HL Deb 06 March 1975 vol 357 cc1349-51

3.30 p.m.

Read 3a, with the Amendments.

Clause 8 [Invalid care allowance]:

Baroness SEEAR

My Lords, I beg to move the; Amendment. It is consequential on the removal of Clause 8(l)(c) which limited the invalids' care allowance to relatives. That restriction having been removed, there is obviously no need for the definition of "relative" which is at present included in this clause. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 8, leave out lines 43 to 45.—(Baroness Seear.)


My Lords, there is no point in my adding to what the noble Baroness has said about the definition of "relative" which is perfectly correct. The Amendment makes more sense of the wording of the Bill, and the Government accept it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.— (Lord Wells-Pestell.)


My Lords, I hope that the House will forgive me for raising briefly at this late stage a point which is rather important. I was asked earlier on to raise it by the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, of the Alliance Party, who unfortunately has been unable to attend here during proceedings on the Bill. I have had correspondence with the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, and he has been extremely helpful. It is important that this point should go on the Record. It has been raised in other forms by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and others, and I should like to ask one question about it. The point concerns the provision for long-stay patients. As from April a non-contributory invalidity pension will provide, as of right, long-stay patients up to pension age in all kinds of hospitals with what may loosely be called pocket money. Over the age of 80 all patients in hospitals of every kind will receive this pocket money as of right. Between pension age and age 80, there is, however, a considerable difference between those patients who are in ordinary hospitals and those who are in mental hospitals. Whereas those who are in ordinary hospitals will, again, receive pocket money as of right, those in mental hospitals will not receive it as of right: it will be, as in the past, a matter of discretion for the hospitals. The result may vary very much from hospital to hospital depending upon circumstances.

I believe that almost everyone agrees that this is an unfortunate distinction, particularly at a time when we are trying to do our best not to accentuate differences between mental and other hospitals. I believe that about 30,000 people are involved and will not receive pocket money as of right. The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, has told me that his right honourable friend the Secretary of State is considering what should be done about this situation. I should like to take this opportunity of inviting the noble Lord to amplify the position a little further and, if he can, give us some indication of what might be done and when it might be done.


My Lords, I cannot add a great deal to what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, has said. It is perfectly true that the non-contributory invalidity pension will give something like 70,000 people who are in our long-stay hospitals this particular benefit. The non-contributory invalidity pension was originally designed for people who were available for work but, by virtue of their disability, could not work. Therefore, it is given to people prior to normal retirement age. In this case some 30,000 of them will not be eligible. My right honourable friend recognises that there is something here that needs to be looked at. The position is unfortunate, but she is looking into it to see how best it can be dealt with.

We must bear in mind that, although, at present, those concerned will not get this payment as of right, the fact is that they will not be without pocket money. The present rate of pocket money is some-where in the region of £2 a week, and it will be increased in April of this year. For the group of patients we are talking about, these sums are paid out of National Health Service funds. There is this anomaly—if one likes to use the word— between money being paid out of National Health Service funds and money being paid to patients as of right. But it is not something we are unaware of. As the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, implied, we drew his attention to this situation as a result of his interest in the matter. I can only hope that your Lordships will recognise that we acknowledge this situation and that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is not only proposing to do something about it but is hopeful of being able to solve the problem.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.