§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ 3.3 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT INGLEBY
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. It comes to us from another place where it was introduced as a Private Member's Bill by Sir Gerald Wills, and it has passed through all its stages there with general approval and without amendment. It remedies two defects that time has revealed in the drafting of Part III of the National Assistance Act, 1948. May I tell your Lordships briefly what those two defects are?
Under the National Assistance Act, as your Lordships know, it is the duty of the larger local authorities to provide accommodation—technically known to those of us who are versed in this subject as "Part III accommodation"—for persons who, by reason of age, infirmity or other circumstances, are in need of care and attention. The local authority upon whom this responsibility and liability rests is the local authority in whose area the person concerned ordinarily resides. Some of these infirm, aged or handicapped people find themselves for a long period in hospital, and during their stay in hospital they lose their ordinary place of residence. As a result, when they are fit to be discharged from hospital, and some local authority or other is charged with the duty of providing them with accommodation under Part III of the National Assistance Act, there may be a dispute as to what local authority is so liable. The effect may be, and sometimes is, to throw an unfair burden upon a particular local authority, because it sometimes happens that it is sought to charge the local authority in whose area the hospital stands. The Bill remedies that defect by providing that a person's ordinary residence shall be deemed to be unchanged during a stay in a hospital in another area. That is what subsection (1) of Clause 1 does.
12 Subsection (2) of Clause 1 deals with another defect that has appeared in those sections of the National Assistance Act under which local authorities are empowered, and indeed compelled, to provide what are called sheltered workshops for handicapped persons, including the blind, the deaf and the dumb. There, again, the burden of meeting the liability imposed in regard to a particular individual rests upon the authority in whose area the individual ordinarily resides. But the liability begins only from the time when the individual begins work in the workshop; and, as your Lordships will doubtless know, before an individual can begin work in one of these sheltered workshops, very often a prolonged period of training is necessary in the workshop, and that period is not covered as the National Assistance Act was drafted in 1948. The amending Bill which I have the honour to present to your Lordships' House provides that the time at which the liability of the local authority for payment crystallises shall be the time when a person is accepted for training and work in a sheltered workshop. I think that these are worthy objects, and that they will conduce to the well being and the greater comfort of some of these disabled and handicapped persons.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Ingleby.)
§ LORD PETHICK-LAWRENCE
My Lords. I rise for the purpose of giving the assurance to the noble Viscount that we on these Benches not only take no exception to but are glad to see this Bill introduced. We wish it a speedy and happy passage into law. The noble Viscount, with his long experience of work in this field, has given us a most clear and lucid explanation, for which we are grateful. I think I am right in saying that the Bill passed through all its stages in another place without controversy or opposition, and I believe that we may safely predict that it will have the same happy fate here.
§ LORD AMULREE
My Lords, I should like to say one word in support of the Bill which the noble Viscount has introduced, particularly with regard to the first clause. It deals with a subject that has given a great deal of trouble and difficulty, and I think the Bill may be of assistance in this matter. I have 13 found one thing which frequently happens An elderly patient who has been treated in a hospital, and has possibly been there for quite a long time, is transferred, pending removal to Part III accommodation, to a building which belongs to that hospital but which is situated in the area of another local authority. One sometimes has great difficulty in bringing such a person back from that other local authority to the area of the local authority where he or she first of all lived, and where treatment was given. I feel that this Bill will assist in the negotiations in that way, and therefore I have great pleasure in supporting it.
§ 3.10 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (THE EARL OF DUNDEE)
My Lords, the purpose of the Bill, which is to decide the liability of local authorities, first in providing accommodation under Part III of the National Assistance Act to aged and infirm persons who have gone to a hospital or home outside their own area, and next in making payments in respect of disabled persons who are undergoing a course of training in a workshop outside their own area, has been very clearly and admirably explained to your Lordships by my noble friend who is in charge of the Bill, and I do not think it is necessary to add anything to what he has said. The Government are glad to support this useful Private Member's Bill and I hope that your Lordships will give it a Second Reading.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, the only reason I intervene is to ask the noble Viscount who has introduced this Bill how it comes about that this is a Private Member's measure. This is a Bill to amend a Public Act, and one would have expected that the Government, having realised those defects in a Public Act, would themselves have taken the initiative in introducing amending legislation. Is it that the Government have not discovered those defects but the noble Viscount has, and therefore he, or his colleague in another place, has taken the initiative in introducing this amending legislation? I deferred saying anything until the noble Earl had spoken, because I hoped that he would give an explanation 14 of why the Government have been so backward in introducing this necessary amending legislation. While I am on my feet I should like to ask the noble Viscount if he can tell us whether this defect that it is proposed to remedy is a grave one, a serious one has it occurred in a large number of cases or a very small number of cases? I do not know whether he can give us that information.
§ VISCOUNT INGLEBY
My Lords, in thanking those of your Lordships who have spoken so kindlily and supported this Bill, may I just reply to the two points made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin? The noble Lord, like myself, has been a good many years in another place, and I think he must be aware, despite his very innocent air, that Members of that place who are fortunate in the ballot for Private Members' Bills and have not themselves got a Bill instantaneously in their mind to present, very often make unofficial contacts with Government Departments and get a line from them upon what would be an acceptable measure. I am quite sure that that is what happened in this instance.
As regards the second point, I can tell the noble Lord that there nave been submitted to the Minister of Health for decision quite a large number of disputes between local authorities under the sections of the National Assistance Act which are amended by this Bill. The figure I have in mind is that something like 300 cases have been submitted quite recently, within the last year or two, for the Minister of Health to decide. Therefore there is some substance in this Bill, and it will certainly remove the causes of friction which may be holding up and interfering with the welfare of aged and handicapped persons.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.