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Lord McCarthy: My Lords, I shall give an even shorter reply than my introduction. I think I heard the noble Lord say that the Department of Employment had been absorbed into the Department for Education.

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Lord Henley: My Lords, the two departments were merged into one under a new Secretary of State.

Lord McCarthy: My Lords, so when I read in the newspapers that part of the old Department of Employment has gone into the DTI, that is quite wrong, is it?

Lord Henley: No, my Lords. What the noble Lord can assume is that something of the order of 90 per cent. of the department has merged with the Department for Education. A very small amount has gone to the Department of Trade and Industry and statistics have gone to the Central Statistical Office.

Lord McCarthy: My Lords, I am not going to go on like this. I have just one more question. Does that mean that the most important part of the Employment Service itself has not gone to the DTI?

Lord Henley: My Lords, the Employment Service is part of the new Department for Education and Employment.

Lord McCarthy: My Lords, this is becoming more and more interesting. Very well, I shall not go further. What I would say, however, is that if the noble Lord had said that he did not like 1997 but that he would take 1998 or even 1999, we might have had more agreement with him. But he did not like 1997 and he did not put forward any other time, which means that he does not want the Act reviewed at all. Nevertheless, it being this time of night, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 [Discrimination in relation to goods, facilities and services]:

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 56:


Page 10, line 18, after second ("provision") insert ("design, adaptation, and labelling").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the House will be relieved to know that I have made a précis of my speech. It is only one-and-a-half pages long instead of three-and-a-half pages. It is a probing amendment which seeks to highlight the need for service providers to take into account the needs of disabled people when designing products, goods and services. The amendment also raises the importance of adapting a product to make sure that a disabled person can use it more easily; for example, by placing tactile markings on cookers. The Bill currently excludes from Part III manufacturers who do not provide services directly to the public.
Of the United Kingdom's 1 million blind and partially sighted people, almost half live alone. Good practice in the design and adaptation of goods is a very important aspect in assisting visually impaired people to live independently. Among the advantages of taking into account the needs of disabled people when a product is designed is the fact that it is more cost effective to take note of the needs of as many customers as possible at the design stage, rather than treating the needs of a disabled user as an afterthought. All visually impaired people would benefit if needs were taken into account when products are designed as compared to a far smaller number who are likely to ask for adaptations to be made on request.

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Having clearer markings and easier means of operation for goods would not only be of benefit to visually impaired people. People with conditions such as arthritis, and older people in general, may find that they, too, would benefit. The Government have accepted the importance of designing low floor buses—a method which would benefit elderly people and parents with small children, as well as those with disabilities. I beg to move.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: My Lords, I should like to speak briefly in support of the amendment which has at its core the purpose of enabling people with disabilities to live independently. Indeed, by taking such matters into account when equipment for the home is designed, it would, as the noble Lord said, be more cost effective. However, it would also mean that the person with a disability does not have to be a "one off" as regards asking for something to be adapted. The design would be there and it would mean that such people would be able to stay within their own home and have a better quality of life all round. Such matters do not concern only those who are blind or partially sighted. For example, my mother suffered for many years from arthritis. If she had not had much of the adapted equipment at home, I very much doubt that she would have been able to be as self-sufficient as she was.

Of course, there is the other factor; namely, printing. I have in mind the printing of labels on products. Indeed, many people have difficulty reading such labels in any event, even if they are not partially sighted, because the print is so small. That may be an inconvenience; but it becomes more than an inconvenience when someone, perhaps, has to have a special diet and has to get the ingredients absolutely spot on when they are mixing them. If such people cannot read the labels properly, it is more than an inconvenience. It is something which is wrong and which could quite easily be rectified.

As the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, said, this is a probing amendment. I believe that it is recognised that there are difficulties in drafting quite specifically a provision on the face of the Bill. Nevertheless, the issue needs to be aired. It is, perhaps, an issue that a code of practice could cover with, say, some encouragement from the Government to the new council for disabilities. I support the amendment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am glad to hear that this is a probing amendment. For the reasons that I shall outline, it would be extremely difficult to legislate in such a field.

Clause 13(2) (b) provides that only those who provide services to the public are covered by the provisions of the Bill. The design and manufacture of products is not covered. That must be right. It is one thing to give an individual a legal right of access to goods and services as the Bill does; but it is quite another to give him a right to products of a certain type or design. It would be folly to constrain designers and producers in that way. I do not believe that your Lordships would wish to prevent the introduction of new products unless they were accessible to disabled people. There could also be

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incalculable damage to the competitiveness of British industry as the provisions of the Bill cannot extend beyond our shores.

I am also unsure as to what noble Lords intend should be done about foreign products which do not meet the requirements of the amendment. Would they be banned from our shops? Similarly, I am not entirely sure how that squares with the single European market, let alone the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

I am happy to acknowledge that both speakers indicated that this is a field in which it is easier to ask the question, but, frankly, there is no answer because the question itself leads us into a totally hypothetical and difficult area to navigate. I do not see how we could get such legislation to work. I do not believe that any other country, even those countries that are being cited as being "more advanced" than our own have gone down that road. If they have, I should be interested to hear how they got round the problems that I have mentioned.

I readily concede the importance of accessible products to disabled people. I agree totally with the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, about the importance of adapting equipment for people with specific problems. There are such adaptations and many are very impressive. That is the course of action that we should follow. I believe that we should also try to create new market incentives to encourage companies to make accessible goods. That will come about because we are giving disabled customers greater freedom to shop. We should also try to persuade manufacturers that more accessible products will find a larger market. As I have said previously, the National Disability Council will be able to play a role in discussing design improvements with manufacturers.

I suspect that I have confirmed to my noble friend and the noble Baroness that that is an impossible road to take. Having heard some of my observations about the difficulties, I hope that my noble friend will be able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I shall indeed seek leave to withdraw the amendment, but I should like first to thank my noble friend for his reply. The important thing is that, wherever possible, the manufacturers of any goods should bear in mind that those goods could well be used by people with disabilities. For a long time people have been fighting the application of Part M of the building regulations, which relates to accessibility to and within buildings, to residential accommodation. As my noble friend knows, the Government have set up a working party on that and I expect that in the very near future there will be a change in the building regulations to make Part M apply to residential accommodation—at least, that is what I have heard. Similar thought could be given to many other articles, particularly in the manufacturing world. I hope that manufacturers will bear that in mind. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Baroness Darcy (de Knayth) moved Amendment No. 57:


Page 10, line 24, at end insert:
("( ) the provision of services in further education includes provision of appropriate transport for students with disabilities;").
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 57, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 61 to 64, 84 and 85. I have been happy to group these amendments together to save making several speeches, but I hope that your Lordships will therefore understand if I take five or six minutes to introduce them.
I should say straightaway that I am not seeking to introduce any of the amendments into the Bill but, as a result of a very helpful meeting with the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, and Mr. Tim Boswell on 4th July, together with the then Department for Education and the director of SKILL, I have tabled the amendments to elicit various statements and, I hope, undertakings from the Minister. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Henley, on his new position. For me, at any rate, it is a pleasure to be discussing students with disabilities with him once more.
Amendment No. 57 was moved by the noble Baroness, Lady David, in Committee on 15th June because I had failed to get into the Chamber at the time. I am grateful to the noble Baroness. It aims to fill the loophole in the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 whereby LEAs have a duty to consider the transport needs of disabled students to and from colleges, but they are not absolutely required to provide or pay for the transport. The National Bureau of Students with Disabilities, or SKILL, has many examples of the problems that students have encountered. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay, said that he would look into individual cases and that the department would look sympathetically on the need for further guidance. I hope, therefore, that the Minister can bring us up to date on the state of play on that.
Amendments Nos. 61 to 64 are similar to amendments that I moved and withdrew in Committee on 15th June, except that I have now omitted reference to "higher education". We had a long and useful debate, with much support expressed for trying to include "further and higher education" in the Bill at that stage. I stress that the government amendments on strategic planning are very welcome and we look forward to the sector making changes in a co-ordinated way in the future.
But there are still concerns about problems encountered by individual students. In Committee, I argued that we could ensure through tight regulations that costs did not escalate and did not jeopardise the strategic plans. Having had a great many discussions, I now accept that the Government and the department feel genuinely that they cannot draft regulations to ensure that.
The question remains therefore: how can we sort out the problems for individual students in FE institutions and within LEA provision? Because we must remember that LEAs provide a great deal of further education, particularly to adults on a part-time basis. I put down

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the amendment so that the Minister can state how he can best deal with the problems encountered by disabled students in further education.
Amendments Nos. 84 and 85 I moved and withdrew in Committee on 27th June. They ensure that students with severe learning disabilities who may not be able to go on directly to a more academic or vocational course are covered by the FE sector under Schedule 2 to the Further and Higher Education Act l992 and Section 6 of the Scottish Act, or by LEA provision.
SKILL says that in practice many students fall between the two stools. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay, made it clear in Committee (Hansard col. 739.)—I am grateful for this—that the guidance issued by the FEFC indicates that eligible course in independent living and communication skills must have as their primary objective progression to another course in Schedule 2. Schedule 2 sets out basic English, basic maths, courses preparing for GCSE and so forth. The noble Lord also made it clear that there is an equally important duty of the LEAs to secure adequate facilities for FE.
At col. 74l the Minister said that he was happy to discuss the matter to see whether something needs to be done to make it clear where the duties between the FEFC and the LEAs fall. He believed that the point I was making was not necessary, but that the boundaries were wrong, and one of the parties did not seem to realise how the Act works.
I am not trying to change the boundaries if it is clear that the original intention of myself and the noble Baroness, Lady David, when we secured the Schedule 2 amendment in the Further and Higher Education Act l992 is being met; that is, that the opportunities for people with severe disabilities to learn basic skills are being met on the same basis as those for non-disabled students. By that I mean that an A-level in a physics course for the brighter academic student is the equivalent of NVQ carpentry for the vocationally oriented student, which is the equivalent of learning how to conduct a conversation with confidence with a shopkeeper for a student with severe learning difficulties. They are all preparing the student to take his place in adult society. They are, if one likes, A-levels in living.
I am not trying to change the boundaries, but in relation to the FE sector the guidance may say that the primary objective is to move on to another course, as the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, said in Committee, but, if we look at the Act, Schedule 2, page 74, at (j) provides:
"A course to teach independent living and communication skills to persons having learning difficulties which prepares them for entry to another course falling within paragraphs (d) to (h) above".
The point is that some students may take several years to be prepared for entry to other courses. There are also instances where students have progressed to other courses where professionals working with them never envisaged initially that that would be possible. I am merely asking that the guidance be no more restrictive than is the wording in the 1992 Act. I hope that the Minister can respond positively to this amendment too.
The last point—I shall speed up—relates to LEAs. I appreciate that they have many concerns and responsibilities so that non-Schedule 2 further education

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does not always receive the priority treatment that we would like to see. I hope that the Minister can give an undertaking to do something, possibly by an amendment on Third Reading, to ensure that LEAs carry out their duties in this respect. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say on transport to college, problems of the individual students in FE, and the dilemma of students with severe learning difficulties falling between the FE sectors and LEA provision. I beg to move.

Baroness David: My Lords, my name is down to all the amendments in the group. I support them strongly. We discussed them fully in Committee. I have a particular interest in Amendments Nos. 84 and 85 because I know that when we were busy going through that Bill in the House we were very anxious about the rigidity of the Schedule 2 courses and what would be done by the FE colleges and what would be done by the LEAs. We are asking that the rules should not be too rigid and that there should be flexibility. There should be some give and take so that people have an opportunity to progress at their own speed. I hope that the Minister can give us reassurance on this.


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