§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn—[Mr. Frank R. White.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Before we begin this important debate, I remind the House that it will be interrupted at 7 o'clock for private business.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Jenkin (Wanstead and Woodford)
It is now nine months since the Secretary of State announced the Government's decision to phase out the invalid trike. Since then hon. Members in all parts of the House have listened to a mounting volume of protest. My post bag—and I am sure that it is not unique—reflects that protest. On no other single issue have I received a more persistent or more worried correspondence.
Some of the letters published in the Press have reflected much more than mere anxiety and have shown a deep bitterness. I was distressed to see a letter from a notable lady talking of the "horrifying inhumanity" of the Government's decision. There have been worse expressions.
However, I am not approaching the subject tonight in that spirit of bitterness. I know that the Secretary of State is not an inhuman monster. I know that he shares our deep concern for the problems of disabled people. I know that he wants to see the very best done for them that he can manage within available resources.
Having said that, I doubt whether the Secretary of State would today wish to repeat the judgment that he gave of his own statement when he said:I do not think that I have ever made a statement which has been so warmly welcomed."—[Official Report, 23rd July, 1976; Vol. 915, c. 2240.]When one re-reads his statement, one realises that the Secretary of State's unpalatable message about the trike was 1039 served up with a fairly generous coating of sugar, or, as the Whitehall mandarins put it in their briefs to Ministers, it was an announcement which required careful presentation.
But all the sugar in the world cannot disguise the harsh facts which can now be seen to flow from that announcement. The first is that the newly disabled, and the young disabled reaching 16 years of age after 23rd July last year, who could have looked forward to getting a trike and thus becoming mobile are now being grounded in large numbers. The second fact is that by the end of the five-year transitional period for the phase-out, without a change of policy, thousands of existing trike owners see themselves facing the same fate.
That is the core of the debate today. That is what it is about. The withdrawal of the trike is already leaving thousands of disabled people who would have had wheels to help their mobility without them. My hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) tabled a Question, which was answered on 21st March by the Minister responsible for the disabled. He estimated that in a full year, perhaps 3,500 people who would have had trikes under the old dispensation are not now getting them.
A cash allowance of £5 a week, tax able for those within the tax net, is not an adequate substitute. It does not allow a person enough money to run, let alone to buy, a vehicle of his own. Nor is there on the market any adequate substitute for the trike yet available in a way which can be readily bought.
§ Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)
As an ex-Treasury Minister, is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that we spend more on mobility, or less?
§ Mr. Jenkin
The hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) has a long and honourable record in: these matters. If he will wait, he will see that I shall come to his question.
I do not think that a policy which has the result of grounding people and of causing grave anxiety for the future is viable. The purpose of this debate is to seek to persuade the Secretary of State that he must think again—
§ Mr. Jenkin
Not at all. If the hon. Member for Eccles will wait, I shall come to that. I believe that the policy of the Secretary of State has taken a wrong turning and that he should retrace his steps, at any rate, temporarily.
§ Mr. Jenkin
If I may be allowed to develop my argument, I shall be glad to give way afterwards.
I want to make two matters clear about the approach which the Opposition take to the matter. First, we supported and continue to support the introduction of the mobility allowance. This is extending help to many thousands of the more severely disabled people who previously got no help at all—many of them disabled passengers. Its introduction was an important step forward, and nothing that I say today should be taken as seeking to go back on that decision.
Secondly, as I said in response to the statement by the Secretary of State on 23rd July, it is right in the longer term that, for the great majority of the disabled, cash rather than hardware is the better form of mobility help. Again, in what follows I do not intend to depart from that. Cash is better because it allows or ought to allow a greater flexibility and a wider measure of individual choice.
People who are disabled face an infinite range of problems in their daily lives. As the Minister responsible for the disabled himself said in an interesting interview reported in Social Work Today,Disabled people are not standard people. You can't impose one system on them.I agree with the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Jenkin
I have only just started my speech. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will understand if I do not give way to him.
I believe that we have to move towards a policy of basing provision on the nature and on the degree of disability and on the social needs of individual disabled people and that cash is likely to be a more appropriate form of help as we go in that direction. Such arrangements al- 1041 ready exist for the war disabled and the industrial disabled.
I want to see us moving in the direction of asking not "How did you become disabled?" but "How disabled are you and what are your needs?". Moreover, I believe that most disabled people are better able to assess their own needs and make their own decisions than perhaps we imagine. Cash provision is the proper way to deal with this, too.
So the dispute between the two sides of the House is not on principles. It is on methods and on timing.
§ Mr. Ovenden
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that to give freedom of choice to the disabled involves a very much larger expenditure than has taken place in the past? Will he say what contribution he made, as Financial Secretary in the last Government, towards increasing the provision for mobility?
§ Mr. Jenkin
We made a number of very notable improvements for the care of the disabled, including the attendance allowance and the £100 grant for cars.
I am trying to approach this subject in as non-partisan a spirit as I can. There is a very widespread feeling outside this House that the needs of the disabled should not become a political shuttle cock. I am airing a problem which has caused very grave anxiety outside, and I believe that it is not only the right but the duty of the Opposition to do that.
§ The Secretary of State for Social Ser vices (Mr. David Ennals)
Is the right hon. Gentleman now saying that he does not intend to divide the House at the end of this debate?
§ Mr. Jenkin
I hope that the Secretary of State also will contain himself. Before I conclude my remarks, I shall indicate to my right hon. and hon. Friends how I suggest we should approach this debate.
As I say, this is a matter not of principle but of methods and of timing. But methods and timing can, for individuals, have exceedingly serious implications.
I can understand the determination of the Department to get out of the hardware business as swiftly as possible. I am sure that it has found it difficult and uncomfortable to handle. But it must not 1042 be allowed to do so at the expense of depriving large groups of the disabled of proper mobility.
The General Secretary of the Central Council for the Disabled, Mr. George Wilson, has given me permission to quote from an article which he has written and which is due to be published shortly. It makes this point very well. Mr. Wilson writes:Ministers cannot claim that true progress is achieved merely by quoting that vast amounts of money are being spent if for some there is a deterioration of service.So, against that background, I turn to the specific problem facing the Government. How can they make sure that, in the process of transition, service to some does not deteriorate?
In an ideal world, no doubt the mobility allowance would be increased to a level which would allow the disabled driver or passenger who needs a vehicle to buy and operate one of his choice. At the same time, there should be a range of suitable vehicles on the market on which that money could be spent. There is no dispute between us that that money does not exist and that it is unlikely to exist in the sums necessary for some years to come.
It has been predicted in the Press that the Secretary of State will take this occasion to announce an increase of the mobility allowance from £5 of £7 a week, presumably operating from next November. That will be welcome, as far as it goes. But I am sure that even he will not seek to pretend that that increase will bridge the gap between the cash provision being made and the cost to the individual of providing a vehicle.
Of course, we have to bear in mind that in the Budget the Chancellor of the Exchequer increased vehicle excise duty and put 5p on a gallon of petrol. The disabled tell me that these increases are likely to add about £1 a week to the cost of their motoring. The remaining £1, therefore, represents an increase of 20 per cent. at a time when inflation, on the basis of figures for the last three months, is running at 19.9 per cent. a year. Thus it barely keeps pace with inflation, and for disabled people paying tax at the basic rate there will be no real improvement relative to the cost of driving.
1043 I am sure that it is not disputed that there is no suitable alternative vehicle available, but it is not clear how hard the Government are looking for one. They use a standard phrase when they are asked about finding a suitable vehicle. For example, the Minister responsible for the disabled said in reply to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James):as phasing out proceeds and the pattern of need becomes clearer, we shall be looking"—I emphasise the word "shall"—on home and world markets to help drivers who will still need a specialised vehicle when their tricycles can no longer be replaced.Later in that reply, the Minister said;My Department and the Department of Transport are jointly considering what further research is desirable in order to identify, among the possible lines of development, those which have the best prospects of effectively meeting the needs of disabled people."—[Official Report, 8th March 1977; Vol. 927, c. 466.]It is all in the future.
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
The right hon. Gentleman is making a rather unfair attack, because the Government are looking and so are some hon. Members. For example, the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) and I are both searching. It is unfair of the right hon. Gentleman to make such an accusation. I admit that we have not yet found a suitable vehicle, but we are looking.
§ Mr. Jenkin
My point is that Ministers have been extremely careful in correspondence and parliamentary answers not to say that. They say that they will be looking. I am pleased to see the Secretary of State nodding his assent.
Some manufacturers are already responding to the need. My hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South (Dr. Vaughan) has met representatives of the Ford Motor Company and may be able to tell us more about these meetings when he winds up the debate for the Opposition.
So, a suitable replacement vehicle does not exist and the mobility allowance is not enough to buy a vehicle. The question, therefore, is whether it is right to phase out the trike now.
The Secretary of State has used a number of arguments to justify his decision. The first is that the disabled prefer 1044 the mobility allowance, even at its present level. I question the validity of that argument, because until July all disabled people who wanted a trike and were eligible for a trike got a trike. They were not in the market for mobility allowance. Those offered the allowance have taken it up, but in most cases they were either not eligible for trikes or had refused one, and it is hardly surprising that they should opt for the allowance.
Linked with this argument is the case based on the questionnaire circulated to trike drivers asking whether they would be interested in claiming mobility allowance in due course. If trikes are being phased out and not being replaced, that is a non-question. It is inconceivable that people would turn down a mobility allowance. When my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant) pressed this point on the Minister responsible for the disabled at Question Time on 8th March the hon. Gentleman wisely recognised it and said that there was a need for a more detailed questionnaire. The Secretary of State should not place any reliance on that evidence.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maiden head)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is no substitute for a vehicle—whether it is a trike or anything else—for most people and that if the Government delay the replacement in trikes they will be faced with an enormous cost when they eventually replace the trike with another vehicle?
§ Mr. Jenkin
That is what the argument is all about—until some provision is available, what should be done about the trike?
§ Mrs. Millie Miller (Ilford, North)
When the Minister made his announcement about the phasing out of the trike and the widening of the mobility allowance, the right hon. Gentleman was the first to say "Thank goodness for cash instead of hardware". He did not question then how the people with trikes and those needing them would suffer.
§ Mr. Jenkin
I can only imagine that the hon. Lady's memory has played her false. I am not backing away from the argument in the long run cash is better than hardware, but if she reads the four specific questions that I put to the Minister that time—I did not put them 1045 in a bellicose way, but in a straight forward fashion—she will see that I asked all the relevant questions, including whether the allowance was enough and whether it was an adequate alternative to the trike and what he was doing about a replacement vehicle. The hon. Lady's accusation does not stand.
The question of cost can be dealt with briefly. Ministers have bent over backwards to make clear to the whole world of the disabled that phasing out the trike had nothing to do with cost.
§ Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent)
Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that he was approaching the debate in a non-partisan way? Will he confirm that he will spell out the exact cost of the proposals that he is making to the House?
§ Mr. Jenkin
The hon. Gentleman understood me correctly. I am trying to approach a highly contentious issue in as non-partisan a way as I can, but it is our duty as an Opposition, if we think that the Government have made a mistake, to say so and to express our view in the Lobby if we do not get satisfaction.
In his letter to the disabled, the Secretary of State said:The decision to stop making new tricycles was not taken lightly. And it was certainly not taken to save money".The figures in the report of the Central Council for the Disabled show that the cost to the Department of providing trikes, if the mobility allowance is increased to £7 a week as we expect, is of the same order of magnitude, and since no one who opts to keep the trike will get the allowance, there is no argument on cost. It is an argument on whether phasing out should start now, before an alternative is available for the disabled, or whether it should be delayed with the phasing out taking much longer.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
Of course the right hon. Gentleman knows my question in advance. If the Opposition had tabled a motion saying that the phasing out should be stopped and that we should 1046 go back to the position we were in some months ago, it is almost certain that such a motion would have been passed by the House tonight. Although it would have been an ineffective motion in a sense, it would have been effective politically, because no Government could possibly ignore it. Why did not the Opposition do the job that only they can do and put down a motion to attract the support of a majority of hon. Members, which would have had practical consequences in the direction for which the right hon. Gentleman is pleading?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
Order. There are a large number of hon. Members wishing to take part in the debate—
§ Mr. Jenkin
Very briefly in reply to that intervention, we should not have been able to vote on our motion. Until the House accepts the new advice of the Procedure Committee this cannot be done. The hon. Member has touching faith in his right hon. Friends if he thinks they would not have tabled an amendment. I hope that he will support us in amending the rules of the House, because that is what is needed to achieve his objective.
I come to the argument about EEC standards. The Secretary of State has been less than frank with the House. In his statement on 23rd July he said:But there is now a decisive new factor. The progress of international standards in this field now makes it most probable that before long the limits of the present design of the tricycle will have been reached. Thus in the longer term the trike cannot form part of our mobility help for disabled people.Later I asked him:Will he tell the House whether the Department now regards the trike as safe or not, or is it just that EEC standards are higher than those which his Department is prepared to accept?"—[Official Report, 23rd July 1976; Vol. 915, c. 223.]It is notable that the Secretary of State did not answer that question—he avoided it.
On this subject the House is very much indebted to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), because he has established that this is 1047 nothing to do with the EEC at all, despite what has been said about inter national standards, because the proposed EEC regulations specifically exclude three-wheelers. The regulation to which the Government are paying so much regard is British and it goes well beyond anything that is required by the EEC. So what are these international standards on which the Secretary of State appears to place such great weight?
In the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill on 8th March the Minister responsible for the disabled was pressed very hard on this matter by the hon. Member for Perry Barr. He admitted that even in its application to three-wheelers our regulation went beyond the strict terms of the EEC directives. So it is really nothing to do with the EEC directives. The EEC is a red herring which has been drawn across the trail in order to bamboozle people.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Services (Mr. Alfred Morris)
I have made it clear that we are not prepared to accept lower safety standards for disabled people than for other people in this country.
§ Mr. Jenkin
That is very important and I shall come to it. What I am saying does not mean that there is no argument about safety. The accident record shows that the trike is nine times more likely to be involved in an accident than a car driven by a disabled person. A very large proportion of accidents occur among younger drivers, where the figues compare with those for motor cycles. In part this must be due to youthful exuberance and rashness, but part is due to poor training.
It is very difficult to teach a person to drive in a single-seater. However, I do not think that it would be impossible to improve the standard of training. The Institute of Advanced Motorists in Sheffield has already introduced radio-controlled training, which gives a link between the pupil and the instructor.
The argument is not so much on that, but the fact that the trike does not conform with national standards. That is what the Minister just said in his intervention. I question that argument. I have a copy of a memorandum supplied by the 1048 Association of Approved Repairers. The memorandum says:One of the major manufacturers of three-wheeled vehicles for invalids, namely AC Cars Ltd., have said that, in their considered opinion, they do not forsee any insurmountable problems in implementing modifications to the current vehicle in order that the National Type Approval Standard is achieved.Later on it says:It is worth noting that the NTA Standards automatically 'umbrella' both EEC and ECE international regulations.This is the really crucial point:It was only the vehicle phasing out policy which meant that no three-wheeled invalid vehicle would be in production at 1st October 1978 that led the DHSS not to incur further costs, however minimal, in undertaking vehicle modifications to oblige standards which were only mandatory after the cessation of current vehicle production as dictated by the present phasing out policy.That is a very significant statement. It means the failure to comply with the regulation is a consequence of the phasing out and not that the phasing out is a consequence of the vehicles not meeting the regulation. The argument about standards is therefore palpably false. It is perfectly possible, if that statement is correct, to produce a vehicle that will comply with the standards.
§ Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)
Will my right hon. Friend agree that to the driver of the three-wheeled vehicle it is a question not of the safety of that vehicle but of the life which that person will lead? This utility vehicle, since it was issued first in 1948, has been crucial to the livelihood of disabled people and it is crucial now, irrespective of safety standards.
§ Mr. Jenkin
I was about to come to the point made by my hon. Friend. None of us disputes that the trike, unless it is carefully driven, is less safe than a four-wheeled vehicle. It is also noisy, uncomfortable and unsociable. But those are not conclusive reasons in the eyes of the trike drivers, who are being deprived of their mobility following the phasing out policy.
Then there is the argument about the Department of Employment "fares to work" scheme. It is difficult to believe that the Government think of this as an alternative. It is a minuscule scheme. Last year only 350 were helped and the total cost was £70,000. The average weekly 1049 benefit was £9.04. I understand that the applicant qualifies under the scheme only if he is provided with special facilities by his employer or by the Employment Services Agency to enable him to undertake ordinary employment. So, before qualifying he must have a job already and, however, a job that requires special facilities to be provided for him.
That scheme offers no help at all to youngsters looking for work. These are the ones who would find the trike most valuable. Also it is no help at all to disabled people who can do ordinary work and do not require special facilities. In addition, the scheme is subject to a strict means test. Therefore, its availability is only very limited and the Government would not be wise to rely on it apart from in the odd exceptional case.
We now come to the scheme for providing vehicles by the Central Council for the Disabled. Yesterday I had sight of a document entitled "Preliminary Notes on an Institution for Commutation of the Mobility Allowance for the Disabled". The document is not yet published and I cannot go into details, but I regard this scheme as ambitious and imaginative. However, it will be very costly and will require substantial new money. It will need a fund operated by a non-profit making friendly society to make loans to the disabled to buy vehicles.
The director of the Central Council for the Disabled, Mr. George Wilson, did, however, say that I could quote the objectives of the institution. They are:
There have been two meetings between the CCD and the DHSS, the latest 10 days ago, and the Central Council has been asked to prepare a more detailed document. I know that legislation would be necessary to introduce such a scheme and the Secretary of State told me last Wednesday in a Written Answer that he could not say when any conclusions were likely to be reached. This is a scheme 1050 for the future. It will not meet any immediate requirements. I hope, however, that the studies will go forward.
- "(a) to accept from disabled persons the assignment under covenant of mobility allowance grants payable by the DHSS and, against the security of such covenants, to advance the appropriate capital sums for immediate use in car purchase;
- (b) to act as an intermediary between disabled recipients of the mobility allowance and the manufacturers, in negotiating the supply of vehicles, suitably adapted to the needs of the disabled owners, at concessionary prices."
Returning to the trike, I read the column by Adam Raphael on the front page of The Observer last Sunday in which he said:Mr. David Ennals, the Social Services Secretary, will announce major improvements in aid for disabled drivers on Tuesday in an attempt to avert a Government defeat in the Commons.We shall listen with great interest to what the Secretary of State has to say. It is clear that even a £7 a week mobility allowance will not meet the case. It is clear that the travel to work scheme will not meet the case—
§ Mr. Jenkin
I have said what we would do. Present schemes are not able to meet the particular case I am making. The mobility allowance is too low; the travel-to-work scheme is very limited; and the commutation scheme is for the future.
I spelled out at the start of my speech the general approach of the Conservative Party to the problem of mobility, and I think that our differences with the Government are not of principle but of method and timing. I have said that we are not concerned with costs, because the Government have said over and over again that the phasing out of the trike has nothing to do with costs. I explained why that was obviously right. But what we are concerned about are the consequences of the statement of 23rd July, and these were starkly spelled out in a recent statement by the Queen Elizabeth Fund for the Disabled. The quotation I shall give comes from the Daily Telegraph of 18th April. It says:More than 3,000 handicapped school leavers who could do useful work were being forced into idleness and unnecessarily turned into dependant people by Government policies on mobility for the handicapped.It continues'We are desperately concerned for these young people. There is absolutely nothing adequate to get them to work', said Mr. Robin Smith, spokesman for the fund.It is that which is the unacceptable consequence of what the Secretary of State said, with the added threat that, as the trikes are phased out, the same thing 1051 will happen to thousands of other disabled persons. Unless the right hon. Gentleman announces that he will resume—albeit temporarily and not as a best solution, but as the right solution in the circumstances—the supply of trikes to those who are now being grounded for the want of them, or, alternatively, that he will make other arrangements for these people which will achieve the same objectives, it would be right for the House to express its disquiet in the Division Lobbies. I say that with regret. But with the ways things are turning out, nothing else would adequately reflect the deep anxieties which are felt outside this House on this matter.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Social Services (Mr. David Ennals)
We have been dealing with a subject which inevitably causes concern and passion, and not only among the disabled. But I think that we should be very careful about synthetic concern and synthetic passion, because we have had a bellyful of that this after noon from the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin).
I found the right hon. Gentleman's speech disappointing. He gave no indication of Conservative policies. There was no indication of what sums of money he, if he had the power to control it, would spend. But he said that unless I decided to go back on a policy which he welcomed when I announced it, he would march his troops through the Division Lobby this evening. If that is not playing party politics with the disabled, I want to know what party politics is all about.
The right hon. Gentleman must have decided that perhaps this was a good moment electorally to embarrass the Government. When the Opposition choose their Supply Days they have good reasons for doing so. But if the right hon. Gentleman thinks for one moment that I am going to be on the defensive about the Government's policy on disablement, certainly bearing in mind the record of the Conservatives on this matter, he is wrong.
§ Mr. Patrick Jenkin
It may have been a forlorn hope, but nevertheless I did hope that the Secretary of State might feel it right, as I did, to eschew personal attacks and try to deal with this issue with the seriousness and the compassion 1052 which it deserves. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will do that.
§ Mr. Ennals
I will swallow that dose of hypocrisy and proceed with my speech.
I am not on the defensive about the Government's record. The Government have a record of which we should be proud, a record which more than stands comparison with what was achieved by the Conservatives when they had the chance to do something about the plight of the disabled.
We cannot just treat mobility in isolation from the wider area of services and benefits for disabled people, because to take mobility on its own is to make the basic mistake of thinking that those who need mobility help are a quite separate and distinct group among the disabled. They simply are not. Those who benefited from the vehicle scheme were only a small but a very important fraction of the many disabled people with special problems of getting about, and an even smaller fraction of the total number of disabled people. I assumed from the right hon. Gentleman that his main purpose was to spread the jam more thinly, but he did not say who would get less jam if anyone were to get more. That is why we have to look at the whole area of benefits and services for the disabled.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) knows full well that if the Minister does not give way he must not persist.
§ Mr. Ennals
The right hon. Gentleman has asked me to deal seriously with the subject and I intend to do precisely that. I want to look at the whole area of benefits and services for the disabled.
When Labour came to power in 1974 two important benefits were already being paid. One was the attendance allowance and the other the invalidity pension. I might ask, as a matter of interesting history, who first introduced these measures into the House of Commons. The answer is that it was a combination of the late Dick Crossman and myself. He was then the Secretary of State and 1053 I the Minister of State with responsibility for the subject—
§ Mr. Ennals
It is true that it was Tory legislation, and I give credit to the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), because he gave credit to me when he moved the Second Reading of the Bill. He took, word for word, that part of Dick Crossman's legislation that dealt with the attendance allowance and he put it into his own Bill. I have no reason to criticise that. I am glad that he did it. He took from the ideas already boxed and existing at that time the ideas on the invalidity pension which subsequently, I am glad to say, has been improved.
The incoming Labour Government therefore had to build on these two measures. The attendance allowance has been expanded and all credit must go to both Secretaries of State involved in doing that. The invalidity pension has become an accepted part of what we do for our disabled people. When the Labour Government came in they had to build on that, and in our October manifesto in 1974 we promised three major new cash benefits. These were the invalid care allowance, the new non-contributory benefit to help people outside the National Insurance Scheme, and a mobility allowance. All three of those pledges have been fulfilled.
The invalid care allowance was introduced last July for men and single women who are unable to work because they have to stay home to look after severely disabled relatives who receive the attendance allowance. It was right to do that. That was a tangible official recognition of a group of dedicated and devoted people—mainly ladies—who had given up their lives to look after disabled relatives.
The non-contributory invalidity pension plugged another and far larger gap in the system by covering many people who were unable to benefit from the National Insurance Scheme. There are now about 130,000 people receiving the NCIP, which is paid at the rate of £9.20 a week. The invalid care allowance is at the same rate.
§ Mrs. Lynda Chalker (Wallasey)
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that 1054 the non-contributory invalidity pension for disabled housewives would not be coming into action this autumn had it not been for some Labour Members and Conservative Members who felt that the benefit should go to the disabled housewife as well as to the single man and the disabled man?
§ Mr. Ennals
I will confirm that my predecessor, the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and I, with Members on both sides of the House—certainly with the Opposition Front Bench spokesman and all my colleagues—wanted at the earliest possible moment to see the introduction of the noncontributory invalidity pension for housewives. We should all have liked to see it introduced earlier, and we are all glad that it will be introduced in November. I am afraid that the hon. Lady cannot take credit for a measure introduced entirely by this Government.
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
I am concerned about the interests of Back Benchers. The disabled housewife would not be getting her benefit in November but for the fact that a couple of Back Benchers revolted on that occasion. That should be clearly understood.
§ Mr. Ennals
I am prepared to give credit all round. I believe that Members on both sides of the House wanted to see the allowance paid at the time that it was paid, and I am glad that it was paid at that time.
I turn now to the mobility allowance, which is the main subject of the debate, although it is not irrelevant to raise these other issues, because the mobility allowance is only one part of what we are doing to help the disabled. This mobility allowance was designed to give mobility help to a far wider range of disabled people than ever before. It was designed to do this without discriminating unfairly between those who can drive and those who cannot drive. That was the most important principle that we introduced.
This fundamental decision to extend the whole field of mobility assistance is one for which this Government are entitled to take credit. The hon. Lady cannot take an atom of credit for it, because it was not introduced when the Conservatives were in power. These are all very crucial points in the debate.
1055 Eventually, the new mobility allowance will help about 100,000 people who previously received no mobility help at all. Not everyone has been brought in straight away. The scheme is being phased in and benefit is now paid to over 43,000 people aged between five and 52 years. Everyone up to pension age will be covered by the end of 1979.
My hon. Friend the Minister responsible for the Disabled would have liked to see it introduced very much more quickly, but none of us on either side can doubt that there are problems, both administrative and financial. We are carrying out our commitments.
§ Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarvon)
On the point that there is a need to extend the provision when finance allows, will the right hon. Gentleman therefore concede that as soon as finance is available for any change in the schemes, it should be directed towards the extension of the age range as soon as possible?
§ Mr. Ennals
It would be unwise for me to enter into a commitment. I shall take the hon. Gentleman's point into consideration.
We cannot look at one benefit separately from the others. Invalidity pension, attendance allowance and mobility allowance can be, and in some cases are, payable all at the same time to the same person. With maximum entitlement at current rates, the married man with a wife and two children can get as much as £54, and more if he is getting all three benefits. This is not an unlikely situation. In fact, we think that perhaps about 30 per cent. of mobility allowance beneficiaries also get the attendance allowance. When we weigh up the figure of £5, therefore, we have to reckon that a considerable number, about 30 per cent., will also be getting an additional benefit.
It is clear then, that benefits specifically related to mobility are only one element in the whole pattern of Government support for the disabled people—a pattern which owes a great deal to this Government's caring and constructive approach.
There has also been an increase in the provision of personal social services for the disabled under this Government. Expenditure on aids, adaptations, telephones and holidays increased from about 1056 £4 million in 1972–73 to about £11 million in 1975–76, and on meals and the home help services together—of which the disabled and frail elderly are the principal beneficiaries—from about £40 million to £99 million over the same period of time.
We came to office determined to tackle the problems facing disabled people. We said a good deal about disability in our manifesto. We were determined to give them the help they needed to tackle these problems basically for themselves, so that they would not be dependent, as they have so often been, on other people. If our policies were to succeed we knew that there needed to be a firm sense of direction, and that there needed to be someone who could co-ordinate, push and encourage everyone—it involves many Departments—to see that the job was done.
This was why the Prime Minister of the day decided to appoint my hon. Friend as Minister responsible for the Disabled. At that time it was a symbol of our commitment to help the disabled. I would say that it has become much more than a symbol in the days since then. I have here a list of over 100 achievements and advances—[Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford should not laugh. I have this list of advances in the field of disablement, and most of these are due to the efforts and determination of my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for the Disabled. By his action and example he has helped, I believe, to change the attitudes of society towards disabled people.
Even the attitude of this House of Commons has changed. It is far easier now for disabled people to come to the House of Commons. There are proper toilet facilities and other things available for them. These exist because of a new attitude towards disabled people. The fact that my very respected hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) is able, with his fortitude as a disabled person, to take part in the business of this House owes something also to the new attitude and the new spirit that exists.
§ Mr. Patrick Jenkin
I have paid my tribute to the Minister responsible for the disabled, but I think that the right hon. 1057 Gentleman is going a little too far now. The "loo" in the Lower Waiting Hall was here long before this Government took office.
§ Mr. Ennals
That is not so. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman—he can ask Mr. Deputy Speaker afterwards—that it followed an Act which was piloted through Parliament by my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for the disabled. However, I shall not take this further. I know that the right hon. Gentleman wishes to join with me in paying tribute to what has been done.
It is right that we should pay tribute, because what we are talking about is affected more than anything else by the attitude of people in our society towards disablement, and we have seen a change in this respect.
The right hon. Gentleman has sought to appear before us today in a sense as a self-appointed champion of the disabled. I do not think this pose will carry much conviction with those who have worked over many long years with organisations concerned with disabled people as, quite frankly, I have.
§ Mr. Ennals
If it is cheap, maybe the hon. Gentleman will tell us the price, for certainly nowhere in his contribution has the right hon. Gentleman said what the price would be and what he would do if he were a Minister.
We can only judge this by what the Conservatives did when they were in power. I agree that they brought in the private car allowance, and gave vehicles and in some cases cars to further categories of people. I give them credit for that. These were useful reforms. But how far were the Tory Government pre pared to back their conscience with hard cash?
The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East made clear, when he announced these changes on 21st February 1972, that his aim was to make better use of existing money, but where was he to get the money from in order to do these useful things? The Tories were giving with one hand and taking away with the other.
1058 Vehicles issued to people needing them to get to work were to be withdrawn on cessation of employment. That was one little economy. The House will recall that this Government have reversed that policy. Trikes issued under the old scheme are no longer taken away when someone loses a job. I observe that the Opposition Benches are silent at the present time.
The second little economy was one which the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford must, clearly, have forgotten. He has made much of what he regards as the impost on disabled drivers because of the extra cost of petrol. He has his views on this, as I am sure the disabled people have. Has the right hon. Gentleman forgotten his own rôle when he was a junior Minister at the Treasury at which time he was party to a decision to refuse to give new applicants the petrol allowance of £5 paid to tricycle holders? He was the Minister when the decision was taken. He now comes before the House with hypocrisy and humbug and asks me would I kindly not be too political in replying to his speech.
The right hon. Gentleman quoted from Mr. George Wilson, the Director of the Central Council for the Disabled. The Central Council put out a statement yesterday—perhaps it had this debate in mind—in which it said:Many disabled people have fears for their future mobility and these fears must be calmed.I must say, in parenthesis, that some of those fears are due to incorrect statements that have been made sometimes for political reasons. That is one reason why I had to write a letter to every individual disabled person to break through some of the misapprehensions and concerns that have been spread.
George Wilson continued:This can only be achieved by providing mobility for the disabled with a structured scheme, and not making those needs a football.I want to talk about that. I am glad that that was said and I hope that in future the Opposition will heed those words.
We have introduced a structured scheme for mobility, namely, a mobility allowance. We inherited a policy—
§ Mr. Patrick Jenkin
I gave way a great many times. Would the Secretary of State accept that, having read that statement, I specifically asked Mr. George Wilson whether he thought it would be right for the Opposition to divide the House if the right hon. Gentleman did not meet the points I have put? Mr. Wilson authorised me to say on the Floor of the House that he thought that it would be right to reflect the anxieties of those outside.
§ Mr. Ennals
I must accept the right hon. Gentleman's word in that connection. But never before have I known Mr. George Wilson—I have known him for many years and the work he is doing and the work he did long before he joined the Central Council—decide to give advice to one political party or another about how its members should vote in the House. Never before—
§ Mr. Ennals
I have not given way. Never before have I known George Wilson—who has achieved much in bringing two organisations together into one representative body—tell a political party that—if he said the words suggested by the right hon. Gentleman.
I want to return to the subject of the invalid tricycle. This is a problem we are facing, which the right hon. Gentle man has raised. The trike was already under fire because it was anti-social, and—the right hon. Gentleman used this expression himself—because it was only a single-seater and also because of its safety record.
There was another objection, too, an objection which weighed heavily in the minds of a Government committed to social justice. It was not fair to confine mobility help to those people who were able to drive and to deny help to those who could not—those whose particular disability prevented them from driving, those who were too young, and so on.
The essential criterion for mobility assistance had to be the inability to walk. The right hon. Gentleman said that he thought the test should be the extent of disability. The mobility allowance is now 1060 based on the extent of disability, not on the extent of ability to drive. We have this new allowance. In deciding this, we increased enormously the number of disabled people who will receive help. We committed ourselves to a trebling of expenditure on mobility and we introduced a vital element of flexibility into the policy, because people can spend the cash benefit on whatever form of mobility best suits them.
I remain convinced, as I am sure does the right hon. Gentleman, that this policy was right. The right hon. Gentleman is asking us, temporarily, to go back a bit. I do not accept that. Peter Large, the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Mobility for the Disabled put it succinctly when he said:We welcome the Government's move from inflexible hardware into cash, and their acknowledgement of disabled non-driversIn the statement from the Central Council for the Disabled, Mr. George Wilson said:The Central Council for the Disabled believes that the mobility allowance is the best way to solve the problems of disabled people and that they can be solved on this basis. A return to the supply of vehicles would be retrograde.This is very relevant. This touches relevently on the earlier quotation from Mr. George Wilson. I repeat Mr. Wilson's wordsA return to the supply of vehicles would be retrogradeThat was the statement made by Mr. Wilson.
§ Mr. Patrick Jenkin
The Secretary of State has chosen, as I did not, to make a series of sharp, personal attacks and I think that I am entitled to answer them. That was precisely the question I put to Mr. Wilson this morning, having read his statement. I said to him that surely he agreed that the trike should be reprieved so that those people were not grounded. He made it abundantly clear that that was exactly what he was asking for and that that was what was agreed at the meeting earlier this year. That is what the disabled want and that is what I am asking for. There is no question of extra cost because the trikes will be provided instead of the mobility allowance.
§ Mr. Ovenden
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I ask you whether this is a debate or a dialogue? 1061 May I draw your attention to the fact that this debate will last for only three hours and 12 minutes? The debate has proceeded for two minutes short of one hour and has been monopolised by the two Front Bench spokesmen. Could you use your influence to protect Back Benchers?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I wish that I could use some influence and I wish that I had the power sometimes to ensure a certain outcome of the deliberations. However, this is a debate which is being conducted in what I regard as comparatively normal circumstances.
§ Mr. Ennals
I take note of the point raised by my hon. Friend. I have been over-generous in giving way and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman was overgenerous, too.
There are those who think that we should have phased out the trike and replaced it with some other, completely new specialised vehicle, supplied to all those who wanted it. This was argued by many hon. Members. No doubt it would have been a superior vehicle in many ways. It would have needed to be taller than a modern car to accommodate people who cannot bend. It would have needed to be a four-wheeler for stability. It would also have needed a proper degree of crash protection. And, of course, it would have been a much more expensive vehicle.
All this could be done in time and at a price far, far higher than we paid for the trike. Alternatively, we could have provided an adapted production car for the majority who could have driven one. In any case, we would have had to face the fact that such a vehicle scheme would have been extremely costly and it could have been afforded only if we continued to refuse mobility help for those unable to drive—a refusal which could not be justified.
The right hon. Gentleman said that there was no difference in cost. Of course there is a difference in cost between receiving a trike and receiving a mobility allowance. On average, I suppose, the trike owner receives about £10, and that is roughly the weekly cost of keeping a trike on the road. The mobility allowance at present is not as much as that.
1062 I come now to the level of mobility allowance. The proposal the right hon. Gentleman made was in fact a demand for additional expenditure. We saw no need to withdraw the trike from existing holders just because of the accident record, which is not simply a matter of the trike's handling characteristics. We have had some problems involving the accident record of trikes and this was obviously one of the most powerful reasons why we decided to phase it out.
When the Government made their decision there had been powerful pressure over many months, for safety reasons, to phase out the trike. We decided that we saw no reason for withdrawing the trike from existing holders. The accident record does not rely only on the trike's handling characteristics. The experience and judgment of the driver are important factors. While the risks are greater for new drivers, many existing trike drivers, with their confidence and experience, will want to keep their trikes for as long as possible.
I gave them some good news. Last July I assured those existing users who wanted to keep their trikes that they would be able to do so for about five years, until parts and replacement vehicles were no longer available. It now looks as if we shall be able to keep the trikes going a little longer—first, because we have been looking at the possible effects of the Social Security (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, which allows trike holders to opt for mobility allowance without any age restriction and without a medical examination. The more people who take advantage of this option, the longer we shall be able to provide tricycles for those who still want them. Second, there is the life-span of the latest three-wheelers. In place of the old two-stroke engine and manual transmission the newer models have a more powerful engine and automatic transmission. The probability is that these Model 70s will last longer than earlier types.
My best estimate is that we should be able to maintain the supply of trikes for those who want to keep them till 1982 and perhaps 1983. Many of the trikes then in use will, of course, last for years beyond that. It may be that many people who drive trikes will be able to go on 1063 using them until the later part of the 1980s.
I know that this prospect will bring welcome reassurance to many disabled drivers. I repeat that the Government's aim will be to ensure that no one who is now mobile is immobilised by the phasing out. That was the assurance that I gave in the letter I sent out last December to all drivers of tricycles issued under the old scheme, and I stand by it.
The right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford was asking where we stood on the question of alternative vehicles. We recognise that some people will continue to need specialised vehicles and we shall look and are looking now at specialised vehicles. But we cannot decide at this stage. It would be unwise to take a decision so many years in advance. My hon. Friend the Minister responsible for the disabled and I have visited a number of projects for specialised vehicles and adaptation of production cars, as well as setting in hand, with the Department of Transport, a research study of adaptation.
§ Mr. Ashley
I agree with a very great deal of what my right hon. Friend has said and I appreciate that some people will need a specialised vehicle, but what do the Government propose to do about disabled people who find that their trikes are worn out and there is no replacement and who cannot afford to buy a vehicle? What will they do in the interim period?
§ Mr. Ennals
It is precisely for that group that my hon. Friend and I are doing our work. We shall be entering into much more work as we come to the end of the interim period. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) is right in saying that some people will still need specialised vehicles. We want to ensure that a specialised vehicle is available at that time. I shall stand by—and my hon. Friend will ensure that I stand by—the commitment that we shall not allow people who need a vehicle to find themselves immobilised because we have not been able to provide one. The existing trike holders' interests are being carefully protected by the Government, and it is only right that we should do so. Of course there are problems in a 1064 transition, and this is a major transition from hardware to cash.
The first thing to be said here is that there can be no going back on the essential principle of the new system. People often say that one should postpone something for another year, two years or three years, but we cannot go back on the main decision that we have taken.
Here we have to face the fact that mobility allowance is not as high as we would like it to be. In the present economic climate, there are limits to what we can afford and it would be wrong, as I have said, to single out drivers for some special higher level of benefit. But the Government are not inflexible in dealing with the practical problems facing individual disabled people. The right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) and his colleagues in the Queen Elizabeth Foundation for the Disabled came to see me about some of their immediate problems. The Minister with responsibility for the disabled and I are engaged now in detailed discussions with the Central Council for the Disabled. The Central Council has put it to me that, with some financial assistance from the Government, it would be able to raise additional interest free capital. This, in turn, could be made available as interest-free loans to help disabled people to buy their own vehicles. Those who borrowed this money would repay it over a period out of their mobility allowance. Details are still being worked out, and there are many problems: not least, that such a scheme could help only a limited number of the disabled people who might wish to make use of it. The British Association for Disablement and Rehabilitation—the successor body to the Central Council for the Disabled, in which it has been merged with the British Council for Rehabilitation of the Disabled—made clear that it would need to take very careful account of the priorities of disabled people themselves if such a scheme were to be effective and fair. There is no commitment to such a scheme, but my Department is co-operating with the Association in working out the possibilities in further detail to see what can be done. Certainly there is good will on both sides. I hope that we can achieve some success.
But the main Government strategy for helping disabled people lies in improving benefits. As the House knows, 1065 mobility allowances is subject to annual review but is not automatically uprated each year. There have been rumours—to which the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford referred—that the increase would be to £7. I am glad to be able to confirm this figure. From November mobility allowance will be paid at the rate of £7 a week and this rise of £2 in cash terms should mean a substantial rise in real terms. I believe that this will be welcomed by disabled people throughout the country. It is giving a 40 per cent. increase on the figure that they are receiving.
Mobility allowance has meant a great deal to a great many people. It has been a major element in this Government's strategy to improve the lot of the disabled. In mobility, as in other areas of policy for the disabled, this Government have achieved more than any other Government in the history of this country.
§ Mr. Ennals
I shall not give way. I have said that I would not give way even to my hon. Friends because of the lack of time.
These achievements are all the more impressive for having been carried through in spite of the economic difficulties facing the nation, and the increase in mobility allowance which I have announced tonight is the latest advance for the disabled under this Labour Government.
I return to what was said by the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford. I hope that he will think again before he leads his right hon. and hon. Friends into the Division Lobby on an issue where he knows that in principle there is no disagreement between us. If he takes his party through the Division Lobby tonight I believe it will be clear that he is playing party politics on this issue. He should do no such thing.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Wood (Bridlington)
When I last spoke on this subject, at a time when most hon. Members had sensibly gone to bed, I took eight minutes. I hope to improve on that today as I realise from several wise interventions from you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you prefer brevity to prolixity.
1066 I was profoundly depressed by the tone of the greater part of the Secretary of State's speech, a tone wholly different from that which we expect from the Minister with special responsibility for the disabled when he comes to reply. Moreover, I believe that it was a tone which the right hon. Gentleman himself, when he goes to bed tonight, will prefer to forget, as we shall, too.
The Under-Secretary of State, the Minister with special responsibility for the disabled, has been extremely helpful to me recently in answers to a number of Questions which I put to him. Some of them—for example, about the impact of the mobility allowance—have given me a great deal of encouragement. Others, about the prospects for the present drivers of Invacars and those who will not qualify under the new scheme as it stands at present, have left me and many others with a profound sense of disquiet; a disquiet, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) made clear, shared by hundreds of severely disabled men and women.
Much as I was relieved to hear the Secretary of State say today that the Invacar will not be phased out until later, possibly not until the end of the 1980s, the gnawing anxiety still remains, whatever the date: what happens after that? We are quite certain, and disabled people are quite certain, in spite of the increase in the mobility allowance which the right hon. Gentleman has just announced, that cash alone is not the present answer to what I have on an earlier occasion called the need for spontaneous mobility. However disabled they may be, the disabled are most anxious to do as many normal things as they possibly can.
By "spontaneous mobility" I have meant the mobility to go out on the spur of the moment, to post a letter or go to the pub and be sure of getting home later. That is a right which most of us in this place take completely for granted. But for the severely disabled the mobility allowance, however generous, is no substitute for an Invacar or other vehicle, and this, I fear, would be true even if the mobility allowance were multiplied several times, certainly far in excess of the figure to which the Minister has raised it now.
1067 For these people, therefore, deep anxiety will remain unless the Minister is able to give the undertaking which he has not so far been willing to give, namely, that the vehicle to which they have been entitled, or to which they thought they would be entitled, will not be removed until an adequate alternative is found. There may well be better alternatives. I think that the right hon. Gentleman has shown that. It may, for instance, be possible to devise a scheme for commuting the allowance to enable disabled people to buy and run an alternative vehicle suited to their own disability, and there may be other possibilities besides that. But they want the assurance that a real alternative will be found by the time the Invacar is phased out.
Until one or more of those possibilities is translated into reality, the sentence of immobility, which, I imagine, is of little more comfort than a sentence of death, will continue to hang over hundreds of disabled people. I beg the Minister, therefore, to give a clear undertaking when he replies that until a suitable alternative exists, both the present users and those who would have qualified if the old scheme had continued can look forward to an unclouded future of continued mobility which will be possible for them only if their right to a suitable vehicle, which they have, or had under the old scheme, is maintained.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
The speech by the right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) was very moving, first because he spoke from direct personal experience, for which there can be no substitute, and, second, because he articulated an anxiety in the minds of many thousands of disabled people. I know that the Secretary of State and the Minister with special responsibility for the disabled will be sympathetic to the right hon. Gentleman's plea, and I shall return to it in a moment, if I may.
I begin by referring to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his comments about the context of this debate. He was right to criticise the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) for trying to focus too narrowly upon one 1068 aspect of the problems of the disabled to the total exclusion of what the Government have done. I suppose that it is fair game in politics for an Opposition to seek to pinpoint one area of concern in debate, as the right hon. Gentleman did. After all, this is what debate is supposed to be about. Nevertheless, I think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was right to object to the way in which the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford refused to acknowledge what this Government have done for the disabled.
§ Mr. Ashley
There is no point in the right hon. Gentleman shaking his head, for the truth is that he labours under a disability himself, not a personal disability but a political disability, since no matter how idealistic he may be in debates of this kind—I do not for a moment doubt that he is—he is disabled by reason of the experience and record of his own party. I shall not enlarge upon that because I do not want to make this a party-political debate, but, as I say, my right hon. Friend was right to point out the context in which we should be discussing this problem.
I hope to be able to take up some of the suggestions put forward by the right hon. Gentleman and to advance some of them myself for special consideration by the Secretary of State. I shall, if I may, offer some constructive suggestions, and I feel that I am entitled to do so partly because I am not a member of the Government and partly because I am not burdened by the record of the right hon. Gentleman and his party. I hope that the suggestions which I shall make will be taken seriously by my right hon. Friend and the Minister with special responsibility for the disabled.
However, before we come to analyse the problem and offer suggestions, we shall pay tribute to the Secretary of State for increasing the mobility allowance from £5 to £7. One cannot just dismiss that and say that it is of no consequence. We should pay tribute to the Secretary of State for it. Admittedly, the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford could not do that because the announcement had not been made at 1069 that stage, but I wish at once to take the opportunity of assuring my right hon. Friend that it would be churlish of hon. Members on either side not to thank him for this advance, especially at a time of grave economic crisis when many Opposition Members, though not necessarily the right hon. Gentleman himself, are demanding massive cuts in public expenditure. There are no scroungers among disabled people. Thank goodness, this Government have taken the action outlined by the Secretary of State this afternoon.
Before we can analyse the situation and offer suggestions for the future, as I shall try to do in what I hope will be a brief speech, we must compare the present situation with the past. The old policy was in itself divisive and discriminatory. The exclusion of disabled passengers, who so often were far more disabled than were disabled drivers, and refusing to give them help of any kind was outrageous, and the new policy for a mobility allowance is for this reason alone a major advance. I commend the Secretary of State and the Minister on precisely that policy of extending mobility help to thousands of neglected people. It really was a great achievement.
We come, then, to the nub of the problem. It is precisely because this Government have now sought to help many more disabled people that the problems have arisen. If the Government had settled expenditure as they could have done, or as they will do when all the applicants have been accepted, according to the number of people in receipt of the trike hitherto, the response would have been garlands and roses and sugar all around. They would have been warmly congratulated. But the truth is that the Government are the victim of their own generosity, because they have tried to help many more disabled people than were being helped by the policy for the disabled before they came into office. Thereby hangs the problem with which we are faced. It is because the present Government have assisted so many people that they have received a raspberry instead of a garland. That is regrettable.
However, if I may be constructive, the first step is this. After recognising the achievements of the present Govern- 1070 ment, we have to identify the problems of disabled people in relation to the Labour Government's ultimate objectives. Those objectives must be adequate—indeed, generous—help to all disabled people requiring mobility, irrespective of whether or not they can drive. That must remain the major objective. However, what I want to suggest is that every disabled person, under this policy, should have either a car or the means to buy a car, as the ultimate of this policy.
I am hoping that the Minister with special responsibility for the disabled will be able to give an assurance, when he replies to the debate, that that really is the objective of the present Government. But of course, is cannot be achieved overnight. There must necessarily be a transitional period. It is the problem of the transitional period upon which we ought to focus tonight.
Therefore, what I want to suggest to my right hon. Friend is as follows. First of all, a start should be made by giving to some categories of people a special allowance by way of a fund allocated by the Government. This fund would be supplementary to the mobility allowance. It would not be a substitute for it. I stand four square behind the Government's existing policies. I want to suggest that this fund should provide interest-free loans to enable the recipients to buy their own cars, and that some consideration should be given to making those cars cheaper, by alleviation of value added tax or other means.
It is the responsibility of not only my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Minister with special responsibility for the disabled. It is primarily the responsibility of the Treasury. It is the Treasury people who must start changing their minds and their attitudes. Anyone who knows the Secretary of State or the Minister with special responsibility for the disabled will know that they have been fighting very hard on behalf of disabled people, so I am making my appeal not to them but to the Government, to consider introducing a new special fund as a supplement to the mobility allowance.
If that fund is agreed by the Treasury—that is, the Government—it can build on the work of the Central Council for the Disabled, which has been mentioned by the Secretary of State today. Such an ambitious scheme must necessarily be 1071 phased in. It would be irresponsible to assume that it could be done overnight. It could not be done overnight. In the language of Socialism and the language of priorities, if we are to be realistic we have to categorise our own priorities, so we cannot be dishonest and claim that panaceas are available, as some people are suggesting. However, it would be equally dishonest to pretend that the present policy solves the problem.
What are the categories? Who are the priorities? First of all, there are those who depend upon mobility for their jobs. Secondly, there are those women who have disabled children. Thirdly, there are those who have become newly disabled, people entering into the category for the first time. If the Treasury agree to the suggestion, I hope that the Secretary of State will begin to phase those groups into the scheme so that special consideration can be given to them. Therefore, what I suggest is that as the economic situation improves, the Government should consider this proposal.
I pay my tribute to my right hon. Friend and to the Minister with special responsibility for the disabled for their work. The work done for disabled people by the Minister with special responsibility for the disabled must be unequalled in any country in the world. He really has been a pioneer, and no one in the House fully recognises the value of the work that he has done. Together with my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), he engineered this scheme, and now that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is pushing through the mobility allowance, they deserve great tribute.
I am hoping that my suggestion will be accepted and that we shall thereby move into a new era of providing for those people who would suffer grave disability by virtue of having their trike phased out. I hope that the trike will not be phased out until the scheme that I have outlined is phased in, so that the one is concommitant with the other, and as the one comes in, so the other goes out. But the one should be dependent upon the other. I hope that the Government will see their way clear to accepting these proposals.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Smith (Rochdale)
I have listened with interest, as one always does in a debate of this kind, to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley). I certainly hope that the Government will find it possible to meet his please and his constructive suggestion.
However, if we continue to talk about the trike, the phasing out of the trike and so on—I shall comment on that matter shortly—all that we are doing is talking about people who are already in receipt of hardware in order to make them mobile. Surely the real issue on this point is whether the mobility allowance makes people mobile. As I understand the Government's policy, it is that the mobility allowance will, in time—be it 1982 or 1983, or 1993—replace the issue of all hardware by the Government. If that is the policy, the test in terms of the mobility of the disabled must surely, therefore, be whether the mobility allowance is making more people mobile than were mobile before it was introduced. If it is not doing so, it must be deemed to be a failure, or at any rate, the alternative to that is to say that it is not yet sufficient.
That is why I suspect that we have the wrong Ministers sitting on the Government Front Bench this afternoon. They are not the wrong Ministers in the sense that we do not respect their point of view, and they are responsible for the Department, but they are the wrong Ministers in the sense that they can do only that which they can get past the Treasury. I suspect, therefore, that the person we ought to have on the Government Front Bench this afternoon to answer the debate is a representative of the Treasury, to explain, for example, why the Treasury cannot afford more, and so on, with all the long diatribe.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South thought that the major disability of the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) was the fact that he was a Tory. I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman's major disability in this debate is that he is an ex-Treasury Minister. My suspicion is that that is far more of a liability for him as a Shadow Minister for social services than merely the fact that he is a Tory—though 1073 I have always viewed with a little distrust the sincerity of Conservatives in relation to social work and social services. Certainly that is why I should find it difficult to go into a Lobby with Conservatives on the issue of mobility allowances, social services and things of that kind. It is not one of the areas in which I have had any great respect for their sincerity over the years.
The Minister has announced this afternoon—I compliment the Government in this respect—an increase in the mobility allowance from £5 to £7. Every Member will be delighted about that but the key point is that the allowance is tax able. Notwithstanding the increase that has been announced today, the allowance is still inadequate. I hope that the present occupants of the Government Front Bench will continue to press the Treasury for more money for mobility allowances. Until we reach the stage when the mobility allowance makes people mobile the allowance will be inadequate.
Let us examine the situation in more detail. The allowance is to be £7 a week, but let us not forget that it is subject to tax. I am not saying that an adequate allowance should not be subject to tax. I am saying that the first number of pounds of the mobility allowance should be non-taxable and that taxation should apply only when the allowance reaches an adequate level. I do not want to become emotional, but to apply taxation to the allowance, which now stands at £5 a week, is like taxing a person's legs. After all, that is what the allowance is all about—namely, to make people mobile.
The allowance is to allow people to work who could not work unless they had some help in reaching their place of work. It is to allow people socially to integrate who normally could not do so unless they received an allowance to make them mobile. That is what mobility allowances are all about.
If we are obliged to depress the level of the mobility allowance because of economic circumstances £7 is an advance. I give credit to the Government for the advance, but I maintain that the allowance is still depressed too far. If a proportion of the allowance were tax free—possibly even the increase announced this afternoon—that would be a step forward. If we tax the £7 at 35 per cent., 1074 or 33 per cent. if we get the social contract or whatever it is, we finish with less than £5 a week. That is assuming that the whole of it is taxable and that the recipient is earning at a level that means that he pays tax. If he is not, he is earning at a low level and, therefore, needs the money anyway.
I am arguing that the allowance, be it less than £5 if it is taxable or £7 if the person is not liable for tax, is not sufficient to make a person mobile. How much petrol can be bought for seven quid? It will buy between seven gallons and 10 gallons. How far will that take the person receiving the allowance? After he has paid for the petrol there is the tax to find and the money to maintain the car. Anyone who has had garage bills recently will know about the cost of maintaining cars.
In addition to those costs we are trying to devise a scheme whereby we can make loans available to enable the purchasing of cars. However, if a person takes a loan he loses some of the mobility allowance. In those circumstances he will receive even less of his mobility allowance to spend on items such as petrol, maintenance and road tax.
My view is that it is not unreasonable that a person should provide his own petrol so as to be mobile. Surely that is a reasonable argument. However, I doubt whether £5 or £7 a week, taxable or untaxable, is sufficient to provide capital to purchase a car, to tax it and repair it. If the allowance cannot do all those things it fails to make a person mobile, unless to achieve mobility the recipient is prepared to eat into some other portion of his income—[Interruption.] Did the hon. Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson) say "That is right"?
§ Mr. Ivor Clemitson (Luton, East)
No. I was merely commenting that throughout his speech the hon. Gentleman has commented only in respect of those who can drive. The hon. Gentleman has not mentioned those who cannot drive and the ways in which they can be made mobile.
§ Mr. Smith
I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman assists me to make my point. Has he ever thought of trying to hire a taxi? The cost of taking a taxi from Euston to the House is 85p. Clearly the allowance will not provide for many 1075 taxi journeys. It is not a long way from Euston to this place. I pay 75p but that is because taxi drivers like me—or perhaps it is because I do not take up as much room as others in the taxi. I am not sure about that, but if a person is unable to drive and is reliant on some other form of transportation—it must be conceded that £5 is better than "nowt" and £7 better than £5—we must continue from both sides of the Chamber to press the Treasury to provide more until we reach an adequate allowance.
I am using the debate to demonstrate that the present allowance is inadequate. I seek to support the Department's Ministers in their arguments with the Treasury. There is support from both sides of the Chamber for the argument that the allowance is not yet high enough. It is not my object to criticise the Government. I see no point in criticising them. We have made considerable steps forward. It is not my objective to support the Opposition. My objective is to give support to the DHSS Ministers in their arguments with the Treasury. That is the way in which I have tried to direct my remarks.
I hope that the message from this debate will be that for a mobility allowance to be effective it must make people mobile, and that until it reaches that level hon. Members on both sides of the House will not be satisfied and will continue to press Ministers, and through them the Treasury, for greater help for the disabled.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)
I shall not take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) immediately. I shall return to the hon. Gentleman later.
On behalf of the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) and myself, I make a plea that consideration be given to the problems of the blind, who obviously cannot drive and have a problem of orientation. If they have to move distances, they are sometimes faced with the problem of double fares. At the out set I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench to consider the position of the blind and their mobility needs. I think that their position has sometimes been overlooked.
1076 I must make a plea for the three-wheeled vehicle although I do not like it. I am now a grandfather. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"] Give me a chance; I might be a great-grandfather. I might survive. I remember my daughters wanting bicycles and there were great arguments in our household about whether they should have them. My daughters won. My grandchild, who is now five, has his first bike. I wake up at night sweating in case he has an accident.
The hon. Member for Rochdale, the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery) and I are involved in a campaign involving the three-wheeled vehicle. There are others present in the Chamber who are similarly concerned. We do not like the vehicle but we believe that those who want it and those who have opted for it there are those who say "Let us control our own lives, let us control our destinies"—must be allowed to have that choice and that the vehicle must be allowed to remain.
The right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood), the hon. Member for Wallasey and I visited the Queen Elizabeth Foundation. We there met disabled drivers, and they made their case forcibly. They said that they would rather take a chance with the trike than be put away. The first part of my argument is, reluctantly, to beg my right hon. Friend to allow the three-wheeled vehicle to continue and to allow disabled drivers the choice.
There are many people in the disabled sector who say "For God's sake do not treat us as children. Let us decide" I wish to push the frontier forward.
I have given my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) permission to tug my coat after I have been speaking for 10 minutes. I must tell those on the Front Benches that I think that Back Benchers have as much to contribute to the debate as anyone has. We have been denied a substantial amount of our time. If I speak for more than 10 minutes I shall feel my coat being tugged and I shall sit down within 30 seconds.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
If the hon. Gentleman wishes, I shall ask him to resume his seat after 10 minutes.
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
That is an extremely good suggestion, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I support the hon. Member for Rochdale in saying that the Treasury must put in a massive sum to help the commutation scheme. The scheme should apply only to those in receipt of mobility allowance, and it should on very favourable terms. We should consider remission of VAT. If this massive help is given, we may shortly know the size of the residual problem, because substantial numbers of people may well want to obtain hardware of their own accord. I do not want to see them being forced to do so. I should like them to be warned of the consequences of taking on the responsibility of owning a vehicle, but, with that warning, I should like my right hon. and hon. Friend to persuade the Treasury to give substantial sums to assist the scheme to get off the ground, because that gives choice. Why should the disabled be denied choice? What is peculiar about them? They are consumers, buyers, and should have the same rights as we have to exercise choice. I ask my right hon. Friend to provide that element of choice.
I proceed on a happier note. This morning I went to a meeting concerned with technology. The happy thing to come out of it, but unfortunately the only happy thing, is that there is a distinct chance that wheelchair mobility along pavements is around the corner. This will mean that people will be able to shop in their locality and belong to their communities. However, this mobility is limited. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House know full well, because they have been with me, that we have been looking for alternative vehicles. We cannot be too sanguine. There are no real alternatives yet. What we have seen have been frightfully expensive and not within the means of disabled people.
It is no good talking in terms of 1978 for a utility vehicle for the disabled. Forgive me for saying this, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but that is too bloody late. We should be thinking of having the prototype now, because there is a long time span between having something on the drawing board, having the prototype and having vehicles available.
1078 I am very much in favour of flexibility. I suppose that I am the only hon. Member who has driven with a severely disabled person. Using his mouth, he drove a milk float. I ask my right hon. Friend to give careful consideration to flexibility. I also ask my right hon. Friend to raise the mobility allowance to a realistic level which will give mobility.
My 10 minutes are nearly up. I give great praise to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for the disabled for the fact that 100,000 people who were so disabled that they were tucked away in their homes and never went out can now go much further than they went before, though I take the point made by the hon. Member for Rochdale that they will not get very far.
The disabled can decide for themselves how they spend the money. They may decide to blow it in one fell swoop on a holiday. That is their privilege. I served on the Central Council for the Disabled committee that considered the matter. The one thing that worried the committee was that they might treat the money as further income. Both sides of the House meant it to be for mobility. We have no real control over the matter, but if we put the money in their hands they have a choice. They could decide to go to Euston three times, or go round the corner, or find a friendly cabby. The point is that they can do things that they could not do before.
Those who are immobile must be given more mobility facilities for three main reasons. First, they should be part of the community. Secondly, those who want to work should be helped to get to work, provided the Department of Employment gets the message. Thirdly, those who are born disabled or become disabled in youth should be given the opportunity of education. Disabled people want to pay income tax—and God bless them.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Mr. David Price (Eastleigh)
The House will not be surprised to know that I agree with everything that the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) said. I want to beat his record and speak for only five minutes, not 10. I declare my personal interest in these matters. I thank the Government for raising the mobility allowance.
1079 I have no doubt that if we are to do right by our disabled fellow citizens we must put more resources, both public and private, into the provision of better mobility for the disabled. There are things that we can do at the margin without extra cost, but real progress can come only by putting in more resources. It is no use disguising that fact, and we must face up to it.
Therefore, I must make the case for more money to be devoted to mobility for the disabled when there are so many other claims on the public and private purse. The reasons can be put very simply, in the following quotation from the Snowdon Working Party Report:Unless you can journey by public or private transport to your work, to other people's houses, to public buildings and places or indeed to a holiday resort, your social activity will be limited to institutions or to your own home. Unless you can get inside a theatre, restaurant, house, hotel, pub, club, park, sports ground, office or factory and can do so without trouble, as often as not you might as well stay where you are.Note those chilling words, Mr. Deputy Speaker:you might as well stay where you are".That is why I suggest—and I think that every hon. Member taking part in the debate will make the same plea to the Government—that mobility for the disabled should have such a high priority.
I have welcomed the introduction of the new mobility allowance. Wearing a different hat as a member of various organisations for the disabled to which other hon. Members also belong, I have pressed for this, as they have. We must recognise, and go on recognising, that the mobility allowance gives a new degree of mobility to disabled people. The hon. Members for Eccles and Rochdale (Mr. Smith) rightly pointed out that there were those who previously received nothing, because in the past help for the disabled was limited to those capable of driving—by definition not the most severely disabled.
The new mobility allowance is a good start, but it needs to be set at a much higher level to be really effective. In saying that, I am in no way being churlish about the Secretary of State's announcement that he proposes to increase the allowance from £5 a week to £7 from October. But when one looks at the current rate of inflation, at the rising cost 1080 of petrol and increased taxes on motor vehicles, one cannot say that within a year the increase in the allowance will not have been overtaken by increased costs. Nevertheless, I welcome the increase.
There is no provision yet for the capital cost of buying a car. Today I looked down the list of prices of new cars. For the smallest new car one has to pay £1,700 to £1,800. Therefore, it is essential that something should be worked out between the Government and the various disabled persons associations to cover the capital cost. I welcome the proposal that has been made by the hon. Member for Stoke on Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) that some fund for doing this should be sponsored by the Government.
We should remove the discrimination between men and women. It is nonsense that women should cease to receive their mobility allowance at the age of 60 and men at the age of 65. It would cost £6,500,000 to eliminate that discrimination. I do not think that that point is fully appreciated, but it is part of the total anomaly in having different retirement ages for men and women. We must also raise the age limit for the mobility allowances to 70. Those two measures together would cost £22 million. From the age of 70 onwards I should like to see the mobility allowance phased out by a certain amount each year rather than stopped abruptly. To cut the mobility allowance off when a disabled person reaches a certain age is too ruthless.
The mobility allowance should be tax free and the reason for that is simple—the allowance is intended to compensate people for their immobility. Therefore, at best, when a more generous allowance is given, one has only put the disabled person level with the person of normal mobility. The allowance can, therefore, in no way, be considered as a grant. It is an aid to normal living. It is compensation for a disadvantage. It is in the same category as the attendance allowance, so I hope that, when the Finance Bill comes before the House, Treasury Ministers will be able to offer us this change.
In the meantime, it is quite clear that until the mobility allowance can be put on to a sufficiently generous basis to enable everybody eligible for it to have a vehicle of his own, the trike must be retained. There seems to be universal 1081 recognition in the House that that is the right thing to do.
Not until all these things have been done will the disabled members of our community be able to obtain the full advantage of the mobility allowance, which I recognise as a major step forward. Let no one detract from that. I end with the last words of the quotation that I read from the Snowdon Committee Report that unless the mobility allowance is adequate:you might as well stay where you areThat must be a warning to all of us that until all the disabled can move reasonably around the country and can live like normal people, not only in doing their jobs but in having a normal social life, we shall have not done right by the disabled people of our country.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)
I have always been sceptical about the trike. Its accident rate on the roads is bad, it is not a safe vehicle, and Lady Sharp recommended in her report that the trikes should be replaced by adapted cars. I agree, but Lady Sharp wanted to throw more than 13,000 disabled drivers out of the scheme. I call that rather heartless. The Minister with responsibility for the disabled did not agree and instead of throwing those drivers out of the scheme he gave many thousands of disabled drivers a new option by introducing the mobility allowance. However, he left the trike for those who still want it. I emphasise that point. The Minister's aim was to ensure that nobody would be made immobile by the phasing out of the trike.
The Minister gave outdoor mobility help for the first time to an extra 100,000 of the most severely disabled people in this country including 30,000 severely disabled children. I must emphasise that this was done in spite of opposition from Members on the other side who are insisting on large public expenditure cuts. Public expenditure on mobility help for the disabled is—as has already been stated in the House—being trebled. The number of disabled people receiving out door mobility help is 87,000. It has already been mentioned that 43,000 receive the new mobility allowance but 44,000 retain the benefits under the old vehicle scheme.
1082 Tribute should therefore be paid to the dedicated work that has been done by the minister with responsibility for the disabled who is now helping more disabled people than ever before. In those circumstances the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) was rather pernickety and churlish in criticising my hon. Friend. On Monday 24th January my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) asked the Prime Minister:if he will list the headings of all new help for disabled peoplefi including decisions and actions taken by all Government Departments since the appointment of the first Minister for the Disabled in March 1974."—[Official Report, 24th January 1977; Vol. 924, c. 471.]The Minister, responsible for the disabled, who had been asked to reply, thereupon listed no fewer than 85 matters in which the Government had improved the lot of the disabled, including mobility allowance for some 100,000 new beneficiaries—disabled children and adults. In these circumstances the Minister should receive the greatest support possible from all hon. Members.
I must also endorse what has been said by various hon. Members from both sides of the House about the Treasury. We are not doing enough for the disabled, but that is not the fault of the Minister. It is not he who should be on the mat this afternoon but the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary.
For example, it is distressing that the Minister has not been able to extend benefits to those aged over 65. Here I must declare a potential interest because I am aged 67 and I have two steel hips and arthritis of the spine. Thank heavens, I do not yet need a mobility allowance but I still have a potential interest to declare. People aged over 65 need more than those under 65. My right hon. Friends at the Treasury do not know that as people grow older they need more comfort. They do not want to be phased out when they reach the age of 65 so that they have no more mobility allowance and must just wait to die. I know this because I am over 65. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, is a mere stripling—well, a substantial stripling, but nevertheless a stripling—and knows nothing of the problems of old people. I hope that one day he will be as old as 1083 I am and much older. I hope that he will be a very old man indeed. When he is he will realises that people of that age need more comforts and more help. Yet what are we told by the unfortunate Minister responsible for the disabled? We are told that we have not the money at present and that those aged over 65 will be phased in as soon as possible.
I want the Minister to go to the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary and to insist on getting more money for people aged over 65 now. The sooner that we do that the better. Let us have the Treasury on the mat.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Mrs. Margaret Bain (Dunbartonshire, East)
I hope that before the Chancellor of the Exchequer reaches the ripe old age to which the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Tuck) referred he will have a much more generous heart. One item of interest in this debate is the number of times that the Treasury has been mentioned, and I hope that the Chancellor will take note of the views of hon. Members on both sides of the House.
I do not wish to decry any of the very good work which has been done by the Minister with responsibility for the disabled. As a Back Bencher, I appreciate his constant courtesy and help with any specific cases which I bring to his attention. I am sure that other hon. Members will endorse that view. However, I wish to raise some specific matters before deciding whether to vote against the Government should the Opposition call a Division.
Will the Minister review the whole question of eligibility for the mobility allowance? The definition—being virtually unable to walk—is an arbitrary way of deciding whether someone should be eligible. The disabled, like us, have good and bad days. The conditions under which the test is applied may vary—for example, the weather, the number of people in shopping centres, and so on.
I am thinking particularly of those who suffer from multiple sclerosis, some of whom are able to travel to work in the morning but by the end of the day find themselves completely exhausted and have to rely on others to get them home at night. The Government should review the whole question. More than a medical 1084 opinion is involved in such a decision. For example, hospital social workers who know the background to a case could be involved.
I suggest that this proposal should be extended to decisions affecting parking discs for disabled passengers. There have been several instances in my constituency when it has been difficult for disabled passengers to obtain such discs for their family cars. That has caused great problems not only to the disabled passenger but to the whole family.
I welcome the fact that the allowance is to be uprated. However, inflation must be taken into consideration, plus the proposed increase in petrol tax. After today's news that petrol will be increased in price by 2½p per gallon because of producers' prices, there is an even stronger argument for ensuring that the increase is not taken away before it is paid. The Scottish Council on Disability has suggested that, although the mobility allowance should be kept as a taxable allowance, to make it worth while it should be raised to £10, thereby guaranteeing a £7 take-home level.
I make no apology for referring to the trikes, which represent a vexed question. I am disappointed that a guaranteed re placement has not been announced today. I felt sure that the Minister would have seen his way clear to give us a date by which we could expect the replacement to be available. I was disappointed that the Secretary of State appeared to be satisfied with the level of research which is going on. I am not.
I am also deeply concerned about the effect on youngsters of 16 or 17 years of age who wish to go on to further education or to take up employment of not being allowed to have a vehicle and no longer having the opportunity of learning to drive as the assessment, advice and training previously available through the Vehicle Service is no longer available.
I should like the Invacar to be continued until there is a replacement for it. In many cases it is the poorer disabled who are most adversely affected. Families with a certain amount of wealth can usually adequately compensate a disabled relative regarding transport, but poorer sections of the community cannot compensate in that way.
1085 A further point concerns the commutation scheme. When will it get under way? What will be the extent of it? How many loans per year will there be? It is a good idea, but it does not seem to take into account the cost of servicing and repairing cars. Driving for the disabled is not a luxury but an absolute necessity.
I should like an assurance on upper age limits. The Secretary of State said that he expected that by 1979 all people up to retirement age would be included in the scheme. It is a shame that the scheme has not been extended. If people have been eligible for the mobility allowance during their working lives, it must come as a severe blow not to be entitled to it on retirement, when their life styles may be more difficult to cope with.
Concerning the lower age limit, a number of families in my constituency have young disabled children. These are poor families without cars. They have great difficulty in arranging for their youngsters to have a day at the seaside. We should therefore consider making an allowance for the disabled from the cradle to the grave.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. John Ovenden (Gravesend)
I have sat through many speeches of a churlish nature from the Opposition Front Bench, but today's contribution by the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) must outrank all others. Members less charitable than myself might suggest that it was hypocritical. Perhaps I am too generous. I content myself by saying that it revealed a total misunderstanding of the situation, and I leave it at that.
This argument has been riddled with misconceptions about what the Government are doing and what their policy is. Some of the misconceptions have been based on genuine misunderstanding, but I suspect that others have been based on deliberate misunderstanding and distortion of Government policy.
It would have been helpful if, during the last few months, spokesmen for other parties had gone out of their way to try to dispel the fears of disabled drivers rather than to trade on them. Listening to some hon. Members, one could perhaps be excused for believing that the old system of mobility support was perfect. 1086 But, looking back, one realises how inadequate that system was. Therefore the Government must be given credit for the advance that they have made.
There are about 3 million disabled or handicapped people in this country. Nearly half of them are so severely disabled that they could not drive a specialist car of any type, whatever we did for them. Yet the old scheme gave no help to them. It gave no help to 30,000 disabled children whose families had to cater for their mobility. Parents had to stretch their family budget to afford a motor car to ferry their disabled child or children around. As I said, the old scheme did nothing for them. Yet, to listen to some hon. Members today, one might think that it was a perfect system.
The introduction of the mobility allowance was a great breakthrough in the extension of mobility to a much wider group of people than had benefited in the past. It has been of enormous value to people who are too severely disabled to drive and to disabled children.
One family in my constituency has two disabled children. Before the introduction of the mobility allowance, that family had no support from the State to help with its problems. Now it has £10 a week in mobility support. Indeed, thanks to the announcement made today by my right hon. Friend, it will shortly have £14 a week. I ask those who criticise the moves that the Government have made to compare the plight of such families, before the introduction of the mobility allowance with the support that they are now getting.
Those who qualified for invalid tricycles under the old system found the scheme far from perfect. For many years there have been complaints about the standard, design and safety of invalid cars. I think that all hon. Members have received the most common complaint, namely, that disabled drivers could not take their families in their cars. Consequently they became social outcasts because their families went to the seaside by train and the disabled drivers had to drive there and meet them at the station. We should not impose that situation on anyone, disabled or not.
Over recent months there have been grave fears among the disabled that their tricycles might be taken away. But the 1087 announcement that the tricycle was to be phased out over a period of not less than five years went some way to calm their fears. The Government need to go further. We need a definite pledge that they will do something positive in the near future about replacing this vehicle with a specialist vehicle. I find it disturbing that there is at present no definite evidence that there is a replacement. Many of my hon. Friends find that equally disturbing. We must give priority to a new specialist vehicle, and we must let the disabled know that we are acting now.
I remind my hon. and right hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench that we have a big public financial involvement in the motor car industry. British Leyland is a nationalised industry and Chrysler is dependent on Government financial support for its continued existence. I see no reason why the Government should not be able to go to either one of those firms and ask it to give priority to the development of a new specialist vehicle. The Government should be able to go to those firms and ask for some support.
For too long the argument about mobility has been distorted. It has been distorted between the supporters of mobility allowance and the supporters of specialist vehicles. I believe that to be a false argument. The disabled need freedom of choice. There is no universal provision for the disabled, because there is no universal category or standard of disability. Individual needs vary because of the different nature of disabilities. There is a continued need for a specialist vehicle for people who cannot drive other vehicles. There are a number of people in that category.
A large number of disabled people would prefer the right to buy their own vehicles if they had the opportunity to do so. Only a realistic level of mobility allowance will allow that to become a reality. We have moved some way towards that today. Anyone who did not welcome my right hon. Friend's announcement about the £7 mobility allowance would be extremely churlish.
I welcome it. It conforms entirely with the figure suggested last year by the Central Council for the Disabled as being a realistic level of disability allowance. 1088 The council suggested a figure of £7, but we need to go further: we need to do something positive about commutation. The £7 a week will not provide people with an alternative to a specialist vehicle. Unless we have a system of commutation, people will perhaps still be housebound because of the lack of mobility.
I would impress a further point upon my hon. and right hon. Friends. I hope that the new £1 allowance will be index linked, not just index linked to the retail price index, but to the special index of motoring costs. Many hon. Members know that motoring costs do not move in line with the RPI and that in recent years they have moved ahead more rapidly.
The Government's policy is moving in the direction of freedom of choice, but if we are to make that a complete reality, we must have, first, a commutation system and, secondly, a more generous attitude fom the Treasury towards the lifting of VAT and special car tax for disabled people buying vehicles. When the Government are themselves exempt from this tax when buying invalid vehicles, I do not see why individual disabled persons should not also be exempt. We must do that if we are to make freedom of choice a reality.
We could also make some progress with regard to the Employment Services Agency scheme, which provides for those less disabled who need help with mobility to work. I find the Employment Services Agency scheme complicated, secretive and totally ineffective in scope. Last October the junior Minister at the Department of Employment told me that the total expenditure on the scheme last year was £64,000. That is totally inadequate. The Department of Employment should make a real contribution to mobility so that disabled people can go to work and so that the whole burden is not borne by my hon. Friends at the DHSS.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Alison (Barkston Ash)
I hope to be as commendably brief as the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Ovenden). I shall confine myself to a rather narrow, personal aspect of the invalid vehicle service which arose during the period when I was a junior Minister at the Department of Health in the last Government and had some responsibility 1089 in this regard. It relates to what has been described as "the case of the forged document".
In December 1973 the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) was sent a document purporting to be an internal DHSS memorandum allegedly drafted and signed by myself and addressed to a departmental official called Mr. Salter. The implication of the text of that forged document was that notwithstanding any evidence that the three-wheelers were not safe on the roads it would nevertheless be impolitic to admit as much, either in public or in the House. This was clearly a damaging memorandum, if authentic.
On 20th December 1973 I stated publicly in the House—from the Government Dispatch Box in reply to a Question—that I had not drafted or signed this document and that it was a forgery. Incidentally, it was palpably a forgery. The signature was demonstrably not mine. The officer to whom it was allegedly addressed had left the Department six months earlier and gone to Brussels. There were in the typing of the memorandum a number of technical defects which made it clear that it had not come from the Department of Health. I now wish to take this opportunity categorically to repeat this denial of authorship or responsibility for this forged memorandum and to reassert that it was a forgery.
It is necessary for me to do so because Mr. Peter MacBryan of the Invalid Tricycle Action Group continues to accuse me of lying to the House about the matter. Indeed, he has gone further. First, following my categorical denial for responsibility for this memorandum he referred the forged document to Sir Alan Marre, then the Ombudsman, who in his sixth report in July 1975 concluded in paragraph 80:I do not myself find at all convincing the reasons Mr. MacBryan gave for believing the document to be an authentic memorandum addressed by Mr. Alison to a senior official at the beginning of November 1973. When he was told that Mr. Salter had left DHSS earlier in the year, Mr. MacBryan suggested he might have returned temporarily and been there at the material time. But I am satisfied that did not happenSir Alan went on:I have interviewed Mr. Alison and have receiver his personal assurance that he did not 1090 write the memorandum. I unhesitatingly accept that assurance.Since then Mr. MacBryan put in hand a Scotland Yard investigation to see whether the police could accept the story that I did not produce this document. The police found that the story I told was true and credible. They in turn have now been denounced by Mr. MacBryan for corruptly accepting my version of the story in return for services that I had allegedly bestowed on the police. Mr. MacBryan has implied that the police accepted my story because they were in some sense indebted to me.
I find that in the latest published statement on the allegation of my authorship of this forged document Mr. MacBryan has written:Alfred Morris MP, Mrs. Barbara Castle MP, former Opposition Spokesman on Social Services, and Harold Wilson MP, former leader of the Opposition persuaded Michael Alison MP, former Social Services Secretary, Sir Keith Joseph MP, and former Prime Minister, Edward Heath MP to accept an undercover 'deal' pledging Conservative Party support for a mobility allowance scheme which was politically acceptable to the Labour Party—in return for the silence of Alfred Morris in not revealing the authenticity of the Alison Memorandum and his agreement not to press the issue further. Alfred Morris was also offered the additional reward of a Ministerial post for his silence over the issue by Harold Wilson.I might add that the Secretary of State's statement during the course of the afternoon of the reason for which the present Minister was appointed to that post has up to now, been hotly denounced by Mr. MacBryan in the text of this document as yet a further attempt to mislead the House.
I must appeal, through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to all hon. Members who receive correspondence about this from Mr. MacBryan not only not to believe him but to urge him, in the interests of his own credibility and of the good cause which, no doubt, he wishes accurately and with the best of intentions to support, to abandon this ludicrous rigmarole of allegations which are incredible and untrue, and to return to the constructive purposes which, no doubt, he had of promoting the cause of the disabled.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris
The hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) has referred to the allegations by Mr. Peter MacBryan of the Invalid Tricycle Action 1091 Group concerning a memorandum which the hon. Gentleman is alleged to have signed when he was at the Department, and which has, as the hon. Gentleman said, been the subject of representations to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, to the Chairman of the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, and to the police. In none of these quarters has Mr. MacBryan received support for his allegations, and I must now echo the view of the Parliamentary Commissioner that quite enough attention has already been paid to them.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Like most people, I welcome the increase in the mobility allowance from £5 to £7. I suppose that when we discuss a subject entitled "Mobility for the Disabled" it is inevitable that there should be a heavy concentration on car mobility. My correspondence refers almost exclusively to the issue of the trike, but the subject of disability goes very much wider. I was disappointed that the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) chose to try to keep the debate so narrow, because it is important that we should also consider mobility in the home.
What the disabled want above all is independence, an opportunity to lead as full and as normal a life as possible within the range of their disability. To me, mobility for the disabled begins in the home. The local authorities have a responsibility to bring into practical effect the great deal of research which has been done to allow people to be mobile within their homes.
This is even more important from the point of view of the disabled housewife. There is now available a wide range of what one might call kitchen equipment, such as low level stoves, and, indeed, high level stoves, to suit the particular disablement. There are also folding tables, which can be used beside the sink to assist the housewife. All these things are vital, and if only local authorities will use their imagination and their will to bring them into being, we can transform the home life of many disabled.
Indeed, many of the things which can be done for the disabled in the home are so mundane that one does not think of 1092 them—for example, lowering the level of light switches to the level of the wheelchair, raising the level of power points to the level of the wheelchair. These things are important not only for people confined to a wheelchair but for those who are unsteady on their feet, who have a locomotive disability of the lower limbs. The same principle applies to the adaptation of houses as well as to the design of new ones.
There is a great deal of will among local authorities to do these things, but somehow, when one deals with individual cases, one often finds that it takes a long time for anything to happen. Yet mobility in the home leads to mobility outside it. One has to become mobile inside the home before one can become mobile outside it.
Again, why does it take so long for simple things like ramps to be constructed for the use of people in wheelchairs in the street? Ramps are also helpful to people who are unsteady on their feet. The responsibility for providing these things is divided between various authorities in Scotland, and generally speaking there is good co-operation and good will. Yet there is no doubt that communication between these authorities seems to be difficult and there is often delay. The obvious answer is to reform local government again, but I shall not go into that subject now.
A great deal can be done to assist mobility. Surely at every pedestrian crossing and at traffic lights the kerb step should be done away with and a gentle slope substituted. The need for all these things is so well understood and recognised that one cannot understand why they are not happening in sufficient quantity in sufficient places.
In the big cities a great amount of road work is always going on, and one would think that these facilities to aid the mobility of the disabled would be provided as a matter of course, and surely there would be no serious cost. The Department and the local authorities must be constantly reminded that mobility for the disabled is not simply about the ability to use a car, but concerns the ability of disabled people generally to have their independence and an opportunity to live as full a life as possible within the range of their disability.
1093 I turn now to the question of the trike versus the four-wheeled car. We are apt all too readily to forget the atmosphere that existed four or five years ago. When I was at the Scottish Office, I received a letter—my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security received one as well—from a disabled person's organisation which called the Government murderers because we kept the trike on the road. There was a constant and strident campaign saying that the trike represented death on the road and that the Government were killing off disabled people. Some of those who now think that it was a mistake to decide on the withdrawal of the trike must bear some responsibility for furthering that campaign.
As a Minister, I had to decide on appeal who was to get a trike and who was not, and I remember my worry as to whether people were fit enough to handle a trike. We must also remember that at that time we were, in effect, narrowing the effort and the assistance given to the disabled. The assistance went largely to people who were the least worst off in their disablement. If a disabled person was able to drive, he got a trike; if he was unable to drive a trike, he got nothing. This is why the mobility allowance has been such a boon.
We now have to consider carefully how far we are encouraging the disabled to believe that the whole motoring costs of an individual disabled person and family should be met entirely by the State. People constantly say that the mobility allowance is all right but that it is not nearly enough, that it is taxable and should not be. As the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) said, we want the disabled to be active. Therefore, we should not build up the psychology that they should be insulated from outside events. We have to encourage them to be truly independent, to go out to work—although that is more difficult with high unemployment—to go out for training, for education, and so on.
This does not mean, however, that the Government can be absolved from their responsibility. The decision to phase out the trike was taken primarily on safety grounds, as well as from the point of view that the mobility allowance would cover a wider range. When one starts a new 1094 benefit, the capability of expanding it grows infinitely. It has been argued that the blind should be brought into the mobility allowance. Thus, the demand for an increase in the allowance is not confined to its monetary level or adequacy, but embraces people in other categories as well as those already in receipt of it.
As I have said, the decision to phase out the trike was taken primarily on ground of safety. If we are to have a four-wheeled vehicle available in its place, the research and design should start now, and we should be particularly careful about the question of manoeuvrability. There is another factor to take into account, and that is that a person who can drive a trike safely and easily in a city might not be safe in a four-wheeled car on a motorway.
We have to take all these paradoxes and difficulties into consideration in dealing with this problem. Inevitably, in such a debate, one is short of time and is never really able to cover all the ground that one would like to cover.
It would be a basic mistake to rely on private funds to pay an allowance to enable people to capitalise on their mobility allowance and purchase a car. I prefer the allowance to be given by the Treasury. That is the way to go about it. It would be wrong to rely upon a charitable body and I hope that the Treasury will be encouraged to take action.
The mobility allowance is basically sound. Time and time again we have said that people should have the right to choose. The only way of giving them that choice is to provide sufficient cash. I congratulate the Government on increasing the mobility allowance from £5 to £7.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Giles Shaw (Pudsey)
I am sure that all hon. Members agree with the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) about the problems and difficulties of obtaining ramps, door handles and switches at the right levels.
I want to refer particularly to the problems facing disabled people who are retired or who are about to reach retirement age. All hon. Members will have constituency cases, but I want to bring to the attention of the House one particular case which, after discussion with 1095 those concerned, I have permission to raise.
It concerns a Mr. and Mrs. Parkin of Yeadon. Mrs. Parkin is 58 and her husband 64. Both are disabled, not because of immobility in their limbs, but because they have breathing difficulties and cannot move easily. The wife became a registered disabled person first, but, since she was not able to drive, she did not apply for an invalid vehicle. Her husband became disabled 18 months ago and he has an invalid car. He has also received a letter from the Department of Health and Social Security, written on 26th July, which states:I wish to point out that your entitlement to the supply of a three-wheeler ceases on 10th June 1978 when you reach pension age, and any vehicle on loan to you at that time will be withdrawn.I fully appreciate the Government's problems in trying to make inadequate resources stretch as far as possible in order to help disabled people. Hon. Members have put pressure on the Government during the debate. If they wish to increase the mobility of disabled people, they must will the end. Any scheme for the administration of aid to the disabled must be flexible. It is difficult to understand why mobility should be physically withdrawn from a disabled person. It is even more difficult to understand why it should be withdrawn when it has only just been given.
Frankly, it is indefensible that such mobility should be withdrawn when it results in a closed door for two disabled people. Although the Minister's courteous handling of my constituents' problems was impeccable, I am worried about the regulations. I cannot fault the Minister's handling of this case, but he has compounded one of the major failings of the administration of the scheme, namely, that the regulations do not permit exceptions.
The Government should be congratulated on lifting the mobility allowance.
§ Mr. Ennals
I do not know the details of the hon. Member's case, but I am ready to look at it sympathetically if he brings it to my attention.
§ Mr. Shaw
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that intervention and I shall do what he suggests.
1096 The lifting of the allowance is an important contribution towards helping the disabled and it will be welcomed by everyone. At the same time, there should be more flexibility in the interpretation of the conditions under which vehicles can be issued, particularly for those on the verge of retirement.
The cost to the community of a household that has no mobility is high. I am thinking in terms of public transport, for instance. It is difficult for a disabled person to reach a bus stop, and hiring a vehicle is out of the question. The particular problem of a retired disabled couple is that they are unable to reach the Post Office to collect their benefits. The couple in my constituency will probably require the help of a warden.
I am pleased that the Secretary of State is present and I am grateful to him for his earlier intervention. When we discuss the problems of the disabled, we talk about cash limits and the type of vehicle that is most suitable, but we must agree that some flexibility when dealing with the sheer human problem is of paramount importance.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Clemitson (Luton, East)
All hon. Members have agreed that the main method of tackling the problem of mobility is through the mobility allowance. Hon. Members have agreed that the basic principle behind the mobility allowance is correct and that the criterion for helping mobility should be the degree of disability and not the ability or inability of a disabled person to drive.
I have received criticisms of the way in which the criteria are applied in practice. For example, the other week I represented a constituent at an appeal tribunal. I should have thought that the mobility allowance was tailor-made for the girl whom I represented, but she was turned down. There are people who have been granted a mobility allowance, but who, on the face of it, appear to be less deserving.
Whenever one moves from a discriminatory system to a non-discriminatory system there are problems. That is because some of the beneficiaries of the previous discrimination complain that their advantage will disappear. That is at the centre of today's debate.
1097 The right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) said that he personally agreed that the mobility allowance was the correct way of tackling the problem. He said that cash was better than hardware. I have, therefore, found it difficult to understand the raison d'être behind the Opposition's move against the Government. It is acceptable to have a debate about the mobility of disabled people and to face the real problems that exist, but when the right hon. Member said that there was no disagreement about the principle but that there was disagreement about the timing and methods he was eschewing principle—and no wonder.
I turn now to the phasing out of the trike and the stories about people being grounded. That is a peculiar phrase to use and implies that some disabled people previously had wings. The right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford said that the mobility allowance was not sufficient. We all agree with that. He also said that, since a suitable alternative vehicle is not available, we should keep the trike. But to keep the trike would cost more. Therefore, either more must be spent on mobility for disabled people or, within a fixed budget, less must be spent on non-drivers than on drivers. That argument is indisputable.
I believe that this Government's record on mobility for the disabled is unequalled by any previous Government. Of course the mobility allowance should be increased; of course, a commutation system should be introduced: but all these will cost a great deal more than is being spent at present. In my view, if there is to be more spent on enabling disabled people to be mobile it must not be spent in such a way as to perpetuate discrimination. It must be spent in a way which brings all disabled people nearer the goal of total mobility.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Dr. Gerard Vaughan (Reading, South)
It is clear from what has been said from both sides of the House that we all agree that the mobility allowance is a desirable and, on the whole, satisfactory way of meeting certain kinds of needs, and we welcome the increased mobility allowance which the Secretary of State announced today. We also welcome the right hon. Gentleman's statement that he expects trikes to have a rather longer life than he thought previously. This is very good 1098 news. But we cannot welcome the fact that he is still doing nothing to provide a vehicle for the young and the newly disabled.
We have heard a great deal today about fairness. Here is a group of people who manifestly are being treated unfairly. What we are discussing today is whether all disabled people should have the dignity which comes from being able to move freely outside their homes, the dignity which comes from being able to go out to work if they wish and are able to do so, and the dignity which comes from being able to go out shopping and to pursue social activities.
We raise this debate today because we are deeply concerned about the plight of those people who have been denied the dignity of being able to get out and who, since the change of policy last year, have been denied the dignity of having satisfactory vehicles of their own. That is the issue behind much of what we have been discussing.
From Questions asked in the House recently it has become clear that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House—and not just Opposition Members, as has been implied—are increasingly worried about this. It has become clear also that the Government have misjudged the situation. I am not being personally critical when I say that. I can understand how it occurred. The Government have mismanaged the situation, and now they do not know what to do.
The Government's record is against them. We have had three and a half years of confusion and uncertainty about what was to happen to invalid vehicles, culminating in the decision last year to withdraw the trike without any immediate alternative policy to replace the trike by another vehicle. That is the extraordinary and unhappy position into which the Government have got themselves.
It is not surprising that since then we have seen mounting anxiety on the part of the disabled through their organisations. It culminated in February, when there was a unanimous request to the Government to admit that there had been a mistake, to admit their failure and to change the policy.
I know that that request was unanimous, because I was at the meeting 1099 at which it was made. I heard people on every side saying that this was what they wanted; many of them saying, that, whereas a year or two ago they had been asking on safety grounds for the trike to be withdrawn, they now realised that they had made a mistake, and asking the Government to be flexible enough to appreciate what had happened and to go back on their tracks to help them.
In the past year we have had a series of statements from the Secretary of State intending, he kept telling us, to reduce the anxiety. In fact, each statement increased the anxiety. Each statement made it apparent to everyone that he had no constructive alternative policy to offer. Again, we can understand why his difficulties arose. But that is what happened. He said by implication that he actually intended, although I do not think that he really intended this, to leave at home, isolated and inactive, young disabled people who were capable of work and of leading an active mobile life.
The Secretary of State talked about fairness. However it seems to many of us that this is manifestly and grossly unfair.
Living in Birmingham is a man of 20 named Len. He left school at 15 and trained as a shoe repairer. Last year he had a serious motor cycle accident. He is now paralysed below the waist and badly scarred. His former employers would give him suitably sedentary work so that he could return to his trade provided he had transport to get him to work. No one in his family has a car. The family is experiencing many social problems at the moment. The £5, shortly to be £7, mobility allowance will not enable him to pay for his transport needs. But an invalid trike would have given him immediate independence and the ability to work. Under the previous policy, he would have had a trike.
Charles was attending his local grammar school. Last year he met with an accident. He overbalanced and fell from a bridge. He, too, is now paralysed from the waist down. He spent five months in a spinal injuries unit. He was discharged in December. He could return to school, where he wishes to remain for another two years in order to take his A-level examinations, and he wishes then to go on to enter a university. I have no 1100 doubt that he could succeed. But he cannot do this without personal transport.
He is only one of 3,000 people in this position. Even if his parents could give him a car, he would be unable to obtain a licence until he was 17 years of age. If his accident had occurred more than a year ago, he would have been issued with an invalid trike and would have been mobile and free to attend his school.
That is the hard reality of the situation. In three different ways the Government have prevented groups of people from being able to work. The new disabled have no trikes and no mobility. Young school leavers have no trikes and no mobility, unless the mobility allowance is enough for their families. People who have insufficient cash, even with the mobility allowance, to provide their own transport have no mobility. These are the people about whom we are concerned, and that is why we put down this motion for debate.
§ Dr. Vaughan
The full extent of the confusion came home to me just before Christmas when I asked the Minister about the number of people receiving money for personal transport from the Employment Service Agency. He did not seem to know at that time that the scheme existed. Certainly he did not know the details of the scheme. He said, quite fairly, that he thought it unsatisfactory that two Departments of the Government should be providing funds for travel. We agree.
But what has he done since then? He has left the situation exactly as it was. We cannot blame him too much if he did not know the extent of the scheme. Most people did not know about it. As we have heard today, only 350 of all those who could benefit from it took advantage of the scheme last year. The publicity was poor. Not enough people knew that they were entitled to it. Already the numbers are increasing.
There are, of course, other examples of muddle in this field, and I do not propose to go into the details today. But we have the muddle of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. It is not working as Parliament intended. The resources are not there to back it up. It 1101 is leading—by raising hopes—to disappointment, resentment and confusion.
There is the constant and totally unnecessary muddle over forms. Surely forms should be understandable by those who have to use them. Many of the forms are ludicrously complicated, and the mobility allowance form is a very good example of this. We on the Conservative side intend setting up a working party to look into this.
Why have we not heard more from the Government about alternative vehicles? The Government say that they are looking into this but they do not tell us clearly what is available, what thinking is going on, and what is actually being done in this respect. I assure the House that a great deal of work is being done, but we do not hear of it from the Government Benches.
The Secretary of State, in what I thought—picking my words carefully here—was misplaced sarcasm, produced a new argument: that an alternative vehicle would be excessively costly. Is that really so? I do not believe that it is. There are discussions going on with the Government concerning the provision of a vehicle at a very economical level. The Minister should tell us about this.
Thank goodness, the motor companies have realised now that if anything is to happen the action will have to come from them rather than from the Government. They have realised that it is not necessary to seek for one vehicle to cover the multitude of different kinds of disablement. That is past thinking, thank goodness, and it is perfectly possible—the Minister knows this from the Ford Escort that he and I have both seen—to adapt a production car at a relatively cheap cost to cover about half—10,000—of the people who at the moment use an invalid trike. That is a very considerable number.
I suggest to the Minister that he should give us much more information about the financial packages which are being talked about and recommended. We ask the Government to be much franker in the whole of this area, and never again to try fobbing us off with erroneous and misleading statements about the Common Market. They do not stand up to ex- 1102 amination. The Minister should admit that he has been trapped in a rigid policy of phasing out the trike.
We should like to put four proposals to the Minister every one of which could be carried out now. First, he should state that it is Government policy that no disabled person should be denied personal mobility to work, to go to school, or to go to a university if it is reasonably possible. Is that asking too much?
§ Dr. Vaughan
Secondly, he should listen to disabled people and allow them to continue to have the trike until a reasonable alternative is provided. Thirdly, he should allow young and newly disabled people to have the trike if they wish to do so. Is that unreasonable?
§ Mr. George Cunningham
We could have decided that tonight if the Opposition had put down a motion to that effect.
§ Dr. Vaughan
Alternatively, special funds should be available in addition to the mobility allowance, to enable people to work. Finally, the Government should give a real lead and show enthusiasm in this field.
The key issue for me was exemplified by the woman who said to me "I am more afraid of being left alone, trapped in my own home, unable to go out, than of anything else." She is not allowed a vehicle under the present policy. Hers is the voice that the Government are ignoring.
It is for these reasons that I shall ask the House to divide on this issue tonight.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Alfred Morris)
The debate started as if it might well deserve to be described as nasty, brutish and short. In fact, it improved as it went on and has been quite a useful, increasingly rational but, unfortunately, still rather short debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) said that the disability of the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) was his Toryism. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), by contrast, said 1103 that the right hon. Gentleman's disability was that he is a former Treasury Minister. The right hon. Gentleman came on as though he was the prison chaplain, and all of us know that he is a former gaoler. It has been pointed out more than once during the debate that he was the Chief Secretary to the Treasury when the previous Government decided to abolish the petrol allowance for disabled drivers. I am very glad that this Government not only restored the petrol allowance but doubled its amount. The right hon. Gentleman was certainly a member of the previous Administration who cancelled the petrol allowance, and it does not lie in his mouth to express very deep concern for the problems of disabled drivers.
The hon. Member for Reading, South (Dr. Vaughan), in winding up for the Opposition, referred to the case of Len of Birmingham. I had rather expected that there might be some particular cases raised in the debate. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment has had a word with me and has said that he will be delighted, as a Minister in the Department of Employment, to have that case looked into immediately. I make the point early in my winding-up speech that the Employment Service Agency scheme is, of course, under review in consequence of the decisions that were announced on 23rd July.
The hon. Member for Reading, South also referred to the case of Charles, a 16 year old, who regrettably became a paraplegic because of an accident. Again I must emphasise that local education authorities have the right to give help, over and above the mobility allowance, to people who need such help in order to proceed with their education. I hope that the local authority to which the hon. Gentleman referred will look at that case against the background of its entitlement to help young people in that particular situation. If he wishes me to join with him in making an approach for the case to be reviewed I shall be very glad to consider his request.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. We should remind ourselves that we are now verging upon a figure of 900,000 severely disabled people who have been identified as such throughout this country. Many disabled people have 1104 said to me that I ought to have argued for litigation in order to ensure the full implementation of the Act. I have always said that I prefer implementation to litigation. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend, and their right hon. and hon. Friends, will do what they can in their localities to see that the Act is fully and humanely implemented throughout this country.
I have a very difficult task, in that there have been many extremely valuable speeches in this important debate. The debate has confirmed what I think we all knew before it started—that this is a most complex and difficult subject. This provides me with a chance further to explain the Government's policy on providing mobility help for disabled people and on seeking to provide help for more than 3 million handicapped and impaired people.
The right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood), who has my deep respect and regard for all the services he has given to his fellow disabled, referred to the problem of young disabled people. I am quite certain that the Queen Elizabeth Foundation would not subscribe to the figure quoted by his right hon. Friend. It is because of our concern with the transitional problems which have been created by the decision to phase out the invalid tricycle that we are in close contact with the Central Council for the Disabled. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said as much as we can say about these negotiations at present. My right hon. Friend and I can assure the right hon. Member for Bridlington that we have the points he has made much in mind and we recognise the importance of all that he said.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South recognised that we are dealing with difficult transitional problems. I was pressed time and again, just as my ministerial predecessors were, to phase out the invalid tricycle on safety grounds. It has been argued repeatedly in this debate that we hear much less now about the safety issue. This is still an important question and there is evidence that new users, not least young people, have been more at risk than others in driving the invalid tricycle.
I must emphasise that we now help more people, including more young people and newly disabled, with mobility help 1105 than have ever been helped before in our history, but my right hon. Friend and I feel that we are not doing nearly enough. We want to build on the improvements we have made. We challenge the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford to say how much more he would spend on mobility if he is not to take away the new benefits from people who value them highly.
§ Mr. Morris
Could I say, before I give way, that I am very short of time. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be brief.
§ Mr. Jenkin
In the debate on the Consolidated Fund the Minister made it abundantly clear that the decision not to allow the newly disabled the option of having a trike had nothing to do with money. Therefore, clearly, the giving of the option can have nothing to do with money.
§ Mr. Morris
I was talking about the subject of mobility for the disabled and not simply about the tricycle. By our announcement today, we are further increasing expenditure on mobility for the disabled.
I have been pressed today to include blind people. There was a very eloquent request from my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones), who would like blind people to be entitled to the mobility allowance. I must tell my hon. Friend that about 115,000 blind people would benefit at a cost of £42 million a year.
I have also been pressed to include the elderly. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain) said that it would be widely appreciated if we could extend the mobility allowance to people above retirement age. That would cost £182 million a year. We must all decides what priority we are prepared to give to disabled people.
§ Mr. Ovenden
My hon. Friend will recall that during his speech the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Wood ford (Mr. Jenkin) suggested that there was such a degree of disenchantment at the Central Council for the Disabled that its Director had suggested that the Tory 1106 Party should go into the Lobby tonight to vote against the Government. I have not received any communication from the Council expressing such dissatisfaction. I do not think that my hon. Friends have either. Has my hon. Friend received any communication expressing such a degree of dissatisfaction?
§ Mr. Morris
I regret that the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford should have referred to what was, perhaps, regarded by the Director of the Central Council for the Disabled as a private conversation. I would not want to cause the Director any further embarrassment. I do not want to involve him in any dispute between the parties. He is a good servant of disabled people. I have been in touch with him, and I limit my remarks to making the point that I would not like him to be caused any embarrassment by what was said by the right hon. Gentleman in the debate. The Director has placed on record his belief that the mobility allowance is the best way to solve the problems of disabled people and that they can be solved on that basis. That statement has been publicly released by the Director of the Central Council for the Disabled.
The hon. Member for Reading, South spoke about the anxiety of organisations representing disabled people. Unfortunately, there has been no reference in the debate to the problems of mentally handicapped children. I received a letter today from George Lee, the Secretary-General of the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children. He refers to this debate and says thatthe concept of a special allowance being made available to enable formerly housebound disabled persons to get out and about was both an imaginative and welcome one, not least to the members of this Society. My purpose in writing you now is to say how glad we are to learn that the Mobility Allowance is now to be debated and that the scheme is to be further extended so as to include children in the 5–10 age group. … The fact remains that the Mobility Allowance has resulted in a transformation in the lives of so many mentally handicapped persons and of their families, and they thank you for it.It is no part of our policy to restrict mobility for the disabled. It has been said time and again by hon. Members from both sides that we have greatly extended the boundaries for disabled people: we are giving more mobility help to more 1107 disabled people than has ever been given before. I know that there is much more to do. We want to do very much more in the service of the disabled.
We know that mobility is about adapting their homes, about new housing provision, about access to public and social buildings, as well as about vehicles, whether three-wheeled or four-wheeled. My right hon. Friend has given a personal pledge to existing tricycle drivers. He is aware of the difficulties of newly disabled people and he passionately wants to help. When he was not in the House between 1970 and 1974 he was helping disabled people outside the House.
I should have thought that the House can believe in the aims of the present Government. As I have said, we want to do much more in this important area. I
§ shall have regard to everything that has been said in the debate. I have a debate on mobility every day of the year with representatives of disabled people.
§ The right hon. Gentleman did win a prize today. He won a prize for ill-defined policies. I think that we have won the prize for performance. I ask the House not to divide its energies in the service of disabled people, but to come together in their service. I hope that the initiative taken by the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford will be utterly rejected.
§ Question put, That this House do now adjourn:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 248, Noes 263.1111
|Division No. 110]||AYES||[6.59 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Durant, Tony||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Dykes, Hugh||Hunt David (Wirral)|
|Alison, Michael||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Hurd, Douglas|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Arnold, Tom||Elliott, Sir William||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Emery, Peter||James, David|
|Awdry, Daniel||Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)|
|Baker, Kenneth||Eyre, Reginald||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Fairbairn, Nicholas||Jopling, Michael|
|Benyon, W.||Fairgrieve, Russell||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Fell, Anthony||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Biffen, John||Finsberg, Geoffrey||Kilfedder, James|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fisher, Sir Nigel||Kimball, Marcus|
|Blaker, Peter||Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Body, Richard||Fookes, Miss Janet||Kitson, Sir Timothy|
|Bottomley, Peter||Forman, Nigel||Knox, David|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||Lamont, Norman|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Fox, Marcus||Latham, Michael (Melton)|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Fry Peter||Lawson, Nigel|
|Brittan, Leon||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Lester, Jim (Beeston)|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Brooke, Peter||Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Lloyd, Ian|
|Brotherton, Michael||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian (Chesham)||Loveridge, John|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Glyn, Dr Alan||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Godber, Rt Hon Joseph||MacCormick, Iain|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Goodhart, Philip||McCrindle, Robert|
|Buck, Antony||Goodhew, Victor||McCusker, H.|
|Budgen, Nick||Goodlad, Alastair||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Gorst, John||MacGregor, John|
|Burden, F. A.||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||MacKay, Andrew James|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Gray, Hamish||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Griffiths, Eldon||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Grist, Ian||Madel, David|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Grylls, Michael||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Clark William (Croydon S)||Hall, Sir John||Mates, Michael|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Mather, Carol|
|Clegg, Walter||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Maude, Angus|
|Cockcroft, John||Hampson, Dr Keith||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Hannam, John||Mawby, Ray|
|Cope, John||Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Cormack, Patrick||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Costain, A. P.||Hastings, Stephen||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Crawford, Douglas||Havers, Sir Michael||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)|
|Crouch, David||Hayhoe, Barney||Mills, Peter|
|Crowder, F. P.||Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Henderson, Douglas||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Higgins, Terence L.||Moate, Roger|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Hodgson, Robin||Monro, Hector|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Holland, Philip||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Hordern, Peter||Moore, John (Croydon C)|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral||Rifkind, Malcolm||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Morris, Michael (Northampton S)||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Tebbit, Norman|
|Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Mudd, David||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)|
|Neave, Airey||Royle, Sir Anthony||Thompson, George|
|Nelson, Anthony||Sainsbury, Tim||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Neubert, Michael||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Trotter, Neville|
|Newton, Tony||Scott, Nicholas||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Nott, John||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Onslow, Cranley||Shelton, William (Streatham)||Viggers, Peter|
|Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)||Shepherd, Colin||Wakeham, John|
|Page, Richard (Workington)||Shersby, Michael||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Parkinson, Cecil||Silvester, Fred||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Sims, Roger||Walters, Dennis|
|Percival, Ian||Sinclair, Sir George||Watt, Hamish|
|Peyton, Rt Hon John||Skeet, T. H. H.||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)||Wells, John|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Spence, John||Welsh, Andrew|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Sproat, Iain||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Raison, Timothy||Stainton, Keith||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Rathbone, Tim||Stanbrook, Ivor||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)||Stanley, John||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)||Stewart, Rt Donald||Younger, Hon George|
|Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Rhodes James, R.||Stokes, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Ridley, Hon Nicholas||Stradling Thomas, J.||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and|
|Ridsdale, Julian||Tapsell, Peter||Mr. Michael Roberts.|
|Abse, Leo||Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Horam, John|
|Allaun, Frank||Davidson, Arthur||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)|
|Anderson, Donald||Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)|
|Archer, Peter||Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)|
|Ashley, Jack||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Huckfield, Les|
|Ashton, Joe||Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Deakins, Eric||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Atkinson, Norman||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Hunter, Adam|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Dempsey, James||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A (Edge Hill)|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Doig, Peter||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)|
|Bates, Alf||Dormand, J. D.||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)|
|Bean, R. E.||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)|
|Beith, A. J.||Duffy, A. E. P.||Janner, Greville|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Dunn, James A.||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Dunnett, Jack||Jeger, Mrs Lena|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Eadie, Alex||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Edge, Geoff||John, Brynmor|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Johnson, James (Hull West)|
|Boardman, H.||English, Michael||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Ennals, David||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Jones, Barry (East Flint)|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Kaufman, Gerald|
|Bradley, Tom||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Kelley, Richard|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Kerr, Russell|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Flannery, Martin||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Kinnock Neil|
|Buchan, Norman||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Lambie, David|
|Buchanan, Richard||Forrester, John||Lamborn, Harry|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Lamond, James|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)|
|Campbell, Ian||Freeson, Reginald||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Canavan, Dennis||Freud, Clement||Lee, John|
|Cant, R. B.||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Lever, Rt Hon Harold|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||George, Bruce||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Cartwright, John||Gilbert, Dr John||Lipton, Marcus|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Ginsburg, David||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Golding, John||Loyden, Eddie|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael||Gould, Bryan||Lyon, Alexander (York)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Gourlay, Harry||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)|
|Coleman, Donald||Grant George (Morpeth)||Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson|
|Colquhoun, Ms Maureen||Grant, John (Islington C)||McCartney, Hugh|
|Concannon, J. D.||Grimond, Rt Hon J.||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Conlan, Bernard||Harper, Joseph||McElhone, Frank|
|Corbett, Robin||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||MacFarquhar, Roderick|
|Cowans, Harry||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||MacKenzie, Gregor|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Hatton, Frank||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)|
|Cronin, John||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Madden, Max|
|Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Heffer, Eric S.||Mahon, Simon|
|Cryer, Bob||Hooley, Frank||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Hooson, Emlyn||Marks, Kenneth|
|Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Radice, Giles||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Richardson, Miss Jo||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Meacher, Michael||Robert, Albert (Normanton)||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Mendelson, John||Robinson, Geoffrey||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Roderick, Caerwyn||Tinn, James|
|Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Rodgers, Rt Hon W. (Stockton)||Tomlinson, John|
|Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)||Rooker, J. W.||Tuck, Raphael|
|Molloy, William||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Moonman, Eric||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Rowlands, Ted||Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Ryman, John||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Sandelson, Neville||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Moyle, Roland||Sedgemore, Brian||Ward, Michael|
|Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Selby, Harry||Watkins, David|
|Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)||Weetch, Ken|
|Newens, Stanley||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Weitzman, David|
|Noble, Mike||Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Wellbeloved, James|
|Oakes, Gordon||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Ogden, Eric||Sillars, James||White, James (Pollok)|
|O'Halloran, Michael||Silverman, Julius||Whitlock, William|
|Orbach, Maurice||Skinner, Dennis||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Small, William||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Ovenden, John||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Padley, Walter||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Palmer, Arthur||Snape, Peter||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Pardoe, John||Spearing, Nigel||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Park, George||Spriggs, Leslie||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Parker, John||Stallard, A. W.||Woodall, Alec|
|Parry, Robert||Steel, Rt Hon David||Woof, Robert|
|Pavitt, Laurie||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Pendry, Tom||Stoddart, David||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Penhaligon, David||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Perry, Ernest||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Swain, Thomas||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Price, William (Rugby)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)||Mr. Ted Graham.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.