:My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government when the report of the investigation into the supply and use of home equipment issued to disabled people is to be made public and whether it will contain the views of the voluntary agencies.
My Lords, voluntary agencies with an interest will have an opportunity of commenting on the report if and when it is published. Although it is concerned with the role of the statutory authorities, welcome advice was received from some voluntary agencies and is reflected in its findings. A decision on publication will be taken as soon as possible.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply, although I am bound to say that it does not reflect much progress since I asked a Written Question eight months ago. As the Government have repeatedly expressed their commitment to statutory and voluntary agencies working together, does not the noble Lord feel that this would be a good opportunity for such collaboration to take place before any decisions are made?
My Lords, it is not normal practice to consult voluntary organisations generally on reports produced under the National Health Service scrutiny programme. In this case however—and the right reverend Prelate will appreciate that it is a special case—the appropriate voluntary providers and contractors were approached.
My Lords, will the noble Lord be surprised that I am a little worried when he says "if and when it is published"? Is not this report in a sense long overdue? Are we not talking about a good deal of quite valuable equipment that is of considerable concern to the families of disabled and elderly people? Could the noble Lord not give a guarantee that the report on which he says there has been consultation with voluntary organisations will be published in order that we all may know its contents?
My Lords, I am not in a position to give the guarantees that the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, asked for; but I would expect that in some form this report will indeed be published. We need to consider what, if any, advice to give authorities alongside the report. Until we have had our proper consideration, it is not appropriate for me to give the guarantees for which the noble Lord asked.