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Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, it is a great pity that we cannot debate this on a free vote and see where we get. The Government have no case whatever. I do not intend to rehearse all the arguments about the quota system, but it is a fact that the system served a purpose. Any shortcomings were the fault of the Government because they failed to support the quota. That is why disabled people did not register. There was nothing wrong with the registration system but people derived no benefit from it because the Government were at fault. I do not wish to bore the House with the old arguments.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I do not wish to prolong the debate, but the noble Lord will remember that in earlier debates I referred to Commons Hansard in the 1970s, when the noble Lord made exactly the same criticism of the last Government. The Minister replied to his question about the quota system in exactly the same way as did my noble friend. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, for whom I have the greatest respect—and he certainly acknowledged the fact then—recognised that, if it is the fault of government, it has been the fault of governments of all persuasions over at least 30 years.

6 p.m.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, the noble Lord knows quite well that I am on record as criticising the Labour Government as well as the Conservative Government. One or two individuals and the All Party

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Disablement Group have fought off successive governments all these years. They caused every government to back away from ending the quota because they knew that all disabled people and organisations—this was expressed particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Rix—were in favour of the quota. Because of its importance they backed off. Now this Government are abolishing it. I regret that.

The principle in the quota system as relevant to this amendment is that it allowed local authorities to discriminate in favour of disabled people. Admittedly, some local authorities did not take advantage of that power but they did have the capacity to discriminate in their favour.

With the change now being introduced there is to be no quota. Because of the provisions of this Bill (it does not matter that the Minister could not remember the year; I have it somewhere in my notes but I shall not spend time looking for it) local authorities cannot now discriminate in favour of disabled people. That must be wrong. The Government cannot deprive local authorities of the power to help disabled people and then say: we, the Government, are bringing forward a marvellous anti-discrimination Bill which will outlaw discrimination against disabled people. That is absolute nonsense. It does not work. It is illogical. The Minister is on a very sticky wicket.

The Minister refers to the spirit of the Bill and to giving a fair chance to disabled people. The spirit of the Bill, as I understand it, is to outlaw discrimination. Yet if he refuses this amendment, he will prevent local authorities from combating discrimination. I find that very disturbing.

The Minister made a point about disabled people not wanting to be patronised. He is taking us back 13 years. Thirteen years ago a Member in the other place put forward the first Bill outlawing discrimination against disabled people. He was replied to then by a Tory Minister, who stated that there was no evidence of discrimination. Now the Minister is implying that there is no evidence of discrimination in jobs when he says that we want a fair spirit, a fair chance, for disabled people.

We know very well that they do not get a fair chance. All the research from voluntary organisations shows that if disabled people apply for jobs and state that they are disabled, they get no reply. That is the result of discrimination against them. The Minister stands up and says: we want to give them a fair chance. I want to give them a fair chance. The way to do that is to change this Bill to allow local authorities to discriminate in their favour. It is as plain, as simple and as logical as that.

Regretfully, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment, because of the Whips!

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 [Meaning of "discrimination" in relation to trade organisations]:

Lord Henley moved Amendments Nos. 16 and 17:


Page 12, line 3, after ("fails") insert ("without justification").
Page 12, line 14, leave out subsection (7).

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to Amendments Nos. 16, 17 and 18 with Amendment No. 3. I beg to move Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 15 [Duty of trade organisation to make adjustments]:

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 18:


Page 12, line 28, leave out ("other").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 19:


After Clause 15, insert the following new clause—

Alterations to premises occupied under leases

(".—(1) This section applies where—
(a) an employer or trade organisation ("the occupier") occupies premises under a lease;
(b) but for this section, the occupier would not be entitled to make a particular alteration to the premises; and
(c) the alteration is one which the occupier proposes to make in order to comply with a section 6 duty or section 15 duty.
(2) Except to the extent to which it expressly so provides, the lease shall have effect by virtue of this subsection as if it provided—
(a) for the occupier to be entitled to make the alteration with the written consent of the lessor;
(b) for the occupier to have to make a written application to the lessor for consent if he wishes to make the alteration;
(c) if such an application is made, for the lessor not to withhold his consent unreasonably; and
(d) for the lessor to be entitled to make his consent subject to reasonable conditions.
(3) In this section—
"lease" includes a tenancy, sub-lease or sub-tenancy and an agreement for a lease, tenancy, sub-lease or sub-tenancy; and
"sub-lease" and "sub-tenancy" have such meaning as may be prescribed.
(4) If the terms and conditions of a lease—
(a) impose conditions which are to apply if the occupier alters the premises, or
(b) entitle the lessor to impose conditions when consenting to the occupier's altering the premises,
the occupier is to be treated for the purposes of subsection (1) as not being entitled to make the alteration.
(5) Part I of Schedule (Premises occupied under leases) supplements the provisions of this section.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 28 and 78. In doing so, I apologise for their length and degree of complexity. I am sure that it is within the grasp of noble Lords opposite.

The House will recall that we touched on this matter during Report stage when I mentioned the issue of employers who lease their premises and the implications for the duty of reasonable adjustment. The status of terms and covenants in leases is an important matter. I said that we would be giving the matter our careful consideration and make our position clear at Third Reading, when we would table any necessary amendments.

There are obligations on employers under Part II to make reasonable adjustments. There can also be obligations in leases which for entirely non-discriminatory reasons prevent or restrict alterations

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to the premises. As the Bill stands, the relationship between these obligations is very uncertain. It is unclear whether Clause 9 would render void a term in a lease, and if so when and to what extent; or whether the prohibition in the lease would prevail by rendering the adjustment "not reasonable". An employer in his own premises would have to make reasonable adjustment to those premises where appropriate, but the position of an employer who leases the premises is not obvious.

It would be inappropriate to leave this position as it stands. These three amendments make the Government's policy intention clear. We propose through these amendments that, where the employer-tenant would be under a duty to alter the premises but would be prevented from doing so by the lease, he would be under a duty to seek the consent of the landlord. The landlord would be under a duty not to withhold consent unreasonably. This approach would ensure that the lease will not operate to frustrate the duty of adjustment. It also has the advantage of protecting the landlord where he has a legitimate objection to allowing an alteration to premises. Amendment No. 78 deals with circumstances in which it would and would not be reasonable for a landlord to consent to adjustments. These would need to be established by use of a regulation-making power, including any conditions which the landlord might attach to his consent. We will consult on the use of such power. Provision is made for enforcement of the duty through industrial tribunals. The provisions that I have mentioned will also apply to trade organisations covered by Part II of the Bill.

The same approach will be taken under the right of access to goods and services in Part III of the Bill. Service providers will be under the same duty as employers to seek their landlord's consent before making any adjustments to their premises. Landlords will be under the same duty not to withhold it unreasonably.

Perhaps I ought to add that the new provisions do not cover the clauses that deal with the sale or letting of premises to disabled people themselves. These provisions are aimed mainly at the rented accommodation sector and will largely involve similar landlords; for example, one letting a number of flats in a shared house. In case there is any doubt, let me reiterate that there will be no duty on a landlord to make or consent to changes to his property when a disabled person is seeking to become his tenant. However, the Bill (at Clause 23) will ensure that any prejudicial term within an agreement which, for example, sought to prevent the sub-letting of a property to disabled people, would be unlawful and therefore made void.

These amendments clarify the relationship between the duty of reasonable adjustment on employers and the implications for landlords. As I have said, these amendments provide a fair balance between the needs of disabled people and the requirements on employers and landlords. And, we will ensure that disabled people, employers and landlords are among those consulted on the regulations. I commend these amendments to the House. I beg to move.

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