HC Deb 20 March 1970 vol 798 cc865-7

Where it appears to the Secretary of State to be necessary or expedient to do so for the proper operation of any provision of this Act, he may by regulations made by statutory instrument, which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament, make provision as to the interpretation for the purposes of that provision of any of the following expressions appearing therein, that is to say, 'chronically sick' 'chronic illness', 'disabled' and 'disability'.—[Mr. Weitzman.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Weitzman

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

The Clause deals with a question of definition. Throughout our discussion of the Bill I felt that there was a defect in that it contained no definition of the terms "chronically sick" "disabled", "disablement" or "chronic illness". Obviously, those terms cover a very wide field for the seriously disabled as compared with those who may be suffering from a minor disability. Many Clauses speak for themselves with regard to the definition of those terms, but it is essential that there be provision for definition. The original words I put down were apparently not welcome to the Department, but I gather that it welcomes the Clause.

12.45 p.m.

Dr. John Dunwoody

As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) has said, we have had considerable difficulty in framing a Clause that would meet the need for definition that he has outlined, which is real though limited. The difficulty is that it is not possible to produce a uniform definition that is equally applicable to the large number of Clauses covering a wide range of services contained by the Bill. But it is a sensible precaution to make provision in a flexible way to deal with difficulties that experience shows may exist. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would need to consult all the Departments involved—and there are a number—before making regulations as to any expression in any Clause.

The difficulty we face is that the terms "chronically sick" and "disabled" have no precise meaning. This is not to say that we do not know what we mean when we use those terms. But they do not in themselves indicate a need for service. Therefore, it is necessary to consider their consequences in terms of handicap. In the context of an appropriate service, "handicap" will itself take on different meanings. In relation to employment, it will be relevant only to those of employable age and will refer to inability to obtain or keep employment or work on one's own account; and the handicap arising from the same disablement will differ between occupations. Obviously, a severe handicap for a manual worker may be of much less consequence for a clerical worker. In relation to welfare services, handicap will refer to inability to carry out without help or supervision ordinary daily living activities at any age, even with aids and prostheses. In relation to schoolchildren it will refer to the need for special educational treatment and attention.

One could go on with examples. Other tests would apply in other contexts. This underlines the difficulty we have experienced in trying to frame a satisfactory new Clause. I think that now, with the cooperation of my hon. and learned Friend, we have succeeded, and I commend his new Clause to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time and added to the Bill.

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