HC Deb 20 March 1970 vol 798 cc887-96
Mr. Donald Dewar (Aberdeen, South)

I beg to move Amendment No. 10, in page 3, line 19, at end insert: (2) In the application of this section to Scotland for the words 'Part V of the Housing Act 1957', '91' and 'Minister' there shall be substituted respectively the words 'Part VII of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1966', '137' and 'Secretary of State'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I suggest that it might be for the convenience of the House if, with this Amendment we discuss Amendment No. 11, in page 3, line 21, after 'by', insert: 'any of the following enactments, that is to say— (a)'. Amendment No. 12, in page 3, line 22, after '1936', insert: (b) section 110 of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act 1892, as amended by section 104(2)(b) of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act 1903, or any local enactment having the like effect; (c) section 29 of the Public Health (Scotland) Act 1897. Amendment No. 23, in page 4, line 21, leave out from first 'to' to end of line 22 and insert 'Northern Ireland'.

Amendment No. 24, in page 4, line 25, after '1957', insert: 'or of the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee set up under section 167 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1966'. Amendment No. 25, in page 5, line 25, after 'hospital)', insert: 'and every Regional Hospital Board constituted under section 11 of the National Health Service Scotland) Act 1947'. Amendment No. 29, in page 6, line 15, leave out 'and every such local authority' and insert: (2) The Secretary of State shall take steps to obtain from local authorities having functions under the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 information as to the number of persons under the age of 65 who suffer from illness or mental disorder within the meaning of section 6 of the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 1960 or are substantially handicapped by any deformity or disability and for whom resi- dential accommodation is from time to time provided under section 59 of the said Act of 1968 at any premises in a part of those premises in which such accommodation is so provided for persons over that age. (3) Every local authority referred to in this section. Amendment No. 30, in page 6, line 39, at end insert: 'and in its application to Scotland means a way over which the public has a right of passage on foot only or a bridleway within the meaning of section 47 of the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967:'. Amendment No. 32, in page 8, line 40, leave out from first 'to' to end of line 41 and insert 'Northern Ireland'.

Amendment No. 35, in page 9, line 11, at end add: (3) In the application of this section to Scotland for any reference to a local education authority there shall be substituted a reference to an education authority within the meaning of section 145 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1962. Amendment No. 36, in page 9, line 13, at end insert: (2) Sections 1 and 2 of this Act do not extend to Scotland. Amendment No. 37, in page 9, line 15, leave out 'Scotland or'.

Mr. Dewar

I hope that the House will forgive me if I appear a little disorganised. I have just seen the results of the South Ayrshire by-election on the tapes. The Labour Party has got in with a thumping majority of just under 11,000 votes. In the current euphoria I am prepared to grant to hon. Gentlemen opposite all the comfort that they can gain from the fact that, despite a drop in their vote, they have kept the Scottish Nationalist Party firmly in third place.

Mr. Roy Roebuck (Harrow, East)

Only just.

Mr. Dewar

This clutch of Amendments looks a good deal more formidable than it is. The intent is simple. The Bill as it stands excludes Scotland unless there is express provision to the contrary. It is to reverse this situation that the Amendments have been put forward.

I know that they have the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris). He has been extremely helpful and has given an undertaking in Committee to extend the provisions to Scotland.

The original exclusion bore evidence of the pressure and the remarkable speed with which my hon. Friend got together a notably coherent Bill. He never intended to follow the all too common phenomenon in recent years of excluding Scotland from valuable Private Members' Bills because of the difficulties of drafting.

There is one important exception to the blanket nature of the provisions, as I have described them. Clauses 1 and 2 are not to be brought into effect in Scotland. That is not because the provisions are unimportant. They obviously are, as was made clear on Second Reading. It is vital that we should identify the nature of the problem for the disabled in terms of who is to get help and of disseminating the knowledge of what help is available. I have, however, been advised, and I accept, that there is no need to extend the provisions of Clauses 1 and 2 to Scotland, because they are covered by Section 12 of the Social Work (Scotland) Act, 1968. It is worth reminding those who have a cynical view of the progress of Scottish business that, while the English are still struggling with a Bill based on the Seebohm Report as a future possibility—almost certainly for another Session—the Scottish Office has got the Social Work (Scotland) Act on the Statute Book and it is now well established and in operation. There is a tendency sometimes in Scottish politics for a strange form of double vision to operate. We get plenty of examples of this when we fall behind the English timetable, because they are given a great deal of publicity. But on many occasions the expeditious way in which reform reaches the Statute Book through Scottish Committees is ignored.

There is no point in wearying the House with arguments. There is no conceivable reason why, apart from the exception with which I have dealt, the helpful provisions in the Bill should not extend North of the Border. We have the same kind of problems which have for so long attracted the interest and enthusiasm of my hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe. We have the same hard cases and problems. We come across them all too often in our daily round of activities. So often nothing could be done. It would be optimistic and unfair to pretend that in some way problems will disappear as the result of this legislation. However, they will be reduced, because the provisions in the Bill will provide a more helpful and sympathetic atmosphere for the disabled.

We have our severely disabled and young chronically sick who will benefit. We have people in council houses who rely upon local authorities to carry out the kind of adaptations which make life possible and allow them something nearer a normal existence. The War Pensions Appeals Tribunal is another example of a change being brought in which it would be monstrous and inappropriate to deny to Scotland.

We clearly have a long way to go in terms of helping the disabled. I am sure that many provisions could be suggested by all hon. Members at the drop of a hat but which would fall beyond the scope of anything which could be included in a Private Member's Bill.

As the Disablement Income Group said on the front cover of one of its recent pamphlets relating to the attendance allowance introduced in the National Superannuation Bill—"It's a start." Indeed, the measure before is a welcome start which we are anxious to see made in Scotland.

These Amendments have the support of the sponsors, and I understand that they have the eager support of the Scottish Office, for which I am grateful.

2.0 p.m.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

These Amendments, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) has pointed out, seek to apply various provisions of the Bill to Scotland. I welcome them for doing that.

As the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) knows, there was some concern when this Bill first appeared because it applied to England and Wales only and it seemed to some in Scotland that the problems of the disabled in Scotland were being ignored. I knew very well that this was not the case and I knew of the difficulties which the hon. Member for Wythenshawe, who had introduced the Bill, was having at the time. He was good enough to discuss the whole matter with me when he was producing the Bill. I recognise that when one has the good fortune to be the first in the Ballot it means that a Bill has to be drafted and printed in a short space of time in order to be available some days before the Second Reading. I recognise that it was hard enough work for him others who were assisting him to deal with one system of law and to get the Bill in front of the House in time for that early Second Reading day. Apparently there was not enough time to take account also of the Scottish system of law too.

While the Bill was in Committee, as the hon. Member knows, I and some of my hon. Friends were contemplating assistance in the form of producing another Private Member's Bill. It would have been a Scottish Bill which would have applied the appropriate provisions of this Bill in the same way. Because the hon. Member gave us assurances, although we could not see any Amendments going down on the Order Paper, that there would in due course be requisite Amendments at the appropriate stage—now the Report stage—which would apply the appropriate provisions of the Bill to Scotland. We held our horses at that stage, and we are very glad to see the Amendments now before the House. This group of Amendments, I understand, represents what needs to be done to apply the appropriate provisions of the Bill to Scotland as well as to England and Wales.

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)

At the risk of being controversial, I point out that this kind of Bill and this kind of Amendment always seems to come from this side of the House. Whenever a Conservative Member draws a lucky place in the Ballot he usually wishes to protect seals or to protect the right of some obscene characters to hunt deer and tear hares to pieces—

Mr. Campbell rose

Mr. Hamilton

I am about to pay the hon. Gentleman a tribute. I hope that he will not distract me from doing that, because it is a very rare exercise. I was about to say that it would be churlish of me not to pay a tribute to the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell), who is sitting alone on the Opposition Front Bench. It is a great pity that he was not as enthusiastic about these matters when he had the opportunity to influence his own Government in the 13 years they were in power. However, it is better late than never. The fact is that this kind of humanitarian Measure is introduced primarily and mainly by this side of the House as is evident—

Mr. Campbell rose

Mr. Hamilton

I will give way in due course. The fact that this kind of Measure is introduced by this side of the House is evident by the South Ayrshire result in which the Opposition came a very bad second. However, having said that—

Mr. Campbell

If the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) had been here earlier he would have heard a whole debate taking place upon a new Clause in the Bill which represented a complete Private Member's Bill of mine in a previous Session on disablement. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his remarks.

Mr. Hamilton

I understand that, but it was introduced when the present Government were in power and not in the 13 years when the hon. Gentleman's Government were in power and had the chance to accept it. If the hon. Gentleman had wanted that Measure on the Statute Book, he might have taken the opportunity of using the majority which his party had in those years. However, I shall not be further drawn on that line. I think I have made the point.

The purpose of all these Amendments is simply to ensure that Scotland enjoys such advantages as this Bill gives which at the moment exclude Scotland with the exception of Clauses 1 and 2 where we acted in advance—again under the Labour Government—of the proposals in this Bill in our Social Works (Scotland) Act, 1968. The House will recall that that revolutionary Act gave local authorities a general power to promote social welfare in their respective areas on a comprehensive basis—that is, all coming under the one umbrella, including services for the disabled. Local authorities in Scotland now have complete discretion in allocating their resources as between one disabled group or one under-privileged group and another.

When my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) and I tabled our Amendments to the latter Clauses we were unaware that so many consequential Amendments of a highly technical nature would need to be incorporated in the Bill. Because they were consequential, and because we were assured by the Scottish Office that they were, we readily accepted that they should be put down in our name, although we were helped in the drafting by the official draftsmen. I never cease to be amazed at the skill and astuteness—if that is the right word—of the official draftsmen. We shall still not be sure, however, that Scotland will benefit from all the contents of the Bill until we know at the end of this debate what its final state will be. I hope that the Ministers will give an assurance that where and when Scotland is excluded as a result of our deliberations today the Government will take the opportunity in another place of seeing to it that Scotland is included in all the benefits of the Bill.

I conclude by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) on piloting the Bill through all its stages. It has been an extremely profitable exercise for him, for the Labour Party and the Labour Government.

Mr. Alfred Morris

I am very pleased that this group of Amendments has been introduced. It represents a move towards uniformity in making provision for disabled people throughout the United Kingdom. I indicated in Committee that it was intended to apply the provisions of the Bill both to Scotland and to Northern Ireland where this was appropriate. As the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell) fully appreciates, because I made a reference to him in the Second Reading debate, I wholly accept his concern to help those who are both chronically sick and disabled. I know that the hon. Gentleman appreciates why it was impossible at the outset to apply the Bill to Scotland. I have had a great deal of help from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary. Very serious technical problems arise, as my hon. Friends have noted in their speeches, when it comes to applying to Scotland legislation originally drafted only for England and Wales. I am extremely grateful to all those who, formally or informally, have helped to make the Bill a Measure which will apply throughout the United Kingdom in the service of disabled people.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Bruce Millan)

I welcome the opportunity of adding the Government's support to these Amendments, which have the effect of applying the provisions of the Bill, with the exception of Clauses 1 and 2, to Scotland.

It has always been the Government's intention that at an appropriate stage the Bill should be applied to Scotland. The principle on which we have worked and on which we shall continue to work is that any advantage which the Bill brings to the chronically sick and disabled in England and Wales will correspondingly be brought to the chronically sick and disabled in Scotland so that at the end of the day we have a situation in which the needs of the chronically sick and disabled are dealt with, legislatively, on the same basis in Scotland as in England and Wales.

The legislative background is inevitably different in Scotland. In particular, we have the Social Work (Scotland) Act, 1968. The corresponding English provision is not quite as far behind as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewer) suggested, because the English Bill has already been published and debated this Session. Nevertheless, it is true that we moved ahead in this matter some time ago and that, therefore, Clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill are not necessary for Scotland since Section 12 of the Social Work (Scotland) Act, 1968 provides local authorities with a general power to promote social welfare in the community in place of the former fragmented powers.

If we were to apply the Bill as it stands to Scotland we should have the undesirable effect of making special provision for a particular category of people who need help by local authorities, separating them from the rest of the people who may need that help. That would be undesirable in principle. But I give an assurance that the powers which are to be taken in the Bill are already covered by the provisions of the 1968 Act, through Section 12 and also through Section 5 which makes general provision that local authorities shall perform their functions under the general guidance of the Secretary of State, and we shall see in the meantime that social work in Scotland in no way falls behind any measures which are taken elsewhere for the benefit of the chronically sick and disabled.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) said, a number of technical Amendments are necessary to apply particular Clauses to Scotland, and, as he told hon. Members, he has been given drafting assistance by the Scottish Office. The hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) spoke to me earlier in the course of the passage of the Bill about its Scottish application and I gave an assurance that the Government would support that application. My hon. Friends who have put down Amendments today, and a number of their colleagues have expressed interest in the Bill from the early stages. I was therefore happy when we reached an appropriate point in the Bill to give them the assistance which they required in drafting the various technical Amendments which we see on the Order Paper.

Already we have accepted further Amendments to the Bill and there may be other Amendments in another place. There will, therefore, require to be correspondingly more Scottish adjustments later in the Bill's progress. I cannot at the moment be explicit on what these Amendments will be, but I repeat the assurance which I gave earlier that the principle on which the Government will operate is that anything which is provided for the advantage of the chronically sick and disabled in England and Wales will correspondingly be applied to Scotland, so that at the end of the day we shall have what will virtually be United Kingdom legislation.

The Bill marks a considerable step forward in recognising the special needs of the chronically sick and disabled. I congratulate my hon. Friend the sponsor of the Bill on the considerable amount of work which he did in its preparation and which he has done since. I am very happy indeed that Scotland is associated with it.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: No. 11, in page 3, line 21, after 'by', insert: 'any of the following enactments, that is to say— (a'. No. 12, in line 22, after '1936' insert: (b) section 110 of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act 1892, as amended by section 104(2) (b) of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act 1903, or any local enactment having the like effect; (c) section 29 of the Public Health (Scotland) Act 1897.—[Mr. Alfred Morris.]

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