imply that that is a type of disability which is readily identifiable and where the allowance would be paid. Is that so? Is a double leg amputation that type of disability? I do not think it is. I hope the Committee will not be misled.

Sir K. Joseph

I think the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire) was quite right to pull me up because many—including some in this House—manage magnificently with such disabilities. I rook the illustration given by the hon. Member for Coventry, South, and I may have been careless in doing so. The point I made was that there are some visible degrees of disability and at the other end of the spectrum there are some which are invisible.

The proposal by the hon. Member for Rhondda, West might lead to a nightmare dilemma for the family doctor. Suppose a disability was visible after one month and looked like lasting for six months but in that period it killed the patient. Is the family doctor to say to the patient, "We cannot put this in for you because you may not last for that time"? On the other hand, should we adopt the other proposal that there should be a retrospective payment when the six months' eligibility period had gone by? Then we would not be serving the purposes of the Bill because we would be giving a retrospective lump sum benefit which might go to the estate of the deceased individual if he died just after the six months and would not be making a weekly cash additional payment to help the household to meet its running expenses.

With the best will in the world, I hope that hon. Members will not press the Amendment, which would cause a very great deal of money which they might not think should go in this particular form of benefit to be spent in that way, with all the difficulties that it would raise.

Sir B. Rhys Williams

I thank my right hon. Friend for the very considerate way in which he has dealt with the Amendment. I am sure it would not be fruitful to press the point further in the absence of the data that we must have as to the numbers involved and the types of people likely to be considered by the board eligible for the benefit.

We are dealing here with what ultimately will become a large sum of public money if we begin to deal adequately with the question of disability. I agree that it would be foolish at this moment to commit ourselves to something without having any very clear idea of the consequences. I said when I moved the Amendment that I was afraid we had not the necessary data to see what the

implications were. I feel that all the more now. I think hon. Members opposite probably feel that. As my right hon. Friend said, we have been over all this a few weeks ago. The Labour Party's attitude at that time was that the six months must remain. No doubt the mirror of the stand they took a short time ago was the reason for hon. Members opposite not putting their names to my Amendment.

May we conclude that hon. Members in all parts of the Committee regret that this six months' lapse of time has to remain for the present, but with the proviso that we hope the matter may be reconsidered in due course?

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

The Temporary Chairman

Is it the wish of the Committee that the Amendment be withdrawn?

Mr. Houghton


Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 126, Noes 170.

Division No. 4. AYES 7.37 p.m.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Ford, Ben Mackenzie, Gregor
Allen, Scholefield Forrester, John Maclennan, Robert
Armstrong, Ernest Fraser, John (Norwood) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Ashton, Joe Freeson, Reginald Marks, Kenneth
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Gilbert, Dr. John Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy
Booth, Albert Gourlay, Harry Meacher, Michael
Broughton, Sir Alfred Grant, George (Morpeth) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Millan, Bruce
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Miller, Dr. M. S.
Buchan, Norman Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hamling, William Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Hardy, Peter Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Harper, Joseph Murray, Hn. Ronald King
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Ogden, Eric
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Heffer, Eric S. O'Halloran, Michael
Cocks, Michael Hooson, Emlyn O'Malley, Brian
Coleman, Donald Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Padley, Walter
Concannon, J. D. Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, North) Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, Central) Hunter, Adam Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Crawshaw, Richard Janner, Greville Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.) Pendry, Tom
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Pentland, Norman
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) John, Brynmor Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Prescott, John
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil) Johnson, Walter (Derby, South) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, Central) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n & R'dnor)
Deakins, Eric Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Dempsey, James Judd, Frank Rose, Paul B.
Doig, Peter Kaufman, Gerald Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Dormand, J. D. Kerr, Russell Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Kinnock, Neil Sillars, James
Duffy, A. E. P. Lawson, George Silverman, Julius
Eadie, Alex Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Skinner, Dennis
Ellis, Tom Lomas, Kenneth Smith, John (Lanarkshire, North)
Evans, Fred McCann, John Spriggs, Leslie
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) McCartney, Hugh Stallard, A. W.
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) McGuire, Michael Steel, David
Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham) Watkins, David Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Stoddart, David (Swindon) Wellbeloved, James Woof, Robert
Strang, Gavin White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Swain, Thomas Whitehead, Phillip TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Tomney, Frank Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.) Mr. Alan Fitch and
Torney, Thomas Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton) Mr. John Golding.
Wallace, George
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Haselhurst, Alan Pike, Miss Mervyn
Atkins, Humphrey Havers, Michael Pink, R. Bonner
Awdry, Daniel Hawkins, Paul Pounder, Rafton
Baker, W. H. K. Hayhoe, Barney Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.
Benyon, W. Hicks, Robert Proudfoot, Wilfred
Biffen, John Higgins, Terence L. Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Biggs-Davison, John Hill, J. E. B. (Norfolk, S.) Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Blaker, Peter Holland, Philip Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Holt, Miss Mary Redmond, Robert
Boscawen, R. T. Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Reed, Laurance (Bolton, East)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Howell, David (Guildford) Rees, Hn. Peter (Dover)
Braine, Bernard Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, North) Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Bray, Ronald Hunt, John Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hutchison, Michael Clark Ridsdale, Julian
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher James, David Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, North)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Jessel, Toby Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Carlisle, Mark Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Chapman, Sydney Kellett, Mrs. Elaine Rost, Peter
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Kilfedder, James St. John-Stevas, Norman
Clegg, Walter Kimball, Marcus Scott-Hopkins, James
Cockeram, Eric King, Evelyn (Dorset, South) Sharples, Richard
Coombs, Derek King, Tom (Bridgwater) Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Cooper, A. E. Kinsey, Joseph Shelton, William (Clapham)
Cormack, Patrick Knight, Mrs. Jill Simeons, Charles
Curran, Charles Knox, David Skeet, T. H. H.
Dance, James Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Soref, Harold
Dean, Paul Longden, Gilbert Speed, Keith
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Loveridge, John Spence, John
Dixon, Piers McAdden, Sir Stephen Sproat, Iain
Dykes, Hugh McMaster, Stanley Stanbrook, Ivor
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Madel, David Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Maginnis, John E. Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Eyre, Reginald Mather, Carol Stokes, John
Farr, John Maude, Angus Sutcliffe, John
Fell, Anthony Mawby, Ray Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)
Fidler, Michael Mills, Peter (Torrington) Tebbit, Norman
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Miscampbell, Norman Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Moate, Roger Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Molyneaux, James Tilney, John
Fookes, Miss Janet Money, Ernie D. Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Fowler, Norman Monks, Mrs. Connie van Straubenzee, W. R.
Fox, Marcus Monro, Hector Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Montgomery, Fergus Vickers, Dame Joan
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) More, Jasper Waddington, David
Goodhart, Philip Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Ward, Dame Irene
Goodhew, Victor Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Wells, John (Maidstone)
Gorst, John Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Gower, Raymond Mudd, David Wiggin, Jerry
Green, Alan Murton, Oscar Wilkinson, John
Gummer, Selwyn Nabarro, Sir Gerald Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Gurden, Harold Normanton, Tom Worsley, Marcus
Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Hall, John (Wycombe) Osborn, John Younger, Hon. George
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Owen, Idris (Stockport, North)
Hannam, John (Exeter) Page, Graham (Crosby) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Peel, John Mr. Bernard Weatherill and
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Percival, Ian Mr. Tim Fortescue.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Alec Jones

I beg to move Amendment No. 8, in page 3, line 45, after 'period' insert 'exceeding four weeks'.

We are anxious to secure that the attendance allowance should not cease automatically and immediately on a disabled person's entering hospital but should continue for four weeks. People entering hospital, particularly if it hap- pens suddenly, as is usually the case with these patients, need time to adjust their affairs and make different arrangements concerning their homes and their lives. Of necessity any immediate loss of income causes difficulty in making new arrangements. The continuation of the attendance allowance for four weeks would enable the adjustments and new arrangements to be made more smoothly.

All of us, whether we are disabled or not, would have to make adjustments and new arrangements if we were unfortunate enough to be admitted to hospital. Such adjustments and arrangements are necessarily more complicated for the severely disabled.

If the £4 attendance allowance is being used to employ someone to assist with day and night attention—the size of the allowance presupposes that the person employed would be employed only parttime—the person performing this difficult and important duty, with little reward, deserves some consideration. I presume that in most cases people performing these functions will be women. They need time to adjust and make their own new arrangements.

If we are to encourage people to give attendance day and night to disabled persons, it is only reasonable to give these people some assurance that they will not suddenly have part of their income removed or reduced. We are not asking for any massive improvement. We are asking for a little more compassion to be shown to the disabled and a little more care and concern to be shown for those who have demonstrated that they are willing to help the disabled.

I cannot believe that the Secretary of State will not be able to accede to this reasonable request. The wording of the Amendment may not be perfect, but the motive behind it should command the support of the whole Committee.

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones) is exactly right. The Amendment is in purpose admirable. We shall be glad to meet the substance of it. I undertake that, if he will see fit to withdraw it, at the end of what I have to say, the substance will be met by a Government Amendment at a later stage.

The difficulty in the Amendment as drafted is simply that it does not cover the situation when an individual goes into hospital, his benefit continues for four weeks, he comes out, and the next day he goes either back into hospital again or into a local authority home. The hon. Gentleman will agree that we do not want to have a series of four-week continuations of benefit. To meet that point we need to look again at the wording. We entirely accept the argument which the hon. Gentleman put, and the substance will be met if he will agree to withdraw his Amendment now.

Mr. O'Malley

We are most grateful for the Secretary of State's response. Perhaps I may say that an Amendment designed to meet this purpose would have appeared on the Report stage of the previous Bill, it having been one of the matters which Mr. David Ennals and I discussed during the Committee stage. The right hon. Gentleman's position is understandable and perfectly correct. He accepts the spirit of the Amendment, and he wishes to provide for this sort of circumstance. We are glad to have his undertaking that an appropriate Amendment will be presented in due course.

Mr. Alec Jones

I am pleased to have the Secretary of State's assurance. If there are technical deficiencies in our Amendment, I can only apologise for them. With great pleasure, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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