asked the Minister of Health (1) whether he will amend the rule that only single-seater motor invalid carriages can be supplied; why a two-seater invalid car cannot be supplied; and why, when a married couple are both disabled, separate carriages have to be provided;
(2) whether he is aware that some disabled men are getting inefficient motor-tricyles; and whether he is prepared to consider the supply of small cars instead.
I am aware of the demand for two-seater invalid tricycles, but it would not be practicable to meet it. None of the small two-seater vehicles brought to our attention has been found suitable for use by disabled persons generally. There are, however, cars already provided for severely disabled war pensioners. I do not know the grounds for alleging inefficiency in the machines now being issued, and I do not accept the suggestion.
Will the right hon. Gentleman go into the matter and give a special study to two-seater vehicles, which would obviously facilitate the transport of people closely associated with each other, for instance, man and wife? If the hon. Gentleman would be good enough to go into the matter, he would come to the same conclusion reached by many other people.
This matter has been given a great deal of study. I do not know of a small commercial two-seater vehicle which would come up to the standards on which we insist, bearing in mind the wide range of disabilities for which the tricycle service caters. I understand that the ex-Service organisations have embarked on a test of certain vehicles, but that will take some months. It may give us some useful further information on the subject.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there have been several instances of disabled persons being stranded through a mechanical failure of their vehicle, especially late at night when they have been returning alone from social functions? Is he aware that British engineering brains are the best in the world and, given a sufficient market, could design a car which would do all that we want? Any increase in cost would be more than met by the pleasure that having company would give to disabled persons.
On the question of whether the vehicles now issued give service, all the new tricycles are tested for performance and reliability, including testing of prototypes at the Motor Industries Research Association's proving ground. The annual average cost to the Department of maintaining one of the modern machines is only about £30, and that includes servicing, repairs following accidents, and some adaptations made to suit particular patients. I should have thought that that meant that on the whole they were reliable. If the hon. Member has a particular case in mind, perhaps he will let me have details.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a great deal of public feeling about this matter, and will he at least promise to look at it rather urgently, because there is a great deal of evidence of high repair costs and of tragedy to many people involved in cases of breakdown? Will he consider providing a second seat in the vehicle which might make it more reliable?
We are very receptive to anything which is said on this subject, and it has had a great deal of attention. I am bound to say that, having myself tested some of the machines which have been advocated as being suitable and having compared them with those specially built by us, I have found them somewhat deficient.