Chronically Disabled (Electronic Aid)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th August 1966.

Alert me about debates like this

11.24 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Tilney Mr John Tilney , Liverpool Wavertree

I am glad of this chance of speaking about a limited number of people who appear to have been forgotten. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides will wish to do all that they can to alleviate the misery of those who are unable to help themselves, especially if action can be taken at less cost to the community than at present. If such can be done, that is true economy.

The Parliamentary Secretary will remember that on 4th July I asked him what his plans were for the research team responsible for the production in recent years of the patient-operated selector mechanism, known as "Possum", at Stoke Mandeville, to carry on its research, and whether he would make the mechanism available to those who are paralysed through poliomyelitis or road accidents, so that they might lead a useful life at home and thereby free beds in hospitals.

The hon. Gentleman told me that he was arranging to supply the mechanism to suitable patients under the National Health Service, and that he was ready to consider any proposals for further research. In reply to a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine), he said that the Government had entered into a contract with the team I had mentioned for the production and maintenance of a number of units.

Before I deal with the correspondence with the Ministry of Health, I hope that the House will consider the position throughout the country of the young and middle-aged who are considered to be chronically sick. These patients are almost wholly dependent on others. Simple movements that we are apt to take for granted are to them major obstacles. Many have to be helped even to move in bed—if they lie motionless for more than a few hours they can develop severe bedsores—and control of the bladder and bowels is often lost.

I understand that the title "young chronic sick" excludes the blind, deaf, dumb, epileptic and mentally defective. According to one report that I have seen, 34 per cent. of those affected in this way who are in hospital could be returned home if adequate help were available, but the bulk are now in institutions because, first, their problems are too great for their own families to cope with; secondly, because they cannot be left alone between the visits of home helps and district nurses while their spouse, parent or child earns the family living; or, thirdly, because the unrelieved strain of those caring for them becomes intolerable. I know of one man who, while caring for his wife, had a mental breakdown, with the result that she had to go into hospital at very considerable cost to the State.

Many of these patients either lie in contractual beds or in geriatric wards, though there are some units for the young chronically sick. Yet nobody—but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us—seems to know, because there must be many at home, how many there are, what diseases are most frequent, even how many are lying in general wards or are waiting for a bed or for how long they have to wait.

I believe that both sides of the House agree that institutions are bad for children—hence the great growth in recent years of foster parentage. So I believe that institutions are bad for the mature as well. Institutionalisation means the break-up of homes and also a very considerable burden financially on the country. I am not suggesting that the "Possum" apparatus can solve the problems of all those I have mentioned, but it is possible that this remarkable apparatus can help a great number of those afflicted either by polio, which luckily is becoming rarer, or through motor accidents, which, unfortunately, are becoming more frequent.

These machines enable those with strength of character largely to overcome their disabilities and to lead useful lives which are productive and can even be wage-earning. I think that it is agreed that the present lack of facilities for caring for the young and middle-aged chronic sick in homes means that the care of these patients is progressively difficult. Yet those of us who have seen some of the apparatus invented at Stoke Mandeville by Mr. Maling and his team realise the great scope for lessening un-happiness that his invention has brought.

I first heard of this when a very old friend of mine wrote to me about the apparatus, saying how worried he was that the team was to be forced out of Stoke Mandeville Hospital. His wife was a polio victim in 1957 and it was not until last year that he was able, by investing less than £150, to ease the family burden.

I should explain that, although someone may be paralysed from the neck downwards, provided that he can speak and use his mouth there is no reason why he should not be able to answer the telephone, to ring up anyone he wishes, to turn on or off whatever heat is needed, to turn on or off the radio and the television, to change the brightness or level of sound or even to open the front door or to operate a machine tool.

I have seen, at the exhibition of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists, held at the Central Hall a few weeks ago, a very bad spastic, who had been unable to communicate at all with the outside world until the age of seven. He was quite incapable of speech, although his mother had taught him to read. Yet there he was, typing at eight words a minute, sending out Morse and translating. All of these things are done by electrical impulses and codes.

An acquaintance of mine, who can only just move a finger and toe, by means of this apparatus, is 70 per cent. operative as a practising solicitor in London, despite the fact that he is in the equivalent of an iron lung all of the time. This new form of mental engineering is one of the most exciting inventions of our day. There have been many requests from all parts of the world for it, yet at the end of June of this year Mr. Maling and his team of nine were forced to leave Stoke Mandeville Hospital. For the last four years they had received great help from the Polio Research Fund, amounting to £60,000.

Obviously, the fund could not go on spending money indefinitely, especially as production of the machines, once proved, was not its job. I suggest that it is the job of Her Majesty's Government. I should add that it was suggested by the National Research and Development Corporation that Mr. Maling and his team should become employees of a small company called the Inertia Switch Co. I have nothing against this company but Mr. Maling felt that profits would have to be the major consideration for a long time in order to build up reserves for the company and that it would have been very much better had his team been put in touch with a much larger organisation, which could look after the research side.

One of the problems of fitting the apparatus that I have described is that unlike a suit it cannot be mass produced and requires very careful fitting. It has to be a bespoke apparatus. The main part of the apparatus could be produced in bulk, but an expert must fit it to the means that the patient has for operation. It seems important that that basic manufacture should be undertaken by a company, but that the fitting of the product and further research should be undertaken by Mr. Maling and his team.

Since the Polio Research Fund grant came to an end, Mr. Maling has moved, thanks to the Bifurcated and Tubular Rivet Co.'s help, to a plot of land fairly near to Stoke Mandeville. His team remains approximately the same, but he has had to finance the whole project out of the remains of his own savings and the help of one of his friends.

The whole future of the project is in danger. On 4th July the Parliamentary Secretary said that he had entered into a contract with Mr. Maling. But Mr. Maling informs me that no contract has yet been entered into. I have a letter from the Ministry of Health dated 20th July, part of which reads: … the Department was asked to consider whether in general financial support could be given to you on the expiry of your grant from the Polio Research Fund. As you were told, sufficient was known of your work to make a specific application unnecessary though certainly no commitment was given or implied that a grant would be forthcoming. No final decision had been reached on this matter before you decided to engage in manufacture yourself. I may add that Mr. Maling tells we that he was never told that general financial support might be forthcoming nor do I understand how the Ministry hoped that he would hold his team together while it was still considering the matter. The letter goes on: The situation then became different, because the question of general support—which is not the way in which our R and D funds are normally used, no longer arose. This letter seemed to be entirely at variance with the answer by the Parliamentary Secretary to my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East, although probably the Ministry still mean that a contract will ultimately be forthcoming.

It may well be that the research side can still be financed by the Polio Research Fund, or by the Government, but I must say that I am anxious that the public should be aware of the possibilities of this apparatus and that some orders should be forthcoming somewhere from the Ministry so that it is possible for those at present living useless lives to lead useful ones. I was interested to see in the Sunday Times of yesterday an advertisement for a biochemical engineering deputy-director in a new R and D unit. The advertisement stated: The Ministry of Health has formed a new R and D unit at Roehampton … which is concerned with research into powered artificial limbs and similar appliances. The deputy-director will be responsible for the non-medical aspect of research into the design, manufacture, and fitting of artificial limbs and related appliances and the application of power to them. He will find considerable satisfaction in applying the results of modern technological progress to the evolution of powered mechanical aids for the limbless. It seems to me that what Mr. Maling's team is doing is complementary to those who make powered limbs, thereby restoring control in three dimensions. Mr. Maling's team deals with those with a more severe disability, whose minute residual ability may allow movement in only one dimension; for example, the flicker of one finger, a toe, or into the dimension of time alone for those whose disability may be so complete that only the mouth is available for pressure or suction control. Yet even these can type at 25 words a minute.

It would seem to me that there is considerable disparity between the R and D unit at Roehampton, with a deputy-director having a salary of between £3,565 and £4,065—which is stated in the advertisement—and in Mr. Maling's team, where the top salary is £1,300. Yet, this latter team, at the Copenhagen conference, in 1963, of the International Society for Rehabilitation of the Disabled, received the award for "the most significant contribution to rehabilitation".

To institutionalise, in however good conditions, is to deprive the individual of his or her most cherished consolation, love and comfort that only one's own home can provide. The "Possum" apparatus can help to keep a family together and I hope that the Minister will be able to say what action the Government are taking to aid this British invention so that it can continue to lead the world in medical engineering.

I would remind the Parliamentary Secretary that on 4th July he said that the Minister … is ready to consider any proposals for further research in this field."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 731; col. 16, 4th July, 1966.] Could he now say whether the Government, being committed to the new R and D unit at Roehampton for powered artificial limbs is prepared to do the same for the remote controlled systems?

11.40 p.m.

Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West

I should like to make reference, first, to the general issues which have been referred to by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Liverpool, Waver-tree (Mr. Tilney) in the first part of his speech. I appreciate that all of us would agree that where it was possible to ensure that a patient could get adequate and complete treatment at home and, at the same time, possible for us to bring people out of hospital, this would not only be to our economic advantage but would be the best possible way of treating a patient, ensuring his convenience and mental well-being, and the mental well-being of his relatives.

I hope that the hon. Member will not expect me to go fully into this aspect of the problem, because tonight we are dealing with one issue—the apparatus to which he has made considerable reference. This apparatus is very complicated, and yet it produces for the patient a tremendous advantage owing to the simplicity of its operation. It is a piece of electronic apparatus operated by a simple suck-blow mechanism, and is intended for severely paralysed patients who are left with muscular control only over their mouths. By sucking and blowing in sequence a patient can perform many simple operations. He can operate a bell, or close a door, or even, in some instances, operate a suitably adapted electric typewriter.

Two types of equipment are available. The simple one makes possible the on-off control of eight pieces of electrical equipment, while the more elaborate one provides for a greater range of control. We have agreed that the simpler type shall be provided under the National Health Service. The number of very severely paralysed patients who can benefit from this is very small—possibly about 100—but for these few it will be of very great benefit. It may enable some who are now in hospital to return home, and I am sure that all of us would want to congratulate the inventor on the successful outcome of a lot of hard and enthusiastic work. The Ministry is impressed by this "Possum" apparatus, and we would like to see its distribution to our patients at the earliest moment.

The hon. Member referred to my replies to himself and to his hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) on 4th July. I concede immediately that when I replied to his hon. Friend's Question I incorrectly stated the position. What I had intended to say—as I think he knows—was that we were entering into negotiations for the contract, and not entering into a contract, with the inventor. That is the position at the moment; we are attempting to negotiate with the inventor, who holds the patent, for a production contract. We also hope to negotiate a contract with him for the maintenance of the equipment. Before completing such arrangements, we have to be satisfied that the contractor can fulfil his commitments. The premises and equipment must be adequate and financial records kept. Inquiries into these matters are in hand, but there seems little doubt that satisfactory arrangements can be made with the inventor-cum-contractor.

In 1962, the National Fund for Research into Poliomyelitis and other Crippling Diseases granted a sum of money for the project. I pay tribute to its substantial help to what it evidently saw as a development of great potential value to the disabled. The grant was for three years, and, with the co-operation of the Oxford Regional Hospital Board, the Royal Buckinghamshire and Associated Hospitals Management Committee and Sir Ludwig Guttman, the Director of the National Spinal Injuries Centre, at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, premises and facilities were made available at Stoke Mandeville for the inventor and his team. We should congratulate not only the Polio Research Fund, but the people at Stoke Mandeville on the way in which they assisted Mr. Maling. The Prime Minister was there on Boxing Day, and later asked me, if I had the opportunity, to express in the House his appreciation of the work being done.

It was made clear to the inventor that the grant was for three years and would be administered by the Spinal Injuries Centre. It lasted longer, until June, 1966, by which time £60,000 had been spent. But he ought not to have had any doubt about the date of termination of the grant. It was also made clear that the accommodation at the hospital had to be vacated on 30th June, 1966, because it was needed for other purposes. The management committee gave him formal notice to this effect. We at the Ministry have also tried to co-operate as far as possible in the successful launching of this apparatus. We selected patients to take part in the trials. Before the grant from the Research Fund was ended, there were discussions about future arrangements for Mr. Maling's work.

At one stage proposals were made for "Possum" to be manufactured by an established electronics firm, to which Mr. Maling and some of his team would have been transferred. The hon. Member referred to the fact that this was only a small company and that Mr. Maling would have preferred to have a large company, but these plans were worked out with the assistance of the National Research and Development Corporation which felt that the company which was suggested to Mr. Maling was adequate and quite capable of doing the job. In the end, Mr. Maling decided that he would set up a firm of his own, using accommodation of his own, and it is with this firm that we are at present negotiating for the manufacture and subsequent maintenance of the apparatus.

We ought to be clear that the position at this point was that neither the expiry of the grant from the Polio Research Fund nor the discontinuance of the use of the hospital accommodation was sprung on Mr. Maling without notice. His decision to undertake manufacture himself was quite freely taken and it involved the rejection of a definite proposal which had been worked out, with some trouble, for him and some of his team to join a firm which would be manufacturing Possum.

Research and development have been among the matters in which Mr. Maling has been most interested. I would stress first of all that the Minister's decision is that although no doubt further improvements can be made, the need is to get "Possum" into manufacture as it now is and to get it out to the patients. This is one of the biggest of the difficulties which arise from research of any kind—at which point to control the research so that the results of the research can be put to use. I would make it clear to the hon. Member and to Mr. Maling that our main interest at the moment is to get this into production and into the hands of our patients. I emphasise that we are very anxious that nothing should be allowed to interfere with that aim.

We have, however, told Mr. Maling that we shall be prepared to consider helping him with any future research projects which he may care to submit to us. In case there is likely to be any misunderstanding, I will enlarge on this. Originally, Mr. Maling asked the Department whether it would consider giving him general research and development funds or whether it would give him general financial support, that is, at the expiry of the grant from the Polio Research Fund. He thought that his team might be continued as a general reference laboratory for controls for the severely disabled. He was then told that they would be considered and that he need not make a formal application because enough was known of his work already, and this reference was made in a letter sent to him and read by the hon. Member.

But no commitment was given or implied that a grant would be forthcoming. Before any decisions were reached the circumstances were completely changed by Mr. Maling's decision to engage in manufacture himself. There was, therefore, no longer any question of making a general grant for the purpose of ensuring the continuance of the work of the members of his team, since this was, by virtue of their entry into the field of production, provided for.

In this new situation, the problem was the simple one of whether there were any specific research or development projects for which Mr. Maling wished to apply for financial help. He has been told that if he has any research and development projects, he should make application. We would be glad to consider any specific proposal that is submitted, although I could not express a view as to its likely outcome. Many projects, some deserving high priority, are competing for the Department's limited research and development funds. It would obviously be wrong of me to give to one person at this stage a prior commitment, before having the project before us.

We want to get this equipment to all patients who need it. There may be a demand for it abroad, and there are indications to that effect. I hope, therefore, that it will be possible to organise satisfactory production so that the work to which so many people have contributed will come to fruition and that this apparatus will be available, since it will be valuable, even if to a limited number of patients.

11.57 p.m.

Photo of Sir David Price Sir David Price , Eastleigh

I hope that the House will not think me unfair when I say that we have listened to the split personality of the Parliamentary Secretary trying to be himself and the underlying voice of the Treasury. I speak on this subject in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Waver-tree (Mr. Tilney) because I live every day of my life through the agony of Stoke Mandeville and paraplegia. I know the work that Mr. Maling is doing and I assure the Parliamentary Secretary that it is not amenable to the terms in which he spoker. Maling is an utterly dedicated man and dedication is something—and I say this to the Parliamentary Secretary remembering that he is a man of honour and integrity—which is unamenable to Treasury control.

Mr. Maling has enabled paraplegics and quadraparaplegics who, 20 years ago, would have been written off as dead by the best medical advice, to have at least some life. The great thing about Stoke Mandeville is the courage that the place has inspired in most of its patients. It is difficult, unless one has experienced it, to communicate this without becoming emotional. It is something which is not amenable to ordinary Treasury control because it is beyond the wit of statistics to produce.

I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that, although the numbers are small in terms of numbers, they matter, because this is what democracy is about. The few, the exceptions, are the test of one's validity in standing as a democrat. It is not the majority. They win. The Government have their majority. Come what may, the Treasury has its control, but it is the ability to make exceptions that is the test.

Mr. Maling is, in my experience, one of those very dedicated men who deserves a little bit of exception from the rule of Treasury control. He happens to be not only a very dedicated man, but a genius to a little body of people who have had the misfortune to have their lives destroyed by an accident or a disease. This is where he matters, and the test of the validity of one's system is whether one is prepared to make these exceptions.

I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that whereas we have vastly improved our treatment of patients within the institutional atmosphere—we try to discharge them; they are good within the institution—there is a gap between the institution and returning to their home life, often not an ideal home life, but the life that is home to the individual patient. That involves not only the Ministry of Health, but also the local authorities, the voluntary societies and, above all, the families.

I speak from my knowledge of many patients at Stoke Mandeville when I say that there is a gap here. This does not apply only to paraplegics, but to others and, speaking of this not as a partisan matter, but simply as a Member for Parliament who has had experience of this, I say that this gap has to be filled if, as hon. Members on both sides like to think, we are a generous and a humane society. Not only is this true in terms of the individual human being, but I believe that it also makes economic sense. I know of quadraplegics—that is to say, people whose arms are half paralysed, as well as their lower limbs—who can still do a job of work—my hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree referred to a solicitor he knew. I could reproduce his experience in many cases.

I know through personal experience that there is here a gap in the Health Service. It is one that I hope will be filled—which must be filled. I say that sincerely and not in a way hostile to the Parliamentary Secretary. Mr. Maling is doing his best to fill that gap. We ought to be a society generous enough not to apply the ordinary, crude, acid test of Treasury control that may or may not have been applied in the case of Ferranti and Bloodhound and the Public Accounts Committee. We do not want to make the same error, but when we are dealing with men of the character and dedication of Mr. Maling we are dealing with people of a quite different order. However economically hard-pressed we may be, I hope that we shall not ever cease to be a generous society and have, on the Treasury Bench a generous Government.

12.2 a.m.

Photo of Mr Graham Page Mr Graham Page , Crosby

This is such an important matter that if one more voice from this side can give strength to the Parliamentary Secretary in hastening the production of "Possum," I shall not regret having joined in the debate.

When I first saw this machine in operation, some months ago, I was deeply impressed. It was operated by a young man who was completely paralysed by polio from the neck downwards. He was a very cheerful and very intelligent young man. He operated the machine by means of a whistle. He merely whistled in the ordinary way and that started a light moving around about a score of items. A second whistle, and the light stopped on the item. A third whistle, and the function started, such as turning over the page of a book in bed, turning his bed to a different angle, and so on.

This young man had been in hospital for many years. He had contracted polio while training for the Royal Air Force. His parents purchased "Possum" for, I think, £300. By that means they were able to have the boy at home. When I saw him, saw him operating the machine, and saw the cheerful way in which he and his family were able to complete the home by means of this machine, I said, "Is this not universal?" They answered, "No, it is not Health Service. We bought this ourselves."

I took up the case with the Parliamentary Secretary, who will recollect that he wrote to tell me that this was to be "on National Health" in future. I was delighted. For me, it seemed to be for many people the difference between life and a living death. It meant that so many could come home and live among their families. I must say that I have been extremely disappointed by the hon. Gentleman's speech. He spoke of a machine being produced—the simpler one—for about 100 people who might be able to use it.

Surely there are thousands of people in the country at present who could use not the simpler machine, but the one which I saw and which may cost a little more money. My hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree mentioned not only polio victims, but victims of road accidents. More and more of these become paralysed and could use these machines. The Parliamentary Secretary is a forceful administrator. We know him as a sincere and forceful man. For goodness' sake can he not cut through the red tape and see that these machines are produced as they are so desperately wanted? I hope that this debate will strengthen him against whatever forces are against him and that he will be able to produce not just hundreds, but thousands of these machines which are needed.

12.5 a.m.

Photo of Mr Maurice Macmillan Mr Maurice Macmillan , Farnham

I should like to make a few general points arising from what my hon. Friends have said and for the consideration of the Parliamentary Secretary, which, I hope, he will pass on to the Minister. In dealing with the apparatus, I hope that he will be able to say a little more about research not only into devices of this kind, but into the need for them and the scope for their use.

There was a clear discrepancy between the Parliamentary Secretary's estimate of the small number of people who could be helped by "Possum" and the several thousands suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) said that he thought a third of those now hospitalised or institutionalised could be treated at home through the use of this apparatus. When dealing with the question of cost and Treasury control, I should have thought that a factor to be taken into account on the other side of the equation was the relief in money and manpower to the institutions concerned, although I know that would not be the main concern of the Parliamentary Secretary in dealing with a matter of such tremendous human importance.

This debate has shown that the whole question of research on the health and social security side is something which we still have not got quite right. I do not want the Parliamentary Secretary to think that I am blaming him for that. I hope that this debate will help us to see the need which exists and which we hope to meet in future. The pace of change in invention and the rate of increase in knowledge makes it a difficult problem to keep track of everything that is happening. I hope that the Ministry is considering not only the work of Mr. Maling and his team, but of other people working in allied fields in this country and abroad on private research and Government work. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is fully informed on all these aspects of research not only into the apparatus, but into ways in which it is applied and the need for further research discloses.

I hope that in considering the research, the hon. Gentleman will not forget the question of development and training in fitting of apparatus, including the simpler kind done at Roehampton and the human aspects of dealing with patients in this environment when first they have an artificial limb or fitting. I have heard it suggested, for example, that perhaps the level of research work going on is not matched by some of the other amenities at Roehampton, that the layout could be improved and facilities such as privacy and rest rooms provided. I am not criticising what has been done before, but these things are needed to bring everything into line with more modern thought.

I think it true that there is a gap, as was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price). Nothing much is done in the Health Service for teaching patients to live in a normal environment — places where people can go to live the sort of life they live at home, but with people helping and teaching them. There also seems to me to be a big lack of centres where paraplegics, paralysed people and others can get together and pool their knowledge and help each other. Surely there is a need outside the main institutions for somewhere where people can foregather in the course of their daily lives.

When it comes to the case of supplying not only "Possum", but other devices and other helps for the disabled, I hope that the Ministry can soon begin to take a broader and less legalistic attitude, especially when it comes to equipment or gadgets in general use which could, in the cases of people less affected, be used instead of more special apparatus.

There was the Question we had at Question Time today of the supplying of a car rather than an invalid carriage in certain circumstances. I know from my own experience with constituents that there is great difficulty in getting help even when something as simple as an automatic gear box on a car is all that is needed to enable the lightly disabled person to drive, but this cannot be done under the present system. The Ministry should consider the grants for self-help more generously and, if necessary, amend the Regulations to give a little more discretion to their officials.

I think—and my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) raised this at Question Time on 4th July—that there is a great danger that the whole work of research and the work of the Ministry in helping the disabled can be almost nullified by the lack of home help, the lack of ability to pay, and the need for allowances and benefits to enable people to stay at home.

There is one point we are all trying to make now and that is that we should enable the disabled to live as normal a life as is possible under the circumstances. I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary will be deluding themselves if they think that this can be done without a great deal more thought on the part of the Treasury, the Chancellor and the Minister of Social Security—more thought about benefits and about constant attendance allowances, a point we have consistently been putting forward from this side of the House.

There is also the question of co-ordination. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister to take on this responsibility of co-ordinating the work of other people, sometimes in very small things, of pushing their point of view on Ministries, on local authorities, on builders, manufacturers, architects and designers, so as to make life easier for the disabled; to get these people to realise that in their own work the problems of the handicapped can be enormously increased by simply having a slope instead of two steps.

Very often it is something which is very small indeed. It is a question of designing ordinary things in everyday use in a way which does not hinder the handicapped and which does not hinder other people either—matters such as pouring arrangements for saucepans and kettles, the siting of handrails, and the provision of ramps instead of steps.

These things are very apt to go by default, which is another aspect which has been stressed throughout this debate. We who are fortunate enough to be in full possession of all our faculties should do everything we can, and not count the cost, to seek to help those not so fortunate to live as full and as normal a life as they possibly can.

I had hoped that we should have been given some indications of the line of Ministry thinking on this matter. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would convey our hope from this side of the House that his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health will consult the new Minister of Social Security and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and take action on these items. Perhaps, at a later stage, he might even consider issuing a White Paper on this aspect of his Ministry's work, in which a small effort and a small cost could yield great dividends in terms of human happiness.

12.15 a.m.

Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West

I would like to make a speech of less than half a minute, and I hope that the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Maurice Macmillan) will forgive me for this. This debate was arranged as a debate concerning the "Possum" apparatus. I would have welcomed a debate on the general issues brought forward by the hon. Member for Farnham and other hon. Members. I assure the hon. Member that there is no question of Treasury control of any kind holding up the "Possum" apparatus We want to get it into production and we are as eager as, if not more eager than, Mr. Maling to do this. If we can get it into production and to our patients, we shall be more than satisfied. I assure the hon. Gentleman that it is a question not of Treasury control, but of getting the job done.