HC Deb 23 March 1976 vol 908 cc188-90
11. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will consider establishing a special retail price index which more accurately reflects the expenses of disabled people.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Alfred Morris)

I am aware that there has been some support for a further index. I do not think that it would, however, add significantly to the information provided by the indices already published by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. The main difficulty about having a special retail price index for disabled people is that they are not, of course, homogeneous as a group. They are to be found among the whole range of the population, including children, adults of working age—some of whom are employed or are housewives—and particularly the elderly. It would be wrong to assume that all disabled people incur the same extra expenses because of their disabilities.

Mr. Marten

Nor are the general public homogeneous as a group, and they come into the retail price index. The disabled are grateful for what successive Governments have done to help them with their problems, but will the Department not set up a very small research project to look into the question of the actual cost for the disabled, in terms of heating, clothing, and so on, as I am sure that their costs have risen above those of the ordinary citizen?

Mr. Morris

If we accept that no two disabled people bear the same additional expenses we must accept, too, that we would need not one additional retail price index but several. I am familiar with the work done by the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) in her constituency. I shall be interested in the outcome of that inquiry. If there is anything I can do to help, arising from what is learned there, or from information given by any other hon. Member, I shall be glad to do it.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Will my hon. Friend have another look at this matter? It may be difficult to arrive at a figure that applies to all cases, but will he not give a percentage increase? The disabled have problems over such things as flooring, paintwork, furniture, laundry, incontinence and special foods. If my hon. Friend were to give a percentage in addition to the average, it would be helpful.

Mr. Morris

I shall be glad to keep the proposal under constant review. As I have already said, I shall be interested in the outcome of the local survey to which I referred. The Government have increased expenditure on the chronically sick and disabled by £1,000 million. That includes increased expenditure for the elderly disabled, who represent a very high proportion of the elderly.

Mr. Evelyn King

Has the Minister noticed the unfortunate decision of the House of Lords in overturning a decision of a lower court under which rating relief was given to disabled persons who had had their houses specially adapted? Is he aware of the disadvantage caused to the disabled by that result, and will he undertake to restore their position by legislation?

Mr. Morris

I cannot undertake to introduce legislation. I am familiar with the case. The person who took it through the courts is in touch with me, and I shall be replying to him at the earliest possible date.