Lords amendment: No. 3, in page 11, line 42, at end insert"; or
(d) would have been, by virtue of any of the preceding paragraphs, a person to whom this section applies but for some error or delay for which in the opinion of the Secretary of State the person is not responsible and which is brought to the attention of the Secretary of State within the period of one year beginning with the date of the passing of this Act.
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.
This amendment was introduced by the Government to meet a commitment given here on Report by the Minister responsible for the disabled.
Paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of subsection (3) of Clause 11 define those beneficiaries who have reserved rights under the health service vehicle scheme and who may be allowed under the clause to switch, if they choose, to the new mobility allowance.
The Government believe that Clause 11, even without the amendment, covers all those beneficiaries who have reserved rights and who consequently are entitled to exercise the option to change over to the mobility allowance. Nevertheless, in view of the concern expressed during the earlier passage of the Bill and by the Joint Committee on Mobility for the Disabled that there may be deserving cases who would have met the condition, but for some error or delay for which they were not responsible, the Government agreed to put down the amendment giving the Secretary of State a safety net to catch cases which are brought to his attention within a reasonable time limit.
The amendment is wide enough to achieve this effect. It is purely beneficial and I ask the House to accept it.
I am grateful to the Under-Secretary of State for explaining the outcome of the little discussion that we had in Committee. However, before we welcome the amendment it is right to put on record the answer that I received from the hon. Gentleman's colleague the Under-Secretary of State who deals with the problems of the disabled, on 21st March 1976.
I asked the hon. Gentleman how many people were likely to become disenfranchised by the change in mobility between 1975 and 1976. I had previously received the answer that 2,000 people annually might have become new beneficiaries under the pre-1976 vehicle scheme had the old scheme continued in operation. I felt that that was a rather small number and decided to ask the Question again a little later. However, before I had the opportunity to do so the hon. Gentleman said that he felt that 3,500 might be a better estimate. In fact, that is a better estimate of the number of people who might have had a vehicle but who did not because of the change in the rules.
The very purpose of the Question and answer and the subsequent answer underlines the necessity to have the safety clause in the Bill, although it has been resisted by the Government in the past. I am delighted that the Government should be introducing it on this occasion as a result of further discussions in another place.
This is a dramatic change, as it alters the way of life for many disabled people, giving them a chance to move around when otherwise they would be unable to do so. I hope that we shall always consider putting this sort of clause into our legislation, as it will save many of the appeals and difficulties with which we shall be faced if such a clause is not to be found in initiating legislation.
We welcome the clause.