HC Deb 22 November 1977 vol 939 cc1293-5
7. Mr. Alexander Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make arrangements to pay the mobility allowance by post.

Mr. Alfred Morris

The mobility allowance is paid by order book which is posted to the beneficiary's address. Orders are encashable at four-weekly intervals at a post office of the beneficiary's choice. While the benefit is still being phased in, it is not economic to have an alternative method of payment: but once phasing in is further advanced, an alternative method of payment will be considered.

Mr. Fletcher

Is the Minister aware that that is a most unsatisfactory answer? He will know that unemployment benefit, supplementary benefit and retirement pensions can be paid by post. Why should this group of all groups be discriminated against when it may well cost individuals half or more of the weekly mobility allowance simply to get to the post office for the payment? Surely the Minister can act to do something about getting this money paid by post.

Mr. Morris

My Department is always prepared to consider the individual circumstances of disabled persons. I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that other persons may collect the allowance on a disabled person's behalf. When we are introducing new benefits, administrative problems are inevitable. I am not prepared to accept the alternative of doing nothing just because there are problems.

Mr. George Rodgers

How many disabled people are currently receiving mobility allowance, and how many will ultimately benefit when the scheme is fully phased in? Is my hon. Friend aware of the strong rumours that the mobility allowance is to be further substantially increased, and may we have a statement from him on that in the very near future?

Mr. Morris

Some 60,000 people are now receiving the new mobility allowance. There was a 40 per cent. increase in the amount of the allowance last week. My hon. Friend referred to rumours of a further increase. I can tell him that there will be a further statement at the earliest possible date.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

I wish to revert to the original Question. If the rumours in the Press that there is to be a new scheme to provide vehicles for the disabled, based on the assignment of the mobility allowance, have any foundation, would it not be necessary to make arrangements for the money to be paid by post? One cannot envisage those concerned having to go round to the offices to collect the mobility allowance. When may we expect a statement on this new private sector scheme to help the disabled to get vehicles?

Mr. Morris

The scheme would be a partnership between public and private sectors. That is a most important point. Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I cannot anticipate the terms of any statement. I hope that he will await the statement which we shall make at the earliest possible date.