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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I realise that he was pressed for time but I did put three or four questions to him, none of which he has had time to address. May I hope that he will write to me with those answers? They are of vital concern to disabled people.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I shall read the speech of the noble Baroness with some care and interest. I am always reluctant to deal with hypothetical cases or even real cases across the Dispatch Box when I do not have the proper information at hand to decide what are all the factors. I shall certainly read the speech with some interest and will write to the noble Baroness if there are points which require answer. I may also try to cost some of the proposals made by the noble Baroness.
I have a little time left now at the end of the debate but I shall comment only on a very few points. The noble Lord, Lord Ashley, drew attention to the fact that with such a wide field of different conditions it is important that any legislation should contain a definition of "disabled people". I hope that the Government have taken that on board and will do their best to meet the point.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester mentioned the part which charities are playing and the part which they can play in the future. Again, I hope that the Government will take note of that.
My noble friend Lord Selsdon spoke about replacements and in particular, hip replacements. I believe that he would be interested to know that through disability organisations I came to know the late Professor Sir John Charnley, who was one of the pioneers of hip replacements, which of course have been possible only in the past 30 years. He told me that he took his degree in engineering before he took his medical qualifications. That very much confirms what my noble friend said about replacements being engineering. His expertise was in surfaces and friction, so he had all the knowledge requiredthat is, both engineering and medical to work out how artificial hips could most effectively be manufactured. He and his colleagues in that field have brought immense benefit to the human race and have also been the cause of the relief of much pain.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, spoke of the complexity of the present system of benefits. I entirely agree with her. The noble Baroness may recall that in my opening speech I described how there was none in the 1960s, except for the war disabled and those industrially injured. While the introduction of allowances and benefits since that time has been universally supported, they have appeared separately to meet particular situations and the number of them now causes confusion. I realise that a rationalisation may be difficult to carry out as we should all want to ensure that no one would suffer by losing anything which they are now receiving as a total of benefits. That is perhaps one of the main difficulties that has prevented more rationalisation taking place.
I should very much like to thank my noble friend Lord Mackay for his reply and for dealing with so many of the points raised by speakers in the debate. I should just like to mention one; namely, the quota scheme and the new proposals for employment about which my noble friend spoke. I initiated a debate in this House on 13th April on the quota scheme, so I shall not repeat what I said then. However, I suggest one reason for not including small firmsand the present quota excludes those employing 20 people or underis that they would then be required to employ a decimal point of a person. I say that because unless a firm employs 33 people, it is in any case required only to employ fewer than one. That has always made it difficult.
I must confess to being congenitally numerate and, therefore, such things always hit me. But, so far as concerns small firms, I believe that they have just been encouraged in the past to play their part in employing disabled people. In any future legislation the Government should try to find a way in which they can be further encouraged to employ disabled persons. Of course, for the mathematical reasons that I have just suggested, that cannot be on the same basis as a quota system.
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