HC Deb 20 July 1989 vol 157 cc511-2
7. Rev. Martin Smyth

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he has yet considered implementation dates for the Disabled Persons (Northern Ireland) Act 1989; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Richard Needham)

The Act will be implemented in stages as resources become available.

Rev. Martin Smyth

In so far as we have combined health and social services boards has the Minister any plans to implement those stages faster in Northern Ireland than they have been implemented in the rest of Britian, especially in the light of recent changes?

Mr. Needham

We start three years behind the Act here, and we shall implement it as quickly as we can. We look to implement sections 9, 10 and 11, except (4) and section 12 by the end of this year. We shall implement section 4, except (b), sections 5, 6, 8 (1) and section 11 (4) as soon into next year as we can. We shall have to consider with the Boards the cost implications of remaining sections.

Mr. Bill Walker

Is my hon. Friend aware that in the rest of the United Kingdom disabled people are looked after substantially by local authorities? If Rangers can sign a Catholic football player, is it not about time that we gave Northern Ireland the same local government as the rest of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Needham

We have for a long time had integrated social services and health boards. That system is working extremely well. We are spending considerable sums on community care and we shall continue to operate an integrated system which works satisfactorily for the community in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Tom Clarke

While congratulate the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) on piloting such an important Act on to the statute book, will the Minister offer inspiration to the rest of the United Kingdom by ensuring that the Act is properly and fully implemented and in so doing that community care ceases to be community neglect?

Mr. Needham

I always like to offer inspiration to everyone. We are implementing the Act in Northern Ireland as fast as we can. We started behind and we have to work out with the boards exactly what the costs are. At present I cannot go further than that.

Mr. Alton

Given the Government's ability to publish figures about the denominational make-up of employees in Shorts, does the Minister think that it is reasonable to publish figures for the number of disabled people working in the Northern Ireland Office and in local government in the Province? Can he tell the House how many disabled people are employed by the NIO?

Mr. Needham

I cannot, but I shall find out and write to the hon. Gentleman. Our policy on disablement in Northern Ireland bears cognisance and competition with any other part of the United Kingdom and we are extremely proud of it.

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