Disability Discrimination

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:18 pm on 17th December 2003.

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Photo of Lord Higgins Lord Higgins Conservative 3:18 pm, 17th December 2003

My Lords, I believe that it would be helpful to your Lordships and to those concerned with disability issues outside Parliament if the noble Baroness the Leader of the House could explain why it is expedient to set up this joint committee. Naturally, I had given her notice that I intended to raise the matter this afternoon.

The usual channels recognise that pre-legislative scrutiny may be helpful, but the selection of this Bill for that procedure seems to be rather odd. As I pointed out in the debate on the Loyal Address, such a proposal for a Bill of this kind has been government policy for a very long time. However, it has been discussed and consultation has taken place for about six years. So far as I can establish, there are no major matters of disagreement—certainly none which could not be dealt with by the normal committee procedure.

As I am sure the noble Baroness will be aware, among outside groups which are concerned with these issues there has been considerable disappointment that the Government have come forward with a draft rather than a substantive Bill. Are the Government prepared to consider whether it is appropriate for it to be dealt with in the way that the Government have proposed or, at any rate, can the noble Baroness give an assurance that, if we go ahead with the committee, at least a substantive Bill will be introduced in this Session? The matter has been delayed for a very long time and further procrastination seems to be unnecessary.