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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I understood my noble friend to ask whether an individual representing employers, say, will be obliged personally to consult employers. I do not believe that on the face of the Bill that will be the case. The NDC collectively, including that person, will be obliged to consult widely, as set out in Clause 23(7). However, there will be no obligation on each individual member to consult the sector from which he or she is drawn.

However, the way of the world is that when deciding how to make a judgment on issues before the council the person will draw from his or her experience, contacts with colleagues, and so forth. I understand my noble friend's point but she is concerning herself unnecessarily about the distinction between what an individual must do and what the body as a whole, including that individual, must do. I hope that I have helped my noble friend.

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Lord McCarthy: We are coming close to the heart of the Government's philosophy. The noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, told us that she reflects what is said by the CBI. Of course, the CBI wants a body that is representative. It wants to sit at a table with people who represent different groups and who can commit those groups by saying, "This is what these people would like to have".

If one wants a body that is representative it would help to have representatives of employees, even if they are from trade unions affiliated to the TUC. A dreadful thing! I do not ask for that to be on the face of the Bill. Nevertheless, the Government are keen not to have anything representative because it smacks of that terrible thing, "representativeness"; it is getting close to quangos and so forth. Therefore, they state repeatedly that such people are individuals talking as individuals. If that continues they will represent no one until there is nothing.

Lord Renton: During the past 50 years we have had a great deal of experience of statutory bodies appointed by the Government under authority given by Parliament. As regards the National Coal Board, for example, it was customary to have on the board at least one current or former representative of the National Union of Mineworkers. However, once he was appointed he represented the interests of the National Coal Board. He drew on his experience and loyalty but his decisions were those to be made in favour of the National Coal Board. That is only a simple example of what happens across the board.

Lord McCarthy: The noble Lord is utterly and totally wrong. If one was a workers' representative on the National Coal Board one could not have anything whatever to do with the National Union of Mineworkers or any other association connected with the industry. The board was an executive functioning management and people were not there to represent people; they were there as individuals. We are now talking about a consultative committee and the Government are trying to discover what industry and various groups, including the CBI, think. That is the difference and that is why it should be representative.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: It is a great deal more than a consultative committee. It will give advice on a number of issues, including important issues such as codes of practice. Therefore, it is a good deal more than the noble Lord suggested.

I am amazed because it sounds like a debate on how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. I thought that it had been pretty well accepted that people who are appointed to public bodies, as this body will be, come from different backgrounds and perhaps are appointed because of that. However, after they are appointed they are expected to participate fully in the total work of the board or organisation and not represent only one interest. I am amazed that the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, believes that that would be a sensible and workable way to organise a body such as this.

Baroness O'Cathain: Of course, individuals are not there to represent only one interest. Let us suppose that there is an employers' representative on the NDC; for

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instance, somebody with experience of dealing with ATMs, the bank machines. He has been appointed in his own right because he has experience and knows about some of the problems. If a specific problem arises will it be up to the NDC as a whole or will it be up to that individual to ensure that there is wider representation? It could be that the individual has specific experience in one area of ATMs and not in another.

Obviously, representatives will be appointed for what they can contribute to the running of the NDC but groups of employers, disabled people and providers of goods and services will believe that, as regards the NACEPD and the NDC, unless there is a strong commitment they will be left out.

I shall read carefully what the Minister said. Perhaps he will confirm that he said that the NDC will have a responsibility to consult. Indeed, it has a responsibility to consult but I expect that underlying that will be specific areas. For example, in the case of access it will consult the building construction industry and in the case of disability it will consult disabled people. I cannot see why the provision cannot be put on the face of the Bill.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Perhaps it will help my noble friend to reflect on what has taken place today if I put on record in Hansard Clause 23(7). She can then read it tomorrow. It states:


    "Where the Council proposes to give the Secretary of State advice on a matter, it shall before doing so ... consult such other persons as it considers appropriate".

There are plenty of powers on the face of the Bill to suggest that the council must consult.

Baroness O'Cathain: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 108 to 110 not moved.]

Clause 23, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 3 [The National Disability Council]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 111:


Page 33, line 7, at end insert:
("( ) have knowledge or experience of the needs of persons who have had a disability or the needs of a particular group, or particular groups, of such persons;").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 112 not moved.]

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 113:


Page 33, line 15, after first ("persons") insert (", persons who have had a disability").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 114 to 118 not moved.]

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 24 agreed to.

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Clause 25 [Further provision about codes issued under section 24]:

[Amendments Nos. 119 and 120 not moved.]

Clause 25 agreed to.

Baroness Lockwood moved Amendment No. 120A:


After Clause 25, insert the following new clause:

("Reports prepared by the Council

.—(1) Without prejudice to the generality of section 23(2), the Council, in pursuance of the duties imposed by paragraphs (a) and (b) of that subsection—
(a) shall examine enactments for the purposes of ascertaining whether they are inconsistent with, or contrary to, the object of eliminating discrimination against disabled persons, and
(b) if so required by the Secretary of State, make to him a report on any matter specified by him which is connected with those duties and concerns the results of any such examination.
Any such report shall be made within the time specified by the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State shall cause the report to be published.
(2) Whenever the Council think it necessary, they shall draw up and submit to the Secretary of State proposals for amending enactments.
(3) In this section "enactment" includes an Order in Council, and Northern Ireland legislation and any instrument made under an Act or any Northern Ireland legislation:").

The noble Baroness said: The purpose of Amendment No. 120A is to monitor other legislation in order to test its effect on the disability discrimination legislation. Clause 32 establishes that all other legislation, whether prior or subsequent to it, will take precedence over the disability discrimination legislation. Therefore, this amendment will require the disability council to review both secondary and primary legislation to ensure that it does not conflict with the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Bill; in other words, that it does not conflict with the elimination of discrimination against disabled people.

It is a fairly simple and straightforward amendment but it is important in the sense that much of our other legislation tends either in itself or in its implementation to discriminate against disabled people. A number of laws may operate in such a way as to block the elimination of discrimination. One example has already been discussed; that is, the legislation governing listed buildings. We are extremely pleased that the Minister has indicated that English Heritage will be producing guidance on that issue and that the council may choose to address that in its code of practice.

Another obvious example relates to the implementation of health and safety legislation. The role of health and safety legislation and of fire regulations in constraining access to buildings and services is well documented, in particular in the report of the Committee on the Restrictions against Disabled People which reported in 1982. Perhaps I may quote a paragraph from that report which states:


    "Many of the letters we received referred to people being refused access because they were 'a safety hazard' ... Many others referred to being turned away from cinemas, dance halls and other places because they were 'fire risks'. We ... accept that on certain occasions they might be justified. On the other hand, the insistence on safety by managers is often not so much for the benefit of customers as to protect managers who do not want to be accused of carelessness".

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I know that that report was published in 1982 and, as the Minister indicated earlier, we have become much more aware of those issues since that time. But there are still examples of occasions on which people impose restrictions which are not reasonable and which impose a barrier against disabled people. In other words, there are still misplaced perceptions of what disabled people can and cannot do. Those perceptions can easily creep into legislation, and in particular into secondary legislation.

I hesitate to say this, but there is a precedent for this particular amendment. It is based on Section 55 of the Sex Discrimination Act. Under that section, the EOC is required to monitor and report on changes in health and safety legislation. It has carried out one major report at the request of the Secretary of State but, since then, it has not published any major reports. However, it has monitored the various changes that have been made and it has made its report to the Health and Safety Commission or, as appropriate, to the Minister.

Of course, this amendment would go rather wider than just to one area of legislation, although health and safety would be extremely important in that respect.

The fact that such a duty is placed upon the commission is a cautionary influence on those making legislation and in particular those putting forward secondary legislation in the form of regulations. It would give the National Disability Council an opportunity to influence the wording of those regulations for the legislation to ensure that unfair perceptions were not included. It is quite an important amendment and I hope that the Minister will be able to accept it. I beg to move.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Renton: The noble Baroness put her case clearly and sincerely but, with respect, I must say to her that I do not consider that the amendment is necessary and I am not sure that it creates a very wise precedent. In the first place, the amendment asks that the NDC "shall examine enactments". That means previous legislation. But that is the function of the legal people in government departments. Sometimes that is done with the help of parliamentary counsel, the draftsmen.

If the NDC were to do that, it would have to employ lawyers. It may be that it will employ one lawyer but I should not expect it to employ more than one. Surely when we establish new bodies under statute we do not expect to pass the buck to them to see whether the statute under which they have been appointed has omitted necessary amendments to previous legislation. I hope that they have not been omitted because there are quite a large number of amendments proposed in this legislation; there is also a repealing schedule and there is modification of the Act in its application to Northern Ireland, and so on. Therefore, with great respect to the noble Baroness, I do not believe that it would be right to have the effort which government departments are making continuously duplicated by this new statutory body.

The noble Baroness has a better case in relation to subsection (2) of the amendment; but within the powers already given to the NDC under the Bill—in subsection (2) of Clause 23 especially, to which the new clause

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refers—the council could perfectly well submit to the Secretary of State proposals for amending enactments, including this Bill when it becomes an Act.

I should have to look again at Section 55 of the Sex Discrimination Act which the noble Baroness mentioned but my recollection is that Section 55 enables the health and safety regulations which are already in existence to be considered to see whether they need to be amended in the light of practice which has arisen in their application. Therefore, with deep respect, that is not really a precedent and I should not be surprised if, on this occasion, my noble friend felt unable to accept the amendment.


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