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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I thank the Minister for that helpful and conciliatory response. We want a situation in which someone is not discriminated against because of a previous occurrence—which was dealt with in an earlier amendment helpfully moved by the Minister—and also a situation in which someone is protected. As regards illnesses such as MS, manic depression, ME and so forth, the condition fluctuates and is unpredictable in its recurrence. We do not know, for example, how long the original occurrence would have to last in order for it to be protected. The problem may best be explored behind the scenes, and therefore I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 7:


Page 29, line 6, at end insert:
"( ) standing;
( ) sitting and rising from sitting;
( ) reaching;
( ) remaining conscious;
( ) breathing;
( ) sleeping;
( ) ability to communicate with other people;
( ) stability of mood;
( ) ability to go, or confidence in going, outside the home;
( ) ability to cope with unfamiliar environments;
( ) ability to care for oneself.)".

The noble Lord said: I return to the definition of disability. Amendment No. 7 attempts to improve on the definitions and the activities mentioned in Schedule 1.

13 Jun 1995 : Column 1668

Members of the Committee will be aware that there is real concern that the definition of disability in the Bill will not be broad enough to include all disabled people who are discriminated against. The mere fact that someone has a disability or a disabling condition, no matter in how mild a form, will often lead others to discriminate against that person. We know that from our own experience.

One of the ways to expand the definition of disability is to improve the list of day-to-day activities in the schedule. I am sure that the Minister will reply with problems of listing and leaving things out. However, the Government already have a list in paragraph 4 and we are trying to improve that.

As regards cerebral palsy, for example, Scope states that as currently drafted the Bill will not cover all those with the disease. One of the most striking features of CP is that no two people with the condition will be the same. It is one of the most varied medical conditions. In moderate cases someone with CP might have unsteady movements or stiffness of limbs but will still be able to go about his or her daily life with minimal help. However, cerebral palsy can result in such severe impairment that the person is unable to move at all. As we all know, there are many shades between those presentations of CP. Scope believes—and it should know—that that variability means that the definition of disability in the Bill must be broad.

The definition requires the individual to have an impairment which has a substantial and long-term impact on one of the fixed list of normal day-to-day activities. However, as a result of an impairment a person may be restricted in, for example, breathing because of asthma. But because that does not feature in the list of prescribed activities a person will not be regarded as disabled and cannot claim protection against discrimination.

The amendment lists a number of activities, including standing; sitting and rising from sitting; and reaching. They will ensure that people with conditions such as arthritis, rheumatism, musculo-skeletal conditions, amputations and chronic fatigue syndrome will be covered by the Bill. The current definition of activities or descriptors, such as mobility or physical co-ordination, would fail to include people with one of the above or similar conditions.

The inclusion of "remaining conscious" as an activity is essential to protect people who frequently face discrimination as a result of disability; for example, people with epilepsy or narcolepsy, or people who experience frequent transient ischemic attacks or periods of altered awareness. I have already mentioned breathing as an included activity. The amendment will cover individuals with chronic respiratory conditions as well as those with cystic fibrosis and asthma. It appears that they are not covered in the present definition.

It would be helpful if, in reply today or in writing, the Minister having read what I have said about the various conditions listed, would say whether we are correct in believing that they are not covered by the list in the Bill. An individual with advanced AIDS may not qualify under the current definition but would if, for example, their night sweats and insomnia were taken into account.

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The ability to care for oneself in the sense of being able to bathe, dress, go to the toilet, get in and out of bed and feed without assistance is the key criteria to qualify for disability living allowance. These should be recognised as normal day-to-day activities. The list is not exhaustive and we are trying to ensure that large groups of people are not excluded from the Bill because of the failure of the definition in Schedule 1.

Perhaps I may make a general point which is not directly related to the amendment but covers all the amendments that we are considering. The Bill is about attitude towards disability. I have given one example. It is also about avoiding any attempt to stereotype disabled people. I will put the matter as carefully and as tactfully as I can. Throughout our consideration of the Bill we have in the Chamber a classic example of stereotyping. The authorities of the House are to be congratulated on having gone to some trouble to alter our arrangements; the Hansard writers are sitting below the Bar and Members who use wheelchairs have extra room. But why only for this Bill? Why do Members who use wheelchairs have special arrangements only for debates on a Bill dealing with disability?

I ask Members of the Committee to consider the matter most carefully. I accept that the arrangements are entirely well-meant and not meant to be in the least offensive. However, it is a classic example of stereotyping that this Bill is supposed to stop. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Croy: Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord, Lord Carter, for a little more clarification. I find difficulty with the eighth, ninth and tenth activity on the list. Does "stability of mood" mean mental problems? If so, that ought to be dealt with in the part of the Bill that we have just discussed. Is "ability to go, or confidence in going, outside the home" a description of agoraphobia? I find the phrase "ability to cope with unfamiliar environments" the most difficult. It must be extremely difficult to define and I hope that before the end of our discussions we can have further explanation. I believe that the ability to care for oneself is important but it is a matter of degree. As a result of physical disabilities, some people are incapable of looking after themselves, and clearly they should fall within the scope of the Bill, but probably not in this part of the Bill.

Perhaps I may say while I am on my feet—and, as Members know, I cannot stay on my feet for very long—that I thoroughly understand standing, sitting and rising from sitting and reaching, all of which for 50 years I have found extremely difficult.

Lord Addington: I support the thrust of the amendment. There is one important answer that the Government can give today. Are they prepared to expand the list or to issue guidance for expanding it in the future? There is one thing that I have learnt during my time in your Lordships' House; that the minute one starts making a list one leaves something out. Surely there should be the ability to expand the list or to make

13 Jun 1995 : Column 1670

changes to it. Will the Minister consider discussions to increase the terms of reference which go with any list appearing in the Bill?

5 p.m.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: This amendment deals with yet another group of astonishing exclusions. It very sensibly extends the list of particular activities which could be affected by mental impairment. Not for the first time, I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, about the position of the amendment and where it should be dealt with. It is perfectly permissible to deal with it in relation to this schedule.

Lord Campbell of Croy: I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I only commented on two or three points and I thought that only two of them—certainly in relation to the mental impairment—should be dealt with elsewhere in the Bill.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: I know that, but it is those two or three points to which I am referring. I believe that it is quite legitimate for them to be dealt with at this point in the Bill. It is a matter of plain, irresistible logic and common sense that anyone with seriously unstable moods and the inability to communicate and cope with the environment may suffer discrimination. That is almost inevitable.

The fact that those people are different, are seen to be different and react differently from the norm marks them out from the herd. One only has to watch a child who is different in the playground to see how he is mocked and sometimes ostracised because he is different from the herd. One sees there the first glimmer of discrimination. That is the point in relation to people who behave differently in that manner.

To make it worse, the adults about whom we are talking in that group are often prescribed drugs which have a very powerful effect on them and which exacerbate their swinging moods, inability to communicate and failure to cope with the environment.

I am aware that the regulations will make or mar this Bill because it is essential that the will of parliamentarians is reflected fully by the initial list of day-to-day activities, which will signal a parliamentary message. So far the message has been that this Bill is more concerned with physically rather than mentally disabled people. That is totally wrong and morally indefensible. We are seeking to provide for both. This afternoon we are providing the Minister with a glorious opportunity to put that right. I am confident that he will grasp it.


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