HC Deb 07 February 1978 vol 943 cc1227-8
12. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects to be able to announce changes in the criteria for awards of attendance allowance to kidney patients dialysing at home.

Mr. Alfred Morris

The medical requirements for attendance allowance are laid down in the Social Security Act 1975 and it is for the Attendance Allowance Board, as an independent statutory body, to determine whether the claimant satisfies those requirements. A claimant who considers that a decision on review by the Board is wrong in law can apply for leave to appeal to the national insurance commissioner on the point of law. Up to now no such application has been received affecting the issue which con cerns my hon. Friend, but I know that one is now contemplated.

Mr. Whitehead

Given that one of my constituents intends to appeal to the commissioner on a point of law, may I ask my hon. Friend whether the DHSS will do as it did on a previous occasion, when an appeal on another matter went to the commissioner, and indicate that it will not be too obsessed if the ruling goes against the Attendance Allowance Board? Will the DHSS be even handed in the matter and ensure that both sides are argued by their legal representatives before the commissioner?

Mr. Morris

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the courtesy he showed when he brought a deputation to see me about this matter last week. The hearings before the national insurance commissioner are not adversarial. My hon. Friend can be assured that the case will be argued from both points of view. I shall do whatever I can to facilitate the appeal.

Mr. Newton

Will the Minister recognise the simple fact that it will not be acceptable to hon. Members on either side of the House if dialysis patients start to lose attendance allowance without any improvement in their condition? Will he make sure that this case is heard as soon as possible and if it goes the wrong way will he undertake to change the law?

Mr. Morris

As I have said, I shall do whatever I can to ensure that the case is heard as soon as possible. I must not arrogate to myself the powers of the national insurance commissioner. With regard to any change in the law, that is a question which at this stage must be hypothetical. On 10th January my right hon. Friend said in a reply that we shall bear in mind all the points of view that have been put to us on this very important matter.

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