HC Deb 25 May 1976 vol 912 cc258-9
11. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied with the methods adopted by local authorities in providing telephones for the disabled.

Mr. Alfred Morris

I understand that some authorities use criteria drawn up by the former local authority associations. These may be helpful to authorities in a general way, but I have been making it clear that they do not, of course, relieve any authority of the duty to consider the particular needs of the individual in each case. I am advised that the legal position is that, if an authority is satisfied in any case of the need for a telephone under Section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, it is required to make arrangements accordingly.

Mr. Evans

Does my hon. Friend realise that while there is appreciation of what the Government have done for the disabled, there is growing concern about inconsistency in the provision of tele phones, which seems to depend upon where people live and when they apply? Will he consider applying national criteria, because there is a serious sense of grievance on the part of people who do not get telephones when they see them supplied to others with a lesser degree of disability?

Mr. Morris

One of the difficulties is that it is widely thought that there are national criteria. The criteria approved by the former local authority associations were issued in the form of guidelines. They had no statutory force. I am well aware of the importance of my hon. Friend's point and will actively consider what he has said.

Mr. Marten

The Minister said that local authorities should "make arrangements accordingly". Does he mean that they should do so regardless of whether the resources are available? As cosponsor of the Bill, will the Minister, I should like to be clear on that point.

Mr. Morris

Local authorities have laid upon them the duty to consider the need of an individual and, if satisfied about it, to make provision accordingly, within a reasonable period. That means that if the local authority recognises and accepts the need in any particular case it must meet that need. That is the legal advice available to me. I have mentioned that there are problems about resources. The hon. Member has asked me a direct question. I can only repeat the advice available to me.