London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Bill
Lord Davies of Oldham (Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household; Labour)
My Lords, we had an intensive debate in Grand Committee on disability issues. As a result, I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and placed a copy of my letter in the House Library. In my letter, I set out to answer the questions which he had addressed on the issue of access for all. I hope that he felt that that letter offered significant assurance that the best practice standards and lifetime home standards will be adopted for homes in the Olympic park.
The noble Lord will recognise that the ODA will be a public authority within the meaning of the relevant provisions of disability legislation and so will be subject to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, as subsequently amended. When these requirements come into force, particularly in terms of the specific duties to publish equality schemes, the ODA will involve the views of disabled people in its planning and report on progress. It will be required to do that as a responsible public body.
As I explained in Committee, the Government believe that these duties on the public sector are important tools in transforming our society into one that is more equal and provides greater opportunities for disabled people. Ministers are likely to bring forward the necessary regulations in the next year, and certainly well before we make significant developments with the Olympic park and access to it. So, although I cannot give a definite commitment about precisely when these regulations will come into force, the noble Lord can rest assured that we intend that they will do so as rapidly as possible for more general issues with regard to the nation, although there are certainly also relevant issues in relation to the Olympic Games.
I turn to the noble Lord's amendments. I cannot accept Amendment No. 4, which would require the ODA to have regard to social inclusion and the promotion of diversity and equality in carrying out its functions. Of course, the authority will be covered by race relations and disability discrimination legislation, and it will have specific duties to contribute to sustainable development and the long-term legacy of the games. But it is hard to see that an additional general requirement to promote "social inclusion", "diversity" or "equality" is either appropriate or necessary on top of the existing duties.
As I said in Committee, I believe that it is for a body with a wide-ranging scope, such as the GLA, to deliver on those agendas. The ODA is a technocratic delivery agency and, as a public body, it will have regard to the disability Acts to which I referred and the regulations that we will bring into place subsequent to them. But I do not think that it would be appropriate to give it duties beyond its remit.
I turn to the noble Lord's Amendments Nos. 11 and 12. As I and my colleagues in the other place have already stated, we want to ensure that the games are accessible to all and we have started planning for disabled access. As I indicated in Committee, how can we think in terms of the Olympic Games and the Paralympics and not provide adequately for access by disabled citizens? Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 are about ensuring that the Olympic transport plan takes account of the needs of disabled people. We have plans to do exactly that, and we will ensure that, in its final version, the Olympic transport plan takes full account of the kind of points to which the noble Lord referred. In particular, we will ensure that that the ODA consults representatives of the interests of disabled persons in drawing up the plan.
I turn to the question of a list. The noble Lord has indicated certain bodies which should be consulted. Amendment No. 12 would require the ODA to consult the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee and other representatives of disabled groups. Clause 10(3) sets out the key organisations and people that the ODA will need to consult in preparing and revising the Olympic transport plan, but of course there are others whose input will also be crucial.
As I said in Committee, it is not possible for us to produce an exhaustive list of bodies that the ODA should consult, but Clause 10(3)(k) makes provision for the ODA to consult such other persons as it thinks appropriate in order to meet the noble Lord's concern about the disabled—a concern which I share, as will the ODA. We fully expect the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee to be one of the groups consulted. Paragraph 18 of Schedule 1 will enable the Secretary of State to give guidance and directions to that effect if, for some reason, such consultation does not take place. I ask the noble Lord to recognise that we do not necessarily achieve these objectives by drawing up a list. Even if at this stage we were tempted to be exhaustive, we might well leave out from the legislation other bodies which we had not envisaged.
However, I assure the noble Lord that the broad objectives that he expresses are entirely shared. It is obvious that the body to which he referred will need to be consulted. I know through vast experience in other areas of action and legislation that if the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee were not consulted, it would make its views known, and Secretaries of State do not ignore such representations. If it happened in this case, the Secretary of State would have the power to take action to ensure that consultation took place. I hope that the noble Lord will feel reassured by those comments and that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.