Department of Health and Social Security (Additional Minister)

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th February 1972.

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Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

No, Sir. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, with a Ministerial team of four, has achieved more in 20 months than his predecessor, with a team of five, in any 20 months of his period of office.

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn

Is the Prime Minister aware that he is talking rubbish? Is he aware that there will be no effective attack on the problem of the chronically sick and disabled until there is a Minister responsible for co-ordinating policy on this matter? Is he also aware, for instance, that the operation of the Alf Morris Act involves at least 10 Government Departments whose work needs to be co-ordinated, and that the work is not even co-ordinated within the Department of Health and Social Security? As a result of this, for example, a constituent of mine who qualified for the new invalidity benefit found that as a result he was disqualified from receiving free prescriptions. Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore please take this matter seriously and make a co-ordinated attack on the problem of the chronically sick and disabled?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

If the right hon. Lady has a constituency problem no doubt she will take it up with my right hon. Friend—

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn

I cannot, my dear boy!

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I am not the right hon. Lady's dear boy. Co-ordination of matters affecting the disabled is carried out by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, but it does not help to have one Minister solely responsible for their problems, for the very simple reason that the requirements of the disabled cover such a large number of—

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn

Ten Government Departments.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

Exactly, and to appoint a Minister outside the Department of Health and Social Security for that purpose would not achieve the result which the right hon. Lady and the rest of us want. On the other hand, she cannot deny that a great deal has been done for the disabled and that the 1970 Act has been pushed through vigorously by the Department. My right hon. Friend has also just announced considerable improvements to the invalid vehicle service which will affect about 10,000 people and is of the utmost importance.