HC Deb 11 April 1986 vol 95 cc540-8

Amendments made: No.16, in page 11, line 21 after 'regulations' insert 'or order'.

No. 17, in page 11, line 21 leave out 'made by order'.

No. 18, in page 11 leave out line 25.—[Mr. Hayhoe.]

1.41 pm
Mr. Tom Clarke

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The months since early November, when I came first in the ballot, have been incredible but very inspiring. I have learnt a great deal, not least from the Government Front Bench. I hope that it might occasionally admit that it was able to learn something from us. Perhaps more important, we have been able to reach agreement on what I think can be a good and effective Bill which is in the interests of 5.5 million disabled people.

I have to be candid, however. The Bill is not as radical as the Standing Committee would have wished or as I would have hoped, but we are building for the future. The input of disabled people, voluntary organisations and professional bodies into the Bill has been outstanding. There are many people whom I ought to thank. For that very reason, it would be very difficult. I should like, however, to put on record my deep appreciation to Mr. John Healey, Mr. Peter Mitchell and Mr. Hugh Stewart, among others, who have done sterling work in support of the Bill.

I thank right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House, especially my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), whose great interest and experience in these matters has been invaluable. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) referred to our unique arrangements for whipping. When we next have a meeting of the Scottish Grand Committee I am sure that the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) will be happy to offer his services and that we will be all the better for them. We all appreciate the work that he has done.

We have reached that stage at which we can contemplate what the exercise has achieved thus far. We have had an open and wide-ranging debate, which has involved the public. Some sections of the media have been excellent and others have perhaps been a little disappointing. As time passes those who have been disappointed will perhaps realise the importance of the Bill. We have ensured that a number of vital issues have been considered, such as representation, assessment, the problems of school leavers and the 19-plus problems. We have deliberated also on discharge from psychiatric hospitals and the Scottish planning clause. We have made considerable progress and I do not believe that the House would want to underestimate its scope.

Time after time Government spokesmen have referred to resource implications. The House has reached a conclusion on the matters contained in the Bill after serious consideration. In due course we shall hear the views of those in another place. When we come to that stage and when we reflect in this place on what has been said by their Lordships, perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Raynsford), who has a great deal of expertise in many of the matters covered by the Bill, will join in our discussions. I am sure that his contribution will be welcome.

I say in all candour and without, I hope, causing any offence, especially to the Minister for Health, that the Treasury should remember that it is responsible to this place and not the reverse. This place has established priorities for the disabled and mentally handicapped and their carers. We have taken the decision. We could consider it ill-judged if the Treasury took the view that it should try to thwart the decisions and objectives of the House when the Bill is duly enacted.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for his interest and support. I think that his intervention yesterday was crucial. We have reached the stage when I must express the hope that the Bill will be given its Third Reading. I hope that in time it will be developed to provide a framework for the real progress that I think the disabled will welcome. We have not yet achieved such a framework but the disabled certainly deserve one. I look forward to the time when the many problems the disabled are facing will be solved and when the disabled will feel that they have an enormous contribution to make to our society and the potential which the House wishes them to realise.

1.47 pm
Mr. Hayhoe

First, I congratulate warmly the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) on what he has achieved. I made it clear throughout that the Government endorse the principles that the Bill seeks to enshrine. On Second Reading, I said: I hope that the hon. Member for Monklands, West and his sponsors will be prepared to respond constructively to amendments, some perhaps radical and substantial, which the Government will bring forward. If they do, it is likely that at the end of the day they will be responsible for a Bill which provides a useful if modest development of the present legislative basis on which services are provided for disabled people. That is a worthy achievement for any Member of this place."—[Official Report, 17 January 1986; Vol. 89, c. 1372.] That is the worthy achievement which the hon. Member for Monklands, West is getting close to chalking up today. We now have a measure that will genuinely help to improve services for the disabled without imposing inflexible and impracticable burdens upon local authorities. That is what the Government always hoped would emerge.

The Bill represents an important development of existing provision for the disabled and as such it has significant cost implications. As I have explained, the Government will make commencement orders to bring into effect those of the Bill's provisions which have significant resource implications when the necessary resources are available. Other provisions without significant cost will, I hope, be brought into effect soon after Royal Assent.

We have had a good and constructive debate and not at all the debate that was predicted by those in the media and elsewhere who were questioning the Government's attitudes and intentions and, as they so often do, making wholly and utterly wrong predictions.

The debate has been characterised by the constructive nature of the points raised on both sides of the House. I can assure the House that the Government have noted all the points and many of them reflect issues which were raised during the consultation exercise. We shall be seeking to take them into account in the further consultation and co-operation with the hon. Member for Monklands, West and his hon. Friends following Third Reading when looking at some of the points which have been highlighted and identified during our discussions of amendments which should properly be brought in with the agreement of another place. I must make it clear that such amendments in another place must be on the understanding that they are acceptable to the Government and if they do not add further to the cost of the Bill.

It is fair to say that this is something of a historic day in the development of the legislative structure for the provision of services for disabled people. The hon. Member for Monklands, West rightly and properly paid tribute to some of his advisers from the voluntary sector who, I know, worked closely with my officials on many of the detailed matters concerning this legislation. The hon. Gentleman has steered his Bill with considerable skill, great moderation, great patience and realism of what can be achieved within the constraints, which necessarily control us all, and with consideration for hon. Members in other parts of the House so as to achieve the widest possible area of agreement.

I hope that by praising him in this way I do not influence his reselection, which I hope has been well established by now. At any rate, this achievement, as I have said, is one of which any hon. Member can be proud. Of course, the hon. Gentleman is not yet quite home, as he well recognises. The Bill has to go to another place. If the other place and those responsible for the Bill there have the same skill, moderation, realism, patience and consideration which the hon. Gentleman has shown I see no reason why the Bill should not become law and receive Royal Assent. I say to the hon. Gentleman, as one has sown, so has one reaped. If the response to what I said on Second Reading had not been constructive, realistic and responsible we would not all be congratulating each other. We would probably be jumping up and down with points of order. I am sure that the reason for the presence of the distinguished Leader of the Opposition is to add to the congratulations to his hon. Friend rather than to take advantage of what might have been a rather different situation.

I have no wish to end in any other way than again to congratulate the hon. Gentleman. I have made my gratitude to him clear all along for the courtesy and consideration with which all the dealings we have had together have been carried through. I wish the Bill well.

Mr. Wigley

I shall give up the self-denying ordinance that I have exercised today to congratulate the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) on his great achievement in steering this Bill through to Third Reading, not entirely undented but 70 per cent. to 80 per cent. complete. I thank the hon. Gentleman for the decision that he took after coming top of the ballot, to pick up the Bill. There were pressures on him to go in other directions, but he chose the Bill that would do the most good to the most people. He has built up the Bill through Committee and on Report to something that is really worth while.

Many people have helped in getting the Bill through the House. I should like to thank not least those who have been able to come to the Chamber today. There are more people here than there usually are on a Friday. It has not been necessary to divide the House, which is a satisfactory state of affairs, but it was good to see the support of all parties across the House on these important issues. It is good to see the Leader of the Opposition here. I am not sure how much sleep he has had, but no doubt he has had a good celebration. That underlines the importance of these issues.

Reference has been made to those who have worked hard, such as John Healey and Peter Mitchell, as well as organisations that have given support, especially MENCAP, the Spastics Society, the Scottish organisations, and the Standing Committee of Voluntary Organisations in Wales.

There are important elements in the Bill as it goes forward to the other place, giving representation to those who are incapable of speaking up on their own behalf because of disability. We now have a structure that will enable them to have their case properly heard, and proper assessment and non-bureaucratic and efficient procedures to facilitate that.

Progress has been made today on the position of those leaving special schools. I thank the Government for being willing to accept the new clause tabled by the hon. Member for Monklands, West, so that those leaving special schools, will have an assessment before going out into the community. The same will apply to those leaving long-stay hospitals. Those two areas are critical for disabled people and their families. I welcome the approach that the Government have taken today and the commitment that the Ministers have given. I thank all three Ministers for their willingness to meet deputations and discuss these matters. We have not always seen entirely eye to eye in everything, but one never does. The way in which Ministers have responded has been a significant step forward.

The one area in which we have not been able to go as far as we would like is on carers. I hope that the other place will consider what can be done within the resource limitations and that we shall look again at the matter in future months and years, while doing everything that we can. If there is any one group of people who deserve support, it is those who look after disabled people, especially women, who have given up their careers to look after members of the family or others who are disabled.

With regard to resources, the Government said that, according to their own discussion paper, there was a financial implication of between £25 million and £100 million. That is what they were advised. They have grasped the nettle. I hope that that money will become available to turn the legislation into reality. The provisions will have to be phased in, but I hope that the elements that imply expenditure commitments are not left so long as to leave those who are looking forward to their enactment hanging on while there is nothing happening. I realise that some things cannot happen this year. There may be a need to provide money for local authorities, particularly in the next financal year. I hope that there will not be an undue delay beyond that.

Today, a very important Bill is going from this House to another place. I hope that it will be treated constructively there, and that after it comes back here later in the Session it will be on the statute book before too long.

1.53 pm
Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

I have refrained from speaking on the Bill, apart from a brief intervention, because, as someone with a lifelong interest in the disabled, I should have been horrifed if I had been instrumental in talking out the Bill. I have sat here through virtually all the proceedings because I believe that the Bill is extremely important. As my right hon. Friend the Minister for Health said, this is a historic day in the development of services for disabled people.

I have the honour to represent a city with a long tradition of hospital service. Many of the matters that are dealt with in the Bill will set at rest the anxieties of many of my constituents. They will be glad to know that the gap in the education facilities for young people will, to a large extent, be filled by the Bill. They will be relieved to know that people leaving long-stay hospitals, two of which are in my constituency, will, from now, be assessed properly before they leave, and all the services will be co-ordinated before they are released into the community.

We are fortunate in our local hospitals in that nobody is released into the community without the hospital ensuring that proper services are available for them, and we want to make sure that the high standards that we practise are common throughout the country.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) on his enterprise in getting the Bill through and my right hon. Friend the Minister on working so closely with his colleagues in getting the Bill through in an atmosphere of harmony and tremendously positive achievement. I cannot recall in many years a Bill that has given me greater pleasure, and I thank everybody for co-operating in it.

2 pm

Mr. Alfred Morris

Our proceedings on the Bill have been full of surprises. Many strange things have happened. We thought that the Minister for Health had been put in as a night watchman. If that was the original intention, he has played a very long innings. He has been patient and understanding and, although he has not been as helpful as we had wished, we forgive him as the Bill has now reached Third Reading.

Another strange thing is that we had today the maiden speech on the Bill of the Minister for the Disabled. He emerged from the dressing room this morning full of running and we welcomed him to the Dispatch Box. We know that he is involved in other legislation, and I am glad that he agrees that this Bill is deeply important for Britain's 5.5 million disabled people, their families and all who care for them.

There were two schools of thought about when to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke). There were those who congratulated him at the beginning of today's proceedings. I thought it safer to wait for the Third Reading as there were some uncertainties this morning about the final outcome. My hon. Friend has been dour—

Mr. Tom Clarke

It is pronounced "doer".

Mr. Morris

—good-humoured, responsive to all possible offers of help and always felicitous in his use, if not his pronunciation, of words.

It is now virtually an annual custom for the House to debate one or more private Members' Bills on the needs of Britain's disabled people and their families. Yet it is not by any means an old custom. Before the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, there were entire Parliaments in which the claims and needs of disabled people and their families were never debated. It seems unbelievable and outrageous now, but in the Parliament of 1959–64 there was not one debate in the House of Commons on disability. Going further back, there was not a single mention between 1945 and 1959 in the manifestos of either of the main political parties of anything that might be done specifically to help people with disabilities. In congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West on his choice of Bill, I also most warmly thank him for strongly maintaining this important new tradition of the House.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) has played a most distinguished part in our proceedings. He speaks as chairman of the all-party disablement group. He raised this morning, on new clause 9, an important point about interpreters for deaf people. I hope that what he said will be considered very carefully and sympathetically in the other place. Speaking for the Opposition, we shall be glad if the other place wants to strengthen the Bill. I was saying this morning that many of the Government's proposals offered only 80 per cent. of what we sought, so if the other place wants to go a little further we will look very sympathetically at its proposals.

To use the word "resources" in Committee was like swearing in church. It seems to have been rather less reprehensible to use it on Report. I must, of course, emphasise that the Bill has resource implications. What we must now ensure, in partnership with the local authority associations, is that the resources required by the Bill are made available in addition to those now at the disposal of local government. Unless that happens, the Bill will not achieve its purpose.

As the World Charter for disabled people says, they have the same rights as all mankind to grow and to learn, to work and to create, to love and to be loved. This humane and important Bill will take disabled people much further along the road to the full attainment of that important objective. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition is with us today. He has helped enormously in sustaining our efforts to enact the Bill. I understand that we meet in the presence of a very distinguished visitor. My right hon. Friend has spent much of this morning with him.

I thank also all hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House who have helped to press forward an objective that is so important to many of the most needful people in Britain today. Bless 'em all.

2.7 pm

Mr. Rowe

I am one of those who reserved my congratulations to the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) until Third Reading. Even if I had not kissed the blarney stone—or, given the English background of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Health, perhaps I should say the Barney stone—I would like to say just how admirably the hon. Member for Monklands, West has dealt with his Bill.

It is particularly gratifying for a Conservative Member to have played a small part in helping to put a Bill on the statute book that takes us one step further away from the paternalism which has been the key note—despite, perhaps, the best of intentions—of how we have dealt with the problems of the handicapped. Somehow, we have always assumed that the authorities know best, but one of the great things about the Bill is that it states beyond peradventure that the person who is most likely to have a valuable idea about how he can best be looked after is the person who requires the help on offer. Indeed, the representation provisions in the Bill are unbelievably important for that reason alone.

The Bill marks a return to a concept which was once more common but which has been gradually undermined: we all have a responsibility to those who are disabled or ill. The tendency to shut away people who are mentally handicapped or ill, or who have a severe disability, so that none of us can see them or be troubled by their difficulties must be reversed. The Bill goes a long way towards doing that.

There is work for us to do. In our debate on the carers, my right hon. Friend the Minister made a very important point. He said that if we can show that the Government's estimates of what the full implications of the Bill will cost were wrong and our estimates that it would be much cheaper were right, the Government would seriously consider changing its attitude. This means that everyone interested in further progress under this legislation should work to provide as accurate an estimate as possible of the savings that can be extracted from the care of the carers and from the early assessment of need, so that we can go to the Treasury and say that our estimates are better and more optimistic than the Treasury's estimates and that it should honour the pledge given by the Minister. That is an obligation on the voluntary organisations which played such a great part in getting this Bill through, and on parliamentarians who want further progress to be made. I pledge myself to play my part in that.

Mr. Ashley

I add my tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke). Perhaps the best tribute I can pay to him is to say that he has conducted the Bill as we expected him to do. Other people responsible for the passage of the Bill deserve my special tribute. Of these, two have already been mentioned—Peter Mitchell and John Healey. Without their expertise the Bill would never have made progress. I pay a warm tribute to those two people from the back room.

Other people have been active in the all-party disablement group. The hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) could not be here today, but he has worked marvellously well in this House year in and year out, often behind the scenes, for disabled people. The other member of the all-party disablement group to whom I refer is the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley). On this Bill, he has been the unofficial Whip. I see that our Chief Whip is listening carefully. The unofficial Whip had an important role to play. Without the work of those people, the Bill could not have progressed this far.

The Leader of the Opposition is preoccupied today; he is on a high. However, I am anxious to avoid making any party political point. Ministers might not like this, but they should recognise that without the intervention of the Leader of the Opposition we would not have got the Bill today. I do not want to make heavy weather out of this, but it is a fact. Despite what the Minister has said, I point out that ordinary plodding mortals can inform the Leader of the Opposition of facts about disability, but he transmutes them into political gold. His intervention yesterday was magnificent and most influential. I put that on record because of what the Minister said when speaking to clause 9. He said, "I must be honest with the House." All I am doing now is being honest with the House. I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the important role he has played in ensuring the passage of this significant Bill for disabled people.

I now want to pay a tribute to the disabled people themselves. It is by their effort and growing articulation and insistence on their voice being heard that the Bill will reach the statute book. Nobody who is not disabled realises what severely disabled people go through. Only they and their families realise the extent of the deprivation of the pleasures of life. Only they know the appalling loneliness of disability and how much effort it takes if one is disabled. So it is to those people that I pay tribute today.

Finally, we appreciate what the Government have done, and, I do not want them to misunderstand that. However, the Bill's implementation worries me. We want the Government to implement the Bill as soon as it is passed. If it is not implemented, they will receive the credit for the measure but will not have to find the wherewithal for it. I assume that they will implement the Bill as soon as it reaches the statute book. If they do so, it will transform the lives of millions of disabled people.

2.15 pm
Mr. Kennedy

Considering the healthy turn-out on this Bench one can say that the Bill gives all sections of the House a cause for celebration today. I add my thanks and congratulations to the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke). All those who have participated in this morning's debate will agree that the constructive spirit of co-operation on the issues and priorities which affect the disabled sector has shown the House, particularly those interested in this issue, in an extremely good light.

The Bill gives prominence to the ability and access of the disabled to enjoy the advocacy and the assessment of the needs and issues which confront them; gives priority to care in the community; and emphasises the role of the carers. The Bill is indeed welcome, and we hope that it will have a good and speedy passage in the other place. I echo the words of the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) in saying that we hope its implementation will be as swift as possible.

Obviously, any society and Parliament which devotes attention, to the needs of one of the most vulnerable sections of the community, and one of the sections most in need of parliamentary political support, is behaving well and doing its job well. The Bill has enabled us to do that. We all congratulate the hon. Member for Monklands, West and his colleagues who have worked so hard to make that a reality today, and we thank the Government for their constructive approach.

2.17 pm
Mr. William Cash (Stafford)

The Bill is extremely important, and I congratulate the Government on the way in which they have managed to help it pass through the House after a great deal of acrimonious debate. I congratulate the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) who has fought so ably and courageously for the interests of the disabled. I particularly wanted to make that comment because there has been a lot of acrimony about the Bill. Due recognition should be given to the role the Government played in ensuring that the Bill reaches the statute book.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.