Would the right hon. Lady give an assurance that, when the review is completed, she will give urgent priority to this group of disabled people, in spite of the present economic difficulties?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we have not so far waited until the review was completed before bringing forward measures which have come from the review. As to priorities, there are many problems in this country at present, and priorities between one and another will have to be decided at the proper time.
Will the right hon. Lady admit that recent financial measures which have been taken, and the economic situation, have overtaken the situation and that the position of these people will be very difficult? Will she make certain that she acts as quickly as possible?
Certainly, as we have acted quickly on other things, we will act as quickly as possible on this. It is not the case at all that these people will be very seriously hit by the economic situation, since the Government are doing everything possible to protect them.
Will the right hon. Lady please ensure that we get a survey to find out these numbers and accept that when we are talking about the burden of work on her Department we are not making a political point, because we know that the staff in her Department are dedicated and work very hard? Is she aware, however, that this job needs doing and that she should make certain that this survey is carried out so that we know the numbers involved?
The hon. Lady will be aware that we have done the field work of the survey on larger families and that at present that is being analysed. I am very much aware of the problems these people have, and I assure her that much thought will be given to how best we can help them.
Even if the numbers are not known, is it not an established fact that one in three of the permanently disabled and chronic sick in our hospitals could be sent home tomorrow if a realistic attendance allowance were paid? In view of this, and in view of the great savings that would result all round—and bearing in mind the humanitarian considerations as well—would not the right hon. Lady put a special review in hand to ascertain the true facts and the economies involved in this matter?
For some of the reasons I have given, it would at present be impossible to start any such review. However, I and the Government are just as concerned as anybody else to find out these facts. Indeed, we will want to know them before we can decide what we can do for these people.
Does not the right hon. Lady agree that the number must be limited? Does she not agree that it must be a farily small number that if these people are enabled to live at home, and if those who are in hospitals are also enabled to live at home, it will result in a net reduction in cost to the nation?
It is possible that there might be a net reduction, but if we take into account what might be termed constant attendance allowance and the other help which local authorities would have to supply in such cases, it is not all that certain that there would be the great saving which many of us once thought. But certainly these are matters which we are taking into consideration.