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Mr. Pendry: Clearly, we welcome the fact that Lord Donoughue's amendment was carried in another place with considerable cross-party support. I am glad that the Government have listened and accepted the amendment.
Column 513However, what we want from the Government tonight is acceptance that the principles that lie behind it are with them as well. Following the Home Secretary's speech in Bournemouth, I am sure that the Minister will wish to heed the calls from the Police Federation to outlaw ticket touting at all major sporting events by supporting the Lords amendment, as well as enacting it. That is what many hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to hear from the Minister tonight.
I understand that the All England lawn tennis club at Wimbledon, the Test and County Cricket Board, the Rugby Football Union and the Professional Golfers Association figure among those bodies which have written to hon. Members on both sides of the House with sporting interests-- [Interruption.] If the Minister for Transport in London would be quiet for a moment, perhaps he might join us in supporting the amendment. Those bodies have written to Members on both sides of the House who entertain sporting interests. As I said on Report, this is a criminal justice Bill as well as a public order Bill. That is why we urge the Minister further to consider his position. There is clearly a criminal aspect, as well as a public order aspect, to ticket touting.
Similarly, we would urge the Minister to act on the overwhelming evidence pointing to the harm that ticket touting is doing to sports other than football, a point that the Government accepted earlier in the Bill's passage. According to the chief executive of the All England club at Wimbledon, ticket touting creates
"a market for criminally obtained goods".
Two years ago at Wimbledon, tickets were stolen from the offices of the legitimate holder-- [Interruption.] If the Minister for Transport in London and the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence) will listen to me, they may learn something. Within 24 hours, the tickets in question had been sold through a number of different outlets, all ticket touts, to unsuspecting victims who lost their money.
In another place, my noble Friend Lord Donoughue eloquently described the illegal activities of touts at Wimbledon, before the Lords gave the Bill its Third Reading. The Minister will also recall similar examples that I gave on Report--the German gentleman who was ripped off to the tune of £50,000 buying tickets for Wimbledon. I and others will be happy to supply the Minister with many more such examples-- [Interruption.] There are not many Tory Members in the Chamber, but they are certainly an unruly bunch, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We should remember that Lord Justice Taylor made his
recommendations more than four years ago. Only a few months ago, I was sent a letter by an official of a major premier league football club stating:
"In our view the typical ticket tout has changed significantly over recent years. Nowadays they appear much more aggressive when they approach our staff, and threats of physical violence or damage to their cars are common place. Customers approaching the box office are often intimidated into purchasing tickets on behalf of touts." If the Minister needs further proof that touting gives rise to real crimes in a number of sports, I and others can supply him with evidence that fraud, theft and intimidation are all commonplace in ticket touting.
Column 514In the past, the Government have maintained that they do not see the activities of ticket touts as criminal. Over the years, I have received many letters from Ministers claiming that the aspects of criminality so clearly associated with ticket touting can be dealt with under existing law. The Minister himself repeated that argument on Report. So why, in his report, did Lord Chief Justice Taylor say, in justification of creating a new offence after the Hillsborough disaster:
"Police should not have to stretch the law to deal with a public mischief. There should be a specific prohibition which the police can then enforce"?
That is what the police want; it is what the sporting bodies want; and it is what many in this House want, as the Minister must by now have realised.
The soundness of the principle behind my noble Friend's amendment caused Lord Ferrers to admit in the course of opposing it, on 19 July, that the Government were "in some difficulty". That difficulty can be avoided tonight by a clear-cut commitment on the part of the Minister to the effect that criminality in ticket touting will be carefully monitored with a view to enacting the new powers. We shall not oppose the Home Secretary's measure tonight, as we agree that there is likely to be a need for a discriminatory use of the powers. After all, the Home Secretary's modifications mean that he will be left to act as he sees fit. If he wants to add to his long list of duties and responsibilities, who am I to disagree? I hope that when he does act, his actions will be based on the real situation, not on the situation that he wishes existed.
We should also appreciate clarification from the Minister of how the clause will be implemented. How will he protect the ordinary, honest fan from possible prosecution if he buys a ticket for a friend? As the Bill stands, the fan who asks a friend to buy him a ticket in advance and then pays for it at face value on the train to a match or in another public place will be asking his friend to commit an offence. I am sure that that is not the Minister's intention, but what direction will he give the police and courts for such circumstances? These measures are designed to protect genuine sports fans; there should be no possibility, therefore, of their suffering as a result of the measures.
I trust that the Minister will be able to clarify the matter and to assure us that the wider powers will be enacted. I should add that we do appreciate the Government's movement on this issue since last we debated ticket touting. All we now ask is that the Government show rather more determination in future to eradicate the growing menace of ticket touts.
Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay): Originally the clause was intended to deal specifically with football, but the amendment seeks to extend its powers. If we agree to the amendment, as the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) says, the powers will extend to all sporting activities for which 6,000 or more tickets are issued for sale. That covers practically every large sporting event in the country.
In the hon. Gentleman's remarks just now we heard a great deal of envy and all the old stuff about hard cases making bad law. We always hear that when the subject of ticket touts comes up. As I have often said in this House, ticket touts are street traders. They are not necessarily especially nice people; they may be reprobates, but what
Column 515they are doing is not illegal and by and large it causes no offence--except to people who seem to object to touts making extra profits. That is pure envy.
My objection to the amendment is that it will widen the scope of the original intention far more than anybody anticipated. The clause was drawn up specifically with the Hillsborough tragedy in mind, when it was suspected that the sale of tickets on the day to opposing teams' supporters, who then got mixed up in the ground, might have been a contributory factor in the disaster. In fact, as I understand it, the tragedy was largely due to late entrants to the game and to crushing, not to internecine warfare between the two groups of supporters.
The point is that there has been a huge growth in the perfectly legitimate business of the sale and resale of sporting event tickets through agents. The amendments, however, will require all agents to be licensed or authorised in writing by a home club or by the organisers of a match. That virtually gives the people running a match control over the whole sale process. We do not accept that for other industries or businesses. Someone making socks in a factory does not control everyone who sells the socks on or distributes them--so why should we apply such rules to this industry?
A lot of hospitality entertaining goes on at football matches and at Wimbledon, and I imagine that some of our colleagues in this place have benefited from it on occasion. Unfortunately I have never had that privilege, but I still believe that the original wording was too loose, and that the measure should surely be restricted to the sale of tickets on the day, to enable those trading in tickets legitimately before a match to continue to do so. We should certainly not extend the idea to other sports. There is no evidence of the sort of disorder that the clause was intended to deal with being caused by the resale of tickets by street traders.
I believe that we have given the Home Secretary a dangerous extension of his powers. He will be able to make decisions by order and by statutory instrument. We all know that that means that he can more or less do what he likes on the nod without having to come back to this place. We know, too, that there are plenty of hon. Members who will always speak against street traders and touts, but very few who will stand up for their rights. But the point about a democratic system is the fact that even those of whom we do not necessarily approve still have the right to do what is legitimate, lawful and harmless. I disagree with the legislation and with the amendments, which would massively increase the powers that I have described. I urge the Government, who are dedicated to reducing restrictions, licensing and controls, not to go down that path and to reject the amendment.
Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North): My hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) spoke with her usual eloquence and clarity. She is absolutely right, as it seems remarkable that the Government, who have rightly been set on the path of deregulation, have seen fit to bring before the House--as they have done on a previous occasion--an amendment and a clause which will regulate the sales of tickets for sporting events. Frankly, such sales have nothing to do with us and for that, among other reasons, I regret that this debate had to take place.
Column 516May I address some remarks to the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) who is an old foe but has been promoted to what is known as shadow Minister for Sport. He showed tonight that he is the shadow Minister for Spoil-sport. He intended to try and stop those poor souls who--unlike him and me--do not have the privilege of access to tickets to sporting events. We have shared in attending notable sporting events at the behest and gratuitous request of other honourable bodies. I shall not say which commercial interests they might have represented. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to state which sporting events we have attended and who has been our host on those occasions--be they possibly tobacco companies--that is entirely up to him, but I shall not press that point.
The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde and I have enjoyed such events, but he is seeking to spoil other people's enjoyment and to tell them that they cannot get a ticket because those available are not legitimate and they cannot go to an authorised agent. The rugby fan from Wales who uses his life savings, or sells the tiles off his house, for the chance of buying a ticket in a public house outside Twickenham to see his beloved team soundly beaten by the English side--as they usually are--would be denied that opportunity by the Bill, and more particularly by the provisions of the amendment. I must briefly declare an interest, as I am a member of the Marylebone cricket club and also of a rugby club. I suppose that some might say that in sporting terms I am the Stan Flashman of the House of Commons. Several hon. Members--I see one has just arrived in the Chamber--have asked me if I could, quite legitimately, obtain for them tickets for certain sporting events. I confess that I have not declared that interest in the Register of Members' Interests because I gained no financial advantage for so doing. I did it on the basis that I felt sporting interest should spread throughout colleagues on both sides of the House. I note that my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay said that she had missed out on my generosity and will certainly try to put that right.
On the basis of the amendment and the clause before the House I fear that my activities will not merely be curtailed but may cease altogether and many hon. Members would be extremely disappointed if they were no longer able to obtain tickets for such events. As my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay said, there is a worry that, as a result of the Government amendment, the Secretary of State will be able to take powers to extend the provision beyond the range of football. That is a great worry. My hon. Friend the Minister of State and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State would not even consider that such powers might be necessary during the lifetime of this or any Conservative Government. Should the shadow Minister, the spoil-sport, ever be in a position of power, however, and see some disorder at a boxing match--perhaps like the disorder that the chairman of the Conservative party described so eloquently a few weeks ago as a minor difficulty within the crowd--he would immediately say that tickets could be sold only by authorised agents.
I am not totally against tickets being sold through authorised agents. The Rugby Football Union, which the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde mentioned, has a
Column 517good system whereby it sells tickets through clubs and has virtually cut out the chance of criminal activity through ticket touting.
I object to our having to pass legislation to ensure that only authorised agents can sell tickets. If the sports wish to sell tickets in that way, that is up to them. It is not for us to direct them in that way. That is why my hon. Friend the Minister of State is right to reject the Lords amendment. He knows that several of us do not like the clause in any way. If he can say anything to mitigate the damage to many companies, especially corporate hospitality companies--my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay was right about that--and the fact that genuine sportsmen will not be able to watch the events, I hope he will respond.
This is an ill-thought-out proposal, prompted by the Opposition in jealousy and envy because they cannot get the tickets that we legitimate sports fans can get hold of and it should have been rejected before now.
Mr. Maclean: I much enjoyed the speeches by my hon. Friends the Members for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) and for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman). How spot on they were on so many issues. I have often had to disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay--whether on salmonella, when I was an environment Minister or, at times, on law and order issues--but I agreed with almost every word that she said tonight.
In the Lords, we accepted the amendment that powers to deal with ticket touting be extended to other sporting events for which 6,000 or more tickets are issued for sale. We accepted it purely on the basis that it did not undermine Government policy on ticket touting per se, since any decision to extend the offence by means of the order-making power would be taken only should those public order and public safety considerations, which we all agree apply to football, become a feature in other sporting areas. The Government's position in that respect was made clear during debate on the amendment. I want to make the position clear. The essential feature of the clause is not to deal with ticket touting per se, or with some of the problems that sporting organisations should be controlling. They are not going to pass the buck to the Government and order police resources to be used to control tickets for their matches when they should be doing that job themselves. The Government will become involved and will use the powers when we witness public disorder, or when public disorder begins to increase at any other sporting matches which necessitates action in the same way that it necessitated action at football matches. I hope that I can reassure my hon. Friends on that point.
I must inform the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde that we shall not be telling the police what they should do in this matter. The law is perfectly clear. It does not penalise the individual who plans to go to a match, discovers that he cannot go and passes his ticket to a friend. The law does not catch such people. So I hope that on that basis I have been able to reassure my hon. Friends that we are not introducing measures that we intend to use merely to clobber ticket touting, out of some anti-market feeling or spite. We are introducing powers that I will advise the Secretary of State to use only if we should witness public disorder at sporting events similar to the disorder that we have witnessed at football matches.
Column 518On that basis, I hope that my hon. Friends will not vote against the amendment and that they will be happy to agree with their lordships in the said amendment.
Government amendments (a) to (c) made to the Lords amendment . Lords amendment, as amended, agreed to .
Lords amendment: No. 155, after clause 147, to insert the following new clause-- Touting for hire car services --
" .--(1) Subject to the following provisions, it is an offence, in a public place, to solicit persons to hire vehicles to carry them as passengers.
(2) Subsection (1) above does not imply that the soliciting must refer to any particular vehicle nor is the mere display of a sign on a vehicle that the vehicle is for hire soliciting within that subsection.
(3) No offence is committed under this section where soliciting persons to hire licensed taxis is permitted by a scheme under section 10 of the Transport Act 1985 (schemes for shared taxis) whether or not supplemented by provision made under section 13 of that Act (modifications of the taxi code).
(4) It is a defence for the accused to show that he was soliciting for passengers for public service vehicles on behalf of the holder of a PSV operator's licence for those vehicles whose authority he had at the time of the alleged offence.
(5) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.
(6) In this section--
"public place" includes any highway and any other premises or place to which at the material time the public have or are permitted to have access (whether on payment or otherwise); and
"public service vehicle" and "PSV operator's licence" have the same meaning as in Part II of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981.
(7) In section 24(2) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (arrestable offences), after the paragraph (i) inserted by section 137 of this Act there shall be inserted the following paragraph-- "(j) an offence under section ( Touting for hire car services ) (touting for hire car services) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994;"."
Motion made and Question proposed, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.--[ Dr. Liam Fox .
Mr. Simon Hughes: I shall say a supportive word on the introduction of the clause. I expected to see other hon. Members standing up to protest against the illiberal proposition that one clamps down on people who are breaking the law. In London in particular--it may apply elsewhere--touting by vehicles for hire has become a pest in many public places, most commonly at railway stations and pubs and clubs late at night. It is not just a pest --or illegal--but it often puts together poor drivers, who do not know what they are doing and are out to rip people off, and people who have just arrived or who are not as capable as they might have been at other times of the day and who are most able to be ripped off. That is the real mischief. It is also important--this is a less frequently-argued point--that such touting adds to the nuisance and noise disturbance in an area. A load of minicabs queuing up around a block or station to take people away does not add to the general orderliness and civility of an environment.
Column 519I welcome the fact that the Government--and in particular the Minister for Transport in London, whom I welcome to the debate--listened to the pleas which came in this case mainly from respectable taxi drivers and reputable minicab firms. Both have parts to play, and the Minister will be deliberating further on exactly what parts. He will not tell us tonight, but he and I know that his proposals are awaited with keen interest outside this place. If we manage to clobber those who have been touting illegally, we will be making progress. I hope that, as soon as the measure is law, there will be a noticeable clampdown on the people responsible. I hope that the Minister will talk with his colleagues, to the Home Secretary in his role as the police authority for London and to the Commissioner and make it clear that the law will now be enforced. I ask the Minister to make sure that we have a tough few months so we deal with a problem that has been a plague, particularly in London, for months. These people must be put out of business, and they must be nicked on the occasions when they break the law. I welcome the law, and the public will be better served by it.
Lords amendment agreed to.
Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.
Lords amendment No. 157 disagreed to.
Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.
Lords amendment No. 160 disagreed to.
Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.
Lords amendment No. 163 disagreed to.
Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.
Lords amendment No. 169 disagreed to.
Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.
Lords amendment No. 175 disagreed to.
Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.
Lords amendments Nos. 188 and 189 disagreed to.
Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to [some with Special Entry] . Lords amendments Nos.315 and 316 disagreed to .
Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to [some with Special Entry] .
Lords amendments Nos. 335 disagreed to.
Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.
Committee appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to their amendments Nos. 1, 2 to 5, 7, 8, 10 to 18, 21, 79, 125, 131, 157, 160, 163, 169, 175, 188, 189, 315, 316 and 335 to the Bill: Mr. Nicholas Baker; Mr. Derek Conway; Mr. John Fraser; Mr. David Maclean and Mr. Alun Michael; Three to be the quorum.--[ Mr. Maclean. ]
To withdraw immediately .
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn-- [Dr. Liam Fox.]
Mr. Colin Shepherd (Hereford): Usually at this time of night an hon. Member is on his or her feet complaining about something. Indeed, the Adjournment debate came about to enable grievances to be aired. I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for coming to the House to respond. My purpose in airing this subject tonight is not to gripe but to share with him and the House some good news. I am particularly grateful to Madam Speaker for selecting this topic from the many bids that are submitted for debate at this time of night.
The formal title that appears on the Order Paper, "Community care for physical disability in Herefordshire," conceals the real reason for the debate. A charitable organisation known as Herefordshire Lifestyles, which has been in existence for some nine years, is making a major impact on the lives of those disabled people in Herefordshire fortunate enough to have been referred to it or to have found it.
Herefordshire Lifestyles is about enabling disabled people to pioneer their own integration into the community. The organisation came about as a result of the fortuitous confluence of the ideas of five senior people in the caring services who realised that there was a missing dimension. That was back in 1985, when Ray Brown, the assistant general manager of the health authority in Hereford, Eric Beatty, the area director of social services for Hereford, Wendy Francis, the district physiotherapist, Micheline Robson -Ward, the occupational therapist, and Len Gale, the specialist careers officer, put their heads together and came up with that approach to the needs of the disabled. In effect, it turned how the services had been delivered in the past on its head. Their way recognises that disabled people want to be regarded as equal members of society. It enables disabled individuals to be in the driving seat of their destiny and to marshal the various agencies from there, which is precisely the opposite of what usually takes place.
Given the assistance of a volunteer, a disabled person is in a position to say, "OK, I have seven days in a week. What do I want to do with that time so as to meet my needs and personal objectives? What about work? What about going to college to obtain new skills? I lost mine when I became disabled. What about mobility? What about the need for company? What are my personal ambitions?" In that way, people come up with constructive proposals and plans for their future. The Lifestyles input and expertise helps disabled people to make things happen.
The developed package worked out with the client is reviewed every six months. In that way, disabled people make tremendous progress and develop in terms of both their work and their residence, with many of them able to continue living in their own homes, out of residential care or hospitals, in a variety of ways.
The outstanding feature of Lifestyles is the involvement of the disabled themselves in helping other disabled people. Indeed, the involvement of disabled people in all aspects of the organisation, work and structure, singles it out as being different from anything else that I have
Column 521experienced. The point that I want to emphasise as much as possible is that the work that these people are doing on behalf of their clients does not duplicate other agencies; it is complementary and helpful.
A wealth of information, in many forms, is available to the disabled, but if one does not speak or understand the jargon it is difficult to comprehend or to put in context. The help given by a Lifestyles volunteer is, as it was put to me, rather like having somebody to read the telephone directory when one is in a strange country and does not understand the language. Then, it all comes into place. The Lifestyles volunteers provide the necessary help for people to get around in the system. For Herefordshire Lifestyles, what started from very small beginnings is now an organisation with 55 volunteers who each give an average of 100 hours a year, which is a substantial voluntary input into the important work it does for its clients.
Of course, there is a financial dimension. I pay tribute to Mr. Len Gale, who abandoned what might be described as a safe haven within the careers service for the precarious position of executive director of Herefordshire Lifestyles. He has dedicated himself to the project. The financial future of Herefordshire Lifestyles is not secure; it is precarious. Until 1987, it had no budget at all. The Spastics Society--or Scope, as it is now called-- gave it its first break with a commitment to cover a year on behalf of some of its clients. That enabled the provision of a small operating base.
It would be unkind to say that, since then, the project has staggered on, because it has in fact progressed very smoothly. However, financially it has staggered on on a month-to-month, hand-to-mouth basis with never more than a short-term view of its future. Over the years, it has been aided in its work by such eminent charities as the Nuffield Provincial Hospital Trust, Comic Relief, the Hereford and Worcester training and enterprise council--for which it has done valuable work--and social services, not to mention the Rowntree Trust and the King Edward VII Fund. I am pleased to say that the Eveson Trust has enabled the retention of a fundraiser for a year--an addition that is very much appreciated and needed in the light of its £100,000 budget for 1994-95.
At present, about 100 people are benefiting, but there are many, many more who could benefit, not only in Herefordshire but across the country. That is one reason why I wanted to raise the matter tonight. Herefordshire Lifestyles would like to be able to develop what it is already doing on behalf of a resident who is the responsibility of Suffolk county council--a referee of the Spastics Society for whom the county council has long-term responsibility. It provides the money necessary for the care of that individual and that money is ring fenced. Lifestyles then works out the appropriate package. In effect, it is working as a broker on behalf of its participants and procuring the best and most suitable package for each individual as an individual. The project is highly tailored to the needs of the recipients and a reflection of the Government's policy of community care. Lifestyles would like to be the recipient of finance, ring fenced on behalf of the client, so that it can work out a package that enables the community care objectives to be met.
I have mentioned the "people benefit", but there is also a cost benefit. In practical terms, the benefit is very much in the form of a stitch in time that saves nine. Lifestyles'
Column 522contacts mean that social services can be alerted before a crisis happens, such as a carer collapsing under the strain or a major problem developing. Action can be taken in a measured way before matters develop into an emergency.
For many other people, the project offers an alternative to using social services departments and provides a useful tool for social services to achieve goals that they would otherwise be stretched to achieve, given their own financial limitations, as obliged by law. In addition, it becomes possible for disabled people to use the ordinary facilities of the community rather than special ones. I am told by those involved in the Herefordshire Lifestyles project that that is an important objective for a disabled person. The scheme meets both society's objectives and those of disabled people. It is possible to see Lifestyles as the missing component of the community care model, acting at the interface between purchasers and providers, and enabling the client to obtain the best and most effective value from the system.
The project provides a good gearing mechanism. The concept needs to be developed on a far wider basis than that of Herefordshire. The efforts of Len Gale and others have resulted in 10 nascent Lifestyles organisations in other parts of the country-- north Dorset, Salisbury, Swindon, Trowbridge, Cirencester, Stroud, Worcester, Sandwell and Exeter. But Herefordshire is the most advanced and developed; it is the pioneer. All the projects are staggering from one financial uncertainty to another and existing from hand to mouth.
My hon. Friend the Minister will know that sections 1 and 2 of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 have not yet been implemented. The development of the concept that underlines Herefordshire Lifestyles provides a value-for-money way forward as it can put in place those two important elements of that legislation. For my hon. Friend the Minister, who has to deal with realities, there is a distinct cost benefit involved in developing the concept.
I should like my hon. Friend to work out how the Lifestyles concept can be spread nationwide to the benefit of all physically disabled people. I want disabled people throughout the country to have what some of the disabled people in Herefordshire have. Herefordshire Lifestyles has put much effort into spreading the word, and not without success. But effort spent in that direction is effort not spent on Herefordshire Lifestyles' intended objective, which is to work to the benefit of Herefordshire's disabled.
Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister can set up what might loosely be described as a task force or working party or study group which can look at the Herefordshire Lifestyles experience, see how it can be extended and report to my hon. Friend with its recommendations. Perhaps he can use his good offices to promulgate awareness of the concept and can give specific advice to social services departments on how they can help the project along. I am sure that a push from him could enable an enormous number of disabled persons to benefit as so many of those in Herefordshire have done. For my part, I want to preserve and develop something good that is already up and running. I give the last word to some participants in Herefordshire Lifestyles. One said:
"Lifestyles has made me think that there is more to life than just my disability."
Column 523Another said:
"Lifestyles has got me up and doing things",
while yet another said:
"They help disabled people get a grip on their life and make something of it."
Finally, one participant said:
"Lifestyles has given my life a real rocket."
Herefordshire Lifestyles has started something good; I want it to expand and I look to my hon. Friend the Minister for help in that. 9.25 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. John Bowis): I was going to say that it was a double pleasure to reply tmy hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Shepherd), but I think that it may be a triple pleasure. It is indeed a pleasure to respond to my hon. Friend; it is a pleasure to hear what he describes as a good news story; and it is also a pleasure to both of us, and perhaps to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox), that this debate is taking place at a reasonable hour, and earlier than some had expected.
I was delighted to hear of the work being done by Herefordshire Lifestyles, and I greatly welcome initiatives that seek to enable disabled people to achieve greater independence and choice in their daily lives. I certainly recognise the important role of advocacy in helping people who, for whatever reason, may have difficulty in making known their views and wishes. The local availability of advocacy and self-advocacy services is an essential part of community care, and Lifestyles seems to be a prime example of the type of scheme that we are actively encouraging local authorities to use and support.
My hon. Friend's success in securing this Adjournment debate means that I have had the opportunity to read some of Herefordshire Lifestyles annual reports and the case studies contained in the 1993 report. They bear witness to the practical help that Lifestyles workers and volunteers have been giving disabled people, giving them the confidence to maximise their opportunities for education, employment and training and trying out new social activities. My hon. Friend referred to the experience of one participant and I have seen the testimony of another beneficiary of Lifestyles--Jonathan Wood--from a different part of the country, who said:
"My experience of the Lifestyles project has given me a state of mind which I have not had the opportunity to experience before. Also, a sense of control, and essentially, direction of mine and subsequently others' thoughts and actions. Unlike the majority of forms of provision for disabled people, the advantage with Lifestyles projects is that the client, i.e. the disabled man or woman, is accepted for themselves . . . Lifestyles should continue and thrive. The freedom of choice must not be taken in the form of charity, but a disabled person's fundamental human right . . . they must be given the ability to choose".
I can respond immediately to my hon. Friend's request by saying that I intend to examine more closely the work done in Herefordshire. I shall ask the social services inspectorate to provide me with a detailed report on Lifestyles activities.