HC Deb 14 November 1972 vol 846 cc195-7
6. Mr. John Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he has given further consideration to the proposal that there should be a national income scheme for the disabled.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Paul Dean)

Yes, Sir. We have already made important advances in this field but we have no further proposals in mind at present.

Mr. Smith

In view of the disappointment that many of the disabled have felt over the provisions of the Bill which the Minister's Department is laying before the House, would the Government be willing to examine seriously the proposition that there should be an incomes scheme for the civilian disabled roughly on the lines of that available to those disabled through military service or industrial accident?

Mr. Dean

My right hon. Friend has always said that the Bill is not the last word. Substantial progress in filling the very serious gaps for the civilian disabled has been made during the last two and a half years. There are now 400,000 people getting the invalidity pensions and allowances which were not available before. There are over 80,000 people getting the attendance allowance, the second phase of which is to start shortly.

Mr. Brewis

Does my hon. Friend accept that there are still many anomalies such as the disabled spinster who cannot get a housekeeper allowance? Will my hon. Friend see whether some of these anomalies can be put right?

Mr. Dean

I accept what my hon. Friend says; of course there are anomalies and there are gaps to be filled. It is for this reason that the Government are anxious to make progress.

7. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what discussions are contemplated with the Disablement Income Group concerning proposals submitted to him.

Sir K. Joseph

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I hope to meet representatives of the Disablement Income Group shortly.

Mr. Molloy

I am grateful for that reply. Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that one of the fundamental features put to him by the Disablement Income Group is that the group believes, and I think that the majority of the people of this country believe, that a disabled housewife should have an income in her own right? Should not the right hon. Gentleman therefore, and perhaps the Prime Minister, make every effort to overcome their own administrative impediments and write this into the measure which he will shortly put before the House?

Sir K. Joseph

Yes, I think it is common ground that this is a group for which the Government would like, when we find the right way and have the resources, to do something, but I must warn the hon. Gentleman and the House that there is no proposal in sight which will satisfactorily meet the difficulties of the moment.

Mr. Gurden

Has my right hon. Friend any up-to-date figures of the total number of disabled people?

Sir K. Joseph

We have the Amelia Harris Report for the OPCS last year, which gives a figure of 3 million for the disabled including those with mild disability, and 1 million very severely, severely and appreciably disabled. So the figure which corresponds with the national impression of disability is probably 1 million in total.

Mr. Alfred Morris

The Under-Secretary of State said that the Bill may not be the last word. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept the extreme urgency of this matter? In his meeting with the Disablement Income Group will he sympathetically consider amendments that would meet the DIG's viewpoint?

Sir K. Joseph

Of course, one will want to consider whatever the Disablement Income Group says to the Prime Minister and to me, but, as my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has just said, a very sizeable extension of cash benefits for the disabled is now in hand, not only the first phase of the attendance allowance but the remaining phases now coming into payment, as well as the invalidity package. I think that is all evidence that we want to get on as fast as we can.