HC Deb 25 March 1986 vol 94 cc775-7
7. Mr. Tom Clarke

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if, following his consultation exercise on the Disabled Persons (Services Consultation and Representation) Bill, the Government will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy towards its enactment.

Mr. Hayhoe

I made the Government's attitude clear on Second Reading. The Government are still considering the responses to the consultation paper issued last month. I hope to be able to announce our conclusions shortly.

Mr. Clarke

Is the Minister aware that the views that he expressed on Second Reading have found no support? Does he accept that proper assessments and crisis prevention actually save money, apart from being socially desirable? Most important of all, now that he knows that the response to the Government's document was overwhelmingly in favour of every clause in the Bill, will he accept that finding and refuse to dilute it?

Mr. Hayhoe

I know that the consultations have shown that the resource implications of the Bill and of the proposed amendments to the Bill are considerable. I suggested that that was the case when I spoke on Second Reading.

Mr. Hannam

If my right hon. Friend is facing severe resource limitations in connection with this very worthwhile Bill, will he consider a phased programme of introduction of some of the key provisions of the Bill, especially those affecting the assessment and representation of disabled people?

Mr. Hayhoe

That point has been put to me during the consultation period. As I have said, the Government are considering the responses that were given during that period.

Mr. Willie W. Hamilton

Does the Minister recall that, perhaps because of, rather than in spite of, his speech the Bill received an unopposed Second Reading? Is he aware that throughout the country there is massive support for the Bill? Why will the Government not accept those democratic decisions and realise that if the will is there the resources can be found?

Mr. Hayhoe

Resources require a little more than will. I know how easy it is for the Opposition to suggest additional expenditure, which presumably would be on top of the £24 billion to which they are already committed.

Mr. Dykes

Does my right hon. Friend intend pursuing through his ministerial colleagues in the Department of Transport discussions with London Regional Transport about converting tube stations to make them suitable for use by disabled persons?

Mr. Hayhoe

I do not think that that matter is directly relevant to the private Member's Bill which we are considering, but I shall certainly take account of my hon. Friend's point.

Mr. Ashley

Will the right hon. Gentleman take this opportunity to repudiate the extraordinary view that the Budget concessions for charities make it more difficult for people to argue for the Bill? Will he acknowledge that the Bill is concerned with statutory services and that the Budget concessions have nothing whatsoever to do with those services?

Mr. Hayhoe

One must consider resources in relation to the whole of Government activity—the ability, or lack of ability, to raise taxation, and the ability to spend, or not to spend, as the case may be. It is difficult to make the sort of sharp differentiations to which the right hon. Gentleman refers.

Mr. Rowe

Does my right hon. Friend accept that many Conservative Members have great sympathy with his views in not wanting to put on the statute book provisions that cannot be met out of resources? Given the enormous support for the Bill, will my right hon. Friend take great care not to cripple it? Will he have a word with my right hon. and learned Friend the Paymaster General, who seems to believe that the scope for using the community programme and other programmes within the Health Service is much more limited than it really is? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Bill gives us an opportunity to make those programmes effective?

Mr. Hayhoe

As I made clear on Second Reading and in Committee, I am anxious not to support anything that would be unduly bureaucratic or entail undue administrative costs. The hon. Member for Monklands, West, (Mr. Clarke) acknowledged in introducing the Bill the difficulties in providing the substantial extra resources involved in the Bill's provisions.

Mr. Alfred Morris

The right hon. Gentleman has heard from both sides of the House of the deep concern about the Government's attitude to this humane and much needed Bill. Why does he still appear to insist that he knows better than virtually all the voluntary, professional, health and local authority organisations he consulted? They overwhelmingly backed the Bill and opposed the Government's neutering amendments. "Cynical", "hurried and ill-conceived" and "mean and short-sighted" are but a few of their very strong criticisms of the Government's intention to take whole clauses out of the Bill and to water down others. How can the right hon. Gentleman possibly justify that intention?

Mr. Hayhoe

I notice that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was reading out a prepared statement in the guise of asking a supplementary question. He knows, but did not acknowledge, that the local authority associations have made it clear from the start that there are substantial resource implications in the Bill. That is a matter of concern to them and to the Government.