HC Deb 30 November 1971 vol 827 cc223-5
3. Mr. Woodnutt

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will consider extending the scheme of assistance with the cost of conversion of privately owned cars to hand control for disabled people, to include those who are unable to travel to their place of work on foot or by public transport in a reasonable period of time.

8. Mr. Eadie

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is now in a position to announce a change in the type of motor vehicle provided for the disabled.

9. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he can yet state when he expects to complete his review on vehicles for disabled drivers.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Michael Alison)

The vehicle service review, considering the types of vehicle to be issued and the circumstances in which they may be issued, is very near completion.

Mr. Woodnutt

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. I ask him to remember that there are many people, particularly in rural areas, who are not sufficiently disabled to qualify for a conversion grant—when it would cost only about £50 to adapt a clutch—which means that they cannot get to a place of work twelve miles away and, therefore, that they have to suffer the terrible indignity and thorough demoralisation of not working or they have to pay for the conversion themselves. The Government ought to consider extending these provisions considerably.

Mr. Alison

The question of the more general provision of three-wheelers and possibly four-wheelers is included in the review.

Mr. Eadie

Would the hon. Gentleman accept that his answer may be welcomed by some of those involved? Will he accept that I am encountering now—as I am sure are many of my hon. Friends and hon. Members—inquiries being made by people who come under the ambit of the review who are wondering whether something is about to happen, because it could certainly make their lives much more pleasant if there were some amendment to the scheme?

Mr. Alison

Certainly the main purpose of the review—I hope it will succeed in its objectives—is to increase the satisfaction of those at present using the service and to see in what way we can extend it.

Mr. Marten

Would my right hon. Friend say how near is "very near"? Surely he must know the approximate date? is it to be before Christmas or in the New Year? Could he give an assurance that before this new policy is announced there will be some consultation with the disabled drivers' organisations which will be so much affected by it?

Mr. Alison

"Very near" cannot be precisely quantified, and it is always dangerous to use the future tense in politics. I am well aware of the various needs and the views expressed by many interested parties.

Mr. Alfred Morris

I am glad to hear that the result of the review will be available at an early date, but has the hon. Gentleman ever attempted to estimate how much public money is wasted by failing adequately to help disabled people with their mobility problems? Would he agree that it is ludicrous that we should make things difficult for even severely disabled taxpayers who do not want to become supplementary pensioners?

Mr. Alison

Yes. All these very wide ramifications of disability and the importance of providing for mobility have been included in the review.

Mr. Jeffrey Archer

When the Minister has this review, will he be kind enough to consider retrospective payment of a grant? Many people receive a large bill, cannot pay it out of their accounts and need the money very quickly. Would the Minister consider trying in this matter so that the money can be paid quickly?

Mr. Alison

I should want to consider what the hon. Gentleman said when I see it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Retrospection is a dangerous wedge to include in any financial undertaking.

Mr. Carter-Jones

I ask the hon. Gentleman the simple question whether he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT the existing criteria used by his Department for making financial provision for modifying existing vehicles so that we may try to analyse the anomoly which arises in these allocations.

Mr. Alison

The official forms on which application is made for assistance under the vehicle scheme are already available and set out all details under which assistance is available.

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