HC Deb 15 February 1971 vol 811 cc1199-202
71. Mr. Latham

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many copies of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, 1970, have been printed.

The Minister of State, Treasury (Mr. Terence Higgins)


Mr. Latham

May I first express my gratitude at having been able to get in Question No. 71, which I did not hope to do? I think that the Minister said 27,800. Can he explain what has happened to them all? Is it possible to get any account, perhaps in a Written Answer, of the way in which copies are distributed? Might it not be helpful, in view of the ignorance of so many local authorities about the passage of the Act, and even of officials of some Government Departments, if enough further copies could be printed so that every local councillor of a county council, county borough and London borough could be made aware of the provisions of the Act, to make up what appears to be the negligence of so many of the hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friends in publicising the provisions of the Act?

Mr. Higgins

I have some difficulty in reconciling the hon. Gentleman's supplementary Question with the facts. Sales have, in fact, been very brisk. About 16,100 copies were issued to Government Departments or sold to the public in the first three months following publication, and even now copies are still going at the rate of about 1,500 a month.

Mr. Molloy

Would the hon. Gentleman be prepared now to send a circular to all local authorities pointing out their responsibilities under the Act, and also asking for a return so as to find out how many are avading their responsibilities, so that he, as the Minister, can then take appropriate action?

Mr. Higgins

This is a matter for my hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. No doubt if a Question is put down, he will seek to answer it.

Mr. Lane

Is it not a fact that the Department of Health and Social Security has drawn the attention of many local authorities to several of the provisions of this Act, and that it is steadily getting better known in the different areas?

Mr. Higgins

I would hope that that was clear—I am grateful to my hon. Friend—from the original answer which I gave, which is that there has been a very large issue indeed and a reprint was authorised back in October.

Mr. Freeson

Will the hon. Gentleman accept that it is largely due to the financial restraints imposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on local authorities that they are not expanding the services as required by the Act? Will he take action to ensure that this is done as speedily as possible, and not simply rest content on 27,000-odd copies of the Bill having been circulated? Well over I million people are waiting to be helped here.

Mr. Higgins

As I said, the substance of this issue is one for the Department of Health and Social Security, for which the Secretary of State has responsibility. As for the sales of these documents, I should have thought that it was clear from my original answers that we had had a very widespread circulation indeed.

Dame Irene Ward

Is my hon. Friend aware that I put a Question last week to the Secretary of State for Social Services asking whether he would issue a White Paper saying what local authorities which have already started to operate the Bill have done, what money is being made available and what is the amount on the rate support grant? Is my hon. Friend aware that hon. Gentlemen opposite are out of date, because I have already asked for the information?

Mr. Higgins

I am grateful to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Spearing

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the numbers of copies distributed to Government Departments and sold to the public. How many have gone to local authorities?

Mr. Higgins

I am afraid that I cannot give that answer without notice.

Mr. William Hamilton

Do this Government and the present Chancellor accept the same financial responsibility for the implementation of this Act as did the previous Government?

Dame Irene Ward


Mr. Higgins

That really does not arise on this Question.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

Could I press the hon. Gentleman to treat this matter more seriously? Local authorities at present are not only fully aware of what should be done but very doubtful about being able to find the necessary money. Will he ensure that information goes to local authorities, explaining their duties, so that these unfortunate people can get all the help and care they need?

Mr. Higgins

I am aware of all these very interesting questions. If hon. Gentlemen would like to put them down, they will receive answers. I have sought to give answers, which I think are entirely satisfactory, to the Question which was put down.

Mr. Braine

We are, of course, all agreed that my hon. Friend has only limited responsibilities and has answered this Question correctly. Is he seized of the point, which hon. Members on both sides are trying to make, that there has been a slowness on the part of local authorities in this matter? Therefore, will he, when conveying the sense of the House this afternoon to his hon. Friends, make this point?

Mr. Higgins

I am sure that the point which my hon. Friend and others have made will be noted by the Secretary of State, particularly in view of all the numerous supplementary questions which happen to have arisen on this Question.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

In congratulating you, Mr. Speaker, and the Leader of the House on having got through all the Questions appearing on the Order Paper for today, may I ask the Minister if he will urge the various Government Departments involved with this matter in White-hall to follow this wonderful example which the Leader of the House and Mr. Speaker have set, remembering that none of those Departments in Whitehall has done anything to get these facilities, such as invalid carriages, to those who need them? Will the Minister get cracking and ask the Leader of the House to show him the way?

Mr. Higgins

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I look forward to debating several issues at greater speed later tonight, when I understand the hon. Gentleman will be raising a matter on the Consolidated Fund Bill which I shall have the pleasure of answering.