Equality Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 9th November 2005.

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Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) 4:30 pm, 9th November 2005

My Lords, noble Lords will recall that during the debates in Committee and on Report we discussed the issue of the term of office of the Disability Rights Commission transition commissioner. These two amendments seek to address the concerns expressed by noble Lords and to clarify the Disability Rights Commission transition commissioner's role.

On Report, the noble Lord, Lord Ashley of Stoke, the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, and my noble friend Lady Wilkins raised concerns about the term of appointment of the DRC transition commissioner not being of sufficient length to allow the wealth of knowledge and expertise that the Disability Rights Commissioner has built up to be transferred effectively to the new commission. On Report, I said that I understood the case for having the term of appointment of all three transition commissioners on a common basis and that it was a matter on which, in the classic way, I volunteered to reflect further. I have indeed reflected further, and these amendments are the result.

Amendment No. 11 removes the disparity between the term of appointment of the Disability Rights Commission transition commissioner and the transition commissioners nominated by the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission. Amendment No. 44 clarifies the role of the transition commissioners, capturing the essence of the arguments put forward by noble Lords on Report, which is that the role of the transition commissioners is to ensure a smooth transfer of functions and expertise from the existing commissions to the new commission. We are ensuring that focus by precluding the possibility of the DRC transition commissioner being appointed as either a member or chairman of the disability committee. As the Disability Rights Commission has expressed it, the DRC transition commissioner is looking back, whereas the committee is looking forward exclusively. I beg to move.