HC Deb 20 March 1970 vol 798 cc883-7
Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

I beg to move Amendment No. 6, in page 2, line 10, after "wireless" insert "television".

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I suggest that with this Amendment we discuss Amendment No. 7, in line 13, after "other" insert "educational and", and Amendment No. 8, in line 24, at end insert "including laundry services".

Mr. Golding

I thank my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the general tenor of the Clause; the sponsors are grateful to the Government, for making this possible. In discussions with the National Council for the Disabled four points arose on which we considered it worthwhile to table Amendments. Three of those Amendments have been selected by Mr. Speaker.

First, we believe that in subsection (1)(b) it is important that, in addition to wireless facilities, television facilities should be provided for the local authority. Wireless licences will soon cease to exist and will be replaced by television licences. It is much more valu- able for a person who is physically disabled and also deaf to have a television than to have a wireless. In any case, television is of greater value nowadays than a wireless to a disabled person because so much appears on the screen. Television enables a disabled person confined within four walls to participate in the affairs of the outside world. One way of overcoming that sense of complete isolation which is one of the most important problems facing the disabled is the provision of television sets.

Second, subsection (1)(c) provides for the provision of lectures, games or other recreational facilities outside the home. We would like the word "educational" to be added, because "lectures" is too restrictive. Today many more methods of imparting knowledge are being used. There is programmed learning. It may well be that classes are based on the principle of programmed learning rather than on the principle of the lecture. We would not want the disabled person to be debarred from assistance because of this technical point.

Third, in subsection (l)(e) we want to add "including laundry services" after "any additional facilities". We want to draw attention to those disabled people who are unfortunately incontinent. We want them to be able to obtain laundry facilities from the local authority, because the problem of incontinence leads to great problems in keeping clean.

1.45 p.m.

Mr. John Page

I enthusiastically support the Amendments. All the provisions in this Clause which is central to the Bill make the House deeply indebted to the Central Council for the Disabled which has given so much help and guidance to hon. Members by presenting the story of what the disabled need. The fact that there are Amendments to the Clause does not detract from its value.

The Amendments seek to make additions. Each Amendment stands on its own feet or table. First, the television set is nowadays the obvious accompaniment to the wireless. Second, it is asked that educational facilities should be provided. The final and possibly the most worth while of the Amendments asks for the provision of laundry facilities. I hope that the Under-Secretary, who has been very flexible and helpful throughout the passage of the Bill, will be able to accept the Amendments and make the Clause even fuller and the lives of the disabled happier.

Dr. John Dunwoody

Amendment No. 6, which seeks to add "television", is in the nature of a clarification—a spelling out more clearly of the reality of modern mass media. I have no objection to this Amendment. It spells things out a little more clearly and more appropriately than the present wording. We are conscious of the important rôle that television can play in the lives of some disabled people. I am always struck by the value of the special programmes for severely deaf persons that appear on television; they provide information and entertainment to those who in other circumstances would be denied that enjoyment.

I accept the sense that Amendment No. 7 would achieve by the introduction of "educational". I should like to study the Amendment further to make certain that the wording in the Clause had the effect that my hon. Friends want and did not confuse the relationship with educational services. We are not talking about educational services in the narrower sense.

However, this is the only possible difficulty. I will study the point. If there were any danger of this, we would want to alter things slightly, and this could be done in the Lords. The point made by the Amendment is valid, but I do not want to be written into the Bill in such a way as to involve educational authorities in the narrow educational sense. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) will accept my assurance that I will be studying this question with a view to producing an unambiguous method of spelling this matter out in the Lords.

Amendment No. 8 introduces the question of laundry services—a very valuable service particularly for incontinent patients. This is yet another of the Amendments tabled in Committee and on Report which is in the process of being overtaken by Government legislation, now passing through the House. What the Amendment desires will be fully achived when the Local Authority Social Services Bill becomes operative. I hope that this will happen in the not too distant future. Although Amendment No. 8 has a very desirable object, it could cause confusion between welfare departments and health departments and a possible duplication of provision. The situation will be fully achieved when the Bill now in Committee becomes operative.

Mr. John Page

Before the Minister sits down. On the last question, would it be difficult, from a drafting point of view, to accept Amendment No. 8? Many of us may not be as knowledgeable as the hon. Gentleman about the provisions of the other Bill, so we should like to see this Amendment included, if possible. Alternatively, in the light of the progress made on the other Bill, will the Minister be prepared to look at this matter again with a view to making an Amendment in another place should the other Bill not go through as he expects?

Dr. Dunwoody

I sincerely hope that the gloomy forecast about the progress of the Local Authority Services Bill that the hon. Gentleman makes will be proved wrong. I am sure it will, and I think that his Front Bench colleagues share my view.

The primary intention of the Bill is to draw together a number of different services into a social services department in the local authorities. This will avoid the possible ambiguity that I mentioned. I believe that this will meet the problem. I do not at this stage want to consider looking at this point again in another place. The Bill to which I have referred covers this sphere adequately. It is a matter for hon. Members.

Mr. Golding

I am delighted to hear that Amendment No. 6 will be accepted. It will be a great boon to the disabled, particularly those who have to live in isolation for any length of time. It is very good news.

My hon. Friend and I are not concerned with what is in the Bill, but what service is given to the disabled. I think that he was delighted when other Clauses of this Bill were transferred to the Government's legislative programme.

I am happy to hear what my hon. Friend said about Amendment No. 8. I hope that in another place Amendment No. 7 will be given serious consideration.

I was delighted to hear the general tenor of my hon. Friends remarks, and I am sure that the National Council for the Disabled will be equally pleased.

Amendment agreed to.

Back to
Forward to