asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will allow drivers to buy cars which they have under the National Health Service vehicle scheme; what is the future of the scheme; and if he will make a statement.
Entry to the National Health Service vehicle scheme ceased with the introduction of the mobility allowance on 1 January 1976, and the number of drivers in the scheme has declined steadily. Some 1,000 still retain cars, but only about 650 are eligible to have them replaced when they wear out. All have the right to switch to the mobility allowance, without a medical examination or age conditions, as an alternative to a car. Where a car is given up by two people to whom it was issued on a shared basis, each is entitled to receive a mobility allowance.The Department will shortly be inviting organisations representing disabled drivers to discuss proposals for arrangements, parallel to those already applying to the war pensioners' vehicle scheme, to enable drivers who choose to switch to the mobility allowance to buy their cars on favourable terms. It is envisaged that as part of these arrangements a date should be set after which drivers whose cars wear out will switch automatically to the mobility allowance.The proposal will not affect drivers of departmental three-wheelers, but we shall welcome the organisations' views on whether such drivers should also be given the opportunity to buy cars released from the war pensioners' and National Health Service vehicle schemes.