Learning and Skills Bill [H.L.]
Baroness Darcy de Knayth (Crossbench)
My Lords, I welcome Amendments Nos. 55 and 100 most enthusiastically. I was extremely pleased when the Minister said in Committee that she hoped to return with an amendment at a later stage. I admit that when it had to fit in with issues of race and sex equality as well, I wondered whether the amendments would appear in time for Third Reading. But the amendments are here and they have encompassed more than my original proposed amendment and it is only Report stage. Therefore, I thank the Minister and her officials and congratulate them on having accomplished that. It is excellent that the amendments address race and sex equality as well as the position of disabled learners and that they require the councils to report on their arrangements to promote that equality.
I have not yet heard what the Minister has to say but I believe that she will stress that although the duty relates to disabled learners as defined by the Disability Discrimination Act, in fact it must be taken in the context of Clause 13, with the wider definition of learning difficulties, which is extremely important. However, I shall wait to see what she says about that.
With regard to the amendment moved so ably by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, I understand absolutely what he is saying. I agree that we should offer equality of opportunity in relation to sexual orientation, religion and age. As the Minister probably cannot accept the amendment, I wonder whether some encouraging words and perhaps some mention in guidance will satisfy him for the moment. I feel a bit of a wimp saying that because I remember in the days before the DDA my irritation at having to be content with a line in Hansard, whereas provisions relating to sex and race discrimination were included in the Bill. However, having done my wimpish bit, I return to Amendments No. 55 and 100, to which I give three hurrays.