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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am sorry, but that is simply not the case. If there is a Prayer against a negative resolution instrument, it will be taken, as the noble Baroness knows. She has never had one refused under this Government.

9.30 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, that is, of course, true, but perhaps I may also point out that I do not receive regulations from the department as regularly as I receive press notices. I get all the glitzy press notices, but I do

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not get the regulations. Several came through during the Summer Recess and I did not receive them. I arrived back here at the end of the Summer Recess to find that by the time that I had discovered those regulations I was out of time and out of date for taking action. This is too hit and miss. Some detective work is required on the part of those of us who are not backed up in the way in which the Minister is backed up in her department. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, shakes her head--and, no, I am not a stupid whatever-it-was, as the noble Lord said in an aside that was less than sotto voce. I am talking of my direct experience of the way in which I am treated by the Department for Education and Employment. As I have said, I receive some things from the department and sometimes I receive several copies of the same thing, but what I do not receive, and what I have never received, are the regulations in draft form--

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the Department for Education and Employment sends the noble Baroness many, many documents--far more than I ever received when I was the Opposition spokesman when the noble Baroness was the Minister. I never, ever received regulations from the department when she was the Minister. I expected my Whip to provide information on such matters. I think that the noble Baroness is being wholly unreasonable in castigating the department in this way.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am talking from first-hand experience of the department. As a Minister, my office on my instructions always contacted my opposite numbers, whether I was at the Home Office, the Department of the Environment or the Department for Education, to talk about the business in the pipeline and opportunities to discuss it before it reached Parliament. There was never anything that was not shared with the Opposition when I was a Minister. I do not think that I was a Minister opposite the noble Baroness on the other side of the fence; I am talking about the way in which I operated as a Minister and about my first-hand experience at the department.

Perhaps I may give an example because it seems that the noble Baroness does not believe what I am saying. When the teachers' pay review document was received, in the course of one day I received, one at a time, eight copies of exactly the same document. Indeed, on many occasions I do not receive any copies of a document. All that I am saying is that there is a very schizophrenic system in the department. Some parts of the department operate very efficiently; others do not.

I had to telephone the department this weekend because I had not been aware of the A-level presentation other than from what I had read in the newspapers or heard on the media. That information arrived at my home at 10 o'clock on Saturday night by personal courier. That was as a result of my own request to the office of the noble Baroness. What I am saying is that--

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, perhaps I may clarify something. I made it absolutely clear to my

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officials before there was any request from the noble Baroness that, as the announcement was made on a Friday and the House was not sitting, the press notice about A-levels should be sent to the noble Baroness and that we should make sure that she got it over the weekend.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, that does not alter the fact that I telephoned the office of the noble Baroness on Thursday about the rumours and the information that was then appearing in public, in the press and on the radio and television media.

I am not happy about this. It is an important point. On Report, I was supported by Members on all sides of the House, including from the Government Benches. I beg to test the opinion of the House.

9.33 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 5) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 46; Not-Contents, 81.

Division No. 4

CONTENTS

Addington, L.
Annaly, L.
Blatch, B.
Brentford, V.
Bridgeman, V. [Teller.]
Burnham, L.
Byford, B.
Carlisle, E.
Carnock, L.
Courtown, E.
Darcy de Knayth, B.
Geraint, L.
Goschen, V.
Greenway, L.
Grey, E.
Hanningfield, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Harmsworth, L.
Henley, L. [Teller.]
Higgins, L.
Hooper, B.
Kingsland, L.
Lamont of Lerwick, L.
Leigh, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
McConnell, L.
McNair, L.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Mountevans, L.
Northesk, E.
Norton, L.
Norton of Louth, L.
Rees, L.
Seccombe, B.
Steel of Aikwood, L.
Stockton, E.
Swinfen, L.
Taylor of Warwick, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Wakeham, L.
Wise, L.
Wynford, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B. [Teller.]
Ampthill, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Bach, L.
Blackstone, B.
Blease, L.
Borrie, L.
Bragg, L.
Brookman, L.
Burlison, L.
Carter, L.
Chandos, V.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
David, B.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gilbert, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hacking, L.
Hardie, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Judd, L.
Kennet, L.
Kintore, E.
Kirkhill, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Nicol, B.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Renwick of Clifton, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Sewel, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Highbury, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Uddin, B.
Warner, L.
Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

23 Mar 1999 : Column 1247

9.41 p.m.

Schedule 1 [Constitution etc.]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 6:


Page 12, line 22, leave out ("and (b) and (2)") and insert ("to (ba)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Formal investigations and non-discrimination notices]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 7:


Page 16, line 7, at end insert--
("(5) Where the Commission refuses to receive oral representations under sub-paragraph (4), it shall give reasons for that refusal in writing to the parties concerned.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 7 I speak also to Amendment No. 8. Again I return to the helpful letter sent by the noble Baroness following the Report stage. Amendment No. 7 presumes in favour of giving reasons,


    "Where the Commission refuses to receive oral representations under sub-paragraph (4)".
In her letter the noble Baroness said that the Government were prepared to accept the idea behind my amendment. I am grateful for that.

Amendment No. 8 seeks to make provision for the disability rights commission to remove a non-discrimination notice from the public register,


    "when the action required by the notice has been complied with".
Again the Government declare themselves sympathetic to this point in the letter from the noble Baroness. I am also pleased about that. However, the noble Baroness suggests that there may be practical issues which need to be addressed. We discussed those at the previous stage of the Bill. I believe it is important that a timescale be considered. There will be a number of practical consequences of such an amendment. I believe those are precisely the kind of matters that need to be dealt with in secondary legislation. I believe they should be dealt

23 Mar 1999 : Column 1248

with by the negative procedure as they will be relatively straightforward, technical criteria concerning how the provisions work in practice.

The noble Baroness also states in her letter that both of these amendments may have implications for future policy with regard to the powers of the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality. I accept that. The noble Baroness states in her letter:


    "I am pleased to confirm that we are currently consulting other relevant departments with a view to bringing forward government amendments in the House of Commons".
I hope that the House will forgive my cynicism about interdepartmental discussions. Time is now short. The Bill goes to the Commons tomorrow. It is a short Bill. I understand from my colleague in another place that it will be dealt with in a short timescale. Therefore I am not confident that there will be discussions with the Equal Opportunities Commission, lawyers, counsel and all the people who need to be consulted in order to obtain an appropriate form of words or for my amendments to be accepted.

I therefore wish to make what I hope is a reasonable plea to the Minister--with their majority in another place the Government are able to do absolutely anything with the amendments--that the Government put something on the face of the Bill. I suggest that both of my amendments should be accepted. The Government agree with the principle behind them; they are negotiating to discover how it can be achieved; and they have promised that there will be an amendment in another place. But if that is not achieved, if the negotiations are not complete, then an amendment cannot be tabled in another place. That means that the Bill will return to this House and there will be no opportunity for this House to take a view as to whether it should treat the disability rights commission as a separate entity from the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality.

Each amendment stands alone. Amendment No. 7 seeks to establish that there should be a presumption in favour of giving reasons why someone should not make an oral presentation. There should also be a provision for exceptions where there are good reasons why someone should not make an oral presentation.

Amendment No. 8 deals with the removal of a non-discrimination notice from the register. A company may have genuinely complied with absolutely everything but may be unwittingly in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act. The commission has come along and persuaded it to make changes. The company makes changes--it has complied--but the non-discrimination notice is on the register. Just as criminals have records removed from registers after a certain period of time, it is important for the reputation of companies that have done the decent thing that there should be an opportunity for them to have their names removed from the register. It is a reasonable request.

If the Government do not like my amendments they can simply remove them completely. If they want to amend them they can do so in a way that meets the objectives. They can do almost anything. It would be

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hugely helpful to give this House an opportunity to have the last say on whether we need to come back and do something quite specific and free-standing for the disabled community. I beg to move.

9.45 p.m.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: My Lords, I strongly support the amendments, particularly Amendment No. 8. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, made some very valid points about time and timing. It struck me that this would not be a matter for primary legislation, but that the detail could be worked out later. I hope that the Minister will be able to accept the amendment or at least give a strong assurance that something will be done in another place.


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