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Lord Addington: I wonder what process has been undertaken in order to arrive at the figure. Many of us are worried about that. We would like to know what process has been undertaken in arriving at the figure and the amount of expertise required. We do not have that information, but if it could be provided we might be able to conclude the debate quickly.

Baroness Blackstone: As I have said, the figure is an estimate. I do not believe that it would be useful to go through longwinded processes. The estimate is based on comparable public bodies, including the Commission for Racial Equality. The amount is much more than the Equal Opportunities Commission has. I stress to my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester that on Second Reading I made it clear that the Government are willing to review the position in the light of the operating experience of the commission. We would be unreasonable were we not prepared to do so. In the meantime, I am as confident as it is possible to be that the estimates are reasonable and that the commission will have the resources to enable it to make an effective start. That is in all our interests.

I hope that I have provided my noble friend and other noble Lords with as satisfactory an answer as possible about funding. While I recognise the wish to put down a marker, I hope that my noble friend and others will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Blatch: The Minister referred to comparability with other bodies. A number of us who have spoken to the amendment made it clear that we believe that the work of the body will be infinitely greater than that of the CRE. The Minister also referred to £4 million being used by the Commission for Racial Equality for outpostings around the country. Is she suggesting that there will be no need for this body to outpost around the country? I believe that there will be a very real need for its work to be seen to be effective on the ground, and more so in that access for people whose rights are being protected by the commission are such that the more locally the service is delivered the better.

Lord Swinfen: I, too, asked the Minister whether there would be regional offices and if so how many. I believe that there must be regional offices so that in each region there will be places from which people can go out to firms, industry and employers of one kind or another in order to give advice and deal with all the duties of the commission. It cannot all be done from one place. Where does the Minister envisage their headquarters will be?

Baroness Blackstone: I cannot yet answer the question as to where the headquarters will be; that is still to be decided. We are anticipating a later amendment on the issue of regional offices and perhaps further

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discussion ought to wait until we reach that point. There will be regional offices in Scotland and in Wales. However, we should try to stick to the amendment we are considering and not discuss later ones at this stage.

Perhaps I may elaborate a little on what I said earlier to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. The Disability Rights Task Force considered carefully how the disability rights commission should operate within existing local and national networks. While it recognised the clear benefits of working with and developing further those networks, it did not feel that the statute should be prescriptive. The relationship between the disability rights commission and existing networks will be completely different to that between the Commission for Racial Equality and the race equality councils. They are different kinds of bodies. The commission will need to explore how best to develop the relationship.

It would be a mistake at this point, by putting provisions on the face of the Bill, to ask the commission to accept specific forms of network, particularly in view of the fact that many already exist. In the light of that explanation, I hope that Members of the Committee understand the difference between the CRE and the new commission.

Lord Rix: Before the Minister sits down, will she answer my question as to whether advocacy support provision has been included in the estimates?

Baroness Blackstone: The DRC will have to provide for advocacy for those who need it. Given that it is a commission for disabled people, it will certainly consider the needs of all people with disabilities and impairments. That may answer the second point the noble Lord raised.

Baroness Blatch: I have to say to the noble Baroness that I am no clearer as to the distinction between the work of the CRE and that of the commission. The noble Baroness did not address the specific point as to why the CRE has a stronger case for working through outposts than the new commission.

Baroness Blackstone: Perhaps I should try once again to explain that when the Commission for Racial Equality was set up, it did not have the kind of network that exists already in the field of disability and therefore it was decided many years ago that there should be race equality councils. As I understand it, they operate separately from the CRE itself and have slightly different kinds of functions.

Nothing is ruled out in terms of the commission wishing to establish at some later date a network along similar lines. But we must take into account what the Disability Rights Task Force said on this matter. It was quite clear. It did not wish it to be expressed on the face of the Bill; it did not want prescription. It would be wrong to reject that argument at this point.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My noble friend the Minister said that there are differences between the proposed commission and the CRE, and she is right. But there are other differences too.

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I suggest that the question of race or sex is far simpler than that of disability. Race is a simple matter of "ethnic or not". People are either male or female and there are just two choices. Disability is phenomenally complicated. There are around 8 million disabled people in Britain, every one with a different kind of disability. Most of them react differently and most are treated differently. They require all kinds of different assistance.

The Commission for Racial Equality has a simple task by comparison. How my noble friend can compare the two and conclude by saying that they get about the same money proves to me that her staff should do a bit more work on this. I hope that she will take into account the fact that practically everyone who spoke--with the glittering exception of the noble Lord, Lord Renton--is in favour of the amendment. My noble friend should take the matter away and think about it.

My noble friend says that she will review the matter later. But, again, that is the wrong kind of judgment. It is better to get it right now rather than botch it at the beginning and come back saying, "We have made mistakes; it was penny-pinching; we were short. What shall we do?" If my noble friend will take this away and come back with something positive on Report, then we will make progress.

Lord Renton: Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I can say this. I agree with all his motives, but I am afraid that his amendment may defeat them.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: I am grateful to the noble Lord. I shall leave the matter with my noble friend and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

4.15 p.m.

Clause 2 [General functions]:

Lord Ashley of Stoke moved Amendment No. 2:


Page 1, line 19, at end insert ("; and
( ) to keep under review those parts of the Human Rights Act 1998 which it deems applicable to the elimination of discrimination against disabled people.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 2, with permission I shall speak also to Amendment No. 15 which has a similar objective.

Lord Campbell of Croy: Before the noble Lord continues, perhaps I can intervene; the noble Lord has been given notice of this. The grouping shows that Amendments Nos. 2 and 6 are to be taken together. That seemed to me to be most inappropriate. Amendment No. 2 deals with the Human Rights Act whereas Amendment No. 6 is the one to which the noble Baroness referred just now and deals with regional offices. That is a completely different subject and is not dependent on human rights.

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The noble Lord, Lord Ashley, said, as I imagined would be the case, that he wants to speak to Amendment No. 15 which also deals with human rights. If the Committee agrees, perhaps Amendment No. 6 could be dealt with separately.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: We welcome guidance on this matter. Judging from the face of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and that of the Minister, that will be warmly welcomed. It worried me enormously. I do not propose to speak to Amendment No. 6, but to Amendments Nos. 2 and 15 instead.

Amendment No. 2 provides for the Human Rights Act to be included in the statute rather than sanctioned by regulation. It has been argued that inserting the Act through regulation gives it some flexibility, given that the Human Rights Act is not to be implemented until the year 2000 and these issues need clarifying. That is a reasonable point of view. On the other hand, if the Government have that in mind, there is no reason why the power should not be on the face of the Bill.

The issues about the implementation of the Human Rights Act ought to have been clarified by the time the new commission is active. Amendment No. 2 simply seeks to put the Human Rights Act on the face of the Bill. That will offer important new rights to individuals in relation to how they are treated by public institutions. It does not apply to private sector organisations.

These amendments will give the commission the power to assist individuals at proceedings and help in the elimination of discrimination. To include a reference to the 1998 Act in this legislation would cause no delay for disabled people in cases where the Act would help them and would be most valuable.

The amendment confers no new rights on disabled people but merely provides for the commission, as the repository of expertise on disability, to help disabled people to secure their rights. The Human Rights Act 1998 does not concern business but relates to what is due to individuals from public institutions, many of them part of government.

I was pleased to hear my noble friend the Minister quoting the Disability Rights Task Force. She obviously thinks the world of it, as we all do. As my noble friend thinks so much of it, I am sure that she has noticed that that authoritative body recommended that the 1998 Act should be on the face of the Bill. In view of the fact that my noble friend thinks so highly of the task force, I am sure that she is minded to say, "Yes, we accept". I beg to move.


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