Clause 14 - Accessibility Strategies and Plans

Part of Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 29th March 2001.

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Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Education and Employment) 4:00 pm, 29th March 2001

May I start on a note of consensus by saying that I could not agree more with what the Minr said in her conclusion about attitudes to disability issues. If she wants to form a road show to go round the country to say such things in tune, we shall join her. I often say that the most important adjustments are not physical but mental or psychological—people becoming alert to the needs of disabled people who, let us remember, are people first and have a disability second. It is a question of how to deal with them, to meet their commercial needs, as the exchange with my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge suggested, and to treat them as fully participating members of society. All that need not cost any money to start with, but there is a fall-out from it.

Like the Minister, I welcome the tone of the debate; realistically, we will not have a precise figure at any one moment. As she says, when an LEA is planning an individual institution or an accessibility strategy, it must have regard to the level of resources available and may spread the process over time. There are real merits in integration, and I was especially pleased that the Minister mentioned that individual plans could have costs attached; that is realistic. However, there is also an important undertow—from my experience in my constituency of building works funded by schools' capital, people see one coming. If there is a local authority flavour to a tender, up it goes. I shall not go on about that, but it is terribly important that we get as much done in the most economical way that we can; the debate has been helpful for that.

I am conscious of a slight error of omission, which may have occurred because the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Miss Begg) is not in Committee this afternoon. Having talked about the Polls Apart initiative, in which three of us participated, it was quite wrong of me not to mention that the hon. Lady came to give a Scottish flavour to the proceedings—not that a general election is anything other than a United Kingdom election. We all joined in, as we should.

Although resources are always the subject of political contention, trying to find the most sensible way forward for disability access to the services in the widest sense that schools provide is what we are all about. We have had a good rehearsal of the matter; we have had some new insights; we have some helpful responses from the Minister. Things may not be as easy as she hopes; there will be thrills, spills, and even shortages of cash ahead, but we are all pointed in the same direction. Having explained our general attitude to the disability provisions of the Bill earlier, I will not spoil things by pressing for a Division. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 15 and 16 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Betts.]

Adjourned accordingly at fourteen minutes past Four o'clock till Tuesday 3 April at half half-past Ten o'clock.