HC Deb 21 March 1974 vol 870 cc1323-5
Q4. Mr. Janner

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement concerning the scope of the responsibilities of the Minister for the Disabled.

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), one of the Under-Secretaries of State for the Department of Health and Social Security, is responsible for co-ordinating the activities of that Department in relation to the disabled. He will also be available for consultation by other Government Departments on the improvements of facilities for disabled people.

Mr. Janner

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his creation of a separate post—the Minister for the Disabled—and the appointment of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) as its first incumbent have given great pleasure and hope to those concerned? Will he assure the House that it is the intention of the Government to introduce a disablement income as soon as possible, and, meanwhile, that the Government intend to extend the categories of seriously disabled people whose relatives can obtain attendance allowances, so as to get rid of some of the inhumane anomalies that have caused so much distress and anger so far?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his opening words—especially the tribute to my hon. Friend, whom the whole House has recognised as a great pioneer from before the time of the Private Member's Bill carried through at the end of the 1970 Parliament. He will be concerned with all matters affecting disablement, including disabled children, though they are the direct responsibility of other Ministers.

I cannot answer the particular questions of my hon. Friend. It is entirely a matter of priorities, and my hon. Friend will know of the very high priority given to one element of expenditure within the field of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.

Mr. Woodhouse

Is the Prime Minister aware that there will be a very warm welcome also from the Opposition to the appointment of the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) to take charge of this important subject, which, in the past, has always been conducted as a matter of inter-party alliance? Will he do all that he can to persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer to join the alliance?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful again to the hon. Member for what he said about my hon. Friend. This must at any time, and particularly in these times, be a matter of priority within certain social expenditure fields.

Mr. Pardoe

Is the Prime Minister aware that on all sides of the House the appointment will be welcomed, both for personal reasons and because of the action that it indicates?

Is the right hon. Gentleman also aware that the hon. Gentleman's Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, though magnificently well intentioned, has failed to be fully effective because of lack of cash? What is now needed for the disabled is a commitment from the present Government, unlike the last, that they will move towards a disability income.

The Prime Minister

My studies of the working of that Act, excellent though it has been, reveal to some extent a failure to ensure that the more laggard local authorities keep up with the record of the best. Above all, it is surely a problem of the identification of people in need, of finding them instead of waiting until, in some tragic cases, they have been found dead because no one was caring for them. That is the biggest problem that must be tackled today. There is a cash problem. I will not add to what I said earlier on that point.

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