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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, we certainly expect such a Bill to increase or widen the definition of disability as well as covering public sector duties and access to premises, private clubs and so on. The issue of mental health, as the noble Lord will understand, is difficult, but the definition of disability at the moment is that a condition is long-standing and has a substantial, adverse impact on the ability to perform day-to-day duties. If somebody with a mental health problem or learning difficulty fits that definition, he already comes within the existing DDA.

Lord Carter: My Lords, a Joint Select Committee which I chair is examining the draft of the mental incapacity Bill. I understand also that the Department of Health is considering a mental health Bill. Those two Bills, alongside the disability Bill, which my noble friend has mentioned, would form a troika. If they were all on the statute book by time of the next election, that would be a considerable achievement.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I would welcome that too. My noble friend presses me on the form of scrutiny of such a draft Bill. The Government have not yet made their decision, but one possibility is clearly a Select Committee. The other is a Joint Committee of both Houses. I am sure that, whatever happens, your Lordships would wish to be involved in the scrutiny process.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, does the Minister agree that legislation is one thing but example is another? Does she recall that I have previously raised in this House the difficulties that Portcullis House presents to disabled people? She has had correspondence with its managers and they have assured her that they will try to make it more amenable for disabled people and, in particular, for disabled people to be able to work there. Their only reply was

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that you could be "accompanied" around it. If you were working there, you certainly could not have another paid person to accompany you to open the doors and deal with the obstacles for disabled people. Is the Minister able to update us on whether there has been any progress in improving the comparatively newly built Portcullis House?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, my understanding is, but I shall check again, that as result of the perfectly proper pressure from the noble Baroness, the door handles, for example, are being changed, so that people who are in a wheelchair or have a disability can more easily open the doors. Issues such as that have been taken on board. I know that the architects have carried out the equivalent of a disability audit of that building in response to the pressure from your Lordships' House.

Lord Addington: My Lords, do the Government agree that it is about time that we allowed any new commission or following-on body to get away from an individual-case, reactive approach to ensuring that the law is enforced and to have the power to take on a more far-seeing and preventive approach to any disability issue?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I am not sure whether the noble Lord is pressing for the DRC to take up wide-ranging issues such as that. It is a difficult issue, because it could very well cut across the role of, for example, the Health and Safety Executive. I shall give an example. Approximately one-third of people on incapacity benefit have either a mental health or a learning difficulty—largely mental health depression and stress. One could seek to deal with issues of discrimination on the basis of the DRC. What seems to me more helpful—and this issue, too, has been raised in your Lordships' House—is to have the Health and Safety Executive working with employers, as it is doing, putting out new guidance and strengthening the enforcement proceedings, first, in order to avoid the problem arising and, secondly, to ensure appropriate rehabilitation strategies.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, will the Government comment on the first legislative review of the Disability Rights Commission and will they do so in advance of the publication of the draft Bill?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, if the noble Lord is referring to the comments of the DRC on inclusion proposals, even before changes that will take place in October 2004, we have already implemented approximately 70 per cent of the recommendations of the Disability Rights Taskforce. Given the proposals that are coming through in October 2004 in terms of the employment directive which, as the noble Lord will know, covers 1 million employers, 7 million people and 600,000 disabled people, together with the proposed draft legislation, I am confident that we will be addressing the DRC's concerns.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, is the Minister aware that a growing number of elderly

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disabled people require help in the home with such basic things as having a bath? Is she also aware of the incredible cuts in the use of the taxi card for people who cannot use public transport? That certainly is the case with Westminster City Council.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I do not want to be unhelpful, but the degree to which local authorities respond to the day-to-day needs of disabled people is wide of the Question, which is about a comprehensive disability Bill. However, if the noble Baroness would like to write to me about any particular local authority, I shall do my best to make inquiries and respond to her.

CAP: Export Subsidies

2.52 p.m.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will propose further reduction in European Union agricultural export subsidies, in particular the phasing out of subsidies on sugar and milk exports over the next four years.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): My Lords, the WTO Doha Declaration in 2001 committed all members to negotiations aimed at reductions of all forms of export subsidies for agricultural products, with a view to phasing them out. The Government remain fully committed to this objective, although the timetable remains a matter for negotiation and I am unable to commit to precise end-dates at present. The UK continues in the forefront of those seeking liberalisation of agricultural markets.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I am grateful for the Answer. Does the Minister agree that two-thirds of the subsidies are accounted for by sugar and milk? Does he also agree that they distort trade far more than tariffs or import levies; that they often exceed the aid given to individual developing countries; and that they destroy the livelihoods of poor people? Therefore, will the Government give a lead to the rest of Europe on this matter?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the UK has been at the forefront of the EU's position to move to greater liberalisation in this and other areas. Indeed, we were instrumental in ensuring that the EU offered to cut all agricultural export subsidies by 45 per cent with a view to phasing them out entirely. That did not reach the point of negotiation in Cancun, but it was a significant shift in the EU's position.

The situation on sugar is particularly complicated. It is true that sugar and dairy products account for two-thirds of Europe's export subsidies, although relatively little of that—none in sugar—accrues to United Kingdom producers.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, how can the Minister say that Britain is in the forefront of this when

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Mr Chirac and Mr Schroider went to Berlin, stitched up the whole arrangement and ensured that no progress was made on reform of the CAP for 10 years? It is all very fine and large for Ministers to say that the British Government are in the forefront—they are not. We get stitched up on this particular issue by the French and Germans every time.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, that is a completely erroneous interpretation of the events of recent months. Let us look at the facts. We had the most dramatic change in the CAP for decades, which shifted the bulk of subsidies away from production and towards environmental and social benefits. That was a major contribution which meant that the EU could enter negotiations in Cancun having made that move.

That move did not include export subsidies, nor was it ever going to include export subsidies. However, as I have said, the EU was prepared to make a move in the WTO context on export subsidies. The fact that we did not reach agreement was not because the EU was unable to move.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that approximately 50 per cent of the present EU budget goes on the common agricultural policy? In an increasingly regulated world trade order, which we all want and can see as desirable, is it not the fact that the CAP as a whole and American agricultural subsidies stand in mockery to the goals of a regulated world trade system?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, that has been the position of successive British governments for a long time. The point I was making in response to the noble Earl was that we have succeeded in achieving a major reform of the CAP. It did not go as far as we would like, but it was substantial and in multilateral talks it put the European Union in a position to lead towards greater liberalisation of world markets. It is true that the EU has the largest number of direct export subsidies and it is important that we commit ourselves to phasing those out as rapidly as possible. My noble friend referred to the United States. It is also true that there are other ways of subsidising exports. Direct export subsidies, food aid and export credits are used by the United States to equal effect of those in the European Union.

I fully accept that we need to make progress on this front. However, the EU as a whole, at the behest largely of the United Kingdom, has moved substantially in that direction.


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