HC Deb 25 March 1980 vol 981 c1149
2. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will hold discussions with disablement organisations with a view to producing a consultative document on a disablement costs allowance.

The Minister for Social Security (Mr. Reg Prentice)

I am well aware of the views of the disablement organisations and will continue to listen with care to any proposals that they put forward. However, the present is not the time to issue a consultative document on new benefits for disabled people.

Mr. Hannan

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the present system of disablement benefits represents a rag-bag of conflicting contributory and non-contributory benefits? I take into account the economic constraints of the moment, but would it not be advisable to set out a ladder of objectives towards achieving a more reasonable system of benefits?

Mr. Prentice

I agree with the expression "rag-bag". It is a confused and illogical system. It is our long-term objective to work towards a general disablement income. It would be wrong to raise false hopes by indicating that we can do so within the next few years.

Mr. Dempsey

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that such a study would reveal the plight of the severely visually handicapped, who are required to pay extraordinary costs for extremely expensive visual aids merely to enable them to get around? Is it not about time that something was taken from the Revenue to assist the visually handicapped overcome a great difficulty?

Mr. Prentice

Those who are visually handicapped have a particularly strong case. Undoubtedly there are extra financial burdens arising from blindness or part blindness. I wish that we could do something for them. We cannot afford to do so at present any more than the previous Administration were able to afford to do so.