HC Deb 06 November 1973 vol 863 cc797-8
22. Mr. Thomas Cox

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he last met representatives of the Disablement Income Group.

Sir K. Joseph

I attended the annual general meeting of the group on 5th May this year.

Mr. Cox

I note that reply. Is the Minister aware of the deep sense of bitterness among disabled people because they are not to receive the £10 bonus to be paid to retired people? As paying them would cost only about £10 million, is it not time that the right hon. Gentleman re-thought his decision and included disabled people and the chronically sick?

Sir K. Joseph

I am sure that several groups are disappointed that they are not getting the lump sum, but the Government decided that it would not be possible to arrive at a defensible position if we moved beyond the age barrier. That is why we have stuck to the elderly.

Mr. Woodhouse

If my right hon. Friend is still unable to contemplate a disablement income as of right, will he consider the introduction of an insurance scheme to cover instances of people disabled during their working lives?

Sir K. Joseph

Disablement income is shorthand for a whole package of benefits needed for different sections and categor- ies of the disabled. The Government are under an obligation to produce a report on disability policy by October next year and an official from my Department went to the recent policy meeting of the Disablement Income Group at which various possibilities were discussed.

Mr. Ashley

Instead of circling the subject with his usual circumspection, will the right hon. Gentleman give a specific commitment that the Government will introduce a disablement income during this Parliament? Will he use as the criterion, not loss of earnings but the degree of disability, so as to include house-wives and the congenitally disabled?

Sir K. Joseph

Having realised from the discussions of the disabled themselves that there are several different ways forward on this subject, I think that it would be better to wait until we produce our report for Parliament next October.

Mr. Fortescue

The Minister has just said that he is unable to move beyond the age limit for the Christmas bonus. How, then, does he account for the fact that a married woman who is over pensionable age is not entitled to receive this bonus if her husband is under pensionable age?

Sir K. Joseph

In that case her husband, on whose retirement her benefit depends—unless she has paid full contributions herself—has not yet retired.