HC Deb 05 December 1978 vol 959 cc1206-8
7. Mr. David Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what recent consultations he has had with representatives of disabled people.

22. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what recent consultations he has had with organisations representing disabled people.

Mr. Ennals

I and my hon. Friend have frequent meetings with a wide range of organisations representing the disabled. We consult them regularly about major changes in policy and about proposed new regulations or circulars.

Mr. Hunt

As a result of those representations, does the Minister agree that the benefit system now presents a ragbag of provisions, based on different and conflicting principles, with a vast range of varying rates and overlapping allowances? Will he, in view of the fact that the system is now regarded as so complex, introduce a Green Paper on the subject so that meaningful consultations can take place with a view to producing a much simpler system?

Mr. Ennals

I am surprised by the attitude of the hon. Gentleman. Well, I am not actually. Since we came to power, we have made a tremendous advance in benefits for disabled people. With new benefits affecting hundreds of thousands of our population, we have dramatically increased the resources available for disabled people. They appreciate it. The war disabled organisations appreciate it. We have never had a closer relationship or a better dialogue with disabled organisations than we have at present.

Mr. Hannam

Will the Secretary of State have an urgent meeting with the Motability organisation to discuss the very serious problem it is now facing with its leasing scheme? Is he aware that the £10 mobility allowance does not now cover even the leasing of a basic unadapted Mini? Is it not a disgrace that there is a double charge of VAT on both the purchase and the leasing of these vehicles? Will he press his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to have this tax clawback removed?

Mr. Ennals

I believe that the Mot-ability decision, and the establishment of the organisation which enables a £10 mobility allowance to be turned into the availability of a vehicle, was an enormous step forward. I understand that the question just raised by the hon. Gentleman is to be taken in Standing Committee on an amendment that has been tabled. Therefore, I will make no further comment on it today.

Mr. Grocott

Has my right hon. Friend had any representations from groups representing the remaining"Y"list of thalidomide-damaged children? Does he agree with me that the only way in which this tragedy can be brought to an end is for the remaining"Y"list children to be compensated in the same way as the others have been compensated?

Mr. Ennals

There have been further representations, as I think my hon. Friend knows. I will not go further in making a statement about those on the"Y"list at the present stage. I will write to my hon. Friend and give him a reply.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Is the Secretary of State aware that his decision to refer the order relating to the housewives' disability pension to the National Insurance Advisory Committee has been welcomed by some of the organisations representing the disabled? But why on earth did he need two and a half months, until the very last minute, before making that decision?

Mr. Ennals

I think it is true that the decision has been welcomed, because, as a result of NIAC considering this question, it will be able to look at a very wide number of representations, not only from people within the House but from those concerned with equal opportunities. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that, on reflection, it would have been wiser if we had decided to refer the matter to NIAC in September rather than now.

Mr. Cryer

Will my right hon. Friend comment on the development of any replacement for the trike? I know that he is very concerned about this. Will he accept that the Motability scheme is no substitute for a proper system of suitable vehicles for disabled persons?

Mr. Ennals

My hon. Friend will recognise, of course, that those with three-wheelers will be able to use those vehicles, including some replacement, for a number of years to come. I gave an assurance—it has been repeated often by my hon. Friend—that we would certainly not be leaving such people without a vehicle of some sort or another. He will know that a good deal of research is being done by the Motor Industry Research Association. We are looking very closely at what is being done on the Continent. I assure my hon. Friend that we shall be looking at these things in order that we can fulfill the pledge that we made to this House and to disabled people.