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Blind Persons

Volume 640: debated on Monday 8 May 1961

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asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will promote legislation to make payment of pensions to, and the welfare of, blind persons the direct responsibility of his Department.

No, Sir. I see no justification for the transfer to my Department of functions in respect of blind persons at present discharged both by my right hon. Friends and by local authorities.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that there is a vast body of opinion which is convinced that his Department should be responsible for the payment of blind pensions and also for the care and welfare of blind people? He will be aware that all other disability pensions, are his responsibility. Why should a person in receipt of a blind pension not be taken under the right hon. Gentleman's wing and looked after by him instead of having the National Assistance Board to look after his interests?

The hon. Member's question goes far further than that. He himself has referred to these people's welfare, which is partly the responsibility, admirably discharged, of local authorities and of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health. The question of training is for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. It would be a retrograde step to try to create some new pyramid of organisation on top of various functions which are perfectly adequately performed on the present basis.

The right hon. Gentleman is trying to confuse the House. Obviously, the point of my question was the payment of blind pensions by his Department. Of course, local authorities and the Minister of Health would be involved, but it could be delegated responsibility, as is the case with so many other things, with the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance being ultimately responsible for Questions in this House.

The hon. Gentleman has a Question on the Paper—and that is what I must answer—in which he refers specifically to the welfare of blind persons——

Will the right hon. Gentleman, apart from the welfare aspect, be willing to look at the first part of the Question about the pension, and treat it in exactly the same way as, say, war pensioners' pensions are treated?

No, because I think it would need the creation of a wholly new organisation in my Department, and for the hon. Gentleman to take that point is hardly consistent with the point of view on staffing and expenses which was taken by his hon. Friends behind him a moment ago.