Optical Charges

Oral Answers to Questions — Oral Answers to Questions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st November 1979.

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Photo of Mr James Dempsey Mr James Dempsey , Coatbridge and Airdrie 12:00 am, 21st November 1979

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will be taking action to exempt people with severe visual handicap from payment of optical charges; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Russell Fairgrieve Mr Russell Fairgrieve , Aberdeenshire West

My right hon. Friend has no plans to take such action at present.

Photo of Mr James Dempsey Mr James Dempsey , Coatbridge and Airdrie

Is not that a shame? Surely the people who have suffered the greatest cut of all, the virtual loss of their eyesight, should receive greater consideration. Will the Minister believe me when I say that the nature of the gadgets that they use is both inordinate and costly, and that they are required regularly? If we are a caring Parliament, surely we should meet the need free of charge.

Photo of Mr Russell Fairgrieve Mr Russell Fairgrieve , Aberdeenshire West

The position remains as it has been since 1951. Hon. Members in all parts of the House appreciate the disabilities caused by blindness and partial blindness. At the same time, there are many other groups that would like special treatment for their problems. If we moved in one direction, we would have to move in many others. That is the Government's position.

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram , Edinburgh South

Do the Government have any plans to introduce in the near future a blind allowance?

Photo of Mr Russell Fairgrieve Mr Russell Fairgrieve , Aberdeenshire West

I shall take notice of that point, but we have no present plans.

Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson , Hamilton

Is the Under-Secretary aware that the previous Government had made provision for enabling legislation on the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey), and that if the present Government saw themselves as being able to introduce such legislation, for which there is serious need, the Opposition would help in any way possible to get that legislation through?

Photo of Mr Russell Fairgrieve Mr Russell Fairgrieve , Aberdeenshire West

Under the previous Administration, the Secretary of State for Social Services, in 1975, and the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, in 1978, both said that they would bring in this type of allowance but they did not do so.