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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to intervene. I believe that I said—as I have stated on a number of occasions—that it is not a general anti-discrimination Bill, period.

Lord Carter: My Lords, the Bill is about disabled people. If it is an anti-discrimination Bill, I fail to see the Minister's point. I believe that that statement will surprise people outside the House who, perhaps mistakenly, thought that it was a general Bill to help disabled people.

If an amendment of this nature, or one like it, is not accepted, there will be a series of test cases. That will be particularly difficult for those who are mentally handicapped or mentally ill. It will be a great strain for them. They will have to appear as individuals, even though the organisation will back them.

It is a simple point. The provision is supported by all noble Lords who have spoken who have great experience of these problems. I cited an example. I could give many more. During the passage of the Bill, the Minister has got into the habit of putting up straw men to knock down in his arguments about spurious and vexatious litigation, and the hundreds or thousands of people who will be queuing up to take action under the Bill. I agree that an enormous number of disabled people depend on organisations to support them. The provision could easily be redrafted to include, for example, only the non-profit-making or charitable organisations which support disabled people. We raised a point of real concern which has been put to us by organisations for disabled people. It has been put forward by all who spoke in the debate who obviously understood the nature of the problem. The Minister has not answered the point. I wish to seek the opinion of the House.

3.32 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 121; Not-Contents, 154.

24 Oct 1995 : Column 976

Division No. 1

CONTENTS

Addington, L. [Teller.]
Airedale, L.
Allen of Abbeydale, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Avebury, L.
Barnett, L.
Bath, M.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Beloff, L.
Birmingham, Bp.
Blackstone, B.
Brain, L.
Broadbridge, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L.
Castle of Blackburn, B.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Craigavon, V.
Dahrendorf, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B.
David, B.
Dean of Beswick, L.
Desai, L.
Diamond, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Elis-Thomas, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Ezra, L.
Falkender, B.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Fitt, L.
Gallacher, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Glenamara, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]
Gregson, L.
Grey, E.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayter, L.
Headfort, M.
Healey, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Hooson, L.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hughes, L.
Hylton, L.
Ilchester, E.
Irvine of Lairg, L.
Jay, L.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Kintore, E.
Kirkhill, L.
Kirkwood, L.
Lawrence, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lovell-Davis, L.
McCarthy, L.
McConnell, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mayhew, L.
Meston, L.
Molloy, L.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Nelson, E.
Nicol, B.
Ogmore, L.
Peston, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Richardson, L.
Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Rix, L.
Robson of Kiddington, B.
Rochester, L.
Russell, E.
Sainsbury, L.
Scanlon, L.
Seear, B.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Serota, B.
Shannon, E.
Shepherd, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Stallard, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Strafford, E.
Swinfen, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tonypandy, V.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Varley, L.
Wallace of Coslany, L.
Warnock, B.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whaddon, L.
White, B.
Wigoder, L.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Aberdare, L.
Addison, V.
Ailesbury, M.
Ailsa, M.
Alexander of Tunis, E.
Alport, L.
Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L.
Arran, E.
Astor of Hever, L.
Balfour, E.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Bethell, L.
Birdwood, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Blyth, L.
Boardman, L.
Borthwick, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Braine of Wheatley, L.
Bruntisfield, L.
Butterworth, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carr of Hadley, L.
Charteris of Amisfield, L.
Chelmsford, V.
Chesham, L. [Teller.]
Clanwilliam, E.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L.
Cochrane of Cults, L.
Cockfield, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L.
Cornwallis, L.
Courtown, E.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Cullen of Ashbourne, L.
Cumberlege, B.
Davidson, V.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denham, L.
Derwent, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Dormer, L.
Downshire, M.
Dundonald, E.
Elibank, L.
Ellenborough, L.
Elles, B.
Ferrers, E.
Finsberg, L.
Flather, B.
Foley, L.
Forbes, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Gainford, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Gibson, L.
Goschen, V.
Gray of Contin, L.
Gridley, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L.
Haddington, E.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Hamilton of Dalzell, L.
Harding of Petherton, L.
Hardinge of Penshurst, L.
Harmsworth, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Hood, V.
Hothfield, L.
Howe, E.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Inglewood, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L.
Kenyon, L.
Killearn, L.
Kimberley, E.
Knollys, V.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lauderdale, E.
Leigh, L.
Lindsay, E.
Liverpool, E.
Long, V.
Lucas, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Lyell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
MacLehose of Beoch, L.
Macleod of Borve, B.
Malmesbury, E.
Manchester, D.
Marlesford, L.
Marsh, L.
Merrivale, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Milverton, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Mottistone, L.
Mountgarret, V.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Munster, E.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Napier and Ettrick, L.
Norrie, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Brien of Lothbury, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Orr-Ewing, L.
Oxfuird, V.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Pender, L.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Prentice, L.
Pym, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Rawlings, B.
Reay, L.
Renton, L.
Renwick, L.
Rodger of Earlsferry, L.
Salisbury, M.
Seccombe, B.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Strathcarron, L.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Swinton, E.
Terrington, L.
Teviot, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Torphichen, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Vivian, L.
Whitelaw, V.
Wolfson, L.
Wynford, L.
Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

24 Oct 1995 : Column 977

24 Oct 1995 : Column 978

3.40 p.m.

Clause 3 [Guidance]:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 2:


Page 2, line 27, at end insert—
("( ) Following the publication of such draft guidance the Secretary of State shall make public any representations he has received from voluntary organisations, employers' organisations and the National Disability Council.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I wish to move Amendment No. 2 and to speak also to Amendment No. 49 with which it is grouped. We believe that Amendment No. 2 is highly desirable in its own right but it also serves to pave the way for our debate on Amendment No. 49. Both amendments relate to the functions and responsibilities of the National Disability Council.

We on these Benches believe that the Bill is so nearly a good Bill. The Government have introduced valuable amendments as the Bill has progressed, even if, as my noble friend Lord Carter said, some have arrived only one working day before we debate them. However, in so far as that shows that the Government continue to develop their thinking and to respond to persuasion, it is all to be applauded. It is therefore in a spirit of hoping that the Government have not yet finally closed their minds on all such issues that today we move a set of amendments which we believe touch the heart of the Bill.

The year 1995 is 25 years after the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, the 25th anniversary. This Bill could be another and similar landmark Bill. No one doubts that it will offer disabled people a sizeable extension of rights and opportunities which are long overdue. The questions on which the amendment touches are simple: will the Bill work? Can those rights be exercised? Will the opportunities be enjoyed? We fear that the answer will largely be no. Why is that? At the heart of the Bill is a hole; there is no central, authoritative body to aid employers, disability organisations or disabled people to deliver the intent of the Bill. I appreciate that at Report stage the Government and the House did not want a fully empowered disability commission. So be it. The amendments do not revisit that issue.

Amendment No. 2, linked with Amendment No. 49, is very different. It proposes what at Report stage many noble Lords on the Government Benches—including, I believe, the noble Lords, Lord Renton and Lord Campbell, and the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain—would have welcomed; that is, a body simply to give advice and assistance. Why is that? As we all accept, the Bill is extremely important, complex and a difficult piece of legislation. Many of its concepts are new, much of its statutory language is new. It charts new ground, untried territory. Its implications and ramifications and its establishment of precedent are all hard to calculate. There needs to be a central body giving interpretations, advice and assistance to help employers, disability organisations and individuals know what are their rights, duties and responsibilities.

24 Oct 1995 : Column 979

Perhaps I may give some simple examples. Controlled epilepsy may have implications as to whether it is reasonable for an employer not to permit someone with it to have a job involving driving. Employers need clear and consistent advice but they will not get it. A second example concerns HIV and the rights to mortgage and insurance protection. Disabled people need clear and consistent advice on that. Will they get it? Perhaps we may consider small firms employing under 20 people. As noble Lords will recall, such small firms are exempt from the legislation. We regret that, but your Lordships have affirmed the Government's view on that. What happens if a small firm with 19 employees wishes to replace two full-timers with four part-timers? Does it then come within the remit of the Bill? What happens if a firm with 19 employees wishes to take on extra temporary staff at Christmas? Does it come within the remit of the Bill? We do not know.

What about the term "reasonable expense"? What adaptations must a hotelier make for his hotel to be made available and accessible for disabled staff as opposed to disabled customers? We do not know. What about the reassurance that employers might have that competitors are being treated in the same way as themselves under the framework of the Bill? What about staff harassing a disabled person? What responsibilities must an employer have under the Bill? We do not know, nor will we know until guidance is established.

I dare say that the Minister and his advisers can answer every one of those questions and that noble Lords around the House could have produced another 20 or 30 simple, basic and straightforward issues which will affect many people. But will the answers reach employers and disabled people? No, they will not. What is needed is a body to which employers and organisations can turn in order to put those questions and receive consistent, authoritative advice which applies right across the board. They need to know the answers to their questions, but they do not.

None of us wants law-making by litigation. We do not want the scope, intention and purpose of the Bill to be established by courts, by complaints and tribunals. We would all prefer it to be done by advice, assistance, conciliation and good will. The advice must be authoritative and consistent. Yet there is no body to help employers, disability organisations and disabled people to understand what the Bill entails for them. There is no body at all.

How then can people make the Bill work? All we have is a National Disability Council which is inward-looking and merely advises the Secretary of State, whereas we want an outward-looking body to which people can turn because the Bill belongs to them, not to us. Of the two amendments, the first seeks to ensure that comments on the draft guidance should be in the public domain, as happens with the Social Security Advisory Committee. Its response to draft guidance is published so that we may know what its views are. The second substantive amendment will give the National Disability Council only one additional responsibility: an outward-looking public responsibility of giving advice and assistance. I emphasise that the amendment does not propose that the NDC should investigate complaints. It

24 Oct 1995 : Column 980

does not propose that it should instigate inquiries; it will not overlap the courts, tribunals or the legal system. It will be simply and solely a source of advice and assistance. That is precisely what noble Lords on all sides of the House asked for and called for on Report when they rejected a fully-fledged disability commission.

The Government know and accept that this is necessary. The Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said in Committee that he thought it a good idea that the National Disability Council should offer advice and assistance—until he was reminded by his noble friend that the NDC would not have that function and had to withdraw his statement. As recently as last Thursday in the House of Commons, the Minister in the other place, Mr. Burt said:


    "Disabled people and business will require a lot of information about the legislation. I confirm that we shall set up at least a telephone information line to meet those needs. We plan to discuss with disabled people and business how best to design that service".—[Official Report, Commons, 19/10/95; col.567.]

And, as of twenty past three this afternoon, the Minister, if I took his words down correctly, said that employers, business and disabled people all need to know how the Bill applies and in what ways it will work.

Finally, there is almost no difference between us. The Government accept that the legislation charts new ground. They accept that employers and disability organisations need advice and help in interpreting and understanding it. They accept that a helpline must be established to provide that. So we have moved a long way. The only question that therefore remains is: who is to provide that helpline? Should it be another agency, or the National Disability Council?

If it is to be another agency, and if that agency does not liaise with the National Disability Council, the resulting advice and assistance will not be authoritative and consistent. But if it does liaise with the National Disability Council, as surely it must, then why are the Government adding yet another piece of bureaucracy, yet another organisation, yet another layer of intervention between disabled people and the advice that they need?

We all know that legislation works and the law is obeyed not because of the work of the police, the courts or the prison system, but because people expect to comply with the law. We are fortunate in this country in having a culture of compliance rather than a culture of law evasion. People want to work with the grain of the law and expect to do so. In good faith, employers and disabled people want and expect to make this Bill work. But to be able to make it work, they have to know what it means. In order to know what it means, they need a source of advice and assistance. I urge noble Lords to agree that that advice and assistance should be located with the National Disability Council so that the council advises not only the Secretary of State but the people to whom this Bill belongs: the people of this country. I ask noble Lords: is this Bill more or less likely to work to afford rights and opportunities and fairness to employers and disabled people alike, and is it more likely to work with grace and goodwill if the National Disability Council can offer advice and assistance? We believe that it will work better if that is

24 Oct 1995 : Column 981

the case. We believe that these amendments would help to do what the Government want to do; namely, make this Bill work with consent. I beg to move.


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