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Disabled Persons (Vehicles)

Volume 929: debated on Thursday 7 April 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what interest his Department is taking in the work at the Manchester Polytechnic on a prototype vehicle for the disabled; and if he will make a statement.

I recently visited Manchester Polytechnic to look at the project. I am glad to learn that the Polytechnic has now been awarded a grant under the job creation programme, and that this is helping it to go ahead with the building of a prototype body for the vehicle. I share the regard which, I know, others have for the dedication of the team engaged on the project.I am, of course, interested in all development projects which could lead to a better choice of specialised vehicles, or specialised adaptations to production cars, for disabled people. My Department and the Department of Transport are jointly considering what further research is desirable in order to identify, among the possible lines of development, those which have the best prospects of effectively meeting the needs of disabled people.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will take steps further to assist invalid owner drivers in vehicle maintenance; and if he will make a statement.

The main Government mobility help, for owner-drivers as for other eligible disabled people, is now the mobility allowance. We intend that the uprating due in November will at least maintain the value of this allowance and if possible increase it. In addition, disabled drivers who now receive a private car allowance under the old vehicle scheme will be able, when the necessary regulations have been made under the Social Security (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1977, to switch to mobility allowance without age limit.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a further statement on the applicability of European Safety Regulations to the phasing out of the invalid tricycle in 1978.

Although the manufacture of invalid tricycles is to end next year, we expect to be able to go on replacing tricycles, as they wear out, at least until 1981. Indeed, we may be able to offer replacements for a good deal longer. The decision to cease production of invalid tricycles had become inevitable. The vehicle cannot be made as stable as a four-wheeled car and, even although it meets all the regulations which apply to it today, it cannot go on meeting the regulations which will apply in future to new cars generally and not just to invalid tricycles. These are regulations made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, not simply to bring us into line with European standards, but with the positive aim of promoting the safety of all who use vehicles on our roads. I know that the House would not expect me to press for exceptions from safety requirements to allow for lower safety standards for the tricycles used by disabled people.The Social Security (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act which recently became law gives every disabled person who has a tricycle, or private car allowance, awarded under the pre-1976 scheme, the right to switch to the mobility allowance without age limit. When the necessary regulations have been made this will be of considerable help to many tricycle drivers. Nevertheless, we accept that there will be people who will still need a specialised vehicle when their tricycles can no longer be replaced. We are keeping in touch with developments affecting various prototypes and, as my right hon. Friend made clear in his statement on 23rd July 1976—[Vol. 915, c. 229–42.]—the Government will be looking at what is available on home and world markets to help such people. Our aim will be to try to make sure that no one who is now mobile is made immobile by the phasing out of the tricycle, except where increased disability itself makes this unavoidable. Yet even when increased disability leaves the old vehicle scheme beneficiary no longer able to drive, under our new proposals he will now have the choice of a cash allowance to reduce his dependence on others. This also is an important step forward and we shall go on seeking to build on the advances we have made in improving the mobility of disabled people.At the same time, as my right hon. Friend has emphasised, we are pledged to safeguard the interest of all beneficiaries of the former scheme.