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Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I made it clear in proposing the amendment that no-one should be absolved from declaring an interest—that is what the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, said in her contribution. People should always declare an interest if they have any kind of involvement in the subject that is being talked about—whether it is here, a parish council, or wherever.

I was pleased to hear the Minister say that he was not the Minister at the time. When the Labour Party was first elected I was the vice-chairman of the Local

10 Sept 2003 : Column 363

Government Association. I spent much time with the then Minister, Hilary Armstrong, discussing this legislation. At that time no-one envisaged a virtual castle in London with the national standards board presiding over very minute complaints—mostly about people calling each other four letter words. If there was an issue of real corruption then it should be considered by the board. The process was set up differently from that which was expected by local government. That is why parish councils and others did not mind coming in—they thought that there would be some local mechanism. In fact the measure does enable in other parts of the Bill more local discussion of very small complaints—which is what should have been done from the beginning. There were problems with the legislation from the start, which this Bill rectifies. I am content with that.

However, parish councils are different. I am now an elected county councillor. I have 10 parish councils in my patch. They are much like the "Vicar of Dibley". The matters that they discuss are mainly litter and the sports field. The borough council normally takes planning decisions contrary to the views of the parish council anyway. It is the borough council that takes the planning decisions. The legislation that affects the parish councils was a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It has put people off from standing for parish council. No-one should be absolved from declaring an interest in any subject in which they have some involvement. But for parish councillors to have to list every asset that they have, when they are never going to be discussed at a meeting is ridiculous. Therefore I wish to test the opinion of the House.

7.20 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 14) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 55; Not-Contents, 121.

Division No. 6


Astor of Hever, L. [Teller]
Blatch, B.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Burnham, L.
Buscombe, B.
Byford, B.
Caithness, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Chalfont, L.
Coe, L.
Colwyn, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. [Teller]
Craigavon, V.
Denham, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Flather, B.
Fookes, B.
Geddes, L.
Glentoran, L.
Griffiths of Fforestfach, L.
Hanham, B.
Hanningfield, L.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Hurd of Westwell, L.
Hylton, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Jopling, L.
Kimball, L.
King of Bridgwater, L.
Liverpool, E.
Lyell, L.
Mancroft, L.
Montrose, D.
Newton of Braintree, L.
Northesk, E.
Norton of Louth, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Plumb, L.
Reay, L.
Rees-Mogg, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Selsdon, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Strathclyde, L.
Tebbit, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Ullswater, V.
Wakeham, L.
Warnock, B.
Willoughby de Broke, L.


Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Alderdice, L.
Alli, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Barker, B.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Burlison, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carlile of Berriew, L.
Carter, L.
Chandos, V.
Chorley, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Craig of Radley, L.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller]
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Filkin, L.
Gale, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Goodhart, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollick, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Islwyn, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jones, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Levy, L.
Lipsey, L.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
McCarthy, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mallalieu, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Mitchell, L.
Morgan, L.
Northover, B.
Orme, L.
Pendry, L.
Peston, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Radice, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Razzall, L.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Rennard, L.
Renwick of Clifton, L.
Richard, L.
Rooker, L.
Russell, E.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Temple-Morris, L.
Tomlinson, L.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turnberg, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Mostyn, L. (Lord President of the Council)

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

10 Sept 2003 : Column 365

7.30 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 15:

    After Clause 114, insert the following new clause—

In section 19 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (c. 50) (discrimination in relation to goods, facilities and services), after subsection (3) there is inserted—
"(3A) In subsection (3)(h), the services of a local authority shall include those it provides to its elected and co-opted members.""

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendment would insert a new clause pursuing a matter that was dealt with at a previous stage of the Bill. As one noble Lord said earlier, it would avoid embarrassment by seeking an assurance from the Government.

The amendment proposes to extend the Disability Discrimination Act to local authority members. My noble friend Lord Addington has tasked me to state why I have not extended the proposal to all elected representatives. I take his point that this is a local government Bill. However, I hope that in his response the Minister can give us some hope on this point.

The amendment implements the outstanding recommendation of the Disability Rights Task Force that local councils should be placed under a duty not to discriminate against disabled councillors, including a duty to make reasonable adjustment. The Government have said that they will address the matter as soon as legislative time allows. I hope that legislative time is galloping towards this.

I am surprised to learn from the Disability Rights Commission, which supports this proposal, that over 13 per cent of local councillors in England and Wales have a disability. It must be a given that we want to encourage the involvement in the public services of all who have a contribution to make and that, by failing to ensure that those with a disability can overcome that disability through facilities and services, society itself risks losing out by putting barriers in the way of tapping all available talents. It is also a given that discrimination is wrong.

I refer to such matters as communications support— providing materials in accessible format. I am told of one town councillor who could not hear debates properly after renovations to his council chamber. The other two noble Lords who, like me, have experience of a new chamber, not at local government level, will know that it can present a considerable problem if it is designed so that the public can hear but members cannot hear one another.

I hope that the Government will soon publish a draft disability Bill. I know that at a previous stage the Minister said that this issue would be a matter for the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and proposed to raise the matter with him. I hope that we can be assured today that the draft disability Bill will include provision to plug that loophole. If we receive that assurance, I shall be happy to accept it and shall not need to take the matter further on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

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