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Lord Swinfen: I thank the Minister for giving way. Speaking from personal experience, I do not recall being asked whether I wanted to be registered. Is he sure that all audiologists ask their patients that question? If they are not asked, and they want to be registered, they will not be placed on the register.

Lord Burlison: I thank the noble Lord for his comment. Only ophthalmologists have that relationship with local authorities. It is my view that under those circumstances the lead will come from them and be passed to the local authority. As regards whether information on everyone is passed on, I assume that, yes, they would inform the local authorities. It would then be for the local authorities to decide what action to take.

The Department of Health is currently involved in a consultation with deafblind service users, Deafblind UK, Sense, local authorities and the Local Government Association which is looking at, among other things, improving the ways in which local authorities carry out this duty. The consultation is being carried out on a joint England/Wales basis, involving Sense Cymru, the Wales Council for the Blind, the Wales Council for the Deaf, and the Welsh Local Government Association.

For those reasons, we cannot support the amendments.

Lord Morris of Manchester: My noble friend has laid great emphasis on the importance in this debate of Section 1 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. What monitoring has his department carried out of the adequacy of registration by local authorities? Can he tell me how many disabled people are now registered by their local social services authorities and, therefore, what is the gap between the Government's estimate of the number of substantially disabled people--their latest figure being upwards of 8 million--and those who are registered under Section 1 of the 1970 Act, on which he has placed such emphasis in this debate?

Lord Skelmersdale: Perhaps I may add to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Morris. Can the Minister inform us whether the disability register under the then Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Morris--now, of course, the Act--separately identifies groups of causes of disability? That is the key point in this particular debate.

Lord Swinfen: It may be for the convenience of the Minister and the Committee if he deals also with my question. I understood his response to this amendment to say that ophthalmologists but not audiologists reported cases of people who were blind and partially

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sighted to their local authorities. Therefore, how do local authorities maintain a register of those who are deaf and hard of hearing?

Lord Burlison: My noble friend Lord Morris raised the issue of adequate monitoring of the various figures. We know that approximately 25 per cent of those who are registrable as blind have chosen to register. I do not have the figures at hand for deaf people, and I certainly do not have at hand the figures in relation to those with other disabilities who are registered under this particular section of the legislation. So far as concerns the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, the answer is "yes".

Lord Swinfen: Perhaps the Minister will allow me to intervene. What proposals does he have to make certain that the full provisions of the 1948 Act are properly carried out by local authorities? At the moment, it appears to me that they are not.

Lord Burlison: In respect of the monitoring of this particular issue by local authorities, there is a relationship between the department and local authorities to ensure that constant reporting of the situation takes place between local authorities and the department. Therefore, we are satisfied that at least the monitoring aspect of this issue is up to date and carried out thoroughly.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: I have never heard such a complacent speech from the Department of Health. I am deeply disappointed. I want to make it very clear to the Committee that I do not blame my noble friend. I blame the Department of Health for saddling him with a shocking speech. It is impossible for me to understand how the Government can reject these amendments. My noble friend has heard Members from all sides of the Committee supporting the amendments--the support has been unanimous--yet he says that the Government cannot accept them. What on earth is happening?

My noble friend says that he cannot accept the amendments because they are unnecessary. That is simply not true. He should never have been given that kind of brief. It is a disgrace that the department should have done so because the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act simply does not provide what we require in this Bill. We require provision for the location, identification, and assessment of individuals. That is something entirely new. How the department can ask my noble friend to say what he has said is beyond my understanding.

I believe that my noble friend was confused about the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen. The noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, was quite right: there is no doubt that audiologists and ophthalmologists simply are not concerned with registration. I have never even heard that matter raised, and I have been interested in the world of deafness for some 30 years. Therefore, how people can saddle my noble friend with that kind of information, again, beats me.

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My noble friend mentioned consultation. I warmly welcome consultation. I believe that that was a great step forward by the Government. However, consultation is not a panacea; it is not a magic word, and it does not give us a register. Consultation is one aspect of the issue. I am left in the position of being really annoyed at the response of the Department of the Health; I am not annoyed with my noble friend. If I could vote against the Government now, I should certainly do so. However, because I cannot, I shall, regretfully, withdraw the amendment. I do not believe that I have an option.

1.15 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale: Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, that it is his Bill. If he wishes to put these amendments into it, he is perfectly entitled to do so.

Lord Swinfen: I shall strongly support the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, if he wishes to press the amendments. I should not like it if he was to withdraw them. So far as concerns the Government, I believe that neither of the amendments will do any harm whatever, and I would consider it to be extremely bad manners and in bad taste if the Government were to try to vote against them. I hope that the noble Lord will press his amendments.

Lord Addington: I wish to make it absolutely clear that I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, is totally in charge of this Bill. I consider that the amendments would improve it. Therefore, I suggest that there is absolutely no reason why they should not go into the Bill.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: I am not very hot on procedure, but my intention was to bring back this matter on Report and to vote on it then, if necessary. Therefore, in view of my understanding of the procedure, that may be the best thing to do. I am banking on the support of my noble friends when we reach Report. I do not believe that a vote now would mean very much. I give way to the noble Lord.

Lord Skelmersdale: It is extremely unlikely that there will be a vote. Rather than go through the whole debate again on Report, would it not be far better to settle the matter now?

Lord Ashley of Stoke: No. I believe that the best thing is to follow normal procedure. I warn the Whips that I shall call for a vote on Report and then we shall see what happens.

Lord Swinfen: Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. If the voices were taken and the Committee were to be Not-Content, I should find that extremely strange. Everyone who has spoken in the debate, except the Minister, has been in favour of the

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amendments. If by some chance the noble Lord were to lose the debate, he could come back at the next stage.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: I am torn on this. I am willing to vote. However, in view of the powerful speeches made on all sides, I hope that the department will think again. That is the possibility that I hold out. It is my decision and I believe that the responsible thing to do is to give the Government an opportunity. I shall let them consider the matter and, if they will not move--they jolly well should move!--we shall vote. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

Lord Addington moved Amendment No. 3:


    Page 1, line 11, at end insert--


("(1B) It shall be the duty of every local authority to actively identify and locate deafblind persons within ethnic minority groups in their area and to ensure their register of deafblind persons includes arrangements for monitoring by ethnic origin."").

The noble Lord said: I move this amendment with a degree of deference because one is talking about ethnic minorities. We surviving hereditary Peers are not, generally speaking, the best group to talk about ethnic minorities. This amendment is based once again on the principle of gathering information. It has been put to me that deafblindness occurs approximately twice as often within the ethnic minority groups as it does within the rest of the community. That alone deserves to be looked at.

Much of this Bill is concerned with making sure that there is access to information in order to take corrective action. It has been pointed out to me by virtually everyone who has spoken to me about this matter--the main conduit is Sense--that if someone comes from another country and English is not the main language, there are problems with exchanging information. The problem with these disabilities is in not having information passing between the end user and those providing the services. There is a particular problem with the first and second generation of the ethnic minorities.

Deafblindness is often caused by rubella. If a link has not been established between vaccination and a greater ethnic weakness or susceptibility to that disease, particularly in the Asian groups in this country among whom there is a higher incidence of that disease, and if there is a danger that that higher incidence of the disease is due to the fact that there is not the same access to vaccination, then surely we should be gathering the appropriate information. Once we have it we shall know where to place the correctly trained workers to help the persons whose first language has not already been established and also the carers. We need information.

If I am told that the wording of the amendment is defective I shall bow to that, provided it is done with the usual degree of authority and grace. If that happens I shall be prepared to give way. This

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amendment concerns extracting more information so that we can give the correct help. I hope that all those concerned will be favourably disposed to at least the intention behind the amendment. I beg to move.


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