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The Welfare State

3.8 p.m.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): My Lords, the Government are proud of the achievements of the 1945 Labour Government in creating a welfare state in that age of austerity. Half a century on, we believe that deprivation and social injustice are best tackled by higher quality public services, implemented in line with four principles of public sector reform; namely, by the delivery of national standards of service through clear frameworks of accountability; by devolving and delegating to the front line; by promoting greater flexibility to respond to local needs; and by offering more choice to the users of public services.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I asked the Question because I do not understand what the Prime Minister means. Can the Minister explain further what the four principles mean in practice? Can he give any examples of measures which might illustrate them in implementation?

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I recommend to the noble Earl the Fabian Society pamphlet of last September in which the Prime Minister explained why the reform of public services is the route to social justice. The first chapter is entitled "Beyond the 1945 Settlement". The first principle speaks to a problem that we have seen for half a

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century—that is, that the poorest sections of our society receive the poorest public services. We therefore have a radical and challenging aim of trying to create national standards of quality across the whole country. That will be best supported by the devolution of more authority and budgets to the front line; by greater flexibility for people on the front line to make the kind of decisions that offer a much more personalised service than people would have been able to have, or even look for, in 1945; and, of course, by building greater choice across areas such as the National Health Service. I cannot go into greater detail in my response, but much of the information is contained in the pamphlet, which I will happily make available to the noble Earl.

Lord Renton: My Lords, as I was elected to another place in 1945 and well recollect what happened during the years that followed, may I remind the Minister—because it does not seem clear from his statement—that the then Conservative opposition voted in favour of the National Insurance Act and another one dealing with industrial injuries insurance, which have stood the test of time very well and been amended from time to time? But the Conservative government and the National Liberals, of whom I was then one, voted against the National Health Service Act, and that part of the reforms has never succeeded as well as people hoped. Will the Government please concentrate now on getting that right?

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I say again that we on this side of the House are intensely proud of what that 1945 Labour government achieved with regard to the creation of the National Health Service. I accept that there have been other areas of progressive legislation—one thinks of the Old Age Pensions Act 1908 and the National Insurance Act 1911 from the Liberals. Such examples come less readily to mind when I think of the Conservative Party's contribution in this area.

We believe that the core values of fairness and opportunity for all that this Government promote are predicated on increased prosperity, because that prosperity allows us to make public investment on the scale that the Chancellor has announced in recent years, with an extra 63 billion going into public sector investment over the next few years. But we have made it clear that that kind of unparalleled investment should be linked to reform.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the Prime Minister is on record as saying that the values which underpin the 1945 settlement are to be maintained? It is the implementation which is to be altered, according to the circumstances which apply today.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, my noble friend makes an important point. Those values of fairness, support and opportunity are enduring, but times obviously have changed radically since 1945. In the post-war era, after the arbitrariness of provision in

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pre-war times, people were therefore understandably very grateful for the state's ability to provide support to a sometimes very basic standard on a more universal basis, with access free at the point of use. We wish to make sure that we defend universal provision and access free at the point of use, but we want also to ensure, given all the changes that there have been in the past half-century, that we can offer more personalised services to people using our public sector and that we work with increased investment, more flexible labour forces and the new technologies to deliver that.

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood: My Lords, may I draw to the Minister's attention one particular aspect of the welfare state which could reasonably be fundamentally reconsidered at this stage—the way in which funds are made available for care of the elderly? Currently they are through two separate streams, the Department of Health and social security. This is not good from the point of view of the individual in need of care, nor is it an efficient way to use public money in facing up to a major issue.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I will leave the detail of the response to another Minister at another time. In general terms, I take the point that much of our delivery is complicated by red tape. Indeed, our attempts to deliver cross-cutting services can at times be in danger of creating more demands for audited information, and so on. We are therefore intent on trying to reduce the burden of red tape and of poor regulation, and I am delighted that in addition to all the work that the Prime Minister has put into this area, the Chancellor, in his Budget, said that the reform of regulation—the reduction of red tape—is one of the priorities that he will be imposing on departments.

Business of the House: Debates this Day

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the debates on the Motions in the names of the Lord Morris of Manchester and the Lord Pendry set down for today shall each be limited to two and a half hours.—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Disabled People

3.16 p.m.

Lord Morris of Manchester rose to call attention to initiatives to enhance the well-being and status of people with disabilities in the context of the European Year of Disabled People and the Charter for the New Millennium for disabled people worldwide; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords,

    "I wept because I had no shoes",

said the poor orphan—

    "until I saw a boy who had no feet".

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This debate is about people with no limbs at all; others who are both blind and prelingually deaf; and those trying to cope with often devastating effects of chronic mental ill-health or severe learning difficulties, among Britain's 8.6 million disabled people.

I am delighted the debate has brought together so many specialists in this policy area. Others would be with us if they could have been, including my noble friends Lord Callaghan and Lord Healey, to whom I shall refer again as I proceed. Among them, too, is my noble friend Lord Jones, who worked with me in the service of disabled people as a fellow Minister in the 1970s, and whose friendship I value deeply.

I am especially glad that my good and noble friend Lord Ashley is here. We have been close friends and parliamentary colleagues for 37 years now, and his contribution to improving the quality of life of disabled people is immeasurable.

The Motion calls attention to the European Year of Disabled People (EYDP) and the Charter for the New Millennium, because it is in the context of their objectives that initiatives here will ultimately be assessed. Thus I want briefly to summarise their aims. In the case of the charter, I do so having chaired the World Planning Group appointed by Rehabilitation International (RI) to draft the document. RI is the co-ordinating body for disability organisations in over 100 countries. Its affiliates in Britain include Rehab UK, RADAR and the Disability Rights Commission. The European Year's website states that its,

    "objective is to drive progress towards achieving equal rights for disabled people",

and that activities to promote EYDP—launched in Athens three months ago—would be decided and organised by the disability community in each country.

The statement of objectives stresses the multiple discrimination facing the EU's 37 million disabled people, who are two to three times more likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people and only half as likely to reach higher education. The Charter for the New Millennium, launched three years earlier here at the Palace of Westminster, at a service in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft in December 1999, insists on,

    "the same human and civil rights for people with disabilities as for everyone else".

It insists also that

    "disabled people's organisations must be empowered with the resources necessary to share responsibility in national planning for rehabilitation and independent living"

and urges,

    "every nation to develop a comprehensive plan with clearly defined targets and timetables for implementing the aims set out in this Charter".

Its principal aims call for a UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People as a key strategy; action worldwide to protect millions of the world's poor from disabilities that are easily preventable at minimal cost; and international development programmes that mandatorily require accessibility for disabled people in all infrastructure projects.

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My noble friend Lady Hollis, who knows how glad I am that she is here, said when responding to EYDP for the Government on 11th February that they proposed,

    "to use the European Year to raise awareness of disability issues—especially rights and participation—throughout the United Kingdom".—[Official Report, 11/2/03; col. 553.]

She listed the projects involving disabled people funded by the Government to mark EYDP. They outnumber those approved in any other European country and include a national disabled people's Parliament of 180 elected members, drawn from around Britain and reflecting both cultural diversity and the whole range of impairments.

Of course, the Government's response to EYDP goes very much further than funding projects. It includes legislative changes to protect more than 1 million young people from discrimination in educational services; brings 7 million more jobs and 1 million more small employers under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA); and strengthens the Act as it affects employment, access and the built environment. A new disability Bill, which it is hoped will address the Act's still major deficiencies in, among other areas, transport, housing and the defining of disability, has also been announced.

Bob Niven, whom all of us respect for his achievements as the DRC's first chief executive, describes the Government's initiatives, taken together, as a,

    "fine way to mark the European Year".

All that reflects well on Ministers but also on the high standing and influence of the All-Party Disability Group of MPs and Peers, chaired so ably by my noble friend Lord Ashley.

As the author of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, which was systematically obstructed in another place from 1991 to 1995, I naturally very much welcome the Government's new initiatives, as I did the honouring of their pledge to legislate for a Disability Rights Commission (DRC). Without it, the DDA was a car without an engine and the achievements of Bert Massie, Bob Niven and their colleagues at the DRC could never have been attempted.

Turning to the Charter for the New Millennium, again the Government's response was wholly positive. When it was presented to the Prime Minister at a ceremony in 10 Downing Street in July 2000, he stressed the Charter's importance to the world's over 600 million disabled people and said it would,

    "form the basis of a global consensus on priorities for at least a decade".

As my friend the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, recalled in her debate on the Charter on 14th July 2000, it was as the architect in 1970 of the world's first wide-ranging legislation on disability—and as the first Minister for Disabled People—that I was invited in 1979 to open the UN General Assembly's debate which led to the International Year of Disabled People. At the same time, RI asked me to oversee the drafting of its Charter for the 1980s for

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disabled people worldwide, which became the basis for the UN Decade of Disabled People and informed its standard rules on disability.

That was the background to my appointment to chair the World Planning Group that drafted the Charter for the New Millennium. Its membership included Chief Emeka Anyaoku, then Commonwealth Secretary-General; Deng Pufang, who chairs the China Disabled Persons Federation; Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa; Shri D K Manavalan of India; Justin Dart of the US President's Committee on Employment of Disabled People; Anatole Ossadchik, Russia's Minister for Social Affairs; Prince Ra'ad Bin Zeid of Jordan; Professor Stephen Hawking; and Sir Harry Fang of Hong Kong, a former RI president.

George Wilson, a senior officer of RI who chairs Rehab UK, had an important role, not least in promoting the Charter across the world, and Bert Massie was also helpfully involved.

The Prime Minister told the House of Commons on 25th March 2002 (at col. 620W):

    "I welcomed Rehabilitation International's Charter for the Third Millennium in July 2000. In doing so, I said that I believed that it would form the basis of a global consensus on priorities for at least the next decade. This absolutely remains the Government's view".

He was also able to report that at the UN General Assembly in November a resolution calling for an international convention on the rights and dignities of disabled people as envisaged in the Charter for the New Millenium was adopted.

The Government's new legislative initiatives strongly reaffirm their backing both for the Charter and EYDP. Sadly however the long obstruction of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill deprived this country of world leadership in disability rights legislation.

It was in January 1979 that I appointed a committee of inquiry—the Committee on Restrictions against Disabled People—to examine the case for making discrimination against disabled people unlawful. It was chaired by Peter—now Sir Peter—Large and, had his report been acted upon when it was published in 1981, we would have been almost a decade ahead of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Instead, the United States acted on the CORAD report long before we did, and there was a 14-year delay before much weaker legislation was enacted here.

Every statute on disability discrimination, all across the world, lineally descends from the CORAD report, and I pay warm tribute again today to Peter Large for performing the task I gave him so admirably. He was also involved in the setting up of Motability, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and that too is worthy of attention in this debate.

Motability is a striking example to the world of what can be achieved when Ministers and voluntary agencies act together and in fellowship with industry and commerce to make life better for disabled people. The enterprise began long before the acronyms PFI and PPP were ever thought of but has done more for lasting social improvement than anything since created in their names.

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The political climate in which it was set up was starkly unpromising. Treasury control of public spending was at its most stringent and credit never more tightly squeezed. Yet the prerequisites for Motability's success included the creation of a mobility allowance; a doubling of its value in a year; and a 100 million relaxation of the credit squeeze to allow the clearing banks to back the scheme.

Happily there were those, however, in and out of Parliament—and quintessentially, in Jim Callaghan, a Prime Minister—who were determined that it would succeed. Among them too were Denis Healey, then Chancellor of the Exchequer; Joel Barnett, then Chief Secretary to the Treasury; and Patrick Jenkin, then Opposition Front Bench Spokesman on Social Services. The key was the decision to phase out the invalid tricycle and phase in a mobility allowance that could be converted into a car. More than 1.5 million cars were provided in Motability's first 25 years and it was said, not only jocularly, that its vehicle fleet soon grew to rival that of the Chinese army.

As Motability's founding Minister—and founder patron of the enterprise—I honour the memory of the late Lord Arnold Goodman, its first chairman, and the leadership of his successor, the noble Lord, Lord Sterling, Gerald Acher, CBE, Sir John Quinton, Noel Muddiman and all their colleagues over the years for their constancy in serving with such humanity those for whom it was conceived. With a team like that we may yet succeed in overtaking the Chinese army.

This year the Government are spending 3.7 billion on outdoor mobility and overwhelmingly it is from this sum that Motability's funding derives. Moreover, in the last year before the mobility allowance was introduced, total spending on the old scheme—with which before 1974 governments of all persuasions were serenely satisfied—was counted in millions, not billions. Indeed, the private car allowance, which nearly twice as many entitled disabled people chose in preference to the trike, cost only 2 million.

The mobility allowance is still unmatched in Europe or anywhere else and, without one, no other country has anything to compare with Motability. There remain problems, of course, but nothing to compare with those of the scheme that the mobility allowance replaced.

Like everyone here, I have had raised with me issues of current concern to disabled people and their organisations. I shall refer briefly to just three. First, notwithstanding the Government's welcome abolition of benefit cuts in the first 52 weeks of hospitalisation, 1 per cent of patients—those most severely disabled—still face financial distress. This was put to me by the Association of Disabled Professionals and I shall be grateful if my noble friend Lady Hollis can arrange for the association to be consulted about the worrying cases raised in its submission.

The second issue is the continuing concern among disabled people that the DRC could be merged in a single equality body. Again, it is severely disabled people who are most concerned, and I hope Ministers will find opportunities soon to discuss this with people such as

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Sir Peter Large, Kate Nash and Jane Campbell. I urge them also to pay close regard to the DRC's reaction to their consultation exercise and its comment that:

    "It would be ironic if, in EYDP of all years, the Government set a direction on equality institutions that in fact diminished the priority accorded to disability".

The third issue is one raised in a letter from one of our colleagues. Acknowledging many "worthwhile improvements in benefits", he adds:

    "But handling of the various claims seems unnecessarily confusing. If you are not an expert it is difficult to distinguish where one overlaps another and I am sure it would be a blessing to a great many people if the system could be simplified".

Here too I know that my noble friend will respond as helpfully as she can, since it is to this difficulty that disability organisations often trace the failure of many highly vulnerable people to claim their statutory entitlements.

The European Year's aims and the Charter for the New Millennium alike seek to substitute hope for despair in the lives of disabled people, empowerment for dependence and social inclusion for segregation. They want from heads of government acts not of compassion but of enlightened self-interest and moral right. Both documents look forward to a world where citizens with disabilities are seen as giving as well as receiving; where their potential is understood and valued; where if years cannot be added to their lives, at least life can be added to their years; and where disabled people have an undoubted right to participate on equal terms with everyone else in the life and work of their communities.

I began with a quote from a child and end with one from Chief Emeka Anyaoku about children. Speaking of his role in the drafting of the Charter, he writes:

    "I take pride most of all in the Charter's insistence that disabled children everywhere must now share the rights of all humanity to grow and learn, to work and create, to love and be loved".

Let that be our spur in facing the still all too long unfinished agenda of unmet need.

My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.32 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, on choosing this subject and referring not only to the European Year of Disabled People but also to the world-wide Charter for the New Millennium. Some 22 years ago, the International Year of Disabled People took place, sponsored by the United Nations. The noble Lord and I were both involved. I was asked to be chairman for Scotland. During that year, the chairman for England became seriously ill and then died. So I was asked also to take over his main engagements, and was able to do so where they fitted in with my being in London for Parliament. In the following year, 1982, the effects of the international year were assessed. It was estimated that in the United Kingdom more progress in public awareness of disabilities had been achieved in one year than in 10 ordinary years. The noble Lord has described events during that year. I hope that this European year will have similar success.

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I should again declare a personal interest having been disabled in the Second World War, a bullet going through my middle, among other things. I have been a war pensioner ever since, starting with more than a year in hospital and then spending time in a wheelchair. Further surgery over the years has put me on my feet with calliper and sticks, although of course I get more and more tottery.

The noble Lord mentioned Motability. I think that that has been an excellent scheme. I remember when it was brought in. I supported the private enterprise involved. I myself benefited. Parked outside is one of the projects—a small Motability car specially adapted for me.

In 1981, I drew attention especially to mental disability, including mental handicap and other disorders. Another campaigner—who I am glad to see is here and who no doubt will speak—was the noble Lord, Lord Rix, before he became a Member of this House. I met him during that international year. I think that mentally disabled people have benefited from the resulting improved understanding by the general public prompted by the international year.

I have questions for the Government. First, what action are they planning to take to support initiatives in this field? Such action could be to enable more disabled people to live outside institutions, including hospitals, provided that the facilities they need are available to them and that they have access to helpers where necessary.

I wish all success to this European Year of Disabled People and to those who are organising it.

3.36 p.m.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, I add my thanks to my noble friend Lord Morris for securing this debate. He has an outstanding record on a very wide range of disability issues, both as a Minister and as a Back Bencher. Listening to his very moving speech, I was reminded how easy it is to forget those early days when campaigning for disability was a very tough job. He had a marvellous record in those days and has had one ever since. I congratulate him.

The European Year of Disabled People is an important landmark for Europe in general and the United Kingdom in particular. It marks the culmination of a decade of resolutions, policy statements, treaty articles and directives—all designed to bring disabled people in out of the cold, defend them from discrimination and provide access to jobs, buildings, education, and transport. A great deal has been achieved, and my noble friend has explained many of the developments. We are moving now into a new era in which people are increasingly setting these issues in the wider context of human rights and full citizenship rather than ad hoc advances. We need to go further along this route because it is a valuable key to a new world for disabled people.

The European Year follows the European Union's welcome decision to make anti-discrimination a clear priority. Its policies on equality of opportunity for

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disabled people, on a barrier-free Europe for disabled people and in numerous directives on employment and other issues have been strong and farsighted. Now, however, it is up to the member states to implement those policies. There are some 38 million disabled people in Europe—about 15 per cent of the population—and some 25 per cent of people in the central and eastern European countries applying to join are disabled. The need for further advances is obvious as those disabled people are two or three times more likely to be unemployed than the non-disabled, and only half as many disabled as non-disabled are likely to receive higher education. In other words, in Europe as in Britain, the odds are stacked against them.

If this special year is to result in significant progress, we need action as well as increasing awareness. Enduring achievements require a multi-pronged strategy by all countries, not just a few, and they should focus on anti-discrimination measures, removal of barriers, reduction of prejudice and the provision of new rights across the board—employment, housing, transport, education and training.

Government initiatives in the United Kingdom have been very helpful to disabled people, especially the establishment of the Disability Rights Commission—referred to by my noble friend—the improvements to the Disability Discrimination Act, the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act, and the various pieces of legislation which have provided better opportunities for disabled people. I have praised the Government's efforts so far but my noble friend Lady Hollis would be extremely surprised, not to say shocked, if I did not add the word "but".

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