Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Renton: My Lords, I support the principle behind these two amendments. Amendment No. 37 has the most to commend it because it assumes that at the

18 Jul 1995 : Column 207

place of work there is already a car park. In many places of work there would be no car park in any event. But where there is a car park, I suggest that we should consider requiring an employer to provide parking spaces for his disabled employees among the other parking spaces.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I support the principle behind the amendments but I do not think that either of them is satisfactory. Amendment No. 37 is better than Amendment No. 36, but if you are talking about "existing car parks" and you happen to work in Victoria Street, under this amendment the employer may have to purchase space in a car park elsewhere. I should prefer those who are moving the amendment to take it away and to table a similar amendment on Third Reading—after all, it is only an example; it is not compulsory—which makes it quite clear that the car parking space should be within the premises of the employer.

The first amendment does not specify at all where the car parking space should be—in the clouds perhaps. The second amendment refers to "existing car parks". As I say, if someone is working in an office block in London which does not have its own car parking space, an employer may have to pay to a large car parking firm a considerable amount of money every year because car parking in London and other large cities is expensive. As I said, if it is within the premises of the employer, these would be admirable amendments.

9 p.m.

Lord McCarthy: My Lords, if I may be allowed to do so, I would like to move Amendment No. 37. As I understood the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, was moving Amendment No. 36 and speaking to Amendment No. 37, I shall move Amendment No. 37 and speak to Amendment No. 36.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, the noble Lord cannot move another amendment while one is already being discussed. He can speak to it but not move it.

Lord McCarthy: My Lords, I thought that was what I said. I thought these amendments were grouped, and I intend to continue. The fact is quite simple. These two amendments are there because of the attitude of the Government. The second one is certainly there because of the attitude of the Government. I do not think that anyone—certainly not myself or my noble friend—would say that our Amendment No. 37 is better than Amendment No. 36. However, there is a slight possibility that it might find favour with the Government. If the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, has, as it were, an Amendment No. 38 up his sleeve which we could bring back at Third Reading and that found support from the Government I am quite sure that we could agree on it. However, the fact is that the Government did not accept Amendment No. 36 when, in precisely these terms, it was moved in Committee. The Government replied in the person of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, who, unfortunately for us, has now departed to the National Lottery and the RSC. Therefore, we cannot ask him about this matter; we have to ask the noble Lord, Lord Henley, who has come to

18 Jul 1995 : Column 208

us, I suppose, to deal with the lottery, the RSC and this amendment! The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said, at col. 1732 of the Official Report,


    "Let me say right at the beginning that I have considerable sympathy with the intention behind this amendment"—

that is to say, Amendment No. 36—


    "as indeed I think everyone who has spoken on this amendment in the Chamber this evening has".

We know that the Government tend to say such things and then they say something that is not quite so welcome. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, continued:


    "However, the amendment, as drafted—"

this is the basis of my amendment—


    "can be interpreted as being wide-ranging. For example, where an employer has existing car parking facilities for his employees it might well be reasonable—"

this is what we are trying to do in Amendment No. 37—


    "depending on the circumstances, that he should, under the duty in Clause 6, have to allocate a dedicated car parking place to a disabled employee who finds it very difficult or impossible to use public transport".

In that respect, if that was all the amendment sought to do, the Government might accept it. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, added:


    "Although I can see that there would be circumstances when it might be a reasonable adjustment to help a disabled person from a parked vehicle, I am much less clear about the scope of the second example"—

that is, the second limb of the amendment. The noble Lord continued:


    "What sort of steps is it intended the employer may have to take in providing assistance for a disabled employee to move from his parked vehicle to his place of work? Does this mean that an employer has to make arrangements to meet a disabled employee who parks his car two miles away and then provide assistance for him? More fundamentally, I suspect that a person who needs this kind of assistance may have very serious mobility problems which could also require other forms of assistance, making this a minor aspect and therefore not a good example to single out".—[Official Report, 13/6/95; col. 1732.]

In trying to take account of the objections of the Government we decided that we would attempt to meet them. In my amendment I tried to meet the criticisms of the Government, first, in the case where there is no car park. In that case, there is no responsibility in this regard. Secondly, the Government asked how much assistance the measure implies has to be given. We have said that a reasonable degree of assistance should be given, as in Amendment No. 37. If the Government would like to say that, having thought about the matter, they are prepared to back Amendment No. 36, that is all right. If they wish to back Amendment No. 37, that is also all right; but for goodness sake I hope the Government will say something a little more constructive on this extremely important issue than they did on the previous occasion we discussed this matter.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I have to say I am positively distraught that the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, does not like dealing with me. I have to say that after my sabbatical away in the Ministry of Defence it is a positively extraordinary joy for me to be back facing the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, and others. I look forward to many, many more years of it.

18 Jul 1995 : Column 209

Turning to the amendments, let me say that I perfectly well understand and have considerable sympathy with the intention behind both these amendments. I even have sympathy with the intention behind Amendment No. 37A, or whatever it was that my noble friend Lord Swinfen wanted to move. However, the types of steps suggested by these amendments are already certainly covered by the duty of reasonable adjustment. For example, where an employer has existing car parking facilities for his employees it might well be reasonable, depending on the circumstances, that he should, under the duty in Clause 7, have to allocate a dedicated car parking place to a disabled employee who finds it very difficult or impossible to use public transport. It may well be reasonable for a disabled employee who needs help to get from his car to his office, or her office, to receive that help. There would also be the situation, however, where the provision of a parking space or help in getting from a car to a place of work, was not reasonable. I think we are all agreed on that.

Where I differ is that I am not persuaded that these amendments should be accepted. Subsection (3) of Clause 7 after all, as I think my noble friend Lord Swinfen carefully pointed out, only sets out examples of steps and at a level of generality which will be most of benefit to people seeking to interpret and understand the duty. As was made clear in Committee, we feel that we must resist the temptation to add an ever-increasing list of examples. We must not include examples that are too precise and detailed. I am sure that there are many disabled people who would want to include steps on the face of the Bill which are even more likely to meet their own individual needs. But I do not believe that is a practical step.

My noble friend Lord Inglewood stated in Committee that these are matters which are far better addressed in the code of practice. Indeed, expanding upon the provisions of the Bill is the precise purpose of the code. We place great importance on the guidance that will be contained in the employment code of practice and will be consulting employers' organisations and organisations of and for disabled people in the preparation of the code. More often than not it will be to the code of practice that employers and others turn to get information and guidance on their responsibilities, and not the Act itself. Dealing with this sort of issue in the code will help to flesh out the examples in these amendments and make them meaningful and helpful to employers.

I hope that my comments reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, and other noble Lords, even the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy. I hope that they accept that we have very much taken note of their concerns. I can give the assurance that it is our intention that the code will cover this issue. I hope that the noble Baroness will not feel it necessary to press her amendment or, for that matter, that the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, will press his amendment.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page