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Mr. Deputy Speaker: As the right hon. Gentleman put it, it is in order, but he has been straying much further than that and giving us a history lesson on procedure. I have drawn that fact to his attention several times and will not do so again. If it happens again, he will have to resume his seat.
Mr. Garel-Jones: Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You and I have been colleagues for some years and have served on Standing Committees together. I am trying to make a point so that the public will understand why the House, including the Opposition and the Liberal party, has decided that Supply remains--
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. That is not the subject of today's debate. The right hon. Gentleman may well want to educate the public on the procedures of the House, but he can do so another time. It is not a matter for this debate and that is the end of it.
Mr. Garel-Jones: Clearly, I will have to accept your ruling in that matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I will, of course, but perhaps, on a further point of order-- [Interruption.] Since you know that in no circumstances would I defy your ruling, will you guide me as to how I can take the matter further, as it is important for this and for other private Members' Bills?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. With the greatest respect, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman needs no guidance on the procedures of the House. I do not know whether he has reached the conclusion of his remarks, but I will
Column 585no longer tolerate having to stand up and draw to his attention the fact that he should return to the Second Reading. If he fails to do so, it will be the end of it.
I have two questions for the hon. Member for Monklands, West and one for my hon. Friend the Minister of State. I realise that my hon. Friend does not expect this question and will not be briefed to answer it. I do not expect him to give a firm answer at this stage, but I ask him to give an undertaking that he will raise the matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Will he say that there will be no automatic money resolution for the Bill if it receives a Second Reading?
Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you say why we are not having a statement at this time from the Secretary of State for Defence on the enforced resignation of Air Chief Marshall Sir Sandy Wilson?
Mr. Clifton-Brown: Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would it be in order for me to table a private notice question on the whole way in which the matter of Sir Sandy's resignation, if that be the case, as it has been publicised in the newspapers--
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. That is a matter for the hon. Gentleman, and his point of order is an abuse of the House's time. We are debating an important Bill and interventions of that nature are not helpful.
Mr. Garel-Jones: I repeat my question to my hon. Friend the Minister of State. Will he give an undertaking to raise this important matter, which I have raised with the Select Committee on Procedure, with the Secretary of State before the Whips automatically provide a money resolution in the event of the Bill receiving its Second Reading?
I apologise to the hon. Member for Monklands, West because I shall not be in the Chamber to hear him. I have two requests for him. First, will he confirm that the Opposition will continue to support the principle that Supply should remain in the hands of the Government, that they are not suggesting any changes and have initiated no conversations with the Leader of the House--
Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West): The contribution by the right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) represented one of the worst aspects of the House. That is unusual because on disability matters the House is usually at its best. Before coming to the excellent speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) I should like to respond to the right hon. Gentleman's two major points. First, he asked whether a Labour Government would introduce a similar Bill if the Government block this one. The unreserved and proud answer is yes. In saying that I have the support not only of my hon. Friends, but of my right hon. and hon.
Column 586Friends in the shadow Cabinet. I say that in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman. He made a long speech and it is a bit absurd for him to leave the Chamber.
Those who followed the last Labour party conference will be fully aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown), the shadow Chancellor, made it clear that if the Government delay, delay and delay again in the disgraceful way that they have already delayed a profound Bill, we shall be proud to introduce this measure in Government.
Several hon. Members rose --
Mr. Barnes: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not a normal courtesy of the House that after an hon. Member has made a speech he stays to listen to the following speech which may refer to his contribution, which is what is happening in this case?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Yes, it is a common courtesy, but for a long time I have noticed that many of the common courtesies on which I was brought up in the House seem to have gone out of the window. People seem to have forgotten that, and it relates not only to leaving after making a speech but to other matters. I hope that at some time hon. Members will return to the common courtesies of the House.
Mr. Garel-Jones: Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is of course my intention to listen in full to the speech by the Opposition spokesman: I have no intention of being discourteous. I was simply doing you the courtesy of apologising to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for having, as it were, not agreed with your ruling. I thought that it was courteous to do that.
Mr. Clarke: I accept that the right hon. Gentleman's contribution was quite uncharacteristic. Therefore, I hope that what he has just said shows contrition and is perhaps an indication that he will listen to the rest of our debate.
The right hon. Gentleman specifically asked me to respond to his second point on the issue of the money resolution. I had the great privilege of having outstanding support from all parts of the House for the 1986 legislation with which I was associated because I had the good fortune to be first in the ballot. At that time under Prime Minister Thatcher, now Lady Thatcher, the Government arranged for the money resolution. There was no difficulty whatever because the Government accepted that they had a responsibility to the House and that the views of the House are what really matter.
I shall now turn to the Bill and to the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East. He courageously introduced a Bill which is well known to the House and to the other place and which would clearly have massive support in a free vote. He has shown great
Column 587judgment and courage and made an unanswerable speech. Irrespective of public relations advisers getting to work on this Bill and the Government Bill, nothing can disguise the sincerity and practical appeal of my hon. Friend's speech and his splendid Bill.
Yesterday hundreds of disabled people gathered in Westminster Hall to lobby their elected representatives and let them know that the only legislation that will meet their requirements is that proposed in a Bill which will assure them of full civil rights and equality of treatment. I welcome the contribution by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth), who for many years has fought for that principle in the whole of the United Kingdom. His speech was significant and welcome.
A short time ago I attended a reception held by ADAPT, Access for Disabled People to Arts Premises Today, an organisation whose aims I support. At that reception Lord Snowdon delivered a speech that was not only effective but realistic because he showed the frustration that is shared by many hon. Members in all parts of the House about the slow progress that is being made on access. We should give the Bill a Second Reading and if we do we shall be taking on board the important views of ADAPT and many others.
The Bill enjoys the support of all political parties as represented by individual hon. Members and not necessarily by the Front-Bench line. I hope, however, that the Government Front-Bench team will allow it to make the progress that its broad range of support deserves.
Hon. Members from all parties attended yesterday's lobby in Westminster Hall. A wide range of political allegiances were represented among the people who addressed the assembly, as well as among those who were present. Those who were there will be aware that the House does not make appropriate provision for disabled citizens--voters who are lobbying their representatives--to hold meetings at which hon. Members can address their concerns, as their constituents would expect.
Those people who were not able to attend may be interested in the circumstances, which are directly relevant to the matter under consideration today. Those of our constituents with mobility problems have no ready means of access to the Central Lobby of the House, and very limited access to such places as the Committee Rooms and the Grand Committee Room. Other groups of constituents may lobby their representatives in Central Lobby and meet elsewhere to hear the views of other hon. Members, but large numbers of disabled citizens can be readily accommodated only in Westminster Hall, with all its limitations.
The problem with such an arrangement is that it is not possible to use any sort of public address system in Westminster Hall, which means that, in practice, no facility exists, even in the House, for disabled citizens to meet during a lobby of that sort, a restriction that does not apply to other lobbies. That is clearly unacceptable in 1995.
That is the reality of the situation before our very eyes. Hon. Members of all parties will recognise it, and many will also recognise that that is a perfect example of the sort of discrimination that disabled people face only too often in their day-to-day lives. Sadly, for them yesterday was no new experience.
Column 588That is a perfect example for a number of reasons. First, it is profoundly unfair and unjust to penalise more than one tenth of our constituents on the grounds of their disability. Secondly, the discrimination was neither deliberate nor malicious. I am certain that to discriminate in that way was the last thing intended by hon. Members or by Officers of the House, who were carrying out instructions given to them when the problem came into being. Thirdly, its effects on disabled people is far more irksome than some people might imagine. Above all, it is the sort of discrimination that may easily escape the reach of the limited legislation that the Government have proposed in their Disability Discrimination Bill. Such discrimination, however, would quickly disappear if the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North- East were finally to achieve its proper place in the law of the land. The point, of course, is not just that my hon. Friend's Bill is better and more comprehensive than the Government's alternative. The difference between the two Bills, as has been recognised in the consideration given to both, is not just one of degree; it is a difference of kind. They are founded on distinct principles. That difference is recognised not only in this place, but by 6.5 million disabled people, whom hon. Members represent--all of us on both sides of the House, wherever we sit. That is why disabled people reject the Government's approach as inadequate, and why they want that my hon. Friend's Bill to make due progress.
Mr. Deva: Many Members want this whole process to work. It does not matter whose Bill it is. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, since 1944, the quota system has not worked, and that only a third of the people who could register on that system have registered on it? The Bill of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) still retains the quota system, whereas the Government's Bill talks about a statutory right to non- discrimination. Why does the hon. Gentleman want to support a quota system?
Mr. Clarke: I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman. He is right about the quota system. It has not worked for two main reasons--Governments have not had the will to make it work, and we do not have a commission along the lines suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East, which is clearly essential to monitor and to ensure that any discrimination ceases to exist, whether it be in terms of race, gender or disability.
A civil rights approach is founded on the principle that unfair discrimination on the basis of disability is wrong. As all hon. Members would regard unfair discrimination on other grounds, such as race or gender, as intrinsically and inherently wrong, I would have thought that our support for the Bill is relevant. That is a powerful principle, underlying much of what is best in our law, and much of what we would regard as best in the traditions of a parliamentary, pluralistic and democratic society.
The Government's approach in their measure is founded on a much weaker view --that discrimination against disabled people is merely undesirable, and that it should be reduced only in some areas and to some degree. As I have said, it is not just that the degree is inadequate. The measure fails essentially in that it does not begin from
Column 589the basis of equal rights, and it gives only piecemeal concessions, instead of the rights that disabled people need and demand.
Mr. Tim Smith: I am trying to follow the hon. Gentleman's argument. He said earlier that the two Bills were based on two different sets of principles. But surely the Government's Bill introduces a new right for disabled people in a number of different respects. Surely the distinction is one of degree, rather than one of principle.
Mr. Clarke: The more the debate develops, especially in Committee, where no Conservative Member has made any contribution, the more it is shown that this is a big issue both of principle and of degree. I should like to give way to hon. Members on both sides of the House, but, in the interests of a fair debate, I intend to continue with my speech.
Our arguments show why disabled people want hon. Members to approve my hon. Friend's Bill. We do not ask for much. The Bill is not a measure of positive discrimination because that is not what disabled people have put on the agenda. The Bill asks only for what disabled people require and demand: that the discrimination issue should be approached from a starting point of equal rights to work, to shop, to travel and to participate in our society as full and equal citizens. As Colin Barnes said in his moving and yet practical book "Disabled People in Britain and Discrimination":
"Discrimination in Britain against disabled people is now widely understood as a major social problem that can only be solved by statutory means".
It perhaps represents the major division between the Government and other hon. Members on both sides of the House.
As the difference between the two measures is so fundamental, the main points in my hon. Friend's Bill are also the principal factors distinguishing it from the Government's proposal. A measure to outlaw discrimination must start from a clear definition of who is covered by its provisions. That is the first way in which my hon. Friend's Bill is essentially superior to the Government's Bill. Precisely because we start from the basis of civil rights, we propose a definition that is generous and comprehensive.
The principle behind my hon. Friend's Bill is that no one in society should be discriminated against on the basis of disability.
Mr. Duncan: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has twice said this morning that, in Committee, Conservative Back Benchers made no contributions, which he apparently defines only as
Column 590speeches. Many of us intervened and just because our interventions were pithy and to the point, it does not mean that they were not contributions.
Mr. Tom Clarke: I repeat that not one Conservative Member, with the exception of the two Ministers, has made a single speech in Committee. The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) referred to interventions in Committee. I have taken those into account when studying Hansard and find that, in total, all interventions from all Conservative Members, including the hon. Gentleman who seeks to interrupt my speech, amount to two and a half minutes in 15 hours. The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends will understand why I do not intend to give way for the rest of my speech.
My hon. Friend's Bill provides protection for those who have, for example, suffered from mental illness in the past and for those who have a reputation of mental illness which is ill-founded. We do not wish to imply that those with certain forms of disability are more deserving of legal protection than others.
The Government's approach, by contrast, is to provide an ungenerous and narrow definition of disability in medical and legal terms, which will exclude from its protection some of the types of case that I have just mentioned--for whom the injustice of discrimination is, if anything, all the more bitter. The narrowness of the Government's definition is shown by the fact that it would exclude some of those who are already registered as disabled. The Government have to make specific provision to ensure that those people are not now excluded from the protection of the law. The lack of generosity is also shown by the fact that the protection of those already registered as disabled is limited to an initial period of three years.
My hon. Friend's Bill, because it starts from the basis of civil rights, proposes that it should be unlawful to discriminate against qualified disabled people in employment. The mechanics and the timescale of how that new right should be implemented are for the House to determine. I hope that we shall have the opportunity to consider those points in detail at later stages in the Bill's progress.
The Government's proposed alternative is that there should be protection only against direct discrimination and only in the case of larger companies. Even worse, the Government propose to remove the existing legal provision for quotas of disabled workers in larger companies, thus removing an existing right before finding out whether the new provision will be effective. The Bill that we are considering today will introduce a new and comprehensive protection against discrimination in employment. But it does not propose to remove existing rights until the new provisions have proved their worth. Surely, if we want effective law, that is the right way round- -it is plain common sense.
My hon. Friend's Bill approaches the issue of access to goods and services from the starting point of equal rights. It does not, as the Government's alternative does, specifically exclude education. It says that existing school building should be accessible to disabled people because the right of equal access to education is fundamental to full participation in society. Disabled access to schools,
Column 591which is provided for in my hon. Friend's Bill, does not mean access merely for school students, but for parents who are disabled, for school governors who are disabled--we all know how close to the Government's heart school governors are--and for teachers who are disabled.
My hon. Friend's Bill will also mean access to schools, not just for those concerned with the education of children, but for disabled people in the community as a whole. The Bill also states that the right of access to education should not only be extended to those aged under 16 or 18, but should give disabled people every opportunity to take advantage of further and higher education. My hon. Friend's Bill says that disabled people should not only be allowed to go to the railway station, but should have the right to catch the train. There is little point in improving access to shops and offices, if members of the public who are disabled cannot get to them by public transport. There is no point in the Government proposing an alternative to my hon. Friend's comprehensive Bill, then saying that some things must be legislated for in another measure at a date that is as yet unknown.
We argue that the right of access to goods and services should mean just that, and that businesses that can afford it should make the necessary adjustments to give equal access to disabled customers. We reject the limited and piecemeal approach in the Government's White Paper, which states that if someone cannot get into a showroom, he or she can get a catalogue through the post. Just as absurd and disgraceful is the suggestion that, instead of being integrated into our society, disabled people should sit outside polling stations in their cars waiting for ballot papers to be delivered. I have seldom heard of anything more disgraceful.
The Bill should also commend itself to hon. Members on both sides of the House because it makes explicit provision for their disabled constituents to vote. As I understand it, there is nothing that unites us more than our commitment to the electoral process. We are determined to remove the scandal whereby only 12 per cent. of polling stations were fully accessible to disabled voters at the last election. If we pass the Bill, we shall earn the gratitude of disabled voters and give them a better opportunity to pass judgment on how we have dealt with the matter.
The fundamental difference between my hon. Friend's Bill and the Government's alternative is not only the difference between comprehensive rights and piecemeal concessions. There is also a very real practical difference in the fundamental issue of how the law will work. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that effectiveness is one of the most important measures of any legislation. The Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill will be effective and enforceable because it creates a disability rights commission, which is not merely an advisory body, but has the powers to ensure that the legislation is implemented in full. It is in that area more than any other that the inadequacies of the Government's alternative approach are most clearly exposed.
It is because we want to outlaw unfair discrimination against disabled people that we want an independent and effective organisation to enforce their rights. It is because the Government want only to make certain concessions
Column 592that their proposals provide for no such organisation. They suggest only an advisory council--a talking shop--that has no powers to take action on behalf of the victims of discrimination.
The Bill gives the House the opportunity to enrich the lives of 6.5 million of our fellow citizens--the opportunity to make this year truly the year of disabled people's rights. Improving the rights of disabled people will enrich the lives of us all. If we are serious about disabled people's rights, we must show that we are serious by treating unfair discrimination against disabled people on a par with racial or sexual discrimination, which it is, and which disabled people want the House to recognise most passionately. Nothing less than that will do. That is why I commend my hon. Friend's Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill to the House and congratulate him most warmly on the courage of its presentation.
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle): The Bill is, of course, difficult to speak on, because passions naturally run very high, and people feel very strongly about the issues it addresses. Not one hon. Member fails to understand and appreciate the appalling difficulties under which disabled people labour. However, although it is not easy to speak against the Bill, I intend to do precisely that.
I have never made any secret of the fact that I oppose the Bill and its precursor, the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, promoted by the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) last year. I hope that hon. Members will accept that, although I oppose the Bill, I am conscious, as I said, of the terrible burdens under which disabled people labour. Whatever our views on the Bill, all hon. Members want to try to ensure that consistent progress is made--it may be gradual--in ensuring that disabled people are not discriminated against. Last year, I made a particular point about the costs of the Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Kingswood, to which I shall refer, and I also opposed it on philosophical grounds, just as I oppose this Bill on philosophical grounds. The great battles fought in the House over the past two or three centuries and those fought in legislatures in other civilised countries have been over removing discrimination against certain classes of people--women, black people or whoever. On many occasions, minorities have been discriminated against, and we want to ensure that everybody is treated exactly equally. I object to this Bill and all such Bills on philosophical grounds because they give extra rights over and above the law to a certain type of person. That is unfair on the disabled people themselves, and it is unfair on society as a whole, which will have to bear the cost. It would be unfair on disabled people because it would build up resentment against them and--possibly--have precisely the opposite effect to that intended.
The hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) launched a strong attack on the Government Bill. I think that that Bill goes very far. The hon. Gentleman is wrong that the Government are not minded to introduce statutory
Column 593redress--they are. The Government Bill is before us, we have discussed it and it will become law. The Government Bill goes a long way, and it is flexible and sensible.
Mr. John Austin-Walker (Woolwich) rose --
The Government's Bill is flexible and sensible, and it will take matters forward in a way that the public can understand. However, the Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) is unclear--I shall explain why--it is inflexible, and it is unfair in many respects to disabled people.
Mr. Austin-Walker: While comparing the definition of disability in my hon. Friend's Bill to that in the Government's Bill, does the hon. Gentleman agree that, under the Government's definition, an entire range of people who may be HIV-positive, who may have multiple sclerosis or who may have a history of mental illness will not be covered, but that they will be covered and protected by my hon. Friend's Bill?
Mr. Leigh: I do not necessarily accept that point. It is, of course, a point of detail, on which no doubt my hon. Friend the Minister will comment. My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith), who was in his place earlier, said that the Bill refers to sensory disablement. The Government definition is more sensible because it talks about people not being able to carry out normal activities. I shall return to that, but I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's point.
I was making three points about unfairness, inflexibility and cost. We must accept, although it may not be popular and it is a difficult point to make, that the Bill is unfair on employers. I do not necessarily say that it will cost £17 billion. I never made that point. I do not know how much it will cost, but I am sure that even the promoters and supporters of the Bill would not deny that the cost would be enormous, and that the costs would simply be passed on to the public.
The Bill is inflexible because, unlike the Government Bill, it cannot be fine-tuned or amended as attitudes change. Fundamentally, disabled people want attitudes to change in society, so that people realise the enormous problems under which disabled people labour. Over many years, we must gradually change attitudes--precisely what the previous Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Scott), sought to achieve, as does my hon. Friend the Minister. We still have not had any real estimate of the costs of the Bill.
Rev. Martin Smyth: Even though the hon. Gentleman says that the Bill would be unfair to employers, does he recognise and pay tribute to the Confederation of British Industry and the Employers Forum on Disability, which, not only nationally but in Northern Ireland, have welcomed steps being taken to protect the rights of people with disabilities? They are not objecting to the Bill.
Mr. Leigh: As the previous Bill proceeded through its various stages last year--we shall no doubt encounter the same today--much emphasis was placed by business from Britain and America on the costs of the Bill to business. Of course business wants to do its best for disabled people. Business men are as aware as anybody else how appalling it is to arrive at a public, private or commercial building and not be able to enter it easily. But that is quite
Column 594different from suddenly, immediately, loading enormous costs on every business in the country, including those which employ fewer than 20 people. Business men are worried about that and want the process be gradual.
Before I deal with the Bill in slightly more detail--it will be a relief to Opposition Members that, as so many hon. Members obviously intend to speak, I do not intend to speak for more than about 15 minutes, if there are not too many interruptions--I must make the following point.
It is important that the public realise that the Bill is controversial, that it is opposed and that not one controversial private Member's Bill has become law in 15 years. Therefore, I fear that there is no chance of this Bill becoming law. It is important that disabled people--
Mr. Tom Clarke rose --
It is important that disabled people out there are not under the delusion that this is a serious Bill, that it can and will become an Act of Parliament. It is a highly controversial private Member's Bill. Since I have piloted a successful private Member's Bill through the House, I believe it is sensible to try to get support from all parties.
Mr. Clarke rose --
It is a controversial Bill, which will not become law, so disabled people should not be deluded that Conservative Members are wasting time, or killing the Bill, or anything else. I shall not labour the enormous costs involved in the Bill, because the point has been made many times, but it is right that such a Bill should be promoted by the Government and not by a private Member.
Mr. Clarke: It may have been a slip of the tongue--I accept that, in the excitement of debate, such things happen--but the hon. Gentleman said that not one private Member's Bill had been passed in 15 years.
Mr. Clarke: The Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1985 was very controversial, and was initially opposed by Ministers. However, with Lady Thatcher as Prime Minister, that Bill went through. Is the hon. Gentleman telling me that, despite his former support for Lady Thatcher, the situation has deteriorated even more, and that an even better Bill will not be passed?
Mr. Leigh: The exact truth is that not one Bill which has been opposed on Second Reading has become law. No doubt there were worries about the hon. Gentleman's Bill, he was--presumably--prepared to be flexible, and in the end it became law.
However, it is important that people out there understand. Many worthy pressure groups are under the delusion that many such Bills have a chance of becoming law, when they have not.
It is not in the interests of disabled people to be used as a pawn in a party political-- [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East knows that his Bill will not become law. He is right to campaign for disabled people; he is right to embarrass the Government. He is a member of the Opposition, and that is what he is paid to do. However, people outside this House should be made
Column 595aware that his Bill will not become law. I have made my point, and I do not want to labour it. I do not want to fall into the same trap as my right hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) I want to explain my philosophical approach to these issues. As we increase wealth in society and give people more resources, more freedom, more independence and more dignity, we must also increase the sense of responsible individualism, so that society as a whole becomes more responsible and is made more aware of certain people who may not have certain advantages or rights.