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Lord Rix: I wish to support the amendment from the Cross Benches, from whom the Committee has not yet heard. If the Government concede that it makes sense for regulations, albeit by negative instrument, to be looked at from time to time by Parliament, surely it would make sense too for all those concerned at the sharp end—employers, employees, trade unions, etc.—to be consulted on an ongoing basis as matters change.

Baroness O'Cathain: In my concern about the amendment not being properly drafted, I omitted to say that I also wanted to speak to Amendment No. 21. It comes within the same kind of problem area; namely, complexity and the situation which arises because of the complexity of the Bill and the complexity of the situation.

Again, it concerns employers, business providers, service providers and such organisations. They want to know their obligations and rights from the time that the

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Bill is enacted. It is essential that the supporting codes of practice, regulations and, most critically, the sources of information and advice are in place before the new provisions come into effect. I should like to hear the Minister's comments on that point too.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: As we have discussed already, Clause 2 of the Bill enables the Secretary of State to issue guidance about matters to be taken into account when determining whether an impairment:


    "has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on [a person's] ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities".

Clause 2(4) requires him to:


    "consult such persons as he considers appropriate"

before issuing any guidance.

Amendment No. 18, my noble friend Lady O'Cathain's amendment, is intended to ensure that the Secretary of State consults in particular organisations representing employers and organisations representing disabled people before issuing guidance under Clause 2.

I understand that one of the aims of the amendment is to require ongoing consultation. Although, as I believe my noble friend realises, the amendment does not achieve that aim, I can assure her and other Members of the Committee that the Government have every intention of maintaining dialogue with all interested parties as they develop the guidance. I hope that that answers the point from my noble friend and from the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis.

It is our intention that discussions on developing what will inevitably be fairly detailed and perhaps technical guidance, should be with organisations which can offer appropriate expertise. We will therefore not only consult organisations representing employers and those representing disabled people, but we will involve organisations with relevant specialist knowledge. Many of these organisations with specialist knowledge do of course represent disabled people and their interests. Once the guidance has been developed we will ensure that there is wide-ranging consultation on it, including with other organisations which may have an interest. Perhaps that brings in the organisations of the type mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Epping Forest.

I am not sure whether I understood the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, about the advice and guidance service, which no doubt we shall come to later. There is a difference between the advice and guidance which we hope will be available to disabled people through this service run by whoever it is decided should run it, and the advice and guidance being sought by the Secretary of State while he is coming to conclusions about the guidance and the code of practice he wishes to send out. There is some difference between the two.

Baroness Seear: The noble Lord has said that it is the intention of the Government to continue to consult. Would it not be much more satisfactory if he allowed words to that effect to appear in the legislation? The noble Lord is giving that commitment and we accept that so long as he is here that will happen. We need to have a statutory

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commitment that that consultation will continue whoever is filling the position which the noble Lord now holds. A few words to that effect in the Bill would help greatly.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I suspect that that is not really necessary, but I shall look at the point raised by the noble Baroness. I have made the point about continuing dialogue. I find that the Government do not normally have to ask people for their opinions. Many organisations are pretty quick in giving us and Members of the Committee their opinions, as they no doubt find from their post every morning, and as I do from mine. These things continue and become really important if the Government have decided, perhaps because of representations made, that they should make changes. At that point there has to be what I may describe as a more rigorous consultation exercise. I hope that that helps the noble Baroness.

I turn now to Amendment No. 21, which I understand is intended to seek assurance that the advice and support service and procedures needed for those who will be affected by the Bill, are in place before the Bill comes into force. I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I take this opportunity to explain our thoughts on how the Bill might be brought into force. The Committee might find that convenient at this time, perhaps not just in listening to it, but using it thereafter once it has appeared in Hansard.

I believe that the Committee will be aware that the Government intend to bring into force at the same time that part of the Bill which deals with employment rights and certain provisions of the part dealing with goods, facilities and services. We envisage that this will be some time towards the end of next year. It is also our intention to introduce some months before that the employment code of practice and any necessary regulations. We will, of course, consult widely on both with employers, employer organisations, disability organisations and other bodies.

In addition, advisory bodies and service providers such as the Employment Service and the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) will be available to offer appropriate help and advice on the new requirements under the Bill. The Employment Service will provide advice and support to people with disabilities and to employers through its mainstream Jobcentre services and specialist placing, assessment and counselling teams (PACTS). It will continue to provide help to people to get and keep jobs and to get access to training and services. In the case of ACAS, its officials will also be trained and available to provide assistance in the form of conciliation as required under Part II of the Bill. Industrial tribunals are already used by people with disabilities. Where there are access difficulties, alternative arrangements for hearings are made. Tribunals already have discretion to provide communication help for disabled people with hearing, speech and sight impairments. This discretion will be extended to provide some form of personal support for people with mental illnesses and learning disabilities, and we will be consulting appropriate disability organisations about how this might work in practice.

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We have made clear that we do not intend to introduce initially all the provisions in Part III of the Bill. In particular, we will be introducing over time those provisions which would be the most costly for service providers; those relating to auxiliary aids and to physical adaptations. This is because of potential effects on business and the need for business to have a realistic time to prepare for and to make the changes. We will therefore embark on wide-ranging consultations on issues such as the timing of the introduction of these provisions and on any limits to the expenditure that a business will have to incur in making a reasonable adjustment.

In the meantime, in time for those provisions that we will be implementing next year, we will be introducing a code of practice on the right of access. The code will offer guidance to service providers on the requirements of the legislation and sound, practical advice on how best to comply. We will ensure that the code is issued well before the first provisions of the right of access are brought into force, so that service providers can familiarise themselves with the right of access and plan any adjustments that will need to be made.

We will also be establishing a network of advice points to provide advice and assistance to disabled people on the right of access to goods, facilities and services. We are committed to ensuring that disabled people gain the benefit of their new rights quickly and efficiently. We intend the advice service to be readily accessible and locally available, so as to meet the particular needs of disabled people. We are currently exploring how that advice and support might best be provided. I can assure the Committee that disabled people will be able to obtain advice on their rights of access as each of the provisions of Part III are implemented.

Although the introduction of this Bill will be phased, we intend that the support structure will be fully in place to meet the requirements of the first provisions that come into force. Of course, codes of practice relating to provisions not yet to be implemented will not be in force. And arrangements for advice to disabled people on provisions not yet in force will not be brought into effect either, though they will be introduced and in place in good time for the implementation of those provisions.

I hope that my reassurances will have convinced my noble friend and those Members of the Committee who are interested, of our commitment to ensure that the proper support, whether provided for in the Bill or helpful to support the Bill's provisions, will not only be introduced in a timely and effective fashion, but introduced after proper consultations have taken place.

In the light of my commitment to consult and my reassurance on the support and guidance arrangements under the Bill, that they will be in place when the Bill comes into force, I hope that my noble friend will be able to withdraw the two amendments and perhaps forgive me for using her second amendment as a coathanger on which to say a few words about how we intend the Bill to come into force.


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