HC Deb 23 January 1974 vol 867 cc1621-2
Mr. Greville Janner

I beg to present a petition signed by well over 250,000 people, including 154 hon. Members from both sides of this House. The purpose of the petition is to seek an end to the grave, intolerable and totally avoidable injustice suffered by thousands of seriously disabled people and their families unable to obtain attendance allowances.

The petition originates from the City of Leicester and is sponsored by the lord mayor, the lord bishop and civic and religious leaders of all faiths. It has the support of indignant millions from all over the country. The petition draws particular attention to the plight of Jimmy Martin, aged 10, born with no legs and one arm, who is not sufficiently disabled for his parents to receive the allowance, but the injustice from which they suffer is mirrored by that of thousands of families many of them worse off than the Martins.

The petition calls for the amendment of the law and for changes in the procedure of the Attendance Allowance Board which administers it. In particular, your petitioners demand that the board, against whose decisions on fact there is no appeal, should permit open hearings in appropriate cases, should cease operating as a totally secret tribunal and should cease penalising families like the Martins who courageously and successfully battle against physical or mental disabilities.

I ask the Clerk to read the petition.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Standing Orders allow this but I think it is an abuse of the procedure of the House for the hon. and learned Member to address it at length beforehand. However, I will allow the Clerk to read it on this occasion.

The Clerk of the House read the petition, which was as follows: To the Honourable The Commons of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled. The Humble Petition of the Right Worshipful the Lord Mayor of Leicester, the parents of Jimmy Martin of Leicester, civic and religious leaders of the City of Leicester and citizens of Great Britain Sheweth that

  1. 1. Jimmy Martin, of Leicester, was born on 17 December, 1963, with one arm and no legs ;
  2. 2. His parents have been refused both a full and partial attendance allowance ;
  3. 3. The said refusal was made by the Attendance Allowance Board, sitting in private and in the absence of the Martin family and of their representative ;
  4. 4. The Board refused to permit the Honourable Member of Parliament for Leicester North-West to attend the hearing to cross examine witnesses or to address the Board on behalf of his constituents, the Martin family ;
  5. 5. There is no right of appeal against the Board's decision on fact ;
  6. 6. There are thousands of other families with children or adults requiring attendance due to severe physical or mental disablement who have been refused attendance allowances, thereby causing them to suffer grave and avoidable hardship ;
  7. 7. The motion tabled in the House of Commons by the Honourable Member for Leicester North-West and signed by 134 Honourable Members of all parties called for reform of the procedures of the Attendance Allowance Board so that these would accord with the rules of natural justice ;
  8. 8. There is grave concern in Parliament, in Leicester and in the rest of Britain at the decision in the Jimmy Martin case and in other like cases ; at the procedure by which these decisions were arrived at ; at the penalising by the law of those families such as the Martins who successfully and lovingly assist their disabled members to minimise the effects of their disabilities ; and at the avoidable and sad hardship above referred to ;
  9. 9. In order that the above injustices may be remedied, the National Insurance Act, 1972, requires amendment and the Attendance Allowance Board must be required to alter its procedures.
Wherefore your petitioners pray that the National Insurance Act 1972 be amended so as to ensure that the Martin family and others in attendance upon physically or mentally disabled persons in like situation be awarded attendance allowances and that the Attendance Allowance Board be required in appropriate cases to cease sitting in private and to permit claimants or their representatives to appear before it so that justice may both be done and manifestly seen to be done. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will every pray, etc.,

To lie upon the Table.

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