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Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, my noble friend teased me about not pursuing my first amendment, but she has not listened to my original speech. I said then that I had made a mistake. I was horrified to note the word "first" in the amendment. Clearly, I do not want an able-bodied chairman and that is the purpose of this manuscript amendment. It was after I realised that that I tabled the manuscript amendment.

I appreciate the very real advance that my noble friend has outlined. There is no doubt that she is trying to accommodate the views of the House in that way. The problem is that under my noble friend's formula it is possible for the deputy chairman to be disabled and the chairman to be able-bodied. That is the complete opposite of what we want. I do not want the chairman to be able-bodied, as set out in the manuscript amendment; I want the chairman to be disabled for all the reasons that I have explained.

We have arrived at an impasse. All I can say is that at a later stage in another place this matter will be pursued very vigorously. While I appreciate the advance that has been made by my noble friend, the phrase that comes to mind in this context is "it ain't enough". I hope that my noble friend will feel able at some stage to accept the principle of the amendment that every chairman of the commission should be disabled. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 29 not moved.]

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 30:

Page 10, line 35, at end insert--
("(2) The Secretary of State shall exercise his powers of appointment under this paragraph with a view to securing that at least one of the persons holding office as chairman or deputy chairman is a disabled person or a person who has had a disability.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 31 and 32 not moved.]

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Lord Rix moved Amendment No. 33:

Page 11, line 19, at end insert--
(" . Where appropriate, Commissioners, staff and advisers of the Commission may appoint personnel for the purposes of personal advocacy or communication support.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is rather late in the evening. I also have a reasonable idea as to the response that I shall receive from the Dispatch Box. Nevertheless, I should like to say a few words in moving this amendment if only perhaps to soften the Minister's heart and make her response even more generous.

In principle, I hope that noble Lords share my view that people with learning disabilities, sensory impairments or mental health problems should be able to play an active part in the commission and put themselves forward as commissioners. In practice the job may be impossible for a commissioner with a learning disability unless appropriate support is provided in assisting that commissioner in the fulfilment of his or her duties. Working with the commission will involve dealing with some highly complex legal material and meeting those who are, unfortunately, resistant to advancing the civil rights of disabled people.

The principle of this amendment is not about providing commissioners with benefits in kind, such as travel expenses, but rather about ensuring that no one is prohibited from playing his or her part in the role of the commission on the grounds that the commission cannot afford to support that individual's involvement. In practice, this amendment may not achieve that aim, but I am sure that with support of the principle the Minister can find the political will to charge her officials to draft a suitable amendment, and a suitable consequential amendment, to cover the appointment of additional commissioners under Schedule 2.

The Minister has been kind enough to enter into correspondence on this issue and indicated her readiness to confirm that the commission will be able to provide the kind of support to which I refer. For that I am most grateful. It seems that we are nearly there. However, the last mile is always the hardest and this will be no exception. But perhaps the Minister will go one step further and confirm that the commission will guarantee the principle that no one will be prohibited from taking on a role with the commission on the basis that his or her support requirements are too costly. I beg to move.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: My Lords, I warmly support this amendment. I should like to refer to three groups who very much require support if they are to become commissioners. It is important that they get this opportunity because they are very much cinderellas for very diverse reasons. First, my noble friend mentioned those with communication difficulties, for example deaf people. Users of British sign language, of whom I believe there are 64,500, are very much excluded from lots of activities and their needs are ignored. It is very important to have a commissioner who uses sign language. Secondly, there are people with mental disability. Thirdly, my noble friend mentioned people with mental illness. This is a very common problem. One in four people may have a mental illness. Some people hold down

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jobs as directors of social services, company directors and so on, but others find that to explain a gap in their CVs as time spent in prison rather than in a psychiatric hospital can increase their chances of being offered a job, which I find terrifying. I made reference to this matter at Committee stage. I repeat it because I should like to clear up one matter that arises in Hansard on 4th February at col. 1679. I apparently made reference to people with a mental disability who had this difficulty and explained gaps in their CVs as time spent in prison. I meant to refer to people with mental illness. I do not know whether that arose because of fuzzy diction or thinking, but I should like to clear up that misunderstanding. I warmly support my noble friend's amendment and hope that the Minister will give an encouraging reply.

Lord Addington: My Lords, the idea of allowing someone with a disability to have support staff to take part in this commission must be looked upon with at least a degree of sympathy. Basically, we are considering here giving these individuals sufficient support to allow them to do the job properly.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rix, and the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, seeks to ensure that commissioners, staff and advisers of the commission are able to appoint advocacy and communication support workers where appropriate. I recognise and support the intentions behind the amendment. I have no argument with the noble Lord, Lord Rix, on this matter.

In carrying out its new role and functions the disability rights commission will strive to operate as a model of good practice. One of the most obvious ways in which it will have the opportunity to demonstrate this will be the way in which it provides support for its disabled commissioners and staff. I can assure noble Lords, therefore, that this amendment is unnecessary. Clause 2 gives the commission wide-ranging powers, and Schedule 1, paragraph 10(1)(b), establishes a wide power for the commission to appoint its own staff, only subject to the approval of the Secretary of State in terms of their numbers, and conditions of employment. The width of these powers extends to providing advocacy and communication support for its disabled commissioners and staff, and indeed goes beyond that. For example, the Bill as drafted currently allows the commission to provide support to additional commissioners and to provide types of support that may be necessary beyond advocacy and communication.

To specify on the face of the Bill that support should be provided to particular people for particular purposes might serve to limit the commission's powers. My speaking note advises me to quote the Latin phrase used in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. Alas, I am not up to the task, but the translation is that if one expresses one thing one excludes another or others. I believe that it applies here equally. In view of that clarification, I hope that noble Lords will not press the amendment.

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Perhaps I may answer a specific point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rix. It would be for the commission to decide how to spend its budget. In that sense, it is not a matter for the Government, but I cannot see any way in which it would be reasonable for the commission to refuse to meet the necessary support costs of a commissioner with, say, learning disabilities.

Lord Rix: My Lords, there is a slight response to the Minister's last statement. At MENCAP we had as a member of the national council a young woman with learning disabilities. She was an active and good member of the national council but was unable to attend any sub-committee meetings because of the costs involved and because her employers were unable to release her to attend during the working week. She could attend national council meetings on Saturdays, but not sub-committee meetings during the working week. Considerable additional costs would have been required to pay the employers to allow her to come to London and take part in committee activities. Will the commission be capable of meeting such expenses because the situation must apply to more than one of its members?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, ultimately, that is a matter for the commission. However, within its budget of £11 million, it would be reasonable to expect it to meet the costs of providing for the needs of disabled commissioners and their staff.

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