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Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You are the defender of minorities, and there is no more important minority than disabled people. The points put to you by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) are extremely serious. They serve to underline what is becoming patently clear : that there is an attempt by the Treasury through the back door to undermine a Bill which publicly it is pretending to allow through. If this is the last nauseating kick of a discredited and moribund Government, it is appalling that it is disabled people who are being kicked.

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you advise the House whether it is in accordance with the rules and the proper spirit of procedure in this place to deluge the Order Paper with new clauses and amendments, with a clear view to talking out and scuppering the Bill ? There are 6 million disabled people in this country and they, their families and friends will greatly resent any tactics of obstruction. It is for hon. Members who have tabled amendments to consider how they will face their constituents and themselves if they talk the Bill out. Can you advise the House whether it would be in order for hon. Members to

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withdraw their amendments so that the Bill can proceed to further scrutiny in another place and so that any amendments that might be worth adding to the Bill could be tabled again in other place ?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris) : I will deal with the matters in the order in which they were raised. Members on the Treasury Bench will have heard the comments of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) about the source of amendments. That is not a matter for the Chair.

As to the fact that amendments have been tabled on Report, that is perfectly normal. It is a matter for individual hon. Members who wish to table such amendments. As long as they are in order and Madam Speaker has selected them, it is appropriate that they be debated. It is, of course, within the power of any hon. Member to seek the leave of the House to withdraw any amendment if he or she so chooses. It would now be in the interests of all parties if we proceeded

Mr. Roger Berry (Kingswood) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Last Friday, the House passed a motion calling on Her Majesty's Ministers to

"provide sufficient time on the floor of the House before 27th May 1994 to allow all remaining stages of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill to be completed".

That motion was carried without a single vote against it. It was not opposed by the Minister, either in his speech or in his actions at the time of voting. I am a new Member, but would not it be in order for the Minister now to make a clear statement to the House about his actions following the decision of the House last Friday, which he did not oppose ?

Mr. Deputy Speaker : It is entirely up to any hon. Member to raise a point of order, but they must be matters for the Chair. I think that we should now proceed to new clause 3

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) : On a further point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand that you are responsible for good order in the House and, in many respects, for the reputation of the House. If the reputation of the House is to fall into disrepute, it really is the responsibility of the Chair to pay attention to that ; and I know that you do. The House must be being held in contempt. The Bill has had its Second Reading and has been considered in Committee--during which stage the Government tabled no amendments. If this subterfuge goes ahead today and the Bill is sunk because of the Government encouraging certain kinds of Back Benchers to come in at a late stage and destroy it, it must be bad for the reputation of the House. It could be cleared up if the Minister would say this morning, before we go on our way, that he deplores this late attempt to delay and subvert the Bill. If he made that clear statement we would know where the Government stand and that could save the reputation of the House.

New Clause 3 --

Liability of employers and principals

'.--(1) Anything done by a person in the course of his employment shall be treated for the purposes of this Act as done by his employer as well as by him, whether or not it was done with the employer's express knowledge or approval.

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(2) Anything done by a person as agent for another person with the authority (whether express or implied, and whether precedent or subsequent) of that other person shall be treated for the purposes of this Act as done by that other person as well as by him.

(3) In proceedings brought under this Act against any person in respect of an act alleged to have been done by an employee of his it shall be a defence for that person to prove that he took such steps as were reasonably practicable to prevent the employee from doing that act, or from doing in the course of his employment acts of that description.'.-- [Lady Olga Maitland.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam) : I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : With this, it will be convenient to consider the following amendments : No. 4, in clause 1, page 1, line 20, leave out

or a contract for services'.

No. 5, in clause 1, page 1, line 23, leave out under those Acts.'

No. 26, in clause 4, page 4, line 5, leave out for an' and insert

in relation to any employment, for the'.

No. 29, in clause 4, page 4, leave out from beginning to end of line 25.

No. 30, in clause 4, page 4, line 26, leave out from beginning to end of line 35.

No. 32, in clause 4, page 4, line 36, leave out from beginning to end of line 40.

No. 33, in clause 4, line 47, leave out from beginning to end of line 50.

No. 35, in clause 4, page 5, line 1, leave out from beginning to end of line 10 and insert

( ) The Secretary of State may by regulations prescribe steps which, if taken, would constitute reasonable accommodation for the purposes of this section, and any such regulations may make different provision in relation to different cases or classes of case.'. No. 34, in clause 4, page 5, line 1, leave out from beginning to end of line 26.

No. 37, in clause 5, page 5, line 27, leave out from beginning to end of line 5 on page 6.

No. 55, in clause 11, page 8, line 15, at end insert

( ) In section 133(1) of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 (complaints to which conciliation procedure applies), there shall be added at the end the following paragraph

"(g) arising out of an act of discrimination, or alleged act of discrimination, in contravention of Part III of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Act 1994".

and section 140(1)(b) of that Act (restrictions on contracting out of jurisdiction of industrial tribunal) shall have effect as if, after the words "under this Act" there were inserted the words "or the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Act 1994.".'.

No. 57, in clause 11, page 8, line 38, at end insert

(4) Any provision in an agreement which is not a compromise agreement shall be void in so far as it purports to preclude any person from presenting a complaint to, or bringing any proceedings under this Act before, an industrial tribunal.

(4A) For the purposes of subsection (4) above, a compromise agreement is an agreement

(a) which is in writing ;

(b) which relates to the particular complaint ;

(c) in relation to which the complainant concerned has received independent legal advice from a qualified lawyer, at a time when a policy of insurance was in force covering the risk of a claim by the complainant in respect of loss arising in consequence of the advice ;

(d) which identifies the adviser ;

(e) which states that the conditions regulating compromise agreements under this Act are satisfied.'.

No. 58, in clause 11, page 8, line 38, at end insert

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( ) In section 136 of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 (appeals to Employment Appeal Tribunal), in subsection (1), there shall be added at the end

"(g) the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Act 1994".'.

No. 77, in schedule, page 13, line 20, leave out in the employment field' and insert

in contravention of Part III of this Act'.

No. 79, in schedule, page 13, line 26, at end insert

(3) A failure on the part of any person to observe a non-discrimination notice issued under this paragraph shall not of itself render him liable to any proceedings.

(4) In any proceedings before a court or an industrial tribunal the observance of, or failure to observe, any such notice may be taken into account in determining any question arising in the proceedings to which that failure appears to the court or tribunal to be relevant, including, in particular, any liability of any person.'.

Lady Olga Maitland : Before I introduce my new clause and amendments, I should make one thing clear. Everyone in the House has one prime concern--care for the disabled. Nobody can claim higher moral ground on that issue-- [Interruption.] The real issue must surely be-- [Interruption.] It is disgraceful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the way the Opposition are trying to shout me down--[ Hon. Members :-- "Shame."] --when I should point out that there are fewer

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. When the Chair rises, I expect hon. Members to sit down. I do not expect to hear "shame" and other words from a sedentary position. Hon. Members have made their views entirely clear ; that is their right. But the Chair expects there to be a proper debate on new clause 3.

Lady Olga Maitland : I was trying to say--I think that we should make it entirely clear--that everyone in the House shares a deep and heartfelt concern for the disabled. All of us have a considerable community of disabled people in our constituencies. I certainly have in mine. I have met them. I know them well and am well aware of their concerns. If there is a debate going on right now in the Chamber, it should not be about whether we should try to improve the lot of the disabled, but how and what will be the best means to do so.

Mr. Alfred Morris : Did the hon. Lady draft new clause 3, or was it fed to her by the Government ?

Lady Olga Maitland : I make my own plans on my new clauses and amendments. I always seek advice, as I have for every Bill, but I have been deeply concerned with the disabled. Anybody in my constituency will bear witness to the enormous amount of effort and work that I have put in on their behalf.

Ms Liz Lynne (Rochdale) : Will the hon. Lady answer the question ? Who drafted the amendment ? Was it the hon. Lady or was it the Government ?

Lady Olga Maitland : I take responsibility for my own amendments. I must now get on. I do not think that it is very helpful to the disabled community to be met with a barrage of shouting from the Opposition when we should be giving serious and careful consideration to what is in their best interests. I want the disabled to feel independent, free, and able to go about the community with dignity. I want them

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to have the very best possible access to all amenities, whether in entertainment, public transport or work. Surely we all agree that we have a common concern about that area. I feel keenly that, when we are trying to help what has been a disadvantaged community, we must ensure that we get it right. I am concerned that, so far, the Bill not only needs clarification, but, in my view, redrafting. It would be a great mistake to us all if we found that, in our efforts to help the disabled, we entered into an era of endless litigation in which the only people who could possibly benefit would be lawyers.

Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) : The hon. Lady claims to be vice- chair of the Conservative disability campaign. Will she confirm that it opposes the Bill ? Or is it a decision that she has made on her own ?

Lady Olga Maitland : My decisions regarding the Bill are entirely my own. I operate without having to be dictated to by anybody. I think that it is very important that we should look at the detail of the Bill rather than face recriminations and tears later on. We should look at the experience of people in other countries and at how they have made progress in that area, or not. We need look no further than America. It tried, with tremendous enthusiasm, to introduce the Americans with Disabilities Act. Since that Act came into being in 1990, it has turned out to pit the disabled against employers. That is causing many tears, which we in this country would wish to avoid.

Mr. Alfred Morris : Will the hon. Lady help the House by telling us whether, if necessary, she will press the amendments to a vote ?

Lady Olga Maitland : Whether I do or not will depend on what my right hon. Friend the Minister says in reply.

I should like to make some progress. We should not be so arrogant as to think that we can plunge forward with legislation without heeding experiences in other lands. The American experience should enable us to avoid pitfalls. The aim of regulation is to help, not to hinder, and it is certainly not to cause such resentment among the people who help the disabled that all the good work is undone.

Mr. Wigley : Is the hon. Lady aware that virtually every disablement organisation in these islands supports the Bill ? Those organisations will point out to her constituents that the hon. Lady is talking the Bill out.

Lady Olga Maitland : I shall not be responsible for talking it out. A far greater crime would be to allow the Bill to continue without proper consideration. That would be folly for the disabled and would not help them.

Mr. Gordon McMaster (Paisley, South) : Will the hon. Lady give way ?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris) : Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot intervene while the hon. Lady is replying to an intervention. Hon. Members should remember the rules of the House.

Lady Olga Maitland : Rushing headlong into legislation, trying to meet a deadline just for the sake of it, would not help my disabled constituents. Our responsibility to the 6 million disabled is to get the legislation right.

Mr. McMaster : If the hon. Lady is really concerned and if her words are anything more than patronising, glib

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nonsense, why did not she table amendments for Committee which could have been moved by members of the Committee ? As she did not do that, do not her actions this morning prove that some Conservative Members are trying to stop the Bill ?

Lady Olga Maitland : This is the time to table new clauses and amendments. But more than that, we have to make sure that legislation is sufficiently precise, fair and balanced for all concerned.

Ms Lynne : Did the hon. Lady at any time go to the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) and put to him her ideas on amendments ? Is she aware that there was all-party support in Committee and that not even the Minister objected to the majority of the amendments that were tabled ? Is the hon. Lady aware of those facts, or is she just engaging in delaying tactics to prevent the Bill from getting through the House ?

Lady Olga Maitland : There are no delaying tactics. I say now and I shall say again that there are many times when one can table new clauses and amendments. Today happens to be the most appropriate time to do that. I repeat, what is the point of rushing the Bill through the House and having regrets and recriminations later ? That would not help the disabled one bit. We should take note of the American chamber of commerce, which said that it believed that American civil rights legislation was too adversarial to be beneficial.

Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington) : My hon. Friend should appreciate the criticisms about delaying tactics. We all know what is going on. His master's voice has spoken from the Whips Office on our side and that is what it is all about. I want my hon. Friend to know that some Conservative Members deplore the delaying tactics and the idea that we should deny disabled people their rights. We can pass legislation for anything quickly, and this is an opportunity for the Government and the House to get the matter right for disabled people. I say to my hon. Friend as a friend, "For God's sake realise that everybody in your constituency is watching and everybody knows." It is this time, today, that the legislation has to go through.

Lady Olga Maitland : I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. I say to him, as I say to the Opposition, that it would be a far greater mistake for me to hurtle down a road that would create perils which it would be impossible to unscramble.

Mr. Alan Howarth : My hon. Friend takes a great responsibility upon herself in obstructing the progress of the Bill. I very much hope that she has studied the issues with care. In the light of what she said about the American experience, may I ask whether she has studied the best research that is available ? For example, "Lessons from America" by Victoria Scott is the most authoritative and up-to-date research that we have. It tells us that the National Federation of Small Business Owners in America is of the considered view that the Americans with Disabilities Act, on which the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) has closely modelled his Bill, has led to improved business opportunities.

Lady Olga Maitland : But it has also led to increased burdens on employers, companies and businesses in America, and that can destroy opportunities for the disabled and the means of helping them.

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Mr. Alan Howarth : Has my hon. Friend read "Lessons from America" to which I have just referred ?

Lady Olga Maitland : It is time that I moved on. [Interruption.] The House says, "For goodness sake keep moving."

Mr. Dicks : My hon. Friend will need to move rather fast to deal with all the amendments.

Lady Olga Maitland : There is a limit. I could read out reams of American resource material, but surely we should be taking account of the considerations of people in this country who help the disabled. In that context, it is important to consider what employers and businesses are thinking.

11.15 am

All the letters from employers which have been received so far have undoubtedly been sympathetic to the idea of helping the disabled. However, they keenly feel that they have not been fully consulted and that is the crunch issue in all our concerns. The length of consultation is vital because without good will we shall never get the right kind of legislation and the co-operation that is necessary to help the disabled.

Mr. Berry : Which organisations of disabled people did the hon. Lady consult before tabling her amendments ?

Lady Olga Maitland : I have been in constant touch with disabled groups in my constituency. Only last night I was in touch with them. It would be invidious to suggest

Mr. Berry : Will the hon. Lady name just one organisation for disabled people in her constituency or elsewhere which she consulted before she tabled the amendments and tell us its response ?

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The new clause and the associated amendments are about the liability of employers and principals. We should return to that issue rather than deal with the broad issues that are now being raised.

Lady Olga Maitland : Thank you for your remarks, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Berry : Will the hon. Lady give way ?

Lady Olga Maitland : Only if it is applicable to the new clause.

Mr. Berry : Will the hon. Lady advise the House which organisations of disabled people she consulted on the clause before she tabled it and tell us their response ?

Lady Olga Maitland : Perhaps we should refer the hon. Gentleman to your remarks, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Perhaps I may be allowed to proceed with my new clause. I have already explained that I am in close touch with my disability groups : there is no need to go further. The clause is about the liability of employers and principals, and we should examine the responses of employers. Since the Bill was published, concerns have been expressed by businesses large and small. The employers' groups expressing their anxieties include the Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Directors, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Employers Forum on Disability, the Association of British Insurers, the British Retail Consortium and the British

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Bankers Association. That is a significant list, and we should think carefully about and listen to what those organisations have to say.

Ms Lynne : I am delighted that the hon. Lady gave such a long list of employers' organisations. Will she give a list of the organisations for the disabled in her constituency which she consulted on the new clause ?

Lady Olga Maitland : The Opposition are trying to make us go round and round in circles, rather than allow me to proceed with my new clause. After all, Opposition Members are anxious to make progress, yet they seem determined that I should not do so.

Mr. David Congdon (Croydon, North-East) : One reason why I was pleased to serve on the Committee was that I hoped that it would have the opportunity to explore various issues--and it did. It is of significance that the Government had ample time to table amendments. As a member of the Committee who wanted to make sure that the Bill was fair and balanced, I would have been ready to listen to the arguments for such amendments. As a member of the Committee that considered the Bill carefully, I feel that the arguments being made this morning come somewhat late in the day. Even if the Bill is not 100 per cent. perfect, it would be better to have a Bill that is 99 per cent. perfect rather than risk losing valuable legislation for the disabled.

Lady Olga Maitland : Once I have explained employers' concerns--and my new clause is employer-related--the House may understand that it would not be wise to hurtle down a route just for the sake of getting something on the statute book today which we would regret later. We must take into account employers' concerns because without their co-operation the legislation could never succeed. We must take into account the valid point made by employers that the Bill is vague about their precise obligations. They also feel that the Bill would be expensive for businesses--and particularly for small firms--to comply with, as it would require costly modifications to buildings and would cost jobs. I emphasise that the Bill was drawn up without employers being consulted.

I will provide a quick synopsis of comments made by employer organisations, which will make my new clause more understandable.

Mr. John Austin-Walker (Woolwich) : The hon. Lady said that she speaks her own mind and holds her own counsel. Will she say whether she is speaking from a printed Government brief ?

Lady Olga Maitland : I am not speaking from a printed Government brief, but reporting the representations made by different business organisations.

The Forum of Private Business stated :

"Even the most well-intentioned and innocuous legislation can impose burdens on business, and the burden always falls hardest on the smallest firms who are the proven job creators."

The Institute of Directors commented :

"While we share the aim of ending discrimination against disabled people, we do not think that the measures proposed by this Bill offer the right solution to this problem."

It was referring to proposals to achieve unrestricted access by the disabled to business premises, which could close

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