Orders of the Day — Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill

– in the House of Commons at 9:45 am on 10th February 1995.

Alert me about debates like this

Order for Second Reading read.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire 9:47 am, 10th February 1995

Some very good petitions have been presented, but they were rather lengthy, and I was beginning to get worried, as I thought I might have to stand up and move the closure motion at the beginning of the debate. In fact, there is plenty of time for this important debate.

Since 1982, when Lord Ashley was in the House, there has been a succession of Bills embracing the principles contained in my Bill. In 1982, Lord Ashley introduced a ten-minute rule Bill called the Disablement (Prohibition of Unjustified Discrimination) Bill, which in many ways was the pioneer for my Bill. Since then, there have been at least 14 parliamentary attempts to pursue such legislation. Some Bills were introduced in the House of Lords, there have been amendments lo Government Bills, and there has been a series of private Members' Bills.

Among current Members, three of my colleagues, who are here today, have made significant attempts to introduce legislation for civil rights for disabled people. I am referring to my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) and, last year, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry).

In view of all that, why am I pursuing the issue again, especially when I have my own pet project—electoral registration—ready in my files? Indeed, I introduced that subject in a private Member's Bill two years ago, and it would have been a labour of love to introduce it again. Why, given that the Government have introduced their own Bill, am I now introducing this Bill? It is because its time has clearly arrived.

There is no doubt that my Bill will become law, either through the proceedings we are starting today or through some future proceedings. If I cannot get my Bill through on this occasion, the baton will be passed on to other people. The Bill is supported by all Opposition parties. If the Bill has not gone through by the time that there is a change in the political position in the House, a future Government will reintroduce it in Government time, and it will be carried.

The Government's alternative measure is seriously flawed. Its proposals are inadequate and the Government must explain exactly to whom it applies. It is a step forward by the Government, because it represents a recognition of the problem, but it is a very small step as far as disabled people are concerned.

All hon. Members have a legitimate interest in the issue of disabled rights, as 10 per cent. of the population are affected by the measure that I have introduced. Some 10,000 of my constituents in north-east Derbyshire are concerned about disabled people's rights. Hon. Members who intend to oppose the Bill should reflect upon the fact that the electorate at large are concerned about disabled rights. Many people have sympathy with the issue or have experienced the problems first hand, and one in every three families contains someone who will be covered by the Bill.

Many interest groups in my constituency are directly linked with disabled rights. The Derbyshire Coalition of Disabled People, which participated in yesterday's lobby of the Parliament, operates from Clay Cross in my constituency. It is an organisation of disabled people which serves the needs of the disabled. It is a solid supporter of the Bill, as it was of past measures which came before the House which are relevant to the Bill's principles.

Links, which operates throughout Chesterfield and north-east Derbyshire, supports the Bill. Further afield, the Centre for Integrated Living at Ripley, which is run by and for disabled people, backs the legislation. That organisation was established largely through the actions of Derbyshire county council. I pay tribute to the work of the late Sid Collins, who was a councillor in Eckington in my constituency. He received solid support from David Bookbinder, the former leader of that authority. The British Council of Organisations for Disabled People also has its headquarters in Derby. So I have clear constituent links with organisations which are involved with disabled people's issues.

Because of that activity, North-East Derbyshire district council is a national leader in policy making on behalf of disabled people. It has enlightened policies in the area of sport and in the facilitation of disabled people into employment. It does a fine job for the disabled in many areas, and it has already implemented several of the proposals outlined in part VI of the Bill concerning access to polling stations. Disabled access is provided to all polling stations in the area, although further improvements are needed.

I wish to explain the procedure by which I selected the Bill. The Queen's Speech mentioned that the Government intended to introduce a measure dealing with discrimination against disabled people. The Minister for Social Security and Disabled People made a statement in the House on 24 November in which he outlined the provisions of the Government's Bill. By that time, I had been lucky in the ballot for Private Members' Bills, and I stated my intention to reintroduce the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill unless someone ahead of me in the ballot did so—I realise that the Government can use the procedures of the House to try to block important measures—or if the Minister could demonstrate that his Bill would do the job.

However, that was not the case, as neither of my Bill's main points was included in the Government's legislation. Therefore, on 12 December I submitted my Bill for its formal First Reading and the Bill was published two days later. The Government acted a month later, publishing a White Paper at noon on 12 January. It was not open to consultation, because the Bill received its First Reading and was published at 4.15 that same afternoon. It was a matter of news management.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff , Worcester

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the White Paper was the result of an extensive consultation process, and therefore further consultation was not required?

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

We do not know what consultation took place. Why did the Government issue a White Paper only a few hours before they published the legislation? The purpose of White Papers is to inform hon. Members and the nation about the Government's legislative intentions. In this case, the Bill was ready for publication. Anyone who read the Bill at 4.15 pm soon realised that the grand language of the White Paper, should be treated with some scepticism.

The White Paper referred extensively to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland was pushed like mad—probably because four sponsors of my Bill are from parties in Northern Ireland. However, Northern Ireland Members were not hoodwinked by the Government's provision, and the Minister has now stated that, in Committee, the Bill will be altered to apply directly to Northern Ireland. Despite the Bill's initial references, it contained no measures of any substance dealing with Northern Ireland.

An examination of the Bill immediately revealed that I had made the correct choice in publishing the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. The Government's measure is very inadequate. It contains highly restrictive definitions as to who shall be covered by "disablement", thus limiting its scope.

I keep asking the Government about the numbers. The Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill refers to 6.5 million people. The definitions that I have used in the Bill link in with Office of Population Censuses and Surveys figures for 1988. They show that, in Britain in 1988, 6.2 million people were categorised as disabled, and that figure increases to 6.5 million when Northern Ireland is included. How many people are included in the Government's definitions? The Government have done a cost assessment, and they should know what the numbers are.

As well as the restrictive definitions, the Government Bill contains exemption after exemption. Various education authorities are excluded under the Bill. It lists 14 mainly funding bodies which are affected, including local education authorities and higher and further education funding authorities—as well as the equivalent funding authorities in Scotland. Which education bodies does the Government's legislation cover? The Secretary of State has the power to restrict the provisions further.

Photo of Mr Nirj Deva Mr Nirj Deva , Brentford and Isleworth

On a point of clarification, is the hon. Gentleman saying that his definition applies to 6.5 million people, and that 6.2 million people will be covered under the Government's definition—which is a difference of 300,000?

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

No. I said that the OPCS stated in 1988 that, according to its definitions, 6.2 million people were included in Britain. I said, because of the similarity of the definitions that were used, that that was a good, solid figure, which has never been challenged. One can add a reasonable number extra for Northern Ireland, which would bring the figure into line with the 6.5 million that we have always spoken about.

No one has ever challenged the 6.5 million figure, and the Government were delighted to use that figure last year, because they fiddled about with it in connection with their cost assessment.

Photo of Martin Smyth Martin Smyth , Belfast South

I confirm that the figures given by the Government's research department estimate that there are 210,000 disabled people in Northern Ireland, of whom 75,000 are working.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

So the figures that I am giving are correct.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith , Chingford

I have listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman has said, and I came in specifically to listen to his opening remarks. As he is discussing definitions in the Bill, I wish to say that two aspects concern me immediately in clause 1(a).

First, the hon. Gentleman slid the word "sensory" into the middle of the definition. I cannot find any real definition of what that is meant to apply to, as all conditions are either physical, mental or a combination of both.

Secondly, I am worried about the words "major life activities". I am bothered that the concept of "major life activities" is so generous as to draw almost everyone into that category. Is the hon. Gentleman doing himself a disservice by trying to widen the definition so much that it includes people whom most people would not consider to be disabled?

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

The "sensory" provision is in relation to the American legislation. We can discuss in Committee the exact parameters of the definition to apply. In saying that some of the definition is so wide that it could apply to masses of people—almost anyone—the principles in the Bill are intended to ensure that the definitions begin to link more with the discriminators than with the people who have been discriminated against.

We are saying that it should not be possible to use the argument of disability to discriminate against people. Therefore, wide definitions are needed, although for legal purposes—drafting and so on—those definitions need to apply to disabled people themselves. It needs to be seen what categories are covered.

Matters of definition, as long as they are contained in the principles in the Bill, can be subject to examination, elaboration and defence. It seems to me to be entirely justifiable, because it has been around for a while.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley Leader and Party President, Plaid Cymru

Is there not a glaring example of the contrast between the constructive and broadly based way in which the hon. Gentleman is drawing up his Bill and the restrictive way in which the Government are drawing up their Bill, in respect of companies employing less than 20 employees? People with identical disabilities will be cut out of the purview of the Government Bill by virtue of something outside their control—the size of the company they work for, which may even be reduced in size while they work there, causing them to lose their rights. Is not that the reason for having a broadly based definition, as the hon. Gentleman is doing?

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

The hon. Gentleman is entirely right. The Government, by producing their own definitions and elaborate restrictions, make it easier for us to establish the significance of the definitions that we are including.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

I will continue for a while.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

I shall return to the subject of definitions later, because I have not started to elaborate what will be contained in the Bill. That might be an appropriate time to give way.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

He wants to know whether he qualifies, with a black eye.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans , Ribble Valley

Under this Bill, he probably does.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

In selecting the Bill, I also seek to facilitate the clearly expressed opinions in the House that have become evident in the past; the opinions that surrounded the support for my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood when he introduced his measure. Those opinions are reflected in the fact that the Bill that I have introduced, with its list of sponsors, and early-day motion 466, which I tabled in support of it, have included in them—when one includes the top six sponsors—people from all 10 political groupings in the House of Commons, including the two Conservative parties that exist at the moment.

That shows quite solid support, because, in many cases, the people who have appended their names for sponsorship are leaders or deputy leaders of political parties, or are spokespersons on social security matters in their parties. That shows that there is a need to introduce that measure now. I believe that it has already led to two improvements in the Government Bill—the decision about the willingness to apply it directly to Northern Ireland, although what has been applied to Northern Ireland is not as good as what is contained in the measure before us, and the provision that has been added in terms of sale and letting of property.

I am convinced that the Bill's existence will put pressure on the Government when their Bill is in Committee, although they would have to go a very long way before the principles in it began to reflect this Bill.

Photo of Mr Tim Smith Mr Tim Smith , Beaconsfield

The hon. Gentleman has made his argument about Northern Ireland twice, but the White Paper says clearly that the policy in Northern Ireland, in content and timing, will be consistent with that in the rest of the United Kingdom. Surely, one way or another, whether through the Government Bill or in a separate order for Northern Ireland, the Government had already made their position clear.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

When the White Paper was published, and when that statement was made, the Bill, which was published at the same time or a few hours later, excluded reference to Northern Ireland and said that the measure on Northern Ireland would be introduced by the negative Order in Council procedure, so there would be no opportunity for Northern Ireland Members to debate that measure. If they prayed for it to be before the House, it would be a case of "take it or leave it", so they have the sense that they must attach their discussion of it to the current Bill, although they will not be included in it.

I understand Nothern Ireland Members' great anxiety about the Order in Council procedure. I find it odd when I notice which of the private Member's Bills that come before us include Northern Ireland and which exclude Northern Ireland. Obviously, the matter is of such a nature that Northern Ireland is included in the Bill.

I was explaining why I decided to pick the matter up. Even though I am carrying the baton at the moment—the baton that has been passed on by others and has been shaped by organisations of disabled people—we are merely the politician front runners in connection with it, going through the various procedures. The Rights Now Campaign, the umbrella organisation of disabled organisations, has played a significant role.

We had a grand lobby in Westminster Hall yesterday. A key role was played in that by Scope, and I also emphasise—as a non-sponsored Member of Parliament— the role of the Trades Union Congress and of member unions in supporting the measure, including my own union, the Manufacturing Science Finance Union.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The most illuminating thing about that lobby yesterday, which was as large as the ones in previous years, was that every single disabled person and group that we spoke to yesterday afternoon had sussed out the Government Bill. They knew that it was a confidence trick: they had weighed it up completely. I had thought that there might have been smaller numbers yesterday. There were probably even more people present, because they know that the Government are trying to con disabled people. The inspiring thing about yesterday was they had got the message: support the Bill.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

It was an inspiring lobby by people who fully understood the principles involved on both sides, who were alert to the measures involved.

Organisations such as People First, who are people with learning difficulties, who especially are excluded by the schedules in the Government's Bill, are among those that are active. That organisation has produced an exciting presentation of the Bill for people with learning difficulties. The Government have made no attempt to do anything similar. If they intend to cater for the disabled, they must consider how the House and the Government can communicate with people having learning difficulties, so that they may play a full part in the political process.

The key building blocks of democracy are the franchise; people's ability to represent their interests; and individual freedom, independence and rights. The Bill embraces them all. I mentioned the provision concerning access to polling stations. It is not good enough to tell disabled members of the electorate that they must organise a postal or proxy vote. They have the same right as other people to vote in person.

I mentioned that organisations for the disabled are solidly behind the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) referred to yesterday's lobbying. Individual independence, freedom and rights are basic elements in society, and they are the essence of the B ill. The House should remember that we are talking about not 10 per cent. of the population or 6.5 million disabled people, because everyone is potentially a disabled person as they grow older, become infirm and encounter difficulty using everyday facilities. No one should feel that he or she is in a different category.

Part I covers interpretation and definitions that are open, social and non-restrictive. Clause 1 introduces the concept of a "qualified disabled person" in respect of the provision of goods and services and of employment. Nobody is saying that legislation should enable clearly unsuitable employment for a disabled individual—such as bus driving by a blind person. However, the disabled applicant's general medical condition should not be a factor. Clause 2 also provides for "reasonable accommodation" and modifications for a disabled person. Again, we are not suggesting that the world should be turned upside down overnight and that £17 billion must be spent in one fell swoop.

Part II describes the disability rights commission, which is a key element in the legislation's implementation and embraces a wide range of activities. The Bill imparts general rights, but any legislation can do that. Making them reality is a different matter. The commission will be under a duty to eliminate discrimination, investigate, and assist complainants by offering appropriate assistance—including legal and financial aid. It will also issue a code or codes of practice. If Parliament is not satisfied that the commission is doing its job, it can reject those codes and ask the commission to reconsider.

The Government propose a council, but that group of people will exist to counsel the Secretary of State. In that context, the Secretary of State is the initiator and mover rather than the disabled themselves and organisations for disabled people—who will comprise 75 per cent. of the commission's membership. Those arrangements are elaborated in schedule 1. Parts I and II are the heart of the Bill.

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan , Rutland and Melton

How does the hon. Gentleman envisage the commission working? Would it be allowed or even encouraged to take the Government to the European Court or any other court, in the way that the Equal Opportunities Commission has done?

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

Yes—which is why the Government do not want the Bill. There have been many cases of Ministers' actions being incompatible with the provisions and proper interpretation of previous legislation. Such a power should not be considered a problem or a democratic difficulty. It is part of establishing the rights of disabled people in society.

The Bill also makes provision for consideration of whether accommodation would unduly prejudice an employer, its nature and cost. Propaganda that the Bill is trying to achieve the impossible is countered by its provisions. If the Government want to make changes in Committee, they are welcome. However, the Bill is not new, and it is better drafted than the Government's measure. It has been around a long time, developed and improved.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

And it has been debated for 40 hours.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

Exactly as my right hon. Friend says.

Part IV, dealing with the provision of goods, facilities and services, stipulates the test of reasonableness, nature and cost of accommodation, overall financial resources of the firm involved, and specific periods of compliance that the Secretary of State could introduce but would have to justify.

Clause 12(3) presents 15 different categories of goods, facilities and services that must be considered. They form part of the essential mechanism of the Bill, and must be taken on board by the disability rights commission.

Part V deals with premises and new constructions, and describes when it is unlawful to discriminate. It has exemptions for small buildings and provisions and terms for new constructions, and says that architects and others involved must take into account the considerations of the Bill. They must ensure that buildings are accessible, except where it can be demonstrated that it would be structurally impractical to do so. There are also facilities for short-term exemptions which the Secretary of State could apply. Those measures are to help deal with the worries about cost which are always thrown at us.

Part VI relates to access to polling stations, and is my contribution to the Bill. It arises from the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill which I introduced two years ago, and which was an attempt to extend the franchise correctly to the many people who are not included. Part VI says that there must be access to polling stations for disabled people. A survey was conducted by Scope at the election which showed how serious that problem was.

The Bill introduces the notion of accessibility audits, which are covered in schedule 2. Reports must then be given to the House, and there will be opportunities to debate developments. It states that, before all polling stations are accessible, provision must be made through polling cards to inform people which station has been designated as accessible for them.

Photo of Mr Nirj Deva Mr Nirj Deva , Brentford and Isleworth

If there is an area of conflict, would it not be better to have a conciliatory or arbitration service rather than the parties having to go to court to find a solution? Will not the Bill lead to employment creation for lawyers?

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

The courts are likely to be used less under the legislation that I am seeking to introduce than under the Government's measure, which will be a lawyers' delight. Furthermore, the Government's measure has no reconciling body to overcome any problems. The disability rights commission will help to conciliate and advise, and the courts will be there only as long-stop provisions.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

When I studied the Bill, I came to the section on access to polling stations with great interest. Everybody wants all polling stations to be accessible to all disabled people. Does the hon. Gentleman accept, however, that there are many rural areas in which there is only one place where it is possible to have a polling station? Does he also accept that it might be difficult to make that polling station accessible to disabled people?

Rather than going to the considerable expense of adapting those stations, would it not be more feasible for the polling officer in charge to allow people to vote outside in their cars under supervision, rather than forcing them to get out of their cars and into a polling station?

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

That sounds like a suggestion made during discussions on the Government's Disability Discrimination Bill—that disabled people could have a bell outside village shops which they could ring to get service. Disabled people must be treated the same as able-bodied people. They need access to shops and polling stations, and the Bill will help in that.

The measures relating to access to public buildings may make polling stations accessible in any case, but the Bill states that they should be accessible within five years. Public buildings must be accessible, and the problem has to be faced by returning officers as to what their facilities—temporary or otherwise—should be.

Where does democracy start from? It starts at the ballot box. If you cannot get to the ballot box to operate democracy, where are you? Why should a disabled person be a second-class citizen, depending entirely on proxy votes and postal votes?

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans , Ribble Valley

My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Clifton-Brown) made a reasonable point in saying that, in rural areas—particularly where there is not a wide choice of buildings for polling stations—the important thing is that disabled people are not denied the right to vote. I have stood outside polling stations—probably every Member has—where discretion has been used and a disabled person has been allowed to vote in his vehicle. Nobody would ever deny disabled people that. Is not the hon. Gentleman being totally unreasonable in the costs which he is trying to put on to rural areas?

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

The hon. Gentleman should talk to his Front-Bench colleagues, as there is nothing in the Government's Bill about access to polling stations, although the Bill's service provisions might apply there as well. Will the Government come up with alternative access provisions which might allow taking a ballot paper to a car? That can be done in any case under the current arrangements, and special legislation would not be needed.

That is very much a Committee point, because the principle of access to polling stations cannot be denied. If there are problems in certain areas, appropriate amendments could be tabled which could extend the period of phasing in the measure. I shall move on, because other hon. Members wish to speak.

The remaining items of the Bill include part VII, which relates to enforcement procedures. Those apply in employment—the use of industrial tribunals and civil proceedings—and in electoral problems, including access to polling stations. That is not on the face of the Bill, as it is a matter for the electoral courts and relates to the Representation of the People Act.

The final part of the Bill deals with miscellaneous matters. The only thing I wish to stress about this part is that it ensures that the Bill's provisions apply to Northern Ireland without the need to go to any Committee.

The Bill has been discussed on many occasions, and it is similar to measures which have been introduced. It has adjustments and additions here and there—specifically, the access to polling stations provision—but its time is now. It is overdue. We must give a Second Reading to the Bill today, and allow it to progress quickly to Committee. We must give the House a chance to choose between the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill and the Disability Discrimination Bill.

I should like to know where the Minister stands in relation to the Bill. We know that he supports the Government's Bill and cannot support this Bill, but is he recommending that this Bill be opposed? Why will he not act as a facilitator for discussion on the issue of discrimination, rather than taking the role of a persuader for one measure against another?

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford 10:29 am, 10th February 1995

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on the Bill at such an early stage. I begin by apologising to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes), my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People and the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) for the fact that I shall not be here for the remainder of the debate. Like many hon. Members, I need to fulfil several constituency engagements during the day.

I do not speak as one of those hon. Members whom the House would call an expert on disability. My hon. Friends the Members for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) and for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam) are well known on the Conservative Benches for their expertise, and I see in their places the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) and the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley). Many hon. Members speak with a depth of expertise that I do not have. However, one of the advantages of the British political system is that we have single-Member constituencies, so it is impossible for any Member of Parliament not to have substantial contact with the disabled and experience of their problems.

I have the honour to be the president of Action for Disability in Hertfordshire, which is run out of my constituency. It is an active organisation, which has responded to the invitation by my hon. Friend the Minister of State to make its views known. At least some of the views expressed by Action on Disability have been recognised in the Disability Discrimination Bill, which the Government are promoting in parallel with this Bill.

The real expertise on disability lies with other right hon. and hon. Members. My expertise, to the extent that I have any, and what has prompted me to speak in today's debate, to my surprise—because the one thing of which I was certain when I left the Administration was that I would never again appear in the House on a Friday, less still make a speech—is in the subject of Fridays. It will be known to hon. Members, although perhaps not to a wider public, that in another guise, at another time in my political life, I was what is known in the Government as the Friday Whip. I dare say that the equivalent position would exist if the Labour party were in power.

Lest members of the public are misled, may I say that the term "Friday Whip" does not have the friendly connotations of Robinson Crusoe's rather cheery companion. The purpose of the Friday Whip is to be vigilant in the interests of the Government on the days which are set aside for private Members' Bills. It is important to explain what happens on Fridays not only in the context of today's Bill but to promote wider knowledge of our proceedings among the public. People must often ask themselves what is going on here. I have no intention of being here at 2.30 and I have no idea what may or may not happen, but one thing of which I am certain is that the public will not understand what is happening.

When I was in charge of these matters, I realised that everyone in the House who knew his way around had only to look at the Order Paper to know perfectly well from day one once the ballot had taken place which Bills would make progress and which would not. I became worried by the way in which well-meaning and active organisations and individuals in my constituency wrote to me in good faith about Bills not only on the disabled but on animal welfare, rights for the elderly, and so on. They said, "Here is a Bill. I hope that it is going to make progress. I hope that you will be there to support it." We all know that some Bills will not make progress and will not be voted on.

I believe that the public should know what is going on. I shall attempt as briefly as possible to explain, not so much to the House, because we all know what is going on here, as to others outside who may be listening. When the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East introduced his Bill, it was interesting that the only remarks that he had to make about part VIII related to Northern Ireland. Part VIII contains clause 36. I should perhaps read it out to the House. It is a brief clause. It says: There shall be paid out of money provided by Parliament—

  1. (a) any expenses of any Minister under this Act; and
  2. (b) any increase attributable to this Act in the sums payable out of money so provided under any other Act."
As the House knows, that means that if the Bill is to make progress, it will need a money resolution. The House knows perfectly well that only the Treasury Bench can provide such a money resolution. I have already given evidence to the Select Committee on Procedure, presided over by my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery). That is what prompted me to come to the House today.

Photo of Robert Wareing Robert Wareing , Liverpool, West Derby

Surely at least in theory, and I hope in practice, the Government are accountable to the House of Commons. I should have thought that if, in its wisdom this afternoon—I hope that it will be wise—the House gives the Bill a Second Reading, the Government would have an obligation to provide the necessary financial memorandum.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. It brings me precisely to the point that I seek to make. I hope to explain, not to the House but to the general public, how Supply is managed in the House, why it is managed in the way that it is and why, as far as I am aware, neither the parties below the Gangway nor the official Opposition have any intention of introducing any such change. If the Opposition had any intention of doing that, it would be a major constitutional change in Britain.

My contention—I say this frankly to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East—is that the Government should never provide a money resolution for any private Member's Bill. That is one of the things that I shall ask my hon. Friend the Minister to state in his reply to the debate. The Government should announce that and do so quickly.

The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East is in his place again. I do not advocate that we as private Members should not be entitled to introduce Bills. I am anxious to preserve that right. Today's Bill, ten-minute Bills, back-of-the-Chair Bills and other private Members' Bills have exerted consistent pressure on the Administration. It is right that Parliaments should do that. They have subjected the Administration to criticism. The hon. Gentleman was almost certainly right in saying that his Bill and others introduced in previous Sessions had a substantial influence on the Disability Discrimination Bill, which the Government are introducing in parallel to his Bill, as it were. I have no complaint about that.

My complaint is that the House allows members of the public to believe that Bills that do not enjoy a money resolution are real Bills which have a real prospect of reaching the statute book, when we all know perfectly well from the outset that that is not the case.

Photo of Ms Liz Lynne Ms Liz Lynne , Rochdale

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that, if a private Member's Bill gets the support of the whole House, a money resolution should not be brought forward by the Government?

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

Exactly so. I recognise that it is a novel position. I made that proposition to the Procedure Committee, to be honest to the hon. Lady, so that we do not indulge in these farces. When I was in charge of these matters, it would have taken me, after the ballot for private Members' Bills had taken place and I had worked out my chart and decided, acting on instructions, what the Government's interests were—

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is well known as an expert on procedure in the House, and it is all very interesting, but I should be grateful if he would get back to the Bill that we are debating.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

I was seeking to respond. Perhaps I can develop my point.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley Leader and Party President, Plaid Cymru

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way.

If there could not be a money resolution in relation to the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill or many other Bills, it would be a tremendous loss to the public. Do not the Government sometimes start off reluctant to provide a money resolution, but, as they see the momentum build up in favour of the Bill, they are persuaded to do so? Is that not how democracy should work? If the right hon. Gentleman had his way, private Members would be prevented from introducing similar Bills.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

I take the hon. Gentleman's point. I certainly do not wish to prevent private Members from introducing Bills. No doubt hon. Members who are more experienced will correct me if I am wrong, but the current convention is that if a Bill is given a Second Reading, the Government normally supply a money resolution so that the Bill is considered in Committee. I suggest that the emphasis should be changed and that the convention should be that, as a general proposition, the Government do not supply a money resolution. The hon. Gentleman is right. If there is a special case, if the pressure is great and if the private Member introducing the Bill can persuade the Government that there may be some merit in it, the Government would not be prevented from introducing a money resolution. I am simply saying that, as a general proposition, the Government should not be expected to provide money resolutions for private Members' Bills.

I will finish this point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and then get on with my speech. The Bill that most upset me when I was in charge of these measures was the Elimination of Poverty in Retirement Bill. Thousands of well-meaning, respectable pensioners' organisations were bussed up to the House in the belief that the Bill would make progress. Everyone in the House knew that it would not. I find that offensive. It demeans Parliament and misleads the general public.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. We are debating the Bill in accordance with the present procedures of the House. I should be very grateful if we could get back to the contents of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not want to take up the time of the House, because, as hon. Members will know, part of the Friday tactic—

Photo of John Austin-Walker John Austin-Walker , Woolwich

On that very point—

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. There will no more points on procedures of the House; they must be within the contents of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I would like it to be known that I object to the claims that I am involved in a procedure in order to mislead the public. I am trying to advance the public's interest via the procedures that I am following.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

And that is the end of it.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

Let me make it clear to hon. Members, particularly Opposition Members, that I am not giving way to them because I do not want to take part—I know perfectly well what the Friday tactics are—in any tactics to waste the time of the House. I want to make my point and then let the House get on. The clause

Photo of Martin Smyth Martin Smyth , Belfast South

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you confirm that Madam Speaker ruled that the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill should be treated in the same way as a Government Bill and, therefore, that we should not have a lecture on filibustering instead of debating the Bill according to the terms of Madam Speaker's ruling?

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

I can confirm that.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

I am particularly concerned about clause 36, which involves the money resolution. I wish to make it absolutely clear to the general public who will be following the debate why, in effect, it is the crucial clause in terms of whether the Bill makes progress. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) may sneer, but it is an exceptionally important point. I know that he is a supporter of the Bill. I do not wish to delay progress on it. My advice to him, if he wishes to advance the Bill, is to allow me to make my point. If he wishes to detain the House further, I do not want to be discourteous and not give way to him.

The historical basis for the rule that a private Member cannot propose an increase in charge is contained in the classic statement in "Erskine May", with which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will be familiar. I remind the House what it says: the Crown demands money, the Commons grant it, and the Lords assent to the grant: but the Commons do not vote money unless it be required by the Crown; nor do they impose or augment taxes, unless such taxation is necessary for the public service, as declared by the Crown through its constitutional advisers". The House lived with that as a convention for several centuries. Then, in 1713, the House felt it necessary to reflect that constitutional tradition in a Standing Order, which reads as follows: This House will receive no petition for any sum of money relating to public service but what is recommended from the Crown. That Standing Order has been tacitly accepted by all parties in the House ever since, suffering over the years some amendment in the light of experience. I propose to refer to two such amendments, because, again, they are relevant to the position that we face in the Bill.

At the beginning of the 18th century, the House authorised the raising of money for a particular war. There were funds that were surplus to the supply that had been raised, and the Exchequer was not able to pay out that money. For that reason, the Standing Order was introduced in 1713. In the words of an historian, and this is where I come to the Bill, "The Standing Order was designed as a measure of protection against the easy extravagance of a large assembly." That is why the House thought it right to introduce the Standing Order in the first place. I now give an example of where the main parties, the official Opposition and the Liberal Democrats, have supported continuance of that principle.

In 1866, hon. Members ingeniously found a way around that Standing Order—you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, better than I do how ingenious hon. Members can be in these matters. Mr. Gladstone, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, moved to close what he described as a leak.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. I honestly cannot allow the right hon. Gentleman to continue in this way. We must get back to debating the Bill before us. I do not want to have to pull up the right hon. Gentleman again.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I certainly do not want to challenge your guidance, but, with respect, you will be aware that the crucial question, as regards progress with the Bill, is whether the Government will choose to give it a money resolution, if it receives a Second Reading.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

If the hon. Lady does not believe that whether a Bill is funded is crucial in enabling it to fulfil its objectives, we will not get beyond square one. It is absolutely crucial.

I have no intention of defying any of your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I contend that clause 36, which involves the money resolution, is crucial. It is important that the public understand why Parliament has allowed the operation of Supply to remain in the hands of the Treasury Bench.

Photo of Roger Berry Roger Berry , Kingswood

Would the right hon. Gentleman care to comment on the fact that, last year, when the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill contained a similar clause, the Prime Minister said before Second Reading that he looked forward to the Bill proceeding to Committee? Does the right hon. Gentleman disagree with the Prime Minister's view last year?

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

When the hon. Gentleman is as old as me, and has left the Administration, he will find that one does not have to act at the bidding of the Whips, the Prime Minister or anyone else. If my remarks stray away from those of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, so be it. I disagree. I can answer—

Photo of Martin Smyth Martin Smyth , Belfast South

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you give me guidance? I understood that, on Second Reading, the debate was on the principle of the Bill, not the particulars. Surely, we are well away from the principle of the Bill and a side issue is being debated.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

The hon. Gentleman's interpretation is right. For the last time—

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman, who is an experienced campaigner, has been doing his best to keep within the subject for debate, but he has not been overly successful. I hope that he will confine his remarks to the Bill.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

If you are ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it is out of order to discuss the financing of a Bill and the Supply mechanism that exists for its financing, that is an important and serious ruling. I hope that you are not. I am confining my remarks to that subject and it is significant that the hon. Member for Rochdale (Ms Lynne) regards it as an inconsequence—

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

The hon. Member for Kingswood asked me a question and I want to respond. Yes, I disagree with the Government's over-generous practice of letting it be known that, if a Bill receives a Second Reading, they will provide a money resolution.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley Leader and Party President, Plaid Cymru

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Given that debate is being allowed on the money resolution and is harking back to 1713, 1830 and thereafter, will the Chair allow a similar debate at length on every Bill that has a money resolution, and will that now be part of the procedures of the House?

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

I can safely say that that will not be the procedure. I have attempted—probably unsuccessfully—to confine the debate to the Standing Orders of the House and the Bill. The right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) knows that. I do not want to have to ask him to resume his seat. I hope that he will not force me to do so, and I will not have to do that if he sticks to the Second Reading.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The time of the House is being taken up because I am not allowed to develop a simple argument, which I had expected to do in about 10 minutes.

My answer to the hon. Member for Kingswood is, yes, I disagree with the practice that has arisen, which the Treasury Bench carry out over-generously—the convention that, if a Bill receives a Second Reading on the Floor of the House, it is given a money resolution. I have given evidence to the Select Committee on Procedure to that effect.

Photo of Roger Berry Roger Berry , Kingswood

The right hon. Gentleman's argument is about misleading the public. Will he confirm that the Prime Minister misled the public about the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill last year, and that the Government did not vote against the money resolution when we debated it in Committee? If the thrust of his argument is about misleading the public, will he confirm that the Prime Minister and the Government have misled the public over this Bill, not Opposition Members?

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

I confirm no such thing. The hon. Gentleman is confirming that he is here to support the Bill and to make party political points. We all receive letters from our constituents on this and numerous other private Members' Bills. They believe that we are genuinely attempting to legislate, but, if we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that such Bills will not make progress—

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is returning to his previous subject. This is the last time that I will warn him. If he fails to heed my warning, he will have to resume his seat.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

May I seek your guidance on a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, before I attempt to resume my speech? Will you guide me? The Bill contains a clause—36—that requires the Government to introduce a money resolution. Will you confirm that that is the case, and if it is, will you confirm that it would be in order to discuss clause 36, why a money resolution is necessary and, very briefly, the history of money resolutions? If that is not in order, I would be deeply surprised.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

As the right hon. Gentleman put it, it is in order, but he has been straying much further than that and giving us a history lesson on procedure. I have drawn that fact to his attention several times and will not do so again. If it happens again, he will have to resume his seat.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You and I have been colleagues for some years and have served on Standing Committees together. I am trying to make a point so that the public will understand why the House, including the Opposition and the Liberal party, has decided that Supply remains—

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. That is not the subject of today's debate. The right hon. Gentleman may well want to educate the public on the procedures of the House, but he can do so another time. It is not a matter for this debate and that is the end of it.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

Clearly, I will have to accept your ruling in that matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I will, of course, but perhaps, on a further point of order—[Interruption] Since you know that in no circumstances would I defy your ruling, will you guide me as to how I can take the matter further, as it is important for this and for other private Members' Bills?

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. With the greatest respect, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman needs no guidance on the procedures of the House. I do not know whether he has reached the conclusion of his remarks, but I will no longer tolerate having to stand up and draw to his attention the fact that he should return to the Second Reading. If he fails to do so, it will be the end of it.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

I obviously accept your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I have two questions for the hon. Member for Monklands, West and one for my hon. Friend the Minister of State. I realise that my hon. Friend does not expect this question and will not be briefed to answer it. I do not expect him to give a firm answer at this stage, but I ask him to give an undertaking that he will raise the matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Will he say that there will be no automatic money resolution for the Bill if it receives a Second Reading?

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson , Ruislip - Northwood

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you say why we are not having a statement at this time from the Secretary of State for Defence on the enforced resignation of Air Chief Marshall Sir Sandy Wilson?

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

That is not a matter for me. I have no knowledge at all about any statement.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would it be in order for me to table a private notice question on the whole way in which the matter of Sir Sandy's resignation, if that be the case, as it has been publicised in the newspapers—

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. That is a matter for the hon. Gentleman, and his point of order is an abuse of the House's time. We are debating an important Bill and interventions of that nature are not helpful.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

I repeat my question to my hon. Friend the Minister of State. Will he give an undertaking to raise this important matter, which I have raised with the Select Committee on Procedure, with the Secretary of State before the Whips automatically provide a money resolution in the event of the Bill receiving its Second Reading?

I apologise to the hon. Member for Monklands, West because I shall not be in the Chamber to hear him. I have two requests for him. First, will he confirm that the Opposition will continue to support the principle that Supply should remain in the hands of the Government, that they are not suggesting any changes and have initiated no conversations with the Leader of the House

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. That will do: that is the end of it. The right hon. Gentleman must resume his seat.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Monklands West 11:02 am, 10th February 1995

The contribution by the right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) represented one of the worst aspects of the House. That is unusual because on disability matters the House is usually at its best. Before coming to the excellent speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) I should like to respond to the right hon. Gentleman's two major points. First, he asked whether a Labour Government would introduce a similar Bill if the Government block this one. The unreserved and proud answer is yes. In saying that I have the support not only of my hon. Friends, but of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the shadow Cabinet. I say that in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman. He made a long speech and it is a bit absurd for him to leave the Chamber.

Those who followed the last Labour party conference will be fully aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown), the shadow Chancellor, made it clear that if the Government delay, delay and delay again in the disgraceful way that they have already delayed a profound Bill, we shall be proud to introduce this measure in Government.

Photo of Mr Tim Smith Mr Tim Smith , Beaconsfield

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Monklands West

No. I am still replying to the right hon. Gentleman who took much of the House's time and then disappeared.

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Monklands West

The right hon. Gentleman is not in the House.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not a normal courtesy of the House that after an hon. Member has made a speech he stays to listen to the following speech which may refer to his contribution, which is what is happening in this case?

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Yes, it is a common courtesy, but for a long time I have noticed that many of the common courtesies on which I was brought up in the House seem to have gone out of the window. People seem to have forgotten that, and it relates not only to leaving after making a speech but to other matters. I hope that at some time hon. Members will return to the common courtesies of the House.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is of course my intention to listen in full to the speech by the Opposition spokesman: I have no intention of being discourteous. I was simply doing you the courtesy of apologising to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for having, as it were, not agreed with your ruling. I thought that it was courteous to do that.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

That is right. I dream that one day I shall stand to take a genuine point of order for the Chair. It may happen only rarely, but I live in hope.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Monklands West

I accept that the right hon. Gentleman's contribution was quite uncharacteristic. Therefore, I hope that what he has just said shows contrition and is perhaps an indication that he will listen to the rest of our debate.

The right hon. Gentleman specifically asked me to respond to his second point on the issue of the money resolution. I had the great privilege of having outstanding support from all parts of the House for the 1986 legislation with which I was associated because I had the good fortune to be first in the ballot. At that time under Prime Minister Thatcher, now Lady Thatcher, the Government arranged for the money resolution. There was no difficulty whatever because the Government accepted that they had a responsibility to the House and that the views of the House are what really matter.

I shall now turn to the Bill and to the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East. He courageously introduced a Bill which is well known to the House and to the other place and which would clearly have massive support in a free vote. He has shown great judgment and courage and made an unanswerable speech. Irrespective of public relations advisers getting to work on this Bill and the Government Bill, nothing can disguise the sincerity and practical appeal of my hon. Friend's speech and his splendid Bill.

Yesterday hundreds of disabled people gathered in Westminster Hall to lobby their elected representatives and let them know that the only legislation that will meet their requirements is that proposed in a Bill which will assure them of full civil rights and equality of treatment. I welcome the contribution by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth), who for many years has fought for that principle in the whole of the United Kingdom. His speech was significant and welcome.

A short time ago I attended a reception held by ADAPT, Access for Disabled People to Arts Premises Today, an organisation whose aims I support. At that reception Lord Snowdon delivered a speech that was not only effective but realistic because he showed the frustration that is shared by many hon. Members in all parts of the House about the slow progress that is being made on access. We should give the Bill a Second Reading and if we do we shall be taking on board the important views of ADAPT and many others.

The Bill enjoys the support of all political parties as represented by individual hon. Members and not necessarily by the Front-Bench line. I hope, however, that the Government Front-Bench team will allow it to make the progress that its broad range of support deserves.

Hon. Members from all parties attended yesterday's lobby in Westminster Hall. A wide range of political allegiances were represented among the people who addressed the assembly, as well as among those who were present. Those who were there will be aware that the House does not make appropriate provision for disabled citizens—voters who are lobbying their representatives—to hold meetings at which hon. Members can address their concerns, as their constituents would expect.

Those people who were not able to attend may be interested in the circumstances, which are directly relevant to the matter under consideration today. Those of our constituents with mobility problems have no ready means of access to the Central Lobby of the House, and very limited access to such places as the Committee Rooms and the Grand Committee Room. Other groups of constituents may lobby their representatives in Central Lobby and meet elsewhere to hear the views of other hon. Members, but large numbers of disabled citizens can be readily accommodated only in Westminster Hall, with all its limitations.

The problem with such an arrangement is that it is not possible to use any sort of public address system in Westminster Hall, which means that, in practice, no facility exists, even in the House, for disabled citizens to meet during a lobby of that sort, a restriction that does not apply to other lobbies. That is clearly unacceptable in 1995.

That is the reality of the situation before our very eyes. Hon. Members of all parties will recognise it, and many will also recognise that that is a perfect example of the sort of discrimination that disabled people face only too often in their day-to-day lives. Sadly, for them yesterday was no new experience.

That is a perfect example for a number of reasons. First, it is profoundly unfair and unjust to penalise more than one tenth of our constituents on the grounds of their disability. Secondly, the discrimination was neither deliberate nor malicious. I am certain that to discriminate in that way was the last thing intended by hon. Members or by Officers of the House, who were carrying out instructions given to them when the problem came into being. Thirdly, its effects on disabled people is far more irksome than some people might imagine. Above all, it is the sort of discrimination that may easily escape the reach of the limited legislation that the Government have proposed in their Disability Discrimination Bill. Such discrimination, however, would quickly disappear if the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East were finally to achieve its proper place in the law of the land.

The point, of course, is not just that my hon. Friend's Bill is better and more comprehensive than the Government's alternative. The difference between the two Bills, as has been recognised in the consideration given to both, is not just one of degree; it is a difference of kind. They are founded on distinct principles. That difference is recognised not only in this place, but by 6.5 million disabled people, whom hon. Members represent—all of us on both sides of the House, wherever we sit. That is why disabled people reject the Government's approach as inadequate, and why they want that my hon. Friend's Bill to make due progress.

Photo of Mr Nirj Deva Mr Nirj Deva , Brentford and Isleworth

Many Members want this whole process to work. It does not matter whose Bill it is. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, since 1944, the quota system has not worked, and that only a third of the people who could register on that system have registered on it? The Bill of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) still retains the quota system, whereas the Government's Bill talks about a statutory right to non-discrimination. Why does the hon. Gentleman want to support a quota system?

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Monklands West

I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman. He is right about the quota system. It has not worked for two main reasons—Governments have not had the will to make it work, and we do not have a commission along the lines suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East, which is clearly essential to monitor and to ensure that any discrimination ceases to exist, whether it be in terms of race, gender or disability.

A civil rights approach is founded on the principle that unfair discrimination on the basis of disability is wrong. As all hon. Members would regard unfair discrimination on other grounds, such as race or gender, as intrinsically and inherently wrong, I would have thought that our support for the Bill is relevant. That is a powerful principle, underlying much of what is best in our law, and much of what we would regard as best in the traditions of a parliamentary, pluralistic and democratic society.

The Government's approach in their measure is founded on a much weaker view—that discrimination against disabled people is merely undesirable, and that it should be reduced only in some areas and to some degree. As I have said, it is not just that the degree is inadequate. The measure fails essentially in that it does not begin from the basis of equal rights, and it gives only piecemeal concessions, instead of the rights that disabled people need and demand.

Photo of Mr Tim Smith Mr Tim Smith , Beaconsfield

I am trying to follow the hon. Gentleman's argument. He said earlier that the two Bills were based on two different sets of principles. But surely the Government's Bill introduces a new right for disabled people in a number of different respects. Surely the distinction is one of degree, rather than one of principle.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Monklands West

The more the debate develops, especially in Committee, where no Conservative Member has made any contribution, the more it is shown that this is a big issue both of principle and of degree. I should like to give way to hon. Members on both sides of the House, but, in the interests of a fair debate, I intend to continue with my speech.

Our arguments show why disabled people want hon. Members to approve my hon. Friend's Bill. We do not ask for much. The Bill is not a measure of positive discrimination because that is not what disabled people have put on the agenda. The Bill asks only for what disabled people require and demand: that the discrimination issue should be approached from a starting point of equal rights to work, to shop, to travel and to participate in our society as full and equal citizens. As Colin Barnes said in his moving and yet practical book "Disabled People in Britain and Discrimination": Discrimination in Britain against disabled people is now widely understood as a major social problem that can only be solved by statutory means". It perhaps represents the major division between the Government and other hon. Members on both sides of the House.

As the difference between the two measures is so fundamental, the main points in my hon. Friend's Bill are also the principal factors distinguishing it from the Government's proposal. A measure to outlaw discrimination must start from a clear definition of who is covered by its provisions. That is the first way in which my hon. Friend's Bill is essentially superior to the Government's Bill. Precisely because we start from the basis of civil rights, we propose a definition that is generous and comprehensive.

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan , Rutland and Melton

Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Monklands West

I shall not give way further. The hon. Gentleman had every opportunity to speak in Committee, but has not made a single speech over the past two or three weeks.

The principle behind my hon. Friend's Bill is that no one in society should be discriminated against on the basis of disability.

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan , Rutland and Melton

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has twice said this morning that, in Committee, Conservative Back Benchers made no contributions, which he apparently defines only as speeches. Many of us intervened and just because our interventions were pithy and to the point, it does not mean that they were not contributions.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

That is not a point of order for the Chair. The hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) is responsible for his own speech.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Monklands West

I repeat that not one Conservative Member, with the exception of the two Ministers, has made a single speech in Committee. The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) referred to interventions in Committee. I have taken those into account when studying Hansard and find that, in total, all interventions from all Conservative Members, including the hon. Gentleman who seeks to interrupt my speech, amount to two and a half minutes in 15 hours. The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends will understand why I do not intend to give way for the rest of my speech.

My hon. Friend's Bill provides protection for those who have, for example, suffered from mental illness in the past and for those who have a reputation of mental illness which is ill-founded. We do not wish to imply that those with certain forms of disability are more deserving of legal protection than others.

The Government's approach, by contrast, is to provide an ungenerous and narrow definition of disability in medical and legal terms, which will exclude from its protection some of the types of case that I have just mentioned—for whom the injustice of discrimination is, if anything, all the more bitter. The narrowness of the Government's definition is shown by the fact that it would exclude some of those who are already registered as disabled. The Government have to make specific provision to ensure that those people are not now excluded from the protection of the law. The lack of generosity is also shown by the fact that the protection of those already registered as disabled is limited to an initial period of three years.

My hon. Friend's Bill, because it starts from the basis of civil rights, proposes that it should be unlawful to discriminate against qualified disabled people in employment. The mechanics and the timescale of how that new right should be implemented are for the House to determine. I hope that we shall have the opportunity to consider those points in detail at later stages in the Bill's progress.

The Government's proposed alternative is that there should be protection only against direct discrimination and only in the case of larger companies. Even worse, the Government propose to remove the existing legal provision for quotas of disabled workers in larger companies, thus removing an existing right before finding out whether the new provision will be effective. The Bill that we are considering today will introduce a new and comprehensive protection against discrimination in employment. But it does not propose to remove existing rights until the new provisions have proved their worth. Surely, if we want effective law, that is the right way round—it is plain common sense.

My hon. Friend's Bill approaches the issue of access to goods and services from the starting point of equal rights. It does not, as the Government's alternative does, specifically exclude education. It says that existing school building should be accessible to disabled people because the right of equal access to education is fundamental to full participation in society. Disabled access to schools, which is provided for in my hon. Friend's Bill, does not mean access merely for school students, but for parents who are disabled, for school governors who are disabled—we all know how close to the Government's heart school governors are—and for teachers who are disabled.

My hon. Friend's Bill will also mean access to schools, not just for those concerned with the education of children, but for disabled people in the community as a whole. The Bill also states that the right of access to education should not only be extended to those aged under 16 or 18, but should give disabled people every opportunity to take advantage of further and higher education.

My hon. Friend's Bill says that disabled people should not only be allowed to go to the railway station, but should have the right to catch the train. There is little point in improving access to shops and offices, if members of the public who are disabled cannot get to them by public transport. There is no point in the Government proposing an alternative to my hon. Friend's comprehensive Bill, then saying that some things must be legislated for in another measure at a date that is as yet unknown.

We argue that the right of access to goods and services should mean just that, and that businesses that can afford it should make the necessary adjustments to give equal access to disabled customers. We reject the limited and piecemeal approach in the Government's White Paper, which states that if someone cannot get into a showroom, he or she can get a catalogue through the post. Just as absurd and disgraceful is the suggestion that, instead of being integrated into our society, disabled people should sit outside polling stations in their cars waiting for ballot papers to be delivered. I have seldom heard of anything more disgraceful.

The Bill should also commend itself to hon. Members on both sides of the House because it makes explicit provision for their disabled constituents to vote. As I understand it, there is nothing that unites us more than our commitment to the electoral process. We are determined to remove the scandal whereby only 12 per cent. of polling stations were fully accessible to disabled voters at the last election. If we pass the Bill, we shall earn the gratitude of disabled voters and give them a better opportunity to pass judgment on how we have dealt with the matter.

The fundamental difference between my hon. Friend's Bill and the Government's alternative is not only the difference between comprehensive rights and piecemeal concessions. There is also a very real practical difference in the fundamental issue of how the law will work. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that effectiveness is one of the most important measures of any legislation. The Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill will be effective and enforceable because it creates a disability rights commission, which is not merely an advisory body, but has the powers to ensure that the legislation is implemented in full. It is in that area more than any other that the inadequacies of the Government's alternative approach are most clearly exposed.

It is because we want to outlaw unfair discrimination against disabled people that we want an independent and effective organisation to enforce their rights. It is because the Government want only to make certain concessions that their proposals provide for no such organisation. They suggest only an advisory council—a talking shop—that has no powers to take action on behalf of the victims of discrimination.

The Bill gives the House the opportunity to enrich the lives of 6.5 million of our fellow citizens—the opportunity to make this year truly the year of disabled people's rights. Improving the rights of disabled people will enrich the lives of us all. If we are serious about disabled people's rights, we must show that we are serious by treating unfair discrimination against disabled people on a par with racial or sexual discrimination, which it is, and which disabled people want the House to recognise most passionately. Nothing less than that will do. That is why I commend my hon. Friend's Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill to the House and congratulate him most warmly on the courage of its presentation.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle 11:30 am, 10th February 1995

The Bill is, of course, difficult to speak on, because passions naturally run very high, and people feel very strongly about the issues it addresses. Not one hon. Member fails to understand and appreciate the appalling difficulties under which disabled people labour. However, although it is not easy to speak against the Bill, I intend to do precisely that.

I have never made any secret of the fact that I oppose the Bill and its precursor, the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, promoted by the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) last year. I hope that hon. Members will accept that, although I oppose the Bill, I am conscious, as I said, of the terrible burdens under which disabled people labour. Whatever our views on the Bill, all hon. Members want to try to ensure that consistent progress is made—it may be gradual—in ensuring that disabled people are not discriminated against.

Last year, I made a particular point about the costs of the Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Kingswood, to which I shall refer, and I also opposed it on philosophical grounds, just as I oppose this Bill on philosophical grounds. The great battles fought in the House over the past two or three centuries and those fought in legislatures in other civilised countries have been over removing discrimination against certain classes of people—women, black people or whoever. On many occasions, minorities have been discriminated against, and we want to ensure that everybody is treated exactly equally.

I object to this Bill and all such Bills on philosophical grounds because they give extra rights over and above the law to a certain type of person. That is unfair on the disabled people themselves, and it is unfair on society as a whole, which will have to bear the cost. It would be unfair on disabled people because it would build up resentment against them and—possibly—have precisely the opposite effect to that intended.

The hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) launched a strong attack on the Government Bill. I think that that Bill goes very far. The hon. Gentleman is wrong that the Government are not minded to introduce statutory redress—they are. The Government Bill is before us, we have discussed it and it will become law. The Government Bill goes a long way, and it is flexible and sensible.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

I shall give way in moment.

The Government's Bill is flexible and sensible, and it will take matters forward in a way that the public can understand. However, the Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) is unclear—I shall explain why—it is inflexible, and it is unfair in many respects to disabled people.

Photo of John Austin-Walker John Austin-Walker , Woolwich

While comparing the definition of disability in my hon. Friend's Bill to that in the Government's Bill, does the hon. Gentleman agree that, under the Government's definition, an entire range of people who may be HIV-positive, who may have multiple sclerosis or who may have a history of mental illness will not be covered, but that they will be covered and protected by my hon. Friend's Bill?

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

I do not necessarily accept that point. It is, of course, a point of detail, on which no doubt my hon. Friend the Minister will comment. My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith), who was in his place earlier, said that the Bill refers to sensory disablement. The Government definition is more sensible because it talks about people not being able to carry out normal activities. I shall return to that, but I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's point.

I was making three points about unfairness, inflexibility and cost. We must accept, although it may not be popular and it is a difficult point to make, that the Bill is unfair on employers. I do not necessarily say that it will cost £17 billion. I never made that point. I do not know how much it will cost, but I am sure that even the promoters and supporters of the Bill would not deny that the cost would be enormous, and that the costs would simply be passed on to the public.

The Bill is inflexible because, unlike the Government Bill, it cannot be fine-tuned or amended as attitudes change. Fundamentally, disabled people want attitudes to change in society, so that people realise the enormous problems under which disabled people labour. Over many years, we must gradually change attitudes—precisely what the previous Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Scott), sought to achieve, as does my hon. Friend the Minister. We still have not had any real estimate of the costs of the Bill.

Photo of Martin Smyth Martin Smyth , Belfast South

Even though the hon. Gentleman says that the Bill would be unfair to employers, does he recognise and pay tribute to the Confederation of British Industry and the Employers Forum on Disability, which, not only nationally but in Northern Ireland, have welcomed steps being taken to protect the rights of people with disabilities? They are not objecting to the Bill.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

As the previous Bill proceeded through its various stages last year—we shall no doubt encounter the same today—much emphasis was placed by business from Britain and America on the costs of the Bill to business. Of course business wants to do its best for disabled people. Business men are as aware as anybody else how appalling it is to arrive at a public, private or commercial building and not be able to enter it easily. But that is quite different from suddenly, immediately, loading enormous costs on every business in the country, including those which employ fewer than 20 people. Business men are worried about that and want the process be gradual.

Before I deal with the Bill in slightly more detail—it will be a relief to Opposition Members that, as so many hon. Members obviously intend to speak, I do not intend to speak for more than about 15 minutes, if there are not too many interruptions—I must make the following point.

It is important that the public realise that the Bill is controversial, that it is opposed and that not one controversial private Member's Bill has become law in 15 years. Therefore, I fear that there is no chance of this Bill becoming law. It is important that disabled people—

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

Hang on.

It is important that disabled people out there are not under the delusion that this is a serious Bill, that it can and will become an Act of Parliament. It is a highly controversial private Member's Bill. Since I have piloted a successful private Member's Bill through the House, I believe it is sensible to try to get support from all parties.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

I shall give way in a moment.

It is a controversial Bill, which will not become law, so disabled people should not be deluded that Conservative Members are wasting time, or killing the Bill, or anything else. I shall not labour the enormous costs involved in the Bill, because the point has been made many times, but it is right that such a Bill should be promoted by the Government and not by a private Member.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Monklands West

It may have been a slip of the tongue—I accept that, in the excitement of debate, such things happen—but the hon. Gentleman said that not one private Member's Bill had been passed in 15 years.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

I said, not one controversial Bill.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Monklands West

The Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1985 was very controversial, and was initially opposed by Ministers. However, with Lady Thatcher as Prime Minister, that Bill went through. Is the hon. Gentleman telling me that, despite his former support for Lady Thatcher, the situation has deteriorated even more, and that an even better Bill will not be passed?

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

The exact truth is that not one Bill which has been opposed on Second Reading has become law. No doubt there were worries about the hon. Gentleman's Bill, he was—presumably—prepared to be flexible, and in the end it became law.

However, it is important that people out there understand. Many worthy pressure groups are under the delusion that many such Bills have a chance of becoming law, when they have not.

It is not in the interests of disabled people to be used as a pawn in a party political—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East knows that his Bill will not become law. He is right to campaign for disabled people; he is right to embarrass the Government. He is a member of the Opposition, and that is what he is paid to do. However, people outside this House should be made aware that his Bill will not become law. I have made my point, and I do not want to labour it. I do not want to fall into the same trap as my right hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones)

I want to explain my philosophical approach to these issues. As we increase wealth in society and give people more resources, more freedom, more independence and more dignity, we must also increase the sense of responsible individualism, so that society as a whole becomes more responsible and is made more aware of certain people who may not have certain advantages or rights.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

I understand the hon. Gentleman's arguments—they have their own internal consistency. Of course, I disagree with them. What surprises me about the hon. Gentleman's philosophical view is that he supports the Government's Bill while opposing mine. However inadequate I believe the Government's Bill to be, it nevertheless contains little bits and pieces that will result in some interference in what the hon. Gentleman might consider to be certain rights and freedoms. Surely, philosophically, he is strongly opposed to that. He certainly objects to that in my Bill, so why does he not object strongly to the Government's Bill?

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

That is a fair point. My hon. Friend the Minister is continually under pressure from Opposition Members, but very little pressure comes from Conservative Members. I have to tell him that some of us are worried that the Government may have over-responded to the very severe public pressure put on them last year. It is right for me and others of my hon. Friends to give a warning sign. I have looked carefully at the Government's Bill, and I am just about prepared to go along with it. It contains a degree of flexibility that I can live with.

The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East made a fair point. Not all the pressure on these issues should come from special interest groups—[Interruption.] I am trying to argue on behalf of everybody in this country—disabled people and people who do not have disabilities. Opposition Members rightly, from their point of view, argue on behalf of people with disabilities. However, it is our duty to think of the nation as a whole, and also of particular minorities within the nation. That is what I am trying to do.

I want to deal with some of the points about the Bill which worry me. My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford made a good point. Neither he nor I has had an answer from the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East about the meaning of "sensory impairment". However, it is a minor point that can be dealt with in Committee. The definition in the Government's Bill of the ability to carry on day-to-day activities is much more sensible.

My next point, which is much more serious, is about employment rights. The Bill is seriously flawed because it will apply to all companies, whereas the Government's Bill would apply only to companies that employ more than 20 people.

I cannot understand how any sensible, practical person who is interested in introducing sensible legislation could make such a proposal. Presumably the hon. Member for Monklands, West would hope to be the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People if there were to be a Labour Government. How could he suggest that every little business or shop that employs three or four people—about 70 per cent. of the nation's work force—should be covered by the Bill? It does not make sense.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, as he may be able to answer my point.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Monklands West

The hon. Gentleman has been generous in giving way, which I appreciate. He said that he did not understand our proposal relating to firms that employ fewer than 20 people. Will he pay due regard to the Employers Forum on Disability, which speaks not only for firms such as Marks and Spencer and Barclays, but for the Lord Chancellor's Department and British Gas? Are they wrong, or is the hon. Gentleman wrong?

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

I do not know. I can only put a personal point of view and speak from my experience. I think that what I say has a certain element of common sense. If the House does not agree with me, so be it.

Photo of Robert Wareing Robert Wareing , Liverpool, West Derby

Is the hon. Gentleman not confusing our proposal with the quota system? We are not saying that firms with fewer than 20 employees have to employ disabled people. We are saying that a disabled person has as much right to consideration for employment with a small firm as with a large firm.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

The hon. Gentleman makes my point for me. Practical difficulties may stand in the way of a small business complying with the Bill. It is easier for a large business.

The Government's Bill sensibly provides a statutory right of non-discrimination. That is a major step forward, something that we have never previously had in law. Under the Government's Bill, disabled people cannot be treated less favourably unless it can be justified. That is sensible, and I do not think anyone would disagree with it. However, that is as far as I am prepared to go.

Let us consider the quota system. I do not want to labour the point, but the system has not worked. The hon. Member for Monklands, West says that it has not worked because the Government have not tried to make it work. I do not know about that, but we all accept that it has not worked. The Bill would reintroduce the system.

I do not like quotas. I am philosophically opposed to them, because they stereotype people, which is the wrong way to proceed. If the system had worked and all businesses had had to take their quotas, there would not have been sufficient disabled people to fill them.

Photo of Ms Liz Lynne Ms Liz Lynne , Rochdale

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us where in the Bill the quota system is mentioned?

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

I may be wrong, but my understanding is that the quota system would be reintroduced under the Bill.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

The point is that the quota system would not be discontinued under my Bill. It would be discontinued under the Government's Bill. My Bill simply maintains the existing position. The hon. Gentleman should address himself not to my Bill but to the legislation that covers the quota system.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

I expressed myself badly. The Government's Bill would abolish the system, which is the right thing to do.

The Government's Bill is a sensible halfway house. It may be too little for some people and too much for others, but that is the nature of Governments and of compromise. Its aims in relation to premises and services are achievable. It refers to "phasing in". That is sensible.

Of course access to transport should be made more available, especially at terminuses—but to make every vehicle accessible to disabled people would cost an enormous amount. It is one thing to ensure that all new vehicles have low loading so that there is better access for wheelchairs, but to insist that all transport should be made accessible to wheelchairs simply would not work—[Interruption.] It is my understanding that that would be the result of the Bill--[Interruption.] That is my understanding.

On the question of the enforcement of employment rights, the Government's Bill gives disabled people, like anyone else, the right to complain to the county court or an industrial relations tribunal. That is a sensible halfway house. The problem with this Bill is that it is framed so widely that it will result in considerable litigation, with people appealing right up to the High Court.

A point made many times in the Chamber is that Opposition Members support the Bill because it would create a disability rights commission similar to the Equal Opportunities Commission. That is one fundamental reason why I oppose the Bill. To create a whole new body with investigative powers would be a dangerous departure, and would not help rights for disabled people.

We have two Bills. First, there is the Government's Bill, which has been supported by a substantial majority of hon. Members and will almost certainly become law. It is a sensible and flexible Bill, which will ensure that there is a statutory right to non-discrimination.

On the other side, we have a private Member's Bill whose cost we cannot quantify and whose impact on transport systems and small businesses could be great. It has the potential to create resentment against disabled people, it will not abolish the quota system, and it will introduce new bureaucratic procedures and a whole new layer of administration in the form of a commission. There is no doubt in my mind that the Government have got it right on this occasion, and that we should reject the Bill before the House.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe 11:49 am, 10th February 1995

In our previous Second Reading debate on the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill in March last year, I observed that there were hon. Members from all parties who wanted it to succeed, but who unavoidably were unable to be present. I went on: That applies notably to my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke), one of the few hon. Members significantly to have legislated as a private member for disabled people".—[Official Report, 11 March 1994; Vol. 239, c. 540.] Typical of him, he was honouring a commitment to Africa's poor. Today he is not only here but speaking for the Opposition, and I most warmly welcome him to his first full debate on the Bill in that role.

It was in 1991 that I drafted and first promoted the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. I moved its Second Reading on 31 January 1992, when it was talked out by Robert Hayward, then the Member of Parliament for Kingswood. Earlier that day he had explicitly stated that he would not be talking the Bill out, and disabled people everywhere felt badly cheated by what they saw as a gross deception. Five days later, Robert Hayward made a personal statement of "unreserved apologies" to the Speaker and the House for misleading Parliament.

That did not, however, alter the fact that my Bill had been delayed indefinitely by the most crude of blocking tactics. In fact, it was not until February 1993, by which time the Bill had been approved at all stages in another place—due not least to the abiding support of Lord Snowdon, my noble Friends Lord Ashley and Lady Lockwood and of Lord Rix—that I was able to seek a further Second Reading debate for it in this House.

It was then blocked again, not this time by a Government Back-Bencher but from the Treasury Bench by the Government themselves, notwithstanding the unanimous approval by the House of a motion standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox), calling for the Bill's urgent enactment.

Then came the good news. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry), who had won the seat from Robert Hayward only three months after the latter talked out my Bill, also won a high place in the ballot for private Members' Bills for the parliamentary Session 1993–94. Without hesitation, he agreed to reintroduce my Bill, and I have already paid tribute to his dedication in promoting it in the face not only of further obstruction but also of prevarication and blatant dissimulation by the Government, which resulted in two further personal statements of "unreserved apologies" for misleading Parliament.

My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) has now used his good fortune in the ballot to reintroduce the Bill, and I most warmly congratulate him, on both the manner and content of his speech in opening the debate. His energy, skill and sincerity in promoting the Bill are widely admired.

As my hon. Friend knows, there are those who ask why, now that the Government have been dragged kicking and screaming to accept the necessity of legislation, we do not just welcome them as repenting sinners and work to amend and improve their, by common consent, pallid alternative to the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill.

Only this week, a woman who is well disposed to our aims wrote to me to say: Now that you've won and the Government, at long last, are having to legislate, why don't you simply claim victory and amend their Bill to your liking? Of course, nothing would be more agreeable to me than to be able to amend at will the Government's proposals and thus to end a parliamentary battle that I began in 1991. But changes to their Bill on the scale required to make it acceptable to disabled people are just not possible. Even if they were, however, why, having invented the wheel, should we now have to waste time adapting the Government's very poor imitation of one? Rather than attempting to amend the Government's Bill so extensively, with no real prospect of success, why should we not persist in trying to enact our own?

Another question posed is: why, even if we are unable significantly to improve the Government's Bill, can we not accept what is on offer as a major step forward after 13 years of systematic obstruction, and then, in the years ahead, build on what their Bill has achieved?

But in the view of disabled people and those who work to help them, the Government's Bill is not a major step forward. In fact, much apart from thinking that it will make life better for them, their view is that the Government's Bill will actually increase discrimination against disabled people. They cite first the Government's proposal to end the 3 per cent. jobs quota, which they argue will undoubtedly make matters worse.

"Rights Now", whose affiliates include the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People, cites as well the Government's pointlessly complicated and over-restrictive definition of discrimination. It attacks what it calls the Government's "complete failure" to understand how disability discrimination works and goes on: The Government's Bill contains a host of defences and potential justifications for discriminatory treatment which are not present in the legislation on sex and race. The accumulated effect of these loopholes will render it almost impossible for a disabled person to challenge discrimination". Such pointed criticism leaves scant room for any doubt about what Britain's 6.5 million disabled people think of the assumption that the Government's Bill is a major step forward.

Nor are disabled people alone in rejecting that assumption. The Confederation of British Industry, among other employers' organisations, is opposed to the exclusion from the Government's Bill of employers with fewer than 20 employees. No less than 83 per cent. of all employees work for such employers. It surely cannot be right to let them go on discriminating in any way they choose.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans , Ribble Valley

I am a little disturbed by the question of quotas. The right hon. Gentleman talked about 6.5 million disabled people, but they are not registered disabled people. Was not the problem under the quota system the fact that relatively few people are registered disabled compared with the 6.5 million figure, and firms found it impossible to fill the quota with registered disabled people?

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

I have given way, but I shall not do so again, because I know that many other Members want to speak, and the House wants to move on as quickly as possible.

I am not alone in that there are 6.5 million disabled people in this country; the Government themselves, on the authority of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, say that this is the number of disabled people in Britain today.

What is wrong with the quota is that it has not been enforced since the 1970s. It was last enforced during my period as Minister for Disabled People. My hon. Friend's Bill provides a mechanism—the disability rights commission—that will assist disabled people to enforce their statutory rights. To do away with the quota is to take away an existing statutory right at a time when disabled people will point out to the Minister that they want more protection, not less.

To resume: it cannot be right either for Ministers who have no experience of running a major private enterprise to tell those who have that the Government know best. I make no apology for quoting again in this debate a big employer in the private sector, who has told me: To end discrimination in the labour market, you must not only protect disabled people there but also achieve full equality of access for them to transport and training, among many other facilities and services". In his view, "piecemeal change" of the kind proposed in the Government's Bill is an attempt to divide the indivisible, represents a profligate waste of taxpayers' money, and calculated to make discrimination against disabled people even more widespread than it is now.

Sir Peter Large—than whom few people can speak with more insight on this subject or have more personal experience of severe disability—has sent me his analysis of the differences between the Government's Bill and the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, which is no less devastating than the comparison made by Scope, to which I referred when we debated the Government's Bill on 24 January 1995. Sir Peter Large compares the two Bills in all respects, and makes it crystal clear why disabled people and their organisations are wholly right to support our Bill.

If asked to single out the two most important differences, Sir Peter tells me, he would name first the exclusion of education from the Government's Bill; and, secondly, its proposal for a "toothless" national disability council in place of the disability rights commission for which our Bill provides. Referring to the disadvantages faced 25 years ago by children with disabilities, he says: I remember being dismayed that scholastically able but physically disabled children were forced into special schools merely because they were barred access by the bricks and mortar of mainstream schools. That still happens today, but your Bill would help eliminate the difficulty". Turning to the Government's proposed national disability council, Sir Peter describes the provision for a disability rights commission in our Bill as "incomparably superior". Indeed, he regards the commission for which we provide, with its powers to undertake general investigations and assist individual disabled people to enforce their rights, as central to the success of any legislation to eradicate discrimination against them.

In comparison, he goes on, the Government's proposal for an advisory council is a wheyfaced ghost of what is required. Not only does it lack teeth: it enjoys no life of its own. It can act only in response to summonses of the Secretary of State. Its subservience is blatantly obvious in that it is specifically excluded by Statute from even daring to offer advice on any of the important issues covered by the Government Bill. They are but some of the withering criticisms made in Sir Peter Large's submission. They come from the man I appointed over 16 years ago, when I was Minister for Disabled People, to chair the world's first ever committee of inquiry into unfair discrimination against disabled people.

Sir Peter Large's comments are a shaming reminder that, if the Government had acted on the committee of inquiry's recommendations when they were published in 1982, Britain would have led the world in making such discrimination unlawful. Instead, we lag way behind many other countries. They include, among others, New Zealand, Australia, the United States and Canada.

While those countries read and acted on the report of Sir Peter Large's committee, it has taken the British Government 13 years to come forward with what can only be described as a travesty of its recommendations. What the committee urged upon the Government, in 1982, was a Bill to give disabled people full civil rights and equal citizenship; but what they are being offered by the Government, in 1995, as they themselves protest, is second-class rights for second-class citizens.

I shall go on briefly to raise three further issues; first, the mess that the Government have got themselves into by defining disability so narrowly. I give three examples.

If a job applicant's curriculum vitae shows periods of in-patient treatment for psychiatric illness, the employer is entitled to throw it straight in the dustbin, but if instead the CV says that he is still receiving psychiatric treatment, he cannot. How on earth can that be justified?

Again, in the case of a person known to be HIV-positive but who is asymptomatic, the Bill invites employers to "get their discrimination in first", as it were, because once acquired immune deficiency syndrome is diagnosed, the Bill's provisions apply.

My third example is the scope for unfair discrimination against people with genetic disorders who are as yet "pre-symptomatically disabled". Has the Minister seen the Genetic Interest Group's admirable submission about his Bill, and will he now meet the group to discuss its well-documented statement of concern?

By its very nature, discrimination is often irrational. Will the Minister now accept that, to be viable, any definition of disability must include people who are perceived by employers to be disabled even if they are not?

I turn now to a fundamental error in the Government's approach to costings. Thus, they treat the costs of public provision for able-bodied people differently from those of providing for disabled people. They see it as quite normal for the providers of services to help their able-bodied customers to enjoy them by installing escalators in shops, amplification at meetings and so on; but provision for disabled people—lifts at stations, induction loops at concerts—is treated differently as a "special" and abnormal expense.

Like most other people, I believe that "normal" provision must now include the needs of disabled people. Otherwise, are we not treating disabled people as being apart from and not a part of society? Even more clearly, is it not intolerable for Ministers to claim that their Bill adds to Government spending on disabled people, when in fact—at the same time—they are cutting by £2 billion their expenditure on invalidity benefit, and inflicting on a huge number of disabled people a cut in income from about £77 a week to £46? That puts in perspective the Government's so-called "extra spending" on the Bill.

I conclude with a question about the speech made from the Government Front Bench by the hon. Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) in the debate on Second Reading of the Government's Bill. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) will be especially interested in a quotation from the hon. Lady in that debate.

Referring to the Government's record, she stated: Do Labour Members recall how we look after not only the disabled but their carers? … What about the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 and the provisions in the Education Reform Act 1988? We have introduced all those measures, but the Opposition do not think that we can be trusted."—[Official Report, 24 January 1995; Vol. 253, c. 234.] As the Minister for Disabled People knows full well, that was another gross distortion by the Government of easily ascertainable facts.

It was, of course, my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West, legislating as a private Member, who promoted the 1986 Act. For their part, the Government blocked—and are still blocking—the implementation of crucially important sections of that humane act. The deception was used to persuade Members of the House to give the Government's Bill a Second Reading. It was unworthy of the hon. Lady and demeaning the House for her to misrepresent the facts, and I am sure that the Minister for Disabled People will now want to ensure that the record is put straight.

I commend the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill to the House and thank my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East again for his humanity in promoting a Bill of such profound importance to all disabled people.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff , Worcester 12:07 pm, 10th February 1995

I do not doubt for a moment the sincerity of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) nor that of the hon. Members for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) and for Kingswood (Mr. Berry). They are sincerely committed to the cause of helping disabled people. I simply wish that sometimes they would give Conservative Members the same credit. The fact that we disagree with them about mechanisms does not mean that we are not equally committed to outcomes.

It does not help the Opposition's argument when quite serious misrepresentations are made in order to score partisan points in an important debate on an important Bill. It was a total misrepresentation for the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East to claim during his speech—or to imply at least—that there had been no consultation on the Government's proposals. The Government's consultation on those proposals was one of the biggest ever undertaken by Government. One hundred thousand copies of the consultation document were circulated, including, I am glad to say, a braille version. That is an example of the Government's commitment to consultation, and it was extremely misleading for the hon. Gentleman to claim that there was no consultation.

I was also disappointed to hear from the Opposition Front Bench a claim levelled against my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) that he had not participated in the debate in Committee on the Government's Bill, the Disability Discrimination Bill. I am glad to say that the matter was clarified, albeit rather churlishly, by the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke). I opened the account of the Committee proceedings almost at random and found an important and significant contribution by my hon. Friend, and it is important that it goes on the record that that contribution was made. That was another example of the Labour party seeking to score party points when we should be debating the Bill in a spirit of genuine mutual concern about disabled people.

The question is not whether something should be done; the consensus is that more must be done, which is why the Government introduced their Bill. The question is whether this Bill or the Government's Bill should be enacted. I declare firmly for the Government's Bill. It accurately reflects the desire that I have frequently expressed in the House—as I have done in correspondence to Ministers—to see more done for disabled people. Lam delighted that the Government have brought forward their proposals, which are more workable, less bureaucratic and more enforceable and will bring more benefit to disabled people. I was staggered by the arrogance of the hon. Member for Monklands, West in implying that he speaks for all 6.5 million disabled people in this country, because he does not.

An article in the Daily Mail on 7 September 1994 began: Quentin Crewe, in a wheelchair for 40 years, deplores proposed legislation for the disabled. He wrote: The race laws have not done much to eliminate racism, but plenty to provoke more of it. And that is what I fear from disabled legislation … It will merely aggravate the taxpayers who have to pay for such fantasies. What's more, in the long run it is far more likely to push firms out of business—thereby decreasing the wealth available to do something useful about helping the disabled.

Photo of Roger Berry Roger Berry , Kingswood

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff , Worcester

No, because I do not want to detain the House. Some of my hon. Friends' speeches were unnecessarily prolonged by interventions from Opposition Members.

It is wrong of Labour to claim that it speaks for all disabled people. Many of the disabled people to whom I spoke in preparing my speech do not agree with the Bill. A large body of disabled people believe that the Government's proposals are superior to its provisions.

There has rightly been extensive debate about the different definitions used in the two Bills. I have no hesitation accepting that the Government's definitions are more workable and sensible, but I ask my hon. Friend the Minister for an assurance in respect of myalgic encephalomyelitis. It is an important test of my belief in the Government's definition that ME sufferers should be encompassed by the Government's Bill. I speak as patron of my local ME support group, and I am anxious that their interests should be protected.

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir N. Scott). It is no reflection on my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People that I regard the Government's Bill as my right hon. Friend's lasting memorial. I was sickened by the way that he was hounded during his handling of the Bill. He was probably the most decent member of a decent Government. His only sin was to refuse to listen to those who shouted loudest. He did what he thought was in the best long-term interests of disabled people. History will prove him right.

It would be more difficult to attack the hon. Gentleman's Bill and to defend the Government if they had a bad record on disability issues, but they do not. I shall not detain the House with that long list but offer two simple statistics. Total spending on benefits for the long-term sick and disabled and their carers has trebled in real terms since we came to office. The numbers helped have increased from 360,000 to 2 million—a wonderful record.

I agree with the hon. Member for Monklands, West that the facilities for the disabled in the Palace of Westminster are a disgrace. There is a trade-off—it is why I support the Government's Bill—between the costs and the benefits to commerce of assisting and helping disabled people to play a proper role in society. There can be no such trade-off when it comes to disabled people lobbying their elected representatives. When preparing my speech, I had to meet one of my disabled constituents some way from the House because of the difficulty in getting here. Part III of the Disability Discrimination Bill will place a statutory duty on the Palace to improve access for the disabled.

As to access to polling stations, I have more sympathy with the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Clifton-Brown) than with the hon. Member for Kingswood on the view that every rural station should be suitably adapted. Another aspect is the size and type of ballot papers. I remain concerned that the visually handicapped find it difficult to cast their votes accurately.

My underlying philosophical objections to the Bill were expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh), so I shall not dwell on them. My starting point is that none of us has rights; we have duties. No human being can effectively have rights unless the rest of society recognises the duty to facilitate them. There is an important legal precedent. Clifford Longley, a long-standing religious affairs correspondent, wrote in The Daily Telegraph last May: Since its foundation, America has set out inalienable civil rights to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' as a fundamental goal by which all public life is to guided. But America is not Britain"— making the point that this Bill is copied from American legislation. He added: Most English legal textbooks do not have a single entry under 'rights' in their index. Yet in the name of 'equality' between the able-bodied and disabled, the Bill sets out to grant 'civil rights' to the latter—a moral and legal minefield if ever there was one. As there is no general concept of 'civil rights' known to English law, the disabled would enjoy and novel and privileged status given to nobody else. Whatever else that is, it is not a blow against discrimination. Even if it were accepted that the disabled should have such privileges, this is not a political revolution to be shuffled through Parliament when no more than 60 Members are present. Does the voluntary approach work any better? The balance between the two Bills is important.

I shall give three practical examples of the voluntary approach working. First, I praise the initiative by my local radio station, BBC Hereford and Worcester. Its managing editor, Eve Turner, has launched a competition for buildings and organisations that encourage access. She has the active support of local newspapers, including the Worcester Evening News. That scheme is a great credit to all involved. It receives regular radio and newspaper promotion and helps to spread good practice and awareness. It is a model initiative and should be adopted more widely.

Secondly, transport is essential for disabled people. The work of Bill Buchanan, a disability adviser to British Rail for many years, has borne enormous fruit. I hope that his work will continue in BR's new era. Contrary to Labour claims in the context of the Bill, BR is probably the best railway in the world in terms of access for disabled people. That is the result not of any legislative requirement but of persuasion and willingness. One hundred per cent. of InterCity stock is accessible to the disabled, and it has coloured grab-handles to assist the partially sighted. The continuing problem of -slam-door trains on Network SouthEast is disappearing. The new trains offer full access to the disabled. I am told that the number of accessible toilets on BR rolling stock exceeds the number on the rolling stock in the rest of Europe.

Eurostar trains—I am wearing a Eurostar tie today—were designed with the disabled in mind because of British input. They followed the example set by InterCity in the UK, which came as a revelation to our French and Belgian partners. Waterloo International is not only an architectural gem but one of the best stations in the world for access. At least until recently, a disabled person arriving at Midi after travelling from a fine station on a train designed for the disabled had to be physically manhandled off the train in his or her wheelchair and lowered precariously to the platform.

Similarly, facilities at the Gare du Nord are sparse and appear to be an afterthought. British Rail is leading the way in access for the disabled. [HoN. MEMBER: "Oh."] It is no use Opposition Members sneering—they cannot gainsay the facts. No wonder my hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London said on Monday that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East should remember that this country boasts the best provision of disabled access for rail passengers on any intercity system of any country in the world."—[Official Report, 6 February 1995; Vol. 254, c. 2.] All that was achieved without legislation. Bill Buchanan has found working with the board of British Rail relatively straightforward, but the leasing companies for rolling stock and the 25 train-operating units represent a new situation.

I am delighted that clause 4 of the Railways Act—one clause 4 which I can support—imposes a duty on the regulator to have regard to the interests of disabled people. I am delighted to say that John Swift QC, the Rail Regulator, has gone further and faster than any of us hoped when that duty was imposed on him in the legislation. I commend the document "Meeting the Needs of Disabled Passengers". This is a product, not of a loose legislative requirement but of a frame of mind.

Mr. Swift is clearly determined to help disabled people. He states that his objectives are to ensure no diminution in current standards of accessibility across the rail network; to maintain the impetus for still further progress towards a more accessible rail system. Rail operators will need to bear these strategic objectives in mind when drawing on this Code to compile their own Disabled People's Protection Policies which must be submitted to me for approval. He goes on in the foreword to the document to highlight the fact that there is a market advantage for rail operators, and for many other private sector operators, in providing properly for the disabled.

Photo of Ms Liz Lynne Ms Liz Lynne , Rochdale

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff , Worcester

I have said that I shall not be giving way, as I do not wish to detain the House too long.

Mr. Swift states: Millions of people in the UK have some degree of disability, while many more, particularly elderly people, have some difficulty using the rail system. This is a massive potential market for rail travel which cannot and must not be ignored. The approach adopted there, with a light legislative requirement elsewhere on the statute book and the right frame of mind, is producing the goods, and that is good news for disabled people.

I agree with the hon. Member for Monklands, West on the third practical example with which I shall deal briefly, access to the arts. The House has not debated that issue sufficiently. A lot of good is happening through voluntary activity. I pay tribute to my constituent, Paddy Masefield, a victim of ME, with whom I have worked on a number of issues.

Mr. Masefield would prefer me to support the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons), but his work at the Arts Council shows what can be done by people of good will. He has been on the arts and disability monitoring committee of the Arts Council for five years, and he is now a member of its national lottery board.

The arts is not a side issue. The disabled should be able to enjoy every aspect of life, and not just the ordinary things that we take for granted. They should be able to use restaurants and pubs—and to read menus—and they should be able to enjoy, and participate in, the arts. Access to auditoriums was the great issue of the past decade, and a lot of good work has been done. More remains to be done, however, but the progress is encouraging. Again, that has occurred without civil rights legislation. Clause 12 of the Disability Discrimination Bill will deliver the goods, and it is superior in its effect to part IV of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

Are we halfway through yet?

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff , Worcester

We are much more than halfway through, the House will be pleased to hear.

There is a challenge now to get more disabled people working in the arts. The provision for training—whether for performance, technical or management work within the arts—is woefully inadequate. Some establishments offer limited wheelchair access, but that is about it. Other disabilities are just not catered for.

A survey three years ago showed that fewer than 100 people with any disability were working in the whole arts field. The prison service and the police were well ahead of the arts world in that, despite the liberal establishment mentality of the arts world. I am delighted that the employment initiative begun by Lord Rix and continued by Lord Snowdon seeks to change that in the Arts Council. I wanted to go into more detail on that mater, but time is against me.

If disabled people are to succeed and flourish in the arts, they must get encouragement at the beginning of their educational careers. Disabled people who are interested in the arts must be encouraged to develop that interest at school. The biggest obstacle to them is not so much the absence of civil rights legislation as the attitude of many people who teach and encourage young people. They believe that disabled people will be unable to achieve in the arts world. The message that the House should send out is that they can. Some of the greatest historical figures in the arts world coped with amazing disabilities—Beethoven is perhaps the most obvious example. Disabled people have a vital role to play in the arts, but I do not believe that the Bill will help in that.

I shall briefly talk about the role that the Arts Council is playing in relation to lottery funds, because that gives an example of what can be done without legislation and with good will. I was delighted to see that, in the Arts Council's application pack for national lottery funds, the first criterion used in the assessment of applications is: the benefit to the public (including maximum access for disabled people". The pack then provides detailed guidance to applicants in a helpful way: You should pay particular attention to the needs of disabled people, whether as attenders, participants, artists or employees. You should consider the needs of people with disabilities of all kinds, whether related to mobility, sight, hearing, etc. Appropriate disability equality training should be part of your project plan. That is the right approach, and I commend the Arts Council for what it is doing.

I make one plea to the arts world. It is not often recognised that many people who suffer serious disability are dependent on benefit, and the arts world could do more to encourage discount ticket schemes, not just for students and the unemployed but for the long-term disabled. Why cannot more venues offer a scheme to enable more people with disabilities to enjoy their facilities?

The arts world shows how great achievements can be made for disabled people by voluntary work. I agree that more needs to be done, but I see the mechanism to achieve that in the Government's Bill, but not in the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. There are many more matters which I would like to debate, but I feel that I have been on my feet long enough.

Is there a case for a commission, as proposed in this Bill? I believe not. I am unconvinced that the Commission for Racial Equality has helped coloured people. The commission's proposal is one of my principal reasons for opposing the Bill.

I want to draw my hon. Friend the Minister's attention to early-day motion 574 on access to information for the visually impaired. That motion has all-party support, and I would sign it were I not prevented from doing so by being a parliamentary private secretary. [Laughter.] Opposition Members may find this amusing, but I do not. The motion welcomes the intention of the Disability Discrimination Bill to tackle communication barriers facing visually impaired people; hopes that the Bill will provide a clear, effective and enforceable right to information; and calls on the Government to support amendments to the Bill to ensure that the potential loopholes and anomalies in the Bill are removed. I hope that the Committee on the Disability Discrimination Bill takes careful account of that motion.

The dispute in the House is whether we can legislate to change attitudes, and I do not believe that we can. That is my central concern about the high hopes which the Opposition are building in disabled people for this Bill. When I said goodbye to Paddy Masefield following a meeting with him, a taxi was waiting for him. That taxi was fully accessible for disabled people in wheelchairs, because this Government have insisted that all new taxis since 1989 have that facility. There are 7,000 accessible taxis in London as a result of this Government's actions. However, the look on the taxi driver's face and the contempt that he had for a disabled person in a wheelchair were shocking. Yes, we have provided the legislative framework to enable that disabled constituent to get into a taxi, but the look on the taxi driver's face shows that we can undo all that good. I would have been humiliated if I had been that man getting into that taxi. It was a shocking experience.

I do not believe that anything in this Bill will overcome that attitudinal problem, which is still so much a barrier to so many disabled people. It risks exacerbating that hostility to disabled people. That is why I oppose this Bill and support the Government's measure.

Photo of Ms Liz Lynne Ms Liz Lynne , Rochdale 12:27 pm, 10th February 1995

I am pleased to support the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes), which is co-sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton), but I stand here with a heavy heart because I know that the Government have no intention of allowing the Bill to get on to the statute book. I do not know what tactics they will use today or in later stages but I remember the disgraceful tactics they used last time. They instructed parliamentary counsel to draft amendments and farmed them out to certain Conservative Members, one of whom had to come before the House and apologise for misleading the House by claiming that the amendment was her own.

Whatever the Government's tactics will be, I have an overriding sadness because I know that they will not accept the Bill. They have introduced their own Bill—they were forced to do so by disabled people's organisations across the country—but what a Bill. We have tried to amend it in Committee, but none of our amendments has been accepted and I doubt that we will get any through in the future.

I am not just sad, I am angry. It is the anger of frustration. I know that the Bill is supported by many people in the House and across the country. Disabled people's organisations and the vast majority of the 6.5 million disabled people about whom we have spoken support the Bill. I am not so angry perhaps as some of the disabled people themselves. Their anger is the anger of pain, the anger of discrimination, and the anger of lack of understanding, as well as the anger of frustration. The country should be angry, too. I make no bones about saying that disabled people are asking for their basic human rights. I do not apologise for saying that over and over again. They are not asking for positive discrimination. They are asking for equality. That is all. They are not asking for privilege or what some hon. Members say that they are asking for. They are asking for equality. The Bill would give them that equality.

The Government's Bill is discriminatory. Let us take the definition of disabled people, which we tried to amend in Committee. The Government would not accept the amendment. The definition excludes rather than includes. It excludes some multiple sclerosis sufferers. It excludes people who have a history of mental health problems, those who have controlled epilepsy, HIV, Huntingdon's disease, mild cerebral palsy or—and I say this for the sake of the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Luff)—myalgic encephalomyelitis. The list goes on. The hon. Member for Worcester shakes his head, but he can ask the Minister. The Bill will exclude people with ME.

The Bill that we are discussing today includes people, such as those with sensory impairment. Several hon. Members have asked why we want them to be included. Many people who have a hearing impairment or who are visually impaired or blind do not like being lumped together with people with physical and mental disabilities. They see themselves as having different worries and problems as a result of their disability. We will not succeed in persuading the Government to accept our amendment to the definition, even if the matter is brought back on Report. That is why it is important for us to support the Bill today.

There are other reasons why we should support the Bill. Whatever the Prime Minister says, the Government's Bill does nothing on education. The Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill provides a right to mainstream education if someone needs or wants it, a right to higher education and a right to training programmes. The Government say that they will introduce some legislation. What legislation? Will it be comprehensive? This Bill is comprehensive on education.

The Prime Minister said that transport was covered by the Government's Bill. I accept that it covers access to train stations and bus terminals, but it does not cover access to trains and buses. Today's Bill gives disabled people the right to mobility. Without mobility, what is the point of the other measures? If disabled people cannot travel to their place of work because there is no transport for them, what is the point of making the buildings accessible in the first place?

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans , Ribble Valley

Is the hon. Lady suggesting that disabled people should have access to all transport within a given period and that, therefore, existing buses on the road would have to be adapted? How does she expect bus companies such as Ribble Buses in my constituency to afford that?

Photo of Ms Liz Lynne Ms Liz Lynne , Rochdale

No, I am saying that all new stock should be accessible to disabled people. I carried out a survey last year of new rolling stock and the new train operators in particular. A majority of the new train operators said that the new rolling stock was not accessible to disabled people. We must pass the Bill with a provision to make sure that new rolling stock is accessible. Many of those new train operators said that they could take only one wheelchair per train. If a group of disabled people turn up at a train station, they all want to get on the same train. They do not want to have to wait and get on another. Transport is not totally included in the Government's Bill.

Let us deal now with the disability rights commission, one of the key aspects of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. We want a commission that will have similar rights to the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Rights Commission for women. Why should disabled people have fewer rights than anybody else? That is what the Disability Discrimination Bill—the Government's Bill—proposes.

The proposed national disability council will have no teeth and no power of enforcement and there will be no legal aid for disabled people. What will they do? Go to an industrial tribunal. Big companies will have the time and the money to go through any dispute line by line. Disabled people will not be able to do that, because they will not have legal aid. We need a commission to protect the basic rights of disabled people. We need the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill.

Firms with fewer than 20 employees will not be covered by the Government's Bill, but they will be covered by the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, which says that employers will have to comply by making available reasonable accommodation, in a reasonable time scale. The Bill is not asking for immediate action. It does not say that, as soon as the legislation reaches the statute book, everybody will have to comply immediately. Of course not.

The Government said that they could not accept the previous Bill because it would cost £17 billion. That figure has been disputed. I think that even the Government accept that. This Bill takes into account financial considerations as well. That is why there is a timetable. That is why there will be time to implement the measures. Mark my words, civil rights for disabled people will come one day, and the Government must accept that. Disabled people will continue to fight for their rights until they achieve them. It is disgusting that they have to fight for them. But it will happen.

The Government's Bill, if passed, will have to be updated endlessly—possibly repealed, as all other flawed legislation has been. If other countries give their citizens equal rights, why cannot this country? France, Japan, Australia, America, Canada, New Zealand and Denmark do it. Why not this country? It is to the Government's shame that they do not and that yet again we are having to debate civil rights legislation.

Disabled people demand justice and fairness. That is all. I ask the Minister to think again. I ask him not to close his mind or, more importantly, not to close his heart.

Photo of Mr Matthew Carrington Mr Matthew Carrington , Fulham 12:37 pm, 10th February 1995

I apologise to the House for having missed the early part of the debate. Unfortunately, I had to be in a meeting with a constituent, which made it difficult for me to be here. I am grateful nevertheless to have the opportunity to speak in this extremely important debate.

I should like to make my position clear on the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. I would like it to proceed through to Committee so that the debate on it can continue. I would like certain elements of it to be incorporated eventually into the Government's Bill. Clearly, it would be ridiculous to have two disabled persons Bills going through the House at the same time and coming on to the statute book at the same time. If the Bill is to proceed—some elements in it have considerable merit—at some stage the two Bills will have to be brought together. I am not sure how that would happen, but a mechanism would have to be devised to make it work.

The Bill rightly opens up the important debate about what disabled people need. One thing is absolutely clear—disabled people's present rights are totally unacceptable. I will give the House one example. A severely physically disabled constituent told me about her experience in a restaurant. Because of her disabilities and those of some of her companions, the restaurant manager required them to leave after they had sat down and started their meal. Incredible as it may seem, other diners found that the sight of people with disabilities eating in the same place put them off their food. That is unacceptable and it must be illegal for restaurants to act in such a way.

I hope that any legislation that is enacted will give disabled people powers to insist that, like any other customer, if they have a reservation in a restaurant or have been accepted in, the restaurant cannot refuse to serve them, except on the same basis as it has the right to refuse to serve people who do not have a disability. Clearly, if people are rowdy or drunk restaurants should have the right to refuse to serve them, but they should not be able to do so purely on the basis of disability.

We certainly need tough legislation to outlaw discrimination against disabled people, just as we need legislation to protect other groups. I speak with some feeling on that issue, being beyond a certain age, because one of the problems in my constituency is the considerable extent to which people of mature years are discriminated against, especially in the job market. It is difficult for someone over the age of 40, and even more difficult for someone over the age of 50, to persuade an employer that they should be treated equally with someone younger for recruitment purposes. I want such discrimination outlawed, although I recognise that that would pose serious problems in balancing the rights of the employer and pension entitlements as well as the rights of the person of mature years.

The rights of disabled people are not unique and such rights are not confined to the groups of people covered by previous legislation, such as the Race Relations Act 1976.

Primarily we need, not merely legislation, but a change of atmosphere. We must make it unacceptable for people to discriminate against the disabled, as it is unacceptable for someone to discriminate on the basis of race or colour. That change comes about through a combination of circumstances: through education and through society ceasing to tolerate that type of discrimination, and also through legislation. The great change in racial prejudice and attitudes came about as a result of the Race Relations Act and I hope that a similar change will occur with what will eventually become the Disability Discrimination Act. The details of the legislation will be less important because it should not need to be applied too often. The importance of legislation is that is signals to society that certain behaviour is unacceptable and must be changed—it causes a change in attitude.

The legislation must be careful as it is possible, with all good intent, to create more problems than we cure, which is a great difficulty. I identify that difficulty in the provisions in the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, as opposed to the Disability Discrimination Bill, for the size of work force to which it should apply. I do not have any particular brief for the definition in the Disability Discrimination Bill of 20 employees, which may well be too large a work force.

To apply the full rigour of the legislation in the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill to a small business employing, say, one person would be likely to cause unintended consequences. The most obvious one is that a small employer would be much more reluctant to take on additional workers because of worries about the additional cost that would be incurred. Such businesses may not wish to discriminate against disabled persons, but the legislation might add another barrier to a small company that was struggling to grow and to increase employment. Therefore, the law should be applied rather differently to a small company. One definition covering all sizes of companies would lead to difficulties and would have the reverse effect to that which is intended.

I am also concerned about an employer's inability to ask questions of a disabled person before employment. I entirely understand why that should be proposed—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) is muttering. I thought that he was about to intervene. I am happy to give way if he wants to do so.

Small companies are likely to be overly cautious about recruitment if they cannot inquire into someone's background at the initial interview. They will be cautious about who they employ and early in the recruitment process they will find reasons to turn down those about whom they have the least suspicion. The effect of imposing the legislation, especially on small employers, may lead to a worse situation for disabled and other people than would otherwise be the case.

A third problem relates to the upgrading of buildings to allow access for the disabled. I understand from the Bill's proposals that if an old building which did not have access for the disabled were to be modernised, it would be necessary to provide access for the disabled. That is entirely good and I do not suppose that anyone would disagree with that.

The consequence of such legislation in the United States, where it has been in existence for some time, is that some older buildings have not been refurbished. The owners of buildings who have found that the extra rental from refurbishment does not compensate for the additional cost of making the buildings accessible, have not gone ahead with refurbishment. I know of buildings in New York whose refurbishment has been delayed to a point where the buildings have seriously deteriorated. The consequences in the United States have been other than those that were intended, and that is a danger in such legislation.

There are benefits in the Bill of which I as a London Member am conscious. One in particular relates to my concern about the Disability Discrimination Bill in relation to poor access to the London underground. We all understand why access for the disabled to parts of the underground system are poor. It is because many deep Victorian stations in the centre of London do not have lifts and installing them would be extremely difficult, expensive and disruptive. However, it is not impossible and as those stations are refurbished, lifts should be installed.

Such a description does not apply to many London underground stations: it does not apply to the five in my constituency which are essentially surface stations. Access from the roadway to the platforms has not been modernised and staircases are still in use. Installing lifts would not be difficult. Clearly, expense would be involved, but it would not be massive. That applies to many stations in the London Underground system. Modernising those stations to make them accessible to disabled people should be a priority for London Underground. It should do that because it wishes to attract more custom, especially from wheelchair-bound people.

The objection that is always raised to that proposal is that, after the disabled person has got on to the underground train, which is another problem, he will not be able to get off the train at another station. That is true, but, equally, the problem is manageable. Careful signing—perhaps colour coding—could be put up. Some stations could have signs saying that they had no exit for disabled people. A disabled person going to work on public transport would then be able to adjust his route to ensure that he would go from one station with disabled access to another with such access. That would enable disabled people to make much greater use of London Underground. The cost would be relatively low.

It is worrying, however, that London Underground does not put a high priority on disabled access, and that the refurbishment, for instance, of the Central line, which does not cover my constituency, but which I know very well, has not improved disabled access. Attempts have not been made even to give partial disabled access to that line.

One of the problems with the underground is that the train floors are some 6 to 9 in above the level of the station platform; in some stations on the Piccadilly line, the floor is 6 to 9 in below the platform. Again, that is not an insuperable problem for disabled access. Trains stop at the same place on platforms. If they do not, it is easy to make them stop at the same place every time. It would be relatively simple to have ramps to the doors to enter trains. Equally, the new design of trains should enable wheelchair access to trains straight from standard-height platforms without too much difficulty. Once on the train, wheelchairs would need anchor points, but, again, that problem could easily be overcome.

I understand that, under the Bill, London Underground would be under much greater pressure to institute changes in its system to give at least partial disabled access. I would greatly welcome that, but the Government's Bill pushes the whole problem to one side, which is worrying.

I wanted to mention the effect of, as I understand it, both Bills on listed buildings. We inhabit one listed building—this House. Access to such buildings is important for disabled people. As was said in an earlier part of the debate, which I regret that I missed, access for disabled people to the Palace of Westminster is a scandal. It is extremely difficult. Many disabled constituents come to visit me here and getting them into the Galleries and on to the principal floor of the building is possible, but difficult. For any large number of disabled people, it is an extremely lengthy business because only one small lift provides access to the principal floor.

That highlights the fact that it will be difficult to adapt many listed buildings. The problem involves balancing the needs for the conservation of listed buildings with rights of access. I am not sure that that balance has been achieved in the Bill. A considerable amount of flexibility is needed, given the nature of listed buildings and the access that is desirable, and the alternative ways of providing access to those buildings for the numbers that are necessary. We would need to consider the desirability of having a blanket requirement so that public buildings would have be accessible to disabled people regardless of the importance of the building and its integral nature as an artistic structure.

The issue of whether we should have a council or a commission has been raised. I shall not dwell on that subject at great length as I know that other hon. Members wish to speak in the debate. One problem with having a commission is that it is difficult to say clearly at this stage whether existing commissions—I am thinking particularly of the Commission for Racial Equality—work effectively. There is a strong case to be made that the Commission for Racial Equality is not effective in achieving its aims.

A council such as is suggested in the Government's Bill might be more effective than the Commission for Racial Equality, with which there are enforcement problems. Something of a more educational and advisory nature would not suffer the opprobrium frequently attracted by the Commission for Racial Equality. The opprobrium could be directed more towards the Government, who would have the enforcement role normally played by a commission. That might allow a council to do the job more effectively than a commission. That is something that we need to debate and it is one reason why I am keen for the Bill to proceed. Such debates are needed and, by running the two Bills in parallel, we can have effective discussions.

Although the Government have gone an extremely long way towards meeting the needs of disabled people, I am happy to see the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill proceed. At some stage a decision will have to be taken on whether parts of that Bill should be included in the Government's Bill. I believe that certain elements should be included, and I have tried to outline one or two of them. The Government have made great strides and I should like to see some sort of compromise reached. I am certain that we need vastly to improve the rights of disabled people.

Photo of Robert Wareing Robert Wareing , Liverpool, West Derby 12:56 pm, 10th February 1995

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes), not only on his fortune in the ballot, but on choosing the Bill and on the excellent way in which he presented his arguments to the House earlier in the debate.

The Bill is close to my heart because it is in direct line of succession to the Bill that I introduced on 18 November 1983. It might be useful for the House to recall some of the events at that time because some Conservative Members have said that the subject is not a party political one, and we should not make party political points about the Bill.

When I entered the House of Commons in 1983, I naively thought that problems of discrimination against disabled people could not conceivably be regarded as party political. Who on earth could justify discrimination against disabled people? On 18 November 1983, I found that 210 Conservative Members of Parliament felt that they could justify no legislation against discrimination against disabled people. On that occasion, only four Conservative Members voted for the Bill.

The hon. Member for Suffolk, South (Mr. Yeo), who was at that time the director of the then Spastics Society, was one of those who supported the Bill. Its other Conservative supporters were the hon. Members for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body) and for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam), and Mr. Martin Stevens, a predecessor of the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Carrington)—who, I am pleased to say, supports the Bill, as did his predecessor.

In 1983, the argument that the Government used most—they used a number of arguments—was that education and persuasion were quite sufficient to deal with the problems of discrimination. Cost was another factor used. My Bill—the Government seem to pluck figures out of the air—was supposed to cost £300 million.

I remember going to a meeting of the all-party disablement group around that time, where I was told by a former Minister, who is no longer a Member, that my Bill was intended to undermine the Government's economic policy. I wish it had, but it was a forlorn hope, given the extreme Prime Minister of the day.

The Government's Disability Discrimination Bill is a sign of success. I know that the Opposition are attacking it because it is perfectly true that it is insufficient and late, but it is a signal that, over the years since that Second Reading in 1983, the campaigning of disabled people and their organisations is beginning to succeed.

The Government are now providing part of a meal. They have offered disabled people an aperitif. The main course is in my hon. Friend's Bill, and perhaps it will be consumed as a result of the debate. I hope that it will become law, as it is long overdue. However, the main course and the dessert will undoubtedly arrive after—if not before—the next general election, when there will be a Labour Government.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

My hon. Friend mentioned his Bill dealing with discrimination against disabled persons in 1983, and in my opening remarks I recognised his pioneering work. The attention of the House should also be drawn to the fact that my hon. Friend introduced a ten-minute Bill on the same subject in 1987, and also sought amendments to the Employment Bill in 1989 to cover many of the areas addressed by my Bill. My hon. Friend has done some serious, pioneering work from which everybody else has benefited, including myself.

Photo of Robert Wareing Robert Wareing , Liverpool, West Derby

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. I certainly recall the debate in 1989 on the Government's Employment Bill, and the fact that I tabled an amendment which would have alleviated discrimination—in fact, outlawed discrimination—against disabled people in employment. I am glad that at least that amendment is now partially accepted by the Government.

The great change that has taken place since 1983 has been in the Government recognising the need for legislation. That is a success, and so far, so good. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East and other hon. Members have mentioned the restrictive nature of the Government's Disability Discrimination Bill.

I am concerned that a person will still suffer discrimination under the Government's Bill—not under my hon. Friend's Bill—if they apply for a job with a business which employs fewer than 20 people. I cannot see the logic of that. It is nothing to do with a quota system. My hon. Friend's Bill is not proposing that businesses must employ a certain quota of people, but that a disabled person should have just as much right to apply for a job with, for example, a small law firm as he would with Marks and Spencer or one of the larger businesses.

I am also concerned about the lack of opportunity for disabled people to enjoy the right to further education.

In my previous incarnation, I was a lecturer. I recall that disabled youngsters, and even disabled mature students, had to tailor their studies to their ability to get to a classroom. For example, if French classes were being held on the top floor, a student could not study French, and instead had to study perhaps Latin, where the classes were held on the ground floor.

Photo of Mr Eddie Loyden Mr Eddie Loyden , Liverpool, Garston

Did my hon. Friend notice the large number of disabled students who came to the House yesterday as part of the disabled lobby? They raised important points about inadequacies in provision within the education system which result in discrimination against disabled people.

Photo of Robert Wareing Robert Wareing , Liverpool, West Derby

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that point. There is no doubt that many disabled students are having to study in old buildings where provision is wholly inadequate. Even some of the newer buildings have inadequate provision. This is a serious matter. We are not talking just about older people who become disabled; we are talking about disabled students.

My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East has paid great attention to the political and civic rights of disabled people. It is an important matter. In view of the way that disabled people have been treated by Conservative Governments since 1979, perhaps the Government are not too keen on providing access to polling stations for disabled people. One of the polling stations in my constituency is not only inaccessible to disabled people but is situated over the boundary, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle). It is impossible to reach.

It may be argued that materials are available outside the polling stations which allow disabled people to exercise their right to vote. That in itself is discrimination. Many disabled people do not want to be pointed out in that way. Rightly or wrongly, they regard it as a stigma.

I went to Bucharest as an official observer at the first democratic election immediately after the demise of the Ceaucescu regime. Ballot boxes were sent to hospitals so that the patients could vote. We should think about that sort of provision. My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East has done a tremendous amount of work, and he should be encouraged to continue. If they do nothing else, the Government should look seriously at that aspect of the Bill.

When I introduced my Bill in 1983, I was made aware of the Government's opposition to it. Even if it had reached Committee, they would have tabled amendments to it. This morning, the right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) tried to filibuster. It was a disgraceful performance. In 1983, he told me that he had instructions from the Government to kill off my Bill. At that time, I wondered whether a more simple Bill might have been more successful—perhaps one simply saying that unjustified discrimination against disabled people was illegal. Even that would have been slight progress. How can we implement one law for the rich and another for the poor? In establishing a disability rights commission, my hon. Friend's Bill gives force to the consideration of the rights of all disabled people.

Government Members have argued that that will lead to an increase in the number of cases before the court. I argue that my hon. Friend's Bill will result in less litigation. Unlike the body which the Government are proposing, the commission will not only give advice to Government but have a restraining influence on those people in our society who seek to discriminate against disabled people. In most cases, a simple application to the commission will see the grievance redressed.

Poorer people—those on income support, for example—will be able to go to the commission without worrying about the possible expenses of a court case. The Government are correct to give disabled people the right to bring a discrimination case involving their employment before an industrial tribunal. However, poorer people who bring such a case will not be assisted by the provision of legal aid.

Many hon. Members on both sides of the House support the Bill and there is a chance that it will pass. Perhaps at this late stage the Government may say that they will allow it to go to Committee, at the very least, in order to consider the issues further.

For far too long, disabled people have been the Cinderella of minority groups in our country. They are an important minority group. A survey conducted some time ago found that 29 per cent. of families have at least one disabled family member. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) has often said, one disabled person in a family makes the entire family disabled.

This Bill is not just for disabled people; it is a Bill for the whole nation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East has said, we are all potentially disabled. Any one of us could have a car accident, be involved in some natural disaster or be afflicted by a serious disease. We must all take part in the campaign on behalf of my hon. Friend's Bill. I wish him well, and I hope that the legislation will pass. The door has been wedged open for disabled people, but it is time to push it wide open and assure disabled people in this country the full basic rights that we all enjoy.

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan , Rutland and Melton 1:13 pm, 10th February 1995

I listened very carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing), and I hope that what I am about to say will help us to find some common ground. Unlike other politicians throughout the world, most hon. Members on both sides of the House—perhaps contrary to the conventional wisdom—are not in politics to enrich themselves. They are here to improve the lot of people in this country and to improve this country's standing in the world.

I trust that there is, in the important and sensitive area that we are discussing, some common recognition of the basic decency of most people's sense of purpose in becoming elected to the House, and in forming an opinion about the way to legislate for the plight of the disabled. Nevertheless, we differ in our assessment of the way in which such progress can be attained.

We are primarily divided by a conflicting opinion of what the state can and cannot achieve. The line across the Floor of the Chamber divides those who believe in socialism from those who believe in capitalism, and those who believe in equality from those who believe in diversity. Increasingly, hon. Members on either side of the line have markedly differing opinions of the respective place and priority of rights as distinct from duties.

The motives behind the Bill are undoubtedly genuine—no one questions that—but there are potentially grave problems with the statutory execution of rights. Duties are a requirement on the individual that helps general well-being, but rights, and the exercise of rights, more often than not, involve a cost. That cost could fall on some other individual. To demand a right or to exercise a right can mean that someone else has to pay the price for that right to be exercised.

Rights are therefore part of a much wider equation, and they are a part of a calculation of benefit and cost, in which calculation the cost will fall on people other than those to whom we wish to give advance and improvement. Indeed, it is in the nature of such rights that other people will have to pay for them.

Photo of Mr Alan Howarth Mr Alan Howarth , Stratford-on-Avon

Does my hon. Friend agree that, at the very least, there should be a general duty on all of us not to discriminate unreasonably against a disabled person in any aspect of life? On the matter of cost, will he acknowledge that there is an enormous cost to our society in excluding disabled people and denying ourselves the contribution that they can make?

Hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan , Rutland and Melton

I fully agree with my hon. Friend, which is why I support the Government Bill, not the Bill that we are debating. I shall discuss the distinction between the two.

In most cases, the accelerating bandwagon of people demanding rights in many new areas should be resisted, but I believe that the wish to grant rights to disabled people is well-founded, and bridges the philosophical divide that I have described.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is an increasing tendency in society to demand rights without their equally important accompaniment—responsibilities?

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan , Rutland and Melton

Yes. I also agree with what my hon. Friend has just said. We need to strike a balance that will work between rights and costs and rights and duties.

We all wish to remove the distasteful part of human behaviour that adds insult to injury by compounding the unfortunate circumstances in which a disabled person is placed. We all want to remove those habits, attitudes, decisions and horrid inequities that take unacceptable advantage of someone's existing disadvantage. That is a laudable and proper purpose of legislation. More than any other demand for rights, a demand for fairness in treating the disabled is legitimate.

In answering that demand, we must make good law. One does not get something done well, or indeed at all, simply by wishing for it to be done, sticking one's intentions in a Bill and sending it off for Royal Assent. We cannot legislate to make everyone a millionaire. We cannot house everyone in a palace. We cannot pass a law to make everyone healthy. We could not even do what the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) wanted to do when he tried to abolish poverty in old age by presenting a Bill called the Poverty in Old Age (Abolition) Bill.

In passing any law, we need to assess the real context in which that legislation will work, and we are duty bound to assess the displacement effects of the law we make. By "displacement" I mean that for every action there is a reaction. A minimum wage would minimise the number of jobs. High taxes slow or reduce demand. The intrusive exercise of rights could remove bit by bit opportunities that such rights were designed to enhance.

Photo of Mr Gordon McMaster Mr Gordon McMaster , Paisley South

Will the hon. Gentleman get to the nitty-gritty and say which rights he has that he believes that disabled people should not have?

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan , Rutland and Melton

It is important to view the matter in context, and not be carried away by wishful thinking that risks not working in practice. Any law that is self-defeating is not worth making. This legislation, of all that which we have made or might make, should not contain the seeds of its own destruction. We must get it right. If we pass legislation that will not work in practice—or, worse, which will partially rebound against the interests of the disabled—a great load will weigh on our conscience.

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan , Rutland and Melton

I will continue, because other hon. Members hope to speak, and I want to get to the nitty-gritty that the hon. Gentleman mentioned.

The House has a unique opportunity to compare two Bills containing similar conditions and progressing almost in parallel. The Government's more confined, sensible and understandable definition is more workable and practicable than the hon. Gentleman's Bill. One Labour Member said that he would like everyone to be included in the definition of disabled.

Photo of Roger Berry Roger Berry , Kingswood

indicated dissent.

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan , Rutland and Melton

That renders absurd the whole notion of a distinction between the disabled, who should have rights not to be discriminated against, and the able-bodied. The hon. Member for Kingswood shook his head when I stated that an Opposition Member wanted everybody included. I cannot refer in detail to the proceedings of a Standing Committee that has not yet reported to the House, but a Labour Member said just that.

The hon. Gentleman's Bill is wrong also in its view of employment legislation. The Government's Bill will replace the unworkable quota system that, although not mentioned in the hon. Gentleman's Bill, would none the less remain. The Government's Bill would clearly extend rights, without exception, to 83 per cent. of employed people. Only small firms with 20 employees or fewer will be exempt from some provisions of the Government's Bill—rightly so, because some costs would not allow small firms to remain in business, which would deny opportunities to work even to the non-disabled.

The Government's Bill offers better access to goods, facilities and services and is practical. My hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) mentioned over-legislation in respect of transport. Diminishing public transport would be an absurd consequence of a badly worded Bill, and have precisely the displacement effect that I mentioned, which would be detrimental for everybody.

The hon. Gentleman's Bill does not make sensible proposals for education, but the Government's Bill contains many realistic measures—and the Education Act 1993 covers most of that area.

The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East, who is not in his place, mentioned polling stations. One of the polling stations in my constituency at general elections, or any other election, is a caravan. It is a rural constituency, where peculiar buildings are used for that specific purpose. To make them all subject to this legislation is pushing very good intentions to the point of utter silliness.

No one can question the genuine concern of Opposition Members to improve the position of disabled people, but some rather distasteful elements have begun to creep into some of the political positioning attached to the campaign for disabled rights. I merely observe that those demanding more for the disabled—much of it at someone else's financial cost—and those who try to turn that against the Government's position on the issue are not morally superior to those who, from equally proper motives, question the basis of such costs, the practicality of implementing the legislation and whether it would permanently benefit the disabled.

Clearly and understandably, it is a rich source of political acclaim for someone to appear to champion the cause of the underprivileged, but there is a very fine dividing line between doing just that and milking such a cause for the dividend it furnishes the politician, rather than the dividends it furnishes to the disabled.

It would be a mistake, in the interests of the disabled, for this Bill to be enacted. Its passing into law would be a pyrrhic victory. It would be a victory, all right, but a victory for the popularity of its political backers. It would come at a high cost which would be paid for in future years by the disabled. Soon after the initial rejoicing had settled, we would find that the demands, strictures and vexed litigation would all provoke a backlash against the disabled. That must be avoided.

I urge the House to congratulate those—including the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry)—who have advanced the cause of the disabled by pressing for this Bill, but then to reject the Bill in favour of cross-party support for the Disability Discrimination Bill, proposed by my hon. Friend the Minister for the Disabled.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Shadow Secretary of State 2:27 pm, 10th February 1995

I have campaigned for the disabled for many years, and have supported several Bills—including this one—which have tried to gain for them the civil rights they deserve. The Government's policy, planning and research unit estimates that there are about 210,000 disabled people in Northern Ireland, of whom 75,000 are working age; thus, if the legislation reaches the statute book, it will affect substantial numbers in the Province, and many more in Great Britain.

Today I wish to highlight the particular issues which are of concern to disabled people in Northern Ireland. I have had an opportunity to sample opinion on the subject and, in particular, the Northern Ireland Employers Forum on Disability carried out a detailed survey to gather a national picture of employers' attitudes towards legislation for disabled people. The survey covered 20 per cent. of the employed work force in Northern Ireland, so it is likely to reflect the position accurately.

The survey shows that more than 80 per cent. of employers favoured the introduction of civil rights legislation for disabled persons. Two thirds of employers supported compensation payments for disabled people who have been subjected to direct discrimination. Other employers supported the establishment of a disability commission with enforcement powers.

The Government have been keen to bandy grossly inflated figures which they claim would have been the cost of implementing previous private Members' disability rights Bills. They have also claimed that employers have little appetite for such legislation. The survey does not support that case.

Although I welcome the Government's Disability Discrimination Bill, it falls far short of the mark. 'There are four particular areas of concern which the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill would put right. First, there continues to be confusion over the definition of disability. Such a definition should include reference to the history or reputation of having an impairment,as that can be a source of discrimination.

Secondly—here I disagree with the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh)—the exclusion of employers with fewer than 20 employees is unfair. In Northern Ireland, some 84 per cent. of firms have 10 employees or fewer. If the figure for firms with 20 or fewer is extrapolated from that, it is likely to be closer to 90 per cent. Therefore, only 10 per cent. of businesses in Northern Ireland will be subject to the Government's disability legislation. That is grossly unfair. If the principle of employees' rights is just, it must extend to all disabled employees. This Bill would rectify that anomaly.

Thirdly, disabled children must be given the same opportunities as other children. If prejudice and discrimination are to be removed from our society, surely the place to start is in the classroom. The Bill would ensure that schools provided access to the standard required of employers. The measures set out in the Government's Disability Discrimination Bill provide little incentive for schools wholeheartedly to embrace equality of opportunity for disabled children.

Fourthly, this Bill would ensure that legislation for disabled people was backed up by a watchdog with teeth. Without a disability commission with enforcement powers, many employers will attempt to circumvent proposed legislation and disabled people would have little power to do anything about it.

Photo of Mr Tim Smith Mr Tim Smith , Beaconsfield 1:32 pm, 10th February 1995

I commend the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Walker) on the work that he does for his constituents and the particular interest that he takes in the needs of disabled people. When I was a Northern Ireland Minister, I was not responsible for disability matters, but I was responsible for transport policy. I took particular interest in the needs of disabled people for public transport. It is rather good news for Northern Ireland that there are two successful bus manufacturers in the Province, one of which is Wright, Robert and Son of Ballymena. The company has developed the first low-floor bus, which I was able to see. I should like it to be on roads throughout the United Kingdom.

I heard what my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Carrington) had to say about the London underground, but I felt that many of his remarks were a little impractical. I am sure that, when it comes to public transport, what disabled people need is access to low-floor buses. They are a remarkable invention. I hope that Wrights of Ballymena succeeds in selling large numbers of its product.

Photo of Dr Joseph Hendron Dr Joseph Hendron , Belfast West

The hon. Gentleman has a lot of experience of Northern Ireland. The disability commission is very much part of the Bill. In Belfast, occupational therapists are asked to go to the homes of disabled people to assess whether they need various structures put in. The waiting list for such an assessment is sometimes six or eight months. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the disability commission for which the Bill provides would be able to make sure that proper assessments were made and people did not have to wait six or eight months?

Photo of Mr Tim Smith Mr Tim Smith , Beaconsfield

To answer the hon. Gentleman, I am afraid that I shall have to jump slightly ahead of what I was going to say. What concerns me about the Bill generally is the balance of costs and benefits. I can see the benefit of what the hon. Gentleman has just said. I can see many of the benefits from the Bill, but I am very concerned about the costs that would be placed on employers, particularly small employers. The difficulties would be accentuated in Northern Ireland, because employers there must deal not only with existing legislation that regulates employment but with sex discrimination legislation and fair employment legislation. I would be very concerned at adding yet another burden to employers in a part of the United Kingdom where there is already such high unemployment, but I understand the hon. Gentleman's point entirely.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) on securing a high place in the ballot for private Members' Bills. No one questions in any way his sincerity in introducing the measure—I share his concern about the fortunes of disabled people—but I am sorry to have to tell him that I am not able to support his Bill, for reasons on which I have already touched and on which I want to enlarge.

I strongly believe in equality of opportunity, and that it should extend to all people regardless of race, religion or, indeed, disability. That is the starting point on which we can all agree. There are disabled people whose contribution to society is grossly undervalued simply because of their disability and the fact that able-bodied people look on them in a different way because they are different. I would be the first to recognise that we must try to change those attitudes. I want public attitudes towards disabled people to change. The only question that we must address is whether the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill is the most practical way of going about it or whether, in certain circumstances, the proposed legislation could prove to be counterproductive.

If one goes too far, too quickly, one could have the opposite effect to that intended—

Photo of Mr Tim Smith Mr Tim Smith , Beaconsfield

The hon. Gentleman queries my suggestion that the Bill would act too quickly. Instead of a gradual evolution of policy, which I would like to see, the Bill is so radical that it would involve a quantum leap forward.

Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Minister (Lord Chancellor's Department)

Does the hon. Gentleman realise just how long disabled people have been waiting for a Bill that really addresses their concerns, and does he realise that they are sick and tired of the parsimonious excuses from hon. Members like himself in terms of doing something now to address the issue?

Photo of Mr Llew Smith Mr Llew Smith , Blaenau Gwent

Yes, I do understand that; I started my speech by explaining that I understand how disabled people feel, but we must consider people generally. The Bill is a radical measure. It would involve a quantum leap forward. The question is whether it might not have the result of alienating some people, for example, small employers, who might take strong exception to its provisions.

Photo of Mr Alan Howarth Mr Alan Howarth , Stratford-on-Avon

Does my hon. Friend agree that legislation in relation to disability must be an expression of the values of our society? Does he agree, therefore, that it is essential that we declare unequivocally that discrimination against disabled people is abhorrent, that it is unacceptable and that it cannot be a question of ifs and buts, loopholes, qualifications and saying that some people are to be protected but others not—for example, there might be an exemption for small businesses and in effect we would say to small business men, "It is okay for you to discriminate against disabled people, because you are a small employer"? Does my hon. Friend agree that that really is a very inadequate social statement on behalf of us all?

The Bill which we are debating does, in fact, allow reasonable exemptions and application of the legislation over a sensible and manageable time scale so long as we are moving towards the objective with which we should all agree.

Photo of Mr Llew Smith Mr Llew Smith , Blaenau Gwent

No, I do not agree with that, as I was trying to explain to the House. My hon. Friend is right up to a point: of course it is possible for legislation to have a declaratory effect. One should not exaggerate that, however. Up to a point, legislation can change public attitudes, but we should not suppose that it is some sort of panacea. I am arguing that it could be counterproductive to go too far. We need a sensible balance. The Government's Disability Discrimination Bill more nearly finds the right balance. It would not be sensible to go too far or too fast. We need an evolutionary and gradual approach.

Photo of Mr Llew Smith Mr Llew Smith , Blaenau Gwent

Is the hon. Gentleman willing to meet groups of disabled people and tell them that their demands are putting pressure on the Government to move too fast and that they must slow down their demands?

Photo of Mr Llew Smith Mr Llew Smith , Blaenau Gwent

The Chiltern Cheshire home at Gerrards Cross is in my constituency and, on previous occasions, I have told it exactly that. The home pressed me to support previous measures. I have explained that I understand why it strongly supports this Bill. As Members of Parliament, we must take a broader view and consider what we believe to be the public interest. I have tried to explain to the home why we need to move at a slower pace and have an evolutionary approach.

That is what the Government are about. The Finance Bill, which is being considered in Committee, contains an example that was dealt with earlier this week. Clause 39 deals with company cars driven by disabled people and makes a small improvement in the taxable benefit in kind. That is the sort of approach that I prefer for disabled people, so that we can be sure that we will carry people with us.

The hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) said that the Government's Disability Discrimination Bill and this Bill were based on two differing sets of principles. When I challenged him and pointed out that both Bills involved the creation of new rights for disabled people, but that one—the Bill under discussion—simply went further than the other, he did not demur. The distinction between the two Bills is not one of principle, but one of degree. It is more a distinction in kind than in principle, because both Bills create more rights.

The hon. Member for Monklands, West said that access to the House of Commons was a good example of the sort of issue that we should be discussing and he dwelt on it at some length. I agree. I saw the meeting that took place in Westminister Hall yesterday and I realise that that is a far from suitable venue for such a meeting, yet it is the only practical option available. That example raises all the issues, including the question of what is cost-effective and practical. It would be expensive and might be wholly impractical in some respects to alter an historic building such as this to accommodate the disabled.

Would it not be more sensible to ensure—as I am sure we will—that the new parliamentary building that is to be built over Westminster underground station has the best possible facilities for the disabled, and that it will be possible to gain access from street level via steps, ramps or anything else, to make it as accessible as possible for them, and to provide a substantial room for meetings? Would that not be a better and more sensible approach? I believe so, because the costs that the Bill will impose will, in some respects, be unbearable.

The right hon.Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) said that the Government's Bill was in some ways against the interests of disabled people. I think that he cited two respects in which that occurred. The first related to quotas, and we have discussed it at some length. The argument seems to be that, by abolishing quotas, disabled people will somehow be disadvantage; yet quotas have never been fully taken up and many disabled people who work have never been registered as such. Perhaps that is because of the stigma that would be attached to them. I do not know why that should be, but it is a fact.

Surely it is better to provide, as the Government's Disability Discrimination Bill does, new rights for disabled people in terms of job and employment prospects. It is difficult to argue that the quota system has benefited disabled people; therefore, it is difficult to argue that its abolition would be against their interests.

The right hon. Member for Wythenshawe said that, in some respects, sex discrimination and race relations legislation was tougher and more effective than the proposals in the Disability Discrimination Bill. In some respects, he may be right. For a start, there is the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality. The Government's Bill does not provide, as this one would, a disability rights commission. I accept that that is an important difference, but it is not an argument for saying that the Government's Bill disadvantages disabled people. Clearly, it involves a major advance for disabled people, although that is not enough to satisfy hon. Members throughout the House.

If the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill were a Government Bill, it would have to contain an explanatory and financial memorandum. I make no criticism of the fact that it does not contain that: it is a private Member's Bill. If presented by the Government, such a Bill would have to state the financial effects, and those are at the heart of my objection to the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East has not told us what the costs would be.

The Government's Bill involves considerable costs to public funds, of which the main one relates to the right of access. That will cost between £30 million and £80 million. In addition to the Bill's financial effects, there is the business compliance cost assessment, which is the cost to the private sector of complying with the measure. I know that there is much dispute about that, but there is no doubt that substantial costs are involved, and that applies even to the Government's measure.

The Government's Disability Discrimination Bill states that the total maximum cost of compliance with the right of access provision is expected to be between £380 million and £1,130 million over the phasing-in period. The Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill goes much further than the Government's measure and will cost considerably more over an undefined phase-in period. There is the cost to be placed on the taxpayer for adapting public buildings and the cost to private sector employers. The Bill would affect every employer, including those who employ only one or two people, unlike the Government's Bill, which contains an important exemption for small companies.

Nobody who runs a business has to employ people. If too many burdens are placed on an employer, he will find other ways to obtain services. It is possible to buy them in from a larger business, thus avoiding the cost of the legislation. That relates to what my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) said about the fact that, if such new regulations are introduced, it is completely unrealistic to expect that economic behaviour will not be altered. That is my main concern.

Clause 2(c) deals with "reasonable accommodation" and clause 4(e) relates to failing to make reasonable accommodation for the known physical or mental limitations of a qualified disabled person". That provision is rather vague. It is not specific and does not make clear to me precisely who would determine what was reasonable. It could be a bonanza for lawyers, because it would give rise to disputes. The disability rights commission—

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Monklands West

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for me to point out that, if Conservative Members continue to make long speeches, and if the Minister does not have time to reply, which he might otherwise have wished to do, it is not the fault of any Opposition Member?

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

That was not a point of order for the Chair. The current speech is, so far, shorter than a large number of Opposition speeches that were made this morning.

Photo of Mr Llew Smith Mr Llew Smith , Blaenau Gwent

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am about to conclude my remarks, anyway. I did not wish to give offence to the hon. Member for Monklands, West by the length of my speech.

I am concerned principally about the costs of the Bill to the taxpayer and to the private sector. I am concerned about the fact that we have not been told what the financial consequences of the Bill are, and that it does not have a compliance cost assessment. We all understand the benefits, but I am worried about the costs.

Photo of William Hague William Hague Minister of State (Department of Social Security) 1:50 pm, 10th February 1995

It may be for the convenience of the House if, spurred on by the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke), I speak in the debate now to make clear the Government's position and their attitude to the Bill. It is a pity that there are still hon. Members who wish to speak. The hon. Members for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) and for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron), and I think my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans), have been here throughout the debate, but have not yet had a chance to speak. I would have liked to speak after them, but, given the passage of time, I should speak for the Government now.

I make it clear that the Government fully support the objective of ending discrimination against disabled people. Disabled people are discriminated against and we need to act to bring that to an end. There are millions of disabled people in this country, and there may be more in an ageing population. As the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) said, any of us can become disabled at any time.

Discrimination takes many different forms. Of course, an inaccessible environment is discriminating. In addition, although it is sometimes difficult to believe, restaurants refuse to admit people in wheelchairs and ban guide dogs, cinemas refuse to admit unaccompanied disabled people, and pubs do not welcome people with learning difficulties.

Last year, in an attempt to get a broad idea of how disabled people feel about their lives, Scope commissioned research. Its report, entitled "Disabled in Britain: A World Apart", which many hon. Members who are here will have read, illustrates the fact that disabled people believe that they face disadvantage and discrimination when looking for work, and once they are in employment.

The "second-class" label that is often applied to disabled people means that an employer may see a disabled applicant as slower and less productive, even though, very often, that is not the case; an insurer may see someone with a disability as a danger behind the wheel of a car, although that is usually not the case; to the cinema owner, disability may be a fire risk; and to a restaurateur, it could signal a diminishing clientele. Eliminating discrimination is not just about making the environment accessible. It is about all of us coming to terms with disability, removing the labels, and accepting people who are ready and able to take on the rights and responsibilities which the rest of us take for granted. All hon. Members on both sides of the House now readily agree on that much.

In recent years, the Government and the House have done much to try to enhance the independence of disabled people, especially in improvements to the benefit system, in changes to building regulations, and in the variety of legislative action. But far-reaching changes are still needed if disabled people are to share fully in the life of the community. We are embarking on an ambitious task that must be approached in the right way.

That means that a Bill of this sort should be clear, so that disabled people understand their rights, and employers and traders understand their duties. It should be flexible to ensure that the powers exist to fine tune the law in the light of experience, and for the Government and Parliament, rather than the courts or other bodies, to fine tune the law. It should be fair to the whole community, while at the same time asking them to treat disabled people fairly, too. Sadly, the Bill is unclear in that there are too many cloudy generalisations that duck the hard decisions which legislators must make. The Bill is also, which seems strange when considered in the light of my previous comment, inflexible in that there are no powers to amend the provisions of the Bill, if it should prove to be unworkable. It is unfair in that too little regard is paid to the ability of the rest of society to adapt to the Bill's requirements and to existing initiatives and arrangements that are already working well.

Photo of William Hague William Hague Minister of State (Department of Social Security)

I shall give way once to my hon. Friend, but I must respond to the points that have been made.

Photo of Mr Alan Howarth Mr Alan Howarth , Stratford-on-Avon

I know my hon. Friend's abhorrence of discrimination and I congratulate him on his personal achievement hitherto. He said that his task was ambitious. It is to shift the British establishment, which always moves slowly, grudgingly and gracelessly—in Yeats' image, it only ever "Slouches towards Bethlehem".

Will my hon. Friend explain why the Government regard it as fair to introduce a new discrimination as between employers of 20 employees and employers of 19 employees? Which organisations have asked him to introduce that discrimination? Will he explain why there should not be a disability rights commission that would enable the disabled and the disadvantaged in our society to sustain the legal rights that we would wish to establish for them?

Photo of William Hague William Hague Minister of State (Department of Social Security)

My hon. Friend is becoming well known for the literary quality of his interventions, and we have just had yet another outstanding display from him. He asked about the proposed exemption from the employment right—although not from other aspects of the new rights—for small employers with fewer than 20 employees. He will know that the Government and I are following the example already set in the US legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act 1990, with which he and I are closely familiar. The motivation of the Government is the same as that of the US Congress.

We believe that small employers would have great difficulty in implementing such legislation. We do not want the legislation to be counter-productive, which it could be without the exemption. As my hon. Friend knows, the Government's Bill contains provision to change that number in the light of experience and we would want to see what happens over time. My hon. Friend also asked about the commission, but I shall come to that subject later in my remarks.

In his speech introducing the Bill the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) said—I think with a smile—that the Government's Bill hardly applied to anyone. I think that he was suggesting that he thought that the Government's Bill would apply to fewer people than the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. He is right about that.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the number of people who would be covered by the Government's Bill. As I have been explaining in Committees elsewhere in the House, any or all of the 6.5 million people counted in the survey of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys could be included in the Government's definition. One problem of his proposed legislation is that he does not know how many people would be covered by it—although I think that he thinks that it would cover 6.5 million people. The aspects of his definition covering a reputation for being disabled or an association or relationship with a disabled person could bring in large numbers of people and cause the figure to increase well beyond the 6.5 million counted as disabled in the OPCS survey.

The hon. Gentleman does not know, we do not know and no one will ever know how many people would be covered by the Bill because its definition is so broad. In fact, it is so broad that it would damage the credibility of the law and lead people to say that the legislation was not just about protecting disabled people against discrimination.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

If my Bill is drawn so widely that the numbers cannot be known, the logic of that seems to be that the Government's Bill is so narrow in scope that the numbers can be known and have been taken into account in cost assessment. May we therefore know to how many people the Government's Bill would apply so that we can judge whether there should be a Bill covering a far wider number, even if the Minister does not think that that number can be quantified?

Photo of William Hague William Hague Minister of State (Department of Social Security)

I do not think that that was a logical argument, because, of course, the only way in which to know for sure how many people are affected by any definition is to conduct a comprehensive survey based on it. That has not been done for either Bill. It is clear that any or all of the 6.5 million people counted in the OPCS survey in 1988 could be in the scope of the Government's definition. The problem with the definition proposed by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East is that it would undoubtedly include people who are not disabled or may never be disabled, which is extremely dangerous territory.

The hon. Gentleman also made special reference to Northern Ireland. There has never been any question of excluding Northern Ireland from the Bill. The reason why we wrote into the Bill that implementation in Northern Ireland would be by negative resolution procedure was that one of the hon. Members who represent Northern Ireland saw me and suggested that that would be better than an affirmative resolution, which would take longer to bring into force. As I hope all hon. Members know, including the hon. Gentleman, I have since made it clear that we shall write Northern Ireland into the Bill and I propose to do so in Committee to remove any doubt.

The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East justified bringing the Bill forward on the basis that it would put pressure on the Government. I not sure that, now that we have reached the stage when the Government are producing their own legislation, it puts pressure on the Government or anyone to introduce legislation such as the hon. Gentleman's Bill. Conversely, in introducing his Bill, the hon. Gentleman has illustrated how it is possible to take a good argument of considerable merit about helping people and ruin it by taking it too far. It is not surprising, therefore, that when organisations of and for disabled people met in December to consider whether such a civil rights Bill should be introduced, a large proportion of the 22 organisations around the table expressed the wish that a civil rights Bill should not be introduced this Session, but that hon. Members from all parties would work with the Government on the Disability Discrimination Bill, which I have introduced.

In the light of those factors, the Government do not support this Bill. We recognise, however, that it would be a most unusual step for the Government to ask the House to vote against the Second Reading of a private Member's Bill. I have not asked my hon. Friends to do that today, as is readily apparent from the number of my hon. Friends present. Nevertheless, I make it quite clear that the Government intend to ensure that our Bill to end discrimination becomes law and that this Bill does not. We do not intend to provide the additional parliamentary time, which the Bill would undoubtedly need if it were fully examined, went through all stages and became law.

I shall explain in more detail why the Bill is not satisfactory. The first question that we must ask when proposing new legislation is for whom we want to legislate. I expect that the initial public reaction to that question, if we were to ask people in the street, would be that the Bill should cover those with an obvious physical disability—the wheelchair symbol comes to people's minds. But we know that disability goes much further than that, so it is important that we find a workable definition of disability; one which covers all people who could be regarded generally as disabled.

The Government do not think that the definition of disability in the Bill is workable. It embroiders the concept of the generally disabled, making the gateway so wide that many other people who would not be generally accepted as being disabled would be eligible. We would not have a credible law if we brought within its ambit people who are not or who may never be disabled. Yet the Bill proposes that. It extends its protection to people who have a relationship or association with someone with a disability, creating vast uncertainties for the courts. There are millions of people who provide support for elderly parents who are likely to have disabilities. We cannot possibly say that they all count as disabled people without making the law a laughing stock.

The second aspect of the definition that is wrong is the use of the term "major life activity". What exactly does that mean? I assume that the intention is to protect people who would be regarded, in the everyday sense, as disabled. However, the very phrase suggests that the activity in question is specific to the individual. That could lead to giving legislative protection where a person's disability impedes his pursuit of a highly individual aspiration.

The term "major life activity" has been taken from the Americans with Disabilities Act. The difference is that in that Act there is a regulation which provides an illustrative list of those activities, while there is no power to do the same in this Bill. How are people expected to know? I understand that the intention is to publish a code of practice, which would no doubt offer guidance—but it would not be legally binding. The courts ultimately would need to interpret it and their interpretation may be wider or narrower than Parliament intended. There would be no power for the Government or Parliament subsequently to correct that without further primary legislation. The ability to do that is one of the first tests of a piece of legislation, and at that first hurdle the Bill would fall.

The Bill also covers people reputed to be disabled. How many people have to believe something about someone for that person to have a reputation? Does the employer or service provider have to be one of them? To expect employers and service providers to operate that provision efficiently is unrealistic. There would be endless litigation turning on the meaning and understanding of "reputation". While I understand who the promoters of the Bill intend to cover, the net has been cast so wide that almost anyone could qualify as a disabled person in particular circumstances. Such an approach undermines the credibility of the Bill and would quickly bring it into disrepute if it were enacted.

The doubts about the definitions used in the Bill bring me to a wider concern.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

When the Minister has finished his demolition job on a Bill, the principles of which have been debated in this House for more than 40 hours, will he tell us whether the Government are prepared to allow the Bill a Second Reading today or whether they will vote against it?

Photo of William Hague William Hague Minister of State (Department of Social Security)

In fairness to the right hon. Gentleman, I do not know whether he was listening earlier. I hoped that I had made the Government's position quite clear. The Government do not support the Bill and I am in the process of laying out—the right hon. Gentleman called it a demolition job—the reasons why we believe that the Bill is flawed and why we do not want it to be enacted. I explained earlier that it would be a most unusual step, not taken for seven years or so—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman will continue not to know the answer to his question if he does not listen to me. Now we know why he did not hear me before—it is because he does not listen. I want to make it absolutely clear that it would be highly unusual for the Government to ask the House to vote against a private Member's Bill or to put a Whip on such a Bill. We did not think that we should do that on this occasion and we have not done it.

I also made it very clear that the Government intend to ensure that our Bill, which we believe will be more effective in ending discrimination against disabled people, becomes law and that the Bill before us does not become law. I also said that the Government would not provide any additional parliamentary time for the Bill beyond that which arrives in the normal course of events—which I fear may be inadequate given the extent of debate that we would have to have about many of the matters that I am now listing.

Photo of William Hague William Hague Minister of State (Department of Social Security)

The hon. Gentleman did not get an opportunity to speak in the debate so I feel that I should give way to him. After that I must continue with the remainder of my speech.

Photo of Roger Berry Roger Berry , Kingswood

Will the Minister advise the House which organisations of or for disabled people support the Government's Bill in preference to the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill?

Photo of William Hague William Hague Minister of State (Department of Social Security)

The hon. Gentleman knows very well that many organisations of and for disabled people counselled Labour Members not to bring in a civil rights Bill this Session. I referred to that point earlier.

The crucial point that we have discussed in Committee during the proceedings on the Disability Discrimination Bill is that we are trying to bring in a law which will work for the whole nation. It will encourage millions of people to change their attitudes and beliefs and to act according to those attitudes and beliefs. We must have regard to the views and attitudes of many people who have never before expressed views about those matters.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Monklands West

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 177, Noes 2.

Division No. 69][2.10 pm
Ainger.NickHarvey, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Henderson, Doug
Allen, GrahamHendron, DrJoe
Alton, DavidHeppel.John
Austin-Water, JohnHill, Keith (Streatham)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Hinchiffe, David
Barnes, HarryHodge, Margaret
Battle, JohnHoey, Kate
Bayley.HughHowarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Beggs,RoyHowarth, George (Knowsley North)
Benn, Rt Hon TonyHowells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Bennett, Andrew FHoyle,Doug
Benton, JoeHughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Berry, RogerHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Betts,CiveHughes, Roy (Newport E)
Blunkett, DavidHughes, Simon (Southwark)
Boateng, PaulHutton.John
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)Illsley, Eric
Bowden, Sir AndrewJackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Boyes, RolandJackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Bradley, KeithJanner, Greville
Bray, Dr JeremyJones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)
Burden, RichardJones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Byers, StephenJones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Jowel, Tessa
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Campbell-Savours, D NKeen, Alan
Canavan, DennisKhabra, Piara S
Chisholm, MalcolmLivingstone, Ken
Church, JudithLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Clapham, MichaelLoyden, Eddie
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Lyme, Ms Liz
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)McAllion, John
Clelland, DavidMcAvoy, Thomas
Clwyd, Mrs AnnMcCartney, Ian
Coffey, AnnMcCrea, The Reverend Wiliam
Corbett, RobinMcKelvey, William
Corston,JeanMackinlay, Andrew
Cousins, JimMcMaster, Gordon
Cox, TomMcNamara, Kevin
Cummings, JohnMacShane, Denis
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)Madden, Max
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Maddock, Diana
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge HI)Mahon, Alice
Denham, JohnMandelson, Peter
Dixon, DonMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Dover, DenMarshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Dowd, JimMartlew, Eric
Dunnachie, JimmyMaxton, John
Enright, DerekMeale, Alan
Etherington, BillMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Ewing, Mrs MargaretMi burn, Alan
Fatchett, DerekMiller, Andrew
Flynn, PaulMorgan, Rhodri
Foster, Rt Hon DerekMorley, Elliot
Gapes, MikeMorris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Gerrard, NeilMudie, George
Gilbert,Rt Hon Dr JohnMullin, Chris
Gordon, MildredMurphy, Paul
Grant Bemie (Tottenham)Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire)
Grocott, BruceO'Hara, Edward
Gunnell, JohnOlner, Bill
Hain, PeterO'Neill, Martin
Hall, MikePaisley, The Reverend Ian
Hanson, DavidPike, Peter L
Pope, GregSoley, Clive
Powel, Ray (Ogmore)Spearing, Nigel
Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E)Steinberg, Gerry
Prentice, Gordon (Pende)Stevenson, George
Prescott, Rt Hon JohnStrang, Dr. Gavin
Primarolo, DawnSutcliffe, Gerry
Purchase, KenTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Quin, Ms JoyceTimms, Stephen
Redmond, MartinTipping, Paddy
Rendel, DavidTurner, Dennis
Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)Walker, A Cecil (Belfast N)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Roche, Mrs BarbaraWareing, Robert N
Rooker.JeffWatson, Mike
Ruddock, JoanWelsh, Andrew
Sedgemore, BrianWicks, Malcolm
Sheerman, BarryWigley, Dafydd
Shore, Rt Hon PeterWillams, Rt Hon Alan (SW'n W)
Short, ClareWorthington,Tony
Simpson, AlanWray, Jimmy
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)Tellers for the Ayes:
Smith, Chris (Isfton S & Fsbury)Mr. Alfred Morris and Mr. Colin Pickthall.
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Dover, Den
Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)Tellers for the Noes:
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, and Mr. Alan Duncan.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the Bill be read a Second Time.

The House divided: Ayes 175, Noes 0.

Division No. 70][2.22 pm
Ainger, NickHeppel, John
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Allen, GrahamHinchliffe, David
Alton, DavidHodge, Margaret
Austin-Walker, JohnHoey.Kate
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Barnes, HarryHowarth, George (Knowsley North)
Battle, JohnHowells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Bayley.HughHoyle, Doug
Beggs, RoyHughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Benn, Rt Hon TonyHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Bennett, Andrew FHughes, Roy (Newport E)
Benton, JoeHughes, Simon (Southwark)
Berry, RogerHutton,John
Betts, CliveIllsley, Eric
Blunkett, DavidJackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Boateng, PaulJackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Bowden, Sir AndrewJanner, Greville
Boyes, RolandJones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)
Bradley, KeithJones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Bray, Dr JeremyJones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Burden, RichardJones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Byers, StephenJowell, Tessa
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Keen, Alan
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Khabra, Piara S
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Livingstone, Ken
Campbell-Savours, D NLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Canavan, DennisLoyden, Eddie
Carrington, MatthewLynne, Ms Liz
Chisholm, MalcolmMcAllion, John
Church, JudithMcAvoy, Thomas
Clapham, MichaelMcCartney, Ian
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)McCrea, The Reverend William
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)McKelvey, William
Clelland, DavidMackinlay, Andrew
Clwyd, Mrs AnnMcMaster, Gordon
Coffey, AnnMcNamara, Kevin
Corbett, RobinMacShane, Denis
Corbyn, JeremyMadden, Max
Corston, JeanMaddock, Diana
Cousins, JimMahon, Alice
Cox, TomMandelson, Peter
Cummings, JohnMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Martlew.Eric
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge HI)Maxton, John
Denham, JohnMeale, Alan
Dowd, JimMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Dunnachie, JimmyMilburn, Alan
Etherington, BillMiller, Andrew
Ewing, Mrs MargaretMorgan, Rhodri
Fatchett DerekMorley, Elliot
Flynn, PaulMorris, Estelle (B'ham Yardtey)
Fraser, JohnMude, George
Gapes, MikeMullin, Chris
Gerrard, NeilMurphy, Paul
Gilbert,Rt Hon Dr JohnOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Gordon, MildredO'Brien, Mike (N W'kshte)
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)O'Hara, Edward
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Olner.Bill
Grocott, BruceO'Neill, Martin
Gunnell, JohnPaisley, The Reverend Ian
Hain, PeterPike, Peter L
Hall, MikePope, Greg
Hanson, DavidPowel, Ray (Ogmore)
Harvey, NickPrentice, Bridget (Lew"m E)
Henderson, DougPrentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Hendron, DrJoePrescott, Rt Hon John
Primarolo, DawnStevenson, George
Purchase, KenStrang, Dr. Gavin
Quin, Ms JoyceSutcliffe, Gerry
Redmond, MartinTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Rendel, DavidTimms, Stephen
Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)Tipping, Paddy
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)Turner, Dennis
Roche, Mrs BarbaraWalker, A Cecil (Belfast N)
Ruddock, JoanWalker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Sedgemore, BrianWareing, Robert N
Sheerman, BarryWatson, Mike
Shore, Rt Hon PeterWelsh, Andrew
Short, ClareWicks, Malcolm
Simpson, AlanWigley, Dafydd
Skinner, DennisWilkinson, John
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)Wiliams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & Fsbury)Worthington, Tony
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)Wray, Jimmy
Soley,CliveTellers for the Ayes:
Spearing, NigelMr. Colin Pickthall and Mr. Afred Morris
Steinberg, Gerry
Tellers for the Noes:
Mr. Don Dixon and Mr. Derek Enright

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).