HC Deb 13 December 1983 vol 50 cc820-1
4. Mr. Patchett

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many staff in his Department have been involved in investigating cases of discrimination against disabled people which have been reported to him since the beginning of 1983; and if he will make a statement.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Tony Newton)

The bulk of the work on cases of alleged discrimination is handled by four staff in the Department, along with their other duties. But a number of other staff both in DHSS and other Departments have been involved in pursuing inquiries on particular cases which were relevant to their responsibilities.

Mr. Patchett

What action can the Minister take when cases of discrimination against the disabled are reported to him? To be more precise, what powers does the Department have to deal with discrimination?

Mr. Newton

The main action that we take is to make further inquiries among those against whom discrimination is alleged. We then consider their response, and may follow it up with the person who made the complaint in the first place. I cannot lay down absolute rules, but we have sufficient scope for conducting effective inquiries.

Sir David Price

Is my hon. Friend aware that, unfortunately, there are still far too many district general hospitals which do not have adequate toilet facilities for patients in wheelchairs and that the parking facilities offered by local authorities — particularly around city hospitals—are inadequate for disabled outpatients?

Mr. Newton

I am sure that my ministerial colleagues in the Department will have heard that. The Department of the Environment is now consulting on building regulations directed at that sort of problem in all new public buildings.

Mr. Alfred Morris

In a recent reply I was told that the Minister and his predecessor had looked at 18 cases of discrimination since 11 February. At the last meeting of the all-party disablement group in the House it was reported that The Spastics Society alone was in contact with between 500 and 600 serious cases of discrimination against disabled people. Why is it that The Spastics Society knows of so many cases while the Minister knows of so few?

Mr. Newton

The answer is that The Spastics Society has not passed on details to us or asked us to look into the matter.