§ 4. Mr. Carter-Jones (Eccles)
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action he intends to take in the light of the ruling of the Court of Appeal on 9th May in the case Wyatt v. Hillingdon London Borough Council; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Alfred Morris)
Mrs. Wyatt has now been invited by my Department to specify her complaints against the London Borough of Hillingdon. When these have been received, and we have comments from the local authority, I will consider what further action it may be necessary to take.
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
Is my hon. Friend aware that the court of appeal decision will cause great anxiety to hon. Members on both sides of the House and to the disabled, including disabled children and their parents? Is he further aware that the geographical gamble with regard to the care of the disabled will widen? Will he please spell out the default powers of the Government for bringing action against defaulting local authorities.
§ Mr. Morris
I appreciate my hon. Friend's concern. He will know that I 814 am anxious to do all that I possibly can to improve services for disabled people. Briefly, our default powers provide that a local authority may be declared in default by my right hon. Friend who may then direct the authority to remedy the default. If the authority fails to comply with that direction, my right hon. Friend may transfer the relevant functions of the authority to himself and recover expenses from the authority. I know that he will not hesitate to use his default powers should that be necessary.
§ Mr. Hannam
Does not the Minister accept that he, previous Secretaries of State and the parliamentary Ombudsman have all indicated, and made statements to the effect, that the 1970 Act was legally enforceable? Does not this court ruling now mean that he will have to bring forward new legislation to enable the courts to deal with, and enforce, the law?
§ Mr. Morris
The ruling of the court of appeal, as I understand it, does not mean that the Act is not legally enforceable. The question is "enforceable by whom?" Most disabled people want an effective remedy for their problems. How that is obtained is a secondary matter. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall do everything I possibly can to resolve present difficulties at the earliest possible date.