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Mr. Barnes: The Minister certainly has plenty of assistance and it must be possible that the figures have been calculated somewhere within the civil service and that there could be at least a rough and ready addition to enlighten the House.
Column 218It is possible to argue that the definition in the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill is very wide and is in danger of becoming almost too wide. On the other hand, it has been argued that the definitions and provisions in the current Bill could lead to problems concerning litigation.
The Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill needs almost no definition apart from the word "disabled". It provides that the argument that someone is disabled cannot be used by an employer, a provider of services or someone providing access to a building and that no one should be able to say, "No, you cannot come here or do this because you are disabled." Therefore, the word needs to be interpreted very broadly indeed.
People can be disabled in many ways and the eye of the beholder who is doing the discrimination needs to be taken into account. Some people are clearly disabled, such as those suffering from various chronic illnesses and those with mental impairments, and they are mentioned in one of the schedules to the Bill. The definition is so restricted, however, that what occurs is something of an obscenity-- exceptions are included to further limit the definition.
Having defined certain people who are to be considered disabled, the Bill exempts certain circumstances. Restrictions on the scope of the Bill are then built into existing restrictions, reducing still further what it covers. The figures, therefore, do not need simply to say how many people would qualify under the definition; one has then to subtract the number exempted under clause 5, which lists the circumstances in which less favoured treatment is permitted. Some of the language in the Bill is most unfortunate. It states that
"less favoured treatment is justified"
and details circumstances in which people can get away with unacceptable behaviour.
It has already been mentioned that, on the role of employers, the opinion of the employer appears to matter most. When a case goes to court or to an industrial tribunal, what is being judged is the opinion of the employer. If the opinion of the employer is genuinely that the case did not involve a category covered by the measure, the measure will not be able to be produced in law, even if services are available to help people who go to industrial tribunals, thereby facing the considerable financial difficulties that were discussed earlier.
A whole range of issues has been raised by hon. Members, including the Bill not applying to workplaces with fewer than 20 workers. Those companies are not necessarily financially strapped and unable to make provision for disabled people. In the new computer age, a small employer can often make considerable profits, but profitability is not a consideration. As has already been pointed out, the Minister can not only reduce the figure, but can increase the figure when pressures are applied by industry, and the legislation is no longer being discussed in the House and the subject is no longer of prime consideration.
We have had considerable discussion of the problems in transport and education. Subsections (5) and (6) of clause 12 explain all the sectors of education, under different funding regimes, to which the legislation will not apply. It is part of the list of exemptions. Surely we should know what in education is not covered by the exemptions.
Column 219Are there forms of education--private or state--where the law will have to apply? Is there any reason why we are given a list of exemptions?
Clause 12 (3)(f) says:
"the services of any profession or trade, or local or other public authority"
are covered by the Bill. Why does it not say "except education", thus ruling out the need for another half page? There must be something in education to which the measure applies, so may we have the details before we consider the Bill on Report as to what that something is? Otherwise, we shall be legislating blindly. The Bill as it stands does not apply to Northern Ireland although we have been told that an adjustment will be made, and of course we believe that that will take place. In a meaningful contribution, the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) pointed out that the number of small firms operating in Northern Ireland is greater than anywhere else within the United Kingdom, so more people are being excluded in Northern Ireland. At least hon. Members representing Northern Ireland will now have the opportunity to table amendments and argue their case in Committee--if they are on that Committee--and on Report, to defend their interests and to join the rest of us in improving the Bill.
When I submitted the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, I took the precaution of seeking support from all parts of the House. In the rush, I did not manage to persuade a Conservative Member who took the Whip, but I do have the support of one who does not have the Whip. I have the support also of hon. Members from eight other political parties, including all four Northern Ireland parties. They are often at loggerheads in the House in respect of Northern Ireland issues, but are united on civil rights for disabled people.
I subsequently secured the approval of three other Northern Ireland political parties outside the House. I await responses from Sinn Fein and two Protestant parties more closely associated with paramilitary groups. There might be some embarrassment about them saying that they support civil rights for disabled people, because in the past, such groups have been associated with forms of militarism that created much disablement.
However, if one gets away from constitutional and border issues in Northern Ireland, it is amazing how much across-the-board support there is for worthwhile issues--and nothing could be more basic than my Bill. For example, there was unanimity--other than the small Conservative party that exists in Northern Ireland--in opposing the student loans system, from Democratic Unionists to Sinn Fein. Last year, the Government talked out the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. This year, their tactic is that such a Bill would not work, or would cause considerable political damage. They have jumped ahead of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill and are seeking to persuade the public, by capturing some of its language, that they are following its principles.
The Government produced a White Paper that was available in the Vote Office at 12 o'clock a week last Thursday, and the Government Bill was given its First Reading at 4.15 pm the same day. How much consultation could be undertaken in four and a quarter hours on a Bill already in the Vote Office and waiting to be distributed? The White Paper was about news management. It was
Column 220produced in the hope that the media would concentrate on its content rather than examine the Bill--and it needs examining. One must question also the Government Bill's implementation. The beauty of a disability rights commission is that it would provide a mechanism to advance the rights conferred by the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. There will be various defences of reasonableness in different firms, so initial protection might not be as great as it could be. However, the commission would act in a dynamic fashion, so that the boundaries of discrimination would be pushed back further and further.
The council established by the Government Bill to advise the Secretary of State would in no way be equivalent to the commission, 75 per cent. of whose members would be disabled or associated with disabled organisations. The commission would submit codes of practice for the House to consider and to be transferred to the Secretary of State, but under the Government Bill, the House would have to consider codes of practice presented by the Secretary of State. The commission would be served by persons independent of the Department, who would present their considered opinions, on which the House could then decide. The House might even refer matters back to the commission if it did not seem to be moving in the right direction. That arrangement would help alert the House to what should be happening.
The commission would be the conciliating and service body for disabled people taking on the law. I do not trust a Secretary of State in a Conservative Government to do anything to advance the interests of disabled people. Despite the kind words said about the current Minister, who is quite a pleasant fellow, and about his predecessor, the Minister is controlled by the Secretary of State. The record of the current Secretary of State for Social Security does nothing for Opposition Members, and must strike the fear of God into some Conservative Members.
Instead of plodding ahead with the limiting and restrictive Government Bill, I hope that the House will support the reasoned amendment, which would replace it with the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill.
The hon. Member for Rochdale (Ms Lynne), who has just returned to her place, recently tabled two written questions. She asked whether the Secretary of State will
"produce a copy of the Disability Discrimination Bill using pictures and simple text to make it available to people with learning difficulties."-- [ Official Report , 20 January 1995; Vol. 252, c. 754 .]
The Minister answered that the Department would put some stuff on audio cassette and that a simplified written version was available. That version is not for people with learning difficulties, and work must be done on that.
If the Bill is meant to apply, albeit inadequately, to people with learning difficulties, they should have some access to its content and the ability to make judgments, so that they may put pressure on their elected representatives to defend their interests.
Column 221spent on producing material in Braille and on audio cassette? Does he agree that that speaks volumes about the nature of the Government's commitment?
The second question asked by the hon. Member for Rochdale concerned the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. She asked whether copies of the Bill using pictures and simple text would be provided for people with learning difficulties. The answer amounted to, "That's up to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East." The Government would offer no assistance.
Any hon. Member who is lucky in the ballot can draw £200 for legal advice when drafting his Bill. I ask the House to imagine how far £200 will go to procure legal advice. If the amount had been updated in line with inflation, it would now be worth more than £1,400. Meanwhile, hon. Members are given no real assistance to produce a text in the required form.
Luckily, however, there are people who are organised and who are doing the job. Simone Aspis, of the organisation People First, has produced a draft document on the Bill in just the form required. If People First, with its limited resources, can produce such a document, why cannot the Government? I am proud to see that ours is the first Bill that the organisation has ever produced in that way, although it has done other similar documents. The Government should think again about the assistance that should be given to hon. Members to introduce Bills connected with disability. People First could do with some more resources from public funds to carry out more work of that nature.
It is vital that we get the principles right, and that hon. Members on both sides of the House understand them. A Conservative Member said earlier that he was on the same wavelength as us even though he might vote differently--
Mr. Alfred Morris: My hon. Friend is on to a very important point about some severely disabled people. The early-day motion on this subject is widely supported; its message is that, unless we improve communication with severely disabled people, they are not just second-class citizens-- they are non-people. As my hon. Friend will know, Simone Aspis has been instrumental in bringing this issue to the attention of Members on both sides of the House. Will my hon. Friend accept that there are people in all parts of the House who strongly endorse what he is saying now?
Mr. Barnes: It is indeed an important early-day motion, and Simone Aspis's organisation is important, too. Although I am not supposed to mention this, I might add that she has been the only person to stay in the Gallery throughout the debate today.
We shall return to the debate on 10 February. I hope that all Members present for this debate and voting tonight will be here again then. I hope that people outside will continue to apply pressure to their Members of Parliament, asking them to come along and support our Bill. It is not my Bill, but I have picked it up and I am running with it. This is my chance to get it passed; we must get it through on this occasion.
Column 2229.2 pm
Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow): I am pleased to speak in this debate after my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes). I face the disadvantage, speaking so late, that it will be difficult for me not to repeat much of what has been said--but I shall try to avoid doing so.
I want to concentrate on the definition of rights, the costs of the Bill and its enforcement. Like a number of other Conservative Members, the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) suggested that Opposition Members are being churlish, in that we should recognise that the Bill is a step in the right direction. We might have acknowledged that had we not known for a long time that something much better was on offer. There is already a much better Bill that could take the place of this one.
I deal first with definition and who is covered. It has been said that the definition is inadequate, that it is narrower than it should be, and that it is a negative definition that leaves out people with a "history or reputation" of disability--the terms that are used in the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. As an example, I refer to people with HIV and AIDS. Clearly, there will be people, particularly some employers, who will treat people who are HIV positive or who have AIDS as disabled. They will discriminate against them. The definition in the Bill may well cover some people--most probably people in the advanced stages of AIDS who may be suffering physical impairment. The irony is that such people are least likely to seek employment and benefit from the Bill's provisions.
It is much more likely that people with HIV will be discriminated against, because an employer will perceive it as a disability. The issue of perception is important. The way in which people are perceived impacts on the way in which they are treated. If an employer perceives a disability that he or she believes will increase costs or reduce efficiency, they are likely to act on that perception. The person who is discriminated against will have no remedy through the provisions of the Bill as it stands.
Reputation is important. The sort of provision that was covered in the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, and which is covered in other countries, for example, the United States and Australia, protects the individual. The issue becomes not, for example, whether a person has HIV, but rather whether they are being discriminated against because an employer believes that that person has HIV. That is what happens. That person's HIV status does not even have to be proved or disclosed. It is the fact that they have been discriminated against that matters.
Mr. Gerrard: What we are up against are the costs of a full definition and full civil rights--to which I was going to refer later--and what the Government believe, falsely, those costs would be. I will return to that point later.
In opening the debate, the Minister referred to discussions that the Government will have with the insurance industry. I very much hope that HIV will be raised, because clearly it is an area in which the insurance industry discriminates at present.
Column 223I have used HIV as an example, but I am sure that many other people will recognise that similar problems apply to many other conditions. Obvious examples are people with epilepsy, which may in some cases have a serious effect on their physical abilities, but which in other cases is quite trivial and has no relationship to that person's ability to do a particular job.
The matter of rights that are established has been frequently referred to and I do not want to repeat what has been said, with the exception of one point on employment--that the majority of employers will not be covered because of the limitation on the number of employees to 20.
In the US, the limit is 15, but the interesting point about its approach is that, under US legislation, the number starts at 25, with an automatic reduction to 15 after two years. In the US, the approach was quite clear from the beginning. The intention was to bring the number down. As a number of hon. Members said earlier this evening, many of us would prefer an approach that did not depend on a number. Many hon. Members have said that we should not exempt anybody. It would be useful if the Minister explained just how the Government intend to use the provision in the Bill that allows the number to be changed, because as it stands, it can be used to go either way--up or down. That is a significant difference from the approach that was taken in the US.
As has been said, we will have two classes of disabled employee; some who are protected and some who are not. The gaps in the definition and the failure to go for a full civil rights approach are due to costs. The Government talk about the cost of implementing the legislation from the point of view of compliance. That is one side of the equation. But nothing is said about the cost of not implementing sufficiently tough legislation.
The position on costs is summed up in the preamble to the American legislation, which says:
"The continuing existence of unfair and unnecessary discrimination and prejudice denies people with disabilities the opportunity to compete on an equal basis, and to pursue those opportunities for which our free society is justifiably famous, and costs the United States billions of dollars in unnecessary expenses resulting from dependency and nonproductivity."
In other words, there should be a rounded look at the whole economic picture.
Compare that with the British Government's attitude, looking at one side of the equation, setting a limit of 20 or more employees, and their failure to accept a full definition and full civil rights. They look at only one side of the cost equation.
I come now to enforcement which, in some ways, is the most disappointing part of the Bill. It is not as if we have not had experience in Britain and elsewhere of constructing legislation to deal with discrimination in order to ensure that people have rights that can be enforced. But the Bill provides a dreadfully weak enforcement mechanism. Individuals will be left to try to fight their way through the legal system alone without legal aid and with no real help.
Compare this Bill with other attempts to prevent discrimination. I am most familiar with race discrimination and the work of the Commission on Racial Equality. The CRE can help individuals to deal with their own cases, but it has other powers as well, such as the power to take investigative action independent of an
Column 224individual's complaint, to establish good practice, to make findings against organisations, public and private, and to take class actions.
I do not pretend that there are not still problems with the way in which that system operates. The CRE does not fight enough industrial tribunal cases, and it can deal with only a few high-profile cases. But that approach and its successes are lessons from which we should learn. The lesson is clear: we need a disability rights commission which can help individuals to initiate cases and obtain legal aid where necessary.
We are told that an individual will be able to go to an industrial tribunal, but that is not easy. Industrial tribunals--perhaps we should consider this in a wider sense--have become the province of lawyers in a way that was never envisaged when they were first established. Now, large organisations brief QCs to defend them at an industrial tribunal. That is not the way that industrial tribunals were originally expected to work. There is no question but that it puts individuals, particularly individuals without an organisation behind them, at a significant disadvantage. Moreoever, the system is already overloaded, with long waits for hearings.
It is also particularly difficult now for individuals who feel that they have been discriminated against when applying for employment to work through the industrial tribunal system. They are least likely to have the support of an organisation such as a trade union. The key point is that help should be available. There is no point in providing a remedy and then ensuring that some people will not be able to use that remedy because no mechanism exists to help them to do so.
We need a commission with investigative powers to take general cases. It should not only monitor discrimination, but uncover it. None of us should be under any illusions that it will be easy to remove discrimination, both direct and indirect, against people with disabilities. The Bill and the Government's approach fail to recognise the full effects of indirect discrimination. From experience of racial discrimination, we know that institutionalised discrimination is the most difficult to tackle, especially on the basis of individual cases or claims. That is why one needs a commission that can investigate, and people who can take class actions. We should not rely all the time on one individual trying to fight his way through the system on his own.
It is far too easy for us to assume that, because of the number of people who are prepared perhaps to stand up publicly and to make aggressive, abusive or hostile remarks about disabled people, such deep-seated prejudice does not exist. It is clear that prejudice exists against people with HIV, and that is not the only example that one could quote. The evidence still exists that there is systematic prejudice and discrimination.
There have been improvements in the past 15 years, but the majority of those improvements have occurred simply through disabled people and organisations for the disabled fighting for their rights. Discrimination will not disappear. Things will not improve just through persuasion. Certainly, we need education, but that on its own will not be enough; nor will legislation that is not enforced. That is the message that we receive from tackling other areas of discrimination and from other countries.
In the autumn, I was in Washington and I took the opportunity to visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. I specifically asked about its experiences in
Column 225the past two years of implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act. Its view was that there had been some problems in getting started and that it was early days. Essentially, however, it had a very positive view of the Act's effect.
That Act is not enforced through vague rights that individuals are left to enforce on their own. It is enforced through duties on the commission, on the Attorney General, and on the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. That is a recognition of the power that Governments can have in using their economic spending to influence the private sector. I know that contract compliance is the last thing that would be popular with the Government, but that sort of approach has been recognised by Governments in other countries as being valuable and as making a difference.
If we are serious about anti-discrimination legislation, we are required to be serious about its enforcement. Yes, we have to change attitudes and challenge prejudices. One does not do everything through legislation; an educative process is needed. It is certain, however, that without adequate enforcement, the provisions will fail.
Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard), who has consistently supported and worked strongly on behalf of people with disabilities. He was the 17th Back Bencher to make a speech in the debate today. I am glad that the Leader of the House is here, although I am not supposed to see that. It is a great shame that people with disabilities who need to use wheelchairs have no access to the Galleries of the House, and that they must sit on the outside of those Galleries. I hope that that matter can be quickly put right.
In a curious way, there has been consensus in the debate: even those who spoke in favour of the Bill went on to criticise some or all of the inadequacies highlighted by our reasoned amendment. I suppose that that was to be expected, but I hope that it will be taken on board by, in particular, the Minister--whose responsibilities are new to him--because there has not been unqualified support for what he and the Government propose.
I especially commend the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry)--who fought such a valiant and skilful battle in the last Session, in the face of Government skulduggery, to put his Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill on the statute book--and my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes), who has now taken up the torch and will exhibit equal determination and tenacity in his efforts to do more to meet the demands of people with disabilities.
In the run-up to the Bill, the Minister and his officials told organisations of and for disabled people and their carers and families that, following the Government's consultation paper, all the issues were up for discussion. Some felt that, on that basis, there was no need for the Bill proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood: if need be, parts of his Bill could be transferred to the Government measure in the form of amendments. They now know better. The Government's words were an attempt to throw dust in the people's eyes after their shameful behaviour over the Bill presented in the last Session. The issues are not,
Column 226and never were, "all up for discussion"; the best that was up for discussion was contained in the long title of the Government's Bill, which--as several speakers have pointed out today--was restrictively drawn.
The Bill is nowhere near comprehensive enough, and its limited scope rules out areas in which organisations of and for disabled people and their carers demand and deserve action. I may say to the hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson)--and to others who, with less charm, chided us for tabling our reasoned amendment--that it is not our fault that there was no co-operation over the Government measure; the Opposition have co-operated for 13 years, and we still have no legislation guaranteeing civil rights for disabled people.
Had the Government wished to proceed on the basis of consultation, they could have consulted us--and every other party represented on either side of the House--to try to achieve the consensus of which the hon. Lady spoke. I acknowledge immediately that the 6.5 million people with disabilities outside the House, their families and their carers would have preferred us to proceed on that basis, but it was not the Opposition but the Government who chose not to make that possible.
The Bill is, of course, a timorous step forward, but we invite the House to deny it a Second Reading so that the Government can do better, perhaps by taking over the Bill proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East. As has been said--none of this is new--the Bill is inadequate: its definition of disability is restrictive and exclusive, and it fails to tackle the vital question of access to education for people with learning difficulties. It excludes firms with fewer than 20 employees from
anti-discrimination protection, and provides no timetables for the removal of that phoney threshold. The Bill also does nothing to help people on to buses and trains, although the places from which they leave are covered. It is silent on any financial help to employers to take on people with disabilities, or to help speed access to buildings offering services. It lacks any real attempt to co-ordinate enforcement and to help spread good practice.
I wish to mention six good reasons why the House should not accept the Bill, but there are others which other hon. Members have mentioned.
Mr. Corbett: If the hon. Gentleman listens, he will understand the sense of what has been said from all around the Chamber today about the illogical and silly way in which the Government have tried to help people with disabilities.
I want to go through the six reasons quickly. The British Council of Organisations of Disabled People-- Jane Campbell of the council has been watching our proceedings all day--complained that the definition of disability is based on the medical model. That would exclude elderly disabled people who do not suffer from what the Bill labels "a disease", people with a disease such as multiple sclerosis who are not prevented from carrying on most tasks but who might--in employment--be considered unfit for work, and people with HIV who experience some of the most severe forms of discrimination. I will give the House an example of the narrow and flawed thinking of the Government. Clause 14, about which Mencap is concerned, deals with the circumstances
Column 227in which the Government say that it is all right to
discriminate--for instance, under subsection (3), because a disabled person
"is incapable of entering into an enforceable agreement or of giving an informed consent".
The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Miss Ann Widdecombe) indicated assent .
Mencap believes that that measure alone could deny about 250,000 people their right to equal access. Mencap cites the examples of people wanting to open a bank account, needing medical or dental treatment, wanting to make rental agreements or even wanting to take out council house tenancies. What is the intention there? Whom is the measure supposed to cover? Surely the people who meet the definition in the Bill are likely to be looked after already by the court of protection.
I remind Ministers that in any event the Law Commission is due to report in March on the whole issue of capacity and decision making. I would like the Minister today at least to undertake that she will consider the recommendations of the Law Commission as the Bill proceeds, and that she will consider tabling amendments here or in another place to implement those which impact on the Bill. Perhaps the greatest hole in the Bill--I believe that it is of great significance, and many of my hon. Friends have also spoken about it--is its failure properly to tackle discrimination in education. Barnardo's says:
"The quality of education provision disabled children receive, will play a major part in their subsequent integration into adult life".
The Bill simply ignores that. Important as trying to meet the needs of people with disabilities or special learning needs in the short term is, we must also try to help to prepare people with a range of disabilities for integration into adult life. Barnardo's adds something which we all know from constituency cases:
"The present system still discriminates against disabled people and young children because parents cannot choose a mainstream school on the same basis as other parents."
In the city of Birmingham, only two secondary schools--one to the north and one to the south of the city--have the necessary facilities for young people with disabilities. I have a young constituent who has been well served by Great Barr primary school, which is situated just outside my constituency. The school was recently praised by the schools inspectorate for the quality of education it provides. They engaged in correspondence--I almost said a battle--lasting several months with Birmingham education department because they rightly insisted on a choice of secondary education for their daughter. Like all other parents, they were invited to state their preference, but the school they chose did not have the facilities to take the child. The upshot is that, to find a school that best suits and meets her needs, she has to be transported to the other side of the city.
Column 228schooling for people with difficulties. I am a governor of the Mary Hare grammar school for the deaf--the only grammar school for the deaf in the United Kingdom--and what it offers is unbeatable anywhere.
Mr. Corbett: I take the hon. Lady's point and I did not mean to be dogmatic, but if parents want to choose mainstream education for children, they should have that right; they should not be turned down because the facilities do not exist. Many special schools do a magnificent job--some of those in the city of Birmingham are known to me and I try to be supportive of them.
One primary school in my constituency which copes with children with disabilities decided to pal up with a school a few miles up the road whose pupils are not disabled. For the past two years, pupils from the two schools have gone away together for a week to a camp in the countryside on the edge of Birmingham. The resulting learning and understanding, among both groups of children and the very committed and devoted teachers, is magnificent. That is exactly the sort of work that the Minister and his right hon. Friends at the Department of Education and Science should encourage.
Mr. O'Hara: Does my hon. Friend agree that children with disabilities should have the opportunity to profit from an education with mainstream pupils and to share their experiences if that is good for them? As the hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson) said, however, in many cases segregated provision is best, and both options should be available.
Mr. Corbett: Exactly, and the present Government of all Governments should not need any lectures from the Opposition about parental choice, because they said that they were introducing it. The Bill does nothing to improve parental choice for parents whose children have disabilities. Some promises were made--restated wishes from the Education Act 1993--but that is beside the point. Two out of every three primary schools and more than half the secondary schools in England and Wales have no suitably adapted lavatories. Moreover, I cannot be the only hon. Member with primary schools that still have outside toilets--or can I? [Hon. Members:-- "No."] Clearly, I am not. The denial of mainstream education further isolates young people with disabilities because it shields those without them from the experience of being alongside children with different abilities. What is more, as Scope says, the White Paper simply restates the provisions of the 1993 Act for an accessibility audit; there is nothing new in that.
On work, the exclusion of firms with fewer than 20 employees and the absence of a phased removal of that threshold are unacceptable. The Government know that 96 out of every 100 firms employ fewer than 20 people. As the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) said, in rural areas small businesses are the main providers of job opportunities for everyone, including people with disabilities. The Government know that that sector offers the best growth in jobs and that six out of 10 companies with up to 10 staff already have one disabled person working for them. So what is the problem? The Government also know that the Confederation of British Industry and the Employers Forum on Disability do not want a cut-off. Under the present Prime Minister--and, indeed, the previous one--have run around telling us