On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to raise a matter that has been brought to my attention in the last 24 hours. Jill Allen of Southend, a blind person who wished to attend today's debate, has experienced difficulty in going into the Strangers Gallery because she is always accompanied by her guide dog which frets when she leaves it. There is no facility in the Chamber for the dog to go into the Strangers Gallery, although it is possible in another place.
I appreciate the difficulties faced by the staff of the House when they try to cope with all the pressures that are put on them. I also appreciate the considerable effort that has been made today to help disabled people to go to the Strangers Gallery. Nevertheless, the case of Jill Allen provides an example, right under our noses, of the very discrimination with which the Bill is concerned.
If it is not possible to make the necessary arrangements today, would you, Mr. Speaker, look into this matter to ensure that the House is not guilty of committing those things which we are trying to prevent?
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. There are countless examples of instances such as the one that the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) has described. We are about to embark on a Second Reading of a Bill which will enable us to get rid of that type of discrimination.
I call upon you, Mr. Speaker, to bear in mind the fact that we had five hours of debate on a similar Bill in February but that the closure motion on it was defeated. Would it not be sensible to ensure that this time there are no antics from the Tory Party? Is there not a danger that the Government and Conservative Members will argue at the end of another five hours of debate that the House has still not had enough time to debate the Bill? We must get rid of the discrimination and the types of problem to which the hon. Member for Caernarfon has referred.
The House knows very well that I am not in favour of antics of any kind.
As to the point of order about guide dogs, I understand that it has not been the practice in the past for guide dogs to be allowed into the Strangers Gallery because of the layout of the seats and the difficulty of seating dogs with their owners. However, I shall certainly look into the matter.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
My Bill's origins go back many years. It will be noticed that it is the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (Amendment) Bill—it stems from the efforts made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) in 1970 to bridge a gap by providing special legislation to help disabled people. My right hon. Friend would be the first to admit that much has to be done to give the Bill teeth. Perhaps I might add as an aside that he introduced it ably and with the support of the Government of the day. There were no Whips on then. Officially there are no Whips on this Bill, but we all know what has been happening. No doubt the House will today see Ministers who are not normally present on a Friday.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) introduced a ten-minute Bill which attempted to outlaw discrimination against disabled people. Although that Bill was ably introduced, it was not supported and last February the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) also introduced a Bill outlawing unjustifiable discrimination.
There is nationwide—indeed international—interest in the Bill. When was Westminster Hall last laid open for a lobby of disabled people? Those disabled people should be told about the possible manoeuvrings. When the Division lists are scrutinised, hon. Members will not be able to hide by saying that they voted against the closure motion and not against the Bill. People are becoming far too sophisticated not to realise what those manoeuvres are all about.
There have been full discussions about discrimination. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) rightly pointed out a few minutes ago that the issue has been discussed for many years—at least a decade. As he said, it was debated for five hours in February. The day was lost then because some hon. Members were not willing to vote for the closure. That was another way of defeating the Bill. Those hon. Members knew what they were doing; they knew that they were denying human rights to 5·5 million of our fellow citizens who are disabled.
The Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People, which was appointed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe, is ably chaired by Peter Large. His efforts to draw public attention to widespread discrimination against the disabled should be recognised officially by the House. He would want no better recognition than a successful Second Reading of the Bill. He is disabled and has given me valuable assistance in drafting the Bill.
I was fortunate in the ballot. At the time I was asked by the media what I proposed to introduce. I said that it could be one of two things and that it could be a highly controversial Bill. For example, I could have introduced a Bill to implement my party's alternative economic strategy. It would have been a 24-hour wonder and would not have got anywhere.
Just like the strategy. [Interruption.] With friends like that, who needs enemies? I told the media that I wanted to see a Bill through to the statute book and that it should assist deprived people. I said that I wanted to present a Bill which would give rights to the elderly or the disabled and around which the whole House would rally. They were my first comments. I hope that the House will give cross-Bench support to the Bill.
I was gratified when I discovered that hon. Members in all parties supported the Bill. I could have been partisan even on this issue and have secured as many names as possible from my own party in support of it. I deliberately did not do that and eight of the names appended to the Bill are not those of Labour Members, and some of them are the names of Conservatives.
I have no intention of being party political, as this is not a party political question. Anti-discriminatory legislation already exists on the statute book in the United States, and I would not call President Reagan a militant Socialist. In 1981, in the Liberal-dominated House of Commons of Canada, the principle that no disabled person should be discriminated against was enshrined in the constitution. In South Australia two years ago, a Government going under the name of Liberal—we all know that in that part of the world that means Tory—introduced such a Bill. The subject of the Bill is a matter of principle for me and for my party because it formed part of our manifesto on 9 June.
The Bill is not concerned with a tiny minority. We are talking about the 5·5 million people—one in 10—who are disabled. The BBC and New Society recently commissioned a Gallup survey which showed that 29 per cent. of families contained at last one person who was disabled. Accident and disease know no class barriers, so one cannot argue that this is a class issue, although the poor tend to suffer considerably because often they are inarticulate and are unable to seek the necessary advice.
What has heartened me is the wonderful achievements of many disabled people who have been able to overcome their disabilities and achieve something in their life. I have already mentioned Peter Large and my right hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent. South. Many people will have seen David Blunkett, the leader of the Sheffield council, and even those who may differ from him politically can admire his courage as a blind person in taking on responsibilities and tasks that many of us, as able-bodied people, find difficult to pursue.
I have been given many similar outstanding examples since I came second in the private Members' ballot. It is invidious to mention any particular one, but I had a letter from a man who was blinded during the Mau Mau campaign in Kenya, when he was shot. He has since become a fully qualified and practising physiotherapist. He told me in his letter that last year he had climbed Ben Nevis and I found that amazing enough. When I got further down the letter, I read that a couple of years ago he even went with a party and climbed 1,000 ft above base camp on mount Everest. Hon. Members from my city will understand when I say that many able-bodied people in Liverpool are unable to climb Brownlow hill, yet here is a man of considerable achievement.
For every man and woman who overcome their disability there are 1,000 for whom disability means poverty, and poverty comes to those who are initially rich before their accident or disease. They are hit by isolation. Many disabled people are isolated and cannot go out into the community, and cannot do as the United Nations International Year of Disabled People said they could—be a part of our society, not apart from our society. Disability means helplessness in all too many cases. These people are looking to us and stretching out their hands in the hope that we will alleviate many of their difficulties and provide a bridge to proper integration in our society.
The Government say that they are Ira persuaded that there is sufficient firm evidence of discrimination, but such evidence has been produced. I am pleased that, although they are not members of Her Majesty's Government, the Government have managed to find a few of their Back-Bench Members with the guts to put down a counter-motion against the Second Reading today. At least we know where we stand with those Hon. Members.
The report of the Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People gave many examples of discrimination, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles last February gave a few more. He said then that he thought that the House did not need to be told about too many cases because we all have disabled people turning up at our surgeries. I do not believe that, because many right hon. and hon. Members are not as aware of the scope and extent of discrimination as they might be. I do not blame them for that because I should not have been as knowledgeable of the extent of discrimination had I not been concerned with the drafting of the Bill over the past three or four months. Therefore, I shall give a few examples.
Yesterday a group of disabled people were refused admittance to a cinema in Derby. A group of mentally handicapped people in Essex were refused holiday grouping for a small group at a Ladbroke holiday camp simply because they were mentally handicapped. Some mentally handicapped people who went to their jobcentre were sent away by the manager who told them they should not be there because they were mentally handicapped. Handicapped holidaymakers were refused drinks in a pub in Teignmouth simply because they were handicapped, and that event was given quite a lot of publicity at the time.
Before I came to the House, I was a lecturer in a college of further education in Liverpool, and one of my blind students was refused entrance to a concert hall because she had a guide dog. The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) told us this morning of an incident which shows that even in this place it is impossible to bring in a guide dog, and that is something that we must change. A lady wanted to help in an art therapy department in a large psychiatric hospital. She was recommended by the local voluntary services organiser. She had to take medication to help her cope with the death of her father some years before, but she had never been in hospital. However, the hospital to which she applied decided not to appoint her because it was its policy not to employ people who had mental health problems. That is discrimination.
I believe that the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security is aware of the case of an epileptic seaman who was a steward on a ship. He was not dealing with intricate or dangerous machinery. He was subject to petit mal attacks once in a blue moon. He was sacked after the one attack that he had on board ship as soon as the ship arrived in port. Every one of us has suffered at some time or another from the flu or a bad cold and cannot pursue our activities. How ludicrous it would be if we were to be told by our employers, the electorate, that we could not do our jobs because sometimes we caught the flu or had the day off for a cold.
My hon. Friend has a very good sense of humour. Would that all of could afford as long a holiday as the right hon. Gentleman.
Just outside my constituency, in the former constituency of Huyton, a security guard was dismissed simply because he had a stammer. Elected representatives of the people are not immune from discrimination on the ground of disability. In the May local elections this year. a wheelchair-bound councillor was elected in Buckinghamshire. He found that the council chamber was on the first floor and had no access for a wheelchair. One councillor said that as the wheelchair-bound councillor was aware of the situation before he stood for election, he should have realised what he was doing and that there might be difficulty representing the people.
Examples of discrimination are legion. Hon. Members may feel that I am taking up too much of its time with individual cases. I assure them that these cases are a drop in the ocean compared with the many examples that I could give. I could talk on and on about individual cases.
People say that the disabled are divided on the merits of legislation such as my Bill, although they do not give any evidence. I shall give evidence of the organisations representing the disabled. Recently the Spastics Society established a consumer group after the defeat last February of the legislation, which was introduced by the right hon. Member for Western Isles. The group was created to tackle the question posed by the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi), who was representing the Government, on which the organisations for the disabled were divided. The consumer group of the Spastics Society initiated, between June and September this year, 10 regional conferences in England and Wales and more than 500 people with a wide range of disabilities participated. After detailed discussions, the overwhelming majority of the delegates at each regional conference voted in favour of anti-discrimination legislation. They said that this was the best means of countering discrimination.
The national executive council of the Spastics Society followed this up at a meeting in September when it was the society's unanimous view that there must be anti-discrimination legislation. In a letter that I received this week, since the Bill was published, the society said that it would welcome the appointment of a disablement commission to ensure that the legislation was effective.
In the past few days, the National Association for Deaf, Blind and Rubella Handicapped has sent me a message of support and the Spinal Injuries Association has told me of its unanimous support. MIND has responded in a similar fashion and has produced 47 examples of discrimination against the disabled.
We are told that the organisations in the field may have a vested interest. What is the public's attitude? This week, the Disablement Income Group, which has given its support to the Bill, commissioned a Gallup poll in which it was found that about three out of every five people interviewed—61 per cent. —said that it should be illegal to discriminate against the disabled. Of those interviewed, 65 per cent. said that there should be legislation against discrimination on grounds of race; 59 per cent. said that it should be illegal to discriminate on grounds of religion; and 59 per cent. said that there should be legislation against discrimination on sex grounds. In those cases, there is anti-discrimination legislation. Everyone who was interviewed did not know the depth of the problem. Of those who perceived discrimination against disabled people, 68 per cent. said that it should be illegal.
The Government may have another hoary chestnut up their sleeve. Conservative Members, even those who sympathise with the Bill, might believe that the Government dislike quangos and that if a disablement commission were set up it would be another example of bureaucracy run mad. They say that they do not believe in quangos. I have a copy of a list of quangos that have been established since May 1979 which shows that about 105 new quangos have been set up. They include the Advisory Group on Hepatitis, the Alcohol Education and Research Council— a quango to educate people about the dangers of alcohol — and the Government Inquiry into Human Fertilisation—there is a good subject! The Government set up the Judicial Studies Board, the London Docklands Development Corporation—that is a place of retirement for hon. Members—the Merseyside Urban Development Corporation, the Scottish Seed Potato Development Council, the Training of Trainers Advisory Group and the Standing Advisory Committee on List D Schools.
I am conversant with the operations of the Merseyside Urban Development Corporation. Despite the fact that they say that they are opposed to quangos and that three democratically elected councils—the Merseyside county council, the Liverpool city council and the Wirral district council — cover that area, the Government felt it necessary to set up the corporation. I understand that its officers are well paid. The director of the International Garden Festival in Liverpool, who was appointed at the corporation's inception, resigned last February, but he will be paid until the end of this year. He must have friends in high places. That is an example of bureaucracy run mad.
We have been told that the Bill is badly drafted.
The House has been impressed by the fact that 105 quangos have been set up by the Government. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Government are not against quangos as such but are against quangos to help disabled people? This is an example of the discrimination that the Bill tries to prevent.
The hon. Gentleman is correct. The Government show some selectivity about quangos, but it has not stopped them from setting up quangos. I hope that they are listening carefully. I address myself to the Government because this is not a private Members day in the normal sense.
I have been a Member of Parliament since 9 June 1983. I suggest that, since Simon de Montfort's first Parliament, a Bill has never been so well drafted for its Second Reading that it did not need polishing in Committee or in another place. Second Reading is the time when hon. Members must stand up and be counted for their principles.
I wanted to be of assistance to the Government when I was fortunate enough to present the Bill. I realise that Government time is valuable and limited.
My hon. Friend does not want me to be too generous. That should be the last charge to be laid against me.
In July, I wrote to nine Government Departments asking them to trawl their offices for ideas which could be taken on board by me in a private Member's Bill. The Bill could have been a vehicle for Government policies on which, once in a while, we are united. What happened? Not one Government Department produced a new idea. The Department of Education and Science said that it was attempting to implement the Education Act 1981. The Department of Trade and Industry said that it was pursuing certain policies that would help the disabled. The Department of Transport informed me by letter in August that one of its Ministers, the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker), was trawling her Department for ideas. I have not heard from that Department from that day to this. It is obvious that someone has talked the hon. Lady out of pursuing that policy. The other Departments produced no ideas. The Welsh Office made the briefest comment. It said, in effect, "Sorry, we have no ideas." I think that that will amuse as well as outrage the hon. Member for Caernarfon.
It may well be thought that the Department of Health and Social Security has a real interest in helping the disabled. I sent two letters to the Department. In the first I asked that an effort be made to trawl the Department for new ideas. In my second letter, which I wrote at the beginning of September, I asked whether the Department was interested in the Bill and whether it would discuss it with me. I waited for a response until the first week in October, when I was at Brighton attending the Labour party conference. I received a telephone call on Thursday 6 October. I was offered an interview and I suggested that it should take place on Monday 10 October. That was the only day that was vacant between the Labour party conference ending and the Conservative party conference beginning at Blackpool.
I arrived at the Department at the appointed hour and had to wait until 10.55 am before being taken into the Under-Secretary of State's office. I grant that he apologised for the delay. I refute the suggestion that I did not try to have discussions with the Government. I did all that could reasonably be expected of a new Member with a private Member's Bill but received no drafting assistance from the Government. I would have welcomed their assistance because I want to see the Bill reach the statute book.
The hour is late but I issue the Government with a challenge. The 1922 Committee deliberated on Thursday of last week and the Cabinet has indulged in its manoeuvrings and dragged the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry back from his appointment at Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. However, the Government can respond to my challenge even at this late hour: are they willing to co-operate with me in Committee, to consider the details of the Bill in Committee and to accept the principle that is set out in the Bill?
Let us do something positive. Let us take up the challenge that the disabled are putting before us. Let us place a measure on the statute book which is helpful without fractious partisan opposition from the Government Front Bench.
I think that the present occupants of the Government Front Bench are disabled. The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security said on the radio this morning that the Government are not persuaded that the Bill would be effective or practical. I hope that the Minister will explain the Government's position to the House. There are 5·5 million disabled people waiting to hear about it. What do the Government think would be practicable to outlaw discrimination against the disabled? The Under-Secretary of State said that the Government are opposed to discrimination. I am sure that they are. We are all opposed to sin—at least, I think that we are, but I had better not dig too deeply into that because I do not want to embarrass anyone.
The Under-Secretary of State told us this morning that employers respond to persuasion. I welcome his statement that the Manpower Services Commission has increased its estimate and that it expects 70,000 disabled people to be placed in jobs this year compared with 40,000 last year. I welcome that, but as long ago as 1944 an Act was passed which stated that employers should have a 3 per cent. quota of disabled workers within their work force. We know that 68 per cent of firms do not adhere to that quota.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept a figure which the Government produced recently, which suggested that if all employers were to take up the quota there would not be enough disabled people to fill it? The Government's figure was about 1·9 per cent.
The hon. Gentleman has made an important contribution. I am sure that the disabled would be extremely pleased if there were no disabled on the unemployment register. We all know that the disabled suffer rather more than most of us when trying to find employment. If the hon. Gentleman is right, he has strengthened my argument. It is an outrage that the disabled are not fully employed.
The Under-Secretary of State says that we must adopt a positive attitude and that we do not need to introduce further legislation. It is true that we cannot make laws to make people like one another. However, in this instance I am seeking to introduce legislation that will make us behave more properly towards one another. If it is correct to have law—I challenge the Government to say that it is not—let the Government accept this modest measure. Law is needed to ensure that there is not racial discrimination or sex discrimination. Why should it be wrong to have a backdrop of law against which to defend the disabled?
We are told that that is not on and that it would not be possible to enforce that legislation. That is what the Government say, but let us try. Perhaps the Government are worried about the cost of a disablement commission. They may say that the cost will be at least equivalent to that of the Equal Opportunities Commission. At this stage the cost of a disablement commission cannot be readily verified, but last year the cost of the Equal Opportunities Commission was about £3 million. That is peanuts when compared with some of the expenditure that we have been discussing recently.
I would be the first to argue for education and persuasion if I thought that that would be the most effective way of dealing with the problem, but does anyone really believe that the discrimination that I have described would be eradicated without the backcloth of legislation? Does anyone believe that one day employers woke up and said, "Let us pay women the same rate as men"? We know that employers would not have accepted equal pay in the absence of equal pay legislation.
The Government spent £7·8 million in an effort to persuade the motoring public to wear seat belts. What was the result of that campaign? We all know that the answer was the introduction of legislation. By and large, the British people are law-abiding, and they would abide by a law which outlawed discrimination of the disabled. The Government talk about the cost of quangos—they have created 105 since 1979 — but they should take into account the cost of hospitalisation and institutionalisation of so many disabled people because they are not given the opportunities that human beings should have as of right.
The Government talk about the cost to industry of making various adaptations. Are they aware that in 1981–82 less than 50 per cent. of the £168,000 that was allocated to capital grant to assist employers to make adaptions to work places was paid? We are talking about peanuts at a time when we are spending £17 billion a year on leaving 3·5 million people languishing in the unemployment queues, when 45 per cent. of our riches are owned by the top 5 per cent. of rich people in the country, and when we are the only country in western Europe with a bonanza of North sea oil.
Can the Government really say that we cannot afford human rights? It was said during the debate last February that it was too costly in the United States. We were told by the Minister at the time, the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green, that quangos were costly. One can verify that from c. 1274 of Hansard for 11 February 1983. The hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) said that he had visited the United States and heard criticisms there. I do not doubt that, but there is no question of the United States going back on its legislation.
Earlier this week I spoke to John Doyle, the director of the Senate Sub-committee on the Handicapped. He is not a Socialist or a Liberal but a lifelong Republican. He told me, "I do not mind which party you belong to. You are doing the Lord's work." I do not want to invoke Providence on my side, but those were his words. He said:
There is no clamour to repeal section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act from firms or institutions, many of which have had to make substantial renovations—such as putting in elevators"—
what we call lifts in this country. He said:
When first issued section 504 and public laws 94–142"—
dealing with the education of all handicapped children in the United States—
created some concern. There were many arguments. Seven to eight years later, fewer than half of 1 per cent. of cases wind up in the formal complaints mechanism. Feared bankruptcies had not occurred.
He went on to say,
Is it likely that there will be changes in the legislation in the United States? Mr. Wareing, let me read a letter from Vice-President Bush".
In a letter dated 21 March 1983 from Vice-President Bush to Senator Weicker, chairman of the Senate Sub-Committee on the Handicapped, he said that, as a result of the findings of his working party into the operation of section 504,
no extensive change in section 504 is required, both the President and myself are fully behind the legislation for what it is doing for the disabled".
That is the evidence this week from the United States.
Will my hon. Friend take this opportunity to lubricate his throat with some more well chosen words? We on these Benches feel that this matter is worthy of examination. Of course, there may need to be changes in my hon. Friend's Bill, and they can be discussed in Committee. Surely the point is that we on these Benches are prepared to discuss the Second Reading of the Bill with an open mind, but Conservative Members have been whipped here on a negative basis to make sure that it does not go through.
I thank my hon. Friend for making that point, because it is true. My approach to the Bill is completely flexible. I am prepared to look at it in detail, but will the Government look into their attitude? We want to know the answer to that. We want to know how flexible they are. After all, we are talking about principles. My hon. Friend was quite right to say what he did, but I remind him that there are hon. —I use the word "honourable" in its best sense—Members on the Conservative Benches who are willing to support the Bill.
The hon. Gentleman said that the Government called him to a meeting after he returned from the Labour party conference. Did he get any assistance other than that from the Government? Did they say what help they would give him? Did they promise him any support for his Bill?
In the discussions, was there any mention of the money resolution, without which it will be difficult for the Bill to be implemented even if it passes all its stages? Are the Government prepared to table a money resolution?
I did raise that matter. I came away from the meeting feeling that there was no hope at that time about the money resolution. Nevertheless, the Minister seemed to have some sympathy for the general ideas that I put to him. I hoped that, after the Minister had discussed the matter with his departmental colleagues and other members of the Government, they would be forthcoming, knowing my flexible attitude and knowing that the Bill could be amended in Committee. If the Bill needs to be polished, I should be only too pleased for that to happen. Indeed, I already have in mind certain amendments.
In these days when executive power is so strong, and when that power of the Executive means that the will of the House tends to be the will of the Executive, in spite of the free will and the feelings of individual Members, occasions are rare when the House is able to assert itself, when its decisions do not bring about either the maintenance or the fall of Governments. I believe that this is one of those occasions. I believe that it would be wrong for hon. Members on either side to be whipped into battle. It would be an outrage. It would reverberate around the country if the Government were simply to trample on the wishes of 5½ million handicapped people. Let the Government have the courage to tell those people that they do not believe in anti-discrimination legislation. As I said earlier, the Division lists will be scrutinised. Certainly I, my colleagues and the organisations for disabled people will make sure that every vote will be contained in information spread throughout the land.
No matter what decision the House makes today, there will come a time when Parliament will put on the statute book either this Bill or something like it so that human rights may he accorded something more than the lip service paid by so many people. We need real practical help for the disabled. It is my privilege to serve them. I shall not hold back any energy in future years in ensureing that the Bill reaches the statute book. I call on all right hon. and hon. Members to give the Bill a Second Reading.
I am glad to have caught your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was beginning to think that I was part of an oppressed minority —that handful of Conservative Members who are not either former Cabinet Minister or maiden speakers.
I am especially glad to follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing). I congratulate him not only on introducing the Bill but on the way in which he did so.
In speaking briefly in the debate I wish to share with the House my concern the subject and the difficulty in which I and my hon. Friends find ourselves. I am the president of the Cambridge disablement income group. During the seven years that I have been in the House I have gained my greatest satisfaction from being of practical assistance to a considerable number of individuals who are, to some extent, disabled.
The hon. Member for West Derby referred to individual cases. The House may be interested to know of one of my constituents, Mr. Toby Churchill, who, although wholly paralysed and incapable of speech, has invented, developed and sold the lightwriter that is now available in the majority of hospitals and centres throughout Britain. I remind the House of Professor Hawkins who, although paralysed, is one of our leading scientists and astronomers.
I hope the hon. Gentleman will understand when I say that I find myself in a genuinely difficult position. If we were debating a simple motion couched in the terms which the hon. Gentleman used at the end of his speech, not only I but everyone on both sides of the House would find it easy to support. But it is not a simple motion—it is a detailed Bill.
I shall give an example to illustrate one difficulty with the Bill. When I was young, my ambition was to become a naval officer. My father and my brother are professional soldiers. I thought that it would be more agreeable to be driven around the world in a battleship that forming fours at Catterick. My problem is that I am disabled—I have only one eye. When I appeared before members of the naval board they spotted that. I asked, "What about Lord Nelson?" They replied, "That happened after he joined the service." I then asked about Field Marshall Lord Roberts, VC, and Field Marshall Lord Wavell, both of whom had been blind in one eye from birth. "Ah," they said, "they joined the Army."
I do not feel that I was discriminated against. I failed to fulfil the physical requirements of the armed services. Yet the hon. Gentleman's Bill, especially clause 9, would give me a case against the armed services for rejecting me. The Navy lost a brilliant strategist, and the Conservative party gained a wonderful enthusiast.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that even in the armed forces there is a place for one-eyed people? There are many trades and functions within the armed services which could effectively be carried out by the disabled. The hon. Gentleman should not use such an example to illustrate his case.
I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. I was merely quoting a personal example. One reason why I have become so deeply involved with the disablement income group is that, although my disability is minor, I understand the problems of the disabled.
The hon. Member for West Derby believes that the Bill is capable of amendment in Committee, but clause 9, which is the heart of the Bill, is incapable of amendment —unless it were a wrecking amendment, which would destroy its whole purpose. The clause states:
A person discriminates against another person on the grounds of disability in any circumstances relevant for the purposes of any provision of this Act if … he discriminates against him on the basis of a characteristic that appertains generally to persons who have such a disability or a presumed characteristic that is generally imputed to persons who have such a disability;"
What does that mean? How can the principle of the Bill, which everyone would support, be enforced? I understand that it will be enforced by a disablement commission, but before that there must be local authority surveys which will cost about £30 million. How will the commission prove that a decision was taken on the basis of discrimination because of disability?
I am about to give an example to prove my point. Some years ago I was involved in a company which exported a considerable volume of goods to Third world countries. The Commission for Racial Equality suddenly appeared and said that it was investigating my company for racial discrimination in its recruitment programme. When I pointed out that the company did not have a recruitment programme because of the recession and that, unhappily, people were being laid off, the commission still insisted on continuing the investigation. The mere fact that the company was being investigated deeply harmed its export prospects. At the end of the day the company was exonerated, but in the meantime immense harm had been done to it and to the jobs of many people. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman's argument points to the defects of the Bill.
The proof of innocence is forced upon the employer. He must prove that he did not discriminate against a person simply because of disablement. How will that be done? I say in all seriousness that that will not be achieved by the Bill. The Bill cannot be amended if it is to achieve its purpose.
I think that the House will agree that the Conservative Government have done more during the past four years for the disabled than any of of their predecessors. I give an example from my constituency. Robinson college was designed from the outset for the disabled—for example, there are no stairs, only ramps. Throughout the city of Cambridge we have provided special facilities and guides for the disabled. It is unreasonable to think—one has only to look at the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam), who is profoundly admired on both sides of the House—that there is a monopoly of compassion and concern for this issue on the Opposition Benches. That is dishonourable, and is unhelpful to the cause of the disabled.
The Government's record in practical terms has been the best ever. I believe that that is the course that we should follow. I genuinely and sincerely believe that the Bill represents a major disservice to cause of the disabled, and I invite the House to reject it.
I should like to begin by offering warm congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) on his admirable presentation of the Bill and on selecting this important subject. We were delighted to hear what he had to say in an extremely convincing speech.
I am afraid that the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) has been seriously misled. The hon. Gentleman is a distinguished historian and I respect him very much as a Member of Parliament. I never dreamt that I would hear him talk such rubbish and nonsense. The hon. Gentleman said that I would probably agree that more had been done for disabled people in the past four years than by any of our predecessors. He does not know what was done by our predecessors. Many more millions of pounds were allocated to help disabled people under the previous Labour Administration than under the present Administration. The Prime Minister misleads the House of Commons at every Question Time when she boasts about what this Government have done. The figures prove that the Government are failing abjectly to help disabled people. They mislead the House when they toss out the odd selected statistic. A comparison of the financial record of the present Government with that of the previous Labour Government shows that they are failing to meet the needs of disabled people.
The hon. Member for Cambridge even misread his own experience. First, he said that the Navy did not want him because he was disabled. He was told, "You are blind in one eye, so we do not want you." Even though the hon. Gentleman suffered gross discrimination by not being allowed to serve in the service he loved, he stood up in the House of Commons and said, "I was not discriminated against." That is standing the truth on its head. That is calling black white. That is reversing the truth and rationalising discrimination in the worst possible way. The hon. Gentleman should not lean over backwards to try to justify such evil discrimination. He had the right to serve in the Navy. The rules were rubbish. If this Bill were an Act, he might have become another Lord Nelson. The hon. Member for Cambridge, whom I greatly respect, has helped the supporters of the Bill rather than the Government, as he intended.
The hon. Gentleman referred to clause 9. I do not think that he read it with the scrupulous care that he adopts when preparing to write his splendid historical books. Clause 9 gives the Secretary of State power to prescribe regulations on areas which may or may not constitute discrimination. I think that the Bill gives the Secretary of State too much power. Nevertheless, it gives him power to say what is or is not discrimination.
Clause 9 is not a hard and fast requirement. The fact that my hon. Friend the Member for West Derby said that he was prepared to lean over backwards to amend the Bill in Committee means that we are now debating the principle. We must discuss that principle. Instead of the reasonable arguments that the hon. Member for Cambridge attempted to put forward, at the end of the debate we shall have a couple of clever lawyers making all sorts of legal points, a few verbose Queen's counsel will trot in at one o'clock, after they have made their money in court, to make complex speeches about the difficulties of the legal interpretation of the Bill. That is what happened on the last occasion. They may impress themselves with their own eloquence, but they will not impress the House of Commons.
I do not wish to deal at length with clause 2, although I think that it is very valuable. It provides an appeals procedure, improves provision for local authorities and gives representation to disabled people. However, the nub of the Bill is clause 1, which deals with discrimination.
I am always struck by how easy it is for able-bodied people, who do not suffer from discrimination, to theorise about the benefits of persuasion and education and to dispute the need for outlawing discrimination. That comes easily to those who do not suffer from the burden of being disabled. They suggest the soft sell and gentle guiding principles. They always underline the difficulties of a Bill such as this. That is a complacent attitude that we should not accept.
The Government's attitude was put succinctly by the former Minister with responsibility for the disabled, the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi). I hope that that attitude will not be echoed by the present Minister. In a letter to Peter Large, the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green said:
The Government would need to be convinced that there were significant breaches of human rights.
That statement by the former Minister with responsibility for the disabled reveals a degree of ignorance about discrimination that I find absolutely appalling and amazing.
I shall not repeat the examples of discrimination given by my hon. Friend the Member for West Derby. The House has heard enough of them. However, as chairman of the all-party disablement group, I hear examples of wicked discrimination against disabled people every day of my life. The disabled people in the Lobby outside can give chapter and verse of that discrimination. More evidence does not come to the House because disabled people are worn out from fighting disability. They are far too exhausted from trying to overcome prejudice and living with the problems of disability to complain to hon. Members. That is why not enough evidence is given to the House.
Discrimination easily becomes an abstract concept. The reality of discrimination is that disabled people are denied jobs for which they are qualifed, refused the houses that they need and denied the transport that is important to them. They are pushed out of the pubs and clubs that they should be able to enjoy. That is what discrimination really means and it is that type of evil that we are fighting today.
Discrimination means restriction of choice and lack of opportunity. It means that disabled people are patronised and humiliated every day of their lives. Sometimes that is due to stupidity, indifference or thoughtlessness. On the other hand, sometimes it is due to a calculated and malevolent attitude on the part of a small minority who are willing to wound and able to strike. Indeed, they do so. They are bitter, vindictive, small-minded people who greatly hurt the disabled.
Many of the disabled people who suffer discrimination are sick to death of the pussy-footing approach adopted by Conservative Members. They are sick to death because they know that talk of education and persuasion means evading the real issue.
We must now outlaw discrimination. We must change the law to ensure that it becomes illegal. Once it is illegal, the public will accept the law because they are law-abiding.
If a small minority are prepared to break the law, we shall have to hit and penalise them. This House cannot allow law-breaking. To be able to hit them, we must have an enforcement agency, which should be a commission. There are enforcement agencies to deal with people who break into houses, so why cannot we have an enforcement agency for those who would break the law and discriminate against the disabled? The commission will be a most important instrument. Most of the commission's work will be to conciliate and to sort out any problems. Where discrimination is the result of thoughtlessness, the problem can be resolved by discussion through the commission. However, in the last resort the commission will exercise its powers, and that is only right. It will insist that discrimination is not imposed on people.
I want to be brief. I introduced the first Bill to outlaw discrimination in July 1982. That was followed by a Bill presented by the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), who made valiant efforts in February of this year. That, in turn, has now been followed by the superb effort of my hon. Friend the Member for West Derby. Our efforts to end discrimination have been based on the work of Peter Large. Our Bills should be called the "Peter Large Bills", because he and some members of CORAD have been responsible for initiating them. In his report, he put the issue in a nutshell when he said:
It's true that legislation cannot make people love each other. However it can make people behave properly toward each other.
That is the issue today. We are trying to prevent disabled people from being denied jobs, houses, transport and entry to pubs and clubs. I ask Conservative Members, such as the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) —who has done marvellous work for the disabled—to vote for the principle of the Bill. Let us argue about the details in Committee. The basic principle of the Bill is to outlaw discrimination. Let us give it a fair run and pass it today. Let us argue about it in Committee. If we do that, we shall do more for disabled people than any other Act of Parliament.
It is a great pleasure for me to speak, for the second time this year, after the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) in supporting legislation that tries to remove discrimination. I congratulate the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) on his good fortune in the private Members' ballot. I have tried for many years — and continue to try—to secure a place in the list, but have never had the good luck to be drawn. However, when I consider the difficulties that sometimes ensue when trying to get private Members' legislation through the House, I sometimes wonder whether I have been so unfortunate.
All hon. Members will know that the previous Bill against discrimination failed to obtain a Second Reading in February of this year. It was lost because there was not enough support for the closure motion. I suspect that that will not be the case today. I supported the Bill in February, although I had reservations about it and, indeed, still have some. However, I felt then that the House should give the Bill a Second Reading, so that we could reshape it in Committee. I was disappointed when it failed and I shall certainly be disappointed today if this Bill also fails to reach the Committee stage.
I have on many occasions expressed reservations about whether we need to introduce legislation into this whole area. I have also expressed reservations about the technical difficulties of bringing the law into our treatment of the disabled. After the attempt in February, I should have much preferred a simpler and more acceptable measure. Indeed, when the hon. Member for West Derby published the long title to the Bill in, I believe, July, his supporters gave every indication that the Bill would turn out to be shorter and less controversial, and would be drawn up with Government help in order to produce something acceptable to the Government.
I was very interested in the account given of the discussions and approaches made to various Departments. However, the Bill has turned out to be longer and more complex than that of the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart). I, and I am sure even Opposition Members, can foresee that in its present form substantial changes might have to be made in Committee and that there might be substantial opposition from within the House. However, it is a private Member's Bill and, as such, must be considered by each of us on its merits.
I shall try to be brief, because when I spoke in support of the principle of the Bill introduced by the right hon. Member for Western Isles in February, I was later accused by a member of the SDP on a radio programme of deliberate filibustering. I shall try to avoid that accusation today and keep my remarks short and to the point.
As has been illustrated already, there is beyond any doubt a cry in the country for anti-discrimination legislation for the disabled. I need not remind hon. Members of all the letters that we receive from organisations for the disabled calling for our support for the Bill, or from individual disabled people who list the various encounters that they have had with discrimination. The organisations have expressed their general support for anti-discrimination legislation, but it does not follow that in the few days since the publication of the Bill they have been able to assimilate and assess all the details and form realistic judgments about it.
There may be arguments about some details, but in the past few days a number of organisations, including the Spastics Society and the Disablement Income Group, have written to tell me that they have absorbed the contents of the Bill and have even analysed a number of the clauses.
I was going on to say that detailed appraisals have taken place, but the representations received by hon. Members did not include such appraisals. Only now are those of us who are directly involved with disablement organisations receiving detailed judgments.
Some organisations have been holding discussions about discrimination in recent days. The Spastics Society has held regional conferences since February and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, South (Mr. Yeo), who is the director of the society, has been involved in those discussions. Yesterday, a conference was held to mark the end of that series of regional meetings. Feelings ran high in support of the Bill and the society's executive council voted unanimously in favour of it.
There were differences of emphasis in those discussions, for example about the type of legislation that is needed and the need for it to be more effective than previous legislation. There is a strong belief that education should go hand in hand with legislation. They are vital to each other. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, who served with me on the Committee that considered the 1981 Education Bill, agrees that it is vital that education walks hand in hand with any other proposals for the disabled.
It is difficult to assess the extent of discrimination, because many disabled people are frightened of making a fuss. They think that it may lead to further discrimination and hostility towards them. Disabled people have enough difficulties to cope with, without having to take up problems with people who have discriminated against them.
The House has legislated to help the integration of the disabled and to help them overcome some of their handicaps. That is an acknowledgment that there are disadvantages for disabled people and that they face discrimination. If that were not so, we would not have had to legislate to remove discrimination.
I accept that legislation is not always the answer. The debate about the 3 per cent. quota is a good example. A law exists to enforce the employment of a percentage of disabled people in all firms, but many people argue that it does not work. Indeed, there was a strong movement, initiated by the Manpower Services Commission, to abolish the quota. We resisted that strongly. I argued that, although the law on the quota has not been enforced properly, if it did not exist far fewer employers would take on handicapped workers—despite the fact that all the evidence shows that handicapped workers offer greater loyalty and effort than non-disabled workers.
I suggest that the two major areas in which discrimination occurs are employment and access. In the February debate I gave details of problems faced by disabled people in getting in and out of buildings, their work places and even Parliament. This building still provides totally inadequate access through lifts and ramps to our public Committee Rooms, for example. The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) raised a point of order earlier about a blind person who has been appointed by the Government to their working party but who was unable to get in to listen to the debate because she must always have her guide dog with her. Obviously, we shall take up that matter on another occasion.
We are making progress on access, thanks to the efforts of my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction to implement the new planning requirements that are coming into force as a result of the Disabled Persons Act 1981, which was skilfully piloted through the House by the hon. Member for Caernarfon. Nevertheless, I stress that, despite all the exhortations to architects, planners, builders and employers, public buildings are still being constructed without proper access for disabled people, whether deaf, sight impaired or wheelchair users. Legislation was necessary and was accepted by my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction. As a result, proper provision will have to be made in new buildings when the new building regulations are issued
As with seat belts, exhortation and education are sometimes not enough when financial resources are scarce or paternalistic attitudes prevail. The unemployment statistics show that more than 60 per cent. of severely disabled people have been out of work for more than two years. The comparable overall work force figure is 2 per cent. and that shows, beyond doubt, that there is discrimination in employment.
I am not now arguing the case for the Bill: I merely wish to remove any doubts that any hon. Members may have about whether discrimination exists. Some discrimination is intentional. Much of it — indeed, probably most of it—is unintentional and is caused by ignorance, but it is still hurtful and degrading to the disabled. For example, epilepsy can be controlled far more than ever before, yet there are innumerable cases of epileptics being dismissed from work. One man had attacks only when he was asleep. He worked in the office of a dairy firm and once took a nap during his lunch break. He had a fit and was dismissed as a result.
Another young man joined the Merchant Navy without disclosing the fact that he suffered from epilepsy. He worked aboard a ship for two years without causing hazards to anyone. He rarely had attacks and when he felt one coming on he would go to the ship's surgery. He had only one attack, and he was in the surgery at the time.
It is a rule in the Merchant Navy that anyone with a disability, particularly epilepsy, should be debarred from going to sea, but the case of that young man showed how grossly unfair and discriminatory such rules can be. He rarely had fits and, when he did, he had a warning and was able to get himself to a safe place. His two years' service on board ship showed that he was capable of work in every respect, but he was dismissed after one attack of epilepsy. He told me that he thought he was less of a danger to his fellow seamen than those who smoked and drank. He was discriminated against because of his disability, and I should like to see such actions prevented.
Sometimes, when admiring the wonderful way in which the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South has overcome his serious handicap of profound deafness, I wonder whether, if he had worked somewhere else, he would have retained his job. Indeed, I wonder whether, even only 50 years ago, the right hon. Gentleman would have been able to remain a Member of the House.
Disabilities are often not visible and, where they are, it is people's prejudices that are so often at fault. But that is not an excuse for not legislating. We cannot legislate against people's prejudices, but we can legislate against the actions to which they lead. Only education and persuasion will help to change prejudices.
We all know of organisations and individuals who have made marvellous efforts in education and persuasion. The International Year of Disabled People and all the events that flowed from that helped in many campaigns. One little-known campaign that is important in educating people is the campaign called "We care with a chair". It started a couple of years ago and at that time was run by one woman, Margot Knowles. It has now been adopted by Age Concern. In many public places, in shops in particular, little notices are being posted containing the words, "We care with a chair. Chairs are being provided." The chairs are for people with hidden disabilities, such as athritis or back trouble. Such campaigns go a long way towards alleviating discrimination, but they cannot achieve the results that legislation can achieve in other areas.
Disabled people are discriminated against when, for example, they cannot enter a building because there is no access for them and when they cannot obtain a job because of preconceptions about their ability.
Our first step should be to look around the world to see whether other countries have come up with the answer. South Australia, the United States arid Canada have introduced anti-discriminated legislation. Recently, the South Australia commissioner came to London and we had a unique opportunity to discuss the problem with her. The commissioner there is given several roles. The first is to encourage and educate people to take a positive, informed and unprejudiced attitude to disabled people. The second is to give advice and assistance to disabled people. The third role — the most important — is to conciliate in alleged cases of discrimination.
The Act in South Australia is just one year old. As with similar legislation, people take a little time before they will use it. The commissioner feels strongly that the Act is working well and that it has done much to benefit disabled people in South Australia. The commission has dealt with 30 cases, of which 29 were conciliative. The commission has to show only substance to an allegation, not proof. That allows the law to be interpreted according to the spirit rather than the letter. It avoids lengthy litigation and enables cases to be sorted out in private. The commission can refer a case to the High Courts, but that has occurred only once. That is where the teeth lie in that Act. Conciliation is confidential, whereas hearings before a tribunal or court are public. Loud publicity involves consequential penalties for all involved. The desire to reach agreement and avoid that is great.
The Bill presents us with a similar proposition which we should examine in depth. That is why I shall support the Bill's Second Reading. The question whether to set up a commission is difficult and arouses strong feelings. I am wary about the type of commission that might be set up.
The figures from South Australia show how a commission might work in the United Kingdom. The commission in South Australia examined 30 complaints in its first year. Our population is 50 times that of South Australia, so we can assume that a British commission could deal with 1,500 cases in a year. The Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation dealt with that number of cases over two years, at a cost of £10,000 a year. We can assume from that that establishing a conciliation commission will not be too costly. I like the idea of a conciliation process. I do not believe that disabled people want attention to be drawn to their plight. They want to be treated as people first and as disabled second.
Legislation should aim at encouraging education and backing up activity elsewhere. The South Australia experience is a good example. However, I have reservations about the nature of the legislation proposed in the Bill. The legislation should involve more conciliation, instead of legal proceedings.
Turning to part II of the Bill, I was alarmed when I first saw the length and extent of the proposals in the Bill. I thought that the measure would be small and acceptable, but it now seems to be fairly controversial. However, the more I examine the Bill, the more I realise that it is not as alarming as it appeared at first. It does not contain a range of astounding new legislation. Clause 12(1) brings the 1970 Act into line with the 1978 Act which applies to Northern Ireland and which is working well. I do not see why disabled people in one part of the United Kingdom should be treated differently from disabled people in the rest of the country.
Clause 12(2) does not add anything new to the 1970 Act, but clarifies it with paragraphs (a) to (c) of subsection (1). Paragraphs (d) and (e) of that subsection allow for an appeals procedure. Research by RADAR shows that to be necessary. The proposition received a guarded welcome even when it was discussed with the local authority associations. Their recently published code of practice on provisions by social services departments under section 2 of the 1970 Act highlights the need for that.
My right hon. Friend the former Minister responsible for the disabled is on record as being in favour of a proper procedure which takes the Minister away from legal proceedings and establishes a proper appeals procedure. No great cost is involved in the provision of such procedures. Only a small service is required. The RADAR survey shows that 37·2 per cent. of complaints were concerned with aids and adaptations, 31·6 per cent. with telephones, 18·8 per cent. with home helps, 6·7 per cent. with holiday provision and 1·6 per cent. with meals on wheels.
Similarly, clause 14 does not contain as drastic a change as it first appears to do. The attendance allowance proposal is already recommended in circular 53/71, which says that it should not be taken into account when assessing the payment for the provision of services rendered. The mobility allowance provision is already in statute.
I cannot say that I am happy with the wording in clause 16. One cannot quibble with the spirit of having disabled people properly represented on relevant committees, but the provision goes too far in some respects. That matter can be sorted out in Committee.
I have tried to show that in my view the Bill is not as frightening as it appears, but it needs close examination in Committee and should offer a stronger conciliation framework. The whole question of the effectiveness of anti-discrimination legislation can be resolved only by a close and detailed study in Committee. I shall, therefore, vote in favour of the Bill's Second Reading, but the measure will have to be changed substantially before I can support it on to the statute book.
I am proud of the many advances that the House has instigated for the disabled in the last decade. I am proud of my party's record in government. I hope that, whatever the result of today's debate, the Government will recognise that unfair discrimination exists. I hope, too, that they will continue to take the necessary steps to remove the barriers and obstacles that prevent disabled people from leading integrated and fulfilled lives. That is what it is all about.
I am happy to follow the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) and support the Bill. I welcome the fact that the rest of the United Kingdom may be brought into line with Northern Ireland. I understand that the quota system in Northern Ireland is voluntary. It could be regarded in that light in the rest of the country, and that may be why all the places are not taken up.
I was fascinated by the illustration of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James). It reminded me of a visit to one of my parishioners many years ago. He was an ex-1914–18 war man with a bad chest condition. I asked him, "Has the condition been with you since the war?" He said, "No. I had it before the war. When I volunteered I was turned down because I was not A1." I said, "But you served in the war." He said, "Yes, because after 1916 they were prepared to take the old, the maimed and the blind, and so I got in."
That supports what the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) said about the hon. Member for Cambridge, because he was dealt with in that way by the Royal Navy, not because of a particular disability, but because of the circumstances of the time. I am sure that in other circumstances the Royal Navy would have been glad to take him. We are fighting for the right of anyone with a disability to be considered for a job on the basis of qualifications.
In 1833, 150 years ago, William Wilberforce died a few months before slavery was abolished. He had manifested tremendous patience and skill in the 20-year campaign which achieved that goal. Many would say that his vision was narrow. Nevertheless, he achieved his objective. This Bill, again the work of a Back Bencher, may be another shot in the long battle to get proper treatment for the disabled. We have already been reminded that it is the third Bill of its type. That is going back only a year and a half; we are a long way short of the 20 years. I hope that we do not have to wait 20 years to achieve the liberation of the disabled.
Earlier this week the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Smith) asked the Prime Minister to remind the House of the Government's outstanding record in helping the disabled. In response, the Prime Minister said:
the Government's view will be given on the appropriate day.
We look forward to hearing that view. She went on to say:
the Government's record on helping the disabled is outstanding. The mobility allowance is 90 per cent. higher than it was during the previous Labour Government and it is now tax-free. Expenditure on the long-term invalidity and disability benefits is 21 per cent. above the level of increase in inflation. We deliver the goods and the Opposition do the talking." — [Official Report, 15 November 1983, Vol. 48, c. 721.]
I remind the House that this is not a question of the Opposition versus the Government. It is a question of the Back Benchers of the House and, we hope, others joining together to help forward the case of 5 million people.
I am still waiting to hear the Government's position, because facts and figures miss the real import of the Bill. The Government have given their backing, in my view correctly, to the Video Recordings Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Luton, South (Mr. Bright). They have not given similar backing to this Bill. I am reminded of the response to the plea that a person was doing the best that he could. The retort was very apt: the best is not good enough. I do not believe that it is enough for the House to vote extra finance for schemes to aid the disabled without at the same time granting the disabled the same rights in law as every other citizen has when it comes to employment and other opportunities.
I welcome the increase in financial support. But right hon. and hon. Members will know that even in terms of aid there are many gaps. The very tests and restrictions on mobility allowance discriminate against some people who should have such support. Even a 21 per cent. increase above the level of inflation says little when the starting base is so low.
A blind person can get £1·25 extra in supplementary pension. We are told that that is very generous, but is it very significant when set against the costs involved, bearing in mind that a blind person wears out clothes far more rapidly than his sighted friends and is unable to do his own decorating, as others can? Even the need to keep warm involves additional heating costs so that his fingers may remain sensitive to read braille books, which themselves have increased in price.
While speaking of the blind, I take the opportunity to put on record my own interest in the attitude which rules that guide dogs may not be admitted into the Gallery of this Chamber.
Two years ago, two of my constituents who were blind visited the House of Commons. I took them into the Gallery, only to find that visitors' guides were printed in Arabic, German, French and English but not in braille. I took up the matter with the Sub-Committee on Accommodation and Administration. I am happy to tell the hon. Gentleman that visitors to the Gallery can now obtain guides printed in braille.
I appreciate that advance. I understand the reasons for the non-admission of guide dogs. I know some churches which do not admit guide dogs. However, I have had the privilege on several occasions of having as many as three guide dogs in my congregation. I suspect that Mr. Speaker would be happy to have one of them here, because, if my sermon goes on for too long, it sighs. It would be useful here to draw attention to the lengthy speeches of some hon. Members.
I also remind the House that the concessions for the blind, limited though they be, are only for those who are working. I have in mind tax concessions, for example. The majority of the blind are over 60 years of age and unemployed. They are not taxpayers in any event.
I spoke earlier of the work of William Wilberforce. We are engaged in a similar fight to free the disabled from the unnecessary shackles that an unenlightened society places upon them. In many ways, our fight is against the ingrained forces of self-interest and powerful lobbies. In his day those same forces opposed Wilberforce. Quite often it is prejudice which delays the proper treatment of the disabled.
The House gave a Second Reading to the Video Recordings Bill. I believe that it should give similar support to this Bill. Many people make improper use of video recorders and are in need of correction. I remind the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) that the law, theologically, is described as a schoolmaster, and I believe that a change in our law is fundamentally necessary to move forward in the educative process which will change the direction of people in their treatment of the disabled.
I plead with right hon. and hon. Members to give a Second Reading to the Bill so that the problems that some people foresee can be thrashed out in Committee. It will be at least part of the process in the overall changing of the nation's attitude. Those who blithely denounce the Bill because of the cost involved, real or imagined, and the threats of legal wrangles over interpretations may themselves be only a small step away from Hitler's concept of a master race.
A truly compassionate society will have compassion for those who have needs and a visionary House and society will prepare for the day when they and others may need the protection of such a Bill. At present it may not affect them. Millions of people in society believe that they are normal and healthy and that they have no problems. They cannot understand why disabled people want to go where they cannot go and seek employment where they cannot work. The day may come, however, when those healthy people will join the ranks of the disabled and will be crying out, "Why did not the House of Commons do something about this before?" It is important that we do just that.
I put on record the plea of a constituent of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux).
She wrote as follows:
Certainly progress towards the integration of disabled people has been made over the last few years and some will argue that anti discrimination legislation will harm the goodwill that exists towards us. But why should people be upset with legislation if they are doing the right thing anyway and proved to be doing so? It would surely strengthen the position of those wanting to change the present situation where disabled people at the mercy of an individual's whim, who may dictate where we can and cannot go in a fashion that they would simply not accept themselves. For this reason most severely disabled people and their organisations welcome the prospect of anti discrimination legislation.
There is enough evidence to support the need for legislation. I shall not speak any longer and risk impeding other hon. Members who wish to participate. I conclude by asking the House to support the Second Reading of the Bill so that it can be argued through in Committee. I do not believe that we should throw the Bill out today rather than have the trauma of a Standing Committee followed by the disappointment of defeat due to the legislative timetable. I believe that examination of the Bill in Committee is vital to help us all to understand what will be necessary in the long run for the advancement of our society.
I feel strongly that opposition to giving the Bill a Second Reading has very little to do with the cost of the proposed commission or implementation of the measure. Although implementation of the proposals would be enormously expensive, I appreciate the intention of the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) that it should be a gradual process.
I oppose the Second Reading because I firmly believe that it would be a mistake to create yet another crime, and one which would especially affect small business people, who are the key figures in providing employment.
Those of us who oppose the Bill have been accused of being somehow uninterested in the future of the disabled. I strongly reject that, both personally and on behalf of many of my colleagues. An enormous amount needs to be done for the disabled and I shall be asking the Government some questions on that today.
My already considerable admiration for Peter Large, whom I have known and worked with for a number of years, grew markedly as I read the committee's report. It drew heavily on the experience of the Commission for Racial Equality. It will not be news to hon. Members to hear that my experience, working with the Swann committee and in many other ways and having been interested in the work of the CRE since its inception, convinces me that the commission's success in relation to employment is far less satisfactory than would be needed to make it a persuasive precedent for the establishment of an anti-discrimination commission for the disabled along the same lines.
As the hon. Member for West Derby said, the number of disabled people is enormous. He said that 29 per cent. of all families in the land had at least one disabled member. If disability is so widespread and people's experience of it in all its forms is so well known, one must ask why there is still a manifest need to improve the lot of the disabled. The problem is clearly a combination of ignorance and lack of resources and it is important that we move on both aspects. The report noted a wide variety of ways in which progress could be made.
The Bill does nothing to provide the necessary resources for the job. Without such provision we shall be in trouble. Therefore, I should prefer to proceed by increasing to a small extent the resources available for some of the useful measures which the committee has suggested than to set up a commission at this stage.
The problem of employment is especially bad among small employers. On the whole, the larger employers have accepted their responsibility for taking a proper quota of the disabled. As we know, the figures are very hard to interpret because, thank goodness, a large number of disabled people are making such a good fist of not allowing their disabilities to damage their lives that they are unwilling to be recognised as disabled. That is entirely proper.
A disabled person in my constituency has been rejected for, in my view, too many jobs and I am doing my best to help him. No doubt other hon. Members have done this in numerous cases. When I went to one of the places at which he felt he might be suffering discrimination., it turned out—I have checked this and it is absolutely true —that the job could not be done by a person with that disability, although that was not clear from the small print. I am now trying to see whether the job description can be changed in a way that would not damage the employer's work operation. Many hon. Members will be familiar with that experience.
At a time when many small employers are discouraged from taking on new staff and are having great difficulty keeping their heads above water and trying to cope with the bureaucratic encumbrances which are still far too numerous and burdensome despite the Government's efforts, it cannot be a good thing to add yet another offence to the possible threats already hanging over them. As was suggested earlier, I believe that such a move might indeed make people far less well disposed towards the disabled.
What is to be done? Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister could give us some assurances. First, will he ensure that the Government will make available to voluntary organisations, either direct or through a mechanism such as the voluntary services unit, resources to enable disabled people who have made successful careers for themselves, in spite of their disadvantages, to travel and otherwise take part in educational and promotional programmes to help the disabled?
All of us who have experience of working with voluntary organisations know how hard it is to stretch the budget to include often extremely expensive travel and accommodation costs which are required if people are to be taken from one part of the country to another. It is clear that one of the most useful things that can be done is to enable people who have an example to set to speak to audiences and meet groups whose eyes have not yet been opened. I hope we can be assured that the necessary resources will be available.
One of the useful suggestions in the Peter Large report, if I may so call it, is that a variety of trade associations and professional groups should be required to produce a statement of their objectives and attitude towards the employment of disabled people. That would be comparatively simple to arrange, but it will require resources. It is entirely appropriate that the Government should take positive steps to encourage the collection and publication of such statements. That would be a move in the right direction. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will consider it sympathetically.
I also believe—my belief was greatly strengthened by a meeting in the House last night—that it would be valuable for the Minister to assure us that, so far as his Department is responsible, when cable television is introduced on a wider scale than at present, the disabled, like many other underprivileged groups, will definitely be able to use some of that enormously powerful resource to improve public understanding of the disabled. Such a provision should be built in at the beginning rather than added later as a reluctant afterthought when it is recognised how many opportunities have been missed. I hope that the Government will agree with that suggestion.
Will the Government take steps to ensure that dismissal from employment, such as that which my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) described graphically, will become much more a matter for industrial tribunals? Some such dismissals arise as a result of disabilities that are no worse or no more of a hazard to employment than, as the hon. Member for West Derby said, a cold or severe 'flu.
We all know that research shows that, by and large, disabled people have a better work record than their fully able colleagues. I shall quote just two sentences from a recent study:
Management consider disabled employees to be particularly careful workers and no more accident prone than anyone else … Impaired workers had fewer injuries, lost fewer work days and were absent fewer days per injury".
It is essential that such information, which is now beyond quibble, should be made available to employers' organisations and other groups.
Like many others, I was speaking to the social affairs directorate of the CBI before the debate. It said that it was desperately anxious to have information and support on recruitment practices, training practices and advancement practices, with special reference to the disabled. We should not forget that the enormously wide range of disabilities that are included in the titled "disabled" makes it difficult to create programmes that are relevant to everyone. Nevertheless, if the social affairs directorate is making that plea, I hope that the Government and voluntary organisations will respond even more positively than before.
I believe passionately that we need to build on the known good will of most employers by education, information and example rather than by threatening them yet again with yet another legal offence. That is why, with considerable misgivings, I shall vote against the Bill being given a Second Reading.
I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) on his remarkable luck in the private Members' ballot. Few new hon. Members can have been any luckier at their first try. After the ballot, he quickly decided to make Britain's 5.5 million disabled people the beneficiaries of his good fortune and he has worked extremely hard since then in drafting and winning both parliamentary and public support for his Bill.
On this very special occasion for my hon. Friend, I congratulate him also on the content and manner of the speech with which he opened the debate. He was as strong and firm about the ends that his Bill seeks to achieve as he was flexible about the means. That combination will have won him support in all parts of the House and we on these Benches are anxious to see his Bill given an emphatic Second Reading.
It is a private Member's Bill properly so called. Many who win high places in the ballot introduce Bills that are, in fact, Government measures masquerading as private Members' Bills. Their reward for helping Governments in this way is to receive the whole range of help available to Ministers in promoting legislation. Their Bills, even their speeches, are drafted for them; they are briefed on every aspect and detail of the legislation and its effect; and, among other favours, they enjoy not just the benevolence but the practical assistance of the Government Whips' Office. That primrose path was not chosen by my hon. Friend. He has trodden the rough and rocky road of presenting a real private Member's Bill, one that seeks to improve the well-being and status of the most needful in society, and richly deserves the reward today of securing a Second Reading for his Bill.
Of course, there will be many technical and drafting points to consider in Committee. We on this side of the House will play our full part in improving the Bill upstairs. The only real issue today, however, is whether the Bill should be allowed to proceed to Committee, and I profoundly hope that the House as a whole will agree that it should.
Today is also a special occasion for me, and not just as the promoter in 1970 of the Act whose provisions the Bill seeks to strengthen and extend. I intervene from this Front Bench also as the then Minister who, in January 1979, set up the Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People—CORAD—from whose report my hon. Friend has drawn one of his main propositions—that of seeking to make it unlawful to discriminate against a disabled person on the ground of his or her disability.
The members of CORAD, chaired with distinction by Peter Large, worked long and tirelessly to research the extent of discrimination against disabled people. Those whom I appointed to the Committee were mostly themselves disabled, or the parents of disabled children, and all members were chosen for their extensive knowledge or experience of disability.
In completing its report the committee overcame considerable difficulties. It was even denied the services of a full-time secretary by a Government who have since had the temerity to criticise the committee for not doing more to document its case. Let me quote the words of Peter Large:
Only at the beginning of our work did we enjoy the services of a full-time secretary. Towards the end, staff shortages left us with less than a part-timer.
That surely was the meanest and pettiest of all this Government's cuts.
At first, most members of CORAD were opposed to legislating on discrimination against disabled people, but after studying the pros and cons for more than two years the committee decided by a large majority that legislation was both necessary and urgent. It did so on the basis of actual examples of discrimination sent to it by a host of individuals, by national bodies of and for disabled people and their branches, by local societies of the disabled and by many other organisations and groups. The examples came from activities as diverse as education, employment, civic duties, entertainment and the transaction of domestic business. Many hurtful and damaging experiences of discrimination were reported and CORAD concluded that disabled people should, whenever necessary, have resort to a legal remedy if their right to equal treatment is infringed.
Since CORAD reported, there have been two attempts to legislate against discrimination as it affects disabled people. The first was by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley), whose Bill was blocked by Government Whips on Second Reading in 1982. The second attempt was by the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) on 11 February of this year. His Bill was talked out when we were forced to move, but failed by 23 votes to carry, the closure.
My right hon. Friend and the right hon. Member for Western Isles argued that discrimination was both widespread and deeply ingrained. I was reminded of the speeches with which they commended their Bills to the House by a recent statement by Chris Davies, an athetoid spastic known to many of us here, whose abilities I hold in high regard. He put it to me that most people now consider it wrong to discriminate on grounds of sex or race and went on to say:
It is also accepted that such discrimination cannot be rectified by education or publicity alone and, therefore, has to be made illegal. Yet similar injustice is excused when practised against disabled people on the grounds of their disabilities … we are judged not as people, but almost as a race apart and are denied equal opportunities in almost every activity of life.
Many organisations of and for disabled people have endorsed that view in welcoming the Bill. They report very strong backing for the Bill among disabled people.
How, then, does discrimination operate? First, the disabled are discriminated against as individuals in a way which, as the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi) said in the debate on 11 February, can be "devastating to the defenceless victim." —[Official Report, 11 February 1983; Vol. 36, c. 1274.]
Such was the fate that befell a 16-year-old girl only last month. She was sacked on her first day at work after her employer realised that she had only one hand. Her story, reported in the Daily Telegraph, showed just how thoughtless and cruel the effects of discrimination can be. Belinda Brown was taken on by another employer and has since made a success of the same sort of job from which she was so brutally sacked. As I hope the Minister will agree, that was a shocking case of discrimination. Yet I have so far seen no official criticism of the firm of stockbrokers that caused Belinda so much humiliation and needless distress.
Robert Giddings, a polio victim since he was 11 years old in 1946, wrote recently in The Guardian about his adult life in a wheelchair. He said:
I'm afraid the case about prejudice and discrimination is 100 per cent. The contrast between public affirmation of goodwill … and the private and personal prejudices you encounter is very marked.
I can think of no better preparation the Minister could have made for this debate than to read that article. To have done so would have left him in no doubt that there is widespread discrimination against disabled people as individuals.
There is also discrimination against them by organisations and in the making of public policy. It is undeniably to be found in the present Government's policies, notwithstanding their pledge when first elected to "single out" disabled people for special help. Leaving aside their rhetoric, the reality is that disabled people have been unceremoniously pushed to the back of the longest queues in Britain, namely, those for jobs and homes.
There are countless thousands of disabled people who yearn to exchange their dependence on supplementary benefit for the dignity of becoming taxpayers. For them unemployment is a double handicap that can lead to double despair. Yet today unemployment among the registered disabled is twice as high as in the work force generally and, as the all-party disablement group was told by deputations from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are now parts of Britain where four out of five employable disabled people are out of work. That statistic not only speaks, but shouts of discrimination against disabled people.
Housing provision for the disabled has slumped disastrously since 1979. Starts on mobility housing fell by more than half between 1979–80 and 1982–83. Housing adaptations have also been much more difficult to secure and for many disabled people the tragic cost has been the loss of their independence.
Moreover, the Prime Minister still parrots the claim that her Government have a very good record in helping the disabled. She seems totally unashamed of the callous cut that she has imposed in the living standards of the 620,000 people who are long-term sick and have to live on invalidity benefit. They were "singled out", not for special help, but for special hardship. In all she has cut social security spending by £2 billion between 1979 and 1983.
Nor is the Prime Minister moved by the anger of leading renal consultants who resent being forced, for purely economic reasons dictated by the Government, to choose which of their patients are to have treatment and,
therefore, who shall live and who shall die. That is discrimination at its most sombre and the Prime Minister would do well to meet Dr. Tony Wing, a consultant at St. Thomas's hospital, who said recently:
This may be effective rationing but it is scarcely humane. My colleagues in other countries think it barbaric.
I should like to draw the attention of the House, through my right hon. Friend, to a particularly tragic incident that occurred in my constituency last night, at a public meeting called to express local concern about the cuts in the NHS care and provision—a meeting which I addressed. Shortly after the meeting was thrown open to the floor, Mr. Arthur Whiteley, who is a constituent of mine, rose to express his concern about the cuts in the NHS. He said that he required open-heart surgery but had been told that there was a waiting list of 12 to 18 months. Shortly after he sat down after speaking, he suffered a heart attack and died at the meeting. Do not the cuts in the level of provision for patients in the NHS, combined with the cynical attempt to whip up opposition to the Bill, show the Government's appalling attitude to those in need in our society?
My hon. Friend has made an important and moving intervention. I hope that the Minister will note what my hon. Friend has said. He speaks, typically, for those who are in touch with what is happening in local communities. I hope that the House will agree that that was a significant intervention.
By contrast to this Government's record, the Labour Government gave unprecedented new help to the chronically sick and disabled. In that regard, I am glad to see in the Chamber my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot). Among many other advances, when we were Ministers between 1974 and 1979, we introduced four new cash benefits for disabled people. We trebled spending on services for disabled people and more than trebled our spending on cash benefits for them. The only real increase in the present Government's spending has been due to the growing cost of the benefits pioneered by the Labour Government. Anyone who doubts that should read "Hard Times", an excellent recent publication from the Disability Alliance which details the increase in the numbers of people who have become eligible for the new benefits that we introduced.
The disabled always suffer disproportionately from cuts in social spending. The Government's sustained assault on local government spending is imposing added hardship on many of the most severely disabled people at a time when Ministers still talk piously of community care. The published statistics of help made available under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 confirm that over the past four years services for the disabled have been seriously hit by the cuts imposed on local authorities by the Government.
Between 1979 and 1983 the number of telephones installed under section 2(1)(h) of the Act was almost halved. The number of sponsored holidays for disabled people also fell dramatically, while even the poorest of housebound disabled people are often harried to pay for their home helps in some localities. In a case raised with me by the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation a severely disabled woman was threatened with court action because she was unable to pay for her home help out of her supplementary benefit and owed the county council £30.
This debate gives an opportunity for the Minister to make it pikestaff plain that disabled people on supplementary benefit should not be charged for their home helps. I implore him to do so, since it makes no sense to threaten the independence of disabled people who, if they are forced into institutions, involve the taxpayer and ratepayer in much more public expenditure than the cost of a home help.
The sharp differences in what different local authorities now provide under the 1970 Act fully justify the stricter enforcement of section 2 of the Act, which is proposed in my hon. Friend's Bill. RADAR is to be congratulated on its work in producing a code of practice for use by local authorities in implementing the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. The code gives valuable guidance on both assessment of need and the provision of services. There can be no doubt that disabled people would benefit immeasurably if it were fully applied, as they will from the stronger legal rights that part II of the Bill seeks to confer.
In this regard, I am pleased that the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green, speaking as a former Minister with responsibility for the disabled, made clear his dissatisfaction with the present arrangements for enforcing section 2 of the Act. In July he said:
local authorities are both 'judge and jury' regarding assessment of need and there is no right of appeal; perhaps a disabled person should have recourse to the courts instead of having to work through the Secretary of State for Social Services.
I hope we can take it that the present Minister accepts his predecessor's view. I hope, equally, that he will support the proposals in the Bill with regard to section 1 of the principal Act and improve the representation of disabled people on the governing bodies of public organisations, as proposed in clause 16. Whatever else the Minister might say about the proposals, they can hardly be described as either very controversial or costly. In my view, they would actually save public money.
With regard specifically to section 1 of the 1970 Act, I was in no doubt when I steered the legislation through Parliament that — subject only to the principles of confidentiality and voluntarism — it required the full identification of disabled people by local authorities. Unfortunately, many local authorities undertook one sample survey and then gave up. The Bill will clarify the Act and ensure that disabled people in Great Britain are not less well placed than those in Northern Ireland. As the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) said in a distinguished speech:
That surely ought not to be controversial".
CORAD concluded that statutory provision to end discrimination need not be expensive, that it would gain the attention of the apathetic, that it would not antagonise public opinion if sensibly drafted, and that the achievement of equal treatment as of right for disabled people would be a major step towards a truly humane society. The committee sought no more than equal treatment for disabled people. Its aim in recommending legislation was not to give disabled people more rights or opportunities than other people. It was simply to allow disabled people access to the law to achieve the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
There are times when positive discrimination is necessary if equal treatment is to be achieved. That is not only my view, but that of senior Ministers in the Government. It was stated with unusual clarity and force by the then Home Secretary, now Viscount Whitelaw, in the debate on the Scarman report in 1981 when he said:
It has long been recognised that where a section of the population has needs that are different from, or significantly greater than, those of the majority population, special measures may be called for. We are not talking of giving black people a favourable advantage over white people. What we are saying is that everyone in our society should have equal opportunities, and that those who start from a disadvantaged position may need special help to provide them with similar opportunities to those enjoyed by the majority of the population." —[Official Report, 10 December 1981; Vol. 14, c. 1006.]
That is the essence of the case for legislation to ensure equal treatment for disabled people. There is nothing revolutionary about giving them special help. The Manpower Services Commission's fares-to-work scheme, special parking spaces for disabled people, the attendance and mobility allowances, tax allowances for blind people and hearing aids for the hearing impaired, are all forms of special help that are now seen as unremarkable examples of positive discrimination aimed at bringing disabled people up to the level of their non-disabled contemporaries.
We all agree that legislation cannot make people love each other, but it can make people behave properly towards one another. Knowing that they have a statutory right to equal treatment, disabled people would have more confidence to integrate into society, to show that they have abilities as well as disabilities and to prove that they can give as well as receive help.
Whatever anyone may think of CORAD's recommendation for outlawing discrimination, the report is clearly of considerable importance as a document that deals eloquently with issues of individual liberty and social equality. When the report was published the Government chose brusquely to reject its principal finding. Their terse press statement did not even reveal how the individual disabled person could obtain a copy of the report. In his rejection of CORAD's recommendation the then Minister said:
I know that some disabled people suffer unnecessary restrictions but much has been done by education and publicity to improve the position. It seems better to build on this than to legislate for positive discrimination as a right. The loss of good will might outweigh any advantage gained.
Does my right hon. Friend recall that in the beginning we hesitated introducing race relations legislation? I have been deeply involved in race relations as my right hon. Friend knows. Most civilised Tories, but not all, recognise that the fabric of harmonious race relations is contained in the 1976 Act, and most of them should give wholehearted backing to the main ideas within it.
Few people have made a more distinguished contribution to that issue than my hon. Friend. His judgment should be respected by both sides of the House. He is correct in saying that in the beginning there was widespread anxiety about the possible outcome of legislation. There were many who were opposed to legislation against racial discrimination who are now among its most fervent supporters.
The former Minister with responsibilities for the disabled placed emphasis on what education and publicity can do to tackle the problem, but education and publicity have solved none of the many hurtful examples of discrimination reported to CORAD. Nor was there any real likelihood of the Government agreeing to the public expenditure that would be required even to begin to make a dent in the problem by education and publicity.
Replies that I received to parliamentary questions about how much extra spending the Government were willing to invest in education and publicity were crystal clear. Not one extra penny is earmarked for education and publicity to end discrimination. The game had already been given away by the Government's refusal even to provide CORAD with adequate staffing. How could Ministers who refused to finance a full-time secretary for CORAD even pretend to be considering a long and expensive campaign against discrimination?
The terms in which CORAD's main recommendation was rejected by the Government deserve close examination. Their case for dismissing the recommendation can be applied equally, as Chris Davies and my hon. Friend the Member for West Derby wisely noticed, to the legislation on equal opportunities for women and racial discrimination. There are many who regard aspects of that legislation as unsatisfactory, but few would now argue that women and the ethnic minorities would be better off relying on education and publicity alone. Yet that w as the implication of Government's rejection of CORAD's recommendation.
While the Government claimed that CORAD's report went too far, there were people who felt that it should have gone further. In particular, they were concerned that it did not deal with the problems of discrimination against the intellectually disabled. Such critics of the report included Larry Walters, who was a member of CORAD. He felt very strongly that the committee should have recommended action to protect the mentally handicapped and mentally ill. That criticism is fully met by my hon. Friend's Bill, which applies as much to the intellectually handicapped as it does to people who are physically disabled.
The heavily leaked and, therefore, much publicised reports of the National Development Team for the Mentally Handicapped about conditions in Botley's park hospital, Chertsey, and other similar institutions, show how very much more there is still to do to improve provision for—indeed to end the unmerited suffering of —people with mental disabilities. The House will also recall the events in Teignmouth this summer, where quite studiedly cruel prejudice was displayed against mentally handicapped holiday visitors; likewise there was the recent case of a councillor in greater Manchester, who was quoted as saying:
Most mentally handicapped people are cabbages and must remain cabbages. These people have rights but it is wrong to say that they have the same rights as everyone else".
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned Teignmouth. I am aware of the difficulties to which he referred. Will he accept that the properly documented cases of apparent discrimination did not arise from attempts to discriminate against the disabled, but arose specifically because, on a number of occasions, the right degree of supervision of and help for parties of disabled people was not being exercised? That was the difficulty that had to be dealt with. There was no question of discrimination against the disabled.
The reports from Teignmouth shocked people throughout the country. The hon. Gentleman should speak to Brian Rix of MENCAP about the details of what happened. I am satisfied, as are many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, that there was gross discrimination against mentally handicapped people.
Many other examples could be quoted to show that for disabled people the depth of warmth, compassion and good will of which the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green spoke in February is more than balanced by the "thoughtlessness and ignorance" which he conceded also exists. There is no more felicitous text for any debate on this subject than the one that was quoted by the chairman of CORAD in his first public comment on the committee's report. The words were those of Martin Luther King, who said:
Morality cannot be legislated, but behaviour can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart but they can restrain the heartless.
If people with disabilities are to be genuinely a part of and not apart from society, that is a message the validity of which all of us in this House should accept.
My hon. Friend's labours are and have been aimed solely at achieving greater equality for disabled people. His Bill is supported by the Wales Council for the Disabled, the Scottish Council on Disability, the Disablement Income Group, Disability Alliance, MIND, the Spinal Injuries Association, the Greater London Association for the Disabled, the Midlands Council for Preparatory Training for the Disabled and, I am very glad to say, the Manchester Disability Forum, among a host of other important organisations of and for disabled people.
The Bill is wholly consistent with the aims of the charter for the 1980s for disabled people worldwide, the drafting committee for which I had the honour to chair, as the first-ever Minister with responsibility for the disabled in this or any other country, and which the Prime Minister "warmly welcomed" on behalf of her Government at 10 Downing street on 11 November 1981. The charter asserts that disabled people have the same rights as all humanity to grow and to learn, to work and to create, to love and to be loved. That is the Bill's philosophy too, which is why today my hon. Friend deserves all possible success in his endeavours.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) in more than a conventional way on his good fortune in winning such a high place in the ballot and on bringing forward this subject for debate. I take the opportunity to renew my apologies to him on behalf of British Rail for the fact that I was somewhat late when he came to meet at the Department of Health and Social Security.
It is already clear that there is some difference of opinion in the House about some aspects of the Bill, and perhaps the Bill as a whole. It is a serious and important matter and it is worth while that we are having the debate. That is why I am not uttering false words in congratulating the hon. Gentleman and welcoming the debate. The cause that the hon. Gentleman seeks to serve—that of disabled people — has the genuine and united concern of everyone, I am sure, on both sides of the House.
I repeat my last remark so that it shall be clearly understood. The cause that the hon. Gentleman is seeking to serve—that of disabled people—is one which has the united concern of everyone, I am sure, on both sides of the House. That is unquestionably true.
In intervening on behalf of the Government, I want to begin by placing the Bill in the context of our objectives — I think that they are probably common ones — in advancing the interests of the disabled and of the progress that has been made in achieving that. Our objectives can be stated relatively simply. We want to maintain proper support through the social security benefits system for disabled people and work towards giving that system a greater coherence than we inherited from the past. We want to encourage the provision of services and support, not only for disabled people themselves — this is an important aspect that has not been fully explored in the debate—but for the many devoted individuals who care for them. We want to do that in a way that will enable as many disabled and handicapped people as possible to be cared for, or care for themselves, in their own homes in the community. Within that community we want to promote greater integration of disabled and handicapped people, and encourage and promote wider opportunities for them to play a full part as individuals.
There will be different views in different parts of the House about the ways in which those objectives can be achieved, about the speed with which it may be possible to achieve them, and of course about the resources which may be or are devoted to those objectives at any given time. I think that there will be general assent to those objectives, and to that extent there is unity among hon. Members.
Will the Minister accept from me—I would swear it on the Bible—that on Friday 15 July this year, at about 3.15 in the afternoon, in the Members' Lobby I was approached by the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), who is an assistant Government Whip? He asked me what subject I intended to raise in my Bill. When I told him the title, his immediate reaction was, "I shall give instructions to kill your Bill."
I am in no position to comment on private conversations that the hon. Gentleman may have had with other people in the House. All I can say is that his remarks make no difference to what I have said about the concern in all parts of the House about the needs of disabled people and—I hope, and I repeat—the general assent in broad terms to our objectives. I recognise that there are differences about the way those objectives are pursued at any one time, and I have no doubt that there will be differences of opinion today about the way in which the hon. Gentleman is pursuing his objectives. There is a clear distinction to be drawn between his desire to help disabled people and the means by which he seeks to do so in the Bill.
I accept what the Minister says, but there can be many views about how to proceed in the Bill, and there can be sharp differences of view about the Bill. However, will he explain why the matter is not being left by the Government to a free decision by hon. Members? Will he explain why the Whips are on? Will he arrange for them to be withdrawn so that we may all express our views in the lobbies, according to how we feel on the subject?
At least one of my hon. Friends has made it clear that he intends to vote for the Bill. I sense no undue or intolerable pressure on him from the Whips. Conservative Members are entitled to make up their own minds about how they wish to vote on the Bill.
I hope that there is general assent about the wish to assist disabled people and about the Government's broad objectives. I hope, too, that there will be general agreement on one aspect which must be part of the background to our debate today. Over the past 10 or 20 years, immense progress has been made in advancing the interests of and the services and opportunities that are available to disabled people. I recognise some at least of the non-partisan spirit of the debate so far. In that respect, I must pay tribute to right hon. and hon. Members on both sides. In the 1970s, much was done by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) when he was Secretary of State for Social Services, and there is no doubt that much was done by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) in his time as Minister for the disabled. Equally, I pay tribute to the work of my right hon. Friends tie Members for Daventry (Mr. Prentice) and for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi) when they were Ministers for the disabled. I hope that I shall lend continuity to that tradition.
It is also right to pay tribute to Back Benchers on both sides who have contributed much to this cause over the years. I think, in particular, of the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley), who has already spoken this morning. I should also mention the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones), and my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) who has a striking record in this connection. May I mention among our newer Members my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, South (Mr. Yeo) who, as director of the Spastics Society, has already played a distinguished part in these matters outside the House, as no doubt he will do inside the House. I mention also, of course, the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) and the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) in promoting Bills and bringing to our attention the problems of disabled people.
I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would welcome what I had intended, and that was recognition of the distinguished way in which he and others over the years have sought to advance the cause that brings us together this morning. If he prefers me not to pay him compliments, I shall have to leave the matter there.
As a result of the work that has been done by Members on both sides of the House over a long period, there has been a remarkable change in the way in which we assist and treat disabled people in our society. It has been a change for the better. Not least, there has been a change in the way in which we cope with and assist the mentally handicapped.
Conservative Members can take legitimate pride in what has been achieved during the past four years—despite the difficult background of the economic recession. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said this week, we speeded up the introduction of the mobility allowance in 1979; extended the long-term supplementary benefit rate to many disabled people through the reform in 1980—it can be paid after one year, rather than two years; extended the invalid care allowance to non-relatives, while aspects of its working have been improved, including the earnings limit; and made large increases in the mobility allowance which, next week, will be 90 per cent. higher than it was in 1979, and which has also become tax free. Overall, there has been a 21 per cent. real increase in benefits for the long-term sick and disabled.
Next week the invalidity trap, which existed throughout the lifetime of the Labour Government, will disappear and 30,000 sick and disabled people who have been held on a lower rate of benefit than we would wish will, at last, be given the long-term rate. At the same time, the new war pensioners' mobility supplement will be introduced which extends to another group the advantages of obtaining a cash allowance, as distinct from hardware, to serve their mobility needs.
All those are major improvements that carry on the progress that we have been making steadily during the past four years, despite all the difficulties. We are taking further steps to improve the administration of those benefits. Yesterday we published a report suggesting ways to improve the administration and adjudication of mobility and attendance allowances. When there has been a proper opportunity for consultation, we hope to proceed on some or all of the recommendations.
We have not only improved the financial support for the disabled; we have improved the services and general support for them. For example, despite difficulties and criticisms, there has been a real increase in the amount that local authorities are spending on personal social services, much of which is directed to the needs of the disabled, the elderly and the mentally handicapped. There has been a real improvement in the services provided for them.
I appreciate the Minister's kind reference to me. Does he accept that none of the factors that he has put forward about what the Government have done —although I welcome those advances—has any relevance to the basic question of discrimination against the disabled?
I hesitate to say that I do not often disagree with the right hon. Gentleman, because I find myself doing so on this occasion. With respect to him, I believe him to be wrong. One way in which many disabled people and, not least, many mentally handicapped people have been effectively discriminated against for a long time is that we have not done enough to support them in the community, and especially to get them back into the community from long-stay hospitals. Although the Government have not done as much as they would have wished to do, our achievements in speeding up the departure of mentally handicapped children from long-stay hospitals has been the result of initiatives announced in recent years.
There has been a general thrust of care in the community initiatives — some following on from initiatives started by the right hon. Gentleman's friends—in particular, the joint financial arrangements. Those initiatives have been built on and developed b} the Government. We have added initiatives directed at the causes I have mentioned. They are an important part of removing some of the real problems that underlie the debate, which cannot be tackled simply by passing such legislation as the Bill. We must have concrete policies directed to the practical problems of the disabled.
We have a good record, which is steadily improving, of care in the community, of improving the opportunities for the disabled and mentally handicapped to live in the community, of supporting those who care for them in the community and of making it possible for them to lead the normal life that we all wish them to lead.
Perhaps the most important and relevant of our objectives in the context of today's debate is the promotion of the integration of disabled people and the widening of their opportunities. Here, too, much more has been done and is being done than has yet been recognised during the debate. Last month, for example, after a good deal of work, and following what my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green said in an earlier debate to which the right hon. Member for Western Isles referred, we announced our plan for the English Access Committee, which we hope will build on the work that is being done throughout the country and has been encouraged in other ways by central and local government, to improve the tackling of access problems in all the places where they occur. As I think the House knows, we are funding a voluntary organisation, the Centre for the Environment for the Handicapped, to develop this committee as a focus for activities up and down the country—for example, for local access groups and local authorities that are considering the designation of access officers—and to take up individual cases, referring them as appropriate.
Last month the Department of the Environment issued a further consultation letter on its plans to amend the building regulations and to assess adequate access provision in new public buildings. Its initiative has been widely welcomed and would be an important step forward. I readily accept that there are many who feel that it does not go far enough, partly because the problems of fire regulations in relation to the upper floors of many buildings have not been overcome, but it is hoped to overcome those difficulties and to move forward still further.
The Department of Education and Science is reviewing its design guidance to local and other authorities to incorporate similar provisions for education buildings. The Property Services Agency has agreed standards for all new court houses—a small point perhaps but important to some—to include full provision by way of access and toilet facilities for both disabled members of the public and disabled jurors.
Another point that emerged during the debate and one of major frustration to disabled people is the difficulty of gaining access to cinemas, theatres and so on, because of the problem of fire regulations. In response to one of the recommendations in the CORAD report, the Home Office now intends to include guidance on access for disabled people in a national advisory standard on fire precautions in places of public entertainment. Guidance on safety in cinemas, which is currently being revised, will also refer to the relevant CORAD recommendations.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Like many other hon. Members, I have had constituents here this morning raising the issue of access to cinemas and other places of public entertainment. Has my hon. Friend taken on board the particular problem that many of them face of having to be escorted when going into cinemas? Will he bear in mind that access is one thing, but having to be accompanied is another problem that should be looked into?
I take my hon. Friend's point. I say not only to my hon. Friend but through him to those in his constituency and elsewhere who are concerned that it cannot be pretended—I hope that even the promoter of the Bill, the hon. Member for West Derby, would not pretend — that by passing such legislation we can automatically override the fire regulations or make fire precautions unnecessary. We would do disabled people no service at all if, without making the proper safety provision in buildings and ensuring that it is appropriate, we were to insist on their access to areas where they might be in danger.
I am not saying anything of the sort. I am saying that significant practical progress is being made on important aspects of the problems that affect the disabled. It has been clear from the debate that the word "discrimination" is used very broadly to cover a whole range of things that present different problems and require different answers. However, although access to public buildings and, not least, to places of entertainment can be a major practical problem for the disabled, this Bill is not needed, because the problem is being tackled in the only practical and realistic way.
The problem with transport is closely allied to the problem of access, and is of equal importance to many disabled people. It would be dreaming to suppose that the Bill would suddenly make all buses readily accessible to the disabled and capable of taking wheelchairs. The whole process would be very time consuming. What we need is practical work so that we can get people to consider such problems. When buses need to be replaced, adaptations can be made, just as they could be made to existing buses. I saw that for myself when I attended a seminar for disabled persons the other day in Hampshire.
It is not the passage of legislation that has brought about that change in attitude. If legislation were enacted, there would have to be so many exemptions for existing buses that nothing would happen for 20 years. The devoted work of the Minister of State, Department of Transport, and the work of her new transport advisory group and others involved in the subject have got people thinking, and practically trying to resolve the problems. Above all, that is what is needed.
No, I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman.
In talking about widening opportunities and promoting integration, we must not forget employment, which is of special importance to the great majority of disabled people. It was odd that the hon. Member for West Derby should have placed so much emphasis on the employment case for his measure, and then acknowledged that legislation intended to produce precisely that objective had been on the statute book for nearly 40 years. Everyone acknowledges that that legislation has not been enforceable, or as effective as the hon. Gentleman would like it to be.
What is it that makes us suppose that after 40 years of being unable to make stick legislation with a quota in it, and so on, this Bill will have some miraculous effect? We need solid practical action, such as that which the Manpower Services Commission is taking. I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment in the Chamber today. As is well known, the MSC has been conducting a thorough review of its services for the disabled in order to improve their effectiveness. The results are beginning to show. There is a record number of more than 14,000 severely disabled people working in sheltered employment, and a very promising development has been going on for the past 18 months in forming sheltered industrial groups, known as "SIGs". All that is the result not of legislation or of threatening employers with the law, but of reshaping the services so that they do a persuasive advisory job and so carry employers with them.
Anyone who wanted a good example of how successful that can be should have come with me when the "Fit for Work" campaign awards were given by the Secretary of State for Employment on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week. Indeed, at least one Opposition Member was there. The scheme is designed to encourage employers to go out of their way to help unemployed disabled people. It brought more than 100 employers, large and small, to London last week to receive their awards. All had gone far beyond any of the statutory requiremen—or statutory hopes — in existing legislation. They had become interested, involved and keen to help, not because the law told them to, but because trouble had been taken to show them the advantages and to carry them along.
The most striking thing to me was the announcement of the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission that he estimated that about 70,000 disabled people would be placed through the MSC's services this year. That compares with his original estimate for the year of 45,000. It is not a question of an increase on last year's figures; it is a new estimate of what will happen this year. I compare that striking fact with our information that, despite all the legislation in the United States, the number of people successfully rehabilitated there is declining. The trend here is in the opposite direction.
I have no doubt that the whole House welcomes the recent announcement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment that the Government are extending to 21 the upper age limit for disabled school leavers joining the youth training scheme. That will help to ease some of the considerable anxiety that has been felt by many of those involved with disabled people.
I have spent some time on the record of the past few years, of which my right hon. Friends and I are proud, because it brings out two points. The first, which I believe to be unanswerable, is that practical gains are being made. Secondly, that progress has been achieved by taking specific practical measures to tackle specific practical problems — not excluding use of the law, but resting first on bringing about an increased understanding of disabled people's needs and promoting a spirit of positive co-operation in dealing with them. That approach has manifestly paid off.
Against that background, it is incumbent on the hon. Member for West Derby to prove the case for the radically different approach that he recommends. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman has done that. For the hon. Gentleman to prove his case, he would have to show that there was discrimination, and not merely ignorance, lack of understanding or insensitivity, which we all agree exists in abundance and is directed towards people in all categories. The hon. Gentleman would also have to show that such discrimination existed on a scale that justified the very complex machinery that he proposes.
The Minister says that my lion. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) has not made out a case for legislation against discrimination. That case was eloquently made by Peter Large and his colleagues on CORAD. The Minister ought to explain why a Government committee's recommendations have been treated so scurvily.
What I have to explain is the Government's view of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Western Isles know that the CORAD report was not uncontroversial and that may people in organisations that work for the disabled who have given much thought to these matters do not accept the committee's recommendations or believe that legislation such as this is the right way to proceed.
I am listening to the Minister intently. I was able to cite a number of organisations which, since the Bill's publication, have made it clear that they support the Bill. Can the Minister name just one organisation involved with disabled people which has a contrary view?
I did not say that I had a great list of organisations which had publicly declared against the Bill, but a number of organisations do not appear to have declared themselves as strongly in favour of the Bill as the organisations mentioned by the hon. Member for West Derby. Recently I have spoken to several people privately, so I shall not be pressed into quoting them. They command the respect of hon. Members throughout the House, have long and honourable records of active involvement in movements for the disabled and are by no means in favour of the Bill.
Proving sufficient evidence of discrimination creates a problem. When a Bill was introduced by the right hon. Member for Western Isles in February, my predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green, said that he would be happy to investigate allegations of discrimination. So far only 18 such cases have been submitted, despite suggestions that large dossiers exist somewhere. Inquiries reveal that some of the cases could involve discrimination, others cannot be described as involving discrimination and some are still being pursued. Even in the cases that cannot be resolved it is far from clear how anti-discrimination legislation would resolve the problem.
Has the Minister seen the report in yesterday's Daily Mirror about privatisation in Bromley where Exclusive Cleaning, the firm that has the contract for cleaning the borough, has sacked two men solely because they are disabled, even though they have cleaned the streets for over 20 years? The manager said that the firm was there to make a small profit and could not afford the Wally Pondmans and David Hills of this world. Will the Minister comment on that?
If the facts of the case as cited by the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Brown) are correct, the gentlemen involved could take their complaint to an industrial tribunal where the matter would be properly investigated.
That is a good point, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) for his lawyer's expertise.
One of the cases referred to us involved the seaman with epilepsy who lost his job as a result. The argument is not dissimilar from that which applies to employment legislation and fire regulations. I understand that the problem was caused by regulations passed by Parliament and based on medical advice.
I do not suppose that it is suggested that the Bill should override all existing legislation. I have in mind regulations concerned with safety at sea and the like. Again, it is a good illustration of how the impression is being created that the proposed legislation could do what it manifestly cannot do. We shall still need regulations about safety at sea or in cinemas and other buildings. Parliament will have to decide separately and individually what is appropriate for the interests of disabled people, epileptic or not, in the context of those regulations from time to time. It is not the sort of problem which can be resolved by these proposals.
I said that the hon. Member for West Derby would have to prove that discrimination existed on a sufficient scale. I do not feel that he or anyone else has yet done that. Secondly, he would have to show that his proposals or anything like them were a desirable and practical way to overcome that discrimination. He said quite rightly that when talking to him earlier I told him that I was agnostic about the need for anti-discrimination legislation. Having seen and studied his Bill, I have to tell him that it has confirmed my doubts rather than converted me to his faith.
I do not want to make a lot of technical and drafting points because I recognise that it is not easy for a private Member to draft a Bill. I shall not make some of the points that I could make and that we could tidy up in Committee. But there is one aspect of the drafting which is much more than a mere drafting difficulty. It is the almost total lack of definition in the Bill about precisely what it means.
The coverage proposed for the ban on discrimination is very broad—
physical, mental or sensory disability.
That is so wide that it could cover almost anyone in the country. That is recognised in the Bill by making extensive provisions for definition in various ways. I draw the attention of right hon. and hon. Members not only to clause 9, with which my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) was concerned, but to clauses 4 and 5. Almost nothing is defined in the Bill—not what "disability" means, not what "discrimination"
means, and not even what "reasonable" or "unreasonable" means. If the Bill were passed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would even have the power to decide what "action" or "inaction" meant.
That degree of uncertainty has not occurred in the Bill because the hon. Member for West Derby is lazy or incompetent. Nor has it occurred because there has not been a great deal of time since the House considered the Bill presented by the right hon. Member for Western Isles to try to resolve some of the problems that we discussed in February. The reason why the Bill is drawn in these vague terms is that the hon. Member for West Derby and his hon. Friends have found it almost impossible to resolve the problems which would have to be resolved to make the Bill a workable proposition.
I do not want to intervene at length, although there is a great deal of mythology that I could correct. I wish to raise a point of principle. The Under-Secretary of State has drawn attention to a considerable number of drafting points. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) has made it clear that he is prepared to be as flexible as anyone can possibly be. Does the Minister agree with the principle of legislating against discrimination?
I hope that the right hon. Member will forgive me when I say that, in the interests of others, I ought to stop giving way to hon. Members, not least because almost every topic raised as an intervention is the one to which I am about to come.
I was about to come to the subject of the right hon. Gentleman's intervention because two matters arise from what I have said about the lack of definition in the Bill. Different hon. Members in different parts of the House will attach different weight to the first of them. It is whether it is proper for Parliament to pass a Bill intended to outlaw discrimination by means of non-discrimination orders and exposing people to court orders on a basis that is as ill defined as that in the Bill.
I do not believe that the House would accept legislation drafted in those terms by the Government on any subject. It would take the view that it was wholly improper to seek such general powers without giving Parliament any clear idea of how the powers would be implemented and used.
The right hon. Gentleman has already objected to our being given that power in the Bill and said that if he had his way it would be better defined. In a sense, he was making exactly the point that I have just made. The fact remains that the powers are not defined.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, on the basis of what is in the Bill and what has been said in the debate, is there any basis for confidence that the problems are soluble at all? For example, there is no suitable definition of "disabled people" in existing legislation. There are fairly loose definitions to guide local authorities as to the people whom they may help. Nevertheless, when the DHSS needed to issue advice about the interpretation of one of the those definitions, it was obliged to say:
It has not proved possible to give precise guidance on the interpretation of the phrase 'substantially and permanently handicapped'.
It is not possible to give a definition in a departmental guidance note, let alone in regulations designed to give rise to non-discrimination notices and court orders.
I shall come to South Australia in a minute.
Lest anyone think that this is a case of a cautious Conservative Government trying to avoid additional commitments, I should make it clear that the circular from which I have quoted was issued on 18 March 1974 and must have been among the early actions of the right hon. Member for Wythenshawe or his colleagues when the Labour Government came to office in 1974. At that time, it was clearly stated that such phrases were not capable of definition even in departmental guidance. I do not believe that the problems can be overcome in the ways that hon. Members blithely take for granted.
The hon. Member for West Derby referred to South Australia. I did not wish to become involved in too much argument about foreign experience because much of it is anecdotal and we can all put our own slants on it. As I understand it, however, the South Australian legislation does not include the mentally handicapped and the commissioner who has been cited as a supporter of legislation of this kind has expressed the view that it could not properly or sensibly be extended to cover such people. Is the hon. Gentleman now saying that he wishes that the Bill had not been extended to cover those people?
All kinds of problems have not been thought through. That is the point to which the House must give attention.
I had intended to say something about some of the other provisions, but I shall not do so as the objections against them are less serious than those against the anti-discrimination clauses and there would be greater scope for examining them in the way in which the hon. Gentleman has suggested. The provision for securing disabled representation on the Social Security Advisory Committee merely parallels the provision in the legislation governing that committee on which Adrian Stokes already represents disabled people.
One further point is important for the House to make its judgment on the Bill. Clause 12 would impose on local authorities in Great Britain the duty to conduct detailed surveys to establish the identity of individual disabled people in the way that this was once done in Northern Ireland. I find that proposition very difficult in the context of the Bill. Based on the Northern Ireland experience, we estimate that it would cost some £30 million to conduct such surveys and relatively little would be learnt that was not already known.
The hon. Gentleman referred to what he thought I would say about costs. I am glad to be able to tell him that I do not intend to spend much time trying to frighten the House by saying how many hundreds of millions of pounds the Bill would cost. There are so many uncertainties about what it means and what it would do that no costing would be worth the paper it was written on.
None of us would begrudge spending extra money on the disabled if we were convinced that it would help. It must be pointed out, however, that the Bill would not generate additional resources. Only when we are capable of generating additional resources in the economy will we be able to do all the things that we would like to do. The Bill will not change that.
I do not want to attempt to quantify the cost of the Bill but I should like to point out, especially to some of my right hon. and hon. Friends, that there are some quantifiable costs. I have already mentioned the £30 million that would be necessary just for surveys. Another £3 million or so would be required for the commission and it is certain that many millions of pounds of additional expenditure would be used simply on administration and inquiries by the Government, local authorities and employers.
All of the extra money would go on administration and bureaucracy to provide surveys, to respond to demands for information and to keep records. Irrespective of whether such sums are available, the House should consider whether that is the right way in which to spend such money. If the sums of money that would be involved were available now, they would cover the partial incapacity benefit which the Social Security Advisory Committee recently recommended. We shall study that. They would roughly double existing local authority expenditure on aids, adaptations, telephones and holidays and they would go a long way to meet many of the other items on the shopping list of financial improvements which would do much to help many disabled people in a practical way. However much money is available, the House has a duty to consider whether it would be right to spend such sums of money now, purely to create additional administration and bureaucracy.
There is a serious risk of the Bill raising false hopes among disabled people. That is clear from what has been said today. It is clear that the many representations that have been made in support of the Bill are not directed at the problem which is not remotely likely to be categorised as discrimination, however it might end up being defined. They are directed at lack of understanding, lack of courtesy, ignorance, practical problems that arise from existing legislation which could be changed in another way or at resource constraints. The Bill will not change any of those problems. Indeed, it would not be long before many of the people who supported it so strongly asked, "Why has the Bill not brought the millennium that we were led to believe it would bring?"
The most important thing, which I hope I emphasised earlier, is the need to promote understanding of and a positive desire to help disabled people. The Bill's concept is essentially negative. We need the positive spirit which was shown by the employees who received their "Fit for work" awards this week. The attempt to threaten people with the law, which is what this Bill represents, would in many cases be counter-productive, and the sort of people who would go out of their way to co-operate on the basis of explanation, encouragement and help, would simply fall into a defensive frame of mind if they knew that lurking round the corner was a lawyer with a non-discrimination notice and the threat of a court appearance.
The hon. Member for West Derby and others have talked as if they were seeking a declaration against discrimination. If they want that, they can have it from me as an individual, from me on behalf of the Government, and from me on behalf of every hon. Member on the Government Benches. The Government are completely opposed to discrimination against disabled people, but that is not what we are discussing today. The House is being asked to give a general agreement to the establishment of complex machinery to make unlawful certain possible actions by some citizens in relation to others and to subject them to the possibility of legal remedies without defining what those actions are or whether it is practicable to define them clearly at all. The House is asked to do so through a measure of which the only certain result is to divert the time, effort and money that could be spent on the progress that is already being made. As individual Members, we are accustomed to saying that we owe our constituents judgment, not as delegates but as representatives. We owe similar judgment also to the disabled.
I hope that it is within the recollection of those hon. Member present today that I have, on a number of occasions, said that I felt that I had given way to too many interventions, but the length of my speech is the result of my having sought to respond to frequent and repeated interventions by Labour Members.
Hon. Members are accustomed to saying to our constituents that we owe them our judgment not as delegates but as representatives. Hon. Members here today must be conscious of the respected and strongly held views of many of those advocating the Bill outside the House. As a collection of Members of Parliament, in the House of Commons today, we owe the disabled the same duty that we owe to our other constituents, to make a judgment about what is right and sensible, and in the best interests of those concerned. The judgment that we have to make today is not whether we are against discrimination—because of course we are—but whether these proposals are a workable and effective way to achieve our aims. I do not believe that that has been shown.
I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) on his good fortune in drawing a high place in the ballot and on the subject that he chose for his Bill. I hope that it will mean good fortune for the disabled in our society.
The Minister's speech seemed to be putting up Aunt Sallies to knock them down. I listened to the speech of his predecessor on my Bill in February, and I felt as though I were seeing the same film over again. Yesterday, during Question Time, the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) asked the Prime Minister:
If the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (Amendment) Bill is defeated by Conservative Members, will not that
constitute the greatest betrayal of the disabled that this House has ever known?" —[Official Report, 17 November 1983; Vol. 48, c. 988.]
That was a good point. The Prime Minister responded with an irrelevant list of current benefits, many of which the Under-Secretary of State repeated in his speech.
With respect to the Under-Secretary and to the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James), that is not the point. The Bill is concerned with human dignity. Even if the Government were feather-bedding the disabled—and we know that they are far from doing that—and doubling the available benefits, that would not meet the Bill's objectives. Ministers make no case by saying that they have increased benefits for the disabled during the past four years.
It has been suggested that legislation is unnecessary and that the passage of time will correct all discrimination. The CORAD report recommended that legislation was necessary, and that committee knows as much about this subject as anyone. The Minister made much of the fact that the committee's findings were not unanimous, and I agree, but where does that take us? Even in England juries return verdicts that are not unanimous, yet it is a sound principle that the court returns a unanimous verdict. We cannot look for total unanimity.
The right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) read out an impressive list of organisations that back the Bill. In other spheres, legislation could not be avoided at the end of the day. For example, exhortations to wear seat belts and the expenditure of £800 million were ineffective. Most people would regard as abhorrent discrimination in the 1980s against blacks, Jews, women, Catholics and the Irish on the grounds of colour, sex and religion, yet each day people in our society are being discriminated against because they are disabled. I welcome clause 5(2), which details the spheres in which discrimination occurs.
During the debate in February we heard excellent speeches from both sides of the House among which were those of the right hon. Members for Stoke-on-Trent, South and for Wythenshawe and the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam), who is not in the Chamber. I did not think that the content or length of the speech of the hon. Member for Exeter could bear the interpretation that it was a filibuster, but he was helpful in pointing out flaws in the Bill.
Against a background of helpful speeches we heard speeches from the Minister with responsibility for the disabled and other party hacks who have been trundled in to damn the measure with faint praise and ensure that it does not reach the statute book. Those of us who are sound in limb and mind can adopt a patronising attitude when discussing the disabled, but we should realise that, in a short time, through an accident or illness, we could join the ranks of the disabled. A former hon. Member said during the February debate that he was the victim of a wasting disease which would shortly incapacitate him. We should all be aware of what might lie ahead.
The legislation attempts to pay a long-overdue debt to the disabled. The Minister's items were bogus. The Government intend to kill the legislation. The Minister said that we could clear up matters of definition, for example, in Committee. That could be said about any Bill. We have the machinery for putting these things right. I believe that the placing of the Bill on the statute book would change the climate, as the majority are ready to act in accordance with the law.
The amendment on the Order Paper is disgraceful. It describes the Bill as "wasteful" but the direct opposite is the truth. The Bill would allow many of the disabled to earn a living and make a contribution to society. Some of the names attached to the amendment are those of Members who will cavil at possible expenditure on this cause, but they will trundle through the Government Lobby to support exhorbitant expenditure on armaments.
I hope that the Bill will not be opposed. Those who do so will have to search their consciences. I ask all hon. Members to support this long-overdue measure of justice for the disabled.
I am grateful for the opportunity of contributing to this important debate. First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) on his choice of subject, having come second in the Ballot.
Secondly, I thank my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security for the generous tributes that he paid to hon. Members on both sides of the House, including myself. Everyone will recognise that he demonstrated great sympathy with the plight of the disabled and great knowledge of the subject, for which he was well known for some time before taking up his present post. I thought that his contribution was sensibly constructed and warmly to be welcomed by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
A number of instances of discrimination have been described to the House, and I do not want excessively to add to the list. However, I shall refer to one incident involving an Oxford undergraduate who entered a pub, as is the wont of undergraduates, for a drink with some of his contemporaries. He established his age to the publican by showing him his driving licence. Despite that, he was permitted to be served only with orange juice, while his companions enjoyed stronger refreshment. The only difference between that intelligent young man and his equally intelligent companions was that he was a spastic with slight speech defect. Upon being challenged, the publican said, "Alcohol makes them go funny."
That is one example of discrimination against the disabled and there is no doubt that discrimination takes place on quite a widespread scale. I recognise the great difficulty of legislating to deal with this somewhat intangible issue. We find that we cannot quite put our finger on exactly what we want to do. I applaud most strongly what the Government have already done to provide tangible support, examples of which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State outlined. I cannot agree with the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) that that is irrelevant to the issue. The more tangible support that we are able to give to the disabled, the less danger there is that discrimination will take place. The Government's care and community policy is highly relevant to the issue. It is designed to bring more of the disabled into the community. By receiving the support that they need, they are able to lead more fulfilled and normal lives. That is a demonstration of what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State was saying about the Government being against discrimination. There is no doubt about that. Indeed, we are all against it.
Tangible benefits and services, important though they are, are not everything. If I have learnt anything from my experience as a director of the Spastics Society over the past three and a half years—it is the largest charity in Britain that deals with disability, and, uniquely, it deals with all shades of both mental and physical handicap—it is that the greatest handicap that a disabled person faces is the attitude of less well-informed members of the public. Unless we can change the attitude of the able-bodied towards the handicapped, we shall not end discrimination. We have to consider today whether legislation is appropriate as a means of helping to change that attitude.
I share what I believe is an entirely proper reluctance by the Government to introduce legislation, unless the need is vital and unless the advantage of such legislation has been clearly established. The Spastics Society has examined the issue carefully. I believe that it was the first organisation to canvass the views of disabled people throughout the country on a wide scale at conferences, to which reference has already been made. The result of that process was overwhelmingly to refute the argument that disabled people do not want legislation for this purpose. Therefore, I strongly endorse the principle of legislation to prohibit discrimination against disabled people.
I deplore the way in which some Opposition Members appear to have exploited the plight of disabled people for party political gain. To hear some of them speak, one would think that discrimination started in May 1979. The hon. Member for West Derby—I am sorry that he is not in the Chamber at the moment—claimed that he wanted a Bill that would reach the statute book. His actions belie that claim in many respects. There has been the scantiest possible consultation with Conservative Members, who might be sympathetic to his intentions, and with organisations such as the Spastics Society. I deplore what he said this morning in an interview on Radio 4—we all know how short but valuable such opportunities are—to attack the Government, instead of explaining to listeners the arguments in support of his Bill.
Perhaps I might clarify the position of the Spastics Society on this issue, because several hon. Members have referred to it in their speeches. In September, the executive council of the Spastics Society unanimously came down in favour of legislation, but that is quite different from being unanimously in favour of this Bill. I should not like any hon. Member to go away from here today with the impression that the Spastics Society has given the Bill a unanimous endorsement. One reason for that is that publication of the Bill eight days ago was far too late for many of the large organisations involved to discuss it before this debate.
The hon. Member for West Derby mocked the Welsh Office. In fact, the Welsh Office has a remarkably fine record of making resources available for initiatives for mentally handicapped people. It is a pity to hear such an ill-informed attack, when we should be concentrating on the issue itself. The hon. Gentleman also mocked the lack of punctuality that he experienced when he visited the Minister at the Department of Health and Social Security.
The hon. Gentleman speaks about organisations such as the Spastics Society, of which he has more knowledge than I. How many representations has he had over the past few weeks from individual disabled people and other organisations? I, like other hon. Members, have been deluged with correspondence asking for my support today.
I have had a large number of contacts with many individual disabled people and organisations — [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] The Bill was published only eight days ago, since when the number of representations addressed to me can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
The hon. Member for West Derby mocked the lack of punctuality that he experienced at the DHSS. Yet, when the opportunity for consultation with the all-party disablement group occurred last Tuesday, and a number of hon. Members — including some from the Conservative Benches—gathered to hear him explain the contents of the Bill and the arguments in favour of it, we waited in vain for 20 minutes—one third of the time available—before the hon. Gentleman appeared.
The hon. Gentleman also mocked a large number of the newly created quangos set up during the past four years —so much so that it was not clear whether he was or was not in favour of them. He quoted a selective list. He neglected to mention the maternity services advisory committee, which was set up during the past four years. I mention it because it is potentially of considerable importance in the prevention of handicap. If we have better maternity services, fewer congenitally disabled babies will be born. It is a pity to mock the setting up of new quangos on a selective basis when the Government have shown their willingness to establish quangos that can help to reduce the overall problem of disability in the long term.
My concerns are not confined to the motives and methods employed by those promoting the Bill. The Bill is deficient in a number of respects. For example—this point has not yet been mentioned—the Bill often refers to the Secretary of State, but it makes no reference to the Department that that Secretary of State is supposed to represent. If Opposition Members assume that the Bill automatically means the DHSS, I must inform them that I have received many representations from the disabled who are anxious to escape the medical and social security model of disability. Many of the disabled are entirely healthy. A disabled person is not necessarily ill.
Discrimination does not automatically have to be dealt with by the DHSS. It is perhaps more properly the responsibility of the Home Office. The disabled are people first and disabled second. Their prime wish is to be integrated in the community. They wish to be treated as ordinary members contributing to and receiving from the community like anybody else.
Part I of the Bill deals with the establishment and powers of the proposed disablement commission. I accept that there is some need for a body that can conciliate and assist in the enforcement of legislation, but I am not convinced that it is necessary to establish a new and expensive body to carry out that role. I wish to quote from a report that might be exactly the sort of annual report that we would want issued by a commission dealing with the disabled. It states:
We are glad to report that our experience throughout the year … has convinced us of the heightened awareness on all sides in the country of the need to take active steps to promote substantive equality of opportunities for
These measures, frequently proposed on a voluntary basis, involve the scrutiny of corporate and organisational practices to eliminate hidden discrimination and to provide positive incentives for
to break out of the traditional mould of
occupations. The conjunction of high unemployment and the prospect of new patterns of employment as a result of new technology makes positive action of this kind imperative, and the Commission has been greatly encouraged by the response to the challenge ranging from the initiatives being considered by the Management and Personnel Office of the Government, to local authorities, public corporations, large companies and academic institutions.
That quotation comes from the latest annual report of the Equal Opportunities Commission and demonstrates how clearly the EOC could fulfil the role that is envisaged for the proposed disablement commission. I know that there is some dispute about the cost of the commission, but I believe that to use the EOC would be simpler, quicker to instigate and, in the long run, cheaper. I also believe that it would be widely welcomed by the disabled. An amendment to existing legislation would, of course, be necessary, but it would not be difficult to introduce.
I have other reservations about part I of the Bill. Reference was made briefly by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) to people living in institutions. More than 40,000 people still live in institutions. Those people are among the most severely disadvantaged members of our community. There has been a whole range of Government initiatives designed to reduce those numbers. Initiatives have been introduced over the past four years to bring both children and adults out of what is now generally accepted to be an unsuitable environment and into the community. I regret to say that the Bill does not appear to do anything for people in that position. It makes no reference to the rights of people in institutions who are severely discriminated against. I question very much whether, in its present form, the Bill would do anything to relieve their plight.
A further criticism of the Bill, which I think was touched upon by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, is the amount left to regulations. It is hard to judge whether the Bill will have the beneficial effect that is claimed for it when such large areas of its scope are undefined. It makes it hard for people such as me to judge its real merits.
Part II of the Bill seeks to amend the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. A great deal of this is an entirely separate subject. It may be that the Act should be amended, strengthened and better enforced, but I am not at all persuaded that it is either right or relevant to include it in a Bill that deals with the fundamental and crucial principle of anti-discrimination. I believe that it clouds the issues, and, certainly at the present time, there would be a proper reluctance on the part of the House to load yet more obligations on to local authorities at a time when we are seeking to keep local authority expenditure under reasonable control.
I began with one example of discrimination, and I shall touch on others not anecdotally but in general terms. In education, there are now more than twice as many able-bodied students in the 16 to 19 age group enjoying full-time education as there are handicapped students in the same age group. Yet there is general agreement that the needs of handicapped students in that category are perhaps greater — certainly as great — as those of non-handicapped students. Their legal entitlement to full-time further education is precisely the same.
Reference was made to the problems that have been experienced by groups of mentally handicapped holiday-makers in Teignmouth. The conciliation role of the Spastics Society is a fine illustration of what a commission dealing with the problems of discrimination could do in practice. I am happy to say that the society achieved a measure of success without having to resort to any form of legal action. It was able to allay some of the understandable concerns of the business community in Teignmouth. There have been cases of intelligent physically handicapped rail travellers being forced to travel long distances in the guards van without supervision, company or comfort.
I should like to draw the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister to a point that I have made to him before. There is some discrimination against those who are disabled from birth and who are unable to build up national insurance contribution records, because consequently they are ineligible for certain benefits.
I am convinced that discrimination takes place on a large scale. The question is how best to end it. Contrary to some of the claims that hon. Members have made today, I am convinced that no party has a monopoly of concern for the underprivileged. The Government's record of tangible achievements stands comparison with that of any of their predecessors. However, the disabled are among the most underprivileged members of our community. Ending discrimination would benefit thousands—indeed, millions — of disabled people. To achieve an end to discrimination, we need both legislation and a process of education. Education is, of course, at least as important as — possibly more important than — legislation. However, the existence of the Bill and the attention that it has attracted in the past few days and weeks are part of that important educational process.
In its present form, the Bill is unacceptable and would probably be ineffective. However, it is just possible that that could be put right in Committee, and the publicity that would attend the Committee stage of such a Bill could be most helpful in continuing that educational process. Therefore, despite its grave shortcomings and my reservations about its provenance, I believe that it deserves a Second Reading.
I join other hon. Members in congratulating the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) on his choice of subject for debate and on the way in which he has persevered in pursuing it. However, I suspect that he will need a lot more perseverance in the coming weeks if his campaign is to succeed.
Not unlike the hon. Member for Suffolk, South (Mr. Yeo), I worked in the voluntary sector before becoming a Member of Parliament. I came across many key projects that were of value to people. I was aware that if authorities were more flexible much more could be done. Some Government agencies — not just private bodies — are inflexible. However, if the principle of the Bill is accepted, we can look at ways and means of improving regulations that may seem quite acceptable to able-bodied people, but which do not fit for others.
I think, for example, of a workers' co-operative consisting of 12 disabled people in Bradford dealing with welfare, maintenance and supply. It made aids and adaptations for the disabled. It received money from the MSC, but the inflexibility of the regulations meant that it could not continue for more than a year. As a result, the project was in serious danger of being discontinued had it not been bailed out first by the local authority and then by the EC. Thus, flexibility is needed to ensure that projects of such obvious worth can continue.
I am a former assistant director of social services in Durham. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that in general local authorities co-operate well with voluntary organisations? That is particularly true of the Labour-controlled authority in Durham, although I do not necessarily ask the hon. Gentleman to agree with me on that point. Does the hon. Gentleman draw a distinction between Government inflexibility and local authority flexibility?
I wish that the hon. Gentleman's comments had universal application. However, I have come across as much inflexibility in local authorities as in central Government. Many Labour-controlled authorities believe that if something is worth doing the authority should do it, and have consequently hampered voluntary activity. However, I accept the hon. Gentleman's word about his own authority.
I hope that the hon. Member for Suffolk, South made the decision that he did on the grounds that the whole process of legislation is dynamic. After all, it is not a static process. The passing of a Bill which includes the principle of anti-discrimination will have an impact on debates in Government and outside.
The Bill will not change individuals' attitudes, but it will at least put the force of law behind the right sort of attitude and it will challenge prejudices. For those reasons alone, it will be of immense value. The Bill will also illumine the dark corners of ignorance which are at the root of so much discrimination. The Bill is crucial for disabled people, but it will also benefit able-bodied people by making them confront some of their prejudices and bring them out into the open. I could give much more anecdotal evidence, but I do not wish to delay the House.
Deaf people have not been mentioned so far. There are many strange prejudices and discriminatory acts against the deaf. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) has passed to me evidence from the Society for the Deaf in Liverpool. Some people have to pay higher car insurance because they are deaf and the new technology in the telephone system is inhibiting the maintenance of telephone connections for deaf people. That sort of discrimination does not always come to the attention of the public, and the Bill might help to solve such problems.
I was astonished to hear the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) say that he would oppose the Bill because its provisions are unamendable. If the hon. Gentleman really believes that, he should test his belief in Committee. If he is proved right, he will he able to vote against the Third Reading.
I was also disappointed by the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe), because he has a high reputation as a man of compassion. His case against the Bill was unworthy of him and his record. If he believes that legislation cannot cope with discrimination, he presumably ought to be consistent and propose the abolition of the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality.
The hon. Member for Mid-Kent said that he did not want to create another crime. But there is already a crime of discrimination against disabled people; the Bill recognises that it exists and seeks to deal with it.
I listened carefully to the Under-Secretary's comments about what the Government were doing. He talked about the need for better integration and for proper support and services for disabled people. He followed that with a catalogue of benefits provided by the Government.
The problem is that the Under-Secretary and the Government are prepared to do everything for disabled people except give them the power to fight for themselves. It is all very well providing for them, but the Bill aims to change the perspective of how disabled people can cope by giving them the right to fight for themselves. Disabled people do not believe that the Government's provisions are a substitute for an anti-discrimination Act. It was unfortunate that the Minister and the Government approached the Bill with a predisposition to oppose it, rather than to find reasons to support it.
I received a letter from a disabled woman who has an invalid car and is the chairman of a constituency Liberal association in south Yorkshire. The fact that she is a splendid chairman of the association demonstrates that even someone who is prepared to get involved in politics and fight the system through politics does not find things any easier. The Harrogate conference centre is a splendid place for disabled people, but when the disabled lady returned from attending the Liberal party conference there she lost two weeks benefit. In a letter she said that that was
because the DHSS wanted to know if I had received traveling expenses and accommodation for attending the Conference. I replied that the answer to both those ridiculous questions was No and I wished to know why 2 weeks' benefit was withheld resulting in 6 cheques bouncing (hotel bill included) and the phone being disconnected.
I find it difficult to cope with such pettiness.
The Minister referred to the quota but that involves a different issue for three reasons. First, the quota is an artificial figure and not attuned to the potential or the kind of work involved. Secondly, there has never been an effective or adequate enforcement agency. Thirdly, the quota does not begin with the principle of anti-discrimination. It starts at the wrong end of the problem.
The Minister was rescued by an intervention when asked about the two road sweepers in Bromley. The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) argued that the men could go to an industrial tribunal where their case could be tested. What if the two road sweepers had been refused a job and had not even started their 20 years satisfactory work? Legislation to prevent such people from being sacked would be no good if they had never been taken on to begin with.
Some of my hon. Friends have taunted Government Members. They should be careful. They must be more winsome if they want to win votes from the Government Benches. Many Government Members are worried, but we shall not win their support if we argue in party political terms. I hope that Government Members will not troop through the Lobby and obey the Government.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have just been to Westminster Hall where there is a large gathering of people. There are plenty of empty seats in the Strangers Gallery. Can something be done to enable some of the people in Westminster Hall to go to the Gallery and hear the remainder of the debate?
I do not want my argument to be lost because of the justified comments about disabled people attending the debate. The last time that the issue was debated five Government Members went into the Lobby to try to force the closure. I hope that many more than five hon. Members will back the Bill today. I am impressed by the flexible approach adopted by the hon. Member for West Derby. He intends to be flexible in Committee, so we should give the Bill a Second Reading. There are a number of question marks against parts of the text of the Bill which deserve to be tested in Committee, but the Bill deserves a Second Reading and a Committee stage.
Sometimes one despairs at the inhumanity of man to man. I hope that we do not compound that today.
The right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) warned the House against the arrival, some time after 1 o'clock, of a battery of Queen's counsel on the Government Benches who, he predicted, would launch a barrage of technical arguments against the Bill. Since it is now nearly 2 o'clock and I have the honour to be a Queen's counsel, I ought to draw to the right hon. Gentleman's attention the fact that, far from having spent the morning in court, which he suggested those of us who wished to speak at this time might have done, I have been present during all the deliberations of the House and have endeavoured to follow them closely.
I share wholeheartedly the sympathy expressed by the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) for the plight of the disabled. I sympathise fully with the motives which prompted him to bring this legislation before the House. It is right that this subject should claim the time and attention of right hon. and hon. Members, for those who are disadvantaged members of our society and are unable fully to enjoy its benefits have a special claim upon the time and attention of the House, and it is right that we should honour that and discuss the problems they face.
We do not have a simple issue before us. It is not a simple declaration of principle. It is not a simple emotion. As my hon. Friends the Under-Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) said, if it had been, no doubt it would have attracted unanimous support from all quarters of the House. Before the House we have a piece of proposed legislation, and that legislation has to be scrutinised.
I listened with astonishment to the lion. Member for West Derby. He addressed the House for about 50 minutes and spoke movingly of the plight of the disabled, but he did not once refer to a clause in his Bill. He and his hon. Friends are saying, "We think that the disabled are being discriminated against, and that is wrong. Never mind about the text of the Bill. It can all be sorted out in Committee."
I did not have to refer to clauses by number to explain what the Bill was about. With so many QCs sitting on the Government Benches, I did not expect to have to explain the clauses.
I acquit the hon. Gentleman of any need to refer to the clauses by number. However, he might have referred to some of the text of the Bill. It is not enough just to say, "Let us do something about this. Never mind about this Second Reading debate. Never mind about the Bill. It can all be resolved in Committee"—[HON. MEMBERS: "Get on with it."] I suggest with some diffidence, as a new Member —
I shall make observations about the text of the Bill. First, however, I shall say something about the attitude that it is right to adopt towards the cost of the provisions in the Bill, in so far as they can be identified.
I remind the House of the words spoken in a very similar context by a right hon. and learned Gentleman who still sits on the Labour Front Bench, although he is not present today. Discussing this very problem, he said:
When we make a proposal, it is tempting to find an easy solution to all the problems which it arouses and to say that if only we cut out some restrictions, spent a little less on defence or cut out Government waste, all our problem; would be solved. We are all tempted to produce those panaceas. the sole condition of which is that they do not entail people working harder or forgoing anything which would otherwise be available to them. The passion for finding the philosopher's stone has been with the human race for a long time. Provided simply that it solves our problems without pain and effort, we are all too ready to be convinced. I am as easily tempted as anyone. — [Official Report, 21 February 1969; Vol. 778, c. 968.]
The context of those words is instructive. They were spoken by the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) in a Friday debase on a private Member's Bill introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Prior) and entitled the Disabled Persons' Pensions and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill. That was a worthy measure. I say that not merely because it was supported in the Lobby by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Nevertheless, that Bill did not receive a Second Reading.
It is instructive to remind the House of the identity of some of the Members who voted against the Second Reading of that measure. In addition to the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West, they included the now deputy leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore), the right hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Mr. Silkin) as well as the right hon. Gentleman who has criticised my observations today—the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees). The list also included—
Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House what that Bill was about, its relevance to the Bill before us today and whether the then Government took steps to deal with the matter in other legislation?
The speeches made in support of the measure before us today were so general in their terms that they might just as well have been in support of that earlier measure.
It is instructive to note also that after the Division in which my right hon. Friend's Bill was refused a Second Reading-I refer to this because certain allegations have been made by the Opposition today—my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford and Spalding (Sir K. Lewis) asked the following question:
On a point of order. It is in order, on a private Members' day, for the Government specially to bring in almost exactly the number on the payroll so as to defeat this Bill?" —[Official Report, 21 February 1969; Vol. 778, c. 1037.]
My hon. Friend was told, however, that that was not a point of order.
When the motives of my hon. Friends are impugned in the debate on the Bill now before us and it is suggested that the Opposition have a monopoly of compassion and caring, I urge the House to remember the fate of the Bill introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Waveney.
Order. When I am on my feet the hon. Gentleman must resume his seat and not continue to attribute to me matters in which I am not involved. It would be helpful and in accordance with the conventions of the House if he spoke in the third person.
I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that in the Lobby there are 500 members of the British Association of the Hard of Hearing, including a group of unemployed deaf from Birmingham, who have special problems? I should be glad if the hon. and learned Gentleman would address himself to some of those problems. Will he consider the fact that they are getting an especially bad deal with television? Special moneys should be made available so that Ceefax and other intelligence systems are available throughout the day.
As the hon. Gentleman put a question to me, I suppose it would be unfair of me to reply by way of a question. Had I been able to do so I should have invited the hon. Gentleman to show me precisely how the Bill would help that problem.
The difficulty with the Bill, and the reason why Opposition Members have been so anxious to confine what they say to generalities, so reluctant to refer to the text of the Bill and so keen and enthusiastic to refer any objections that Conservatives make to Committee, is that the Bill is like Hamlet without the prince. You look at the Bill for its heart, you look to see where disablement is defined, you look to see how it can provide the necessary information for hon. Members to form a judgment on its merits, you look to see what it proposes to deal with and you look in vain.
If we are to make any reasonable judgments about the Bill, we must know what is included and what is excluded. Where does the Bill draw the line between some types of disability which are to be dealt with and others which are not, between some types of discrimination which are to be dealt with and others which are not, and some types of defences or exceptions which are to be provided and others which are not? If those lines were drawn in the Bill and hon. Members believed that they should be drawn in a slightly different position, but nevertheless agreed with the principle of the Bill, it would be right for them to give the Bill a Second Reading and argue in Committee about where the lines should be drawn. The trouble is that we do not know where the lines are to be drawn. The Bill offers us absolutely no guidance.
My hon. Friend the Minister referred in passing to clause 5. That clause is critical to the consideration of the Bill's scope. It says:
The Secretary of State, bearing in mind the recommendations submitted to him by the Commission in accordance with section 4, shall from time to time set down in regulations—
Those matters are fundamental to any sensible consideration of the Bill. They are not trivial or superficial matters which can be added to the superstructure in Committee. They are matters upon which hon. Members must have answers if they are to make an informed judgment. Matters cannot be left entirely to the Secretary of State. The House is being asked to write a blank cheque without any guidance as to what is to be included and what is to be excluded.
The clause which I have just read requires the Secretary of State to bear in mind recommendations submitted to him by the commission, and clause 4 sets out what the recommendations made by the commission to the Secretary of State shall include. The Bill requires the commission to be set up within 12 months from the date of the passing of the Act, but the other clauses are to come into force within two months of the passing of the Act. Thus, the Secretary of State is to be bereft of any guidance from the commission in drawing up the critical matters defined in clause 5.
I must stress that hon. Members are being asked to vote upon a measure that is totally lacking in the kind of definition and identification that they require of what is to be included or excluded.
It seems to me that the hon. and learned Gentleman has worked very hard at finding so-called faults in the Bill. Other hon. Members have done the same thing all through the debate. Are they doing this on instructions from their right hon. Friends on the Front Bench? It is again the payroll vote that settles the matter.
I assure the hon. and learned Gentleman, who has vast experience of Committees, that many of us have been on Committees where a Bill has been substantially changed. If the hon. and learned Gentleman's heart is in the right place, he will vote for this Bill.
I appreciate that, and I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman was not listening to the points that I made earlier. If the lines were drawn in the Bill, attention could be paid in Committee to whether they were drawn in the right place. The trouble is that the Bill does not draw any lines at all.
I am not picking holes in the Bill. I looked at it in the hope that I could obtain some guidance. I wanted to know its scope. I regarded it as essential that there should be information in the Bill as to its scope before any informed judgment could be arrived at on whether it merited my support and should be given a Second Reading. It was not with any sense of enthusiasm or relish, but with disappointment that I found that such guidance was completely lacking.
I am not aware of any such thing. Those matters are not for me. All that I have done is to pay some attention to the text of this measure to see whether it is worthy of support on Second Reading, and it is to that point that I am addressing these observations.
It would be bad enough if clause 5, important and fundamental though it is, were the only clause that wholly failed in its purpose to give guidance to the House, but it is not. Clause 9(2), deals with an important matter—the areas in which action or inaction may be deemed not to constitute discrimination on grounds of disability. This is critical. It is of the utmost importance to any proper consideration of this issue.
Clause 9(2) states:
The Secretary of State may from time to time prescribe by regulations".
That will not do. My hon. Friend the Minister was correct when he said that if the Government had brought forward legislation that was as uninformative and as blank on crucial and fundamental matters as the Bill they would rightly have earned a great deal of substantial criticism from, I hope, all quarters of the House.
I began by considering the measure with a sympathetic eye and agreeing with what was said in its support by the hon. Member for West Derby. Although I believe that those who are disadvantaged members of our society and unable fully to enjoy its benefits have a special charge on the time and attention of the House, and am happy that the House has spent the day debating these matters, we are not concerned with any general declaration of principle. It is not appropriate to ignore the text of the Bill and assume that all the matters can be dealt with in Committee. The Bill is grossly deficient. It does not provide the House with the guidance that it is entitled to expect before deciding whether to support a measure on Second Reading. For that reason, I shall not support the measure.
The House has just listened to a most shoddy speech by the hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard). His speech was heard by a questionable audience which came into the House for one purpose. This may take the smile off the hon. Gentleman's face. I and other hon. Members wish to present serious matters on behalf of constituents. I did not expect to sit through about 25 minutes of empty, deliberate filibustering.
There are Conservative Members who, to do them credit, will use their judgment, whatever their reservations about the Bill's contents, and support the Second Reading in the Division lobby. One or two hon Gentlemen made fair points about the manner in which some Opposition Members have been responding to their colleagues.
I came to the House in a true non-partisan frame of mind. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) will know that I discussed this question as recently as last evening, when trying to make a judgment on the mood in which the Government would deal with the Bill. It is well known that we did not intend, as with much other legislation, to come in a partisan spirit. We came intending to talk about the issues and the principle of the Bill and to support it because of our experiences in our constituencies and elsewhere.
The reason why a partisan spirit has entered into the proceedings and caused a great deal of anger—not only in the Chamber but outside—is that, as has become clear, right from the start the Government intended to kill the Bill. They were prejudging the issue. I know enough about the machinery of government, how it works and how ministerial committees work to know that either the Under-Secretary, for whom I have much regard, or his senior colleague attended a ministerial committee when this legislation was considered. Either the Under-Secretary of State or his ministerial colleagues must have done. There would have been present at that meeting the Government Chief Whip, or one of his representatives, to advise on how to handle the matter. That is where the decision was made.
Steps were then taken to ensure that the Bill would not be given a Second Reading. Whatever is said by those on the Government Front Bench or by any other Conservative Member, they know the procedures and so do I. They know that that is roughly what happened, even if my version is not entirely accurate. The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe clearly picked up some bits and pieces from the Whips' Office and added his own rubbish to them. He failed to deal with the issues raised by the Bill—
We have seen what has been taking place for the past 15 or 20 minutes at the far end of the Chamber. It is exactly what many of us feared. No one in this place minds being genuinely voted down or argued down on an issue such as the one before us, but this is the third time that the Government's predisposition has been handled in this way. The Opposition will probably lose on this occasion for the Government's tactic has been well organised, but there will be other occasions. There will be another occasion when the issue is brought back to the House. If anything like this happens again, it will besmirch the Government permanently, irrespective of the good intentions of the Under-Secretary of State.
|Division No. 72]||[2.22 pm|
|Abse, Leo||Cartwright, John|
|Alton, David||Clay, Robert|
|Anderson, Donald||Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Cohen, Harry|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Coleman, Donald|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Conlan, Bernard|
|Barnett, Guy||Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Corbett, Robin|
|Beggs, Roy||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Beith, A. J.||Cowans, Harry|
|Bell, Stuart||Cox, Thomas (Tooting)|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Crowther, Stan|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Blair, Anthony||Dalyell, Tam|
|Body, Richard||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)|
|Boyes, Roland||Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Deakins, Eric|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Dixon, Donald|
|Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Dobson, Frank|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Dormand, Jack|
|Caborn, Richard||Douglas, Dick|
|Campbell, Ian||Dubs, Alfred|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Eadie, Alex|
|Canavan, Dennis||Eastham, Ken|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n SE)|
|Ellis, Raymond||Mikardo, Ian|
|Evans, Ioan (Cynon Valley)||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Fatchett, Derek||Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Flannery, Martin||Nellist, David|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Nicholson, J.|
|Foster, Derek||O'Neill, Martin|
|Foulkes, George||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Fraser, J. (Norwood)||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Parry, Robert|
|Freud, Clement||Patchett, Terry|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Godman, Dr Norman||Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)|
|Gould, Bryan||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Prescott, John|
|Hardy, Peter||Redmond, M.|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)|
|Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Haynes, Frank||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Robinson, P. (Belfast E)|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)||Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Rowlands, Ted|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Ryman, John|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Hume, John||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|Janner, Hon Greville||Skinner, Dennis|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)|
|Kilfedder, James A.||Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil||Soley, Clive|
|Kirkwood, Archibald||Spearing, Nigel|
|Leighton, Ronald||Stevens, Martin (Fulham)|
|Lewis, Terence (Worsley)||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|Litherland, Robert||Strang, Gavin|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Straw, Jack|
|Loyden, Edward||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|McCartney, Hugh||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|McCrea, Rev William||Tinn, James|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Walker, Cecil (Belfast N)|
|McGuire, Michael||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Wareing, Robert|
|McKelvey, William||Welsh, Michael|
|McNamara, Kevin||White, James|
|McTaggart, Robert||Wigley, Dafydd|
|McWilliam, John||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Madden, Max||Winnick, David|
|Maginnis, Ken||Woodall, Alec|
|Marek, Dr John||Yeo, Tim|
|Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Meadowcroft, Michael||Mr. Kevin Barron and Mr. Allan Rogers.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Bright, Graham|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Brinton, Tim|
|Amess, David||Brooke, Hon Peter|
|Ancram, Michael||Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.|
|Ashby, David||Buck, Sir Antony|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Budgen, Nick|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)||Butcher, John|
|Baker, Kenneth (Mole Valley)||Butler, Hon Adam|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Butterfill, John|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Carlisle, John (N Luton)|
|Batiste, Spencer||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Bellingham, Henry||Carttiss, Michael|
|Bendall, Vivian||Chalker, Mrs Lynda|
|Berry, Sir Anthony||Channon, Rt Hon Paul|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Churchill, W. S.|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)|
|Bottomley, Peter||Clarke Kenneth (Rushcliffe)|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)||Colvin, Michael|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Cope, John|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Couchman, James|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Crouch, David|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Mellor, David|
|Dicks, T.||Merchant, Piers|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Mills, Iain (Meriden)|
|Dunn, Robert||Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)|
|Durant, Tony||Mitchell, David (NW Hants)|
|Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)||Moate, Roger|
|Eggar, Tim||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Moore, John|
|Evennett, David||Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Moynihan, Hon C.|
|Farr, John||Needham, Richard|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Nelson, Anthony|
|Fletcher, Alexander||Neubert, Michael|
|Forth, Eric||Newton, Tony|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Fraser, Peter (Angus East)||Normanton, Tom|
|Freeman, Roger||Onslow, Cranley|
|Gale, Roger||Ottaway, Richard|
|Galley, Roy||Page, Richard (Herts SW)|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Patten, Christopher (Bath)|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Patten, John (Oxford)|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Pawsey, James|
|Gorst, John||Pollock, Alexander|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Grist, Ian||Powley, John|
|Ground, Patrick||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Gummer, John Selwyn||Raffan, Keith|
|Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Rathbone, Tim|
|Hargreaves, Kenneth||Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Hayes, J.||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Henderson, Barry||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Rowe, Andrew|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)||Ryder, Richard|
|Hordern, Peter||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Howard, Michael||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Hunter, Andrew||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Silvester, Fred|
|Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Sims, Roger|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Jones, Robert (W Herts)||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Speed, Keith|
|Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Speller, Tony|
|Kershaw, Sir Anthony||Spencer, D.|
|Key, Robert||Squire, Robin|
|Knowles, Michael||Stanley, John|
|Lamont, Norman||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Lang, Ian||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Sumberg, David|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Tapsell, Peter|
|Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Lilley, Peter||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Lord, Michael||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Luce, Richard||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Thurnham, Peter|
|McCrindle, Robert||Tracey, Richard|
|McCurley, Mrs Anna||Trippier, David|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Trotter, Neville|
|MacGregor, John||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)||Viggers, Peter|
|Maclean, David John.||Waddington, David|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M.||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Major, John||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Malins, Humfrey||Walden, George|
|Malone, Gerald||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Mather, Carol||Ward, John|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Watts, John||Woodcock, Michael|
|Wells, Bowen (Hertford)||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Whitney, Raymond||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Wolfson, Mark||Mr. Gary Waller and Mr. Michael Stern.|
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Many Opposition Members feel that what we have witnessed today is a total abuse of power. There has been studied interference with private Members' time. Yesterday the Leader of the House categorically stated:
There is no Whip." — [Official Report, 17 November 1983; Vol. 48, c. 991.]
What has happened means that the Conservative party is uniting against the disabled even without a Whip. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether you will use your best endeavours to get the Leader of the House to make a statement.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. A Bill of this nature was discussed for five hours last February and the Government have used the same tactics today to defeat this Bill. They do not have the guts to go into the Lobby against it and have used the technique of arguing that the matter has not been aired long enough, although it was aired for 10 hours in 1983 alone. The Prime Minister has talked about St. Francis of Assisi, but the right hon. Lady and her followers are more likely to follow the teachings of Genghis Khan.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance. It was my understanding that this was a private Members' Bill and that there would be a free vote of the whole House of Commons today. I was standing next to the Government Chief Whip beyond the Bar of the House and when the Division was called I heard him say, "Right, we are noes," and then he walked to that Division Lobby. Is that a free vote of the House of Commons?
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is a black day for Parliament and a blacker day for disabled people because any further discrimination will rest on the shoulders of Conservative Members. Will you give guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on how we can raise the shocking, shameful episode of Members of Parliament creating and backing discrimination against disabled people?
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I realise the difficulty in which you find yourself and the difficulty in which the official action of the Government has placed the Chair. However, as you well know and honourably demonstrate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Chair has as its prime duty the protection of the interests of hon. Members. I know that you strive with might and main, as does Mr. Speaker, to ensure that their interests are protected. Yesterday, I raised a question with the Leader of the House about the Bill, and the approach to be taken to it. The Leader of the House very directly said:
Tomorrow is a private Members' day, and after the decision is taken we will consider the matter further." — [Official Report, 17 November 1983; Vol. 48, c. 990.]
Thus he recognised that today is a private Members' day, dealing with a private Member's Bill. When the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) raised the matter later during business questions, the Leader of the House said that there was no Whip.
When a Bill whose principle is not very contentious is introduced by a private Member and its defeat is secured by the attendance of a large number of Conservative Members who have been brought to the House by the Government deliberately in order to defeat it, there is a case for saying that the Chair must take seriously the protection of a private Members' interests.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not wish to prolong this discussion unnecessarily, although I realise that Conservative Members would prefer brevity because of their gross embarrassment — that is, if there is any decency left among them—but the Leader of the House is here, and I hope that you will facilitate any request by him to make a statement on the matter.
Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat. I have ruled on this matter and made it clear that the Chair cannot be involved in matters of whipping or non-whipping.