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Blind Persons Bill

Volume 41: debated on Monday 9 August 1920

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Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

My Lords, there are only three big points with which I need trouble your Lordships on this Bill. In Clause 1 we propose to make pensions available for blind persons at the age of fifty, subject to exactly the same limitations as govern pensions under the Old Age Pensions Act to persons of seventy. In that clause you will find a definition of a blind person as one who is "so blind as to be unable to perform any work for which eyesight is essential." In Clause 2 we impose a duty on county and county borough councils to make arrangements with voluntary agencies or societies for promoting the welfare of the blind ordinarily resident in their areas, and we empower them to provide, either within or without their areas, workshops, hostels, homes and other places for the reception of the blind. We also impose a duty on local education authorities to provide technical education. We believe that it is not necessary, to do so, and that they already have the obligation put upon them by the existing Education Act. This provision, however, makes the matter quite clear. By Clause 3 we enact that all authorities dealing with the blind shall be registered as war charities were registered under the Act of 1916. We make a few minor amendments to the War Charities Act. They we of small importance and I do not know that I need trouble your Lordships with them.

Roughly, we expect pensions to be available for 8,400 persons. The cost in England and Wales-will be £170,000, and for the United Kingdom £220,000, every year. We expect that £50,000 will have to be found, one half by the Treasury and one half by the local authorities, for the provision of workshops, hostels, etc. The existing grants to voluntary institutions will be continued, though perhaps not in exactly the same form as at present. Voluntary agencies which have done so much for the blind will continue—I was going to say to flourish, but I believe they will be rather strengthened and their usefulness increased by collaboration with the county councils. I commend the Bill to your Lordships. It will afford a certain measure of relief and help to a section of the population to whom all human sympathy should be extended.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.(Viscount Astor.)

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.