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Lord Dubs: When I examined the Bill in detail and saw Clause 21 I was shocked. Some of the terminology that is used to define disability is grotesquely out of date. As the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, said, it is offensive to disabled people. A better definition arises from more modern legislation; namely, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Surely such an outdated definition of disability in the Bill must be an error. It is not even helpful to the purposes of this part of the Bill.

A definition based on a person's ability to undertake activities or tasks is more appropriate than an attempt to define a medical condition with the words:

I believe that that will get the Government into even more unnecessary difficulties in applying Clause 21. Therefore, in terms of doing justice to disabled people and not using a form of words that is out of date and offensive and in terms of having a more workable definition for the purposes of this part of the Bill, the amendment has great merit.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth): I hesitate to speak in support of my noble friend because whenever I remain silent he receives more encouraging answers from the Government. However, I wish to speak in support of the amendment because I feel strongly about the matter. Clearly, it is an advantage to use a definition already found in legislation and it is logical to use the definition in the Disability Discrimination Act that is used in relation to access to goods and services.

It is about time we got rid of the outmoded and inappropriate definition. As long ago as 1988, when we debated the Education Bill, the Government brought forward an amendment in response to one that I had withdrawn. I had half an hour to say whether or not I agreed with it. I was horrified by the definition of a disabled person and I checked that it was the definition in the 1948 Act, which uses the words "dumb", "lame"

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and so forth. I discovered that that was the only definition available in legislation and therefore it had to be used. Eight years on we are faced with the definition yet again. It is antediluvian, unattractive and completely outmoded.

However, we have an acceptable definition in existing legislation. If the Government will not accept the amendment I urge them to bring forward an amendment of their own in order to banish once and for all the definition in the 1948 Act. I strongly support the amendment and hope that in saying that I will not put the Minister off.

Baroness Hamwee: I share all the views expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth), and I too hope that my intervention will not cast a blight on the amendment. I raised the matter on Second Reading and in reply the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, gave an undertaking to look at the matter again. Following Second Reading I wrote to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and I received the Government's reply this morning. I have not yet had an opportunity to consult widely on it.

One of the points the Government make is that they are not aware that the definition has caused difficulties. I appreciate that the definition in the National Assistance Act 1948 is used for current grant purposes but my point is different. It is raised by groups representing disabled people. Given that that is from where the move for change comes, it is odd that the Government state that they are not aware that the old-fashioned and offensive definition in a 50 year-old Act is causing difficulties.

The Government also make the point that different grant regimes would run in parallel if the amendment were to be accepted, creating difficulty for local authorities in having to apply different definitions. However, I agree with the noble Baroness that it would be better to update all the definitions rather than take a retrograde step. Will the Government consult the local authority associations about whether a different definition might cause such difficulties? Given that that is the view of the disability groups, I should be unhappy to leave the matter as it is. It deserves a good deal more consideration and reflection.

A point has been made to me with regard to the definition in the 1948 Act. I appreciate that the Minister may not be able to reply today. Will people with progressive conditions such as non-symptomatic HIV or non-symptomatic conditions leading to blindness be covered by the definition? The important point is that the needs lead the decision and the decision-making structure, and we should not get stuck in old-fashioned terminology.

Lord Lucas: I believe that almost everything I have to say in defence of the Government's position has been argued from the opposite point of view. Our dilemma is clear. We have the choice of two definitions. One is up-to-date and agreed as part of the Disability Discrimination Act; the other is incorporated in legislation relating to all the other services which go with that in the Bill.

In drafting the Bill we decided that the best way forward would be to maintain consistency between the services involved rather than introduce a difference by

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updating the definition. However, I am most conscious of the points that have been put today and I shall certainly take them back to my colleagues. We will look again at our arguments in the expectation of having a further opportunity to discuss the matter on Report.

As regards the final point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, if conditions are non-symptomatic I doubt that they will result in the need for modifications to dwellings. Therefore, I suspect that in practice no problems will be caused. We will look at our proposal again and hope to come back on Report. Perhaps we shall return with the same arguments; I make no promises.

Lord Swinfen: I am delighted to learn that my noble friend is prepared to give the matter further consideration. He spoke about maintaining consistency. Yes, we should all like to maintain consistency. Using this Bill as the channel to bring all other legislation into line with the Disability Discrimination Act the whole lot could be brought up to date and revised. I am sure that my noble friend and his advisers can find a way around it. A little imagination can go a long way.

I and my advisers will be delighted to discuss the matter with my noble friend between now and the next stage. Having said that he will give the matter further consideration, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 21 agreed to.

Clause 22 agreed to.

Clause 23 [Disabled facilities grants: certificates required in case of tenant's application]:

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 35:

Page 13, line 38, leave out ("seek") and insert ("require").

The noble Earl said: I spoke to this amendment when moving Amendment No. 16. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 36:

Page 13, line 41, at end insert--
("( ) Where the authority seeks such an owner's certificate from the person who at the time of application is the landlord of the property this shall not be unreasonably withheld.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment will ensure that a landlord cannot unreasonably withhold from the local housing authority an owner's certificate for a property where his tenant has made an application for a disabled facilities grant.

Some landlords, especially in the private rented sector, may be reluctant or refuse to allow improvements, aids and adaptations to be carried out to their property; for example, to enable a visually impaired tenant to improve access to, orientation within and use of the facilities in the property. Others may seek to start eviction proceedings to avoid the commencement of work.

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For a tenant with limited security of tenure, applying for a disabled facilities grant may therefore result in homelessness. For that reason, I feel that there is a need to introduce a provision which makes it explicit that a landlord cannot unreasonably withhold giving consent in the form of an owner's certificate. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: This amendment is designed to prevent a landlord from unreasonably withholding an owner's certificate where his tenant has made an application for a disabled facilities grant. This clause requires a tenant to enclose a tenant's certificate when applying for a grant to the local housing authority. Unless it is unreasonable in the circumstances, the application should also be accompanied by an owner's certificate provided by the landlord.

It is true that there is no current provision preventing a landlord from unreasonably withholding an owner's certificate, but I am not aware that that has ever caused particular problems for local authorities. However, if, in a particular case, a problem is caused, under Clause 23(3) a local authority has discretion to do without an owner's certificate. In the light of that, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Swinfen: That is an encouraging reply and, in those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 23, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 24 [Disabled facilities grants: purposes for which grant must or may be given]:

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 37:

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