Disability-inclusive Development - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:47 pm on 13th December 2018.

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Photo of Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Labour 2:47 pm, 13th December 2018

The whole House should be grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for initiating this debate today, at the end of a year that has been incredibly productive for the Secretary of State and her department in this area of policy. We should give credit to the Secretary of State for the way in which she has managed to put this issue on the agenda in less than 12 months in her position, at a time when almost every other member of the Cabinet seems to be preoccupied with another topic. She deserves credit for that. It shows two things: first, that it is possible to make progress on policy and strategy in a department, even in the current times, if you are clear enough about your objectives; and, secondly, that it is not just, or even, about money—it is about strategy, priority and effectiveness. I therefore welcome both the summit earlier this year and the specific departmental strategy that was launched in the autumn.

In the brief time available to me today, I wish to make three points. The first is in relation to the global goals. One of the things that I like about the new Secretary of State is that she mentioned the global goals. She wears the badge and champions the goals at home and abroad, unlike her predecessor. Unfortunately, however, the global goals do not run through the strategy. They are mentioned in the charter that was published at the time of the summit and are mentioned upfront in the first sentence of her introduction, but I believe the department could integrate the global goals and the strategic priorities and actions more effectively in this kind of policy and strategy document.

If the Minister takes only one thing away from today, perhaps it could be that although global goal 10 refers to inequality, “leave no one behind” runs right through the global goals. Although there are many categories of people to whom the objective of leaving no one behind refers, in my experience, in country after country, community after community, those with disabilities are definitely left behind. Therefore, closer integration of our strategy on the global goals and the disability strategy would be welcome, particularly leading up to the voluntary national review, which the UK will publish in 2019.

My second point is a question for the Minister. This may be a fault of mine and many others, but instinctively, even today, after these many years of progress, we are still talking about disability rather than ability—which a contestant on “Strictly Come Dancing” reminded us last weekend is a much better way to look at things. We think about physical disability. I hope that the strategy also covers what might be described as learning disabilities and other forms of disability and that the Government will have that in mind, particularly in the education and employment programmes that they support around the world.

My third and final point relates to capacity. It would be a tragedy if all this great work, commitment and strategic approach resulted in the addition of a few programmes to our work internationally. It would make the biggest difference in country after country if we could assist those countries to develop their own strategies and programmes, properly integrating work and opportunities for people with disabilities into their education and health systems, local economies, professions and so on. It will be critical that we adopt an approach that is not just about the projects we support or the ways in which we can tweak our programmes. If we can use some of the skills that we have developed to improve legislation, regulation and opportunity in this country to build capacity for regulation and legislation elsewhere, that will make the biggest difference in the longer term.