HC Deb 08 March 1993 vol 220 cc657-8
30. Mr. Pike

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many charters have specific reference to the needs of disabled people.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of Public Service and Science (Mr. Robert Jackson)

The charter calls on all public services to make sure that services are accessible to all their customers and clients. Twenty-five charters make specific reference to people with disabilities.

Mr. Pike

Does the Minister recognise that many disabled people still feel that decisions are taken for them, without involving them, by people who think that they know what is best for them but are not necessarily always right'? Will he ensure that there is more involvement of disabled people and that the private Member's legislation enacted some years ago to extend facilities to disabled people is fully implemented?

Mr. Jackson

First, I acknowledge the hon. Gentleman's concern for people with disabilities. I recently wrote to him after he came to see me on behalf of a constituent about the provision of information for people with disabilities about the citizens charter. I hope that I was able to satisfy him that we are taking steps to meet his concern. The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point about the need to bear in mind the interests of people with disabilities in constructing charters. We thought long and hard about the idea of special charters for special groups, but we decided that the right approach was to ensure that all the various clients and customers of public services are taken into account in framing charters. We endeavour to make sure that the interests of people with disabilities are taken fully into account in that context.

Mr. Lidington

Is my hon. Friend aware that British Rail's policy of phasing out the use of barrow crossings is causing problems and reducing the opportunities of wheelchair users, including many such people who travel to Stoke Mandeville spinal injuries unit and the Ludwig Gutmanne stadium in my constituency? Could he please have a word with the chairman of British Rail to see whether other means are available to restore the opportunities of wheelchair users to travel freely?

Mr. Jackson

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. I shall have to go into it. I cannot answer the point immediately, but I shall follow it up with his assistance.

Ms. Hoey

The Minister must surely agree that if citizens charters are to mean anything and have any credibility, citizens must have a right to compensation when Government services are inadequate. The operation of the disability living allowance by the Benefits Agency, for which there is a citizens charter, is clearly disgraceful. Does he realise how many people are still waiting to have their claims dealt with and will he insist that all who have suffered from the delays will be compensated?

Mr. Jackson

Of course the Government recognise the problems that have come about as a result of the introduction of disability living allowance. Some 800 extra staff have been recruited to deal with the delays. Overtime equivalent to some 300 extra staff has been undertaken. Compensation has been paid in 139 cases. There is a commitment to clear up the backlog of letters from Members of Parliament by the end of March. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security is fully on top of the need to improve the position in respect of DLA.

Mr. John Marshall

Does my hon. Friend agree that even more important than inclusion in charters is the level of spending on the disabled? Will he confirm that under the Conservative Government spending has doubled in real terms? While the Labour party talks, we act and get on with the job.

Mr. Jackson

My hon. Friend, as usual, is absolutely right. Spending has trebled in real terms since we came to office in 1978–79. Some £14 billion is currently being spent in support of people with disabilities.