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Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 5:


Page 4, line 30, leave out subsection (7).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment when moving Amendment No. 3. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 6 [Duty of employer to make adjustments]:

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 6:


Page 4, line 43, leave out ("other").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Masham of Ilton moved Amendment No. 7:


Page 5, line 17, at end insert—
("( ) providing dedicated parking spaces within existing car parks on the premises of the employer;
( ) providing reasonable assistance from such spaces to the place of work.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, as president of the Spinal Injuries Association, I know only too well of the many accidents or illnesses which leave many people, who are mostly young and of working age, paralysed and having to use a wheelchair. This amendment just adds one more suggestion to the list already in the Bill.

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Parking and a little help may be vital if a person is to obtain a job. It is better for employers to be aware of those needs before they take on someone. I was a member of the board of visitors of a young offenders' institution for nearly 30 years. Suitable parking was always made available; otherwise I could not have done the job. Similarly, I have been a member of various health authorities over the years. Parking and help, if I needed it, were always made available. The amendment is practical. If left out of the legislation, some people may not be aware that parking for people who cannot use public transport and can only use a car is a priority.

The amendment has had a great deal of support in your Lordships' House, but it has been tabled again because the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, was concerned at the last stage that it would be too difficult to implement. The wording has now been changed to specify "existing car parks". I beg to move.

Lord McCarthy: My Lords, this is our old friend, the dedicated parking space. We have marched with the amendment in various forms through the Committee and Report stages. As the noble Baroness said, we have had a great deal of sympathy and understanding but no comfort at all from the Government.

We have tried to meet the arguments that were put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, on the last occasion. As I understand it, he made three major points. The noble Lord said the purpose of the clause was to list examples of the things which employers should take into account and would be expected to adjust. He said that the list was not exhaustive but exemplary. He asked why we needed to add another example. As the noble Baroness said, we need to add this very important example relating to the kind of thing that we believe needs to be adjusted. It is most important to a large number of people and, indeed, I would have said more important than some of the examples given by the Government. That is the first point.

Secondly, the noble Lord said that we must not go into precise details with our amendments because they were just examples. Well, we have sought to simplify them. Therefore, I do not believe that the amendment could now be said to be detailed. It is 23 words long; it is illustrative and exemplary of a very important consideration. Thirdly, the noble Lord asked whether it would not be better to put such a provision in the code of practice. He asked whether we wanted or needed such a provision and, indeed, whether we should have it on the face of the Bill.

When the latter was advanced by the noble Lord as an argument against the amendment on Report, I asked him whether he would promise that it would be included in the code of practice and whether the latter would also include the provision about dedicated parking spaces as an example. As I understood the Minister, he said that he could not make that promise and that it would only be an issue that the Government would address. Well, perhaps they have addressed it; and, indeed, perhaps they will tell us so. I hope so. But, first of all, I hope that they will allow us to have the amendment.

As the noble Baroness said, the only real objection to the amendment was put forward on the last occasion by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen. He was concerned about

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the employer who had no car-park on his site. That was a very persuasive and influential objection which we took on board. We have also managed to get the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, to put his name to the amendment and, if noble Lords read the amendment, it will be seen that the position is covered. I recommend it.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth): My Lords, I should like briefly to support my noble friend's amendment and the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy. As my noble friend said, the current amendment has taken account of the previous objections about the feasibility of parking and the amount of help needed. My points are much the same as those made by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy. On Report the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said that he had considerable sympathy with the intention behind the amendments but felt they were matters for the code of practice. I, too, would be much more convinced by that argument if there were not already 12 examples in the clause.

On Report the Minister said that subsection (3),


    "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".—[Official Report, 18/7/95; col. 209.]

Surely that perfectly describes my noble friend's amendment. At present, subsection (3) of Clause 6 relates to "making adjustments to premises". If arrangements are not made to enable the employee to arrive at and to enter the premises, as in my noble friend's amendment, the help listed in paragraphs (b) to (l) will be of little use to those with mobility problems. Therefore, I very much hope that the Minister will now feel able to accept the amendment in its present form.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, my name has been mentioned fairly often in the debate. Although I supported the principle behind the amendment of the noble Baroness on the two previous stages of the Bill, I thought that it was impractical and that employers might have to provide parking space which was not on their own property. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for altering the amendment to take account of my concerns.

I hope that the Government will now have no difficulty whatever in accepting the amendment. I know that the list of examples in the Bill is not exhaustive but—and it is a very big "but"—employers are likely to look at the legislation when it is passed and say, "This is all we need to take into account". I know that it is not all that they need to take into account, but what is there in black and white is very persuasive. Once they have gone through the list from (a) to (l) they will go no further.

We have before us an extremely practical suggestion to put in the Bill which could well help a number of disabled people to obtain work, especially young disabled people. I say that because it is very often the young who suffer spinal injuries because of their activities either in riding or motor cycling and so on. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will accept the amendment without demur.

Lord Addington: My Lords, I encourage the Government to take on board the amendment for the simple reason that it may do some good; indeed, it cannot

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possibly do any harm. The only reason that I can think of for rejecting the amendment is that it would become the 13th example and the Government may be superstitious.

Lord Henley: My Lords, we discussed broadly similar amendments at earlier stages of the Bill. I believe that my noble friend Lord Inglewood dealt with them in Committee, while I dealt with them on Report. I remember that we had two similar amendments tabled on Report over which there was some degree of disagreement about the wording. I congratulate noble Lords on coming to an agreement which has enabled them to table a single amendment which achieves broad support from all those moving it.

As I said on Report, I must stress that I have considerable sympathy with the intention behind the amendment. However, for the reasons that I intend to set out, I am still convinced that the code of practice, with which I shall deal shortly, is the best place for examples which go into such detail. I believe that it is a greater level of detail than that contained in the 12 examples that we already have in Clause 6(3).

The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, said on Report that such an amendment would, quite rightly, remind employers that there may be a need to provide parking space and some assistance. I believe that an Act of Parliament is not necessarily the first place that an employer may look to learn or be reminded of his duties. In such matters I believe that he is much more likely to consult practical guidance, and that will be provided to enable him to comply with the law. That is exactly what the code of practice is intended to be.

Noble Lords may argue that the code is not the law and that it is the law that must be clear on the issue. I have to reply that, even without the list of examples, the duty of reasonable adjustment would still apply to all employers. Indeed, in that respect we only have to look at Clause 6(3)(a) which deals with the reasonable adjustment to premises. It is that duty which is the law. I believe that everyone accepts that the list of examples could not cover all possible adjustments. I am sure that everyone would be in agreement on that: the list is purely of examples.

It is possible to argue that if some of the examples put down are too specific—and I would say that that is arguable with this amendment—the inclusion of such over-specific examples could even exclude other examples which are not listed. Therefore, one wants to keep all the examples that we have in Clause 6 as general as possible.

I fully accept that circumstances could arise where one or other of those examples might be a reasonable step. The list consists only of examples that might be reasonable in any given circumstances. Most would not be. Much more helpful for employers would be guidance on how the duty of reasonable adjustment would work in practice.

I understand that most noble Lords will not have seen the code, even in draft form, at this stage. It will not even be a public document until we publish it in draft form in December this year when we intend to institute a consultation process, which will continue through until some time in March. There will be about three months of consultation. I shall be interested in any comments which noble Lords and others may have.

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I can say at this stage that officials in my department have been involved in informal discussions on the draft of the draft with a number of organisations which have been helping to prepare that possible draft for consultation. That draft of the draft was recently put to my own department's National Advisory Council on Employment of People with Disabilities. The council will give its views, which will be fed through to me and my colleagues in the department in due course.

The noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, asked, quite rightly, whether the code would include words of this kind. Since I am talking about a consultation process it would be wrong to give a firm guarantee of that kind. However, I note what the noble Lord said, and what everyone else had to say. If the draft does not include the appropriate words I imagine that the noble Baroness will be one of the first to come forward with suggestions when the formal consultation process starts.

I can say that as an example of a possible reasonable adjustment the current draft of the draft states that where an employer provides dedicated car parking spaces near the place of work it might be reasonable to allocate one of those spaces to a disabled person who has difficulty in walking for other than short distances.

5.30 p.m.

Lord McCarthy: My Lords, I want to get this right. I think that I heard the noble Lord say "Where the employer provides dedicated car parking spaces". Suppose the employer provides only car park spaces. Could he dedicate one of those without dedicating others?


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