asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what recent orders she has placed for the supply of invalid tricycles, and for how many.
The last contracts, signed in August 1974, were for a total of 1,500 vehicles and tenders for necessary further supplies are currently being scrutinised.
I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that there is growing disquiet among those concerned with social and safety inadequacies of existing three-wheelers? Will he reassure the House that no further orders will be placed for these vehicles and that as soon as possible he will introduce four-wheeled vehicles for the disabled, thereby offering a choice of three- and four-wheeled vehicles and/or the mobility allowance?
I note the hon. Gentleman's points. The orders to which I have referred are for normal replacements and any necessary additions to the fleet. Without these orders, a large number of severely disabled people would have been immobilised. The hon. Gentleman and the House will appreciate that our decision was for cash, not vehicles. We want more freedom of choice for disabled people than they have had in the past.
Does my hon. Friend accept that instinctively many hon. Members on both sides of the House would say that they do not like the three-wheeler but that, looking at their mail, they find that a substantial number of people want to retain it? May I urge my hon. Friend to have an independently conducted survey carried out into those who want to retain the three-wheeler and those who do not, so that once and for all we may have clear guidance in this House about the views of the disabled on the three-wheeler?
There was an unofficial survey during 1974 which showed—this is the best estimate we have—that 20 per cent. of three-wheeler users would be unable in their view to manage a car. As my hon. Friend knows, I was recently in his constituency where I met a deputation of disabled drivers. I am mindful of the points they made about retaining the vehicles. There are many points of view. I am trying to put forward a policy which will give more freedom of choice to severely disabled people.
Will the hon. Gentleman assure the House that every order which is placed has his personal blessing?
I said that the order was principally for normal replacement. For my part, I look very carefully at these matters. The hon. Gentleman knows that I do not take the question of safety complacently. I have given a great deal of information about modifications which are being carried through. I shall certainly do whatever I can to scrutinise closely every new order in this area.
Does my hon. Friend intend to introduce legislation this year to increase the mobility allowance?
It is our firm resolve, not merely this year but during this parliamentary Session, to legislate for the new mobility allowance. That allowance will benefit both disabled drivers and non-drivers. We expect that it will bring in 100,000 additional people who at present receive no mobility help.