Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, last week Her Majesty the Queen announced our intention to bring forward legislation this Session to create a disability rights commission. We hope to introduce the Bill in the near future. We are committed to ensuring that when the disability rights commission is established it will be adequately funded to do its job effectively. In line with the usual procedure, the estimated cost of the disability rights commission will be made available in the explanatory note when the Bill is introduced.
Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the setting up of this commission is a great historic step towards ending discrimination against Britain's 8 million disabled people? Their new champion, opposed by the Tory Government for so long, will ensure civil rights for disabled people better than any other single act any government could have carried out. But it will require adequate funding. As the new commission's functions will be complex and go much wider than race and gender because of the great variability of discrimination, can the Minister ensure that the funding will be proportionately larger? Can that be borne in mind?
As regards funding, as I have already explained, estimated costs will be included in the explanatory note when the Bill is introduced. It is obviously essential that the commission is funded adequately to do the job, has high quality leadership and employs high quality staff. Of course, there are lessons to be learnt from both the CRE and the EOC in relation to budgets and I shall bear those in mind.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, will the noble Lord take very seriously the matter raised by his noble friend Lord Ashley? The consultation document issued in July said absolutely nothing about financing the commission. Does he agree that new money on a considerable scale will be needed if the commission is
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am quite clear that adequate funding needs to be provided for the commission to do its important job. I cannot go into the specific details of the amount of funding to be given, but noble Lords can be assured that in calculating the budget we shall take into close account the functions that the commission will have to carry out.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, in terms of the remit of the disability rights commission to which the noble Baroness refers, the commission will be able to assist disabled people in individual cases according to criteria to be set out when the commission comes into being.
Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, my noble friend will know why I, too, am grateful for his reply and delighted by the carrying into effect of this further manifesto commitment. Approximately when does he expect the Bill to receive a Second Reading in the House and when does he think education and training will be fully included in the legislation on discrimination against disabled people?
On the wider issue, I can tell my noble friend that the ministerial disability task force is now looking at the whole issue of comprehensive civil rights for disabled people and what is necessary to achieve that. The task force will report in July 1999.
Earl Russell: My Lords, on behalf of these Benches I extend a welcome to the proposal for a disability rights commission. I also include the noble Lord, Lord Ashley of Stoke, in those congratulations.
The Minister is no doubt aware that some of the most successful commissions--notably the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality--have scored some of their greatest successes through the bringing of cases. Can the Minister assure the House that the budget for that purpose will be adequate for the needs it has to meet, and that should there be any problem in that area, it will be reviewed?
Further, will the Minister consider a remark made by the Lord Chancellor in 1563 that making good laws without implementing them is like buying a set of new garden tools and not using them? Does he agree that that judgment has stood the test of time?
Lord Higgins: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the British Council for Disabled People while it welcomes the establishment of the commission believes that further back-up legislation that was promised when the present Government were in opposition has been forgotten? Can he give an assurance that that legislation is still in the Government's programme?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the Government will consider the comments of the organisation to which the noble Lord refers. There can be no doubt at all about the Government's commitment to fight discrimination in relation to disabled people.
Baroness Gould of Potternewton: My Lords, can my noble friend indicate whether the commission will also have within its remit the right to look at the definition of disability which at the moment appears to be rather narrow and complex and excludes a large number of disabled people?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, a person has a disability for the purposes of the DDA if he has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. The Government believe that the definition is wider than many people believe. Nevertheless, the ministerial disability task force is reviewing the definition. If my noble friend wishes, I shall be happy to pass on her comments to that ministerial task force.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the shift to public transport that we need to achieve in London will comprise a package of measures, including the improvement of London Transport services which requires investment and funds. It is true that within that package some increases are significantly higher than 4.5 per cent. That is the average increase. There are some areas--for example, the carnet of 10 zone 1 tickets--where prices will be frozen to encourage commitment to the long-term use of the Underground system. As to the encouragement of people to move out, I am not sure that a 10 pence increase in Underground fares will encourage people to go and live in Reigate.
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