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Disabled Persons (Vehicles)

Volume 931: debated on Tuesday 10 May 1977

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7.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what studies he has made of cars for disabled drivers in other EEC countries.

A number of other EEC countries have provisions for helping disabled people to acquire cars, subject to conditions varying from one country to another. I under stand that in most of these countries Government benefits do not include either the issue of a specialised vehicle or a cash benefit, like the mobility allowance, which is paid without conditions as to employment or ability to drive. My Department is seeking fuller information from the EEC Commission.

Does the Minister recognise that for two years now we have been pressing him for this information, and that the delay is causing some concern? Is he aware that the need for a replacement for the trike is a matter of considerable urgency? Will he tell the House the exact state of affairs concerning the design of the replacement for the trike?

I can assure the hon. Member that we are in touch with the European Commission on this matter. I remind him that the Director of the Central Council for the Disabled, and its successor organisation, the British Association for Disability and Rehabilitation, speaking of the British mobility allowance scheme, said that the Government had

"produced a most imaginative scheme in the Mobility Allowance. The concept is much admired by Europe."
There are Questions later on the Order Paper about making specialist vehicles. I am in close touch with all developments in this field.

Many of us are concerned that as there is no one vehicle to satisfy all the needs of the disabled, the Minister should consider great flexibility in this field. Many of us feel that all those disabled people who are able to drive should be able to do so, and that to talk of one single vehicle is to hold out a false promise.

Those are very wise words. Disabled people are not standard, and to talk of providing a standard car is to make a false assumption. The point that my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) has made is very much in my mind and in the minds of all those hon. Members on both sides of the House who think deeply about these matters.

Will the Minister justify the statement that was made earlier and tell us what evidence there is that disabled people do not want to see a continuation of the trike until an alternative vehicle is available? In February this year there was a unanimous request that the trike policy should be changed. Will the Minister talk to representatives of the disabled on 17th May?

There are many claims upon us in this field. There is a very strong campaign, on safety grounds, against the invalid tricycle, and I have answered one question after another on that issue. There are people who want the trike, and my right hon. Friend has explained why it cannot be supplied indefinitely. I assure the hon. Member that I am closely in touch with organisations representing the disabled and I shall certainly see anybody representing the national organisations. In fact, arrangements are being made for me to see national representatives on 17th May.