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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I am delighted that the noble Lord--in a phrase often used from the Government Benches--is absolutely right. Clause 1(6) does by regulation what the amendment seeks to do by an individual local authority making application to the Secretary of State. The noble Lord does not need me to tell him that there is a world of difference between the Secretary of State having the power to respond to individual applications and requiring each application to be laid by regulatory process.

Whether that is done by the negative procedure or the affirmative, it may take up time in both Houses for a judgment which I believe is very properly exercised by the Minister or Secretary of State in a professional capacity. The Minister will have to make that judgment anyway before laying a regulation. Why do we need to check that in Parliament? So there is not only a local authority making a decision about whether it wishes to empower a disabled person and the Secretary of State confirming the judgment of the local authority, but now Parliament has to confirm the judgment of the Secretary of State to confirm the judgment of the local authority. That is infinitely too cumbersome for what is suggested. The spirit of the noble Lord's remarks will best be met by this amendment. I hope that he will support it.

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down perhaps I may just ask her--she has clearly thought through the amendment carefully--what criteria she would expect the Secretary of State to use when making a judgment as to whether a local authority was or was not able to implement the scheme broadly.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I should expect the Minister to seek discussions with the ADSS--the Association of Directors of Social Services--and agree the common criteria. That would be the right way to proceed, following the response from the consultation documents. The kind of experience that I should expect the Secretary of State to take into account is, for example, whether an authority--such as, say, Kingston or Hampshire County Council--is currently running a third party direct payments scheme in which, for example, people who have learning disabilities or who are, say, over 65 are currently receiving payment. On that basis, the Secretary of State may well be satisfied that those authorities have that experience, are competent and should be encouraged to act as pilot schemes. That is the kind of consideration involved. There may well be others. They will be drawn up in discussion with the Association of Directors of Social Services, but those are the kind of criteria that I have in mind.

5.15 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 92; Not-Contents, 112.

12 Feb 1996 : Column 428

Division No. 2


Acton, L.
Addington, L. [Teller.] Ailesbury, M.
Barnett, L.
Birk, B.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Broadbridge, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carnarvon, E.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Craigavon, V.
Darcy (de Knayth), B.
David, B.
Desai, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Fisher of Rednal, B.
Fitt, L.
Gallacher, L.
Geraint, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L. [Teller.] Glenamara, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gregson, L.
Grey, E.
Hamwee, B.
Hanworth, V.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Healey, L.
Henderson of Brompton, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Hughes, L.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Judd, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Longford, E.
Lovell-Davis, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNair, L.
McNally, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mishcon, L.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Nelson, E.
Nicol, B.
Prys-Davies, L.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Richard, L.
Rix, L.
Robertson of Oakridge, L.
Robson of Kiddington, B.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Shannon, E.
Simon, V.
Stedman, B.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Swinfen, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tordoff, L.
Warnock, B.
Weatherill, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Wharton, B.
White, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Young of Dartington, L.


Aberdare, L.
Addison, V.
Ailsa, M.
Ampthill, L.
Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L.
Arran, E.
Ashbourne, L.
Astor, V.
Astor of Hever, L.
Barber of Tewkesbury, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Beloff, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Bowness, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Braine of Wheatley, L.
Brentford, V.
Brigstocke, B.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Burnham, L.
Butterworth, L.
Cadman, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carnock, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Charteris of Amisfield, L.
Chelmsford, V.
Chesham, L. [Teller.] Clanwilliam, E.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Courtown, E.
Craig of Radley, L.
Crathorne, L.
Cuckney, L.
Cumberlege, B.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denham, L.
Downshire, M.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Faithfull, B.
Ferrers, E.
Flather, B.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Gage, V.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.
Goschen, V.
Gray of Contin, L.
Greenway, L.
Hamilton of Dalzell, L.
Harding of Petherton, L.
Harlech, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Hemphill, L.
Holderness, L.
Hooper, B.
Howe, E.
Inglewood, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L.
Killearn, L.
Kinnoull, E.
Lauderdale, E.
Lindsay, E.
Liverpool, E.
Long, V.
Lucas, L.
Lyell, L.
McConnell, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Macleod of Borve, B.
Merrivale, L.
Mersey, V.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Milverton, L.
Mottistone, L.
Mountevans, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moyne, L.
Munster, E.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Newall, L.
Norrie, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Orkney, E.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Rawlings, B.
Rees, L.
Rennell, L.
Renwick, L.
Romney, E.
Seccombe, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Shrewsbury, E.
Skelmersdale, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Strange, B.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.] Sudeley, L.
Teviot, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Wade of Chorlton, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

12 Feb 1996 : Column 429

5.23 p.m.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 1, line 15, at end insert--
("( ) An authority shall not unreasonably refuse a disabled person access to direct payments from a scheme for the making of such payments to which subsection (1) above refers.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 3 will ensure that a local authority may not unreasonably refuse direct payments to a disabled person who falls within the category of eligibility. In Committee the Minister said that if local authorities acted unreasonably or arbitrarily there was redress through the local authorities' complaints procedure, the local government ombudsman or judicial review. The Minister went on to say that, as local authorities were not allowed to act unreasonably, they would not do so and, if they did, there were abundant mechanisms to check their behaviour.

All that is entirely true and we all expect and hope that local authorities which introduce direct payments will be committed to making them successful. However, a local authority could come to a decision which does not further the interests of the disabled person if the present wording of the Bill is retained. At the moment, as long as a local authority has taken all relevant considerations into account and has not had regard to irrelevant considerations, it is unlikely to be held to be acting unreasonably unless its actions are so perverse that no reasonable authority could possibly act in that way.

12 Feb 1996 : Column 430

A high standard of proof is required. It can entail a long and costly argument in which a disabled person may hesitate to engage, especially if, should they lose, they may then be regarded by the local authority as a difficult client. Amendment No. 3 will ensure that what the Minister intends to happen will happen. It will tip the checks and balances a little further in favour of the disabled person. The amendment makes the responsibility of the local authority unambiguous. It makes it clear that someone who is eligible for direct payments will receive them unless it is unreasonable to make that assumption. The test of reasonableness implied in the amendment is one that is well understood in professional local authority circles. I hope therefore that the House and the Minister will support the amendment. I beg to move.

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