HL Deb 15 May 1970 vol 310 cc837-72

11.22 a.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do again resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Longford.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The Lord JESSEL in the Chair.]

Clause 17 [Use of invalid carriages on highways]:

LORD CRAWSHAW moved Amendment No. 43: After Clause 17, insert the following new clause:

Entitlement to vehicles other than invalid carriages

". Section 33 of the Health Service and Public Health Act 1968 shall be amended by inserting after subsection (1) the following sub0 section— (1A) Persons disabled for any reason other than as a result of service in the armed forces of the Crown during the 1914 world war and after 2nd September, 1939, shall have the like entitlement to vehicles other than invalid carriages as persons entitled to vehicles as a result of the said service.

The noble Lord said: In putting down this Amendment I wish to raise a live issue which is being discussed by lively people outside Parliament. If this point was not discussed in another place, I think it valuable to discuss it in this Committee. I am looking for a more flexible attitude from the Government on this subject. I concede (and I back this from what I read in the Which? report of August, 1969), that the new P5 invalid tricycle is a great improvement on its predecessor. It has a more powerful engine, although it is foreign; it has automatic transmission, and I agree that it suits many disabled people better than a car. I hope that this point will allay the fears, which I understand the Government have, that there will be a flood of applications if cars are to be offered all round instead of tricycles, or indeed, if the option is given of paying the extra between the cost of a tricycle and a car.

I do not wish to prejudice the position of the ex-Service disabled, all of whom now can have a car whether or not they were injured in battle; but some good things in the scientific and the social world have come out of war, and I feel that it would be a fine thing if the position that the British Legion and others have won could be shared by all. I am sure that this would not be resented by the Service disabled. I have driven some 200,000 miles in an adapted motorcar and I should not like to think of the condition in which I might be now if I had done that mileage in a three-wheel vehicle.

As I say, there is wide support and interest in this Amendment, Mr. Neil Marten, in another place, and the noble Lord, Lord Segal, are very interested, as are the public and the Press, the racing driver, Mr. Graham Hill, and many others. I should like to touch on the social aspect of the Amendment because I feel that the loneliness and sometimes the helplessness of a driver in a three-wheel vehicle is all too apparent. There is a tendency for people to treat such vehicles and their drivers as being a freak on the road. Mr. Graham Hill told me that when he drove one he felt, in racing parlance, like a mobile chicane, with traffic trying to dodge round the outside of him and he unable to keep up. If one is driving a car there is the feeling that one may be of use to other people and I think that that has a strong phsychological effect. I also feel that as the family of a disabled person suffer a good deal, there is no reason why other members of the family should not make use of a car. I went into the safety aspect on an earlier occasion during the Committee stage, and I do not want to dwell on that again. I explained then that there was a basic lack of safety about a three-wheel vehicle.

I know that the vexed question, as always, is that of cost, and I want to start with a substantial credit. If this Amendment should be accepted, I believe that it would give a substantial increase in mobility to disabled people. It would help them to lead a normal life, from which it follows that there would be greater opportunities for employment. At present no less than 11 per cent. of disabled people are unemployed. The cost of this unemployment includes, of course, the loss of potential production and the consequent contribution to the national wealth; it includes unemployment payments and the loss to the Revenue of income tax on earnings. There is also the loss of the investment in a person's education; and there is the cost in respect of those who have to be kept in a home, which could easily amount to some £50 a week. All this I believe, adds up to a large sum of several hundred thousand pounds a year.

There is also the question of the overall cost of the car and the tricycle. I agree—and I congratulate the Government upon it—that in the last five years the amount spent on cars and tricycles has doubled. But the number of vehicles has risen by only 42 per cent. because rising costs have taken care of the remainder. In the last ten years 45 per cent. more has been spent on tricycles, but only 20 per cent. more on cars, so cars are not responsible for the increased costs up to now. I believe that only 224 have been issued in the last five years. That leads me on to the comparative costs per unit, or per vehicle. According to the Ministry's own figures, at present it costs £22 10s. a year more to provide a car than a tricycle. When the P5 is supplied, being a more sophisticated vehicle it will cost more, and so the gap will be narrower.

Following discussions which Mr. Graham Hill and I have had with one of our major motor manufacturers, I understand that an 1100 cc. car, doing 48,000 miles over an eight-year period, would cost £298 5s. per annum, if the full retail price without purchase tax were paid. That includes capital depreciation, fuel, servicing, maintenance, spare parts, Road Fund tax, insurance and garaging. I imagine that the Government could negotiate a considerable reduction on that figure. I should be interested to know whether the Government have any comparative figures for a three-wheeler over that period. The mileage in that period would almost cover the life span of two three-wheeler vehicles. My reaction to these figures was that they were not unreasonable, and when they are set against the credits of the social and practical advantages of a motor car, I feel that there is a good case. I beg to move.


I certainly wish to support strongly the Amendment, and the arguments put with such expert knowledge by the noble Lord. But perhaps it will be helpful to the Committee if, as the noble Lord in charge of the Bill, I say a few words about the present situation and how I see it. Of course, I commit nobody except myself, but I think that I should commit myself.

It would be idle not to face the fact that we are very close to a General Election. Even if I were in the Government, I probably should not know for certain or not whether there was going to be an Election in June, but every reader of the newspapers this morning will assume, I think, that there is going to be a General Election in June or thereabouts. We are sensible people; we are anxious to help the disabled, and we have to take this possibility into our calculations. If nothing particular had been done about this Bill, it would simply have been lost, because the Report stage would have been due during the period of this hypothetical Election. I must therefore express my gratitude to the Government for helping to facilitate its passage and agreeing to give time next Wednesday afternoon. In that sense, it will not be the fault of the Government—and I am sure it will not be the fault of anybody else—if this Bill does not go from this House to another place after next Wednesday. The Government have co-operated, and one naturally assumes that such an excellent Government would co-operate—although I have no reason to say that another Government would not. But those who represent the disabled here are grateful, and we must show a spirit of co-operation in return.

I will not specify, but I feel that we should not behave and fight on as though nothing had happened. There must be some adjustment in our attitude, although I am not suggesting that there should be unconditional surrender. Therefore let moderation and prudence be our watchwords, and at the same time let us continue to thresh out any points that still have to be gone into. I am not suggesting that there should be some perfunctory dismissal of the Bill, because there are a number of matters to be gone into thoroughly but I think it right to mention these points.

It may well be—and I should always hope to be connected with it; if I am spared—that there will be another Bill later on supplementing, correcting and improving this one. Nothing that I say today is intended to suggest that if any concessions are made in order to get this Bill through that will be the end of the story. This Bill is the beginning of the real national help towards the disabled. I thought it right to say how I see the matter. I am not empowered to pledge anybody else, but that is how the matter seems to me.


I should like to ask the Government not to be daunted by the question of the extra cost involved. I feel that there is an important principle in this particular clause. If the Government would accept it in principle, and then carefully investigate each application made, I think they would earn the gratitude of many thousands of invalid persons, who would even get a psychological boost from the fact that perhaps the most deserving sufferers could be at the head of the queue where the benefits of this particular clause are involved.


Surely this is a matter for decision between the parties concerned and the Government Department concerned, rather than for legislation. I should have thought (I shall be corrected if I am wrong), in view of what the noble Earl in charge of the Bill has said, that even though this was not included in the legislation before the House there is no reason why the object should not be achieved as soon as possible when the Government are prepared to commit themselves to the financial expenditure involved.


Before the noble Baroness answers this Amendment, as one who has from the first moment with which he was concerned with this Bill, before it came to us from the Commons, urged despatch, and restraint in moving further Amendments, I should like very much to support the noble Earl, Lord Longford, in what he has said. The whole Bill is now imperilled by the possibility of an early Election, and it seems quite clear to me that every Amendment moved against the better judgment of the Government imperils it still more. I have no Amendment down myself, so I can say this quite freely; but I believe that it is very true.

11.37 a.m.


I should like to thank the noble Earl responsible for the Bill for making his position clear this morning, although I must confess that I am not entirely sure now what his position is. No-one wants unconditional surrender, but I can only add my voice to that of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, who has told the Committee that every day that passes imperils the Bill, and every Amendment moved from now on certainly imperils the Bill. I can assure the Committee that the Government will continue, as they have done so far, both in another place and in this House, to do everything possible to assist the smooth and swift passage of the Bill through to the Royal Assent. To my mind, it would be a tragedy if at this late stage, regardless of events that may be impending, we were to lose the immense amount of work that has been done in both Houses on this Bill.


If the noble Baroness is concluding that part of her reply, I should like to ask her a question. Surely the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, do not mean that to move an Amendment is imperilling the Bill. I am sure that they cannot really mean that, although it is what they both said. Surely they do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, has in some way imperilled the Bill by moving an Amendment. I think we must get that clear.


If the noble Earl will forgive me, the words that I used, and the words that I stick to, were that "every Amendment moved against the better judgment of the Government will imperil the Bill".


I am sorry to break in again, but how can we tell what the "better judgment" of the Government is until they have expressed it? There are a number of Amendments still to be moved. Surely nobody is going to rule them out before they have even been moved. I must make that plain.


My concern here is purely time, and time is passing even this morning. I will therefore address my remarks at this moment to the Amendment that is before the Committee. I do not wish, again for the sake of time, to repeat the information that I gave on the first day of the Committee stage about the general consideration which the Government are giving over the whole range of policy in relation to vehicles for the disabled. This is a point on which the noble Lord, Lord Segal, has just touched. When we discussed this earlier I made it clear that the Government were reviewing their policy and, as the noble Lord, Lord Alport, so rightly reminded the Committee, it is not a question for legislation, but one of administration. We have all the powers we need.

The Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, has moved means, in effect, that he is asking the Government to agree in legislation to extend the "nominated driver" principle to National Health Service patients. At the moment, war pensioners' vehicles are provided not under the Health Services and Public Health Act 1968, but under Royal Warrant. War pensioners have a preference; it is a preference which all of the Committee would agree signalises public recognition of the contribution made by ex-Service personnel to the defence of their country. The noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, kindly congratulated the Government on doubling their expenditure on the vehicle service in the past five years. I can only say to the House, as I said on the last day that we sat in Committee when we discussed the extension of the vehicle service in this direction, that it will involve many millions of pounds, and an expenditure which we cannot now properly estimate and which is at the moment beyond our resources. This is the present situation, and I can do no more than re-state it.

There can be no doubt that to offer to persons other than war pensioners exactly the same treatment as war pensioners now receive would increase the cost of the service to a major degree. Again I repeat, we do not lack the power; it is not a matter for legislation. In saying that I do not mean to suggest that every Member of your Lordships' House does not fully understand and sympathise with the feelings of the disabled people who are treated differently from those who have been incapacitated in the service of the Armed Forces of the Crown. Similar distinctions also apply in other areas of social provisions which have been introduced to signify the very special public recognition we give to people who have made their contribution to the service of their country in this way. No noble Lord would wish to diminish in any way the gratitude that we all feel to them.

I am sorry that I cannot advise the Committee to accept the noble Lord's Amendment. I have made it clear, I hope, that it is not a matter for legislation; it is a question of resources. I also hope I have made it clear in my previous remarks that in the major review of the vehicle service that we are now undertaking we are looking at every category concerned; we are looking at the question of the possible use of cars, although cars are not suitable for all disabled persons. In view of the repercussions which I have indicated, I cannot advise the Committee to accept this Amendment.


May I ask the noble Baroness whether, in the review, the Government will be committed to provide for each category of disabled the vehicle which is most suitable to them?


The whole purpose of the vehicle service is to provide vehicles most suited to the individual need of the disabled person. I am not quite clear what the noble Lord has in mind in asking me that question.


I should like to thank the Minister for her reply. I sometimes feel that the Government are slightly overestimating the extra costs involved. Even if the 26,000-odd disabled drivers who now drive tricylcles all opted for a motor car at the extra £28 10s. 0d. a year, this would amount only to a figure of something like £800,000 a year. I feel that this would be money well spent. In view of what the noble Earl, Lord Longford, said about the passage of this Bill, and of the statement that I had yesterday from Mr. Alfred Morris, who told me that he was trying to amend the Finance Bill to achieve what I want, and also realising what the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said about the ability to achieve the effect of this Amendment without further legislation, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 [Annual report on research and development work]:

11.45 a.m.

LORD RAGLAN moved Amendment No. 44: Page 7, line 28, after ("shall") insert ("have in the Department of Health and Social Security a Division for chronically sick and disabled persons and")

The noble Lord said: It will be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak not only to this Amendment but to the next one, which hangs with it, and also to the other four Amendments in my name on the Marshalled List to leave out Clauses 20 to 23. It is necessary for me to do this in presenting my arguments on these two Amendments, and it will also save your Lordships' time, which I hope will please you.

These two Amendments would make Clause 18 read like this: The Secretary of State shall have in the Department of Health and Social Security a division for chronically sick and disabled persons and as respects each year lay before Parliament a report on the health, welfare, education, pensions and benefits of chronically sick and disabled persons and on the progress made during that year on research and development work"— and so on.

These two Amendments and those on Clauses 20 to 23 arise out of a point made by both my noble friend Lord Segal and myself on Second Reading. Your Lordships will see that the four clauses whose deletion I am moving are outstanding in that they are the only clauses in the Bill which mention any disability by name. A number of your Lordships are interested in, or associated with, various charities that raise money to help the disabled. There are, I have been told (I cannot remember by whom) over 200 voluntary societies concerned with helping people with particular disabilities. If it were not for the voluntary societies and if everything had been left to the Government the plight of the disabled would be very bad. The voluntary societies do marvellous, devoted work, and very economically, too.

Speaking from my own experience, I would say that most voluntary societies would like Government recognition of the work that they are doing, perhaps in the form of Ministry observers on their boards and Government money to help particular projects. When the Government are willing to provide money towards a project, it is a happy event and a great achievement. It means that the charity is recognised and trusted by sober Ministry medical opinion. The Ministries have not only the best advice—or should have the best advice—but the greatest care for the money that they allot, because it is the taxpayers' money. An even greater achievement is to find that the specific disability about which one is concerned is incorporated in the Statute, thereby gaining for itself significance and enormous weight of moral influence, together with the pecuniary advantage which Parliament, in its wisdom and authority, can give.

Either Clauses 20 to 23 are intended to achieve something and will do so, or they are not and will not. If they are not then it is obviously not worth having them in the Bill; they are rather vague. If they achieve something for those with the disabilities mentioned, I for one shall be very glad. I am thinking, too, and have thought before during the Committee stage of this Bill, of all those disabilities which are not mentioned in the Bill. I am Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Institute for Research into Mental Retardation. This is a creation of the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children. One might describe the functions of the National Society as being that of alleviation, while the Institute for Research was set up to find causation and prevention of mental handicaps. We are always looking for help and for money and we find it extremely difficult to get. I heard the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bath and Wells on Second Reading say: … one cannot help being anxious about what is, perhaps, the most vulnerable of the permanently disabled who are, of course, those who are seriously mentally subnormal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT; 9/4/70, col. 262.] I am bound to agree with him, and yet, in our view, among the chronically sick and disabled there is not a mention of the mentally handicapped.

I obviously do not know what my noble friend the Minister will say later on to the Amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Longford, No. 53, mentioning the mentally handicapped—that is to say, if my noble friend is going to move it. Although I have my name to that Amendment, it seems to me that there are dangers in having too much detail in the Bill, and that we should not be too specific, as has been recognised in drawing up the Bill. But for some reason this principle has been abandoned when it comes to Clause 23. That at once raised in my mind the question of fair shares for all. For instance, I should greatly value Government help, with the weight of Statute behind it, towards setting up a really first-class institute for mental retardation in this country, but I do not know where it would end if we all started writing our particular wants into the Bill. I think Clause 24, at the end of the Bill, is quite wide enough and strong enough to cover most circumstances.

However, since the House of Commons have passed these four clauses, and as they are already in the Bill, I am told—and I am willing to believe it—that it would be a pity to take them out. Yet if we are going to be as specific as that, it seems to me that some kind of equal opportunity should be given to other interests to make representations to obtain special facilities, Government attention, and so on. I have seen it suggested that there should be a Ministry for the disabled. I do not know whether that would ever be necessary, but there is certainly at the moment too often a question as to which Department one should make representations to. My honourable friend Mr. Morris tells me that in preparing the Bill he had to deal with no fewer than 11 different Departments.

If your Lordships can hardly believe that, I would say that they are the Department of Health and Social Security, the Department of Education and Science, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the Department of Employment and Productivity, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, the Ministry of Power, the Board of Trade, the Scottish Office and the Welsh Office; and the Law Officers are of course by implication included as well. No wonder, therefore, that it is Mr. Morris's belief that perhaps the main reason why there has never before been a Bill of this nature is that no one has been prepared to face the slog necessary to tramp round these Departments and assemble the Bill, in the face of all this daunting Departmental diffuseness.

Besides this, the Bill will raise questions and problems for local authorities and they will certainly need information. I do not know of whom they are to ask their questions. There will be the matter—there always is, as there was in the Bill the Second Reading of which my noble friend Lady Serota moved yesterday—of keeping the less well-equipped and less willing local authorities up to scratch. I am wondering who is going to see to that. Members of Parliament will have constituency problems in connection with this Bill. Your Lordships will, I expect, have had experience of being shuffled from one Department to another in pursuit of an inquiry or trying to make representations. It can sometimes be a very long job. It is not the fault of the civil servants; each one has his job to do. But I do not think it should be necessary for someone who has a problem in connection with this Bill, or with any cause connected with the disabled, to go round to upwards of a dozen Ministries to find the answer to his question.

So I am suggesting that there should be some co-ordinatory Government centre for dealing with the problems of the disabled, to which we can all go and which will cope with not only all the matters contained in the Bill but all those matters which will be provided for under Clause 24. Of course, it is not for me to tell my right honourable friend the Secretary of State his administrative business but I should have thought that some such division would greatly help him in formulating and operating the provisions of Clause 24. It would help to oil the wheels of Government and navigate corridors, provide information, give sympathetic attention to our problems and generally help to push what we are trying to do. In so far as it is possible, it would see to the fair allocation of resources to all categories of the disabled.

Finally, may I point out, in support of these two Amendments, that it has recently been thought necessary to put into the hands of one Ministry everything pertaining to the pollution of the environment; and, setting all sentimentality aside, I can hardly think that the cause of the disabled is less important. I do not expect my Amendment to be accepted, because it is probably faulty in drafting and in any event it may not be the best of several ideas towards achieving the objectives I have described. But I hope I shall receive from my noble friend the Minister an assurance that the Government are aware of the problems I have raised and will take some steps towards setting up a central co-ordinating governmental body of this kind. I beg to move.


May I ask the noble Lord the Chairman—I am not even sure that this is in Order—whether it is assumed we are debating five or six Amendments now, or only two?


Only one.


May I follow up that question by asking the noble Lord the Chairman whether it would be in Order, as I imagine it would be, to reply to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, which in fact covered, as the noble Lord, Lord Fraser, suggested, about five Amendments? I imagine that, as the noble Lord in trying to help the Committee has covered all this ground, we also may cover it.


I do not know whether the noble Earl is aware that the second sponsor of the Amendment has signified his desire to speak. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, might be heard at this stage.


I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, in Amendments Nos. 44 and 45. They seem to me common sense, and as he has outlined a good many reasons in support of them, I will say no more.

11.58 a.m.


I am grateful to the noble Lord. Perhaps he will forgive me for trying to speak before him. The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, I know, was trying to help the Committee, and probably has helped the Committee, by covering all this ground. But in fact his argument falls into two quite distinct sections held together by a fairly slender link in the argument that, if we are going to specify certain activities which need special help, then there ought to be particularly good machinery at headquarters for allocating resources. This, if I may say so, was the fairly slender connection between the two parts of his argument. I very much hope, indeed with some confidence, that he will not press his Amendments to Clauses Nos. 20, 21, 22 and 23.


If it will put the noble Earl's mind at rest, may I say that, with the permission of the Committee, I shall not move them.


Then I will waste as little time as possible in replying to the arguments the noble Lord began to use, because the truth is that these provisions were hammered out very carefully in the House of Commons after much discussion. These particular kinds of disablement were given a priority as a result of all those discussions, and I think it would be the greatest mistake in the world to try to undo that work. It would certainly finish off the Bill.

May we then turn to the Amendment to Clause 18. I do not intend to take up time, because the Government must give us their guidance. There are various ways in which one could co-ordinate the treatment of the disabled. It passed through my mind that one Minister alone should not have the responsibility for that. I am not in favour of what is called a "Minister for the Disabled", but I think: the present Minister of Health and the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, and her successors should have a special responsibility, defined in some way, for the disabled. I certainly would not personally press the Government hard on this Amendment, but I should like to know what they wish to say about it.


To save the time of the Committee, and in view of the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has spoken over the range of his Amendments, perhaps it would help if I were to address myself to his two Amendments to Clause 18 and leave my noble friend Lady Phillips to speak on the others.

May I preface my remarks by saying that I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Earl in his view on the proposition that I know is favoured in certain quarters, that we should have a separate Minister for the disabled. To my mind the needs of the disabled are as wide as life itself. We do not wish in any way to segregate them from the rest of society. On the contrary, what we want to do above all is to enable them to live to the limits of their potential as normal members of society, and that is why my colleagues and I worked together on this Bill across the range of services that should be provided to help and support the disabled in their daily lives. That has been the approach of this Government throughout this Bill and although, as the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has said, it means that a large number of Departments are involved, that is equally true for all citizens. That is the way in which the Government work. I can assure the noble Earl that I certainly take my responsibilities as Minister of State for Health, which cover a considerable range of the welfare needs of the disabled, very seriously indeed, and certainly in the Department for which I speak I can say fairly that the needs of the disabled will not be overlooked and that they will always have the special attention they require.

However, when we turn to Amendment No. 44, I confess that I find it difficult to advise the Committee to accept an Amendment which would have the effect of telling the Secretary of State how to run his Department. Moreover, it would mean that the functions of the particular division could be changed only by an amending Act of Parliament if change were felt to be necessary; and at this stage I do not think noble Lords would wish me to enlarge on the kind of difficulties that this Amendment would present. At the moment, the Department is divided on a functional basis and quite obviously one would see a difference in the division dealing, for example, with sickness benefits from that dealing with chiropody services, and I do not think that any noble Lord would suggest that those two things should be done together.

It is when we come to Amendment No. 45 that we are prepared to consider whether we can assist in terms of bringing together knowledge and information over the range of need. The effect of Amendment No. 45, if I may now speak to it, would be to extend the special annual report on the progress of research and development in equipment for chronically disabled persons which was carried into the Bill in another place. A particular section of the special report which has been agreed in the Bill would have to cover the whole range of the services provided for the chronically sick and disabled by the Department of Health and Social Security and also the services provided by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

All aspects of the responsibilities of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services are already covered in the annual report of his Department, and I would not advise the Committee to include this Amendment in the Bill because it would require a special report, standing in its own right, for the chronically sick and disabled. If we were to do that, why should we not similarly provide a report on the services for the blind, the services for unmarried mothers, the under-fives, and the elderly? Personally, I would stick to the principle of non-segregation, but what I think we could consider—and this might help my noble friend—is that when we come to present and publish the annual report we should, within the range of the Department's services, bring together the services which are provided for the chronically sick and disabled into one section of our report. This may help people to refer to developments and to watch the progress of developments over the whole range from year to year. With that assurance that we will look at the position in those terms, I would ask the noble Lord not to press the Amendment.


May I ask a question on procedure? I think I missed something that was said by the noble Lord, Raglan. Do I understand that he is not going to move the deletion of Clauses 20 to 23, and that we shall have no opportunity of discussing them?


If I may say so, I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, really covered the points that he would have made in suggesting the deletion of the clauses. Therefore, with the permission of the Committee if I now give the reply to the Amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Segal, that will cover some of the same points and it might assist the noble Lord, Lord Platt, if he wishes to intervene.


May I also point out to the noble Lord, Lord Platt, that he can always speak on any matter pertaining to the clause on the Question That the clause shall stand part of the Bill?

I am most happy with the reply made by my noble friend Lady Serota. I said that it was not my job to teach my right honourable friend the Minister his administrative business. Of course I hoped for more than my noble friend gave me, but I am grateful for what I have got. I shall study what she has said, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

12.9 p.m.

BARONESS DARCY (DE KNAYTH) moved Amendment No. 46: Page 7, line 31, leave out from ("equipment") to ("and") in line 32 and insert ("that might increase the range of activities and independence or well-being of disabled persons")

The noble Baroness said: If the Committee is agreeable, I should like to speak on Amendments Nos. 46, 47 and 48 together because they are all closely related. In moving Amendment No. 46, I am seeking to broaden the scope of the clause. I have been given to understand—and I hope I have understood correctly—that the Government are prepared to accept my Amendments. In view of this, and hoping to assist the passage of the Bill, I shall be brief.

Amendments Nos. 46 and 47 seek to allow the inclusion of "spin off" developments in the proposed annual report; namely, the results of research and development in one field for one purpose which have been taken up and proved useful in an entirely different field. I believe that in the past the disabled have benefited as much from these byproduct developments as from aids designed specifically for the disabled. For example, the golf ball typewriter and continuous stationery have helped many disabled people to write again.

More recently, NASA research for the astronaut's space flight programme has produced various inventions which will benefit the disabled enormously. I believe that if an all-electric car is developed in the future (and if it is it will have been developed for the mass market for the able-bodied and not specifically for the disabled), many more disabled people will be able to drive it, including those who are now too disabled to drive existing cars, people like Paul Bates, who drives a converted milk float with only three fingers and thumb of one hand, and those thalidomide children with powered arms who I mentioned at an earlier stage, and who, when they outgrow their Emma trolley, will be forced to become disabled passengers.

The purpose of Amendment No. 48 is to stress the importance of doing all we can to provide maximum mobility for disabled people. I feel very strongly that every effort must be made to use technology to benefit all the disabled in our society—the blind, the accident victims and so on—and to help them to become as independent and active as possible. But particularly for the thalidomide children, when they grow up, as well as for those now too disabled to drive existing cars, I ask your Lordships to agree to these Amendments. I feel that we must ensure that this annual report includes not only information on research and development specifically aimed at helping the disabled, but also information on research and development undertaken anywhere for whatever purpose, the outcome of which might help them. I beg to move.


In supporting this Amendment, may I briefly give one example of a spin-off development which has been a help to disabled people. It is not only Members of your Lordships' mobile bench who have to sit for long periods in a confined position; it is also the crews of space ships. I am told that a type of cushion has been developed which is very useful to them which would be very useful to us.


It seems that the Committee wishes the Government to speak on every Amendment. I can only say that the noble Baroness is quite correct in saying that the Government are perfectly happy that these Amendments go into the Bill.


I should like to thank the Minister very much for her reply.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 47:

Amendment moved— Page 7, line 33, leave out ("designed to") and insert ("that might").—(Baroness Darcy (de Knayth).)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 48.

Amendment moved— Page 7, line 33, after ("the") insert ("indoor and outdoor").—(Baroness Darcy (de Knayth).)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 18, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


May I say a word before we leave this clause, which I think is an extremely important one. I am slightly worried by the last part which we have just amended and which will now read; …and in particular such equipment as might improve the indoor and outdoor mobility of such persons. I hope that this report will not concentrate only on ways in which the mobility of the disabled can be improved. There are disabled who are virtually immobile, and for these people I think we must all feel particularly sorry. I hope that in inserting these last few words in this clause we shall not forget that the totally immobile appreciate such things as devices which automatically turn over pages of books, many of which, I believe, at the moment are very unsafe. I hope that the report will cover all these aspects, and that the insertion of these last few words will not cause the report to concentrate almost exclusively on ways of making the disabled more mobile.


Am I right in understanding that the term "wellbeing", which has just been inserted by one of the Amendments will specifically cover equipment of a purely safety nature?

Clause 18, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 19 agreed to.

Clause 20 [Institute of hearing research]:

On Question, Whether Clause 20 shall stand part of the Bill?


I would have supported the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, in his proposal to delete this and certain other clauses, for the reasons that he has already given us when he was speaking to Amendments Nos. 44 and 45—namely, that for the first time this clause mentions certain types of disablement. That seems a pity. Clause 20 instructs the Medical Research Council of the need for hearing research. Having been a member of the Medical Research Council for many years, I do not think they need an instruction of this kind. Moreover, it brings in a generality. If we are going to instruct the Council on the need for research into hearing, why are we not instructing them on the need for research into a thousand other things? I think it is a bad clause, and I would not have voted in favour of it.


I fully agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Platt, has said. I think it is a bad clause. I would ask the Government what they hope to obtain by this clause. It is extremely vague. Are they going to set up with it an institute for hearing research? Why cannot I, as a member of the Institute for Research into Mental Retardation, have a clause to myself? I think that the Government owe the Committee some explanation as to what this clause is intended to do.


While I would support the noble Lords, Lord Platt and Lord Raglan, in principle in their objection to the inclusion of these clauses, I feel very strongly that, as a matter of expediency and in order to get this Bill passed through with the minimum of delay, we should not seek to alter the Bill by a wholesale deletion of these clauses. I have gone very carefully through all the prolonged debates on the Bill in another place. I realise how strongly affected individuals, affected parties and organisations feel about these particular clauses, but on balance, in order to accelerate the passage of this Bill to the Statute Book, I am in favour of retaining the clauses.


As one who as the years go on suffers increasingly from deafness, I must say that I sincerely hope Clause 20 will remain in the Bill. As the noble Lord said, there are a hundred and one matters that require research and could well justify the setting up of a special institute. Nevertheless, deafness is a very common complaint, hardness of hearing is a very common deficiency, shared by millions of people, and my own very sincere hope is that this clause will remain.


May I say something more about that? There is a great deal of active research going on at the present time into deafness, both by the National Hospital, Queen's Square, and by the Ferrens Institute, Middlesex Hospital.


While my noble colleague says that, I am sure that as a Parliamentarian he will agree that it takes a very long time to get a Bill of this kind drafted and before Parliament. As I see it, the importance of these clauses is that they focus the attention of society on these particular people. If the clauses are deleted these people will once more be forgotten. Therefore, as a politician I attach great importance to this and I would ask the Committee to leave these clauses in.


As the noble Lord, Lord Segal, quite rightly pointed out, this clause was inserted in the Bill after a great deal of discussion and debate in another place; and, leaving aside the question of the important principles which the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, raised, about the selection of particular handicaps, I would advise the Committee for that reason to leave it in. There is a further reason which I think the Committee would be advised to consider: namely, that this clause as at present drafted would impose on the Secretary of State the duty of collating and presenting evidence to the Medical Research Council on the need for an institution of hearing research. That is the effect of the clause.

I do not wish to delay the Committee at this stage with an account of the developments in this field. The Government fully accept the importance of research into hearing and deafness; and as the noble Lord, Lord Platt, is well aware, the Medical Research Council already widely support a considerable programme and have recently upgraded one of their research teams to the status of a research unit. But both my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who also, of course, has a close interest and responsibility here, feel that this clause, having been inserted in the Bill, should go forward into law. We feel that it would advance the cause of knowledge in this field, and we would advise the Committee not to delete it.


I should like briefly to ask the Committee to leave Clauses 20 and 21 in the Bill. I do so for several reasons. The first is the delay that will be involved if the clauses are taken out, and go to and fro. Secondly, as regards Clause 21, nobody knows how many blind deaf children there are. There is a register of the blind but it is not complete, and it would be a good thing to know the total number. Nor does anybody know how they are being cared for, except for a small number who are being extremely well cared for at a school of the Royal National Institute for the Blind. There may be many others, and I feel that we ought to know.


If there were any question of the Amendments to delete these clauses being pressed, I should certainly argue strongly against that course. But I understood from the noble Lord that in fact he is not proposing that. In those circumstances I hope that, now that these various views have been aired, that will end the matter.

On Question, Clause 20 agreed to.

Clause 21 agreed to.

Clause 22 [Special educational treatment for children suffering from autism, etc.]:

12.23 p.m.

LORD SEGAL moved Amendment No. 48A: Page 9, line 34, leave out ("early childhood psychosis") and insert ("mental retardation").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 48A and ask that No. 48B standing in my name be also considered. I am not quite sure whether some apology might be called for for raising the matter at this late stage; nevertheless I feel that these two Amendments are extremely important. Their purpose is simply to widen the scope of this Bill and to make its wording more precise. I think it is most important that the words "early childhood psychosis" be dropped from this Bill and replaced by the words I have suggested. Many of us realise that as it now stands that is one of the loosely worded phrases in this Bill.

We are all agreed that autism requires special treatment in some form or another. But when does early childhood psychosis end, and when does late childhood psychosis begin? Is late childhood psychosis to be denied all forms of special treatment? When, too, does adult psychosis begin? What does psychosis itself really mean? There are many borderline cases of psychosis as distinct from the severe types. It is a term which, for the purposes of precise definition, might well in the Bill be avoided altogether. On the other hand, "mental retardation" is a very precise term, universally agreed to cover all forms of mental subnormality and mental handicap. It would include all the cases of mental illness referred to by my noble friend Lord Longford and his co-sponsors in their Amendment to Clause 24, Amendment No. 53.

It may surprise noble Lords, as it certainly surprised me, to know that this phrase "other forms of early childhood psychosis" was inserted into Clause 22 in another place on March 20 without a single word of comment or criticism. Subjects like autism and dyslexia were fully discussed, but this phrase was passed over entirely. It is a bad phrase, totally inadequate and liable to all kinds of misinterpretation. I submit strongly that it should be dropped entirely in favour of the words I have suggested in my Amendment. I beg to move.


I recognise the great expertness of the noble Lord, Lord Segal. Not only is he a professional expert but he has done wonderful humanitarian work as Chairman of the National Society for the Mentally Handicapped. At this stage I personally should like to hear a Government speaker who is equipped with equally expert knowledge. I feel myself incapable of offering a comment of that order of expertness. So if it is convenient for the Committee and for the Minister, I think that we ought to hear what the Government spokesman has to say.


I am touched that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, should think that I have expert knowledge. Certainly it is not on the same level as that of the noble Lord, Lord Segal. I speak purely from the educational angle to which this clause particularly refers. The Government appreciate the concern for the education of mentally retarded children shown by various noble Lords in the earlier stages of the debate. Clause 22 of the Bill—and this is also true of Clauses 21 and 23—focuses particular attention on a limited class of handicapped child which presents particular educational difficulties. In a very true sense, the education of all handicapped children presents particular difficulty, but the promoters of the Bill selected these classes because the difficulties of education are specific and the problems of communication between the teacher and child are grave. I do not think that the Government would contest that view.

But when we come to mentally retarded children—the phrase used by the noble Lord—we are not dealing with clearly defined minority groups but with the identified majority of all handicapped children. Of course, that makes them not a matter of less but of more concern. But because of the size of these groups it is not possible to draw special attention to them without actively distracting attention from the other groups not specifically mentioned. I take the term "mentally retarded children" to refer to two main groups, one of which is the educationally subnormal, which is already the responsibility of local education authorities. The other, the mentally handicapped, will be taken over educationally by local education authorities from the hospital and the local health authorities, under the provisions of the Bill which we have just been discussing in your Lordships' House, the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

The provision of educational places for the educationally subnormal children has increased very rapidly in recent years, and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has encouraged local education authorities to provide new schools for these children as a matter of priority. That policy continues to operate and steps are being taken to expand the general programme of building special schools. I do not think it could be held that the Government have neglected to do everything possible for these children, and in fact local education authorities are providing a compassionate and improving service. As for the mentally handicapped, the Government's concern, which is shared by all involved in the education of handicapped children, is shown by the steps now being taken, and legislation introduced, to see that the education of these children becomes part of the more general educational service provided for handicapped children.

In the Government's view the Amendment is unnecessary, and it would defeat the object of the promoters of the Bill to introduce this clause and the related clause. Noble Lords can be assured that very active steps have been, and will be, taken to promote the education of the children to whom this Amendment refers. Accordingly, I ask noble Lords not to accept this Amendment.


Could my noble friend, the Minister, tell me—I do not think she has answered the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Segal—the definition of "early childhood psychosis"? What does that phrase mean? Has my noble friend any information on that point?


It is hardly fair to expect me to answer what is virtually, in the way the noble Lord put it, a medical question. This particular clause relates to education, and it says that it is to be restricted to children suffering "from autism or other forms of early childhood psychosis." That is a comparatively narrow group.


I would say, with respect to the noble Baroness, that I think the Government ought to answer that question, either now or at the Report stage. I do not think that the Government, with all the expert knowledge available to them, can put themselves in the position of saying that they do not know what this phrase means. I was impressed by the noble Baronesss's argument, and if I had any share in it would not wish to press this Amendment to a Division. However, I think that at the next stage we ought to be given an answer to the question of what this particular phrase means. Admittedly I am the promoter of the Bill in this House, but it is a Bill which, I am sure, in this respect was drafted with the help of the Government.


I should not like it to go on record that I said I did not know what the phrase meant. I tried to point out that, as I understood it, the noble Lord was using it medically, but in this particular connection it is being interpreted in relation to educational facilities, which is different.


I accept that. I am sorry if I misunderstood the noble Baroness.


I should like to thank my noble friend for her full and sympathetic explanation. I would, if I may, demur about her remark that these two Amendments were distracting attention from the other two groups specifically mentioned; it is quite the contrary. They were directed simply at the phrase "early childhood psychosis", while fully admitting the need for special education for children suffering from autism, dyslexia, and other conditions actually mentioned in the Bill. There is no question of in any sense diverting attention from the needs of these other groups. The whole purpose of these Amendments was to state that I am not particularly happy at the loose wording of this phrase "early childhood psychosis". Although, naturally enough, I do not wish to press this Amendment at this stage, I would earnestly ask that reconsideration be given to the further possibility of rephrasing these three words in a more suitable form.


I think my noble friend feels that there may be some purists in the medical profession, and others, who will find it difficult to define precisely what this phrase means. He feels that if the net is cast more widely and if we talk about "mental retardation" no group of children will get overlooked. I understood from my noble friend Lady Phillips that there would be no possibility of this, and that these particular children would have the most specialised treatment. Therefore I am inclined to be persuaded by my noble friend that that is so.


I do not want to prolong this discussion, but, as I understand it, the phrase "mentally retarded children" is not a precise definition either.


If I may allowed to say so, it is much more precisely worded than "childhood psychosis". At the same time, in withdrawing this Amendment I feel I ought to pay some acknowledgment to the noble Baroness's Department for the sympathy, the consideration and the broadminded approach they have made to these problems, and express the hopes that we rest in the future progress of her Department in dealing with these very difficult matters. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

12.36 p.m.

LORD O'HAGAN moved Amendment No. 49: Page 9, line 38, after ("education") insert ("by trained staff")

The noble Lord said: I move this Amendment in a spirit of inquiry. I just wish to be reassured, on behalf of the other noble Lords who have put their names to this Amendment, that the words I seek to have introduced into this clause are in fact unnecessary. We have already heard about the children who are dealt with under this clause, and it is very important that children in these unusual categories should have staff to deal with them who are trained and capable of dealing with them. I hope I can be told that my Amendment is unnecessary.


If I take the noble Lord's point, he in fact wants some information. The present position is that regular teachers at special schools have to be qualified teachers, either having undertaken a course of teacher training or possessing some other approved qualification. The children therefore will be in the hands of trained teachers, many of whom, in the course of their training, have taken classes or options in special education. If the noble Lord has in mind some further qualifications for teaching autistic children, as is the case now in teaching the deaf or blind, there are several reasons why, at the moment, this would not be a desirable development. In the first place, there is no consensus of informed opinion on the educational methods and techniques which are likely to be most helpful to these children, and it would not be possible therefore to devise courses of training which could gain general acceptance. In this respect, the problems of educating autistic children are not at all parallel to those of educating the deaf or the blind.

But apart from the immediate situation, we should be unwilling to approve any development which would lead to a fragmentation of special education, and teachers being divided up into small blocks, each with a special or rather narrowly defined skill and interest. It is particularly true as regards the education of autistic children who tend, by the very nature of their disability, to be cut off from other children, and even perhaps from their own parents, that it would not be right to impose by legislation similar isolation from their fellows and the teachers responsible for the education of these children. I hope the noble Lord will appreciate the point that the teachers who at the moment handle these children are qualified teachers.


I thank the noble Baroness for that extremely thorough explanation of the situation, and I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

BARONESS PHILLIPS moved Amendment No. 50: Page 9, line 39, at end insert—("( ) In the application of this section to Scotland for any reference to a local education authority there shall be substituted a reference to an education authority within the meaning of section 145 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1962.")

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move this Amendment on behalf of my noble friend Lord Hughes. This is a drafting Amendment consequential on the application of the clause to Scotland.

The term "education authority" is the term used in the Education (Scotland) Act for what is known under the English Education Act as "a local education authority". I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 22, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 23 [Special educational treatment for children suffering from chronic dyslexia]:


This is a consequential drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 10, at end insert—("( ) In the application of this section to Scotland for any reference to a local education authority there shall be substituted a reference to an education authority within the meaning of section 145 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1962".).—(Baroness Phillips.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 23, as amended, shall be agreed to?


I have one very small point on this clause. My attention has been called to it by at least one very eminent person and it is my duty to raise it. Although I have not given notice of the question, perhaps the noble Baroness will look into it between now and Report stage. If one looks at Clause 23, one sees that at the side of the page there is a reference to "chronic dyslexia", but in the text of the clause itself there is a reference to "acute dyslexia." May I ask the noble Baroness to try to straighten that out one way or the other before the next stage?


Yes, I shall be glad to do that.


I cannot help feeling that the words at the side of this clause are a misprint, and that what was originally intended was acute dyslexia and not chronic dyslexia. It is such a difficult condition, requiring such prolonged treatment, that it would hardly be practicable to retain the term "chronic dyslexia".


I take the point. This Bill is certainly not described as the Acutely Sick and Disabled Persons Bill.

Clause 23, as amended, agreed to.

LORD NAPIER AND ETTRICK moved Amendment No. 52: After Clause 23, insert the following new clause:

Provision of further education provision for disabled

". It shall be the duty of every local authority to make such further education provision for the disabled as will assist them in obtaining employment."

The noble Lord said: It may be helpful if, in rising to move this Amendment which stands in the name of my noble friend Lady Elliot and myself, I explain to the Committee what is the present position regarding the further education of the disabled. It is governed by Section 47 of the Education Act 1944, and Ministry of Education Circular No. 312 of September 11, 1956. These make it clear that local authorities have permissive or discretionary powers to provide further education for disabled people by means other than education at county colleges, as appear to be expedient in meeting the needs of their area. The circular goes on to say that the main responsibility of local education authorities towards patients in hospitals is to secure the provision of courses of definite educational value for those who are able to profit by them. It then deals with the types of provision—that is to say, correspondence courses, informal lectures, discussion groups of more formal classes, and the supply of textbooks to supplement the resources of hospitals and libraries, and the attendance of walking cases at nearby technical colleges or schools of art. It deals at some length with fees and financial arrangements. It deals with disablement cases in Her Majesty's Forces.

The circular also refers to certain voluntary bodies, notably the British Council for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled—and here I must declare a personal interest. It states that they have recently been active in this field of educational provision. For example, the preparatory training bureau of the British Council for Rehabilitation ascertains the educational needs of the patients in hospitals and sanatoria, and in return for the payment by a local education authority of the cost of the facilities provided, and a percentage surcharge for administrative expenses, arranges suitable courses of study.

A number of local education authorities, including London, make use of this service, and when they do so any reasonable expenditure incurred is recognised for the purpose of grant. To give an example of what I mean, a man who is no longer capable of being employed as, say, a bricklayer can still be trained for an alternative profession, such as an accountant, and thus continue to contribute to society instead of being a drain and a disappointment to himself. This proposed new clause seeks to make such provision mandatory upon local authorities. As we know, some local authorities are good, but some are less good. I should like to express the hope that when the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, replies she will not have to tell the Committee that financial objections are overriding here. But if she does have to do so, that will go some way to prove that the present system of permissive powers is not working entirely satisfactorily. These people are entitled to every assistance in obtaining employment that we can give them. I beg to move.


I am very glad that the noble Lord has moved this Amendment. I know that it is one to which the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, attaches a great deal of importance, but she is unable to be with us to-day. If I had to make any general criticism of this Bill, for which I have a very honourable responsibility here, it would be that it does not pay as much attention to employment as, ideally, one would have wished. So I hope that in a future Bill employment will be developed more fully than has been possible here. For that reason, in particular, I express warm support for what the noble Lord has said.


Sadly, of course, I have to use the argument which the noble Lord suggested I might well have to use. I am sorry, but if the provision of these courses were made mandatory on local education authorities, and they had the additional duty of providing them, it would involve additional cost for which provision has not been made in the Financial Resolution attached to the Bill. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will draw some comfort from the fact that his very reasoned case will be on record, and that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science and, indeed, the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity are very concerned about this aspect. So his point will, to some degree at any rate, have been met.


I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for what she has said. Since I am most anxious that nothing should be done to jeopardise the smooth passage of this Bill into law, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 24 [Power to define certain expressions]:

12.47 p.m.

THE EARL OF LONGFORD moved Amendment No. 53:

Page 10, line 11, at beginning insert— ("( ) In this Act the expressions "chronic illness" and "disability" include chronic mental disability and the expressions "chronically sick" and "disabled" have a corresponding meaning.")

The noble Earl said: To many of us—perhaps more than will speak to it to-day—both inside and outside this House, this Amendment is of great importance. If it is accepted, it will make plain that the mentally handicapped in particular, and certain other groups, are well and truly covered by this Bill. On Second Reading, in reply to a question of mine, the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, said: The noble Earl asked me for a clarification of the position under the Bill of people suffering from mental illness or handicap. I can certainly assure him that they are covered by every clause where a problem involving mental handicap could arise."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9/4/70, col. 260.] She mentioned Clauses 1 and 2; and, naturally, I accept completely her expert answer.

But I am saying that it is extraordinarily difficult for anybody, for any mother or father of a mentally handicapped person, and for the ordinary Member of the House of Lords, to discover exactly how this comes about. If you start at the end at the definition clause, you have to work back to the first clause of this Bill. Then you have to work over to the 1948 Act. So it is relatively plain sailing, because at least you are referred all the way by a signpost. But at that point there is a break and there is no clue on the face of it, to the Act—which is in fact the Act of 1959—that provides this coverage. So much is that so that I can say, without disclosing any conversations I have had with officials, that in the answer given by the noble Baroness on Second Reading there was no reference to the Act of 1959; and I know that she is very faithful in supplying us with any information open to her. So it is not at all an easy matter to find the reason why that answer was given.

We are not trying here to extend the scope of the Bill. We are trying to make sure that those who are covered, or who are related to those who are covered, know their rights under the Bill. The main purpose is to make sure that people take advantage of what it is intended they should be offered under the Bill. What is also not unimportant is the whole question of giving encouragement to the mentally handicapped, and I am sure that we all share that purpose. I know that the noble Baroness will at least be able to say that she takes our point seriously, but I wonder whether she can give us any encouragement. I beg to move.


I should like to support very strongly the plea made by my noble friend Lord Longford. Although we had the assurances of the noble Baroness during the Second Reading, I think the subject is of such importance, and covers such a numerous and significant section of our community, that it is not enough that these words should be understood by implication. I feel that a strong case can be made for their actual insertion into the Bill, and I do not see how the Government can put forward any possible explanation why this Amendment should not be accepted.


I know that this particular matter has concerned the noble Earl responsible for the Bill for some time. We discussed it on Second Reading, when I gave a general assurance which I can confirm to the Committee; we have also corresponded about it, and he has also discussed it with officials. Nevertheless, such is his concern that he still feels the need to move this Amendment to-day. If it were carried into the Bill it would mean that we should be creating a number of problems about which I should like to tell the Committee.

The Amendment, which apparently, as I am advised, is intended to appear as subsection (1) so that the existing Clause 24 would be subsection (2) does no more than interpret the terms used in the clause to ensure that the mentally disordered are covered. I submit that this is unnecessary in relation to Clauses 1, 2 and 15, since all these refer back to Section 29 of the National Assistance Act 1948 which, by section 8(2) of the Mental Health Act 1959, must all in fact include mentally disordered. It is our view that it is unnecessary, and indeed inappropriate to Clause 14, which is comprehensive of all groups, subject to an Amendment which we considered at an earlier stage of the Committee but which was not carried into the Bill. We do not think it would be particularly applicable, for example, to those clauses relating to access or to vehicles, or to research and development of equipment. It would, as I said at the outset, create certain technical problems of consolidation and, above all, it would result in requiring the Secretary of State, when he makes regulations, to include mental handicap whether or not it was particularly applicable.


May I ask a question at this point? It could be confined to the necessary clauses, could it not?


That is not the effect of the particular Amendment which my noble friend has put down. This is what I am trying to explain. I was about to say that I share with the noble Earl, and with the noble Lord, Lord Segal, their concern about the needs of the mentally handicapped. Indeed, as I pointed out at Second Reading, both my right honourable friend and I have in recent months done our best to focus public attention on their needs and also to improve the standard of services provided for them. I can certainly give the noble Earl this assurance, which I hope he will accept. Rather than carry this particular Amendment, which is full of technical difficulties into the Bill, I will undertake to see that in the circular that we send out following the passage of the Bill (which I hope will very soon become a Statute) we will make clear what is intended here, where the needs of the mentally handicapped are covered and where they should be covered in future.

I hope that, with that assurance, which I give without reservation, the noble Earl will feel able to agree to withdraw the Amendment, which would cause all sorts of technical problems. I am no expert on how to draft legislation; none of us, including the mothers of our mentally handicapped children, finds it easy to understand legislation. This point I accept. It is really for the Secretary of State, when sending out circulars after the Bill has been passed, to make clear what are the intentions of the legislation. I can assure the noble Earl that we do not intend in any way to overlook the needs of the mentally handicapped.


I would point out that anyone can go to the Stationery Office and buy a copy of an Act of Parliament, but one cannot buy there a copy of the Ministry circular, which is addressed only to certain bodies and individuals.


I appreciate the tone of the reply of the noble Baroness. I am sure that she and her officials have worked hard to see if they can do something to meet this. I still find their position unreasonable; but in this world one often finds unreasonable things happening. I must ask now whether the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, will agree with me (the other sponsors are not in their place) if I do not press this Amendment further this morning. The noble Lord nods his head. I feel sure from what the noble Baroness has said that not only in the circular but in any other publicity, this will be brought up. I take that for granted—the noble Baroness again nods her head. I reserve the position that may occur when another Bill comes forward; for this is certainly something that I hope to see altered on another occasion. For the moment I shall be content with half a loaf. I thank the noble Baroness and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 24 agreed to.

Clause 25 agreed to.

House resumed; Bill reported, with Amendments.

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