|Previous Section||Home Page|
Column 517machines on the streets and that has been made possible more generally since the Road Traffic Regulation (Parking) Act 1986. Designated spaces are better than unrestricted coach parking. Clamping and towing have had some impact on yellow line parking. They may delay a car an extra hour or two, but research from the Transport and Road and Research Laboratory shows that they cut illegal parking by 30 or 40 per cent.
Mr. Adley : I would like a ministerial reply to a narrow point. We know that the Metropolitan police have described the problems of illegal parking as horrendous. What is the Government's position if coaches are parking illegally? We know that the police are short of resources, and the police believe that the coach is causing a major traffic problem, but they are worried about enforcing the law because of the inconvenience to passengers. Will my hon. Friend the Minister make it clear that the Government expect the police to enforce the law regardless of inconvenience? Only in that way will coaches stop acting illegally.
Mr. Bottomley : I fear that I may have to disappoint my hon. Friend. Part of my work involves proposing legislation and I try to avoid saying what the police should do. The law is there to be observed. That is plain. If there is supposed to be discretion in obeying the law, that should be written into legislation. However, most of us would expect to see a degree of common sense in terms of enforcing the law, as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) explained in relation to his parking circumstances. In areas like drink driving, I have held back from saying anything about the way in which the police should use their discretion. If my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch will allow me, I prefer to maintain my degree of discretion today.
There are problems with designation. In a wide-ranging and very important speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West, like my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), put into context the problems facing travellers and residents. We must consider residents as well. If we said that a local authority could not allow a resident to park a van in a resident's parking space--that is an implication in the new clause--we would be going too far. However, we can expect more local authorities to be as rigorous as some authorities in central London have been recently in checking to discover why so many people with residents' parking permits use that permit at 8.30 am and stop using it at 5.30 pm because they drive away elsewhere. Local authorities have power to deal with that type of cheating. Our economic life requires service vehicles. I am not referring here to residents parking, but to road use. More people should read the articles which have been published in The Times about the time that is wasted in trying to make deliveries during the commuter rush hour. Many of the firms that contributed to the Confederation of British Industry's interesting report on London traffic congestion should consider whether they can stagger their deliveries to avoid the main commuting rush, especially in outer London. I do not think that there is a solution for central London, because in central London there is often more traffic during the day than there is in the morning and afternoon commuter periods.
Column 51812.45 pm
I hope that my remarks illustrate that the Government are continuing to examine the issues raised on other occasions by my right hon. and hon. Friends. However, it would be inappropriate to load the Bill with the new clauses proposed.
As to new clause 5, the duty on local authorities themselves to make provision for off-street parking would cut away from some of the initiatives we have been encouraging, in requiring local authorities more often to use private sector resources. I do not want to see a return to the old cycle that we had in London especially, whereby for 10 years one was not allowed to construct a building unless it included plenty of parking provision, followed by 10 years of saying that new buildings could not incorporate any parking provision--with the Government trying to set themselves against the market and swinging from one extreme to another, rather like the pendulum in the Science museum. It may be better to allow a mixture of self-interest and planning guidance, rather than to go for an absolute solution. There has been congestion in London since Roman times, and as we shall not find a solution to parking or to traffic movement, we should try to move to a sensible position. Today, I think that it is sensible to have off-street parking that is paid for by cashless means, mainly by stored value or by credit cards.
It should not be assumed that all local authorities are confronted with a serious parking problem, though that may be true of London, of other city centres, and of some historic towns. I look forward to attending the historic towns forum that is to take place in two or three weeks' time. However, I may wish to return early, so that I may be negatively neutral on the Right of Reply Bill. Given my job, if I had a formal right of reply, half the newspapers would be full of items explaining that they had misunderstood me. I am one of the more misunderstood Ministers, in the same way that the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, East is frequently misunderstood.
I move on past new clause 6, which is not being debated, to new clause 7. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch is right to say that coach parking is a serious problem. I do not want to hold out a false prospect of accepting new clause 7 at a later stage of the Bill or of having it adopted in other Government legislation. I should like to give it further consideration and will write to my hon. Friend about detailed points and the difficulties as we see them. That is not meant as a false promise so that my hon. Friend will not press his new clause today, but I fear that if he did so, we might lose the whole Bill--and that would be a major loss. It is only by the kind of persistence shown by my hon. Friend that we shall move towards partial solutions to very real problems.
London has a population of about 7 million people, in addition to those who commute to London to work. That population is equivalent to that of Austria and twice that of Singapore. To believe that we can destroy economic activity so that traffic may move easily, or that we can impose the kind of solution adopted by Singapore, whereby a car has only eight years' life, would be foolish. We have a duty to improve London's environment and prosperity, and to make certain that the casualties of traffic congestion are reduced. Off-street parking is part of that.
I shall be grateful if the House will not agree to the new clauses that have been proposed in a helpful way today, but will let the Bill as it came from Committee go forward
Column 519to another place. Perhaps we may then consider other problems in the debates that we are likely to have on traffic in London, use of the motor car, and designated parking.
Mr. Maples : I am grateful for the comments of my hon. Friend the Minister, who recognises that the problems mentioned by myself and by other hon. Members are integrated and that the solutions to them must encompass various forms of transport and of parking regulation. I feel sure that we shall return to the subject many times. In view of my hon. Friend's comments, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.
Order for Third Reading read.
I do not intend to detain the House for more than a moment. I have already explained the purpose of the Bill, and its detailed provisions were considered fully in Committee. I am grateful both to the hon. Members who participated in that process and to those who have contributed so constructively to today's debate. I am also grateful to the Minister and his officials for their kind assistance during the conduct of the legislation so far.
This is not a party political matter, and I am particularly grateful to the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), who made some very helpful remarks. The Opposition clearly recognise that, although modest, this is a worthy piece of legislation. Many people stand to gain from it, including local authorities, equipment manufacturers and, perhaps especially, motorists.
It may seem odd that we must resort to primary legislation to give local authorities more scope and flexibility in this regard. The truth is that the present law is outdated ; technology has marched ahead while statute as dragged behind. We have the opportunity to put that right, and to establish a firm footing for future progress. As I have said, the Bill is modest, but I believe that it is worthwhile. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to bring it forward, and I commend it to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.
As amended, considered
Order for Third Reading read.
If you had been in the Chair earlier, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you might have understood what was going through my mind during the humorous speech of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow). When casting light on the subject of the preceding Bill, the hon. Gentleman encouraged us all to remain until later this afternoon to meet another Minister. My mind went back to a political gathering. It was late in the evening and the speaker was roaring on. The chairman was present, along with one other person. The speaker said, "Mr. Chairman, I am deeply indebted to my friend for remaining to the end", to which the response was "Friend my eye, I am the next speaker." I sat through the previous debate on the important subject of parking as it affects London, in particular, but also the nation as a whole. I appreciated the Minister's reference to the upsurge in casualties on the roads in Northern Ireland. I speak today out of concern for both disabled people and those who care for them. Let me put on record my indebtedness to right hon. and hon. Members throughout the House who have supported me, and pay tribute to the helpful guidance I received from the Minister and the Department when I sought to discuss with them the implications of the Disabled Persons Services, Consultation and Representation Act 1986 as it affected Northern Ireland.
It was mooted at that time, both in Committee and in the other place, that the measure should be extended to Northern Ireland, but, because of the administrative arrangements for health and social services in Northern Ireland, that was set aside. Nevertheless, as I was successful in the ballot for private Member's Bills, I decided to introduce this Bill which I hope will become an Act during the Session. It will give the people of Northern Ireland the same disability rights as those enjoyed in the rest of the United Kingdom. The people of Northern Ireland avidly await the implementation of the Bill's provisions. Councils throughout the Province support the Bill. The Law Society for Northern Ireland also supports it, as do the various organisations that help the disabled. I pay tribute to Mencap and the Act Now campaign who have helped me to frame the Bill. When I drafted the Bill I sought to make it apply to Northern Ireland in the same way as the 1986 Act applies to the rest of the United Kingdom. That meant that it had to contain provisions relating to local authorities and housing. The 1986 Act places an onus on local authorities. I did not proceed with the drafting of a Bill along those lines because there had been insufficient time for consultation with everybody in Northern Ireland. Discussions subsequently took place and the Department encouraged me to table amendments to bring this Bill into line with the 1986 Act. The changes place an onus on local councils and on the Department of the Environment--through the Northern Ireland Housing Executive--to deal with disabled people in the same way as they are dealt with in the rest of Great Britain.
Column 521A few minor amendments were made in Committee. We originally used the words "a mental health commission." However, there is only one mental health commission in Northern Ireland. I am not a supporter of quangos and I do not want to encourage the Department to create another one. Therefore I was happy to change the wording to "the" mental health commission. Muckamore Abbey is under the control of the Eastern board although it is within the area of the Northern board. That was another consequential amendment.
I urge the House to pass the Bill. We are three years behind the parent Bill that was skilfully piloted through the House by the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke). I am happy that he is a sponsor of my Bill.
The Bill has financial implications. As I am a Unionist, I do not want for Northern Ireland what is not available to the rest of the United Kingdom. I was encouraged by the Minister's positive response in Committee. I know that he will use his best efforts to encourage the various boards and agencies to implement the Act in Northern Ireland. When budgeting for Northern Ireland we have to recognise that a sign of a caring society and of a caring nation is its care for the disabled. If there is a financial surplus, I hope that part of it will be released for this purpose. It ought not to be stored up for other purposes. It should be used to help those who are in real need.
The main purpose of the Bill is to improve arrangements for advocacy and representation. People in Northern Ireland look forward to having a legal right of advocacy so that those who cannot argue the case for themselves and who do not know their way round the system may have somebody to speak for them. The Bill will certainly do away with the present system under which a child may ultimately have to appeal against the health and social services board that is responsible for him or her. Quite apart from financial resources, the Bill gives those children the right to be represented by an advocate who will look after their interests.
In Committee I was asked about the respective ratios of disabled people in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain. We have had difficulty in finding up -to-date and accurate statistics, but we can make comparisons nevertheless. The incidence of Down's syndrome, for example, is one in 600 live births in Northern Ireland as compared with one in 1,000 live births in the United Kingdom as a whole. I am never convinced that such statistics are accurate. How can we tell the proportion if we do not know the total incidence? Those are the figures that are used, however, and they show a disproportionate need in Northern Ireland.
People have asked what causes the difference. In Committee the Minister drew attention to morbidity and to the problem of larger families and of mothers of advanced years bearing children as possible contributory factors.
Another factor has been mentioned. I am not sure that it is a cause of the problem and we should draw attention to it if only to challenge it. The scare stories that some have put around excite fear in people rather than seeking to deal with the problem. Dr. Sheehan from Dublin, who conducted a study of the incidence of Down's disease in Dundalk and other southern areas, claimed that Sellafield was a cause. Professor Lowry challenged that assumption in a later report. Perhaps I am partial because Professor Lowry and I were colleagues at school, but I found his
Column 522study more objective than the study that claimed Sellafield as a cause. He cast doubt on Dr. Sheehan's theory and showed that the evidence was inconclusive.
We must still ask why the ratio is higher in Northern Ireland and hope to discover a means to eliminate the disease. The Down's Association has said that the new education system in Northern Ireland benefits the children as it makes a better use of their talents. The association expresses a worry that is shared by others--that when the children reach the age of 19 and have to leave school, provision for them is not adequate. I welcome some of the moves made to improve that situation. At least the Bill puts responsibility on departments and boards to be more accurate in their assessments and provide the necessary support.
The number of discharges from hospital has been mentioned. It was interesting to discover that although there has been a decline in the number of beds in mental hospitals recently, there has also been an increase in the number of admissions. Therefore, the Bill is timely. I trust that the support of right hon. and hon. Members will speed it on its way to the other place, ultimately to become an Act for the well-being of our people in Northern Ireland.
Ms. Jo Richardson (Barking) : I congratulate the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) on extending the provisions of the existing legislation to Northern Ireland. He and everybody else in Northern Ireland consider that it is long overdue.
One of my principal concerns is about the problems of carers, as distinct from the obvious problems that affect disabled people. I was pleased to see that clause 8 is about the duty of the board to take into account the abilities of carers. From my own experience and from my Front-Bench responsibilities, which I am not exercising now, I know that when we consider the problems that many women face, we do not always look at people's ability to look after someone within their family. They do the job willingly and lovingly, and would not necessarily want anybody to take it from them, but we do not sufficiently recognise that they need great support. As hon. Members will know, the overwhelming majority of carers are women. They range across the age spectrum. They could be children, young women, middle-aged women who have had to give up their jobs, or pensioners looking after another pensioner or even a younger person. It is generally recognised that it is their role to look after somebody, simply because he or she happens to be a member of the same family. That causes some resentment and problems. If society, the authorities, agencies and, in this case, the board recognise that people in that position need maximum support, the hon. Gentleman will earn the thanks of all those people.
I often say that the most invisible group of people in our society is carers. They are behind closed doors. They often cannot go out. They are trapped into the caring responsibility which they must undertake. As legislators, it is our job to ensure that doors are opened to them, to enable them not only to continue their work, which is so valuable and which saves the community so much money, but to participate in society.
Clause 8 specifically relates to carers. It is an excellent way of ensuring that a carer is able to do the job. Many people have that job thrust on them. It is not just a matter
Column 523of respite care, which is essential to people who have the responsibility thrust on them day and night--very often a 24-hour job. Respite care is very much a hit-and-miss affair, depending on the resources of the local authority. It is also a matter of training. It is extraordinary that, given the caring responsibilities of those who undertake this work, it is rare that they get any kind of help and advice about how to cope with the person for whom they are caring. I know of many women--and, indeed, of one or two men--who have to lift another person in their family in and out of a bath or on and off the toilet--that is quite common--but they have no idea of how to do so properly and how to save themselves getting a bad back. One women of my acquaintance has a permanently damaged back because she has a heavy husband. She has managed to teach herself with no help from outside how to lift her husband in and out of the bath. I hope that the board will consider such matters when assessing the abilities of carers.
Finally, I hope that when the Bill becomes law--I hope that it will receive its Third Reading today without anybody saying anything against it because there can be nothing against it--the position of carers will form a central feature of the developments that the hon. Member for Belfast, South has so widely put forward.
Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe) : This is an important occasion for the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth). I congratulate him both on his good fortune in the ballot for private Members' Bills and on his choice of Bill. He has made the case for his Bill upstairs in Committee and here in the House today with both eloquence and obvious sincerity. Speaking from the Opposition Front Bench, I express our warm support for the Bill's purposes and our desire to see it fully and speedily implemented.
As the House knows, the Bill's purpose is to apply to Northern Ireland the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986, which my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke)--with support from both sides and both Houses of Parliament--took to the statute book with such marked skill and humanity. My hon. Friend was naturally anxious to be in the House to see this further progress in extending his Act to Northern Ireland. Through no fault of his own, he cannot be here, but I am sure he is very much in the thoughts of everyone present for this debate.
Very unfortunately for many disabled people, my hon. Friend's Act still awaits full implementation on this side of the water. Extremely important sections of the Act still lie dormant on the statute book nearly three years after it became law. I refer to sections 1, 2, 3, 7 and 11, all of which are of the first importance to the Act's purposes. The Government's failure to implement those sections of the 1986 Act is said to be due to lack of resources ; but that does not convince many right hon. and hon. Members, even on the Conservative Benches, who have spoken of their frustration and concern. The Government's excuse for delay is totally rejected on this side of the House and
Column 524by all the organisations of and for disabled people. They regard the delay in implementing the Act as both disgraceful and scandalous.
Mr. Stuart Randall (Kingston upon Hull, West) : Does my right hon. Friend not find it worrying or ironic that today we are talking about extending the existing 1986 Act to Northern Ireland when, as he rightly said, we do not seem to have fully implemented the Act satisfactorily in the other part of the United Kingdom? I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware that in Humberside we are greatly concerned about that because disabled persons, especially mentally ill children, are not being provided with the right kind of services when they come out of hospital. My right hon. Friend referred to resources. Does he agree that it is ironic that we have just put £14.7 billion--or some phenomenal sum--into reserves yet people like that are not being--
Mr. Morris : My hon. Friend spoke about resources, as the Minister did at the Committee stage. I understand the concern of both sides of the House about the unsatisfactory reason given for the delay in providing them. Incontrovertibly, the resources have been and are now available for the full implementation of the 1986 Act. The problem is not one of resources, but of political will and priorities. Yet the provisions of the Disabled Persons Act 1986 are, in human terms, surely deserving of the highest priority. To govern is to choose, and, sadly, Ministers have chosen other priorities in preference to the full implementation of an Act which is so important to people with disabilities, their families and their carers. My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) made wholly valid points about the importance of the role of carers and I entirely agree with her. She was right to make that role more visible in this House. We need to be told more by the Minister about the resources the Government intend to make available for the full implementation of the Disabled Persons (Northern Ireland) Bill.
In Committee the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland stated that his Department spends proportionately more on health care--more than 20 per cent.--than is spent in England and Wales. Can the Minister now tell us what that higher priority for health care spending in North Ireland means in terms of the pace at which the Bill can be implemented there? What has he to say about implementation dates? Will he be able to move more quickly than the snail's pace of his colleagues on this side of the water? Fewer than three weeks have passed since the Committee stage, but I hope that the Minister can now give the House more precise guidance than he was able to do in Committee.
In Committee the Minister said that in Northern Ireland : "People are not moved out of hospitals or institutions without there being a plan for them to go into the community."
But he later said :
"We are determined in Northern Ireland that nobody, but nobody, will leave institutional care and go into the community without individual care plans. If there is any question of anyone going out into the community without such a plan, because it has not been arranged "
Column 525That appeared to amend, or at least modify, the Minister's earlier statements. I hope that he can tell us more today about his Department's survey of what actually happens to people who move from institutional care in Northern Ireland into the community. The Minister referred to the survey as being one to establish the facts. In response to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight) in Committee, who had referred to the people from mental hospitals in England who now live in cardboard boxes in some of our cities, he said :
"We shall not have people living in cardboard boxes on the streets of Northern Ireland."--[ Official Report, Standing Committee C, 22 March 1989 ; c. 8-12.]
Without the proper assessments required by the Bill the revolving-door syndrome--about which MIND has spoken--will continue with all the tragic consequences that flow from it for disabled people. Time after time, as my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West said in Committee, people are released from hospital and then have to be readmitted. As the House has been told on more than one occasion in debates on the care of people released from long-stay hospitals, people spend weeks or months in between release and readmission not only in cardboard boxes, but often in gaol. What proper assessment aims to achieve is that people with disabilities are given the right help, in the right place and at the right time. That is what successful rehabilitation of disabled people is all about and why the delay in giving full implementation to the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 is so misconceived and so self- defeating in that appropriate care is also the most cost effective. There is no saving in denying people with disabilities the care appropriate to their needs when they leave long-stay hospitals. If community care, properly so-called, is not available to them, they are often forced to stay in or to return to institutional care at a far higher cost to the taxpayer than that of providing care in the community. Thus the policy of so strictly rationing resources for community care is neither cost-effective nor humane.
Any discussion of community care raises, of course, another inexcusable delay for which the Government are under attack from both sides of the House, namely, their failure to respond to the report from Sir Roy Griffiths, which was published over a year ago. It is indefensible for the Government to have dragged their feet for so long in relation to a report-- whatever one may think of its findings--of such importance to many of the most needful people in Britain today.
The Bill has been described as being, in part, a parliamentary response to Griffiths. To that extent it anticipates the Government's response about which many of us now urgently want to be informed. The Parliamentary Under- Secretary is a Minister for Northern Ireland, but he is also a member of the Government as a whole. Can he now say when we will have the Government's response to Griffiths? At the same time, can he tell us any more than has so far been disclosed to the House about implementation dates for sections 1, 2, 3, 7 and 11 of the 1986 Act from which this Bill flows? He must have had consultations with ministerial colleagues on this matter if only because of the embarrassment that could result from speedier implementation of the legislation in Northern Ireland than in England, Scotland and Wales.
Column 526The last information that we had from the Minister for the disabled, was that section 11 would be the next section to be implemented at the end of this year. We were told that the implementation of section 7 would follow and then, even later, the implementation of sections 1, 2 and 3. The Minister gave us that information at a meeting of the all-party disablement group in the House on 24 January.
Can the Parliamentary Under-Secretary go any further today? He may know that his ministerial colleague was left in no doubt at the meeting of the all-party group that there is deep concern on both sides of the House about the delay in implementing crucial sections of the 1986 Act. Can the Parliamentary Under-Secretary give us any further information today?
With specific regard to the individual care plans for disabled people moving out of hospitals in Northern Ireland, who draws them up? Can the Minister tell us who is involved? How much further does clause 7 go than existing practice in Northern Ireland? It is extremely important for us to know, before the Bill leaves this House for the other place, how existing practice works, how successful it has been and precisely what changes the Minister envisages when the Bill is enacted and fully implemented?
In Committee the Minister won praise for his helpful response to the issues raised and for being refreshingly frank and fair in debate. I feel sure that he will want to be as helpful as possible in clarifying the Government's position today. In so doing, will he clarify the arrangements where a patient is discharged to Great Britain from a hospital in Northern Ireland or from a hospital in Great Britain to Northern Ireland? That question also has implications for implementation dates on both sides of the Irish sea.
I visited Northern Ireland as the then Minister for the Disabled, in the late 1970s. That was shortly after the extension to Northern Ireland of my Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. That was accomplished by Lord Fitt who was then the Member of Parliament for Belfast, West. I was told by disabled people in Northern Ireland of the very considerable importance of the 1970 Act to them and of the concern of their organisations about the long delay there had been in extending its provisions to the United Kingdom as a whole. I pay tribute today to all who work in the service of disabled people in Northern Ireland and profoundly hope that the Minister can assure us that this Bill will be fully and speedily implemented there. It is about ending preventable suffering and making life better for people whose claims on the attention of this House are among the most important we have to consider. To economise on them at a time when the Chancellor has such an enormous surplus at his disposal, and when the richest 1 per cent. of taxpayers have never had it so good, is patently unacceptable to everyone who understands the importance to disabled people--not least to disabled children--of this Bill and the legislation from which it derives.
Again I congratulate the hon. Member for Belfast, South. I thank the Minister for his helpfulness in Committee and pledge total support from these Benches for the fastest possible enactment and implementation of this Bill.
Column 5271.23 pm
Ms. Marjorie Mowlam (Redcar) : I shall be brief. I should like to lend support to the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) in welcoming the measure that the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) has brought to the House as a private Member's Bill this afternoon. We, too, hope that it will be speedily implemented.
I have on two hats--I represent pressure groups for the disabled in Redcar and the Northern Ireland Council on Disability. Both organisations are concerned that we might see the same sort of delays with this Bill that we saw with the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986. We are keen that it should be implemented quickly and want assurances from the Minister when he responds this afternoon that we shall not have to wait solely on lack of resources.
Sometimes, the Government use another excuse for delaying legislation--lack of statistical detail and factual background. I am sure that the Minister will remember that the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys' survey did not apply to the disabled in Northern Ireland. The information service press release which it put out on 15 December 1988 said that a survey on disability for Northern Ireland would be carried out. The press release said that the survey would be
"carried out by the Policy, Planning and Research Unit of the Department of Finance and Personnel and will take about 2 years to complete."
It would be useful for the Minister to tell us how that survey has progressed in the first couple of months, whether it is on schedule and what results--if any--have been found up to now. It would be useful to know whether he will tell us at a later date that the Bill will not be implemented because the factual background and statistical detail is not available and there will be a two-year wait for the statistics. If we are to hear that excuse it would be useful if we could hear it from the Minister this afternoon so that we do not have to wait for oral and written questions and then, in two years' time, find that we are given this excuse.
I should like to highlight clause 5 which relates to special needs education which, with part of the Education Reform Act 1988 being implemented in Northern Ireland, concerns many Opposition Members. We are concerned about what will be done for those with special needs when the national curriculum is introduced and whether children in need of particular educational requirements will be denied that curriculum or segregated. Clause 5 is important in relation to education for that group.
Finally, if I may make so bold, I ask the Minister to clarify his position on how the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 applies to Northern Ireland. I am sure that he remembers responding to the hon. Member for Belfast, South in Committee by saying :
"The Department was considering introducing a Bill, but the hon. Gentleman" --
namely, the hon. Member for Belfast, South--
"came to our rescue. We are therefore most grateful to him. I think that we all agree that the 1986 Act should apply in Northern Ireland."--[ Official Report, Standing Committee C, 22 March 1989 ; c. 5.]
However, in response to a question about whether the Bill should apply to Northern Ireland, the Minister said in a written answer :
Column 528"No. It would not be appropriate for Northern Ireland to be included in the scope of this Bill."--[ Official Report, 24 February 1986 ; Vol. 92, c 436 ]
I am sure that by that the Minister meant that it should not relate to the 1986 Act, but it would be useful if he would put that on record so that we are not left with contrary views that could be misinterpreted by the Minister.
We should be grateful if these two points were dealt with. We lend our full support to this Bill, but we want reassurance from the Minister that the political will and the resources exist to implement it, so that we do not have to wait as long as we did for regulations to be introduced under the 1986 Act, and so that disabled people will begin to benefit.
Mr. John Hughes (Coventry, North-East) : I welcome the opportunity to congratulate the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) and to ask the House to consider whether the Bill offers enough protection for the disabled, especially those discharged from hospitals because of the pressures imposed on staff due to the denial of adequate finance for the National Health Service.
I draw this problem to the attention of the House because of the horrific circumstances in which my constituent John Carl Wright was discharged from a Coventry hospital into the community. Because of the Government's unwillingness to provide adequate finance, the hospital could not give him proper support. That led to a sequence of events which resulted in my constituent being detained in Birmingham's Winson Green hospital--
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker) : Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not pursue this case very far, because the Bill is a Northern Ireland Bill. On Third Reading we are required to address ourselves to what is in the Bill.
Mr. Hughes : The circumstances that applied to my constituent could apply to a disabled person in Northern Ireland. I ask the House to consider whether a society in which such circumstances arise is civilised. Was my disabled constituent a criminal, or are the real criminals the Government who deny the necessary services for support in the community-- Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman might be on safer ground if he hypothesised about a hypothetical person in Northern Ireland who might find himself in hypothetical circumstances that were affected by the Bill.
Mr. Hughes : Whether the person lives in Northern Ireland, England, Wales or Scotland, the problems of all such people have been compounded by the changes in social security benefits. Government figures show that 3.65 million disabled people will be losers under the new system. New claimants could be £50 a week worse off from these changes.
I support this Bill, and congratulate its promotion.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Richard Needham) : I was pleased to hear the contribution by thhon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Hughes) and noted his interest in the
Column 529affairs of Northern Ireland. I look forward to his continued participation in such debates, given his obvious knowledge about the affairs of the Province.
We have spent much time discussing aspects of the 1986 Act which, of course, do not bear on the Bill, although I accept that what we are discussing is an exact replica of that Act. I shall do what I can to answer the questions posed by the right hon. Member for Manchester Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) about the aspects of the legislation that affect Northern Ireland. However, I am afraid that I am not able to do that in connection with matters that are the responsibility of my colleagues.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms. Mowlam) knew the answer to the second question that she asked before she posed it. The 1986 Act was not appropriate for Northern Ireland because in Northern Ireland the social services and the health boards are integrated. That is why the Griffiths report does not have the relevance to Northern Ireland that it has to the rest of Britain. That was also why in Committee I congratulated the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) on rightly pushing the Government to introduce the Bill. Although we had intended to do so, I congratulate him again on getting the Bill as far as he has.
The Bill institutionalises the good practice, which I hope currently exists, as the basis for caring for disabled people in Northern Ireland. It is right for the Bill to do that. I hope that in Northern Ireland the vast majority of the proposals in the Bill are already being applied. I accept that there is a need to institutionalise them and to build on them and we shall certainly do that.
The hon. Member for Redcar asked about the review. That was a "When did you stop beating your wife?" type of question. As the hon. Lady well knows, we do not intend to come forward prematurely with proposals that have been properly thought through or are not based on the statistics that are available to us. A review that could not be supported by the facts would be a mockery.
I shall not repeat what I said in Committee to the right hon. Member for Wythenshawe, but I stand by what I said then. Under no circumstances will we allow people in Northern Ireland to be released into the community without an assessment being made of their needs ; nor will we tolerate people living in cardboard boxes. As I said in Committee and elsewhere, if there is any question of people not having proper care they will not be moved out. We shall ensure and insist that proper care is provided in every case. As I have said many times, we have no evidence that that has happened to anyone. If anyone can give us such evidence I shall look upon it with the utmost gravity.
Mr. Needham : No. I shall now reply to the hon. Member for Belfast, South, whose Bill it is. The sections of the Great Britain Act that are currently in force are sections 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10. The equivalent clauses in the Bill are 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9. As the hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) said, clause 8 relates to carers. I was grateful for and accept her comments about carers. Clause 8 is a crucial part of the Bill. I trust that the boards in Northern Ireland consider cases at the moment with regard to carers in the terms set out in the Bill. We hope to get the equivalent clauses into operation as quickly as