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Points of Order

3.32 pm

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): On a point or order, Madam Speaker. Tomorrow, Scottish Members table Scottish Questions under the new procedure, but even under that new procedure we still will not have the right directly to question all Scottish Office Ministers. That is extremely frustrating for Scottish Members. Could that be referred to the Procedure Committee for further consideration?

For example, I am sure that today many Scottish Members would have wished to question the Law Officers on whether they had available to them information from the American air force before they initiated proceedings against the current Lockerbie suspects. But even the basic democratic question of "What do you know and when did you know it?" is not available to Scottish Members. Does that not amount to an abuse of Scottish democracy?

Madam Speaker: If I understand the hon. Gentleman correctly, he is referring to Standing Order No. 94B, which does not envisage Ministers who sit in the other place answering questions in the Scottish Grand Committee. The hon. Gentleman has made the point that he may wish to pursue the matter. The only way that the matter can be pursued is by putting it to the Procedure Committee and asking it to consider the matter.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Page 165 of "Erskine May" makes the point that control of the accommodation and services of the House

"is vested in the Speaker on behalf of the House."

I mention that because it may reassure us that we will not find, one of these days, that the building is being privatised like the Treasury building over the road. This is an apt opportunity to make it clear that the Palace of Westminster will not be turned into offices and a hotel by private speculators. Otherwise, the rumour may grow that, if it can be done over the road with the Treasury building, perhaps this building will be next.

Madam Speaker: From time to time, many of us complain about this building--that we do not have sufficient accommodation or that it is not as modern as we would like. [An hon. Member:-- "Quite right."] That may be so, but, I would defend this building until my last breath. I shall be the first to the barricades to safeguard it as it stands.

Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is it in order for the Prime Minister perhaps inadvertently to mislead the House and to suggest that I have evacuated my children at any stage

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to schools outside the local authority, when all my five children have always attended local authority schools in the district in which they reside?

Madam Speaker: I missed the point, if that was the point, that the Prime Minister made, but the hon. Gentleman has put the record straight for himself.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington): Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sorry to press you on this matter, but you will remember that three months ago I intervened and asked whether you would rule on occasions when Ministers exploited the children of hon. Members by raising these issues in the House. You ruled that you believed that it was wrong. Today, the Prime Minister has done it in relation to five hon. Members. Would you assert those rulings whereby hon. Members are advised that they should not make such statements?

Madam Speaker: I did not think today that the Prime Minister was exploiting the children of hon. Members. I thought that he was exploiting the hon. Members themselves and the attitudes that they took. I am careful in listening to the exchanges across the House on these matters. I am sure that the House knows that I deprecate the use of families like footballs across the Floor of the House. We have to be careful. It is reasonable, however, for hon. Members on both sides of the House to be attacked politically because we have a platform on which we can reply. That is the way in which it should be done.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker: Is it another point of order on this matter? Mr. Bruce rose--

Madam Speaker: I have made my ruling. I will hear no more points of order on the matter. The House knows clearly where I stand. The hon. Member said that it was a point of order on this matter. Has he changed his mind? He has thought of another one.

Mr. Bruce: I rose on a point of order in relation to a completely different matter, Madam Speaker. I thought that you had finished and I apologise for interrupting your flow. My point of order deals with access to the House. On Sunday, you may have seen on the BBC "On The Record" programme a picture of people queuing to get into the Gallery of the House. The person introducing the subject said that people had to get in a queue to lobby their Member of Parliament, which is incorrect. I wonder whether you have any powers to keep the fourth estate in line on this matter. Perhaps we should take their passes away for a week or so, so that they would more accurately reflect how people can lobby their Member of Parliament.

Madam Speaker: I shall consider the point raised by the hon. Gentleman. The Select Committee on Broadcasting could consider the matter. I have not seen the programme. I have quite a lot of other interesting things to do on a Sunday evening.

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Community Care (Rights to Mental Health Services) 3.38 pm

Ms Tessa Jowell (Dulwich): I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for comprehensive services for persons referred to specialist psychiatric services or discharged from hospital following treatment for mental disorder and for connected purposes.

The Bill would give enforceable rights to care and support to mentally ill people in the community. It would also establish national standards for the provision of services and care. Mentally ill people still live at the margins of our society. For too long, our concern and the public resources it represents have been as marginal. We have all had our reasons for that failure.

Professor Kathleen Jones put it well when she said:

"to the politician community care is a useful piece of rhetoric; to the sociologist it is a stick to beat institutional care with; to the Civil Servant it is a cheap alternative to institutional care which can pass to the local authority for action or inaction. To the visionary it is a dream of a new society in which people really do care. To the Social Services Department it is a nightmare of heightened public expectation and inadequate resources to meet them."

Those words are as relevant today as when they were first written 20 years ago, and that is the problem.

There is now unquestioned and universal agreement about what makes care in the community work--agreement that was validated by research in the mid- 1960s, and confirmed by numerous studies since then and by the experience of mentally ill people themselves during the past 30 years. The essential elements of community care are stable accommodation, the support of a named key worker, day care and access to crisis services that are available 24 hours a day and not--as, unfortunately, is still too often the case--only from 9 to 5. Shamefully, whether a person secures the services that he needs, when he needs them and for as long as he needs them, still depends on a geographical lottery. The level, range and quality of provision varies enormously from one district to another. Eligibility varies. Is it any wonder that mentally ill people desperate for help just get lost, sometimes with tragic consequences?

When treatment was provided in large, distant hospitals, society could and did ignore the injustices and, sometimes, even the brutality that that caused. Patients were denied privacy and their own clothing; even false teeth were handed out before meals by charge nurses. But that time has long since passed, and no one seriously proposes a return to policies abandoned by public and professional consent a generation ago.

Today's challenge, which cannot be bucked, is to bring the essential elements of care once found in mental hospitals to every person who stands in need of them. The risk posed by recent tragedies is that public confidence will falter just when the Government and Parliament must be made to face that challenge and deliver a policy that works for all. How can confidence be restored in a policy that depends on the one hand on public acceptance and support, and on the other on the actions and decisions of countless doctors, nurses, social workers and other professionals?

What is needed is a system for care and treatment that can meet the twin concerns of public safety and the need to ensure that individuals are given appropriate and reliable help while living their lives in the community

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rather than in a hospital ward. Our present legal framework for mental health is out of date; the legislation is hospital-based, and fails to take account of the fact that 90 per cent. of care is now provided in the community. Indeed, our mental health laws work against the very aims of community care, becoming more and more discredited as tragic cases highlight their glaring limitations. Parliament created that inadequate legal framework, and it is now Parliament's responsibility to change it. In the House, we can legislate for a system within which the various rights and duties combine to provide a safer and more effective service for the mentally ill person, his relatives and the public. We can render more accountable those--from Ministers to individual practitioners-- whom society has entrusted with the task of getting the policy to work. What is needed to inspire both professional and public confidence is nothing less than root-and-branch reform--not tinkering with the details of the present law as the Government propose, or offering some paper-thin charter, which will be the next desperate idea. Numerous inquiry reports have emphasised that people can simply be lost by the services that should be helping them. Only last week, one such report--produced by a committee headed by Sir Louis Blom-Cooper--termed the Mental Health Act 1983 obsolete. The Health Service Journal , adding its voice, said that the "outmoded" Mental Health Act is "inadequate" and needs replacing.

My Bill offers a new legal framework. It will impose clear duties on health authorities, national health service trusts and social services authorities to assess and keep under regular review the needs which a person might have for the full range of medical treatment, social care and practical assistance required for life in the community. It will require the Government to establish and enforce minimum standards of community care provision throughout the country, with corresponding responsibility to ensure that those having to meet those standards have the funds with which to do so. The Bill will define new duties which make health and social work professionals, and the authorities which employ them, accountable to those patients with whom they work and to the public for the decisions which they make on their behalf. Above all, it will for the first time give those who must rely on our health and social care system clear rights to receive the services which they need to have a decent chance of something better than just surviving in the community.

My Bill has the support of every major organisation concerned with the care and support of mentally ill people. Its principles are supported by MIND, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of Nursing, the Mental Health Foundation, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, the Association of County Councils, the National Association of Health Authorities and Trusts, the Association of Community Health Councils for England and Wales, Survivors Speak Out, the patients' organisation, and Unison, the health service trade union.

The Bill also has extensive cross-party support within the House. I hope that it will be given an unopposed First reading by the House and that, in time, its much-needed proposals may find their place in legislation.

Question put and agreed to.

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Bill ordered to be brought in by Ms Tessa Jowell, Ms Janet Anderson, Ms Jean Corston, Ms Angela Eagle, Ms Liz Lynne, Mr. Ken Purchase, Mr. Alan Howarth, Mr. Michael Clapham, Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody, Mr. Geoffrey Hoon, Ms Estelle Morris, and Mr. Roger Sims.

Community Care (Rights to Mental Health Services)

Ms Tessa Jowell accordingly presented a Bill to provide for comprehensive services for persons referred to specialist psychiatric services or discharged from hospital following treatment for mental disorder and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday March 3, and to be printed. [Bill 37.]

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Madam Speaker's Statement

Madam Speaker: Before we embark on the Second Reading of the Disability Discrimination Bill, the House may wish to know how I view the position of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill presented by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes), which is due to receive its Second Reading on Friday 10 February.

Obviously the question arises as to whether the private Member's Bill can properly proceed once a decision has been reached on today's Bill. "Erskine May" states on pages 468 to 469:

"There is no rule or custom which restrains the presentation of two or more bills relating to the same subject, and containing similar provisions. But if a decision of the House has already been taken on one such Bill, for example, if the Bill has been given or refused a second reading, the other is not proceeded with if it contains substantially the same provisions".

The Disability Discrimination Bill and the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill clearly overlap in many respects, but in many respects they are incompatible and they cannot be said to contain substantially the same provisions. To the extent that their provisions differ and are incompatible, the House may at some stage have a choice to make between them. I do not consider that it would be right for me as Speaker to prevent the House from proceeding with the Second Reading of the Bill presented by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East if it wishes to do so, even if the Government's Bill has previously been given a Second Reading.

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Orders of the Day

Disability Discrimination Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

Madam Speaker: I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

3.49 pm

The Minister for Social Security and Disabled People (Mr. William Hague): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time The Government give a high priority to helping disabled people to live with dignity and independence. During the past 15 years, much has been done to further that aim. The new access to work programme has enabled a wider range of disabled people to obtain and keep employment, by helping them to overcome barriers at work. The introduction of access requirements to the building regulations has had a substantial effect on social, recreational and employment possibilities for disabled people. The number of disabled children educated in mainstream schools has increased steadily, great progress has been made towards an accessible transport network, and spending on benefits for the long-term sick and disabled has more than trebled in real terms.

Despite what has been achieved, the Government recognise that discrimination still occurs. Disabled people are still liable to be afforded less favourable treatment throughout a whole range of activities-- whether when applying for a job, or trying to get a table in a restaurant. For example, a few years ago, Scope conducted an interesting experiment, in which job advertisements were responded to with two curriculum vitae, which were identical in every way, except that one revealed a disability. The study concluded that an able-bodied applicant was much more likely to receive a positive response to an application.

The Government have always made it clear that they are committed to ending the irrationality with which disabled people are all too often treated and regarded. It is utterly wrong that disabled people are restricted, or excluded from some aspects of life. We all must come to terms with including people with a disability in our work, travel, study and leisure-- all the more so because our ageing population will bring with it an increasing number of people with some kind of disability.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon): The Minister quoted the case of someone being discriminated against when applying for a job and thus clearly gave the House the impression that such discrimination was not acceptable to the Government. If it is not, and he nods, why should the Bill make it acceptable for companies employing fewer than 20 people?

Mr. Hague: The provisions in the Bill will cover 83 per cent. of employees who work in firms employing 20 or more people. There are reasons why we want to exempt smaller firms from the employment requirements and I will come to those.

The Bill is the most tangible evidence yet of the Government's commitment to disabled people. It establishes Britain as leading the way in Europe. In time,

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it will bring about the dramatic changes to which I shall refer. It will involve millions of people in taking positive action, its implications for what individuals and businesses must do are more far-reaching than existing sex and race legislation, and its effects will be felt across the board, in all aspects of life. It will give disabled people a right not to be discriminated against in employment, and a right of access to goods, facilities, financial services and the transport infrastructure.

As our White Paper made clear, however, our proposals go much wider than the areas in which legislation is necessary. The accompanying measures, on transport and education, and the consultation on domestic dwellings complete the most comprehensive package to deal with such matters proposed by any Government.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East): The Minister mentioned accompanying measures to deal with education. In an answer to me last Tuesday, the Prime Minister said that the Bill applied to education, yet one clause deliberately excludes 12 areas--mainly on the basis of the funding authority involved--so it is difficult to know which educational institutions will be covered by the provisions. Will the Minister confirm that those are not covered and clarify whether they will be covered by some other provision?

Mr. Hague: As the hon. Member knows from the White Paper and from my statement to the House on 24 November 1994, the Government are proposing a number of education measures that are separate from the scope of the Bill. As he should also know, its employment provisions will apply to educational institutions, so the Prime Minister was right to say that aspects of the Bill apply to education, just as he was right to say that aspects of it apply to transport.

Part I defines disability for the purpose of the new law. Opposition Members have implied in their reasoned amendment that we have defined the concept of disability too narrowly. But a wider definition that stretched the concept of disability too far would lack credibility and be open to abuse. Our definition is the right one, because employers and service providers will understand it, and it will therefore make the Act operable.

Part II concerns the employment right. The new employment right is broadly on the lines of present anti-discrimination provision for women and ethnic minorities, but with the additional requirement on employers to make reasonable adjustments to overcome any practical constraints imposed by a person's disability. The right covers all aspects of employment: when disabled people apply for work or take up employment and when people become disabled during their working lives. It will replace the outdated and unworkable quota scheme. Like that scheme, it will cover a broad range of physical and mental disabilities.

The Bill provides for codes of practice to be issued, which will help employers in deciding whether an adjustment is reasonable in a particular case. They will need to take account of the cost of the adjustment and its usefulness in overcoming the practical effect of the disability. Most disabled people who want to work need no or only very modest help.

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The new right will apply to employers with 20 or more employees--a point made by the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley)--and include 83 per cent. of all employees.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West): The Minister said earlier that most disabled people who want to work need no or very little help. On what authority does he say that?

Mr. Hague: I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would be eager to agree with me. I say it on the basis of experience in the United States, where employers found that "reasonable accommodation", which is their equivalent of our term "reasonable adjustment", cost nothing in 43 per cent. of cases because it involved just moving the office furniture around or doing something sensible and practical like introducing different working hours. A large proportion of other adjustments cost very little. So I am entirely justified in saying that--

Mr. Tom Clarke rose --

Mr. Hague: I must get on with my speech, but if the hon. Gentleman needs further elaboration, let him ask.

Mr. Clarke: I promise the Minister that I shall be as generous and give way to him at least twice.

Given that the Minister has just said that those measures cost nothing, which was an important statement on behalf of the Government, why are the Government being so mean?

Mr. Hague: It is most comforting to know that the hon. Gentleman will give way to me twice, but it is not comforting to see that he cannot reconcile the various statements that I have made on this matter. It can be simultaneously true that, while many adjustments cost nothing, some cost something. Some employers will have to pay a bill to finance a reasonable adjustment, and I see no inconsistency between those positions.

Mr. David Hanson (Delyn): Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hague: I must now make a little progress, but I shall try to give way to the hon. Gentleman a little later if he wishes. Many other hon. Members wish to speak in the debate.

The exemption for small firms reflects the Government's recognition that it may be more difficult and burdensome for smaller firms to get to grips with the new right. There will, however, be provision for the threshold of 20 employees to be changed by way of regulation and the Government will keep the level under review as experience is gained of the new right.

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Hague: I shall give way first to my hon. Friend and then to the hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Hanson). I shall then make a good deal of progress with my speech.

Mr. Howarth: My hon. Friend spoke of the undesirability of imposing a burden on business. I do not want to be unreasonable, but should not we expect

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business men to behave as decently as other people? Does my hon. Friend recall that Oliver Twist's first cry on being born in the workhouse advertised to the inmates "the fact of a new burden having been imposed on the parish"? Does my hon. Friend sometimes feel, as I do, that we need a new Dickens to describe the absurdities and horrors of our complacencies?

Mr. Hague: My hon. Friend describes the position in an interesting and literary way. We can think of those matters as burdens but also as opportunities for employers and service providers, many of whom will find that including disabled people brings benefits. We must recognise, however, that there will be a cost implication for many employers and a cost to goods and service providers--in their case we expect it to run into hundreds of millions of pounds. We cannot wish away the fact that the Bill's provisions will represent an additional cost for many people.

Mr. Hanson: Does the Minister expect that his hon. Friends will table amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Race Relations Act 1976 to provide a 20-employees exemption? If he does not, why is he treating disabled people differently?

Mr. Hague: I cannot anticipate what amendments may be tabled to the Bill, let alone to previous Acts of Parliament. It is important to recognise that the Bill expects more cost and positive action on the part of employers than that expected of them to overcome other cases of discrimination. As I have already said, the Government have provided that the threshold of 20 employees may be changed through regulation. We shall keep the level of that restriction under review.

Part III contains the access provisions. Service providers will be required to change policies, practices and procedures that make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to make use of goods. They will also be required to provide auxiliary aids or services--such as induction loops--or remove physical barriers to help disabled people gain access to goods, facilities and services. Those requirements will lead to a huge leap forward in the accessibility of goods and services to disabled people. We have listened carefully to the representations made during our consultation exercise and we have responded.

We have consulted in particular on insurance. We have decided that a statutory provision needs to be made for the insurance industry. We are taking powers to prescribe that insurers may treat disabled people differently only where that is based on sound evidence. My officials, together with their colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry, are discussing with the Association of British Insurers and Lloyd's a statutory framework to end discrimination against disabled people.

The Bill is drafted in such a way that indirect as well as direct discrimination can be dealt with. We have adopted a definition of discrimination that leaves disabled people with practical solutions to the real problems that they face--however they are categorised. A situation where dogs were not admitted to a cafe, with the effect that blind people would be unable to enter it, would be a prima facie case of indirect discrimination against disabled people and would be unlawful.

The proposals amount to huge change. While recognising that that change will be welcome to disabled people, it must also be acknowledged that many in the

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business sector will be apprehensive. The business community is entitled to know as precisely as possible what is expected of it. The courtroom is not the place for such matters to be decided--it is up to the Government to make the information available. The Bill shows that the Government are prepared to face up to that responsibility, and it has been drafted to provide for maximum certainty.

One characteristic that sets the Government's Bill apart from alternatives which have been proposed is that it includes provisions that will allow the Government to tie down as precisely as possible what employers and service providers will have to do to comply with the law, as well as providing for maximum flexibility of approach. The Bill will allow us to specify exactly what is meant by terms such as "auxiliary aid" and "reasonable alternative provision". We will be able to specify particular instances when it would, or would not, be reasonable for service providers or employers to take a particular course of action.

Crucially, we will also be able to make explicit precisely how much money a service provider needs to spend in any particular case on making his service more accessible. Under the Bill it will not be up to the courts to decide whether a business would be subjected to "undue hardship"--whatever that might mean, it is certainly a recipe for uncertainty and dispute.

As a consequence, we are able to tie down the cost of our proposals for access to services. The reason why the maximum cost of the Government's proposal can be estimated at around £1.3 billion is that, unlike other Bills that have been presented, it is not open-ended--it is not a blank cheque. Having consulted further, we will be able to set a limit which is appropriate to the needs for disabled people and realistic for business.

The need for certainty is why there will be a further round of consultation before the regulations under the Act are laid--to ensure that the detailed proposals are easily understood, affordable and fair.

We shall consult on the contents of the code of practice for employers, which will draw on the extensive experience of the Employment Service's placing, assessment and counselling teams in helping disabled people and their employers overcome any practical effects of their disabilities in a job. We shall consult on what it will be reasonable to expect those in each service sector to do to provide an accessible service. We shall also consult on the financial limit.

The employment right, a provision that replaces an existing requirement on employers, is likely to commence by spring 1996. Aspects of the access provisions, such as the prohibition on refusing to serve a disabled person, will also commence in 1996. We shall start as much as possible as soon as possible. However, the more stringent duties on service providers, such as the duty to make physical alterations, represent totally new departures. It is likely, therefore, that a phasing-in period of perhaps five to 10 years will be appropriate to ensure that businesses have sufficient time to gear up for their new responsibilities. That issue will also be the subject of consultation.

I know that we shall hear this afternoon about the exclusion of education and transport vehicles from the right of access. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) has already referred to it. Their

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exclusion has been a focus of criticism, yet it would be flying in the face of common sense not to accord special treatment in those areas.

The Education Act 1993 made provision for a biennial survey of the accessibility of schools--due to report this summer--which may help to identify areas where better access may be needed. In tandem with existing programmes of improvement, the Government will also bring forward proposals to encourage providers of education to devise imaginative, cost-effective projects aimed at increasing accessibility.

The potential interaction between proposals to include education in the Bill and the 1993 Act is unclear, but it would certainly cause severe difficulties for local education authorities. There would be conflicts between the responsibilities of the local authority as set out in the 1993 Act and the idea that adaptations should not cause the provider "undue hardship"--a stipulation that is very difficult to define in terms of schools and local education authorities. The provisions would undermine local authorities' planning role and increase overall costs.

The inclusion of education might have the effect of not allowing schools to teach children with special needs separately, preventing them from benefiting from supplementary help or from gradual inclusion into mainstream tuition. It would replace a carefully worked out system, which was established as a result of a great deal of consultation, with a set of provisions inappropriate to efficient education.

As for public transport vehicles, there is only one sensible way to require accessible vehicles, and that is on a replacement basis. To fix a timetable for the manufacturers of all types of transport to adhere to would be folly, and could lead to services being withdrawn. Instead, we shall require all new buses to be of a low-floor construction, to match new rolling stock that is already built to an accessible design, and the fully accessible designs of purpose-built taxis, which have been available since the mid-1980s.

It is obvious nonsense to suggest that excluding transport vehicles from the Bill denies disabled people access to transport. The Government's record on initiatives in that area is second to none. For example, all new licensed taxis in London are already wheelchair-accessible. By 1 January 2000, all taxis in London will be wheelchair-accessible. More than 60 other licensing authorities have mandated for all or part of their fleets to be wheelchair-accessible. Other improvements include the accessibility of the new light railway systems and the inter-city network, ranging over to the orange badge scheme and the contribution of Motability to the independent personal mobility of disabled people.

The key is that those people who argue for the inclusion of transport vehicles appear to have ruled out any thought that different treatment might be appropriate in certain areas. Most sensible people will think the "one size fits all" approach to be rigid and counter-productive.

Mr. Roger Berry (Kingswood): Does the Minister accept that the argument that he just made is simply incorrect? Those who supported the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill have argued consistently that consultation on the codes of practice in that Bill would enable those issues to be explored in great detail, and the

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Minister is not here arguing for special treatment for transport. The case that he just made is not for special treatment for transport.

Mr. Hague: The hon. Gentleman recognises that I am not arguing for special treatment for transport, and I am pleased to have his recognition of that. I am saying that there are practical and sensible ways of bringing about radical change in the accessibility of our transport systems in this country--change that is already well under way--without legislation. The most flexible, sensible and practical way to do it is outside the scope of legislative requirements.

We have seen significant improvements in access provision across all transport areas, but the benefits of those developments have sometimes been lost because of inaccessible infrastructure. That has often been the weak link in what is otherwise becoming a more accessible service. Transport infrastructure is covered by the right of access to goods and services. The measure will help us in securing the fully accessible transport system which is our ultimate aim. The Government's approach is the right one--it also presents the perfect opportunity for Parliament to discuss and frame legislation to ensure that disabled people get the Bill that they deserve. I believe that the Government's proposals are clear, in that they give people specific obligations and rights in a way that the Bill presented by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East would not. They are workable in that they provide for flexibility and practical solutions to distinct problems--the hon. Member's Bill does not. They are fair in that they end discrimination while considering the interests of others--the hon. Member's Bill does not. That is why I will be asking the House to support this Bill and not the one that he has presented to the House.

Part IV deals with the national disability council. The Opposition's amendment claims that the Bill provides only an ineffective enforcement procedure. I do not accept that argument and I think that the analogy with the existing commissions is flawed. To a much greater extent than for women, or even ethnic minorities, the problems faced by disabled people in securing fair treatment in society are individualistic. Disabilities pose-- or are wrongly perceived to impose--specific practical limitations on what a disabled person can do. Overcoming such problems requires practical, individually tailored solutions. I do not believe that it is an area where the bringing of class legal actions has substantial relevance. Only a small minority of sex discrimination cases--fewer than 10 per cent.--which are resolved in the courts are supported by the Equal Opportunities Commission. As for the much-vaunted test cases, we believe that there is a better way of reviewing and keeping the law up to date without any of the horrific legal costs that such cases can accumulate. We recognise that the effects of the Disability Discrimination Bill, when enacted, will need to be sustained and reviewed to ensure that it is having the intended effect and that changes in society's attitude and behaviour towards disabled people need to be kept under review so that discrimination can be countered effectively, now and in future.

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