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Lord Molloy: My Lords, is the Minister aware that when those of us in the delegation saw the terrible grief and sorrow we could not understand why, despite the efforts of this country and the United States of America, the United Nations does not seem to move at all? Is it doing anything whatever? Does the United Nations organisation really exist for times like this?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, this is a particular and very difficult problem. In his most recent report to the Security Council, the United Nations UNSCOM ambassador, Ralph Ekeus, made clear what was going on. There has been some progress on accounting for past chemical weapons and ballistic missile programmes, but significant gaps remain on biological weapons. In addition, no progress has been made over those detained. While I sympathise with the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, that the UN may not seem to have the necessary mechanism, the UN only has the mechanism that the General Assembly gives to it. We should never forget that.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the last time my noble friend asked this Question she said that the lack of progress on this matter was unacceptable? That was three months ago, and there has still been no further progress. I accept that the UK Government play a role in the tripartite commission and in the technical sub-committee in trying to speed up the review of these cases. However, in relation to the 168

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cases that have been considered, have any concessions at all been made by the Iraqis with respect to their future release?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am as anxious as is the noble Baroness for progress for these poor people and for their relatives. Of the 609 inquiry files, I mentioned that 168 had been discussed. Iraq has presented what one might term intermediate results on 70 of those 168 cases. The mortal remains of one person were repatriated from Iraq to Kuwait. We know that Kuwait has now closed two files that it had submitted to the ICRC, and two other files have been withdrawn. We shall go on pressing. But there is no unilateral action that can be taken. We have to work with fellow members of the United Nations and the European Union to continue the pressure in whatever way is possible.

Rail Privatisation: Timetable

3.3 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the timetable they have set for the privatisation of more than half of passenger train operations by April 1996 is likely to be adhered to.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): My Lords, the Government remain committed to the target of franchising 51 per cent. of passenger services by April 1996 that was set for the franchising director in the objectives, instructions and guidance issued to him on 22nd March 1994.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, is the Minister aware that British Rail managers have indicated that that is an impossible timetable to undertake and have expressed grave concern about it? Is he further aware that the whole procedure is so hideously complex that the Office of Passenger Franchising, with some 70 staff, is finding it extremely difficult, I understand, to cope with the volume of paperwork? Is not the requirement for indicative bids before proceeding to ask for a full bid a concession on the part of the Government who have no idea of the amount that the private sector is expected to bid for the franchises?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the process is necessarily complex. However, we have made good progress and remain committed to the target. It is a challenging target, but there is absolutely no point in having a target unless it is challenging. Prequalification documents for the first eight franchises were issued in January. Invitations to tender for the first three franchises were issued in May. At the same time, draft passenger service requirements for four more franchises were issued for consultation. That illustrates that we have made considerable progress towards the challenging target of franchising 51 per cent.

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Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, why do the Government insist on indicative bids? After all, when the owner of a house wants to sell it he does not ask for an indicative bid before the full bid is forthcoming. What is the rationale behind that?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, we have set up a very full procedure to make sure that the bidding process goes the right way. We need to make sure that value for money is secured and that the best services are provided. We believe that the very full procedure that we have set out is the best way to go about it.

Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, will the Minister tell us what is the basis for the Government continuing with this policy, given the fact that they are tearing themselves apart day by day on the question of leadership? What conceivable mandate do they have for privatising British Rail?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I should have thought that the production of better services for passengers, an increased level of service, and achieving better value for the taxpayer were all worthy objectives of a Conservative Government.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, will the Minister accept that many of us feel that the concept of indicative bids is not only sensible but absolutely crucial since it enables the Government to have in advance some idea of exactly how much money they will have to pay the bidders to take this off their hands?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I was about to say that I was grateful to the noble Lord. As he points out, there is clear value in the bidding process we have set out. It is the best way of handling what is a highly complex procedure.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, even if the Government's programme is achieved, will there not be a hiatus in the provision of the essential investment required to make the railway system successful?

Viscount Goschen: No, my Lords, quite the opposite. Our approach will produce the new avenues of investment that the railways have lacked. Access to new and innovative types of investment, coupled with innovative management, will, I am sure, produce better services for the passenger.

Lord Gisborough: My Lords, will my noble friend agree that every single one of the privatisations was bitterly opposed by the other side and every single one has been extremely successful?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, it could not be put better than that. I agree totally with my noble friend, and the look of anguish on the Benches opposite reflects that truth.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, will the Minister give the House an assurance that in the process of franchising—if they are in a position to carry it out—the Government will ensure that services under the franchising arrangements will connect? Can he assure us that the current nonsense whereby, owing to the beginning of the break-up of services, it is

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impossible to get connecting regional and InterCity trains from one part of the country to another will end? Will he also confirm that InterCity trains are being delayed when entering stations because of the break-up of services? I understand that they have to pay for the use of local platforms and therefore have to wait until an InterCity platform is available.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, making services connect with each other is clearly in the interests of those who will run the franchises. Nothing illustrates that better than the debate that went on about through-ticketing. It is clearly in the interest of those who will bid for franchises and consequently operate them to make sure that their services connect in the best way with other services.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, while no one would challenge my noble friend's suggestion that this is a necessarily complicated process, can he tell us anything about the attitudes of the franchising director? Is he being a little more reasonable and flexible so far as bids from British Rail are concerned?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I know that my noble friend has tabled a Question on this specific subject. We shall go into that matter in very full detail. Essentially, whether BR can bid for the franchises is a decision for the franchising director himself.

Disability Discrimination Bill

3.10 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES in the Chair.]

Clause 23 [The National Disability Council]:

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): In calling Amendment No. 101, I should inform the Committee that if it is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 102.

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 101:


Page 17, line 5, leave out subsection (2) and insert:
("(2) It shall be the duty of the Council—
(a) to work towards the elimination of discrimination; and
(b) to keep under review the working of this Act, and when they are so required to do so by the Secretary of State or otherwise think it necessary, to draw up and submit to the Secretary of State proposals for amending this Act.
(2A) In discharging the duties set out in subsection (2) the Council shall have the following powers—
(a) to investigate such complaints as are made to them of failure to comply with any provision of this Act in an individual case, and where it seems appropriate, conciliate in relation to such complaints;
(b) to provide assistance, including legal and financial assistance, to disabled persons in enforcing their rights under this Act;

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(c) to carry out investigations with a view to determining whether the provisions of this Act are being complied with;
(d) to undertake or assist (financially or otherwise) the undertaking by other persons of any research and any educational activities, which appear to the Council necessary or expedient for the purposes of subsection (2).").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 104, 108, 109 and 114 to 118 inclusive. Also grouped with those amendments are amendments tabled in the name of my noble friend Lady O'Cathain; namely, Amendments Nos. 103, 106 and 110. I understand that some Members of the Committee have indicated that they might wish to take Amendment No. 106 separately.

The amendments are designed to extend the powers of the National Disability Council. The purpose of the first amendment, Amendment No. 101, is to change the role of the council from being merely advisory to one with enforcement powers. The amendment broadens the role of the National Disability Council. As currently drafted, the council has power only to advise the Secretary of State on matters relevant to the elimination of discrimination against disabled people, measures which are likely to reduce such discrimination and matters related to the Act.

This amendment would give the council important new powers which, in my view, are essential to ensure that the law is properly implemented and the rights of disabled people safeguarded. The new powers are, first, to draw up proposals for amending the Act if the council considers any part of it not to be working as intended; secondly, to carry out investigations into complaints by an individual person and, where appropriate, provide conciliation; thirdly, to provide assistance to disabled people, including legal and financial assistance, so that they can enforce their right not to be discriminated against; fourthly, to initiate investigations into companies' practices, as it considers necessary; fifthly, to undertake or commission research; and, finally, to undertake or commission educational activities.

Disabled people are excited by this new Bill. They hear what the Government say about wanting to eliminate discrimination and they have high expectations. They will want information about their rights and advice on what to do if they feel that they are being discriminated against. The law is complicated. Different parts will come into force at different times. The very important principle of reasonableness means that different levels of access will apply in different situations. Codes of practice and regulations will be there to help clarify duties, but many disabled people will be unsure of how to interpret them in their particular situation and they will not have the overview that is available to the council.

So where can they go for help? The Government propose that disabled people who feel that they have been discriminated against in the area of employment should take their complaints to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, whose conciliation officers will be able to offer advice. If that fails, the disabled person must go to an industrial tribunal, for which there is currently no legal aid available. If they feel that they have been discriminated against in the area of goods and services,

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the Government propose that they should go to the local citizens advice bureau. Unfortunately, that idea was rejected by the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux. However, under the Bill the matter can go to court, which is a daunting experience for anyone and surely an option from which many disabled people, without the support and backing of an authoritative body, are likely to shy away.

The enforcement body set up under other laws aimed at eliminating discrimination—the Race Relations Act and the Sex Equality Act—are able to give help to individuals who feel that they have been discriminated against in the areas of race and sex. Why should people with disabilities, many of them with sensory impairment which makes it difficult for them to have access to information and advisory services, have less support to tackle discrimination against them than people from ethnic minorities or women?

The broader role of the commissions in being able to initiate investigations into companies and practices where they suspect that discrimination is taking place is of key importance. Such investigations are able to focus on key areas and issues. They generate a lot of publicity. They make businesses, many of which wish to comply with the law but fail to do so through ignorance, aware of discriminatory practices. Where businesses are reluctant to comply with the law, a commission can force them to provide information. An individual disabled person would not be able to do that. Where necessary the commission is able to take legal proceedings. Often that is not necessary. The threat of being taken to court is enough to make many companies change their practices.

Finally, the amendment would give the National Disability Council the power to carry out independent research and undertake educational activities. In the Bill as currently drafted, the council can only undertake research commissioned by the Secretary of State. The educational role is of paramount importance. Employers and service providers will need advice. They have made clear that they are very concerned about whence that advice and information will come. The Employers Forum on Disability, in its summer update, said:


    "Employers need consistent expert advice and support. Experience suggests that credible, workable and enduring anti-discrimination legislation needs the underpinning provided by an authoritative central body".

The educational role is very important, but obviously it is of little value if businesses fail to follow advice. In its second review of the Race Relations Act, the Commission for Racial Equality said:


    "Our promotional work is greatly strengthened by the awareness of employers that, if it fails, formal investigations are possible. Our guidance and codes are heavily based on the information that has come to us through formal investigations and individual complaints".

I turn to Amendment No. 104. Subsection (4) of this clause (page 17, line 16 of the Bill) prevents the Secretary of State from giving the council powers to investigate complaints. That is obviously incompatible with Amendment No. 101, to which I have just spoken. One of the most important powers that Amendment No. 101 gives to the council is the power to investigate complaints.

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I come to the purpose of Amendments Nos. 108 and 109, and also Amendment No. 110 in the name of my noble friend Lady O'Cathain. Subsection (9) of the clause prevents the council from giving advice on employment matters. Under the Bill as currently drafted, the council has powers only to advise the Secretary of State about discrimination in the area of goods and services. The power to advise the Secretary of State for Employment about employment, self-employment and training of disabled people rests with the National Advisory Council on the Employment of People with Disabilities, a body which is already in existence. That means that there will be two separate bodies advising two different Ministers in two different departments with two sets of civil servants about discrimination against disabled people. Most businesses will be service providers and employers. They will have to consult with two entirely different structures.

NACEPD has a very low profile and is not known to employers. It has only 2.75 staff units and does not have its own budget. It currently advises the Minister through its quarterly council meetings and provides periodic reports of its activities to him. It is not independent. If the Minister rejects its advice, it is not able to promote its views.

NACEPD does not have a remit to combat discrimination or to monitor legislation. Even if it did, it would not have the resources to be able to tackle discrimination against disabled people by employers in the same way that the existing commissions can. In its response to the Government's consultation last summer, NACEPD called on the Government to set up a single authoritative body with enforcement powers to cover all aspects, including employment. The Government have so far ignored that advice.

The purpose of Amendment No. 114 is to enable the council to appoint its own staff. Amendments Nos. 115 and 116 enable the council to have financial independence. Amendment No. 117 seeks to remove the power of the secretary of State to make supplementary regulations in regard to the provision of information to the council, the commissioning of research, the appointment of any person as an adviser and the payment of expenses incurred by the council.

Those four amendments ensure that the council is an entity in its own right, with sufficient resources to carry out its responsibilities. The Bill, as currently drafted, means that the Secretary of State can provide the council with staff as he considers appropriate. The proposed budget for the council is only £250,000, which will pay for very few staff. On such a small budget and with only a few members of staff, the National Disability Council would be extremely limited in what it was able to do. With the broader powers given to it under Amendments Nos. 101, 104, 108 and 109, it would need sufficient resources and staff to carry out its key role.

The National Disability Council's budget of £250,000 is ludicrously small when compared with the budgets of bodies set up under previous discrimination Acts. As I understand it, the Equal Opportunities Commission has a budget of £7 million and the Commission for Racial Equality one of £15 million. The lines deleted by Amendment No. 117 enable the Secretary of State, by

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regulation, to make provisions in relation to information given to the council by the Secretary of State, the commissioning of research by the Secretary of State, the circumstances in which the council may appoint an adviser, and payment of expenses incurred by the council. That regulation-making power would not be needed if the other amendments were accepted, giving the council more powers and resources, thereby making it more independent of the Secretary of State.

The purpose of Amendment No. 118 is to provide for regulations to be made governing the carrying out of the council's investigations and enforcement powers. The new clauses provide for regulations to be made governing how the council carries out those powers. Through the regulations the Secretary of State can specify how investigations are to be carried out, the circumstances in which the council can make recommendations and issue non-discrimination notices following investigations and the arrangements whereby the council may refer cases of discrimination to an industrial tribunal or court. By enabling the Secretary of State to prescribe such regulations, the clauses will ensure that the National Disability Council is not able to abuse its powers and act in a heavy-handed or inappropriate way.

Not included with this group of amendments but which are connected to them are Clauses 26 and 27. Those clauses give the Secretary of State the power to prepare codes of practice in the area of employment. Under the Bill as currently drafted, the National Disability Council does not cover employment and therefore the Secretary of State must have the power to draw up codes. However, Amendments Nos. 108 and 109, to which I have just spoken, amend Clause 23 so that the National Disability Council can cover employment matters and therefore the council and not the Secretary of State would draw up codes of practice covering employment. The Bill as currently drafted enables the council to draw up codes of practice under Clause 24, but that is only for goods and services. I beg to move.


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