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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: In response to the noble Lord, he has raised an important issue. As I have said, I am happy to take this amendment back. I can assure him that there is no question that this was intended to discriminate against disabled people. Indeed, it would be reprehensible if there were any such intention.
The more general points that he makes are, of course, matters that ought to be considered within a government-wide approach. I believe that the Disability Discrimination Act has been one of the most positive and progressive pieces of legislation that we have seen brought forward in recent years. I believe that it will have a most positive effect on the lives of many disabled people in this country. When one considers the enormous influence that the social care council can have on the lives of so many people, it is important that the criteria under which it operates are as sensitive to the needs of disabled people as can be. In taking this away and looking at what amendments we shall bring forward, we shall be mindful of the kinds of arguments put forward by the noble Lord.
Lord Addington: It is nice to know that we can produce a position that leads to a break-out of cross-party support. It is nice to know that the Government are capable of realising that even the past government got it right once in a while. True, they did so with a bit of prodding, but they did get it right--at least "righter".
Having heard what the noble Lord has said, this is one of those situations where we must pay attention to what has been said and make sure that we maintain the same degree of consensus. We must ensure that we can carry on this pressure so that we have an equal degree of consensus at all future dates when we deal with this problem. If we set something rolling this fast now, we shall ensure that we do not have any such matter in future debates, as the noble Lord has already said. I invite the noble Earl to get to his feet to show that the Opposition will guarantee that they will give us support.
Baroness Pitkeathley: Before the noble Earl rises, perhaps I may say how delighted I am with the Minister's response to the debate. How we see the Disability Discrimination Act in practice is very interesting. I know that all those who are concerned with how the general social care council will work feel that the way in which people with disabilities fit into it is tremendously important. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for bringing that to our attention. We have to be constantly aware of how people discharge their jobs, without judging them in a way which is discriminatory. I am sure that we are all happy with the outcome of the discussion thus far this evening.
Baroness Barker: I do not wish to delay my noble friend Lord Addington being able to hear the noble Earl, Lord Howe, but perhaps I can make a serious point to the Minister. We are talking about the physical wellbeing of staff. It is important to remember that in this type of work there are already in existence
Also, in work relating to lifting and handling, there is already a widely established good practice. For example, people have to be physically fit in order to carry out certain types of work; so some of the fears expressed by my noble friend Lord Addington could be dealt with by simply deleting this provision completely. I hope that that is one of the options the Minister will take into account when he considers his response.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Perhaps I can answer the noble Baroness in that regard. I have said that between now and Report stage we will want to consider in full the best approach to this matter. Indeed, if the noble Baroness has examples of good practice that we can consider I shall be happy to meet her and examine them so that we can explore some of these issues.
The noble Baroness raised the issue of lifting. Coming from a background in the health service one of my great concerns over the years has been the number of injuries to nurses and other healthcare workers which has arisen from the lifting of patients. One of my concerns is that we have known for many years what good practice is in relation to how a patient should be lifted and the equipment that should be available. But despite that, many people are still being injured. It represents a major challenge for those in the health field. I am interested in the remarks of the noble Baroness that this is also an issue in the social care field.
We owe a lot to staff working in those fields and we must make sure that we have strong occupational health programmes and give as much training and support as possible, ensuring that they can lift in the most effective and safe way possible.
Earl Howe: Perhaps I may put in one further word. When I read the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, I took it to be, in essence, a probing amendment. I now wonder whether there is not merit in the suggestion made by the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, that the Government's best course of action would be to omit Clause 54(1)(b) altogether. I am not sure what led the Government to put this subsection into Clause 54 in the first place. I shall re-read what the Minister said, but there is much to be said for considering the omission of that requirement altogether. The arguments we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Addington, were extremely persuasive.
Lord Addington: Having actually achieved that rare thing of going from a point of being prepared to go into battle to discovering that everyone is actually on your side and there is no one left to fight, I should like to thank all those who have supported my argument. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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