HL Deb 20 February 1985 vol 460 cc577-611

3.16 p.m.

Lord Henderson of Brompton rose to call attention to the need for a disability council, established by Royal Charter, to evolve from existing disability organisations; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope in the brief space of 15 minutes to convince the House and Her Majesty's Government that it is necessary to have a disability council; that it is desirable that that council should be established by Royal Charter; to explain why it should evolve from existing disability organisations; and how it may be funded.

At the outset, may I take the House back to those halcyon days of 1970 when the Bill for the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act was introduced in another place by Mr. Alf Morris. That Bill was seen through this House by the noble Earl, Lord Longford. The 1970 Act had no statutory provision for monitoring its implementation. I thought that it should have had such a statutory provision. But, with a little bit of lateral thinking, I thought perhaps that omission might be rectified by a prerogative body which would do the monitoring instead. Then of course there was a decade of remarkable legislation, all to the benefit of disabled people, and the idea slipped from my mind.

However, in the last two Sessions of this Parliament it came to the front of my mind and I thought that it would have a new use. The reason why it came to the front of my mind is that in the last two Sessions Parliament was deadlocked over the discrimination issue. In 1970 there was no party political dispute at all. This may well have been due to the splendid handling of the Bill by Mr. Alf Morris, to whom all credit is due. But it was an agreed measure, and it was a landmark of progress for disabled people. By contrast, unfortunately the discrimination issue caused extreme party political acrimony in the last two Sessions.

I think we could all surely agree that disablement issues normally should be above the party political battle. Disabled people themselves cannot wish to be a party political football, and I do not think that I was alone in finding it rather a degrading spectacle to see the great political parties competing as to which was the more caring. I grant that something may accrue to the benefit of disabled people by a political auction, but any such gain is countervailed by the loss of the harmonious agreement which led to the Act of 1970.

The noble Earl, Lord Stockton, has recently in this House, in a wider context, advocated, putting, as far as we can, party aside". Surely all the more we should put party aside on disablement issues. I hope that does not sound too smug, coming from the Cross-Benches, and that my political friends will forgive me. I recall a noble and learned Lord, Lord Cross of Chelsea, saying from these Benches that he had an impartial dislike of all political parties. That is not my view at all. On the contrary, I have a partial liking for them all.

This time last year my proposal had three main roles: first, to monitor the Act of 1970 and subsequent legislation for the benefit of disabled people; secondly, to lift disability issues out of the party political battle; and, thirdly, in view of the deadlock in Parliament, to examine the extent of discrimination and to recommend what action should be taken to combat it, either by legislation or otherwise. I did not intend it at all to be a grant distributing body like those other Royal Charter bodies, the Arts Council and the Sports Council, though, when I circulated a note about this, I felt it necessary to include that function, if only to have it rejected.

Now, between 1970 and the last two Sessions, a body known by the acronym of RADAR was formed when two disability organisations came together. That body together with its Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh equivalents (all with different names, incidentally) is as near as we have got to a national council. RADAR is an admirable body under its chairman—the noble Duke, the Duke of Buccleuch. It does splendid work. But who, I ask, outside those closely connected with disability, has ever heard of RADAR? If you tell people about RADAR, they think it has something to do with police speed traps, or possibly with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. I want to see a national council that is widely known; that enters into the national consciousness and conscience, a body that has prestige and influence, a body that can take its own initiatives and act, if it so agrees, at the request of the Government, on a whole host of matters to improve the lot of disabled people.

So, to avoid duplication of effort with RADAR and some other organisations, my proposal is that a disability council should evolve from those organisations. And—and I attach great importance to this—the council should cover, as RADAR does not, those who are blind, those who are deaf, and those suffering from mental illness. I am authorised to say that MENCAP supports this, and at least two of the various organisations concerned with sensory disabilities have given me their support.

One of the recommendations of the International Year in 1981 was that each country should appoint a national disability organisation. Several countries have done so. Others are in the process of doing so and we should surely do likewise, even if only for the purpose of representation abroad at important international conferences and bilateral negotiations or exchanges of views with other countries.

So to the three roles that I have already mentioned I now add two more: that this body should be independent of the Government, widely recognised as a national body of prestige and influence, and that its terms of reference should extend to the sensory disabilities and to mental illness.

I now add a sixth role which the Council will have to play, in my view, at the outset. That is to inquire into the existing resources available through central government, local government, charitable organisations and private sector funding. This is big money, and, so far as I know, has never been quantified—certainly not in the private sector. I established by a Question for Written Answer about this time last year that pensions, benefits and allowances for the long-term sick and disabled cost £3,500 million in 1982–83. Local authority expenditure in the same year was over £300 million; and at least £3 million out of the £15 million of grants given by the Department of Health and Social Security to the physically handicapped and mentally handicapped must be put into that total. And if you add all the other central government expenditure on disability spread over several departments you reach a figure of £4 billion at least, and that takes no account of the private sector funding, which, as I say, has so far been unquantified. We need to know the total spent on disability, and the use to which it is put.

I can do no better than remind the House of the debate only last Wednesday on the National Health Service and the social services, and I am glad to see the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, in his place, because I am about to quote his words. He said (at col. 199 of Hansard): it is necessary to look initially at how the huge resources devoted to social security are used and to consider alternatives". He also said (at col. 200) that the review was: an attempt to ensure that the huge resources … are directed at those most in need". I should like to adopt those words for the disability council, and I should imagine that the Government would welcome an inquiry of that nature by an independent body that had the goodwill of the disability organisations. This is such a sensitive area, that an inquiry mounted by the Government itself might incur hostility and suspicion, which I think would not be the case if the inquiry was undertaken by the kind of council I propose.

Now I turn to finance. How is this new evolved council to be funded? As a start, I assume that the Government do not want to spend any more public money. That assumption I suppose is right, regrettably. But I believe that the review which I have just proposed might disclose that the council might be funded by better use of existing resources. And I should like to see the resources of that council coming from both the public sector and the private sector perhaps on a pound for pound basis. This is a form of financing which has the approval of the Government, and it was only recently that we had a Question on this subject when the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, told us how well the business sponsorship incentive scheme had been going in relation to the arts.

I am sure that industry and commerce would be glad to be associated with the funding of a body of such prestige and national importance. Indeed, the partial funding of the council by the private sector would in itself be an indication of the council's independence of the Government. I take a deep breath here, and say that, in the long term, I would hope that a national lottery might be established, and I can think of no better use for the profits from our national vice of gambling than to put them towards helping the disabled, who have not drawn a happy lot in their life.

The Earl of Longford

May I ask the noble Lord one question? Has he not therefore invisaged this as being on the footing of the Arts Council, which, after all, has received very important government subsidies over the years?

Lord Henderson of Brompton

No, my Lords, I have not. I have explained that the Arts Council and the Sports Council are grant distributing bodies, and this is not to be a grant distributing body at all. That is a very substantial difference. Perhaps I may be allowed another minute after that interruption! I should like to sum up what I have said and give an idea of some of the many things that I think the council might do. First, I think the council is necessary, because existing organisations do not have sufficient prestige nationally to perform the functions proposed, and do not cover some of the most important areas. It should evolve from, and not be an addition to, existing organisations. It should preferably—I am not absolutely set on this—be established by Royal Charter without the delay implicit in legislation. The council could help to lift disability issues out of the party political arena. It could perform an initial quantitative and cost benefit analysis of the huge resources already available and would, I hope, promote the closest possible working together of disability organisations and be a clearing house for ideas from them.

The council could carry out, commission or indicate new areas of research; it could have an important monitoring role—for example, as regards not only the Act of 1970 but also some parts of the Education Act 1981, the implementation of the code of good practice for the employment of disabled people and the working of the quota system. Moreover, the council could take a fresh look at the need for a comprehensive disability allowance and the gross inconsistencies in the existing provisions for compensating those suffering from personal injury.

The council might have a valuable role to play as regards the consequences of local government legislation—both last Session and this—for the funding of social services for disabled people, which amounted to £300 million, according to the Written Answer that I received. Not least, although last, I submit that the council should provide an annual report for the Minister to lay before Parliament. In that way the council would, in a sense, be answerable to Parliament and its annual report could be the subject of debate in both Houses.

I think that I have covered the ground. I should just like to say that since this proposal was first floated I have had wide consultations both with the disability organisations and with a number of Members of your Lordships' House. I have received a wide measure of support. For all those reasons, I commend the proposal for a council to the House, to the disability organisations and to Her Majesty's Government—

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he tell the House what consultations he has had with the existing Council for Disability in Scotland and what relationship the new council would have with that council?

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, I can answer the noble Baroness very briefly by saying that I regret that I did not have consultations with that council.

My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.32 p.m.

Baroness Lane-Fox

My Lords, it is no exaggeration to say that, as the Clerk of the Parliaments, the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, earned the respect of all noble Lords. Since he became a Member of your Lordships' House his wise perception and progressive outlook have remained unchanged. Happily he makes his views available for the positive benefit of the House. It is, therefore, very encouraging that he has chosen for debate: the need for a disability council, established by Royal Charter". I understand that the noble Lord has been considering this matter for several years, and it is satisfactory to know that it has been one focus for his gimlet brain and kindly understanding. I would disagree with the noble Lord on one topic only as regards his speech to the House, and that is that I certainly did not think that the Bill on anti-discrimintion was in any way a party Bill.

The emancipation of disabled persons during the last 20 years has been matched to a large degree by the increased activity of, for example, RADAR, with its excellent Bulletin; NAIDEX, and research projects; the advisory groups, such as the Association of Disabled Professionals; and the economic advisers and pressure groups, such as the Disablement Income Group and the Disability Alliance. Bombarded with leaflets, books, radio and television programmes, there is little wonder that many victims of disability and their families and friends want so much to carry on and find out more about what they have heard. They feel that they ought to be up and in permanent pursuit of finding out more about it all.

The Disabled Living Foundation, and the other information centres springing from it throughout the country, have proved to be invaluable; and, in addition, a new edition of that excellent tome, Directory for Disabled People, is to be launched tomorrow. Nevertheless, in the past five or six years sufferers and their families who are caught up in such conditions as Huntington's chorea, Friedreich's axtaxia, myasthenia gravis and ankylosing spondylitis have formed into types of self-help groups. When membership of these and other recently-formed organisations is added to that very large number of long-standing national organisations, such as the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Muscular Dystrophy Group, the Spastics Society and many more, membership numbers represent a very formidable contingent.

I believe that there is advantage to be gained from the council effecting the formation of a central linchpin and clearinghouse for the voluntary bodies. By publicising its existence, too, it could be the means of helping those solitary individuals still left out of the system and ignorant of what is available to help them. Often they are prevented by the mere exertions expended on daily living, or even by actual pain, from being able to search for help.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ryder of Warsaw, before departing for her admirably merciful work among disabled people in Ethiopia, specially asked me to say that she hopes and believes that a council such as the noble Lord has in mind would reach out and find these more solitary individuals. The noble Baroness is in favour of the noble Lord's proposal.

The noble Lord has referred to the financing aspect. I believe that he will have in mind methods of seeking funds from new and different sources. There has been mention of a national lottery. I must admit that I am researching the possibility of the United Kingdom following the example of many countries which supplement social projects with funds raised by a national lottery. The proposed council which we are debating today would surely be a candidate for such support if the idea proves feasible. In this "bingo age" it is hard to see why profits should not sometimes be channelled directly to worthwhile causes. I hope to have the opportunity to ask the House to consider this scenario at a later stage when more facts are to hand.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for initiating this debate. It is a brave, determined and tireless man who will undertake a task such as is envisaged; but if anyone can make it succeed, it will be the noble Lord. He certainly has all my best wishes.

3.37 p.m.

Lord Bancroft

My Lords, I echo the gratitude which has been expressed to my noble friend Lord Henderson for giving us the opportunity to have this debate. I approach the issue from a slightly different route from that which my noble friend took, but I reach the same conclusion. Perhaps I should begin by confiding to your Lordships that I spent many years in Whitehall stirring the pot of organisational and structural change. I have to confess that, with hindsight, many of those years were mis-spent, because organisational change is often a poor substitute for hard policy decisions—it enables them to be ducked. Innovation is not necessarily reform.

Therefore, my first reaction to this proposal by my noble friend was not one of enthusiasm, but more one of wary scepticism. However, further reflection and discussion overcame my doubts, and for three reasons. First, the status quo is goodhearted, but that is a long way short of enough. It is also unstable, probably inefficient and does less than justice to disabled people, who are the prime concern, and even (speaking as a professional Cross-Bencher) to politicians.

We are here confronted—and I speak deliberately and dispassionately—with the financial eqivalent of a huge public corporation. As my noble friend Lord Henderson has said, the amounts involved from taxpayers, ratepayers, the private sector and from charities run into many billions of pounds a year. The flows of those enormous amounts, as they slosh about, need to be identified—where from, and where to? Only after that job of analysis has been carried out can the effectiveness of their application, both for client and for source, begin to be examined. Indeed, I suggest that the very act of factual analysis would itself do much to lift disability out of the party auction ring, to which my noble friend referred.

Secondly, a council established by Royal Charter would involve the minimum of party politics, both in its setting up and in its running. Its overheads would be small; and as my noble friend suggested, they could partly be met from the funds already available to existing co-ordinating bodies out of which the council could, and in my view should, grow.

As has been mentioned, another source might be a pound-for-pound sharing arrangement with the private sector. The council would be at a long arm's length away from Government; and it would provide a degree of non-political continuity impossible in the fevered world of departments and departmental agencies. It would be a focus for representing disability both within the country and internationally.

Thirdly and lastly, the tasks of such a council, if carefully and sensibly defined, could fill the existing gap without crowding out the many admirable functional organisations already in being, though it might encourage sensible amalgamation where there is overlapping. I repeat: its job should be analytical, not managerial. It most certainly should not be the channel through which money flows, whether that money be public, private or charitable.

I speak with feeling and declare an interest as the chairman of a charity, a hospital, dependent on voluntary funds—the Royal Hospital and Home for Incurables (that is, the incurably disabled). I would defend its managerial and financial independence to the last. Without that independence, its services to its patients would wither, and it is the patients who are the be all and end all of its existence. As the council would not be a Government agency, it would leave intact—and this is an important point—the functional organisation of Government departments. Like Lord Haldane nearly 70 years ago, I have little time for a client-based organisation of the Government machine itself.

In short, I strongly believe that here is an initiative which deserves serious, urgent and sympathetic study. I have discussed it at the cold level of organisation, analysis and effectiveness. As many of your Lordships know better than I, there are other and higher levels of need in the field of disability which call even more insistently and compellingly for such a study—and then, I submit, for action.

3.43 p.m.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, we have listened most closely to the noble Lord, Lord Bancroft, who speaks with such a vast knowledge of Whitehall and other matters. The noble Lord's mental processes have moved rather in the opposite direction from mine. The noble Lord said that he began in a mood of weary scepticism and finished with some kind of enthusiasm, which, during his observations, I thought on the whole he concealed fairly well. However, I move rather the other way. I started which a great deal of enthusiasm, if only because of my admiration for the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, which stops only just this side of idolatry, and I have now reached the point of what I might call guarded sympathy.

The noble Lord has spoken a great deal, as is proper from a Cross-Bencher after many years of enormous service to this House, of the need to get these matters out of party politics. Where would most of us—I do not say all of us—be without party politics? Most of us who are taking part in these debates are party politicians, even when we do not look like them. Even the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, is a very devoted Conservative; and so on.

However, the idea that somehow we can conduct the development of the social services without party politics entering into the matter is a fantasy which, with enormous respect to the noble Lord, on the whole is confined to the Cross-Benches.

Where would the social progress of this country have been without Lloyd George?—not that I have any use for that gentleman's private morals; but in this one field of the social services he must be thought to have rendered great service. The same applies to other people throughout history. I shall not give examples closer to the present day. The fact is that we on the Labour Benches and also those on the Liberal Benches believe that, with a limited measure of help from Conservative noble Lords, we on the radical side have pushed forward the development of social services. Noble Lords opposite can boast of their achievements in the field of defence. Every one can point to his or her own achievements in some particular field. But as regard social services no serious historian would suppose that the main impulse had come from the Conservative Party or even from the Cross-Benches, except when they were carrying out the orders of progressive Governments. But I say that just in passing.

Baroness Lane-Fox

My Lords, if the noble Earl would give way for a moment, I would say that my memory is that the attendance allowance was in fact introduced by a Conservative Government.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, everybody can produce something which the Conservative Government have done. I do not say that in the last 80 years they have done absolutely nothing, but I say that they have done very little. If the noble Baroness could produce one other example, it would be about all she could produce.

Let us proceed, because time is limited. I am rather doubtful about all this because at least some of the organisations upon which I rely for my information about the disabled are not enthusiastic. I should like to quote one passage; and even with that interruption I should have time to do so. The Disablement Income Group, on which I rely, says this: Lord Henderson's proposal and the Minutes of the All Party Disablement Group meeting … were circulated to members of the Executive Committees of the Disablement Income Group and the Association of Disabled Professionals. … The proposals were discussed at length by both Executives". I am not speaking for myself: I am talking about the executives of this very important organisation. The Document continues: Neither DIG nor the ADP were very keen on the idea of a Council for the Disabled". We have to accept that they were not very keen. That does not mean that they were against it. They want the whole matter which is before noble Lords this afternoon clarified. I shall say no more other than simply indicate some of their worries: DIG believes in the pluralist approach … and would therefore be keen to ensure that the Council would not stop organisations having direct communication with government and with every other authority that might be able to help disabled people. DIG also believes that care would have to be taken to ensure that the Council did not act in any way as a cushion between government and disabled people's organisations". Another matter that needs careful consideration is the question of financing, to which the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, has referred. How will the council be financed? The document says: Only large wealthy organisations could afford to help support a Council financially". That is why I intervened to ask whether one would be looking to the Government. The DIG continues: If such support from organisations is envisaged, there is a risk of the Council not being supported by … the smaller less wealthy organisations of disabled people". Those are some of the questions that need to be answered. Sir Winston Churchill once said that one can rat but one cannot re-rat. I have ratted on the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, this afternoon because I told him that I expected to support him, but I am quite ready to re-rat if these answers can be dealt with satisfactorily.

3.49 p.m.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for bringing forward this topic for debate this afternoon and I should like to support him. I am pleased to be speaking immediately after the noble Earl, Lord Longford, because I found it quite laughable that he was determined to give all credit to his party for every good social service, and of course I do not for one minute accept that. I have seen the work done by Conservatives throughout the country so many times tht I cannot accept that for one moment.

However, I think that the noble Earl made one or two good points, including, for instance, that some bodies are afraid that the council might be a cushion. I hope that it will not be a cushion between the Government and disabled people, or people with disabilities, but rather that it will be a springboard, so that, instead, ideas might take off and be more effective because of the status and prestige of the council, which would enhance the whole position of people with disability. If the council is to succeed then it must achieve status at that level.

I would support the view that it should be non-political. It has been a great pity to see so many social services used purely as a means for political confrontation. Less is achieved when that is the situation. Going back to the 1970 Act which the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, mentioned, I was shortly after that chairman of a social services committee. Life was so different in 1970. We were all the time looking for new improvements to bring in. There was ample funding, and Westminster Council, on which I served, was keen to implement any improvements it could.

We started a survey of disabled people within the city. Then, by the time that 1973 had come and the oil crisis had hit, we found that we were in a very different financial situation, and we could discover disabled people more quickly than we could help them. Then we faced the question, what was the purpose of going on? What was the use of finding people if you could do nothing for them? This disability council would be in a position to see which groups needed most help, which groups were undiscovered. There is a great deal to be done in terms of co-ordination and discovery.

A lot of people with disability often first of all do not want to recognise that they have a disability. It is hard to come to terms with. I know many young people with progressive conditions who certainly do not want to come to terms with them. But they are the sort of people who are more willing to come forward to an impartial body such as a disability council than they would be to a local authority or the Department of Health and Social Security. For some reason people feel that a stigma attaches to going directly to the social services, and I think that a disability council would bridge the gap which exists.

Whatever structure the council took, it would be important that it was carefully thought out in terms of membership. I listened earlier this afternoon to the noble Baroness, Lady White, pointing out that some body was not represented on the Dartmoor council, or authority (I am not sure of the term), and I realised that exactly the same situation would arise with a disability council if you tried to make it representational and have a representative from each and every individual body associated with disability on it. It is therefore important that if the time comes, as I hope it will, when such a council is set up people should be appointed on their own merits. Certainly we want some people who have disability; certainly we want people who are interested and involved in this subject; but if you try to make it a purely representational body with each member coming from a particular body it will end up with someone coming forward saying that he has been left out, in the way we heard about earlier this afternoon.

I should like it to be an independent body. I should like it to be a valued body. But I should not like it to become a great bureaucratic machine. I want it to remain small enough to be in touch with people. I would want it to be not particularly expensive, but certainly very effective. I realise that many disabilities are something people have all their lives, but often we tend to overlook the aging effect on conditions such as arthritis. So many people will face a disability by the end of their lives even though they have never suffered one at the earlier stages. These people, again, could be encouraged to come forward and be interested in the work and help such a council.

There is a double benefit in helping any body such as this. You are not only helping others worse off than yourself but giving yourself an interest and an occupation and satisfaction in feeling that you are helping others, and when the time comes then others will help you. I hope that that would be the sort of co-ordination effect and encouragement that this council might have.

I would not want to see all the small, independent bodies done away with at all. When people mention that self-help groups are set up, I think that they are important because they are the groups which are so close to the people they represent. But they often need a bigger voice to speak for them. This is what I hope this disability council would do.

I hope that it would retain the goodwill of all the disability bodies, which the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, has said he is sure it will have. I was sorry to hear doubts expressed about that on the other side from the noble Earl, Lord Longford, but it may be that those doubts are natural doubts at this stage because it is early and no one quite knows exactly what is involved in this proposal. It is still a long way from the point where we shall be able to look at it and decide whether it is totally good, or totally bad, or needs modification. But I have great hope that such a disability council would be marvellous, and I have no hesitation in supporting this Motion.

3.56 p.m.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, for raising this subject. I feel that there is a need for a very well defined disability council. There should be a fountainhead with a distinctive title so that it can be easily found in works of reference, such as a telephone directory.

Its terms of reference need to be clearly defined. Its mandate should be that it should echo the voice of people with disabilities, not that it should speak for disabled people. The International Year for Disabled People 1981 elevated the aspirations of disabled people. The two main aims were integration and participation. Some disabled people want to speak for themselves if they possibly can and take responsibility for their own lives.

Some years ago I attended an international conference on rehabilitation, in Portugal, and after speaking with many disabled people from different countries I came away with the firm belief that they wanted to make known their needs and aspirations themselves rather than have others do it on their behalf. The wireless programme so aptly called "Does he take sugar?" is so entitled because of the patronising attitude society often adopts towards disabled people.

If this council is to evolve from existing disability organisations, the Minister for the Disabled, who is well liked and respected, should look very carefully and evaluate all the existing bodies concerned with disability and see what they are doing and how effective is their work.

I do not think that RADAR—the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation—ranks very highly in the estimation of the disabled members of the public. The image is one of many people making a living out of disability and not achieving a great deal on behalf of disabled people, with their very real needs.

When a large Government grant is given there ought to be a list of achievements. I welcome the idea that if there is to be a council with a Royal Charter, it should lay a report before Parliament each year. It could help Government to pinpoint some of the most urgent priorities. As the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, has said, the noble Baroness, Lady Ryder of Warsaw, wrote to me saying that she supports the idea of an independent council. She knows very well the problems of very severely disabled people from all parts of the world.

At this time when funds are short it might mean that existing bodies which receive large grants would have to give up a percentage to go towards payment for the council. As I said, it would be useful for the DHSS to evaluate all existing organisations which receive grants to see whether they are serving disabled people in the best possible way and getting value for money out of the grant. The associations which are doing a good job and fulfilling their role well would have nothing to fear.

There does not seem to be a body which collects important facts which are damaging to the well being of disabled people. The other day I attended a conference in York at the teacher training college of the College of St. John and Ripon. The seminar was held in the newly-built, most attractive, occupational therapy training centre—a new building on the campus. The only problem was that it was upstairs, with no lift. Four strong policemen attending the conference lifted me up and down. For a one-off event that was not so important. A very important point in regard to occupational therapy training is that therapists are supposed to learn about facilities for disabled people, since one of their jobs is advising social service departments on house adaptations. Many of them work for local authorities. One would hope that disabled people would help to give in-service training to these groups. The chairman of the English Access Committee, who is himself disabled and is a large man who uses a wheelchair, is the kind of person who could teach them a great deal. Legislation will be the only means of ensuring that buildings are accessible.

The kind of situation to which I have referred is being found all the time, even though many of your Lordships give good support to the numerous needs of the disabled.

I was invited to talk to a group of young disabled teenagers at a college near Leeds. Several of the girls suffered from spina bifida and they told me that they had not been welcome when they went to a dress shop to look round. I find very disheartening discrimination against young, highly sensitive people who want to see the changing fashions as much as does anyone else. I felt pleased that they had been able to tell me about it; but these attitudes really do exist in some places. There is a need for a council to collect and monitor all these problems and needs and then try to do something about them.

We in the all-party disablement group are disappointed that the building regulations that are intended to help disabled people have not yet become operational. The pressure of many social aspects becomes more urgent as new and worrying features emerge. I hope that this debate will help create action towards the formation of a council. Would it not be wise to look at the British council which is concerned with the organisations for disabled people? These are organisations run more or less by disabled people themselves. They certainly should not be left out.

Advancement in technology is so fast that it is important to try to keep up with every kind of progress. I have been very impressed by some of the new young Members of Parliament who are trying to help some of their disabled constituents. It would be useful for them to have a reliable and efficient service which could become a focal point. Disability crosses many Government departments and covers numerous specialities. The problems are often complex and intricate. If we are a caring society, it must be important to keep these in the forefront.

I end by saying that some people prefer to use the word "handicap" rather then "disability". As we are a part of Europe, the most suitable word which is generally acceptable should be used, if we are to have a council with a Royal Charter.

4.4 p.m.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, as always, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton. I should like to say right from the outset that I support the call by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, for the setting up of a disability council. I do not mind whether it is to be called a disability council or a handicap council. When talking about the disabled I include the blind, and I also believe that old age is in itself a disability.

I listened to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, with great interest. I see why he mentioned party politics. If I heard him correctly, he said that he viewed this proposal with guarded sympathy. If that is the case, I should hate to listen to his speech if he made it with guarded antipathy, because I gained the impression that the noble Earl is against this proposition.

The Earl of Longford

Not really, my Lords.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, I stand corrected. It seems strange that while we have national institutions to look after the interests of children, animals, the arts and sport, we do not have a council to look after the interests of those who, apart from animals, are the least able to look after themselves and therefore require our help.

I am connected locally and nationally with various bodies concerned with the disabled. I should like to dwell on just two aspects of this matter, the first being that of sheltered workshops. I am the president of the National Association of Industries for the Blind and Disabled. Our members operate sheltered workshops up and down the country. Some of them are blind, some of them are blind and disabled and some are mentally disabled; and they produce the traditional artefacts made by the blind, like baskets, and they re-upholster chairs. I have been impressed, going round the country, at seeing blind people operating metal cutting lathes and welding equipment—blind people doing highly skilled jobs. If they can do it, that is a wonderful thing.

I am also a trustee of the Countrywide Workshops Charitable Trust. This was set up to sell products made exclusively by the blind and the disabled. When the trust was set up it was found that there was not one national organisation which knew where disabled people were, what their handicaps were and whether they could earn their own living. In the regions there are no such lists. In the counties themselves, again there are no such lists. Many of the people working through countryside workshops work from home. Some of them paint: we have one who paints with her mouth. Others do fairly skilled crafts; but there is no central record.

I hope that when this council is formed there will be a central record. We have to remember that if these people are blind and disabled they do not go round the country, and they probably have no knowledge of marketing. They do not know how to sell their products or to contact peple. That is one of the things that this council could do well.

It seems incredible that one hears people saying "Yes, these blind and disabled people are working, but it would be far cheaper to send them all home, disband the workshops and just pay them the money". People who say that have forgotten one important thing. If you are blind or disabled you do not want charity. The most important thing for these people is their self-respect, because the money in their pockets is money that they have earned. I have spoken to so many and time and again they have said, "Once I started working here I got my self-respect back".

The other matter I wanted to raise briefly is that there was a suggestion—I know that the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, spoke against it—that the council should be funded by the Government. I am sure that the noble Lord the Minister will view the formation of the council with sympathy, and I beg him not to agree to this. The Sports Council and the Arts Council are dishing out money, and the bodies which do not receive enough money from them are not exactly friendly towards those councils. The Government—let us be honest about it—have shown recently that they are very able to look after themselves, and if people go for them they can defend themselves. I think it would be wrong for this council, if it is formed, to have anything to do with handing out money.

4.10 p.m.

Lord Mountevans

My Lords, I, too, am grateful for the opportunity to join in the debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton. I feel that, from my point of view, he has put the case for a council for the disabled, its genesis, its aims and its funding so well that really he can take my support for granted. What I should like to do is to add, perhaps, to the objectives to which I should like to see a national council addressing itself. I hope that one of the tasks which it would put high on its list of priorities would be that of educating us, the able, in how, in our day-to-day life we can contribute to the quality of life of the disabled whom we are discussing this afternoon.

The term "disabled", used in its widest sense as we have already used it this afternoon, embraces those whose sight or hearing or mental ability is impaired, those whom we all too often ignore, not out of any discontent or out of any hostility but because we are not really aware of their immediate needs. We leave it to somebody else to make investments, to spend the huge sums of money that have been spoken about this afternoon, to give them increased mobility or a better quality of life; but we do not ourselves think, "What can I do—I myself—for the people in my immediate surroundings?" As I have said, I do not think it is hostility; it is a matter of ignorance that we are blind to their lack of sight, that we are deaf to their lack of hearing, and that all too often we are unmoved by their lack of mobility.

I feel that we must all become totally involved and I hope that an eventual national council would address itself to involving us all, making us more aware of the fact that it is not something that we can leave to others, but something in which we ourselves must join. I hope that it would teach us not only to note the holder of the white stick but, in doing so, to ask ourselves whether we can immediately give assistance to the holder of that white stick.

As I have said, I am totally committed and I hope that we shall eventually get a national disability council. I hope that it will not be an Arts Council style body, funding its clients and being leaned upon by them. but one which will prime pumps and give guidance. I appreciate that it will face many formidable tasks but I hope that one of the smaller ones that it will take on board will be, as I say, that of guiding the able along the path of helping the unable—a task which I think would be relatively low in cost but intensely rewarding for those whom we are discussing this afternoon, and as rewarding for we the able bodied.

It is not often that we chance to find ourselves with a great deal to give without having to put our hands in our pocket, but if Lord Henderson's national council comes to be it will, I hope, teach us in this instance how and when we should give.

4.13 p.m.

Earl Haig

My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for initiating this debate which has been so well worth while and deeply moving. The noble Lord, as a result of war service, has a particular experience of disability. I come into the same category of war disablement in a minor way, a mere 20 per cent. But I can understand the difficultues of having to cope with life with a really serious disablement. And the way that people cope has my constant admiration.

It is proposed that the new organisation would give to disabled people a chance to discuss and to explore ways and means of overcoming their problems. It would not be, I believe, simply a clearing house of ideas, but would give to the disabled a chance to put those ideas into practice. I remember the ineffectiveness in some ways of our Disabled Advisory Committee, of which I have the honour to be chairman. The quota system was ineffectual. We had in one isolated area a number of disabled people for whom nothing was really done to find employment. Finally, these people on their own initiative started a workshop of their own, which last year was visited by Her Majesty the Queen.

The new organisation should not be just a talking shop but a source of work and creativity. Secondly, there is a need to increase public awareness in the same way as the Arts Council acts as a stimulating body for the arts. In that context, the recent television documentary, "Beyond Sorrow, Beyond Pain", gave a moving account of how a relationship can help to overcome even the most grievous disabilities. The film must have stirred many hearts and encouraged many viewers to do more for disabled people.

Thirdly, there is the need to give expert advice to Ministers and their officials who will attend meetings and discussions primarily to listen and to learn. With regard to composition this should include to a major extent disabled people; it should have a region-wide basis and should include Scotland. Here I want to mention the existence of the Disability Council in Scotland which was set up some years ago on the initiative of a number of medical and orthopaedic specialists. I think that, although the Scottish Disability Council would want to preserve a measure of autonomy, there would need to be some form of integration between North and South of the Border so that so far as possible the two councils would speak with one voice.

Perhaps I may turn briefly to the ex-service element which has special meaning for the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, who himself bears the scars of war. Here I am speaking about a quarter of a million war disabled pensioners who form a very significant group who should be represented on the council. I know that the Royal British Legion of Scotland, of which I am president, could be a powerful ally in these matters. If it were encouraged to join, with its vast network of branches and members who have great experience in these problems, it could be of enormous help. It already assists the disabled whether or not they are war disabled. Should civilians be anxious about the bond with an ex-service organisation, I would say that the legion is a democratic organisation and very sensitive to any form of dictation from the top.

Speaking as I do, in an official capacity for the legion and also as vice-president of the Scottish National Institute for the War Blind, I can guarantee that an invitation to join the council would meet with a warm response. We are aware of the need to co-ordinate and to streamline the work and effort of the various ex-service organisations; and to minimise the risk of duplication we recently started a symposium which provides a forum for all the main Scottish ex-service organisations. With regard to the Scottish Council on Disability, the legion finds its membership of that body is useful as a means of sharing information and building contacts between ex-service and non-ex-service people. And we find the contacts with the regions particularly valuable, an aspect which the proposed council should not disregard.

Before committing themselves to this venture Scottish ex-service organisations would want reassurance on two points. First, they would not want to see the system of Poppy Day and other flag days altered, since the funding of their organisation has taken years to build up and still needs promotion. Secondly, we want to preserve the system of war preference and our right of direct access to the Government and, in particular, our direct link with the Minister for War Pensions. Nothing should be done to weaken the structure of the War Pension Office of the DHSS or of the War Pensions Welfare Office, with both of which the ex-service community has close links. Provided that these two principles are adhered to, I am sure the legion would welcome involvement with the proposed disability council.

Through support from their constituent members, the voluntary organisations would continue to raise their own funds and the proposed council would be assured of considerable financial support and so would be helped to carry out its work, which is so badly needed by all disabled people. I hope that, as a result of today's debate, preliminary steps will be taken to establish the disability council which the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, is proposing.

4.21 p.m.

Lord Fitt

My Lords, I rise briefly to lend my full-hearted support to the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, to set up a disability council. I do so because of a particular experience which I had in my capacity as a Member of Parliament in the 1970s. In response to a number of letters I was receiving from constituents and also from people living far beyond the boundaries of my constituency who were severely disabled, I began to make enquiries of the Department of Health and Social Services in Northern Ireland. I found that they were totally ignorant about the number of people in Northern Ireland who were suffering from particular disabilities and diseases. It was only after putting down a hundred parliamentary Questions to the Ministry, asking them for specific information, and after a lapse of time which indicated that the Ministry officials were trying to find the information I was seeking, that we began to realise the extent of the disablement problem in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is a relatively small region of the United Kingdom and the investigations which were then initiated by an organisation known as Outset revealed figures for disablement in Northern Ireland that had never been known, and that created a great fuss at the time.

Regarding the position in which we find ourselves today, I think the most important proposal put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, in his background paper is that he would see this body as being a fact-finding body—because at the moment, in spite of all the voluntary organisations that are in existence, I am quite certain that we do not at all recognise the full extent of disability. As other noble Lords have said here this afternoon, there is a great need for co-ordination of all the voluntary bodies.

Although it has not been said out loud, I think that we have all heard that all these little voluntary bodies in relation to disability are very protective of their own interests. What is their motivation? Is their motivation genuine or, as has already been said here, could it be attributed to some other interest? For example, I have heard in regard to one of the organisations—I will not name it in this House because what I have heard may be untrue—that the administration costs in that organisation far outweigh the benefits which are given to people who are suffering from the particular disability involved.

As I see it, we should never be able to divorce this proposed council from the everyday politics that we have in this country. It would be totally impossible to do that. I wonder, therefore, if I dare express the point in the reverse way, because the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, has said that if such a disability council were to come into being it would produce an annual report and that report would be debated in both Houses of Parliament. I am convinced, after having spent many years in another part of this building—and when one looks down at the attendance figures given for the meeting which was chaired by the noble Lord on 16th May of last year one can see it clearly, by the personalities who were in attendance—that this is an issue which far transcends party politics in this building, and indeed in this country.

So I cannot see any real objection to such a body. I think it would be able to co-ordinate all the various activities that we now see carried out by such a number of organisations. I was speaking yesterday to the ex-Minister for the Disabled, and he told me that in relation to people who are suffering from deafness or autistic disability there are 11 organisations in the country. No doubt each one of those little branches, those organisations, would feel that they were far more important than the other ten. So there will be a difficulty in trying to prevail upon such organisations to co-ordinate their activities, which would be totally beneficial to the people who really need their help.

I would have some reservations about what the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, said in relation to a lottery at some time in the future. I know that disabled people want to maintain their pride and they do not want to be seen as being dependent upon charities; so I would have reservations about that particular aspect of the thinking of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson. However, I am quite certain that the intention behind this proposal for a disability council is highly laudable and I am also certain that, were it to be given the blessing of this House and of the Government, it would be a council of which in later years every Member of this House could be proud.

4.27 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I am glad to join in supporting the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and especially so as its intention appears to be similar to that of the Bill which I introduced in the last Session of Parliament, the Disabled Persons Bill. I would remind your Lordships that I accepted some amendments which were proposed during the passage of that Bill, and that it passed through all its stages in this House with the goodwill of all sides and also with the goodwill of organisations outside Parliament. It did not find time in the other place, which is something that happens to many Private Peers' Bills. I will not go into the details, but we all understand the difficulty of time being found for debate in the Commons.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, in that Bill I set out to avoid the difficult and contentious points. For example, I did not try to make discrimination against disabled people illegal, with all the problems of definition and the legal processes which that raised. What the Bill aimed to do was to establish a disablement commission which would be separate from the Government or government agencies, and therefore similar to the council proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson.

The reason for its being separate was that many handicapped people do harbour complaints about government offices and the way they are treated. Certainly when I was a Member of another place I found many of the complaints were about government offices. They are suspicious or dissatisfied—probably without real justification in most cases, I would add, but that is the case and it has to be borne in mind. I know that the Government's view has been that all the functions proposed for a council of this kind should be carried out within government departments and within government machinery. Psychologically, I believe that is not acceptable to many handicapped people; and that is the main point which I should like to make today to the Government.

Another reason for speaking in today's debate is that I was one of those in the Commons almost 20 years ago who started the movement there on behalf of the categories of severely handicapped people who were not then catered for in what was already called the welfare state, except by what was then called national assistance. For example, people who were handicapped from birth or early youth received no attention at all. Housewives found themselves in the same situation, too, if they suddenly became severely handicapped. This was because they had never worked or been available for work and were not in the national insurance system of those days.

The noble Earl, Lord Longford, referred to the Disablement Income Group and I was one of those who helped to set it up under its first head, the late Megan Du Boisson. The noble Earl read to us the views of that organisation on this proposal. I was moved to other duties, if I may put it in that way, in the shadow Cabinet and then in the Cabinet itself, and therefore was not able to continue fully in the campaign at that time. But the most glaring of the gaps to which we then drew attention were closed later, particularly in the early 1970s.

I respond to the request of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, when my noble friend Lady Lane-Fox interrupted him, because it was during the time of the 1970–74 Government that not only the attendance allowance but also the non-contributory invalidity pension and the mobility allowance—to give just three examples—were brought in. The noble Earl asked for one or two more examples; I did not want to interrupt his speech but I have used my own in order to provide them.

I remember them, because I was a member of the Cabinet that was taking the action then. But I am not making a party point. I agree with the noble Earl that party politics are necessary for the Government of the country, but I think he was perhaps a little unfair if, at the same time, he was inclining towards making a point that most of these things had happened under non-Conservative Governments.

I am still mainly concerned with the categories of severely handicapped people who have been handicapped since youth or during working age; and I prefer the word "handicapped" to "disabled". I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, on having introduced this debate and on his proposal. About 40 years ago he and I were both physically affected by enemy action in war. I was then greatly restricted and spent a long time in a wheelchair at various periods. But once on my pins I, and others like me, do not feel handicapped. We can carry out sedentary occupations and, dare I say it, engage in cerebral activity, though I would not expect all noble Lords opposite to agree that my activity could be described as cerebral during the past 25 years.

But to generalise about the disabled can be misleading. Again, advancing age normally leads to increasing infirmity. Someone in his late 80s or older must accept that some of his faculties will be lapsing. Everything should be done for the elderly in order to assist them, but that is a different category from the severely disabled who are young or of working age, and who are so handicapped as to be unable to live a normal life unless they receive special attention or measures. This, surely, must be our priority. My noble friend Lord Renton has asked me to say that he has not been able to take part in the debate. He is the president of Mencap and he would have liked to express his support for this proposal, but he has to be in the chair of a meeting at this moment.

In the minute or two that remain to me, may I say a word about names and organisations? There is a council for disability in Scotland and it, for example, formed the secretariat for the International Year of Disabled People, of which I was the chairman in 1981. It carries out various duties in Scotland already as the Scottish Council for Disability. RADAR has been mentioned. That does not operate at all in Scotland, though its chairman is the noble Duke, the Duke of Buccleuch—a distinguished Scot. These examples show the need for rationalisation, which could be brought about if this council were established. I very much hope that the Government will accept that it is not appropriate for the Government machine to try to do it all itself and that there is a place for a national independent body.

4.35 p.m.

Lady Kinloss

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, is to be congratulated on his hard work and persistence in promoting a Council for the Disabled; I wish him good luck. I hope that such a council would not be just another pressure group. There are plenty of them already; perhaps too many for one to absorb easily. I see the council primarily as a co-ordinating and fact-finding group—one which would become a central exchange for facts. For these reasons, I hope that when members of such a council are being considered, the majority will be drawn from those most affected—the handicapped themselves. Especially, I should like to see blind or partially blind, deaf or partially deaf, persons included. With all the modern aids at their disposal, blind or deaf people are quite able to participate in meetings. In the case of the mentally handicapped, one would hope to see a representative of the various pressure groups included.

There are several suggestions which I should like to make. May I urge far greater publicity to educate the general public to a better understanding of the handicapped? What people do not understand they are often apprehensive of. Are we not all? Recently, a disabled friend in a wheelchair travelling with her husband wished to use a taxi. Most taxi drivers are extremely kind and helpful, but this particular one just sat in his seat and waited while her husband got her in with some difficulty. When they started off, they remarked to the driver that they were looking forward to the new London taxis. The reply was "I shan't have one. I don't want people like you using my cab". How thoughtless and hurtful!

But I do not suppose he gave a thought to their feelings, simply through ignorance of the needs of handicapped people or of the fact that they have feelings as we all do. Those feelings do not disappear simply because one happens to sit in a wheelchair, has crutches or calipers, or is in some other way handicapped. Perhaps the Minister could say when these new taxis are likely to become available.

Handicapped car drivers have a badge to display. Could we not have, say, a bright green badge to display on the cars of people who are willing to give handicapped people a lift? Likewise, if a blind, deaf or otherwise handicapped person wishing for a lift also wore a bright green badge, he could be seen easily by the driver. These badges would themselves serve to publicise the work of the council. Maybe this could be organised by existing bodies, such as Women's Institutes or the Townswomen's Guild. Perhaps a council could check with the larger insurance companies to make sure that the drivers are covered by insurance if they give these lifts. In rural areas, where there are very often hardly any buses, or should the number be cut in the future, this could surely be a useful and valuable service to the community.

Regional councils would probably be required to collect and collate information to pass to the central council. How is all this to be funded? This is a very sensitive question, because no existing body representing the disabled has any spare cash. I would only venture this suggestion. There are many firms not able easily to adapt their buildings in order to employ disabled persons. Could they not be asked to make contributions instead? There is a Minister for the Arts and there is a council for the Arts; there is a Minister for Sport and a council, and also a Minister for the Disabled. But why should he be disabled by not having a council? I hope that he soon has one.

4.39 p.m.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, I venture to speak in this debate on behalf of children with especial educational needs and do so with the knowledge and indeed the encouragement of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson. I appreciate that the subject of children with special educational needs is separate from the one of which the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, has spoken today. He has recommended the establishment of a disability council—a recommendation which I fully support.

I would contend that the needs of children under the Education Act 1981 based on the first Warnock Report is a different but closely related subject. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, spoke of the disabled as unwilling to campaign for themselves. I submit that children not only are unwilling but are unable to campaign for themselves. A working party was appointed by the Voluntary Council for Handicapped Children. Oral evidence was received from some 85 organisations and individuals and these include social, medical and educational sectors from both the statutory and voluntary organisations. I would hope that many of your Lordships would feel yourselves able to read the book published by the National Advisory Committee.

The setting up of a national advisory committee for children with special educational needs, supported by Government but separate from Government, is, I believe, essential. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, underlined the significance, the purpose and the effectiveness of voluntary organisations working in concert with Government departments. Why did the working party recommend the setting up of a Voluntary Council for Handicapped Children? First, the Education Act 1981 recommending the integration of children with special educational needs into ordinary schools and into the community is, I submit—and it is shown by the report—working unevenly throughout the country. Her Majesty's Inspectors in the Department of Education in some areas have organised seminars, conferences and discussion groups and are doing a splendid piece of work; but this work is not being carried out throughout the country.

Lord Somers

My Lords, will the noble Baroness allow me to interrupt for a moment? Does she agree that it is very important to differentiate between handicapped and disabled children? "Handicapped" generally means mentally handicapped; and "disabled" means physically disabled. Their needs are so different.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord, Lord Somers, for his intervention. I do not know that I quite agree with it.

My second reason for thinking that an organisation should be set up in the voluntary sector to look into the needs of—shall I say?—handicapped children and children with disabilities is that there is still very little understanding of how those children should be integrated into the normal schools and into the community. There is very little skill in diagnosis as to which children should and cannot be integrated; and there is very' little knowledge still as to what facilities should be needed. I shall give just two examples.

I know of a child of 16 who is clever, who is bright, and who is deaf. Her social circumstances have been such that she has been unable in the community to benefit from the very good service given by the education department and for social reasons she should perhaps have had much more specialised and concentrated help in a residential school. Secondly, I quote a case of a spina bifida child who was admitted to an ordinary school. The school nurse was not told; the school doctor was not told; and the building was not suitable. The child had to be withdrawn, with consequent feeling of rejection.

I give these two examples only to show what a very difficult task educationists, the medical profession and social workers have in deciding what is best not for a system but for each individual child and, furthermore, for the family of each individual child. I would suggest that, although this is not the same as the council proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, nevertheless if children were not looked after, his council would be far harder worked; whereas if the children were properly looked after, while there would still be a need for the council proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, the need, I suggest, would not be quite so great.

Sadly, I have to say that in Hansard of the House of Commons of 14th February 1985, at column 223, the Secretary of State for Education turned down the recommendation of the working party for the setting up of a National Advisory Committee to disseminate information and to offer knowledge and skills to a wide section of society. When I say this I do not refer only to educationists and teachers but to social workers and, as I have said before, to doctors and the community. Other noble Lords have mentioned the need for the community to understand the needs of those with handicaps and disability.

It may be that application for urban aid should have been made to the Department of Health and Social Security as well as to the Department of Education, and possibly to the Home Office, for every department of this type dealing with children is involved. While I know I have spoken wide of the recommendation of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, nevertheless I beg your Lordships' House to think of children who must be trained and who must be helped so that they can take their place in society when they come to adult life.

4.49 p.m.

Lord Hastings

My Lords, I apologise for this intervention but I was not able to put my name down because I did not know whether I should be able to attend this important debate. I am very glad I have and we are. I think, well up to time. So for just two minutes I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, because I think the more support he can get, the better.

I want to re-emphasise the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, that communication with Government departments is all very well—I have had it in connection with charities on various occasions and they are invariably sympathetic—but it is not always possible for them to do what they want because they are under the control of a really very restrictive Treasury when it is a question of money. When it is a question of the moral aspect and the operative aspect of charities, something else is undoubtedly needed. I am sure that a co-ordinating, nationally recognised council must be the answer. It also takes the subject, as the noble Lord has said, right out of politics and in spite of what the noble Earl, Lord Longford, has said, that politics must sometimes enter into legislation even in this field, I am glad to say that it very seldom, if ever, enters into the operation of any particular charity.

I have been president of the British Epilepsy Association, and at some time its chairman, for the past 20 years. This is undoubtedly one of the most unfashionable and difficult disabilities to cope with both socially and in the field of employment. The council of some 30 members or so is a good cross-section. The founder was a Labour supporter and its original director-general. We are all members of the Labour Party, the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party, but we never quarrel. We co-operate, and that is true of most charities. That needs to be said because sometimes we sit in this House and try to score points when the people working in this field have that sort of feeling furthest from their minds. I want to make that point.

A central council will do a great deal as a morale booster and—I so agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner—as an efficient small body. I should like to support the noble Lord and say this to the Government. I have spoken in years gone by on this subject of epilepsy and as a result have suceeded in getting the Government to do something very progressive—not progressive, perhaps, but effective—about it. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, will have the same kind of success. I say to the Government that although I know they normally treat these matters sympathetically, I would not go down on my knees and beg them to do something. I believe we ought to say to the Government, "We expect you to do something about this. Indeed, we demand it."

4.52 p.m.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, I, too, apologise to the House for not having put my name on the list of speakers for similar reasons to the noble Lord who has just spoken. However, having heard the speech of the noble Lord who moved the Motion, I knew that I would be compelled to stay because of my lifelong interest in the problems of the disabled. I shall not delay the House for more than a few minutes.

I have felt for a long time, ever since I began to discuss and consider the questions raised by the mover, that there is much to be said for a council for the disabled, and all the reasons have been made this afternoon. But there are a few worries and concerns that I share with some others and I do not think they have been dispelled by what I have heard this afternoon. I have always felt, from my experience on the advisory committee mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Haig, that there are too many organisations; but I fear that there may be a tendency to say that there are too many and that we should get rid of some. That might well tempt some people to do away with the self-help groups that the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, mentioned and for whom I have a great deal of sympathy and support. They may well be swept away in the desire to reduce the number of organisations and that would be to the detriment of the disabled. I hope that we are aware of that problem and the consequences that would have for the regional groups—the specialist groups—because no matter how many huge organisations we have they could never deal with some of the very specialist problems in the area groups that exist. Therefore, I am worried about that.

A number of speakers have referred to the fact-finding aspect of this council. I do not know that such a Royal Charter council could be a fact finder. Fact finding always has to be done on the ground. It will still have to be done on the ground by all those organisations who have been beavering away for years and years to bring all these problems to the attention of the DACs, the other organisations and to the council. I do not see that the council could initiate much of that fact finding. I am currently worried at the fact that local authorities, because of the 1970 Act, have had to do much of the fact finding and surveys by themselves. They are finding it very difficult—and in some cases impossible—because of the lack of resources and finance. This is not the time to talk about rate capping, and so on, but there are difficulties for local authorities. They are finding it difficult to obtain these facts. I do not see how it would be any easier if we had a national council. It might even be more difficult because there would be a tendency to say, "There is the allocation for that council, so that is that, and no more."

That brings me to my final worry—funding. I know that this will be developed in later discussions, but I was a wee bit worried when I heard the mover, the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, mention raffles—lotteries, he called them, but it is the same thing. That brings out flag days. That is not moving forward in any way. We have moved away from that and we have made governments of all complexions accept that there is a financial responsibility at the centre for the problems of the disabled and the handicapped. It would be a retrograde step if we now move back into the flag day field.

I hope that some of those problems will exercise the minds of all of us in the aftermath of this discussion and in whatever we intend to do later on. As I said, I give the Motion reserved support at this stage until I know the answers to some of those questions.

4.56 p.m.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, it is not for me to comment on the propriety or otherwise of what might be called unpremeditated interventions in the gap in the speakers' list by noble Lords; although I hasten to say that the contributions we have had from the noble Lords, Lord Hastings and Lord Stallard, who have done exactly that, have added important points to our debate. I merely say that when other noble Lords are extremely careful about keeping to their time limit, as they have been in this debate, that does allow other noble Lords to intervene in speeches and I feel that interventions can sometimes elucidate points of immense value—and have done so in this debate. With timed debates there is a tendency for people to believe that there cannot be any interventions. However, if there is a gradual assumption that if noble Lords make short speeches and there is any time left in the gap other noble Lords will rise to their feet to fill it, then that, I think, would be establishing a dangerous precedent.

I speak as the first speaker below the line on behalf of both parties on the Alliance Benches, and I am quite sure that in a short debate it is helpful to all if we speak with one voice rather than with several, particularly when our views exactly coincide, as they do on this matter. We are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for bringing this matter forward, and we are in full support of his efforts. Indeed, we congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, on his ingenuity in seizing on this device of a disablement council established by Royal Charter, which has all sorts of attractive possibilities attached to it, many of which have already been mentioned.

One which certainly attracts me is that it would avoid the necessity for lengthy and time-consuming legislation in your Lordships' House and in another place, which makes it almost impossible sometimes ever to get anything done. That is clearly an advantage. The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, mentioned some of the other possibilities, as did the noble Lord, Lord Bancroft. I ask the Government to very carefully bear in mind the words of the noble Lord, Lord Bancroft, who spelt out very clearly the advantages of proceeding on these lines of a disablement council established by Royal Charter.

One other advantage was mentioned which caused some argument—that it might take the whole business of disability out of party politics. I do not want to enter into argument with the noble Earl, Lord Longford, save to say that if we abolished parties today they would all re-form tomorrow. I have always felt that our party system is, up to a point, based on a fallacy. It is based on the fallacious assumption that if a group of people agree on one thing they must necessarily agree on everything else. That is manifestly untrue. My own party has only been able to give the appearance of complete unanimity over the years mainly because there were hardly any of us. When there are more we shall be just like the others.

But the fact remains that we need a mechanism from time to time to make it easier for noble Lords in all parties, or indeed sometimes in none, to work closely together on matters on which their views coincide. I think that that is one of the main functions that could be fulfilled by the establishment of a disablement council by Royal Charter. It would give an opportunity for support from members of all parties in different ways, and enable them to come together in a way that sometimes they cannot do.

Another function which the body could undoubtedly fulfil—and this has been referred to by many noble Lords either directly or obliquely—is to do something to integrate the work of the multiplicity of bodies that already exist, both nationally and locally. That is a point which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, a moment or two ago. There has been an explosive growth in the number of these organisations. I do not think that noble Lords could mention a single illness or disease for which I cannot somewhere find a society which exists to help the families and the sufferers. That is admirable; I do not criticise it for a second.

In connection with other work that I do I publish a handbook of organisations which exist to help the disabled, the sick, and so on, in the Granada area. It is a pretty big area—the whole of the north-west of Britain. That handbook lists all sorts of bodies, such as the British Epilepsy Association (which has already been referred to) and the British Diabetic Association. It lists all the national organisations, which of course have branches out in the regions, together with a whole series of smaller outfits which have been set up to fulfil a local need and to give support to the sufferers from this or that disease or disability. The handbook which I produce is updated regularly each year, and now runs to about 15 pages for the north-west alone.

That multiplicity of organisations undoubtedly from time to time leads to duplication of effort and perhaps a certain amount of waste. It also from time to time leads to damaging rivalry between different organisations whose territory sometimes overlaps. That is the kind of thing which could be looked at by a disability council. It could be helpful in making better use of the efforts of the multiplicity of organisations dotted about the country.

The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, also referred to the whole question of the implementation of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. Together with Mr. Alfred Morris in another place, I had the honour of being one of the sponsors of that Bill. I have always taken a great interest in it. But mainly its provisions were enabling rather than mandatory on local authorities. I do not have a copy of the Act here, but to the best of my recollection it requires local authorities to do certain things where those things are considered to be both reasonable and practicable.

It has always been my experience—it is not perhaps surprising—that what some authorities find to be both reasonable and practicable others find to be totally unreasonable and quite impracticable. In the television programme which I present on these matters up in the north we regularly published a league table of where different local authorities were in the provision of telephones, the adaptation of homes for the disabled and all the other different duties which were laid upon local authorities in this permissive way by that Act. It was quite remarkable, when one local authority appeared at the bottom of the list which we showed on the television screen, how quickly it started climbing up the list.

But we need more than that. We need a central body with the clout (if I may use the word) which a body established by Royal Charter would undoubtedly have to do something about seeing to it that the provisions of that Act are applied a bit more evenly throughout the country. At the moment we have widely differing provisions in different places.

The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, referred—and I thought rightly—to something which is very interesting. We somehow need to know a little more about the total amount of resources spent on the disabled from all the various sources. He referred to central government, local government, all the voluntary bodies, and so on. As he rightly said, it has never been quantified. Surely it would be helpful to know what the total figure is. I think that when that total figure is ultimately compiled, added to it should be some kind of quantification of the value of all the things given in kind in various ways. Very often premises are loaned by an individual for use by a society. Often there is the work which is done entirely free by very many people. Food, equipment and all sorts of other things are given. The total resources are vast. A central body with a Royal Charter could look at all those resources from a central point of view, perhaps to say whether they are being used to the best possible advantage.

Before I sit down, let me say this. In establishing a new body we have to make absolutely sure that it turns out to be a net producer of resources rather than a net consumer. A disability council of this kind could be established in that way only if it had the fullest possible support of all the existing organisations for which so many noble Lords in this House do so much work. Our duty now is, first, to support the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and to see that perhaps we get our disabilility council by Royal Charter. We should then do what we can by our influence in our own areas to encourage all the existing voluntary bodies of one kind or another to support the formation of a disability council. Unless they support it, it will have no chance of success.

5.5 p.m.

Lord Prys-Davies

My Lords, the debate this evening has been significant on at least two counts. First, it has been prompted by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, who speaks with the authority and independence of the Cross-Benches. It is acknowledged that there is no one better equipped to initiate the debate in your Lordships' House than the noble Lord. He is the person who initiated the debate in the country on the need to establish by Royal Charter a national council for the disabled. A chartered body for the disabled is his vision and brainchild but modesty prevented him from saying so. I am grateful to the noble Lord for the well-deserved tribute that he paid to the pioneering work of my right honourable friend Mr. Alf Morris.

The debate is significant also because on every side of the House there has been overwhelming support for the Motion. Reservations have been raised by two of my noble friends, but on the whole there has been overwhelming support for the Motion. That must be satisfying to the noble Lord, and it must have some significance for the Government.

I think that we all acknowledge that a great deal has been achieved by the voluntary organisations working for the disabled generally or working for particular groups, but the voluntary organisations would be the first to acknowledge that they could do more if they had more time, more staff and probably more money. I therefore found myself asking the question: what would a national council established by Royal Charter do which cannot be done, or done as effectively, by any one or more of the existing major disability organisations?

Having read the discussion paper produced by the noble Lord and listened to the speeches this afternoon, it appears to me that the case rests on three main arguments. First, having a Royal Charter and therefore a prestigious title, the body will sometimes be in a position to put up a more effective fight. Pressure from a chartered body on the right people at the right time can put things on course. That is the way of the world for the foreseeable future. The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, says that it will have clout. That is the clout which it will have. Secondly, being a chartered body it will present an annual report to the Minister, reporting on present conditions and making recommendations for future action: and the annual report could be the subject of an annual debate in Parliament.

Taking those two points together, we can see that the chartered body could become a permanent, central forum for discussing matters affecting the disabled generally and thus fulfilling a need which is not adequately met at the present time. It could become an important centre for expert knowledge, possibly for research, or commissioning research, on disability, and producing policy papers on major issues referred to it, or itself initiating policy papers. Again—and this has been underlined by at least four speakers this afternoon—it could facilitate better co-ordination of plans and policies. That has been the message of the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, the noble Earl, Lord Haig, my noble friend Lord Fitt and the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss.

So the House perceives that there is a need to ensure better co-ordination and this body could take that task on board. It would achieve co-ordination while the existing organisations, each of them with its own peculiar interest, jealously guarding that interest, would preserve its own existing loyalties. It could be, in addition, a valuable link between Ministers and Parliament. My noble friend Lord Longford has, as against those advantages, raised one or two disadvantages and one would have to consider them. But on balance I am sure that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

In the consultation paper which the noble Lord drew up last summer as the basis for discussion, he outlined a number of other possible functions for the proposed body. It was suggested that it could encourage rationalisation if it was satisfied that there was fruitless competition between organisations. Predictively this did not go down very well with most organisations, who are in the front line. They fear that this could lead to a take-over. It appears to me that there are two views in the House. Some consider that the council ought to go down that road, but I would take the view that if there is over-competition from time to time that should not be exaggerated. I should have thought for the time being that that is something one could live with.

There was also a suggestion in the consultative paper that the chartered body would be a grant-distributing body for the voluntary organisations, but there are very strong objections indeed to its being given this function. In the light of his consultations with individuals and organisations—and I am not sure whether the noble Lord had consultations with the organisations in Wales but next time round I hope he will have consultations with the Welsh councils of disability—I think the noble Lord has abandoned those two suggestions, at least for the time being.

The chartered body will require to be adequately funded, and in the main it appears to me that it must be Government funding—and with additional Government money. This is the point that is constantly stressed by the organisations who have looked at the consultative paper and who are basically in support of the proposal. The value of this chartered body, the value of this exercise, will be lost unless the resources are made available. I have no doubt that the new body would not receive as much money as it asked for, but it would be helpful if the noble Lord could before long give us an indication of the demands on the resources that it would make if it is to measure up to its tasks.

The noble Lord has expressed the hope that the chartered body will take disability above or outside party political battle into an atmosphere of goodwill. Certainly that is an ideal. But I doubt very much whether that will come about. It would be very surprising if it were not to be drawn into the controversies over the use of scarce resources. But the concept of a chartered council for the disabled enjoys our goodwill from this side of the House. I believe that, given adequate resources, and provided it builds on existing loyalties and is seen to be an organic development, the new body would have considerable potential. It would be a significant advance. I will not speak any longer because the House and many people outside it are very interested to hear how the Government respond to the debate.

5.12 p.m.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for initiating this debate and for the constructive way in which he and indeed all those who have supported him have presented their case. It is one which attracts a good deal of sympathy and support on all sides of your Lordships' House, as the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, said. Speaking for the Government, I can only say how much we welcome the interest which your Lordships show in the important issue of provision for disabled people.

The proposal at the centre of today's debate has a great deal to commend it. We want to encourage the active participation of disabled people in the affairs which affect them and clearly a strong national consumer voice may be one way of doing that. We have always emphasised the crucial role played by the voluntary sector, particularly in the field of disability where it has a long and active history. The noble Lord's Motion gives full recognition to this and he, and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, are quite right to suggest that to be successful such a body would need to evolve from existing organisations. It would need the confidence and respect of the many organisations already active in this field—some for many, many years—organisations which rightly take a pride in their own achievements, vitality and close understanding of the people they serve.

I do not believe that a national body imposed from above—the brainchild of government or the creation of statute—could fit this Bill. Behind the noble Lord's Motion—and others have referred to this as well—lies a desire to see a greater co-ordination of effort among organisations representing the interests of the disabled. On the other hand, it could be argued that the strength of the voluntary organisations lies in their diversity, and the imaginative pursuance of the aims their own particular members feel are important.

There is also a danger, perhaps, that the hopes placed in a national council for disabled people could become too ambitious. On the face of it, as I have said, it is an attractive concept, but it is also a very complex one. Disability is a very individual experience.

I note the points which my noble friend Lady Faithfull made about children. Of course, children would very much be a matter for the council to consider. So far as a national advisory committee for special educational needs is concerned, which she raised, I am aware of the letter of which indeed she has a copy. But the Government have not ruled out the possibility of considering the position later, in the light of other developments, including research the Government have commissioned on the follow-up to the 1981 Education Act. The results of this research are expected to be published in 1986.

But a national council would aim to act as a consumer voice for all disabilities—physical, sensory and mental. It would aim to be expert in all these fields, too, when commenting on various topical issues. That task is not impossible, but no one should under-estimate its difficulty—and I think this was a point to which my noble friend Lady Lane-Fox was alluding.

In the world of hearing impairment alone, there are four main national bodies. I am very pleased that in many ways they act together as the Panel of Four, representing the interests of those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Nevertheless they remain, by their own wish, separate autonomous bodies which do not wish to form one organisation. They have decided that this would not be in the best interests of those they serve, and even if these few did come together, there would still be scores of organisations of and for deaf and hearing-impaired people outside the main grouping; I do not mention this situation in any critical way, but simply to illustrate the complexity of the task of those selecting a body of manageable size to represent a very wide range of interests.

A further complexity is the number of advisory groups of one kind or another that already exist either specifically in the field of disability or covering disabled interests in their remit. Some are statutory bodies, others are not. There is the Social Security Advisory Committee, the National Advisory Council on the Employment of Disabled People, the Access Committee, the Transport Advisory Panel, and the Prince of Wales Advisory Group on Disability. That is by no means an exhaustive list and it could be argued that it merely illustrates the need for greater rationalisation.

However, I should strike two notes of caution. The first is that these various bodies have considerable expertise in their own specialist fields which enables them to grapple with complex issues and to make effective contributions to policy formulation. The second is that they often involve people who are not themselves disabled or directly representing disabled people but whose involvement in the decision-making process is of vital importance to disabled people. So far as the proposed council is concerned, this is a point that my noble friend Lady Gardner raised and which seemed to have some attraction for her. For example, the Access Committee for England has representation from designers, building control officers and the construction industry as well as from disabled consumers. In that way, there can be informed debate and a greater mutual understanding of apparently conflicting interests.

If a national council was aiming to give expert advice in these areas to Government, how would it stand in relation to such bodies as already exist? This was a point that the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, made. And would it aim to combine under its wing experts from both within and outside the world of disability itself? Again, I do not raise these questions in order to shoot down the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, in any way, but merely to illustrate the complexities involved and the need to devise with great care the framework within which such a national council would most effectively operate.

Several of your Lordships and, notably, towards the end, the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, have raised the question of Royal Charter. As the noble Lord himself said, a Royal Charter is not subject to the parliamentary process, nor the executive act of Government. The award is at the discretion of Her Majesty the Queen. Administrative approval is decided by the Privy Council Office. A request can be initiated either by departments or by an outside petitioner. But the advice and support of the Secretaries of State, in their capacities as Privy Counsellors, would no doubt contribute to success. This means that whoever nominated a body for Royal Charter, the Government's support would be an important consideration. Once a body has a Royal Charter it can only be disbanded by Act of Parliament, as I understand it, or at the wish of the body itself.

As to the question of whether or not the national council should be a funding body—a point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, and others—the Government are not in principle against the idea of using the voluntary sector to disburse grants. This is the way that our "Opportunities for Volunteering" scheme operates at the moment. It has proved a great success. However, I am aware of the great value that individual disability organisations place on presenting and arguing their own cases for grant aid. On this issue, the views of disability organisations as a whole would be the crucial factor and one certainly that the Govenment would need to consider.

The question must be asked, too, whether a national council for disabled people is a step towards their greater integration or, as some would argue, a move towards segregation. I find this a very difficult issue. On the one hand, one sees great fragmentation and perhaps duplication of effort with the consequent fear that the problems of disabled people are not being dealt with coherently. A strong, national and distinct "disability" body would seem to be one way to counter that. On the other hand, there is the view that disability should not be dealt with separately, but should be treated as one important aspect of the services and institutions which cater for the population generally. There is much to be said for that, too, and for arguing that our efforts should be devoted not to setting up a new "separatist" body, but towards ensuring that existing local and national activities have a disability dimension, and that disabled people are encouraged to participate in them.

It is certainly the Government's policy to encourage such participation in trying to provide the kind of support which gives disabled people greater independence and opportunities than they have had in the past. Here the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, made some helpful remarks about educating the able about the needs of those not so fortunate. To my mind, it is not just a question of education; it is a question of upbringing in its most general sense. It is a matter of great importance and should be noted by all concerned; parents, teachers and others alike.

We have tried to take a consistent and coherent approach to the problem. First, we recognise the importance of financial support as a precondition for independence. It is no mean achievement in difficult economic times that we have increased expenditure on benefits for chronically sick and disabled people by 35 per cent. in real terms since 1978–79. Secondly, we have continued the trend away from the institutional model of care for disabled people, which fosters dependence, towards a community-based approach which concentrates on an individual's independence. This has been reflected in our care in the community initiatives, the more flexible use of joint finance and encouragement of joint planning between health and local authorities with the involvement of the voluntary sector at local level. It is reflected, too, in our various initiatives to support vital voluntary activities, the most recent of which was the £10.5 million "Helping the Community to Care" initiative announced last year which I hope will benefit disabled people among others.

Thirdly, we aim in a variety of ways to create an environment free of the kind of barriers which have previously frustrated disabled people's attempts to exploit their own abilities to the full. That means, for example, actively promoting integration, as in the 1981 Education Act, and making places more accessible—a prime purpose of the Government funded Access Committee for England and of the proposed amendment to building regulations currently being considered by my colleagues at the Department of the Environment to which the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, referred. I can say that my honourable friend the Minister for Housing wishes to press ahead with this as soon as possible. He will decide how to proceed after he has received the full advice of the Building Regulations Advisory Committee, which is considering the proposals as a matter of urgency.

It means changing the attitude of employers so that they understand the true potential and abilities of disabled people. The Code of Good Practice on the Employment of Disabled People, which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister launched last November, will, I believe, be of great value here. These are just some examples. There are others in important fields like transport and telecommunications.

It is not my intention to read off a litany of Government achievements. Nor is it my intention to suggest for a minute that the Government can do everything, or that they alone can sort it out. That was the theme developed by my noble friend Lord Campbell. I have often been tempted by the beguiling words "this is not a party political matter," and have fallen for it. Sometimes, it certainly is a party political matter. But that would not be appropriate to the theme of today's debate. I do not see that, in any sense, this debate should be a party political matter. I wanted merely to give a brief outline of the Government's overall approach in their policy towards disabled people.

One of the main concerns, I believe, behind the proposal put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Bancroft, is that there appears to be a lack of coordination and direction in the approach to disability issues at national level, and that a national council would help to rectify this. I have tried to show that the Government recognise the need for clear objectives and a co-ordinated approach in their own policies towards disabled people, and that they try to maintain that approach across a very wide range of their activities. I should add that many of the activities and initiatives I have mentioned are devised and carried through in closest co-operation with disability organisations. That includes the ex-service community. As my noble friend Lord Haig knows, I have an association with them anyway in my capacity as the Minister with special responsibility for war pensions matters. So far as the relationship between England and Scotland is concerned, in answer to my noble friend Lord Haig I can only say that this is one of the complexities that would face those actually setting up the council.

The noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, asked a question about taxis. She asked when the new accessible taxi would be available. I can perhaps say that the new generation, capable of carrying a person in a wheelchair, should become available in late 1986. It should provide a major contribution to transport facilities for disabled people in London and other major cities.

This has been a good debate, with many useful contributions which we shall study carefully. The Government have an open mind about the noble Lord's proposal, and my comments have been made, I hope, in a constructive spirit. Some of the specific functions the noble Lord suggested for a national council would be problematic, and I have doubts, too, that it would, at the end of the day, be possible to combine such a wide range of very different roles within one manageable body. But I recognise that these are only suggestions at this stage, and that a great deal of detailed work would need to be done to refine them.

I come back to the point with which I began; that is, that the idea of a national council for disabled people stands or falls by the degree of acceptance it receives from existing organisations and from disabled people themselves. As my noble friend Lord Hastings will understand, this will doubtless require a great deal of discussion and debate; but we, for our part, will certainly listen sympathetically to any proposals put to us as a result of that process.

5.31 p.m.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, I do not know how long I have to wind up, but so much has been said that I am sure no one will want to prolong this debate further. I must thank most warmly all those who have spoken, from every side of the House. I would say there was 99 per cent. support. The 1 per cent. is perhaps withheld by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, though when he was pressed by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, he appeared to say, from a sedentary position, that he was really in support, after all. If that is so, I think I can claim 100 per cent. support.

At all events, even if this comes to nothing—I hope to goodness that it does not come to nothing—this debate surely will have been worthwhile because of all the extremely expert and different points of view that have been expressed from all quarters of the House. I regard this debate as a kind of Green Paper, and I hope that the Government will regard this as a Green Paper addressed to them and they will now produce a blueprint for a council. I think I am expressing the wishes of the House when I say that this Green Paper should be turned into a blueprint.

I should apologise most humbly for two derelictions of duty. I was properly accused by the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, of not having consulted the Welsh; I was properly taken to task by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, for not consulting the Scots. I have no excuse to offer. One other thing I should mention relates to the two noble Lords sitting at the back—Lord Stallard and Lord Fitt. I was very grateful for their support, and I am sorry slightly to have qualified their support by suggesting the remote possibility of a national lottery, the proceeds of which could go towards the disablement organisations and disabled people.

When I introduced that, I did it with great hesitation. I am glad I did it; I think it ought to go into the hotch-potch of ideas. When you have the Government saying, on every front, that they will not add to the public sector expenditure then you search desperately for other than public sector expenditure—every other means that you can think of; and that, to my mind, includes a lottery. Quite sensible, moral nations have public lotteries. I do not think very much the less of, say, that great nation, France, that for so many years she has had a national lottery. Why should not we, too? That is an area of controversy. It is the only area of controversy in this debate so far.

I must thank the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, for his constructive winding-up speech. It was clearly his duty to point out all the difficulties. Now that he has done so, I hope he will take on board the support from all round the House and take this back to his very sensitive Minister for the disabled, Mr. Tony Newton; and I hope that he will be receptive. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.