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Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his remarks about the training and especially those welcoming the advent of the bench-marking initiative. One of the reasons why we are taking so much trouble in the matter is that, in order to achieve the best trained workforce in Europe, we are concerned that we actually get there. While it is not perfect, we believe that we are on the right road to achieve that aim.

My noble friend raised the point about the relationship between this country's economy and that of the European Union. He also asked whether we were concerned about competitiveness within the Union. That is not merely causing anxiety to those in this country, but also to those abroad. One has only to look, for example, at the conclusions of the Essen Summit or study some of the recent remarks made by M. Santer to realise that. It is crucial to be clear on the matter.

There is a difference between membership of the European Union and the single market, though that is undoubtedly a good thing. For example, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said relatively recently, an estimated 2.5 million jobs in this country are dependent on British membership. The fact is that some characteristics of the way that the European Community works could be damaging. It is because we are worried in that respect that we have not participated in the social chapter of the Maastricht Treaty. At the end of the day, the European Union now takes 60 per cent. of our visible exports, compared with 40 per cent. in 1973. I should like to make just one small point. It is intended that this question session should be short. It is not an occasion for making too-developed speeches.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, in declaring that I am a companion to the Institute of Exporters I support the moves to create a new, national export training centre in north Nottinghamshire. It appears that the White Paper accepts that professional education and training of exporters is not just necessary but that it is vital for the future economic health and well-being of the United

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Kingdom. I add my support to that already expressed. Further, will the Minister please emphasise to his right honourable friend the cross-party call for clear government initiatives to support such a critical area?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, we recognise the points made by the noble Viscount. For example, that is why we have announced today that we are introducing what is known as "Export Challenge" which is designed to part fund innovative projects with trade associations. Ten successful associations will receive awards this year of up to £50,000 each. I referred earlier to the aim of 30,000 new exporters to foreign markets by the year 2000. Moreover, we are proposing to announce today our intention to introduce export vouchers which will be for use by small and medium-sized enterprises through business links to enable them to obtain advice for export services. I also made reference to the increased support for exporters jointly by the DTI and the Foreign Office. All those projects are intended to assist in that direction.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, I rise to express support for the request made by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, for a special debate to be organised by the Government through the usual channels. I also have two questions for the Minister. First, in preparation for that debate, will the Government make public the authentic statistics which they have in their possession relating to the degree of import penetration into the United Kingdom? That is a very important consideration in economic terms regarding the degree to which our home industries are now capable of satisfying domestic demand, even at its reduced level. In any event, it is a most important series of statistics, without which we cannot make objective judgments.

Secondly, I should like to endorse the request by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch; namely, that the various statements about the benefits, or otherwise, of our membership of the European Community as it stands, as distinct from what it was meant to be, are also extremely important. I believe that we ought to have, on the lines proposed by the noble Lord and in good time for any debate we may have, a cost benefit analysis of exactly how much we gain and how much we lose as a result of our membership of the Community as it now is as distinct from what it was meant to be.

It may well be that statistics are not available except to the nearest £1 billion or even £2 billion. But, in so far as they are available, they ought to be capable of statistical quantification and presentation to the House and to the country so that, within the context of the 235-page document, at a cost of £19.50, we are capable of making an informed and, I sincerely hope, objective and impartial examination of such matters to the benefit not only of your Lordships' House but also the country at large.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington. So far as concerns statistics, I believe that it would be appropriate if the noble Lord were to table a Question so that we may endeavour to do our best to make available the information he requires.

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Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, perhaps I may respond to that immediately. Whenever I table such Questions, the invariable reply is that the information cannot be obtained, save at a disproportionate cost.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, if that is the reply the noble Lord has received, then that would appear to be the case. I do not feel that I can very usefully add a great deal more in that respect. So far as concerns any analysis, it is appropriate to consider both the information and the techniques used to analyse what one has. On many occasions, that can be rather subjective. Needless to say, the Government always endeavour to do that in the most appropriate manner.

Lord Ewing of Kirkwood: My Lords, as the Minister knows, I am an innocent in such matters. However, my parliamentary experience in another place reminds me that when so many White Papers, and so on, appear—for example, the White Paper announced by Mr. Michael Heseltine, Statements, the launch of initiatives by Mr. David Hunt today, and, as we understand it, another White Paper to follow tomorrow—that is usually followed fairly quickly by a general election. When is the date?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, even if I had any idea about that, I would not be in a position to divulge the information to your Lordships.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, with the leave of the House, as there are either two minutes or seven minutes left on the Clock—

Noble Lords: No!

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: It is a question of whether we started at zero or minus five. Does the fact that my noble friend the Minister was not able to answer my brief questions on the Federation of Small Businesses and on the Institute of Directors underline the point made by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter that we should really have time for an adequate debate on the subject?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I believe that I have already dealt with that point satisfactorily.

Disability Discrimination Bill

4.58 p.m.

Second Reading debate resumed.

The Lord Bishop of St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich: My Lords, one of the many groups which exist for the support of disabled people, and largely consisting of disabled people, is CHAD which stands for Church Action on Disability. It is an ecumenical and also an educational group. CHAD publishes a leaflet which spells out in sketch form various people suffering from different disabilities which we can ourselves imagine and identify. The leaflet's caption reads:

    "Join us in ensuring that no one in your congregation is handicapped".

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It draws the neat distinction between disability and handicap. The disabled have enough difficulty coping with the problems which life has dealt out to them without having to contend with the handicaps which society deals out to them.

It is, therefore, with great warmth that I also welcome the Bill. I congratulate the Government on the work that has been done on bringing the legislation this far. Any criticisms which I may make of the Bill as it stands at present are only intended, I hope, to improve the Bill and to make it effective.

I wish to focus on four areas in the Bill as it stands. The first is education. I realise that there are arguments for excluding education from the Bill. However, I do not understand the power of those arguments, particularly when one bears in mind—if Scope's figures are correct—that 65 per cent. of primary schools and 55 per cent. of secondary schools have no suitable toilets for disabled students. That hardly seems to me to bear out a view that nothing at the moment needs to be inserted in the Bill on educational grounds. However, my concern about education goes wider than that.

If one sets aside the small percentage of those who discriminate against others on sadistic grounds, discrimination by and large is due to ignorance and to a lack of social awareness and social knowledge. The education field is, above all, the field where citizens of this country are able to sit, work and study alongside other citizens of this country who suffer from various disabilities. My own two boys were educated, at primary level, at a school which had a firm policy of accepting one, if not two, children suffering from a disability in each class. The children who were disabled benefited from that, and so did the children who were not. To sit alongside and to work alongside disabled students and to realise that it is the student who is sitting beside one who one addresses and not the person who pushes the wheelchair, and that when the student beside one inadvertently dribbles one's reaction is not to withdraw in horror but to move forward with respect, and to offer care and support, is something which has borne fruit in my own sons and in many other students who attended that school.

I believe that the Government should be striving vigorously to include education in the categories referred to in the Bill in order to ensure that that wider element of education is right to the forefront. If that is a valid argument for education, it is also a valid argument for the second point I wish to stress, and that is the power of the controlling body. I do not mind whether it is called a council or a commission; what I care about is whether it has teeth. I do not believe that at the moment it has. One of the teeth which it has to have must be education. To bring a test case, as our commissions can, is of great significance to everyone, and not only to those who are involved in the test case. It is an educational experience which draws attention to a need and has widespread effects beyond itself. I would therefore support the argument that we have already heard; namely, that we need a body with more power, which is more able to be pro-active and which is more able to effect what I believe to be the main intention of the Bill. I have doubts at the moment whether that can be implemented in practice.

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My other two concerns relate, first, to the definition. I appreciate that to define "disability" is a difficult task as this is a difficult area. I am glad that I am not a lawyer who has to do that. However, I believe that the definition at the moment is too restrictive. In his introduction the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, said that people with a reputation for disability are not disabled. That, clearly, is true on occasion. However, what is also true is that those people so identified are discriminated against. I believe that we must place more stress on discrimination as well as on disability.

My other point relates to the position of firms which employ fewer than 20 people. I am a rural Bishop and my diocese is the county of Suffolk. If, at the moment, 96 per cent. of firms nationwide are to be excluded by the Bill from the provision we have discussed, I would guess that a figure more like 99 per cent. of firms in rural areas would be excluded. That seems to me to be quite intolerable. I understand the Government's concern that small businesses should not have undue impositions placed upon them but the figures I have show that 60 per cent. of firms who employ fewer than 10 people already employ a disabled person. If that is so, or even if the figures are anything like that, I believe that the Government's caution on this matter is misplaced.

My concern—and I am sure this is the concern of the House—is that this Bill, which is admirable in many ways, should be able to be implemented and to bring forth the fruits that we all desire. That is why I wish to return to the point that I made at the beginning of my speech but from another angle. Frances Young is an academic and a theologian; she is also the mother of a severely handicapped son. In her book Face to Face, which she wrote when the terms that were used were rather different and the word "handicapped" was used of people rather than of the pressures under which they are put, she stated,

    "Handicapped people remind us that life is not all go-getting and individual achievement. There are more fundamental human values. Handicap demands mutual support, a sense of communal sharing. Handicap fosters compassion and helpfulness, care and concern. It challenges our selfishness and our ambition and sectional loyalties. Society needs handicap".

5.6 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend the Minister for the clear manner in which he introduced this Bill. The House will know that I welcome the Government's initiative because I made that clear in the debate which I initiated on 14th December last on disablement. That should have been no surprise to your Lordships as I have consistently over the past 30 years in both Houses of Parliament expressed the opinion that this is a subject so wide and complex that the resources of government departments are needed to provide workable and effective measures.

I was advocating this when I was speaking on Private Members' Bills, including two of my own, one introduced in each House. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, referred to the past 13 years. I was successful in a ballot in another place in 1968 and introduced a Private Member's Bill then. I cannot refrain from adding—noble Lords opposite will expect me to say this—that it was voted down at Second Reading with a Government Whip applied. The

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Government was a Labour Government. That was a stark illustration that successive governments have always found it difficult to accept proposals, however mild. That Bill of mine was extremely mild and inexpensive.

Governments have also found it difficult to formulate legislation of their own. I recall that my second Bill went through all its stages in this House in the mid-1980s. I applaud—and I feel I am entitled to applaud most loudly —what the Government have now undertaken. As I had hoped, the Bill largely depends on reasonableness. Reasonable adjustments are to be the aim. In the equivalent American legislation—Americans with Disabilities Act—the words "reasonable accommodations" are used; but in both the British and American legislation the intention clearly is to avoid unnecessary confrontations and to reduce litigation to a minimum. I hope in that respect the apprehensions expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, can be allayed in the course of the Bill or by any changes that are made. In his speech he demonstrated how complicated legislation on discrimination in this field has to be, including definitions. Of course definitions were much easier in the cases of gender and race. No doubt that was one of the factors which made it so difficult in the past for governments to introduce a Bill of this kind.

I turn to Part II of the Bill, on employment. As my noble friend said, the quota scheme had become unworkable. A 3 per cent. quota was impossible to implement when only about 1 per cent. of the working population were registered as disabled. Either the registration system had to be radically changed or it had to be replaced. The 1944 Act, which introduced the quota system 50 years ago, was intended for the war disabled, most of whom were in their twenties. I was one of them. They are now past the retirement age, so the original purpose of the quota scheme no longer exists.

The 3 per cent. quota did not apply to establishments employing fewer than 20 people. That was because unreal situations would have arisen and small firms would have been expected to employ 0.6 or 0.3 of a person.

With the new system, it seems a pity to retain that exemption for small firms as proposed, although the numbers employed by those smaller firms is only 15 per cent. of the workforce. Of course we must not impose crippling financial burdens on smaller firms, which are important sources of new jobs. However, could not the provisions requiring reasonable solutions which occur throughout the Bill take into account the difficulties of an individual small firm so that it is not expected, in certain circumstances, to do exactly the same as a large firm? I should have thought that that was part of the reasonableness that we hope will be the basis of the Bill.

As the smaller firms were not included in the quota system, I believe that the application of the Bill to small firms should be phased in rather than brought in at the outset. They have not been used to a quota system. I was glad to hear my noble friend say that in any event it was intended to review the position after five years.

Because there is a power in the Bill to reduce the figure of 20 by regulation, it is my hope that there will be a gradual reduction and eventually we shall reach the figure nought. Incidentally, the CBI and the Employers Forum

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on Disability are both in favour of small firms being included in the Bill, but again with enough time given to allow them to adjust to the new system.

I also believe that, outside the Bill, the Government could introduce or encourage achievement awards for small firms, rather like export awards. Those who succeed in employing disabled people after making special arrangements would receive an award. That would win them prestige in their own local areas.

I now turn to Part III of the Bill relating to goods and services. Many more disabled people will be affected by this part of the Bill than by Part II, which relates to employment. The provisions relating to employment apply to disabled people of working age, from 16 to retirement. Therefore, we ought to consider the numbers affected by the Bill as a whole. The 1991 census provided the most valuable information so far, including the figure, which has been quoted often, of 6.5 million disabled people. That is the total, covering every kind and degree of disability from slight disablement to those who are completely incapacitated. One in nine of our population is in that category of disabled.

However, over 5 million of the 6.5 million are past retirement age. Most were not disabled in earlier life. The population is steadily getting older and we shall have a larger percentage of our population in the upper age brackets as the years go by. Disabilities which arrive with old age must be included in measures for goods and services, as for the younger disabled. Therefore, we are dealing with a much larger proportion of the population than with Part II of the Bill.

In contemplating the figure of 6.5 million it is worth noting that the estimate of people permanently in wheelchairs is half-a-million, which is one in 112 of the population. To summarise, one in nine of the entire population is estimated to have some form of disability, if only slight, and one in 112 of the population is a regular user of wheelchairs. Those figures help to clarify the size and nature of the problems which will arise under the Bill.

I am glad that there is emphasis in the Bill on the availability of advice, both to disabled people and employers, on the interpretation of the new system and its translation into action and expenditure. There appears to be a gap in relation to advice to disabled people on goods and services under Part III. I understand that the Government had hoped that the citizens advice bureaux offices would accept that role, with increased subsidy. I also understand that the CABs have declined to accept that role. In that case, where will the disabled person, especially the elderly disabled person, be expected to turn for advice on Part III of the Bill?

I have another question which I hope my noble friend will be able to answer today. It is not clear how much of the new system the proposed national council will be concerned with. It seems from Clause 23(2) that the council can offer advice on its own initiative on any matter relative to discrimination or arising from the Bill when it is enacted. However, there is a rumour that the council will not be expected to advise on Part II relating to employment or will be limited in that field. I shall be grateful for clarification about that point and on whether there are other areas of the Bill which will be outside the council's remit.

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Having been raising this subject in Parliament for the past 35 years, it would be churlish of me not to applaud the Government warmly for tackling this very difficult task. I entered another place in 1959, several years before some other fellow campaigners were elected and became Members. Being war-disabled myself, I became acutely aware in the early 1960s that many disabled people in the country who were disabled from other causes were being overlooked and were not then properly provided for in our social security system. There have been many changes, and the introduction of allowances and benefits, since then.

I strongly support the Bill, looking forward to the promised government amendments which it was announced in another place would be introduced here, and also to other possible additions and improvements to the Bill.

5.18 p.m.

Baroness Lockwood: My Lords, I too welcome the Bill. I welcome the sympathetic way in which the Minister introduced it. I do so because it signifies how far we have come not only in the 35 years during which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, has been campaigning but also since 1992 when I first introduced into this House the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) (No. 2) Bill. At that time, and even last year when my noble friend Lord Ashley introduced a similar Bill, the Government were not convinced of the need for comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation. They thought that only specific and targeted legislation would assist progress. We have had an indication in the Minister's speech this afternoon that the Government are still thinking in terms of targeted legislation, but at least they have acknowledged the need for a comprehensive Bill.

The fact that we have made such progress is, I believe, due to the determination and persistence of disabled people themselves who through their appropriate organisations have campaigned energetically for such legislation. I should like to pay tribute to them for that. However, I share their disappointment that the Bill does not go far enough. What people with a disability want is the right not to be discriminated against because of that disability, the right to be socially accepted, the right to be able to lead a full and active life within the constraints of their disability, and a proper framework to ensure that those rights are realised. We have to ask whether the Bill provides that. I rather fear that the answer is no.

The organisations representing disabled people are asking for a number of changes, many of which have been referred to this afternoon. They are concerned about the narrow definition of disability, the absence from the Bill of provisions relating to education and transport, the exemption regarding small employers employing under 20 people, and the absence of a commission with real power. I, too, am concerned about that matter; I wish to come back to it in a moment. I am also concerned that there is not a proper reference to and definition in the Bill of direct and indirect discrimination. I suggest that such a reference would make unnecessary many of the complicated clauses to which the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, referred. That would also eliminate the

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need for many of the regulations which the Minister proposes to introduce. I hope that we shall return to the issue at a later stage.

At Committee and Report stages, we shall refer to the amendments which the Government propose to make. However, to date the Government have indicated no recognition of the inadequacy of their proposals in the establishment of a disability council with powers. I believe that that issue is absolutely crucial to the whole success of the legislation. I say that on the basis of my experience as the first chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission relating to the Sex Discrimination Act. During the first year of the EOC's life—indeed during the first few months—we were absolutely overwhelmed by something like 10,000 complaints from individuals who wanted help and advice on what they felt was sex discrimination. That soon made the commission realise that there was a real need to establish priorities—in terms of testing the extent of the Bill and the application of indirect discrimination, and in trying to establish equal opportunity policies.

The Government claim that there is a difference between discrimination on grounds of disability and discrimination on the grounds of sex and race. They state as one of the reasons that there are so many different forms of disability. That, of course, is quite true. However, I draw the opposite conclusion. The complexity of the issues underlines the need for a central body responsible for administering and enforcing the law, and employing a central strategic approach to enforcement and promotion of equal opportunities.

This is a complicated Bill. I believe that we need a simple and clear mechanism for ensuring, first, that individuals can obtain their rights under the law; and, secondly, that employers and providers of facilities and services are assisted in understanding their responsibilities and safeguards.

What the Minister outlined this afternoon about the various organisations and mechanisms available provides a complicated picture, with divided responsibility instead of responsibility lying with one authority to undertake enforcement and interpretation.

I hope that we shall put forward amendments which will provide some of the following. First, we need to establish an independent statutory commission resourced by the Government as are commissions such as the EOC and the CRE. Secondly, we need a commission able to advise and financially assist key cases. We do not want the tribunals clogged up with individual cases. I am not sure that the tribunals would be so clogged up because unless there is a body which is responsible for helping and advising individuals, very few cases will come through. But we do not want to duplicate cases. I suggest that we need to identify key cases which will establish certain trends so that the commission can give authoritative advice both to applicants and respondents who seek help under the Bill.

Thirdly, we need a commission with powers to take action against persistent offenders. Again, I believe that we can turn to the experience of the CRE and the EOC to demonstrate that one cannot do everything through individual cases. It is a slow, long process. Once a type of

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discrimination has been established, it is important to have a body which ensures that a range of such cases is dealt with.

Fourthly, we need a commission able to operate in all areas of the Bill. That is the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Government propose—it is how I understand the Bill—that Part II of the Bill (relating to employment) should be excluded from the scope of the disability council. Access to employment is absolutely fundamental to an independent life for disabled people. It is one of the most important areas of the Bill and certainly needs to come within the ambit of a commission or a council.

Fifthly, I envisage the need for a commission able to draw up codes of practice on the basis of experience that it has acquired. I fail to see why it is necessary for the Secretary of State to have to advise the commission to draw up codes of practice. That surely should be the commission's own responsibility. Finally, I see the need for a commission able to advise on good practice in the whole area covered by the Bill, through educational activities and publicity. That is crucial to a successful Bill.

What do we have instead of an independent commission? We have a proposed council which it seems to me will be responsible only to the Secretary of State. It appears that it will have little or no responsibility in the crucial area of employment. That will not help anyone.

I fear that if we are not careful, we will be on the way to passing a law which will not be enforced. Like the 3 per cent. employment quota of the 1944 Act, it will be observed more in the breach than in the implementation. That is not what the 6 million disabled people in the country are asking for. Having gone thus far and achieved general agreement on the need for a comprehensive Bill, I hope that we shall be able to proceed through the next stages with co-operation on all sides in strengthening the Bill and making it the kind of legislation for which disabled people ask.

5.31 p.m.

Lord Rix: My Lords, like certain noble Lords, not forgetting disabled people themselves and their organisations, as well as other voluntary bodies, including MENCAP—and here I must declare a personal interest as that body's chairman—I welcome the Bill. Those of us who optimistically hung an empty pillowcase at the end of the bed on Christmas Eve and found, when we woke, only a full stocking instead, were still pleased but anxious for more.

The Bill represents a significant shift on the part of Her Majesty's Government in regard to discrimination about disabled people. Your Lordships' House has signalled its support for anti-discrimination measures on more than one occasion. Many noble Lords were at the forefront of the public outcry last year when the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill was talked out in another place. It is therefore both welcome and encouraging to have the opportunity to debate a Bill brought before your Lordships' House by the Government, in recognition of

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the case made so passionately by disabled people and their organisations, sometimes disparagingly dismissed as the "disability lobby".

MENCAP is one such organisation, for and increasingly of disabled people. MENCAP was founded in 1946 to campaign for people with learning disabilities and their families. Over the years, that has involved pressing successive governments for legislation in the areas of social security benefits, education, housing, employment and the establishment of a wide range of services enabling people with learning disabilities to live decent lives in the community as full citizens. We have become convinced, however, that true citizenship cannot be achieved without some form of civil rights legislation. Getting an education, a home of one's own, perhaps a job—those crucial steps in achieving independence and self-respect—are wholly undermined if society still permits a person to be denied access to public services and facilities because of his or her disability.

Let me be clear, this is not a debate about bedtime theories or about laws to be invoked on the odd occasion. Discrimination is a live, daily issue for people with learning disabilities. Last month, MENCAP was contacted by a Rotherham man who had tried to visit his local pub with two friends. The landlord refused to serve them because they have learning disabilities. He said, "We've had trouble with mental people before". Just this morning I was told about a man with learning disability who lives alone in a council flat in central London. He loves his home and is very proud to have achieved independence, but he is terrified. The teenagers who live nearby are conducting a campaign of intimidation against him because of his appearance and because he is vulnerable. They bang on his windows at all hours of the night, snatch letters from his hand and tear them up, leave bikes piled across his door so that he cannot get into his flat. The housing department and the police express sympathy but say they can do nothing unless he is hurt. This is simply not acceptable in 1995. I am delighted that discrimination is at last becoming a matter of law rather than opinion.

I do not, however, wish to give the impression that the Bill, even with the concessions thus far announced, goes as far as we in your Lordships' House wish, or as far as disabled people need if they are truly to benefit from these measures. Indeed, I was afforded the courtesy of a meeting with the Minister some two weeks ago, to make him aware of my concerns about a number of shortcomings in the Bill—areas where I hope it might be possible for the Government to rethink their position. It was strangely apposite that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, learning that I was to visit the Ardnamurchan peninsula in western Scotland, advised that I visit the Sea Fish Industry Authority's experimental station at Ardtoe. This I did, and most valuable research is being performed by that government agency, to make it possible to farm white fish—namely, halibut—to put an end to all our Spanish problems. Unfortunately, there is one small difficulty: the fish can be successfully spawned, but if they are not fed a special diet of enriched plankton they remain black and white for the rest of their lives. Their natural sandy colour is denied them, although in all other respects they are as other halibut.

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It seems to me that the Government's sea fish agency in Ardtoe, in failing to provide the fish with some essential ingredients, is rather akin to the Government themselves in not including in the Disability Discrimination Bill those ingredients which would guarantee disabled people genuine equality.

Let me highlight some of the missing component parts. In so doing, I must stress that I have consulted not only MENCAP but a distinguished campaigner with a learning disability herself, Miss Simone Aspis, who briefed me very thoroughly. I begin with employment. In common with other disability organisations, MENCAP recognises the shortcomings of the quota scheme. But, contrary to other speakers in your Lordships' House, I have to point out that MENCAP's Pathway Employment Service is able to make use of the quota, and we are not wholly averse to the positive discrimination that the quota implies. It has been a way of getting through the door of companies who had never considered employing staff with learning disabilities. There will be a huge task involved in informing employers about the new framework, the principles of reasonable adjustment and so on. From our point of view, an awful lot depends on the code of practice which we have not yet seen. Would it not make sense to leave the quota in place until the new system has bedded in? Even if that were only for a transitional period of perhaps a year, it would create a breathing space for the Department of Employment and employers' organisations to disseminate information so that employers can update their recruitment policies and, if necessary, retrain key staff in recruitment practice. Clearly, what none of us wants to see in the early years of this legislation is disabled people meeting confusion and bad practice when applying for jobs and losing rather than gaining from the changes.

It was at this stage of my speech that I was going to apologise to your Lordships for the fact that I had to leave early this evening to attend a function hosted by a large—a very large—company which has been and, we hope, will continue to be most helpful to the charity with which I am closely associated. However, such is the importance of this debate that I have notified my host that I shall be somewhat late in arriving. I am sure that he will understand, reflecting the fact that a great number of major companies are understanding and helpful to disabled people, as well as voluntary organisations. The Bill will make them even more aware of their responsibilities.

But why, then, should small companies be excluded? Many of them, too, would—indeed do—co-operate most willingly if encouraged just a little more. There is no logic in the exclusion of small firms from the Bill and no logic in fixing the magic number of 20—although I welcome the promised review. The figure 20, as we have heard, is an unfortunate hangover from the 1944 Act. It was an absurdity even in those days. I notice that the CBI agrees, too, and is more nervous about starting with this limit than removing it. A financial cap on making adaptations, and additional help from Access to Work, seems to be an eminently more reasonable approach than head-counting the workforce. There are people with learning disabilities whose employers would incur no additional costs; but this

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arbitrary exclusion will allow small firms legally to turn them away without even considering their applications. It makes no sense whatever.

Secondly, I hope that we shall have an opportunity during the later stages of the Bill to consider the question of insurance services. MENCAP has been concerned for some years about discrimination in insurance. We established our own insurance company—at arm's length of course—because of the difficulties reported by so many of our members and by local groups. We came across companies that simply refused to cover the member of the family who had a learning disability; others wanted to charge ridiculously high premiums because of some perceived, but unproven, extra risk; and one told a family, "We don't cover mental handicap, but come back when she's better". I do not dispute the need for insurance companies to continue to be able to differentiate on the basis of risk; that is, after all, the key principle of insurance. But the many complaints received from people with learning disabilities and from their families suggest that insurance companies have no objective data about learning disability and therefore make judgments on the basis of ignorance and prejudice.

Finally, I want to address the crucial question of the enforcement of this legislation. I know that there has been much debate about the relative merits of the proposed national disability council as against the disability rights commission set out in the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. Personally, I am not too concerned about the title or the exact structure of whatever body results. I am concerned that disabled people should have an effective method of seeking remedy under this legislation. I note that the official Opposition and the CBI share some common ground on setting up a commission, and I trust that the Opposition will offer appropriate undertakings about their own plans. The council that the Government have proposed can be strengthened—indeed it must be strengthened—on its way to becoming what so many want. I am encouraged by the recent suggestion that legal aid may, after all, be extended to industrial tribunals. But clearly that is not the entire solution. People with learning disability in particular will find it difficult to make complaints, fill out paper work, make representations about discrimination unless the system is clearly geared to their needs and high-quality independent advice is available. I hope that a clearer picture of the Government's plans for promoting and funding that advice will soon be vouchsafed.

We have heard that two vital components of the Bill; namely, transport and education, will be addressed during its passage through this House; and no doubt we shall look closely at what is proposed. After its return to another place, I gather that Royal Assent is likely to be forthcoming in the autumn. That will be a great moment in the history of our approach to disabled people. That history depends now to some extent on your Lordships: a footnote to history or a whole chapter. I am not alone in hoping for the latter.

5.43 p.m.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I am very glad indeed to be called upon to follow the noble Lord, Lord Rix. He and I have worked together for many years as officers of

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MENCAP. The noble Lord knows, and it is right to remind your Lordships, that the mentally handicapped are the largest particular group of disabled people in the country. The noble Lord is familiar, as I am, with the great diversity of kinds of mental handicap. There are many different degrees of it. That affects people's capacity for taking on work or not being able to work at all. Some people have no physical handicap but have a slight mental handicap. Such people are employable in many capacities. I believe—and MENCAP recognises this by giving them training accordingly—that they are especially able to make their way in horticulture and farm work. Many are particularly good at looking after animals. There are other forms of manual work which are suitable for such people. On the other hand, they are not often suited to office work. We must be realistic about that.

The other day, the noble Lord and I attended the Gateway Festival and heard a mentally handicapped young woman play the piano quite magnificently and most movingly. That may be a rare condition. She was variously handicapped in other ways. But one should take note of the fact that there are opportunities for mentally handicapped people to lead useful lives; those opportunities should not be missed. One reason why I so greatly welcome the Bill is that I am confident that such opportunities will be increased.

At the other end of the scale, there are those like my youngest daughter. She cannot talk, she cannot walk unless she is held up, and she cannot feed herself. The Bill therefore has to accommodate various degrees of mental handicap. It has to be flexible, adaptable and realistic. We do no service to people who are disabled in various ways if we raise their hopes too high; for example, by using, as it were, lawyers' arguments—and such arguments have been used this afternoon—in the hope of applying to them the definitions of discrimination which apply under the Sex Discrimination Act and the Race Relations Act. I was very grateful to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy for the speech he made. My noble friend has a wonderful record in this matter. It goes back 50 years. I am glad to say that my noble friend's remarks enable me to shorten my speech.

Although the Bill is long overdue, let us be thankful that it is with us. It will enable so many disabled people to live more normal and fuller lives. There is so far only one major omission; namely, the question of access to transport. However, the Government propose to deal with that. I understand that amendments will be moved in Committee. I hope that those amendments will be realistic.

Perhaps I may relate a personal experience. My severely handicapped daughter, who is 40, has to spend much of her time in a wheelchair. But she does not travel well in a wheelchair put into a vehicle. She travels most comfortably sitting in the seat beside the driver in an ordinary saloon car, as she did with me this morning. I have no difficulty getting her into such a seat. I then put her wheelchair in the back of my estate car. I simply could not get her into a modern type taxi, even when adapted for a wheelchair, without help from other people. And once she is in the taxi, because of her tendency, although strapped in, to slip down when travelling in a wheelchair,

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that is not the solution for her. I hope that the Government will broaden their minds on this question of requiring a vast number of taxis to be adapted for the carrying of wheelchairs. By all means let some of them be adapted.

In London, I understand, by the end of the century all black cabs are supposed to be adapted for the carrying of wheelchairs. That is a policy already being implemented. But outside London I doubt whether it would be sensible. It is all right in London and other large cities where taxis are doing quite well financially. However, in small towns —the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, may agree with me—and in East Anglia, out in the wider spaces, the taxis have been having a very difficult time financially in recent years. If we require too many of them to be fitted like London taxis and adapted for carrying wheelchairs, there will not be enough taxis. That will be a great disadvantage to disabled people with various disabilities. I hope that my noble friend will persuade his friends in the Department of Transport not to be too rigid, as they have been so far, on this matter.

Perhaps I may add one other comment. We must be careful on this Bill not to do what we do too often with some legislation; namely, create an Act which is not adequately enforced. That is to raise people's hopes when, in fact, we are enacting a dead letter and wasting our own time. I go along very much with those noble Lords on both sides of the House who have asked that we should consider carefully whether the Bill will be enforceable. I am keeping an open mind as to the best method to achieve that. I simply say that I hope that we shall be careful to ensure that the Bill is enforceable. Otherwise, we shall defeat our own purpose.

5.52 p.m.

Lord Murray of Epping Forest: My Lords, the Bill is without doubt a significant step forward and will be all the better for the substantive amendments that the Government intend to bring forward. I am glad that the Government have learnt to listen to organisations of and for disabled persons. I hope that they are still disposed to listen and make further improvements.

We shall do disabled people and their organisations no service if we pretend that we can offer them perfection at a stroke. Even so, we shall look for further instalments of progress as a result of our discussions in this Chamber. Beyond that, example and resources will be needed to complement legislative action.

I shall concentrate mainly on three areas in which I believe that the Bill needs and is capable of improvement: employment; access to entertainment and cultural venues; and access to hotels and holiday provision. Before I turn to those issues, let me express my strong support for what has been said about the need to strengthen the national disability council; and it matters not to me whether it is called a council, a commission, or whatever.

As it stands, the council has all the defects of the National Advisory Council on Employment of Disabled People, set up under the 1944 Act. That advisory council was given no life of its own. It was restricted to advising the Minister; it had neither the resources nor the authority to influence what happened on the job; and few people had even heard of it. We need a body which itself can

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comprehensively provide advice and legal support to individuals and an advisory service to employers and providers of services; a body which can collect statistics and monitor the effects of the new legislation and which can, of its own initiative (as has been said earlier), undertake formal investigations.

Reference has been made by the Minister and other speakers to the fact that it has not in practice been possible to enforce the employment quota set up by the 1944 Act. That is the result partly, as has been said, of the reluctance and failure of most disabled people to register and partly of the related unwillingness of the authorities to prosecute. The right reverend Prelate reminded us that, even though the quota did not apply to undertakings employing fewer than 20 people, the fact is that 60 per cent. of firms employing up to 10 workers employed at least one disabled person and in some cases more. We should build on that and do nothing to undermine the willingness of small firms who have demonstrated their support for employing disabled persons. I am afraid that the Bill might do so.

When both the CBI and the Evangelical Alliance combine to say that in principle firms of all sizes should be covered, we ought to listen to them. It is indeed both a moral issue and an issue of a level market place. The law should not require some firms to be more moral than others. Nor should we discourage those firms which would continue to employ disabled workers if others in the same bracket have to accept an equal obligation. As the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy said, if a firm, large or small, has genuine difficulty in offering employment, that difficulty can be looked at objectively under the terms of the Act. But there is too much emphasis in the Bill on solving problems by excusing companies from their obligations. The Government should think rather in terms of extending the modest assistance that they are already giving to firms to enable them to provide jobs for disabled workers.

In that context, concern has been expressed in some quarters about the Bill's impact on the work of Remploy. There has always been strong cross-party support for Remploy, which was set up to provide quality jobs for disabled people. In his reply, can the Minister comment on the concerns that have been expressed and can he assure the supporters of Remploy on all sides of your Lordships' House that the future of Remploy itself will be safe under the new legislation?

Access issues are one of the most fundamental causes and manifestations of discrimination against disabled people. I welcome the provision relating to access to services, including facilities for entertainment and, implicitly, for cultural activities; but I must say that it seems odd to me as a layman—apparently it seems a little odd to the Law Society—that we should define services covered by the use of illustrative examples. Are there any precedents for that? If so, what lessons do they have for this Bill?

As has already been said, in the Bill—as elsewhere—the definition of:

    "what is reasonable in all the circumstances"

will be critical. What constitutes reasonable provision will vary from one service to another. A museum, for example, would need to make very different provision

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from an opera house. Anti-discrimination legislation in the USA has been referred to by several other contributors. Both the USA and the Australian legislation recognise the need to establish a structured framework, within which consistent decisions could be taken, which sets out the basic principles and priorities for the removal of barriers and which encourages businesses to prepare plans for the removal of barriers. It would be quite unsatisfactory to depend on individual challenges in the courts. Again, that underlines the need for a national council with powers to monitor, advise and provide support.

If the experience of voluntary initiatives is any guide, many venue owners—of cinemas, for example—will be only too ready to argue that adaptations are not necessary, are costly and are unreasonable. The escape Clause 15(4) could help obstructionist owners to avoid their proper obligations by relying on existing inadequate provisions in building regulations. So building regulations, planning policy and fire safety legislation will need to be reviewed, it is to be hoped in consultation with disability organisations, and modified to ensure that they conform to the spirit of this legislation.

On a previous occasion I referred to the work of the ADAPT Trust (Access for Disabled Persons to Arts Premises today). It would chime with the spirit of the Bill if the Government would respond to the challenge of ADAPT's initiative by incorporating in the Bill a programme for the achievement of full access to facilities such as concert halls, theatres, cinemas and museums by, say, the Millennium, putting it down in black and white. I welcome the Minister's emphasis of the fact that we are not just talking of providing ramps and lavatories for people who use wheelchairs, but of enabling visually and hearing-impaired people to enjoy theatrical performances or museums.

Perhaps I may revert to a point to which I have previously drawn your Lordships' attention. Clause 12(3) underlines the fact that the services to which its provisions apply include,

    "access to and use of any place which members of the public are permitted to enter".

Can we be assured that that includes this Chamber and that wheelchair users who visit the House can look forward to seeing for the first time what is happening on this side of the Bar? Like charity, the removal of discrimination should begin at home.

The improvement of access for disabled people to hotels and holiday provisions raises many of the same issues. For a disabled person, particularly one who is heavily dependent on a carer, to get away on holiday for a week or two is a lifesaver—and a godsend for the carer. I therefore welcome the reference in Clause 12(3) (d) to,

    "accommodation in a hotel, boarding house or other similar establishment".

The same points that I referred to on access to entertainments need to be looked at in that regard.

More generally, the need for this measure is illustrated by the work being done by a few organisations in this field to provide facilities for disabled people, one of which is the Winged Fellowship charity, with which I am involved. It now has five centres throughout the country which provide 6,000 holiday weeks each year to severely

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handicapped people who would otherwise have no chance whatever of a break. Might we not envisage, as part of the Government's new and welcome approach, the establishment of a development fund which may be used to make improvements necessary to achieve the purpose of the Bill, including for example the provision of holiday facilities?

Emphasis has been made, rightly, on the monitoring of the activities involved in the Bill's provisions. I totally support what was said, but we need to go a little further and provide some modest resources in order to achieve the objectives we are setting ourselves in adopting this legislation. Therefore, while we need improvements to the Bill as it stands, at the same time we would value some tangible demonstrations that the Government intend to back it up with practical support.

6.4 p.m.

Lord Holderness: My Lords, I should like to begin by congratulating both my noble friend and my honourable friend Mr. Hague on their wisdom in introducing this Bill. I am bound to say that it comes as a great relief to me because I had real apprehensions about the Bill's predecessors. I hope that my remarks will not alienate me forever from the noble Lord, Lord Rix, and other noble Lords for whom I have great respect, but I believe that my honourable friend Mr. Nicholas Scott was absolutely right in resisting the civil rights Bill. During the years Mr. Scott spent in his important office I happened to see on many occasions how deeply committed he was to the welfare of disabled people. He will be warmly remembered for his achievements on their behalf, long after his opposition to the civil rights Bill (which I believe would have been a disaster for disabled people) has been forgotten.

Many, and probably most, disabled people as far as possible do not want to be thought of as different from the rest of society. They hope that able-bodied people will look upon them as normal and, if I may speak personally, it is a real joy to find one's own disability not just politely ignored, but barely noticed and anyhow thought not to be relevant. Earlier legislative attempts to help worried me by their deliberate and declared aim to set disabled people apart, to emphasise their apartness and to justify special rights for them.

This Bill has an entirely different aim of which I thoroughly approve; that is, to bring or keep disabled people within the mainstream of social and industrial life and actively to discourage employers, transport and other authorities or the providers of goods and services from making any distinction or exercising discrimination between those who are disabled and those who are able-bodied. So far so good. But the great difficulty, as I have already learnt in the one-and-a-half hours we have spent on this debate, lies in the definitions to be attached to those two important concepts, and key words in the Bill's title, "disability" and "discrmination".

As my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy, said, it is perfectly true that surveys, and particularly the survey he mentioned, show that the number of disabled people amount to around 7 million—some of them severely so but most very much more slight. But if one looks on

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disability as any shortfall below complete physical ability, obviously the number will be far greater because, unfortunately, superman and physical perfection are rare. The mere fact that I wear these spectacles, in company with several million of my fellow countrymen, emphasises a part of our disability and a part of the gap between ourselves and physical perfection. I merely make that point in order to illustrate the great difficulty in defining disability. I understand that there are voices, mentioned by the noble Baroness, which would possibly complicate the issue further by urging important extensions to the present concept. I hope therefore that my noble friend will hold firm. My own preference, if the Bill is to be effective, is for as simple a definition as possible, but one that directs help towards those who suffer from a substantial handicap, physical or otherwise, which is likely to last for some time.

The other concept on the question of discrimination is one that we all understand in general. However, Clause 5, for example, illustrates some of the difficulty of its practical application. We all know that there may be 100 reasons which persuade an employer on an interviewing panel to choose one individual rather than another. Legally, as I understand it, a man or a woman may not be refused employment because of his or her race, or a woman because of her sex. This Bill broadly aims to make illegal the refusal of an individual only because he or she is disabled.

I fervently hope that the Bill will lead to the employment of more disabled people, even though from time to time it may place an extra burden on generally small, but sometimes fairly substantial, employers. But in my view there is a cogent reason, which has been touched on already in our debate, that underlies the present persistently much higher rate of unemployment among disabled people, which was an important part of the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis. It is not that most employers are prejudiced against them. They are not. But there are a great many jobs in the market which are just not open to people with substantial disabilities. Although the Bill aims to increase the number of jobs that someone who is disabled can do—I fervently hope it will be successful—nothing, apart from unlikely physical regeneration, will make available the far wider choice that we should all like to see offered to those who are disabled.

My experience of the attitude of employers ever since the passage of the 1944 Act and the work, right from its early days, of the National Advisory Council on Employment of Disabled People, which the noble Lord, Lord Murray, mentioned, and also a short period in the old Ministry of Labour, convince me that most employers will be very favourably disposed to employing disabled people, if they can possibly do so, even at a cost to themselves, especially if they have experience of what those disabled workers can achieve.

Because of the choice of whom to appoint, and because that choice depends on so many factors, I am very worried that after the Bill is passed many disabled people will inevitably be disappointed when for completely different reasons they are not chosen for the employment they want. I hope and believe, based on some things said by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy, that many fewer will be disappointed by the operation of the provisions in Part

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III of the Bill. It is abhorrent to us, as the noble Lord, Lord Rix, mentioned, that anyone disabled should face discrimination in the effort to buy goods or make use of services. But to be realistic, there are many examples of cases where it will be difficult completely to remove that discrimination.

For instance, I do not think there is any doubt that the presence of a considerable number of people in wheelchairs in one place can put a great strain on many establishments even if they have the most understanding and sympathetic management. The difficulty and expense of installing lifts capable of carrying one or several wheelchairs as well as of ensuring the complete safety of their occupants are examples of problems facing those who are most willing to provide the services sought.

In the important field of transport, which my noble friend Lord Renton mentioned, although the eventual objective must clearly be to make any journey achievable by and accessible to disabled people, a really massive replacement of unsuitable by suitable vehicles could only be made either at enormous cost or over a substantial period, which many potential travellers are bound to find frustrating. I thought that my noble friend Lord Renton put that point very clearly indeed. I also fear that unless we are realistic any attempt to hasten the process is certain to have the effect of driving out of business many small transport undertakings, especially in the rural areas, and that would certainly be of no benefit to anyone, whether disabled or not.

I wish to make two further points. First, I understand from speeches made in the debate that there may be attempts to persuade the Secretary of State to amend Clause 7(1) and apply the legislation to employers with fewer than 20 employees. That might or might not at some stage be wise, but I suggest that it would be wise to follow the lead given to us by my noble friend Lord Mackay and wait until we have a little more experience of its operation. I say that for two reasons. First, not only could the potential burden of what I think are known as reasonable adjustments bear relatively heavily on small employers but—this point is also important—the employer of a small workforce might need from time to time a small contribution of help from an individual employee beyond the original job specification and that particular service that is needed by the small employer might be outside the capability of some disabled people. On the other hand, as was suggested recently by the Royal National Institute for the Blind, there may be a case for the more immediate issue of regulation, before the five years mentioned by my noble friend, both for small and larger firms in order to deal with some small and particular problems that may arise.

My final point concerns balance. The Bill will not please everyone. All those who have listened to the debate will be clear about that. There will be many organisations for the disabled and many disabled people who would like and will demand more. However, before making demands, I hope that they will have in mind the very remarkable change in opinion that has taken place since the end of the 1939-45 war, noticeably accelerating in recent decades. Before this change, even in the 1930s when I was rather small, many people who had anything wrong with them were either hidden away or forgotten

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about. Most of the problems we are discussing today have their origin in fear, ignorance or misunderstanding, now greatly and increasingly diminished.

There are few employers who are hostile to the disabled when they get to know them and understand their difficulties. It would be a near disaster if this more positive attitude which society now takes were to be frustrated or destroyed by unreasonable and unachievable demands that some may be tempted to make. Therefore, in wishing well to my noble friend and to my honourable friend in their efforts to improve the position of this large group of people, I hope they will resist attempts to throw this Bill off course by pressure for a more rapid advance than the Government, employers and others can make. That, in my opinion, would be a grave disservice to the very people we are trying to help.

6.17 p.m.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth): My Lords, I thank the Minister for his clear explanation of a complicated Bill. As he said, it is an historic moment. This is the first government Bill to outlaw discrimination against disabled people. I join him in paying tribute to those noble Lords who over many years have attempted to introduce similar legislation.

I shall resist the civil rights bait proffered behind me by the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, and go on to say straightaway that it is not in a spirit of churlishness that I argue that, despite some enhancement in another place and the welcome promise of further amendments, there are still serious gaps to be filled if the Bill is to eliminate discrimination successfully. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay, and the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People had a very useful meeting with a handful of Cross-Benchers to discuss the Bill. I hope that we can progress with sensible and workable amendments to strengthen the Bill.

The first major gap is education. It cannot be right that all education—primary, secondary, further and higher—should be excluded from the Bill. The Minister has promised certain measures to improve educational opportunities for disabled people, and those are very welcome as far as they go. But they are all amending existing legislation, as the Minister explained. They encourage improved provision; they do not bring education within the scope of the Bill.

The Minister said that education was excluded so as not to clash with recent and very welcome education legislation. Regulations could ensure no conflict with existing legislation and provisions could be phased in slowly. Education plays a vital part in determining everyone's future life, be it for basic survival in a competitive, able-bodied society or for an enhanced quality of life doing a fulfilling and demanding job. Ending educational discrimination in schools is a key towards ending other forms of discrimination against disabled people in later life. Integrated education prepares disabled pupils for the adult world while able-bodied pupils come to understand their disabled peers.

SKILL, which is the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities, of which I am the president, believes that amendments to cover higher and further education in

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respect of right of access to goods and services are needed. Such legislation, requiring all institutions to make reasonable —and I stress "reasonable"—arrangements and modifications would ensure a concerted and strategic approach which could be set out in regulations, which would result in better progress than under the present system which has tended to be haphazard. Some institutions do a lot to increase access for disabled students; others do very much less. Such amendments would mean that well-qualified students could no longer be turned away because of their disability. It is very welcome that the Bill covers employment. But what is the use of discrimination legislation on employment if education is not covered too? It is education at all levels which is the key to a job.

The second major omission relates to the proposed national disability council. Whatever it is called—council or commission—it needs teeth if the Bill is to work. Many noble Lords have spoken and, I am sure, will speak on this, and none more persuasively than the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood. Therefore, I confine my remarks to a couple of quotations.

Many of your Lordships may remember CORAD, the Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People, which was set up over 13 years ago. It concluded that anti-discrimination legislation was essential and stated in paragraph 4.53 of its report:

    "Having considered the way other anti-discrimination legislation works, particularly abroad, we recommend that there should be a regulatory body or Commission with powers to investigate, conciliate and if necessary take legal action on individual complaints of discrimination; to recommend guidelines on reasonable affirmative action required to accommodate disabled people and to promote the integration of disabled people into society. In every case where ... legislation has been passed, it has been necessary to have an enforcement body".

CORAD's chairman was Peter—now Sir Peter—Large, who is a reasonable man, known to many people here. He is not given to exaggeration. Yet this is what he said in a letter of 4th February 1995 about the proposed advisory council:

    "Central to the success of any legislation to eradicate discrimination against disabled people is the idea of a Commission with powers to undertake general investigations and powers to assist individual disabled people enforce their rights under the legislation".

Now we come to the proposed council:

    "In comparison, the Government's proposal for an advisory council is a wheyfaced ghost of what is required. Not only does the proposed advisory council lack teeth but it also lacks a digestive system and a few other essential organs. It enjoys no life of its own. It acts only in response to the summonses of the Secretary of State".

We must give the council or commission an independent life that is worth living.

I turn briefly to employment. There is a third gap—small in comparison to the other two—but one which the Association of Disabled Professionals, of which I am a member, believes important. I refer to partnerships, which were included both in the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976, although in the case of the Race Relations Act only partnerships of six or more. Some firms, many quite large ones, are partnerships, and becoming a partner is a form of promotion within the firm. In such instances, discrimination on grounds of disability will block the career development of a disabled person.

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I hope that these gaps can be filled before the Bill leaves this House. As the Minister said, it is the first time that a government Bill has been introduced to outlaw discrimination on grounds of disability. It may be many years before we have a similar opportunity. It is therefore very important to give the advisory council teeth. It is crucial to the success of the Bill, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, argued very cogently in the light of all her experience.

It is equally important to bring education within the scope of the Bill. To fail to do so means perpetuating discrimination for the next generation. It will make the work of the council/commission more difficult if we do not include education in the Bill. If we fill the gaps I have mentioned the Bill will be a very welcome measure which will have a real influence on the lives of disabled people for many years to come.

6.24 p.m.

Lord Hamilton of Dalzell: My Lords, the last time I spoke on this subject it was to support the line taken by my right honourable friend Sir Nicholas Scott and the Government against the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Ashley. I echo what my noble friend Lord Holderness said about Sir Nicholas Scott. He was a great friend of disabled people. The noble Lord, Lord Ashley, will no doubt have his say the moment I have sat down, but I am glad that this Bill goes less far than his did. The Government's view then was that it involved enormous costs and would lead to endless litigation.

The Bill now before us tackles the first of those problems. The costs will be lower. I am not sure what effect it will have on the amount of litigation. My criticism of the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, was directed at the principle of legislating against discrimination, particularly in employment. That is an important part of this Bill and my criticism still stands. It will, in my belief, be ineffective, but not for the reasons put forward by the Front Benches opposite and by other noble Lords who want more enforcement.

I work in the field of disability and nobody is more conscious than I am of the importance of employment to disabled people. Above all, it gives them financial independence and a sense of fulfilment. They also make excellent employees. My objection to legislation in this field is one of principle. We all exercise discrimination every day of our lives and no more so than in deciding who we employ. What sort of society would we have if decisions were all made indiscriminately?

What this Bill is aimed at of course is prejudice against employing people with disabilities when they are capable of doing the job. Any reasonable person would be against that, but it is difficult to legislate sensibly against prejudice. You should not, in a free society, try to legislate for what is in people's minds. The effect of this legislation will be to create a process which employers will have to follow in order to comply with the law, but it will not prevent them deciding that an able-bodied candidate, with the same qualifications, fits better into an organisation than a disabled one, if they are so minded. This must tend to make the legislation ineffective.

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There is a natural tendency, when having been called to an interview, for people to analyse why they have not been given the job: I was the wrong colour; the employer clearly did not like women; the winning candidate was prettier than I am—a problem that I have often had. We can all be accused. Oxford and Cambridge, in which some notable Members of your Lordships' House hold distinguished positions, are accused of discriminating against entrants from public schools. All these are just examples of where people feel that they have been discriminated against.

The process of deciding whether discrimination has taken place by a process of law amounts to a policing of what is going on in the minds of those who made the decision. The noble Lord, Lord Lester, would like to see all these people hauled in front of the courts even when their motive was innocent. This Bill, brought forward in the guise of a liberalising measure, is in reality very illiberal in my view. There are noble Lords opposite who have made a name for themselves in sponsoring the rights movement. The time is coming when a longer view will be taken of what this fashionable obsession with giving people rights has achieved in practice.

In making this point, I have been asked to look at what the equal opportunities legislation has done for women in employment. It is an opportune moment to do so when some of its feminist proponents are beginning to doubt whether it has done them much of a favour.

While it can be argued that equal opportunities have increased the employment of women, it has had the unfortunate side effect of creating a pool of unemployed and discontented men inclined towards criminality. However, the insidious price women have had to pay is a loss of consideration for them as women. I fear the same result will follow this legislation towards those with disabilities.

Rights are no substitute for consideration and goodwill. A helping hand is worth more than a passport to grapple on equal terms in a rough and tumble world. Disability is a problem that has to be faced by individuals capable only of individual solutions. That figure of 6 million disabled people covers an enormous spectrum of disabilities—deaf, blind, dumb, mentally impaired and physically disabled, young and old, those born disabled and those who have suffered some accident or illness. Five hundred thousand are in wheelchairs. In their train follows another army of those who give their time, money and lives to provide practical help and solutions to improve the quality of life of those less fortunate than themselves.

It would be nice to think that the vast diversity of problems which all those people are working together to solve could be ameliorated by legislation. Those who think that it can are working to turn the Bill into a full Bill of Rights with the vast costs that that would entail, and to make it more enforceable. I believe that that would endanger the work of the voluntary sector. Imposing costs and duties on industry and the people who work in it will make it less inclined to make the voluntary contributions on which such work depends. In my view, the merit of the

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Bill is that it could be much worse. I therefore support the Government in making sure that its scope is widened no further.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, two vivid phrases illustrate conflicting views about the Bill. One is that the Bill is, as the Minister claimed, "an historic advance" for disabled people. The other is that the Bill is "unbelievably terrible". That was said by an opponent of the Bill who is a disabled person. I say that both of those views are absolute baloney, just like the idea of the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, that the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill is "a disaster". I have never heard such a nonsensical view in all my life because that Bill is one of the finest Bills ever to come before this House. I see that noble Lords opposite are more than capable of shaking their heads, but I have no doubt that your Lordships were wise to pass all parts of that Bill. I believe that both the extravagant claims made for this Bill and the outright condemnation of it are equally misleading. This Bill is, in fact, a midget milestone on which we need to build and which requires cool appraisal and constructive improvements.

I greatly appreciate the kind personal comments about my work from the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Lester. The Minister admirably tried to portray his Bill in the best possible light. Of course, as a Minister he is right to do that, but he had an enormously difficult problem—

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