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Lord Ashley of Stoke: I am extremely surprised at the comments of my noble friend. In fact, I am astonished because this amendment is most constructive. When the Minister suggests that there is no provision for the word "reasonable", she should offer to insert the word "reasonable". We are here to discuss the issues as quickly as we can. To say that because the word "reasonable" is not in the amendment, ergo we cannot accept it is quite nonsensical. It is said that the measure would be expensive. This is the whole purpose of spending money. If a blind child cannot have Braille and cannot see what needs to be learnt, that child has no

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education. The Minister's point of view would prevent that difference from being provided. If a deaf child needs a hearing aid or some assistance, they are having no education either. Will my noble friend think again about the issue? I recognise what she said about the other provisions and the other means of tackling it. The amendment is wrong, but the Government should accept the point that has been made and address it on Report. I should like a warm response from the Government.

5 p.m.

Lord Rix: Before the Minister responds may I support the noble Lord, Lord Ashley of Stoke, and add children with learning disabilities to the list of children with hearing impairment and children with visual impairment.

Lord Addington: I agree that if proper provision is made, most of the requirements that have been mentioned will already be met. The problem is that we do not know how to pin that down. Could some guidance be given to parents? As I have said a dozen times, all the voluntary bodies spend ages tracking down such information. That is one reason why people are so keen on having it. The eternal paperchase, form-filling and waiting in corridors is one of the major problems.

We might make progress if Ministers give us more guidance or show us where we can find these things. Perhaps they could amend the Bill to bring the information closer together.

Baroness Blackstone: I am happy to write to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and others about where such guidance for parents is available. The Government are unhappy with the amendment not just because it has no concept of reasonableness in it--although that is a very important problem--but because all the other safeguards for pupils, in particular those who need access to alternative formats that would be provided in the statement, make it unnecessary. All children who are blind or have serious visual impairment will have a statement setting out their need for an alternative format. The schools and LEAs concerned are responsible for providing that. It goes a little beyond what my noble friend, Lord Ashley of Stoke, was saying.

In the light of that further explanation, I hope that my noble friend Lady Wilkins feels able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Wilkins: I thank noble Lords for their strong support for this amendment, and I thank my noble friend the Minister for her rather disappointing response. I would be grateful if she would be willing to meet me and other noble Lords to thrash out any possibilities for change. I shall read carefully what she has said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Clause 15 [Residual duty of education authorities]:

[Amendment No. 135A not moved.]

Lord Davies of Oldham moved Amendment No. 136


    Page 15, line 36, after ("28I") insert (", 28K(1)").

The noble Lord said: This amendment and the others in the group are technical government amendments. The last time I used that phrase it provoked an extensive debate, so I use it slightly more guardedly this time. I hope that the Committee will welcome our concession and that it will help to ensure that the debate is precise and limited. Amendment No. 202 is a technical amendment to Clause 42 to allow for different commencement dates for the different parts of the duties on post-16 providers under Clause 27 to take reasonable steps to ensure that a disabled student is not substantially disadvantaged in comparison with students who are not disabled.

We have listened carefully to the points on post-16 implementation which were made at Second Reading and in Committee. We believe that it is reasonable for implementation of the post-16 duties to be so staged that those which can be brought in sooner should be, but institutions and LEAs have a reasonable but not excessive period to plan and implement those which take a little longer.

We said in the Explanatory Notes to the Bill that the duties not to discriminate and to make reasonable adjustments to non-physical arrangements such as policies, practices and procedures would be implemented by September 2003. We want to do better than that and we have looked again at the timetable. Subject to the Disability Rights Commission being able to get the necessary codes in place in time, we hope to bring these provisions into force a year earlier, in September 2002.

We also said in the Explanatory Notes that the duties to make reasonable adjustments to physical features and provide auxiliary aids and services would be implemented later, by September 2005.

At Second Reading, a number of noble Lords proposed that the physical features duties should be brought forward to 2004, to bring the date into line with the long-planned implementation date for physical features adjustments for service providers under Part III of the DDA. We are not in a position to accede to that, but we believe that having reviewed the timetable we can identify one important area where there is scope to accelerate this timetable. I refer to the area of auxiliary aids and services, which includes equipment such IT and braille printers and services such as note takers, signs for deaf people, and so on.

A great deal of that is provided in post-16 learning. The additional costs are likely to be less than those of adjustments to buildings, and the lead times required for implementing them are self-evidently shorter. We believe that by September 2003 sufficient of the additional government resources will have come on stream to make it reasonable to expect LEAs and institutions to meet their duties in respect of auxiliary aids and services.

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We therefore propose to bring forward the proposed date of implementation to September 2003 while retaining September 2005 as the implementation date in respect of adjustments to buildings. I hope that noble Lords will feel able to welcome this change and accept that the other amendments are technical ones. That was conveyed to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, by my noble friend in a letter of 15th January. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch: I have two questions. I have gone through each of the amendments and am looking for the specific dates. Am I to understand from the Minister that those are dates that the Minister intends to bring in the proposals? The year 2002 does not appear to be written into any of the amendments. Do the Minister's remarks subsume my Amendment No. 198 and the amendment supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, which include bringing forward Sections 13 and 14 to 2002?

Lord Davies of Oldham: The dates will be included in the orders which need to be made to implement the legislation. I referred to the dates in the Explanatory Notes outlining the background to the Bill. It is not the case that what I have said today covers Sections 13 and 14.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 15, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Jurisdiction and powers of the Tribunal]:

Lord Ashley of Stoke moved Amendment No. 137:


    Page 16, line 27, after ("parent") insert ("or with the leave of the Tribunal, the child").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 137, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 143. Before moving these amendments, I should like to say that when I was unwell last week, I was most grateful to my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester for moving the many amendments I had tabled and for reading my speeches to the Committee. I hope that the Committee did not find them too boring but I was grateful and regretted that I could not be present for those amendments.

As we have already dealt with the principles underlying these amendments--that is, that the child should have a right to participate in issues relevant to his or her future, especially with Amendment No. 90, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas--I do not propose to say very much. There is nothing more boring than repetition, unless that be very long speeches! I will make just one observation, namely that Amendments Nos. 137 and 143 would enable a child to take a case under the DDA if the tribunal agreed, regardless of the parents' wishes. The amendments are important because it needs to be acknowledged that parents and children often disagree. At least, my children often disagree with me but because I am so soft they usually get their own way, but that may not happen in every family. We want what is best for the children and that applies as much to disabled as to

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non-disabled children. The parents should not be able to veto the wishes of the child, much as some of them would like to do so.

At the very least, the wishes of the child should be considered by appropriate bodies. I should be grateful if my noble friend the Minister would agree to give a warm response to this amendment and, if not, that she will consider it.


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