|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Carter: My Lords, we thank the Government, who have come all the way to meet the concerns that we expressed in Committee. Amendment No. 33, which amends Clause 3, retains the key values that disabled people depend on the new commission to promote. We are extremely grateful for that. The large group of amendments, starting with Amendment No. 41 where offending clauses were removed from the Bill, have been brought into the new clause. I am extremely grateful to the Minister. Disability is included in the new commission's duty to promote good relations between members of different groups, which is very important. That reads across to the duty in the Disability Discrimination Act. Under a separate provision, Clause 10 is deleted, as we asked. In addition, that unfortunate phrase "sub-class" is removed and is replaced with the phrase "smaller groups". We will just leave it at that. We are extremely pleased with all of that. We accept it all. It has met all of the concerns that we expressed. I am extremely grateful and thank the Minister.
Lord Addington: My Lords, I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Carter, has said. People who take an interest in disability issues were a little worried at first
19 Oct 2005 : Column 768
that we had not got the tone right. I thank the Government for listening on this occasion and for paying attention to the concerns raised, which were based on very solid practical experience. I thank the Minister for listening and I hope that any praise that is given to any Ministers involved does not damn their further careers.
Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, I regard Amendment No. 41 as one of the most important amendments in the Bill. The promotion of equality opportunity is a key to the future for disabled people who have long suffered, for hundreds of years, discrimination. Now, a positive, constructive provision in the Bill for working on the promotion of equality opportunity is a major step forward. No one can say that Ministers do not listen to our representations. Thank you.
Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, let me say from the outset how very pleased I am that the Minister has been true to her word and has looked again at the definition whereby "communities" were the focus of efforts rather than the many individuals who comprise groups and communities. Those changes are most welcome and will add definitional clarity to the very good intentions behind this clause.
Amendment No. 47 relates to the principal clause dealing with good relationsthat is, Clause 11. I am disappointed that the drafters of new Clause 46 have sought to remove paragraph (d), which placed on the commission the duty to,
I understand that the Government's reluctance to address this issue is that they are concerned not to be seeking integration from those communities who choose the path of isolation as an article of faith or culture. I think that their concern here is mainly for orthodox religious communities. But the effect of my amendment, which covers voluntary and involuntary isolation, would not be to "force" communities or groups who choose isolation to integrate with each other or to integrate in general. It would place on the commission only the duty to "work towards" those aims.
I would not bring up that clause so late in the consideration of the Billit was there and I am sorry to see its removalbut it is important because the Minister has moved some way. As many people have said, the noble Baroness was a very listening Minister. Given the importance of events over the summer, in terms of the isolation and segregation of mainly minority communitiesmuch of the debate today has covered those communitiesit is quite surprising to see the removal of paragraph (d).
At a time when the Prime Minister and Home Secretary are calling for greater integration and buy-in from British Muslims and other minority communities
19 Oct 2005 : Column 769
into what they define as British valuesI must say that I broadly agree with their aimsit is curious that the department is retreating from those laudable objectives when social cohesion is less good than it might be. Reading the report by the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, a couple of years ago, for example, and by Ted Cantle, which touch on the detriment to community cohesion from isolation, it is clear that even inadvertently leaving communities to lead parallel lives cannot be good policy, especially as of itself it will not fulfil the new aims of paragraph (d), which is to work towards enabling members of groups to participate in society. So the new clause is not quite sufficient and it would be helpful if, through the amendments, we could reinstate the previous provision again. I hope that the Minister will consider that.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am very grateful for all the support. The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, warned me that she wanted to raise that matter and I am more than happy to look at it again. The Bill is being worked on by several departments; most of it does not belong to this department, it belongs to this ministerial team at the moment. I am happy to talk to the noble Baroness before Third Reading. I think we have achieved what she wants, but I hear what she says and am happy to talk to her.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 26, I shall speak to Amendment No. 107. I know that my noble friend Lord Ashley will want to speak to Amendment No. 29. I assure my noble friends on the Front Bench that this is a probing amendment to seek assurances from Ministers that they expect the new commission to follow the example of the Disability Rights Commission in involving mental health service users in its work. That is extremely important.
19 Oct 2005 : Column 770
I was a member of the Joint Select Committee that considered the draft Mental Health Bill. We took evidence from mental health service users, which brought home to us how important it is that they should be involved in any discussion of the work of the new commission. The DRC has a mental health action group, which has proved to be extremely helpful. We must remember that up to one in six people experiences mental health problems during the course of their lifetime, while 630,000 have severe mental health problems at any time, ranging from schizophrenia to deep depression. We were disappointed during discussion of the Disability Discrimination Act not to persuade the Government to include depression in the definition of disability; we will continue to press on that.
When I read the briefing on the amendment, I had a strong sense of déjà vu, because we were given those facts during the passage of the Mental Capacity Act and the Disability Discrimination Act and as evidence to the Joint Select Committee on the draft Mental Health Bill. It is worth reminding the House that people with severe mental health problems are twice as likely to die early as the general population. For example, people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia live on average for nine years less than other people.
It is important that the group that advises the DRC should also argue that the new commission should give particular attention to those who experience discrimination on multiple grounds. Black and ethnic minority people with mental health problems, for example, are twice as likely to be involuntarily detained under the Mental Health Act as are white people.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|