asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he monitors the circumstances in which, under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, local authorities withdraw or reduce services to registered disabled people without diminution of need; and if he will make a statement.
No, Sir. Such monitoring would involve obtaining details of services provided to each of the several hundred thousand individuals under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. This is clearly impracticable. However, if the hon. Gentleman has any particular case in mind I should be grateful if he would send me the details.
If, as the Minister said, to monitor is impracticable, he can only deal, for example, with individual named cases, which imposes a tremendous burden on hon. Members wishing to raise the question as a general matter. Nor has the Minister touched on the fact that some authorities have used up their budgets.
Order. The hon. Gentleman, like everyone else, must ask a question.
Perhaps I may help the House. The hon. Gentleman is correct when he says that the Act requires individual cases to be examined.
Where a need has been established, will the hon. Gentleman allow an appeals procedure to come before him and Parliament?
I do not quite follow the hon. Gentleman. If a need has been established and the local authority has not satisfied that need, the individual concerned is entitled to make representations to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State who has certain reserve powers to give directions in the matter.
Does the Minister agree that there will always be unfair disparities in the provision of services by local authorities until we have specific grants for disabled people? Will he undertake to discuss that matter with the Department of the Environment.
In any case where local decisions have to be taken and local authorities are given a discretion by Parliament, different local authorities are bound to exercise their discretion in different ways according to the local circumstances. That is the basis of local government. We are reluctant to impose conditions upon local authorities and to remove a discretion that Parliament has seen fit to give them.
Does the Minister recall that the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation raised with me the specific complaint of a cut in home help hours by the borough of Trafford without any change in the circumstances of the disabled people involved? Will he now make it pikestaff plain that his legal advice is the same as that given to me—that it is illegal to cut or withdraw services to disabled people under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act without any diminution of need?
I am a little puzzled by the right hon. Gentleman's persistence on this matter. He wrote to me about the matter and I replied on 11 November. I do not know whether he has received my letter, but after making inquiries I made it quite clear that the local authority concerned was making no change in its home help service.