§ Mr. Hannam
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what contacts his Department's staff have with medical boards on mobility allowance cases; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Newton
In seeking consistent adjudication, it has long been the practice for the Department's medical staff to refer mobility allowance cases back to the medical board if it was thought that the board's decision, or the record of it, needed clarification or reconsideration. A commissioner's decision has criticised this practice where the reference was, in effect, inviting the medical board to alter the substance of its decision and the board subsequently did so. Some people will have gained benefit as a result of such reconsideration by the board. Others will have lost benefit.
In the light of the commissioner's comments, we have decided that it would be right to take the necessary steps to identify the cases involved and initiate appropriate action to put matters right. This requires a special scrutiny of over ½million files. When the cases are found, we do not intend to disturb those where the medical board's decision was altered in the claimant's favour. But where a favourable decision was altered by the medical board to an adverse one, we propose dealing with them in one of two ways, depending on whether or not the claimant had appealed to a medical appeal tribunal against the decision of the medical board. Where the claimant had not appealed, we propose referring the case to a medical appeal tribunal to determine it afresh. As regards those cases where the claimant had appealed, we propose taking a test case to the commissioner to determine whether the medical appeal tribunal decision should stand.
Instructions have already been issued to prevent reference back to medical boards by Departmental staff outside the terms of the regulations. We are looking into the position as regards industrial disablement benefit to see to what extent a similar practice of reference back to medical boards have applied.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services pursuant to the reply to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe, on 12 November 1984, Official Report, columns 143–4, if he has reached a decision on repayment of mobility allowance consequent to commissioner's decision R(M)2/82; and if he will make a further statement.
§ Mr. Newton
[pursuant to his reply, 3 April 1985, c. 639]: The commissioner's decision R(M)2/82 held that, contrary to our previous understanding, the claimant had no right of appeal against the length of a mobility allowance award where it coincided with the recommendation of the examining medical practitioner. It follows that, where a claimant had in fact appealed to a medical hoard in these circumstances and the board, in considering the whole case afresh, had decided he did not satisfy the conditions for the allowance, the consequent withdrawal of benefit should not have occurred.
I am glad to say that we have now found a way to identify these cases fairly readily through our overpayment records. Once we have done so, we propose dealing with them in one of two ways. As regards those cases where the743W
claimant did not appeal to a medical appeal tribunal against the decision of the medical board, we propose referring the case to a tribunal, inviting it to regard the earlier decision as a nullity and to determine the case afresh. As regards those cases where the claimant did appeal against the decision of the medical board, we propose taking a test case to the Commissioner to determine whether the medical appeal tribunal decision should stand.
I am replying accordingly to a letter from the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation who raised the matter with me, and I am sending a copy of my reply to the right hon. Member.
The regulations were of course amended in August 1983 to give claimants the appeal right which the commissioner's decision held the existing law did not give.