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Column 574the role of the Trades Union Congress and of member unions in supporting the measure, including my own union, the Manufacturing Science Finance Union.
Mr. Skinner: The most illuminating thing about that lobby yesterday, which was as large as the ones in previous years, was that every single disabled person and group that we spoke to yesterday afternoon had sussed out the Government Bill. They knew that it was a confidence trick: they had weighed it up completely. I had thought that there might have been smaller numbers yesterday. There were probably even more people present, because they know that the Government are trying to con disabled people. The inspiring thing about yesterday was they had got the message: support the Bill.
Organisations such as People First, who are people with learning difficulties, who especially are excluded by the schedules in the Government's Bill, are among those that are active. That organisation has produced an exciting presentation of the Bill for people with learning difficulties. The Government have made no attempt to do anything similar. If they intend to cater for the disabled, they must consider how the House and the Government can communicate with people having learning difficulties, so that they may play a full part in the political process.
The key building blocks of democracy are the franchise; people's ability to represent their interests; and individual freedom, independence and rights. The Bill embraces them all. I mentioned the provision concerning access to polling stations. It is not good enough to tell disabled members of the electorate that they must organise a postal or proxy vote. They have the same right as other people to vote in person.
I mentioned that organisations for the disabled are solidly behind the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) referred to yesterday's lobbying. Individual independence, freedom and rights are basic elements in society, and they are the essence of the Bill. The House should remember that we are talking about not 10 per cent. of the population or 6.5 million disabled people, because everyone is potentially a disabled person as they grow older, become infirm and encounter difficulty using everyday facilities. No one should feel that he or she is in a different category.
Part I covers interpretation and definitions that are open, social and non- restrictive. Clause 1 introduces the concept of a "qualified disabled person" in respect of the provision of goods and services and of employment. Nobody is saying that legislation should enable clearly unsuitable employment for a disabled individual--such as bus driving by a blind person. However, the disabled applicant's general medical condition should not be a factor. Clause 2 also provides for "reasonable accommodation" and modifications for a disabled person. Again, we are not suggesting that the world should be turned upside down overnight and that £17 billion must be spent in one fell swoop. Part II describes the disability rights commission, which is a key element in the legislation's implementation and embraces a wide range of activities. The Bill imparts general rights, but any legislation can do that. Making them reality is a different matter. The commission will be under a duty to eliminate discrimination, investigate, and
Column 575assist complainants by offering appropriate assistance--including legal and financial aid. It will also issue a code or codes of practice. If Parliament is not satisfied that the commission is doing its job, it can reject those codes and ask the commission to reconsider.
The Government propose a council, but that group of people will exist to counsel the Secretary of State. In that context, the Secretary of State is the initiator and mover rather than the disabled themselves and organisations for disabled people--who will comprise 75 per cent. of the commission's membership. Those arrangements are elaborated in schedule 1. Parts I and II are the heart of the Bill.
Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton): How does the hon. Gentleman envisage the commission working? Would it be allowed or even encouraged to take the Government to the European Court or any other court, in the way that the Equal Opportunities Commission has done?
Mr. Barnes: Yes--which is why the Government do not want the Bill. There have been many cases of Ministers' actions being incompatible with the provisions and proper interpretation of previous legislation. Such a power should not be considered a problem or a democratic difficulty. It is part of establishing the rights of disabled people in society.
The Bill also makes provision for consideration of whether accommodation would unduly prejudice an employer, its nature and cost. Propaganda that the Bill is trying to achieve the impossible is countered by its provisions. If the Government want to make changes in Committee, they are welcome. However, the Bill is not new, and it is better drafted than the Government's measure. It has been around a long time, developed and improved.
Part IV, dealing with the provision of goods, facilities and services, stipulates the test of reasonableness, nature and cost of accommodation, overall financial resources of the firm involved, and specific periods of compliance that the Secretary of State could introduce but would have to justify.
Clause 12(3) presents 15 different categories of goods, facilities and services that must be considered. They form part of the essential mechanism of the Bill, and must be taken on board by the disability rights commission.
Part V deals with premises and new constructions, and describes when it is unlawful to discriminate. It has exemptions for small buildings and provisions and terms for new constructions, and says that architects and others involved must take into account the considerations of the Bill. They must ensure that buildings are accessible, except where it can be demonstrated that it would be structurally impractical to do so. There are also facilities for short-term exemptions which the Secretary of State could apply. Those measures are to help deal with the worries about cost which are always thrown at us.
Part VI relates to access to polling stations, and is my contribution to the Bill. It arises from the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill which I introduced two
Column 576years ago, and which was an attempt to extend the franchise correctly to the many people who are not included. Part VI says that there must be access to polling stations for disabled people. A survey was conducted by Scope at the election which showed how serious that problem was.
The Bill introduces the notion of accessibility audits, which are covered in schedule 2. Reports must then be given to the House, and there will be opportunities to debate developments. It states that, before all polling stations are accessible, provision must be made through polling cards to inform people which station has been designated as accessible for them.
Mr. Deva: If there is an area of conflict, would it not be better to have a conciliatory or arbitration service rather than the parties having to go to court to find a solution? Will not the Bill lead to employment creation for lawyers?
Mr. Barnes: The courts are likely to be used less under the legislation that I am seeking to introduce than under the Government's measure, which will be a lawyers' delight. Furthermore, the Government's measure has no reconciling body to overcome any problems. The disability rights commission will help to conciliate and advise, and the courts will be there only as long-stop provisions.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: When I studied the Bill, I came to the section on access to polling stations with great interest. Everybody wants all polling stations to be accessible to all disabled people. Does the hon. Gentleman accept, however, that there are many rural areas in which there is only one place where it is possible to have a polling station? Does he also accept that it might be difficult to make that polling station accessible to disabled people?
Rather than going to the considerable expense of adapting those stations, would it not be more feasible for the polling officer in charge to allow people to vote outside in their cars under supervision, rather than forcing them to get out of their cars and into a polling station?
Mr. Barnes: That sounds like a suggestion made during discussions on the Government's Disability Discrimination Bill--that disabled people could have a bell outside village shops which they could ring to get service. Disabled people must be treated the same as able-bodied people. They need access to shops and polling stations, and the Bill will help in that.
The measures relating to access to public buildings may make polling stations accessible in any case, but the Bill states that they should be accessible within five years. Public buildings must be accessible, and the problem has to be faced by returning officers as to what their facilities-- temporary or otherwise--should be. Where does democracy start from? It starts at the ballot box. If you cannot get to the ballot box to operate democracy, where are you? Why should a disabled person be a second-class citizen, depending entirely on proxy votes and postal votes?
Mr. Nigel Evans: My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Clifton-Brown) made a reasonable point in saying that, in rural areas--particularly where there is not a wide choice of buildings for polling stations--the important thing is that disabled
Column 577people are not denied the right to vote. I have stood outside polling stations--probably every Member has--where discretion has been used and a disabled person has been allowed to vote in his vehicle. Nobody would ever deny disabled people that. Is not the hon. Gentleman being totally unreasonable in the costs which he is trying to put on to rural areas?
Mr. Barnes: The hon. Gentleman should talk to his Front-Bench colleagues, as there is nothing in the Government's Bill about access to polling stations, although the Bill's service provisions might apply there as well. Will the Government come up with alternative access provisions which might allow taking a ballot paper to a car? That can be done in any case under the current arrangements, and special legislation would not be needed.
That is very much a Committee point, because the principle of access to polling stations cannot be denied. If there are problems in certain areas, appropriate amendments could be tabled which could extend the period of phasing in the measure. I shall move on, because other hon. Members wish to speak.
The remaining items of the Bill include part VII, which relates to enforcement procedures. Those apply in employment--the use of industrial tribunals and civil proceedings--and in electoral problems, including access to polling stations. That is not on the face of the Bill, as it is a matter for the electoral courts and relates to the Representation of the People Act.
The final part of the Bill deals with miscellaneous matters. The only thing I wish to stress about this part is that it ensures that the Bill's provisions apply to Northern Ireland without the need to go to any Committee.
The Bill has been discussed on many occasions, and it is similar to measures which have been introduced. It has adjustments and additions here and there--specifically, the access to polling stations provision--but its time is now. It is overdue. We must give a Second Reading to the Bill today, and allow it to progress quickly to Committee. We must give the House a chance to choose between the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill and the Disability Discrimination Bill.
I should like to know where the Minister stands in relation to the Bill. We know that he supports the Government's Bill and cannot support this Bill, but is he recommending that this Bill be opposed? Why will he not act as a facilitator for discussion on the issue of discrimination, rather than taking the role of a persuader for one measure against another?
Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones (Watford): I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on the Bill at such an early stage. I begin by apologising to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes), my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People and the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) for the fact that I shall not be here for the remainder of the debate. Like many hon. Members, I need to fulfil several constituency engagements during the day.
I do not speak as one of those hon. Members whom the House would call an expert on disability. My hon. Friends the Members for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) and for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam) are well known on the Conservative Benches for their expertise, and I see in their
Column 578places the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) and the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley). Many hon. Members speak with a depth of expertise that I do not have. However, one of the advantages of the British political system is that we have single-Member constituencies, so it is impossible for any Member of Parliament not to have substantial contact with the disabled and experience of their problems.
I have the honour to be the president of Action for Disability in Hertfordshire, which is run out of my constituency. It is an active organisation, which has responded to the invitation by my hon. Friend the Minister of State to make its views known. At least some of the views expressed by Action on Disability have been recognised in the Disability Discrimination Bill, which the Government are promoting in parallel with this Bill.
The real expertise on disability lies with other right hon. and hon. Members. My expertise, to the extent that I have any, and what has prompted me to speak in today's debate, to my surprise--because the one thing of which I was certain when I left the Administration was that I would never again appear in the House on a Friday, less still make a speech--is in the subject of Fridays. It will be known to hon. Members, although perhaps not to a wider public, that in another guise, at another time in my political life, I was what is known in the Government as the Friday Whip. I dare say that the equivalent position would exist if the Labour party were in power.
Lest members of the public are misled, may I say that the term "Friday Whip" does not have the friendly connotations of Robinson Crusoe's rather cheery companion. The purpose of the Friday Whip is to be vigilant in the interests of the Government on the days which are set aside for private Members' Bills. It is important to explain what happens on Fridays not only in the context of today's Bill but to promote wider knowledge of our proceedings among the public. People must often ask themselves what is going on here. I have no intention of being here at 2.30 and I have no idea what may or may not happen, but one thing of which I am certain is that the public will not understand what is happening.
When I was in charge of these matters, I realised that everyone in the House who knew his way around had only to look at the Order Paper to know perfectly well from day one once the ballot had taken place which Bills would make progress and which would not. I became worried by the way in which well-meaning and active organisations and individuals in my constituency wrote to me in good faith about Bills not only on the disabled but on animal welfare, rights for the elderly, and so on. They said, "Here is a Bill. I hope that it is going to make progress. I hope that you will be there to support it." We all know that some Bills will not make progress and will not be voted on.
I believe that the public should know what is going on. I shall attempt as briefly as possible to explain, not so much to the House, because we all know what is going on here, as to others outside who may be listening. When the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East introduced his Bill, it was interesting that the only remarks that he
Column 579had to make about part VIII related to Northern Ireland. Part VIII contains clause 36. I should perhaps read it out to the House. It is a brief clause. It says:
"There shall be paid out of money provided by Parliament-- (a) any expenses of any Minister under this Act; and
(b) any increase attributable to this Act in the sums payable out of money so provided under any other Act."
As the House knows, that means that if the Bill is to make progress, it will need a money resolution. The House knows perfectly well that only the Treasury Bench can provide such a money resolution. I have already given evidence to the Select Committee on Procedure, presided over by my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery). That is what prompted me to come to the House today.
Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby): Surely at least in theory, and I hope in practice, the Government are accountable to the House of Commons. I should have thought that if, in its wisdom this afternoon--I hope that it will be wise--the House gives the Bill a Second Reading, the Government would have an obligation to provide the necessary financial memorandum.
Mr. Garel-Jones: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. It brings me precisely to the point that I seek to make. I hope to explain, not to the House but to the general public, how Supply is managed in the House, why it is managed in the way that it is and why, as far as I am aware, neither the parties below the Gangway nor the official Opposition have any intention of introducing any such change. If the Opposition had any intention of doing that, it would be a major constitutional change in Britain.
My contention--I say this frankly to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North- East--is that the Government should never provide a money resolution for any private Member's Bill. That is one of the things that I shall ask my hon. Friend the Minister to state in his reply to the debate. The Government should announce that and do so quickly. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East is in his place again. I do not advocate that we as private Members should not be entitled to introduce Bills. I am anxious to preserve that right. Today's Bill, ten-minute Bills, back-of-the-Chair Bills and other private Members' Bills have exerted consistent pressure on the Administration. It is right that Parliaments should do that. They have subjected the Administration to criticism. The hon. Gentleman was almost certainly right in saying that his Bill and others introduced in previous Sessions had a substantial influence on the Disability Discrimination Bill, which the Government are introducing in parallel to his Bill, as it were. I have no complaint about that.
My complaint is that the House allows members of the public to believe that Bills that do not enjoy a money resolution are real Bills which have a real prospect of
Column 580reaching the statute book, when we all know perfectly well from the outset that that is not the case.
Mr. Garel-Jones: Exactly so. I recognise that it is a novel position. I made that proposition to the Procedure Committee, to be honest to the hon. Lady, so that we do not indulge in these farces. When I was in charge of these matters, it would have taken me, after the ballot for private Members' Bills had taken place and I had worked out my chart and decided, acting on instructions, what the Government's interests were--
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The right hon. Gentleman is well known as an expert on procedure in the House, and it is all very interesting, but I should be grateful if he would get back to the Bill that we are debating.
If there could not be a money resolution in relation to the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill or many other Bills, it would be a tremendous loss to the public. Do not the Government sometimes start off reluctant to provide a money resolution, but, as they see the momentum build up in favour of the Bill, they are persuaded to do so? Is that not how democracy should work? If the right hon. Gentleman had his way, private Members would be prevented from introducing similar Bills.
Mr. Garel-Jones: I take the hon. Gentleman's point. I certainly do not wish to prevent private Members from introducing Bills. No doubt hon. Members who are more experienced will correct me if I am wrong, but the current convention is that if a Bill is given a Second Reading, the Government normally supply a money resolution so that the Bill is considered in Committee. I suggest that the emphasis should be changed and that the convention should be that, as a general proposition, the Government do not supply a money resolution. The hon. Gentleman is right. If there is a special case, if the pressure is great and if the private Member introducing the Bill can persuade the Government that there may be some merit in it, the Government would not be prevented from introducing a money resolution. I am simply saying that, as a general proposition, the Government should not be expected to provide money resolutions for private Members' Bills.
I will finish this point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and then get on with my speech. The Bill that most upset me when I was in charge of these measures was the Elimination of Poverty in Retirement Bill. Thousands of well- meaning, respectable pensioners' organisations were bussed up to the House in the belief that the Bill would make progress. Everyone in the House knew that it would not. I find that offensive. It demeans Parliament and misleads the general public.
Mr. Barnes: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I would like it to be known that I object to the claims that I am involved in a procedure in order to mislead the public. I am trying to advance the public's interest via the procedures that I am following.
Mr. Garel-Jones: Let me make it clear to hon. Members, particularly Opposition Members, that I am not giving way to them because I do not want to take part--I know perfectly well what the Friday tactics are--in any tactics to waste the time of the House. I want to make my point and then let the House get on. The clause--
Rev. Martin Smyth: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you confirm that Madam Speaker ruled that the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill should be treated in the same way as a Government Bill and, therefore, that we should not have a lecture on filibustering instead of debating the Bill according to the terms of Madam Speaker's ruling?
Mr. Garel-Jones: I am particularly concerned about clause 36, which involves the money resolution. I wish to make it absolutely clear to the general public who will be following the debate why, in effect, it is the crucial clause in terms of whether the Bill makes progress. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) may sneer, but it is an exceptionally important point. I know that he is a supporter of the Bill. I do not wish to delay progress on it. My advice to him, if he wishes to advance the Bill, is to allow me to make my point. If he wishes to detain the House further, I do not want to be discourteous and not give way to him.
The historical basis for the rule that a private Member cannot propose an increase in charge is contained in the classic statement in "Erskine May", with which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will be familiar. I remind the House what it says:
"the Crown demands money, the Commons grant it, and the Lords assent to the grant: but the Commons do not vote money unless it be required by the Crown; nor do they impose or augment taxes, unless such taxation is necessary for the public service, as declared by the Crown through its constitutional advisers".
Column 582The House lived with that as a convention for several centuries. Then, in 1713, the House felt it necessary to reflect that constitutional tradition in a Standing Order, which reads as follows:
"This House will receive no petition for any sum of money relating to public service but what is recommended from the Crown." That Standing Order has been tacitly accepted by all parties in the House ever since, suffering over the years some amendment in the light of experience. I propose to refer to two such amendments, because, again, they are relevant to the position that we face in the Bill.
At the beginning of the 18th century, the House authorised the raising of money for a particular war. There were funds that were surplus to the supply that had been raised, and the Exchequer was not able to pay out that money. For that reason, the Standing Order was introduced in 1713. In the words of an historian, and this is where I come to the Bill, "The Standing Order was designed as a measure of protection against the easy extravagance of a large assembly." That is why the House thought it right to introduce the Standing Order in the first place. I now give an example of where the main parties, the official Opposition and the Liberal Democrats, have supported continuance of that principle.
In 1866, hon. Members ingeniously found a way around that Standing Order-- you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, better than I do how ingenious hon. Members can be in these matters. Mr. Gladstone, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, moved to close what he described as a leak.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I honestly cannot allow the right hon. Gentleman to continue in this way. We must get back to debating the Bill before us. I do not want to have to pull up the right hon. Gentleman again.
Mr. Garel-Jones: I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I certainly do not want to challenge your guidance, but, with respect, you will be aware that the crucial question, as regards progress with the Bill, is whether the Government will choose to give it a money resolution, if it receives a Second Reading.
Mr. Garel-Jones: If the hon. Lady does not believe that whether a Bill is funded is crucial in enabling it to fulfil its objectives, we will not get beyond square one. It is absolutely crucial. I have no intention of defying any of your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I contend that clause 36, which involves the money resolution, is crucial. It is important that the public understand why Parliament has allowed the operation of Supply to remain in the hands of the Treasury Bench.
Mr. Roger Berry (Kingswood): Would the right hon. Gentleman care to comment on the fact that, last year, when the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill contained a similar clause, the Prime Minister said before Second Reading that he looked forward to the Bill proceeding to Committee? Does the right hon. Gentleman disagree with the Prime Minister's view last year?
Column 583Prime Minister or anyone else. If my remarks stray away from those of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, so be it. I disagree. I can answer--
Rev. Martin Smyth: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you give me guidance? I understood that, on Second Reading, the debate was on the principle of the Bill, not the particulars. Surely, we are well away from the principle of the Bill and a side issue is being debated.
Mr. Garel-Jones rose --
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman, who is an experienced campaigner, has been doing his best to keep within the subject for debate, but he has not been overly successful. I hope that he will confine his remarks to the Bill.
Mr. Garel-Jones: If you are ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it is out of order to discuss the financing of a Bill and the Supply mechanism that exists for its financing, that is an important and serious ruling. I hope that you are not. I am confining my remarks to that subject and it is significant that the hon. Member for Rochdale (Ms Lynne) regards it as an inconsequence--
Several hon. Members rose --
Mr. Garel-Jones: The hon. Member for Kingswood asked me a question and I want to respond. Yes, I disagree with the Government's over-generous practice of letting it be known that, if a Bill receives a Second Reading, they will provide a money resolution.
Mr. Wigley: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Given that debate is being allowed on the money resolution and is harking back to 1713, 1830 and thereafter, will the Chair allow a similar debate at length on every Bill that has a money resolution, and will that now be part of the procedures of the House?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I can safely say that that will not be the procedure. I have attempted--probably unsuccessfully--to confine the debate to the Standing Orders of the House and the Bill. The right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) knows that. I do not want to have to ask him to resume his seat. I hope that he will not force me to do so, and I will not have to do that if he sticks to the Second Reading.
Mr. Garel-Jones: I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The time of the House is being taken up because I am not allowed to develop a simple argument, which I had expected to do in about 10 minutes. My answer to the hon. Member for Kingswood is, yes, I disagree with the practice that has arisen, which the Treasury Bench carry out over-generously--the convention that, if a Bill receives a Second Reading on the Floor of the House, it is given a money resolution. I have given evidence to the Select Committee on Procedure to that effect.
Mr. Berry: The right hon. Gentleman's argument is about misleading the public. Will he confirm that the Prime Minister misled the public about the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill last year, and that the Government did not vote against the money resolution when we debated it in Committee? If the thrust of his argument is about misleading the public, will he confirm that the Prime Minister and the Government have misled the public over this Bill, not Opposition Members?
Mr. Garel-Jones: I confirm no such thing. The hon. Gentleman is confirming that he is here to support the Bill and to make party political points. We all receive letters from our constituents on this and numerous other private Members' Bills. They believe that we are genuinely attempting to legislate, but, if we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that such Bills will not make progress--
Mr. Garel-Jones: May I seek your guidance on a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, before I attempt to resume my speech? Will you guide me? The Bill contains a clause--36--that requires the Government to introduce a money resolution. Will you confirm that that is the case, and if it is, will you confirm that it would be in order to discuss clause 36, why a money resolution is necessary and, very briefly, the history of money resolutions? If that is not in order, I would be deeply surprised.