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Several hon. Members rose
Question put and agreed to.
Clause read the Second Time, and added to the Bill.
Mr. McMaster : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you confirm that you saw the Government Whip give the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) instructions during that period of confusion ? That should clearly be on the record because it proves that the Government's fingerprints are all over what is happening this morning.
"disabled person" means a person who
(a) is blind, deaf or without speech ;
(b) suffers from mental disorder of any description ; and (c) is substantially and permanently handicapped by illness, injury, congenital abnormality or such other disability as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State ;
and "disability" shall be construed accordingly ;'.
, in relation to
(a) any employment under a contract of service, the employer or, in the case of an application for such employment, the person who would be the employer, and
(b) Crown service, or an application for appointment to Crown service, the Crown ;
"employment" means employment under a contract of service or Crown service, Crown service being for this purpose
(a) service for purposes of a Minister of the Crown or government department, other than service of a person holding a statutory office, or
(b) service on behalf of the Crown for purposes of a person holding a statutory office or purposes of a statutory body, but does not include service in the naval, military of air forces of the Crown ;'.
No. 8, in clause 2, page 2, line 19, leave out from
disability' to end of line 28.
No. 38, in clause 6, page 6, leave out line 29.
No. 81, in page 6, line 31, leave out , sea or air' and insert or sea'.
No. 39, in page 6, line 38, leave out from beginning to and' in line 39.
No. 40, in page 6, line 46, at end insert
( ) This section does not apply to the sale of any interest in land on the open market as between a willing seller and a willing buyer.'.
No. 41, in page 6, line 46, at end insert
Column 1006( ) Nothing in this Act shall be taken to affect the operation of paragraph 10 of Schedule 5 to the Housing Act 1985 (execptions to right to buy) or paragraph 11 of that Schedule (sheltered accommodation).'.
No. 61, in clause 13, page 9, line 16, leave out "or deaf"' and insert
"or deaf or are without speech".'.
No. 63, in page 9, line 17, leave out "disability" and insert "abnormality" .
No. 62, in clause 17, page 9, line 36, at end insert
(2A) Part IV of this Act
(a) does not apply to the provision of goods, facilites or services outside the United Kingdom except as mentioned in subsections (2B) and (2C) below ; and
(b) does not apply to facilites by way of banking or insurance or for grants, loans, credit or finance, where the facilities are for a purpose to be carried out, or in connection with risks wholly or mainly arising, outside the United Kingdom.
(2B) Part IV of this Act applies to the provision of facilities for travel outside the United Kingdom where the act of exclusion, denial or discrimination occurs in the United Kingdom or on a ship, aircraft or hovercraft to which subsection (2C) applies.
(2C) This subsection applies to
(a) any ship registered at a port of registry in the United Kingdom ; and
(b) any aircraft or hovercraft registered in the United Kingdom and operated by a person who has his principal place of business, or is ordinarily resident, in the United Kingdom,
even if the ship, aircraft or hovercraft is outside the United Kingdom at the material time.
(2D) Nothing in this Act shall render unlawful an act done in a country outside the United Kingdom, or in or over that country's territorial waters, for the purpose of complying with the laws of that country.'.
No. 78, in schedule, page 13, line 22, leave out in any other field' and insert
in contravention of Part IV of this Act'.
Lady Olga Maitland The amendments refer to the new definition of "disability". They recognise that the word "disability" can have many different interpretations. There is always a danger of using a form of words that is so woolly as to be virtually useless or so narrow as to exclude many of the people whom one is trying to help. The definition in clause 1 is a brave attempt to cover the variety of conditions as a result of which discrimination may be encountered. However, it strikes me as being too broad and, in some respects, far too uncertain in its scope. I am not convinced that there would be widespread agreement on the meaning of "major life activities".
Mr. Campbell-Savours : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have been to the Library to collect a copy of the compliance costs assessment on the Bill, of which only two copies were published. We tried to establish on what basis the document was placed in the Library.
I have been referred to a reply to the hon. Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin) on 13 October last year which deals with the placing of these documents in the House of Commons. I notice that, because the Bill is primary legislation, the document should have formed part of the explanatory memorandum to the Bill. At no stage does the reply say that the document should have been placed in the Library immediately prior to the Report stage. My inference from the reply is that the document should have been made available to Parliament substantially earlier than last night because no hon. Member has had the opportunity of seeing its fairly remarkable findings. In the
Column 1007light of that--it is clear that our rules have been abused--is it in order for us to proceed with the Bill ? Would it perhaps be in order if the Bill were to
Mr. Campbell-Savours : My point is that perhaps the sitting should be suspended and that additional time should be given to the Bill so that the matter of the compliance cost assessment, which is critical to the Government's case--the Government are putting a high cost on the implementation of the Bill--can be fully considered by the House before it takes a decision on the future of the Bill.
Mrs. Irene Adams (Paisley, North) : I wonder about the hon. Lady's mentality when she describes definitions. As I was coming to the Chamber today along Grange road in Bermondsey, I had to stop my car in the middle of the road while my daughter got out to help an elderly man in a wheelchair along the road who could not negotiate the kerbs on to the pavement. That was for a stretch of a mile. I challenge the hon. Lady to take that same journey. She should get into a wheelchair and negotiate her way up and down the kerbs on such a road and then see how she would determine severity.
Lady Olga Maitland : I thank the hon. Lady for her remarks, but perhaps she should be reminded that the authority for the area to which she refers is Labour controlled. She should look to her own kind. [Interruption.]
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. That is enough. I repeat for the third time that both I and my predecessor have been very indulgent. The debates have at times gone rather wide of the new clause and amendments that we are debating. That is the end of it. We will stick to the amendments that we are debating.
Mr. Alan Howarth : May I put it to my hon. Friend that she is not under any obligation to make a speech ? She can withdraw her amendments and, if my other hon. Friends who have tabled amendments are willing to do likewise, it is still not too late for us to proceed to Third Reading and vote. I put it to her that many millions of people in this country wish her to follow that course.
Column 1008explanation because I feel that it would be an error of judgment to skate over problems in the Bill which it would be a great folly to ignore. With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I will continue if I may. I am not convinced
Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) : Has the hon. Lady considered that if she carries on with her amendments she will kill the Bill ? Will she tell the House what payment has been made to her for the favour that she has been doing the Government Whips today ?
Ms Eagle : I did not refer to money at all. I did not accuse the hon. Lady of accepting a bribe. If Conservative Members felt that that was the implication, of course I am happy to set the record straight. I asked what the hon. Lady was to receive in return for talking out a Bill that many people in this country want to see passed today.
Mr. Alfred Morris : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will it be helpful to the Chair and to the hon. Lady to know that we have no great difficulty about amendment No. 1, which the hon. Lady is moving now ? In fact, if I accuse the Government of anything in regard to their amendments it is plagiarism. I redrafted the definition quickly and received praise from the Minister for doing it so quickly in the Standing Committee. On that understanding, can we now proceed ? There is no point in the hon. Lady ignoring our willingness to accept amendment No. 1.
Lady Olga Maitland : I shall proceed. After all, it is the will of the House that I should do so. I am trying to concentrate on definitions. I am not convinced that there would be widespread agreement on the meaning of "major life activities". It means different things to different people. Not all of us
Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton) : My hon. Friend has a reputation on these Benches for being a doughty fighter. I have to say to her today that she is in the wrong battle on the wrong side. In many matters connected with disability, people have to define general terminology. We have no difficulty with it in matters such as the disability living allowance, which covers a range of both physical and learning disabilities. Does she accept that the people who will have to make judicial decisions or judgments about the definition or the wording of the Bill will have no more difficulty than when doing so for other matters associated with social security and health ? 2.15 pm
Column 1009as those in the Bill, it could lead to endless legislation and argument. That would not help the people whom we are trying to help. For example, the term "major life activities" is very ambiguous and means different things to different people. Not all of us want to climb mountains, but a one-legged man--who perhaps had a leg amputated--who wants to climb mountains and previously derived tremendous pleasure from doing so will probably consider that his major life activity has been substantially limited.
The definition does not catch disabilities which not merely limit people but totally prevent them from carrying out the activity in question. Nor can anyone say with certainty what having
"a reputation as a person who has or had such an impairment", is intended to mean and whether the impairment is physical or mental. Presumably the wording is not meant to deal with a person who cannot get a job or be provided with a service because people have heard that he or she has chronic asthma, because that is already covered. Therefore, it is intended to cover a person who does not have a condition, but is alleged to have it and consequently suffers the same disadvantage. That is probably the case, but one cannot say so with any certainty.
The definition is also too loose because it includes people with a history of an impairment. It could cover an impairment that did not lead to a substantial loss of function and therefore did not result in any disability. It could include someone with a short-term disability, which subsequently cleared up completely.As for "having a reputation" as a person with an impairment, I find it impossible to predict how those applying the provisions in the Bill might interpret those words, or how courts might decide cases brought under that part of the Bill.
The amendments offer alternative means of dealing with those problems, by providing replacement definitions of disabled people and disablement. The replacements would have the merit of drawing on existing defintions which have been shown to work in practice.
Disability or disabled persons can be defined along the lines used in the National Assistance Act 1948, but without using some of the terminology in that Act which would nowadays offend disabled people. For example, the suggested definition should not use the words "dumb" or "deformity". In all essential respects, however, the new definitions reproduce ones that we already know work in that Act.
Mr. Alfred Morris : My hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) could not have been more relevant. Did the hon. Lady hear me say that we are prepared to accept amendment No. 1 ? Will she now allow
Column 1010us to move forward to consider other parts of the Bill ? We could not do more than accept the amendment. Has she heard what we have said ?
Lady Olga Maitland : Because of the experience built up since 1948, those alternatives would offer a more secure start for the provisions in the Bill and would provide greater clarity about the scope of the groups covered. I commend the amendment to the House.
I shall now deal briefly with amendment No. 3, which is listed in the group. The amendment is intended to clarify the definition of employer and expands the definition of the Crown as an employer.
Mr. Alfred Morris : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Am I right in thinking that when the hon. Lady said she was turning to amendment No. 3 she was turning to an amendment that has not been selected ?
Lady Olga Maitland : Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The amendment also exempts the armed forces from the scope of the Bill. The Bill's present reference to the Crown as an employer causes me some unease, because I am not sure that that term is strictly accurate. The amendment would offer a more familiar definition, similar to those used previously-- for example, in section 85 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. I am sure that the House will understand why our fighting forces must be in perfect physical condition--that surely speaks for itself. Those personnel are expected, at short notice, to be at the front line of battle anywhere and at any time. It would obviously be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for disabled people to be part of that fighting force. I know that the Ministry of Defence employs more than 1,000 disabled civilian staff, so disabled people already play an important role in supporting the armed services.
For the reasons that I have given, it is impossible for disabled people to take part in direct conflict.
Mr. Alfred Morris rose