§ Mrs. Virginia Bottomley
The Department has today written to social services departments setting out the arrangments made by the Ministry of Defence and the national health service for treating Gulf casualties. I have placed a copy in the Library.
§ Mr. Rowe
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does she realise that, in the event of a land war, there will probably be a number of seriously disabled casualties and that, when the national health service has done all that it can to stabilise their condition, some will require accommodatiton suitable for people in wheelchairs? Can my hon. Friend assure me that she will consult her colleagues in the Ministry of Defence and the Department of the Environment to ensure that sufficient accommodation of that kind is provided—even if it is only temporary—so that the houses in which those unfortunate people must bring up their families can be assessed with a view to adaptation?
§ Mrs. Bottomley
As my hon. Friend will know, the Ministry of Defence has well-organised arrangements for the welfare and support of casualties and their families, but, as he pointed out, it is difficult to make predictions. It will be important for local authorities to keep in close touch with the MOD and, if necessary, the Department of the Environment. We shall certainly play our part in that.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
Is the Minister aware that social services departments in London are currently under great pressure? They will all wish to provide the maximum resources and support for any Gulf casualties, but will the Minister make it clear to them that the Government will provide all the necessary resources?
§ Mrs. Bottomley
I remind the hon. Gentleman that social services departments throughout the country have been given the largest increase in their standard spending assessments for 15 years—an increase of 23.5 per cent. We anticipate that local authorities will be able to respond to circumstances as they normally do in civil emergencies, and will play their part. As the letter makes clear, in the 155 first place they will need to work closely with the Ministry of Defence, and use their existing arrangements for supporting casualties and their families.