HC Deb 14 November 1972 vol 846 cc197-200
9. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will now bring forward the starting date for the new partial/constant attendance

not extended, any company will then be free to produce this dangerous substance? In view of the figures which the hon. Gentleman has just announced, which incidentally are much lower than those quoted in a magazine article last week, what contingency plans has he to control the situation?

Mr. Alison

I think the magazine article the hon. Gentleman refers to probably contains figures of the world incidence of deaths rather than the figures for England and Wales. If the ICI patent is not extended, manufacturers who manufacture Paraquat in its most lethal—that is to say, concentrated—form will be subject to the limitations already imposed on its general sale.

Sir G. Nabarro

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the present limitations imposed are effective? Does he not realise that a death occurred at Evesham, Worcestershire, a matter of a couple of years ago when concentrated Paraquat was consumed from a Coca Cola bottle, which is a common occurrence and has been the cause of death on many occasions, and that the reply of the appropriate Government Department was that the labelling of this substance was already adequate?

Mr. Alison

The labels on the concentrate already carry the message Do not put in soft drink bottles. and Keep away from children. In addition we are seeking ways of making the liquid itself so obnoxious to smell and taste that the taking of it would be repulsive.

Following are the figures:

allowance; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Dean

The attendance allowance is being extended in four phases, by age groups, to provide a lower rate allowance for about 250,000 severely disabled people who need help by day or at night. An order has now been laid which enables claims to be invited from the first age group, people born in any of the years 1908 to 1956, in readiness for payment from 4th June, 1973.

Mr. Dormand

Is the Minister aware of the continuing widespread dissatisfaction at decisions being taken on constant attendance allowance? I pay tribute to the officers who have to cope with the difficulties inherent in any new scheme, but would not the Minister agree that the best way of meeting the dissatisfaction would be to widen the scheme at an early date in order that those people who are now considered to be marginal cases and who eventually no doubt will be brought into the scheme may be brought in? Would he not agree that this is the best way to tackle it, and to tackle it early?

Mr. Dean

I am grateful for the tribute which the hon. Member paid to the staff in mounting this massive operation in a very short period of time. It is because there have been hard cases that the Government are extremely anxious to extend the allowance as quickly as possible, but each case has to be looked at individually, sympathetically and thoroughly, and it is for this reason that phasing is necessary. Perhaps I can tell the hon. Member that the publicity will start next week for the next phase of the allowance, and also letters will go out at that time to general practitioners, directors of social services and to the voluntary organisations which are most interested in this problem.

Mr. Fry

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is considerable criticism of the appeal procedure for constant attendance allowance? Will he undertake to look into this further?

Mr. Dean

Yes, certainly. We are learning from experience of this. It is a new allowance. The review procedure which exists is, however, a highly flexible way in which cases can be looked at a second and, if necessary, a third time.

Mr. Leadbitter

Any progress which the Minister makes in this direction is always appreciated in the House and in the country, but would he indicate to the House the degree of dissatisfaction about the phasing? Are age groups the best method? Has every other form of classification been examined for the purpose? Is phasing really necessary?

Mr. Dean

Yes, we have looked at this extremely carefully and have, of course, sought advice from the Attendance Allowance Board. Our judgment on that advice was that phasing was necessary and that by age groups was the most practical way in which it could be done.