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Disabled Persons (Vehicles)

Volume 929: debated on Wednesday 6 April 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport what work has been done by the Transport and Road Research Laboratory in the search for a suitable vehicle for issue to severely disabled drivers.

A system to help certain severely disabled people, known as "drive by wire", has emerged from the Laboratory's work on applications of automation to road transport. This system enables the disabled driver to work the controls electronically through minimum pressure on a conveniently placed knob or joystick, the position of which can be varied to meet different needs. The system has been installed in a small production car and is now being tested on the road. Any question of issue of vehicles to disabled people is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.

Does the Minister accept that many disabled drivers, especially the young disabled now seeking their first job, are placed in a hopeless position because they are no longer receiving a tricycle, and the mobility allowance is so inadequate that it prevents them from purchasing a vehicle? Will the hon. Gentleman apply himself to bringing the manufacturers together with a view to agreeing on a suitable vehicle for disabled people, which can be produced at discount prices?

Yes. Last week I talked to officials of the Transport and Road Research Laboratory about this matter. We are anxious to bring people together with a view to finding out what is available throughout the world in the way of cars for the disabled. We must also consider how to produce this at a reduced cost. We therefore have the matter well in hand.

There is no single vehicle that is applicable to all the disabled. What we need is a flexible approach to this matter. In reply to the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) —

Order. The hon. Gentleman is not going to answer Questions as well, is he?

It is a national characteristic, Mr. Speaker. Does my hon. Friend accept that there is no universal vehicle that is suitable for all disabled people? Will he take up the point made by the hon. Member for Exeter, who has a good record in this matter, that where employment is involved his Department and my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for the disabled should bring pressure to bear in the Department of Employment to make provision for people who obtain jobs to have the opportunity to get to work? That is the key to the problem. Will my hon. Friend please look at it?

I undertake to talk to to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment about this matter. We are already discussing it with the Department of Health and Social Security, but, if my hon Friend feels it important for me to talk to my right hon. Friend as well, I take his point on board.