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Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, will my noble friend give way? I believe that I was the person who spoke about the matter. Pretty much all the work happened under the Labour government, but against the wishes of the Labour Minister responsible. The Bill had almost completed its progress through Parliament when the election was suddenly called and it was agreed that it would be reintroduced, if necessary. All the work was done when a Labour government were in power.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I understood that. It is the point I am making. The Act was actually passed under a Conservative government. I shall read my noble friend's remarks, because I have never heard before what he said. Because the debate is time limited, I cannot spend longer on the subject.
More recently, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 was passed. That was certainly under a Conservative government. The noble Lord, Lord Ashley, congratulated his Government at the beginning of his speech but then attacked them, saying that they too were not right. I quote him when I say, "One way or the other, the Government's wrong." It is not a question of government. It is a question of people and how much there is to be done. The postcode matter described by the noble Lord is a matter of concern. I asked a Question in the House about the position when postcode prescribing was done away with. How would it be ensured that those who were already benefiting, for example, from beta interferon for multiple sclerosis, would not be disadvantaged? I am sorry to say that the Minister did not provide any satisfactory Answer at all and gave no assurance that at least the few people who are benefiting at present would not be disadvantaged.
Lord Lipsey: My Lords, it is a humbling experience to speak this afternoon when the House is hearing from so many noble Lords whose efforts for, with and as disabled people have achieved so much. I thank the
Although it was welcomed on all sides in both Houses, the Bill was threatened when Harold Wilson called the early election, as we have heard. It was at that moment that Harold Evans, the then editor of the Sunday Times, penned a brilliant leader, which said that of all the government's legislative programme, that Bill deserved to survive. As a direct result of his pleadings the party leaders agreed to let it through under the special procedure that applies at election times and through it went, on the very last possible day before the election.
As we celebrate the Act, I want to ponder on the paradox that the noble Lord, Lord Rix, referred to in his speech. Why has an Act that appeared to be such a signal advance at the time, nevertheless today left us in a situation where many people with disabilities are frustrated at the level of provision for them?
In relation to major social advances that situation is not totally unusual. When Aneurin Bevan founded the health service he honestly believed that it would work itself out of business. When those on the waiting lists had been treated, he assumed that there would no longer be a need for a health service on the same scale and that the Government's budget would fall. The House does not need me to tell it that matters have not worked out that way.
As with all social changes, this is a Sisyphean labour, like trying to push a boulder up a hill, but the hill goes on and on and it is difficult to avoid the boulder falling back down. Recognising social rights adds to the demand for rights; reacting to need flushes out need; and responding to demand creates demand. Arguably the great triumph of the original Act was that it recognised disability and the needs of disabled people. The Act removed them from their hole in the corner, where they had been hidden away, and we now know how much has to be done to put them at the centre of our social provision.
On the subject of resources, in this debate we have heard of many such problems, including those arising from the Gloucester judgment and means testing. I do not want to comment directly on either on those matters. However, resources will always be scarce and priorities have to be struck.
Recently I was a member of the Royal Commission on the Long-Term Care of the Elderly, a response to which is due from the Government in July. A terrible dilemma arose because of the difficulties and the injustices experienced by people. People were means tested for the care that they needed but that care was inadequate and more resources were needed. The most disabled elderly people living at home received precisely four hours care a week. I shall not enter into the debate about the majority and the minority in the commission, but members of the commission felt
Returning to the paradox, the key is not just that things come out from the corners, but that when one considers basic needs and deals with them, other urgent and important needs emerge from behind them. One example of that is an area of which I know a little as my wife specialises in it. That is disabled people and sex. Incidentally, that was the subject--again I praise the press--of a most sensitive article in the Saturday magazine of The Times last week.
Thirty years ago I do not suppose it occurred to most people that disabled people had sexual needs. The Minister reminded me yesterday that in 1971, in Oxford, SPOD (Sexual Problems of the Disabled) was created. Even now such appreciation is advancing only slowly.
My wife's special interest is in sex education for people with learning difficulties. If we consider the matter for a minute, we can understand the importance of this subject. It is of vital importance that people with learning difficulties should know how to protect themselves. That protection may be against unwanted pregnancy and sexual disease in consensual relationships; but, more darkly, that protection may be against the tiny minority of carers who seek to abuse those who rely on their help. After the scandals of recent years we have become much more aware than we would like to be of such problems. More cheerfully, it may be that we simply want to enhance the lives of people with learning difficulties so that they can enjoy the same sexual choices as the rest of us.
Perhaps it is not easy to sustain such work because of an embarrassment factor. My wife was based in a wonderful project in Southwark, called People to People, but that has just had to close due to lack of funds. That is dreadfully sad.
Such areas of unmet demand will always crop up. They will crop up because the needs of disabled people are great and because the resources that society devotes to them tend to be less than we would want ideally. The resources may be less than ideal, but they are far more than if the original Act had not been passed 30 years ago, thanks to the efforts of my noble friend Lord Morris and other noble Lords who have been mentioned in the debate. Public consciousness of and sympathy for the needs of disabled people is now out in the open. Disabled people and all of us owe a great debt to those who have made that possible.
Baroness Greengross: My Lords, I add my voice to those noble Lords who have thanked the noble Lord, Lord Rix, for facilitating this debate on such a special day and to the other noble Lords who have worked so hard over the years to bring us to the present situation.
I want to refer to someone whom I know well, a relative who is a little older than I am, and to talk about the change in attitudes that has affected him so dramatically. At the age of five he was diagnosed as having a tubercular hip. He was sent to a children's hospital outside London where he spent two years on his back without being able to move. His leg was stretched. He was given no special equipment with which to eat. He had a teacher about one day in every 10. He had visits from his parents once a month--the only time that they were allowed to visit him. When he left the hospital he was sent--as others were routinely sent--to a segregated school peopled only with children in a similar condition to himself; children who had either severe physical difficulties or severe learning difficulties.
Since then we have come a long way. Attitudes have changed and there has been legal change and service development. I suppose I have spent most of my adult life trying to speed up the process of change so I am particularly pleased to be taking part in this debate.
The success of the Act and the difference in the quality of life that it has brought to many people cannot be over-emphasised. However, I believe that there are still problems to be faced--problems that arise partly from the lack of adequate resources, largely based on mistaken assumptions. We never seem to get right what we take for granted once we know a little more. I too have undertaken a lot of work with Sir Roy Griffiths, who became president of my organisation. With the best will in the world, everybody believed that more community care existed than was in fact the case, so the planning was not adequate.
Over the years we have also suffered from a lack of clarity between the powers and the duties of local authorities. Many of the problems encountered by particular groups of people with disabilities or by the chronically sick or disabled are because of that ability to shift from a duty to a power, and therefore the people are pushed from one set of circumstances to another. We must remember that because of that there is quite a lot of discrimination among the one-third of disabled people who are elderly. Somehow they receive less in the way of consultation, involvement and advocacy. The assumption seems to persist that they have fewer rights.
The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, pointed out that the age at which one becomes disabled is important. Everybody should be advised that they have to become disabled by the time they reach 64 or their whole entitlement changes. We had an interesting debate last week on access to equipment and the difficulties experienced by many people in that regard. Setbacks have occurred due to a lack of clarity; for example, as in the Gloucester judgment, which was referred to so movingly today. That has led to more rationing and discrimination on the grounds of age.
The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, mentioned also the effects that may be felt when the Human Rights Act comes into play. It may challenge the present lack of clarity in the system and I look forward to it helping many chronically sick and disabled people. Article 3 states that no one will be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment, and everyone has the right, under Article 8, to respect for their private and family life, their home as well as their correspondence. Article 14 relates to the right to non-discrimination in the application of the other convention rights, which will have a big impact on this country.
I am pleased that the Government will be consulting on fair access to care services. One of the reasons discrimination continues is because of the lack of consistency in eligibility criteria for community care services. Consistency in the assessment of everyone throughout the country rather than the postal code ballot, and recognition of the links between physical and mental illness are vital. Sometimes the links are obvious, but sometimes they are not and we should not try to lump people together as a block.
The noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, discussed long-term care. I echo the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, in relation to intermediate care. But I add a word of caution. It is a good step. We have talked for years about the need for convalescence. But intermediate care hospitals may be used to deprive older people of access to high level specialist medical care. If they are returned to cottage hospitals, then we may be perpetuating the discrimination. We must be careful that that does not happen, and that rehabilitation is included in the care plan of everyone who is admitted to those hospitals.
Finally, as so many noble Lords have said, the Government must recognise the link in the Act we are celebrating today with the need for long-term care both at home and in care settings. It requires adequate resources or, again, the unintended consequences of benevolent legislation may be negative.
The Earl of Longford: My Lords, speaking as the oldest Member who attends the House, it is a special pleasure to follow such a splendid champion of the elderly as the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross. I shall let her into a secret, though she probably does not need me to tell her this. The problem is that, as we get older, we decline in energy but become wiser; everyone notices our decline in energy but nobody notices that we become wiser. I am sure the noble Baroness will do all she can to put that right.
I rise with a great sense of humility. We dwell on so much suffering and on the devoted labours of the many who try to relieve suffering. And we do it in the presence of those who themselves have suffered; those who have risen above their suffering and done so much to help others. Naturally, I think first of the noble Baronesses, Lady Masham and Lady Darcy de
Then there is my noble friend Lord Ashley of Stoke. I pay tribute to him and his gadget which sits in front of him. Someone must have paid for it, and did so because they respect him so highly. That is a wonderful tribute. I am sure no one would pay for me to have a gadget!
There are others; the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy; I am glad that he is now a kind of relative of mine. He has had to put up with a good deal. He has used two sticks for around 50 years. That is heroism too in my eyes. I hesitate to say this; I am not sure whether the noble Earl, Lord Snowdon, wishes to be put in the category of sufferers. But I know that he has had troubles and I am glad that he has found time to come here. We do not see him often enough in this House; that is my message to him.
When I find myself before St Peter in the near future, he may say to me, "Did you do any good down there?" I shall be able to murmur a little bit about the honours I have received. And he will say, "I do not want to know about that. I want to know, did you do any good?" I shall be able to say, "I played a small part in helping to carry the Alf Morris Bill through the House of Lords 30 years ago". He will probably say, "OK, you can take a day off purgatory for that".
But coming now to the present question, I am glad that it was the noble Lord, Lord Rix, who opened this debate. When I introduced this Bill 30 years ago, I was not sure the extent to which mental handicap was covered and raised that question in my speech. The noble Lord, Lord Rix, has given the answer: of course it is covered and no one has done as much, or ever will, for the mentally handicapped as the noble Lord, Lord Rix. Of course we are all aware of that. I cannot help having one other thought, though it may be a little frivolous. People sometimes say no actor has ever succeeded in politics. Some may say, "What about Reagan?"; I say, "What about Lord Rix?" It shows how unwise it is to make generalisations.
At any rate, the noble Lord, Lord Rix, has done this great work for the mentally handicapped and we come to this Bill. Here I am in a slightly different position from that I was in 30 years ago. I am so sorry that my old and dear friend Lady Serota cannot be here this afternoon. She took part in that debate all those years ago, and said, "In the end, we all become geriatric". That is true. Some of the younger Members on the Front Bench will find eventually that they become old and groggy; that is the way it goes. When I opened this debate 30 years ago I was a fine, upstanding young fellow of about 64. Now I walk with a stick--I am always losing it I am afraid--am partially sighted and
I put the obvious questions but I believe that they are being answered as the debate progresses. Thirty years ago I said that for the first time we were helping the disabled to be, and to feel, second-class citizens no longer. For the first time we ensured in administrative terms that there were not nine different divisions but one big division for the whole thing. The measure constitutes a fundamental human Bill of Rights.
Until today I did not realise the problems that my noble friend Lord Morris had experienced with my dear old friend Dick Crossman. Dick was the most brilliant man of my time at New College. However, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, who was his main rival in those days, might contradict that. Dick Crossman was brilliant but he often got things wrong. In his diaries he referred to me as a farcical figure when I was a Cabinet colleague. Dick did not always get things right! However, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Morris, knew how to cope with him. The Act was a tremendous triumph.
I shall listen to what everyone has to say but I shall listen for all time--including in the next world--to what the noble Lord, Lord Morris, has to say. I pay tribute to the achievement of Alf Morris. He was backed up by many others, but in the last resort it was his achievement.
The Earl of Snowdon: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rix, for this opportunity for me to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, on his pioneering legislation, which paved the way for so many innovations and changes over the past 30 years. He was, of course, the first Minister in the world to look after the physical and social problems that faced disabled people--problems that were often totally unnecessary.
I must admit that I used to believe that legislation was not necessary, thinking rather that everything could be achieved by education and persuasion. I was quite wrong; there had to be legislation. We certainly continue to need it today to secure the great progress that has been made in recent years. This is perhaps best summarised in the words of Martin Luther King:
As I mentioned in my maiden speech in your Lordships' House some 26 years ago, the barriers to access and acceptance are frequently needless. We have come a long way in those 30 years, and so we should have. A great deal of that is thanks to the enlightened leadership, encouragement and enthusiasm on both sides of your Lordships' House.
Only the other day there was the damning Audit Commission report which showed how far we still have to go. It specifically highlighted the poor quality and design of equipment for disabled people, which is outdated, uncomfortable and unusable. This is how the Audit Commission described services which cost the NHS and local government some £400 million a year.
The report also criticised long waiting lists, ill-fitting artificial limbs--which are so frequently needed for the victims of landmines or war or road accidents--inefficient hearing aids that end up in the bottom drawer and Heath Robinson-like wheelchairs. It stated that 80 per cent of community disability equipment was lost as proper records were not even kept. Even if one is not concerned with the importance of good design, we must surely be concerned with this horrific waste of money. The report is a real shocker; it made the inside pages of some of the national press. However, as a national disgrace it should have been front page headline news.
I turn from the Audit Commission to what was British Rail. Fifteen years ago I objected in the strongest possible terms to disabled passengers being shoved into the unheated luggage van with no facilities, not even a lavatory. Yesterday I telephoned Connex South Central's Disabled Persons Travel Department to find out how things had progressed since it took over the business. I had to endure 10 minutes of recorded Vivaldi and taped directions. Eventually I was told by a real live voice that the department was too busy to discuss disabled people's travel problems.
If we conducted the travel arrangements of our livestock in this way there would rightly be a national outcry. First-class citizens appear to matter rather less in certain mindless boardrooms. Let us hope that there will be serious improvement without further delay. I find these day-to-day uncaring barriers most disagreeable and totally unacceptable.
For example, I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, recently inquired about the accessibility of the cinema at Marble Arch to be informed that while it was fully accessible a wheelchair user still constituted a hazard and could not be accommodated as that would break the fire regulations. Cinemas throughout the country still have an extremely poor record on access compared with theatres, for example.
I was also appalled to read that some minicabs in London charge as much as 60 per cent more for carrying guide dogs with their owners. This clear discrimination needs to be eradicated forthwith. It was the noble Lord, Lord Morris, as Minister for Disabled People in another place, who won the battle to get both guide dogs and wheelchairs into the Chelsea Flower Show, where they had previously been banned. The excuse was that it was too crowded and the dogs might get trodden on. However, that is for the visitors to decide, not the organisers. Disabled people must have
The setting up of the Disability Rights Commission announced to the media this morning will, I hope improve many of the injustices that still exist and stop the powers that be from making excuses to the detriment of disabled people.
Today we are here to applaud the many achievements of the noble Lord, Lord Morris, who I know would be the first to agree that there is still a long way to go to reach our goals of total integration, equal opportunities, equal rights and for society to applaud the abilities and achievements of disabled people.
Lord Addington: My Lords, I should declare an interest in that the 1970 Act is the first to mention dyslexics and acute dyslexics. I suspect that without that provision it would have been virtually impossible for me, an acute dyslexic, to receive an education under the state system.
All the speeches that we have heard so far have had the same recurrent theme--the noble Earl, Lord Snowdon, summed that up succinctly--namely, that disabled people must be regarded as individuals who have a right to every facility that is available in our society. They have a right to sex lives; to social lives; to be able to travel to work; to choose where they eat; to choose the way in which they organise their lives. Where they are capable of so doing with assistance, it should be made possible for them to do so. Of course, arbitrary decisions may have to be made and occasionally that may not be possible, but, by and large, disabled people must be given the choice. They must be given assistance to achieve this, so that they do not become a category but remain individuals.
Whenever we run into the problem of "What do we do with these people?", once we start to remember that they are individuals the answer occurs to us very readily. If we remember that, what we are doing here becomes obvious. But most of the time we do not remember that; many of us have to remind ourselves that every single group is made up of individuals. Once we take that on board--whether it be in terms of disability, race discrimination or sex discrimination--the path forward, the ultimate goal, is clearly seen.
But the path to that goal changes over time. The argument about resources has been carefully rehearsed and the Gloucester judgment weighs heavily in the background. It basically states that, yes, people can receive help, but resources play a factor in deciding what help and when. I shall not go into the exact words--I cannot remember them--but that is the essence of it. This means that people should receive social care within their own homes, but under certain criteria it can be decided what that care should or
I doubt whether such a system ultimately makes any great difference to the amount of money saved as the health service often ends up holding the baby for what goes wrong. Often the right kind of social service help and assistance is not given. We have heard, for instance, that the correct mattresses to relieve pressure sores are often not provided, and carers are not available to turn people in bed to prevent pressure sores developing, with the result that people have to be treated for pressure sores, a damaging skin condition which can require long-term and expensive help. If we do not turn things around and get properly organised, we shall ultimately end up increasing costs. We must always look at what is going on.
The independent living fund and the fact that it is means tested was mentioned. It will come as no surprise to hear from a Member of these Benches that we think that means testing benefits is usually counter-productive in terms of social help. One has to go through a bureaucratic process and therefore, on the margins, that will probably waste money--through reassessments and so on--and incur greater costs. The bureaucratic system does not help.
As I said, we are talking about a process of ensuring that people can take part in life on an individual basis. There is no point in going on at great length because there have been many good speeches on this subject. Indeed, the speech of my noble friend Lady Barker made me look to my laurels and to wonder whether I will still be leading on this subject in the near future.
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