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13 years of systematic obstruction and then, in the years ahead, build on what their Bill achieves? But in the view of disabled people and those who work to help them, parts of the Government's Bill will actually increase discrimination against disabled people. They cite first the Government's proposal to end the 3 per cent. jobs quota, which they argue will undoubtedly make matters worse. The Rights Now campaign, whose affiliates include the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People, cites as well the Government's pointlessly complicated and over-restrictive definition of discrimination. It attacks what it calls

"The Government's complete failure to understand how disability discrimination works."

It also states:

"The Government's Bill contains a host of defences and potential justifications for discriminatory treatment which are not present in the legislation on sex and race. The accumulated effect of these loopholes will render it almost impossible for a disabled person to challenge discrimination."

Such pointed criticism leaves scant room for any doubt about what Britain's 6.5 million disabled people think of the assumption that the Government's Bill will solve most of their problems.

The measure we have been debating today is but piecemeal reform. It attempts to divide the indivisible. Look at the employment problems of disabled people, not least those of the blind, of whom the Royal National Institute for the Blind says only 17 per cent. are in work. That figure is a shocking comment on the avoidable hardship inflicted on them.

The employment prospects of blind and other severely disabled people will only be improved if, while removing discrimination against them, we recognise also the importance to disabled people of improving their access to better training opportunities, among other essential requirements which must be met if more and more of them are to end their dependence on social security and enjoy the dignity of becoming taxpayers. Yet this is not what the Bill achieves. That is why Members in all parts of the House will go on insisting on stronger and more enforceable protection for Britain's 6.5 million disabled people. That is also why our campaign will go on for as long as it takes to secure full civil rights and equal citizenship for them. Without the rights that everyone else can take for granted, disabled people are doubly disabled. The handicapping effects of their disabilities are made even harder to bear by preventable social handicaps for which there is no moral justification.

Why on earth should disabled people any longer have to put up with rights inferior to those of everyone else and inferior as well to those enjoyed by disabled people all across the developed world? I refer, among other countries, to New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, France and Sweden. Why should the Government here have assumed for so long that employers in all those countries are more capable than British employers of contributing to the achievement of social progress for disabled people? It is because our disabled fellow citizens should no longer have to put up with inferior rights that the campaign for the social fairness they crave must go on; and, Mr. Deputy Speaker, go on it will.

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9.2 pm

Ms Lynne: I am delighted that the Government have changed their minds on several aspects of the Bill, particularly on education and transport. I am also pleased by their decision to extend the definition in clause 1 to cover people with a history of illness or disability. That is a step in the right direction. We must not lose sight of the fact, however, that they have not moved a lot on other parts of the Bill. In fact, the Government have failed to respond to the majority of the amendments that we tabled in Committee and on Report.

I cannot count the number of amendments that other hon. Members and I tabled in Committee. Ministers remained immovable on all of them. They did not accept any amendments to do with education and transport, but I am pleased that they accepted certain changes on Report. The Government have bowed to pressure from all the disabled people's organisations that have lobbied them and those hon. Members who have worked over the months to ensure that improvements relating to transport and education were included in the Bill.

Those changes are a triumph of democracy over dogma, but the Government have not changed their mind on much. They gave way slightly on small businesses, but they have not moved on the call to establish a commission. It was extremely important that we should have had an organisation with teeth, rather than the mere advisory council that the Government proposed. I am grateful, however, that the Government agreed to extend the definition in clause 1 to cover someone with a history of mental illness.

I continue to believe that disabled people will feel extremely let down by the Bill, as will carers. In Committee we discussed the problems that carers had, and I was disappointed tonight that we did not get round to debating in the House the amendments especially relating to carers. I was sorry that those amendments were withdrawn without debate. I hope that they will be retabled and debated in the Lords, because an immense number of carers have lobbied hon. Members, and they have some very serious problems of discrimination relating to their caring duties.

I know that the Government will prevent the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill from obtaining its passage through the House, and I am sorry about that. I am sad, because that is the Bill that we should pass into law in future. The Disability Discrimination Bill is welcome as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. However much we debate the Bill and however much it is amended in the Lords, disabled people will continue to be denied their basic human rights, whatever the Government say.

The way in which Ministers and the Government have moved on certain amendments is a step in the right direction, but they were forced to take those steps, sometimes at the last minute; suddenly there was an announcement from Ministers. In the past two days--

Mr. Paice indicated dissent .

Ms Lynne: The Minister shakes his head, but we had an announcement about education yesterday and an announcement about transport today--a last -minute conversion. The Government did not move in Committee,

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so they were forced to move by all the pressure that they had from hon. Members and from disabled people throughout the country. However, I continue to believe that the Government have not gone far enough, especially as regards the commission. There is no point in legislation unless it has teeth. I hope that the Government will not suppose that they have done enough. Disabled people will continue to fight because they want the same equality as everyone else. They do not want more; they do not want less; they want the same. I believe that they have a right to expect that and that they deserve no less.

Although I welcome some of the movement by the Government, I wish that they had gone further.

9.10 pm

Mr. Pickthall: Several of my hon. Friends want to speak, so I shall confine myself to revisiting the announcements that the Minister made yesterday about the education part of the Bill. Incidentally, I complain that, that important debate having been confined to one hour, more than half of that hour was taken by the Minister giving us some interesting and important new thoughts, which we did not have time properly to consider.

It is obvious, from column 746 of yesterday's Hansard , that the Minister considers that the existing Education Act 1993 and the code of practice do the business in respect of integration into mainstream schools. He complained that the new clauses that were tabled by hon. Members would cut across the provisions of the 1993 Act. However, in column 750, his proposals to amend the 1993 Act within the Disability Discrimination Bill in substantial ways were revealed, so that, in any case, the Minister's proposals cut across the 1993 Act. We shall in effect have two separate Acts controlling access to schools for disabled young people. It is important that that is carefully considered before it goes to the other place.

The Minister also said that the Government's measures have given an enormous boost to special education. That is fine; I accept that, but they have also presented councils with enormous resource problems and resources have not been forthcoming in sufficient quantities from the Government to enable local education authorities to put into practice what the 1993 Act expects.

The Minister did say--I agree with him entirely--that integration into mainstream education is not a simple issue of parental choice. Of course it is not; but does he not recognise that section 21 of the 1993 Act includes that phrase "efficient use of resources" as the universal caveat by which local authorities have a let-out from providing mainstream education for many disabled pupils? Many local authorities have been able to make progress only where such provision has been tied to statementing provision, with all its legal implications. They cannot even keep up with the legal requirements of statementing, never mind make further progress.

We must bear in mind the revenue consequences of integration. As long as mainstreaming is expected of local education authorities while resources continue to be cut and as long as the 1993 Act contains a caveat enabling LEAs to use the shortage of resources as a reason to refuse mainstream provision, many parents will have no choice and no system of redress. I do not blame local authorities for that in many instances. Nor do I blame the many

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schools that resist taking students with disabilities because they cannot accommodate them, in terms of either physical access or revenue.

There are frequent cases in which there is a conflict between the two parties, the parents and the school LEA, and both sides might well be right. There have been many cases, including that of Chloe McCollom from Lewisham, a Down's syndrome child who has not been provided with a place in mainstream education, Emma and Alison Gibbs from Suffolk, who also suffer from Down's syndrome and have not been given places in mainstream secondary education, Zahrah Manuel in Campden, Angharad Duffield in Avon and Nicky Crane in my constituency. Two more cases were discussed in today's edition of The Guardian involving Natalie Dance of East Sussex and Alan Dean--I think the name is an alias--in the west midlands. All those children are disabled in one way or another. Their parents are desperate to get them into mainstream education and are having to fight their battles with no back-up. There will still be no back-up for them once the Bill is passed if it remains as the Minister intends. The Minister for Social Security and Disabled People seemed to assume yesterday that the new clauses proposed by hon. Members on both sides of the House were meant to abolish special schools, but that is not so. The Minister was right to say at column 746 of yesterday's Hansard that not all disabled children could be integrated into mainstream education and that some parents prefer special schools. However, if the Minister assumes that the improvement of the range of choice by legal back-up will mean that most or all parents of disabled children will opt for mainstream education, that should tell him something about what parents want for their children.

The Minister continued by saying that it was absurd or impossible for local authorities to spread their access provisions too thinly. He said:

"Instead of several schools in an authority, each with excellent resources, being able to take many pupils with a wide range of special needs, we would end up with nearly all schools in that authority with a few ramps, no lifts and improved curriculum access for only a small minority of pupils . . . It is certainly not what the Government want".--[ Official Report , 27 March 1995; Vol. 257, c. 747.]

I understand what the Minister is talking about in terms of shortage of resources, but he is also talking about the creation of ghetto schools, which have the resources to provide for children with disabilities and special needs. That would remove choice for thousands of parents and children. Parents will have to remove their children from education in their own communities and ship them across to another part of the local authority area to a school that has the necessary resources or they will not have a choice at all. Making full access the norm rather than the exception will take a long time. The Minister's statement yesterday seemed to suggest that it should not even start. As he said,

"It is certainly not what the Government want".

When the Bill goes to the Lords, the Minister must confront the issue of increasing selection in our schools, particularly secondary schools. Only yesterday, Manchester grammar school said that it wanted to come back into the fold and be a state school, but only on the strict understanding that it would control its selection process. Up and down the country there is evidence,

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particularly in grant-maintained schools, that selection is taking place on all sorts of strange grounds, not just academic ability. The Minister said that schools will have new responsibilities to report to parents--and presumably to local authorities and to the Secretary of State--about improvements in disabled access. That is a good move which we must welcome. However, in those circumstances, schools will merely have to ensure that they are not out of step with other schools. Schools that do not want to go to the trouble of admitting disabled students could ensure that the description of their facilities is not good or is even offputting. I believe that we need an enabling legal framework and back-up for parents who come up against those problems, which will continue to exist under the Bill as it is now constituted.

The Minister also made some interesting, and I think on the whole encouraging, announcements in response to the detailed concerns that were advanced by Labour Members in Committee about access to further and higher education. I do not have time to deal with them in detail but, as the Minister mentioned part-time access yesterday, I must ask about the chance of making the disabled students allowance available for part-time students. That is a major problem. Many students must study part time because the nature of their disability prevents them from studying and progressing at the same speed as non-disabled students.

The Minister said that he would require colleges to provide access to disabled students "as a condition of grant". That is a tremendous step forward. The Minister also mentioned the duty of the Further Education Funding Council to report to the Secretary of State, which I think will prove an interesting control mechanism.

The Minister's proposals for higher education are also fascinating. In the areas of both further and higher education, he seemed to suggest that students who are denied access to a college on the ground of disability will have the right to appeal to the Further Education Funding Council. Why does the Minister object to our idea of a commission if, in the area of education at least, he is proposing the FEFC as a kind of education commission?

There is a potential for ghettoisation in further education. The Minister said yesterday that we could not spread access too thinly across colleges. However, FE colleges, by their nature, are local and provide services for local people. As Skill observed, it is not acceptable to have to transport people 60 miles to the nearest accessible college. I hope that that problem will be addressed properly in another place.

The measures that the Minister has announced in relation to the education part of the Bill at least respond to the concerns expressed in the Committee and, to that extent, they are welcome. I hope that, before he sends those measures to another place, he will take into account the sorts of problems about which I have talked this evening and to which we referred at leisure and in more detail in Committee. 9.18 pm

Mr. Berry: Nine months is a short time in politics. Nine months ago, no one could have foreseen that today we would be debating the Third Reading of a Government Bill making it unlawful to discriminate against disabled

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persons. After all, nine months ago the Government blocked a measure which enjoyed cross-party support and which would have achieved precisely that aim.

The Government told us that education and persuasion would work; they told us that they could not possibly legislate in this area. They then said that it was quite incompatible with the thrust of deregulation policy to legislate for civil rights for disabled people. They then said that it would cost £17 billion to outlaw discrimination against disabled persons.

I have welcomed the fact that the Government have moved ground over that nine-month period. I mean that genuinely, as, I am sure, does everyone else, but it would be welcome if they acknowledged that they were misleading people nine months ago when they said that it would cost £17 billion to legislate to outlaw discrimination. It was pointed out by the all-party group at the time and by every independent observer that that figure, which was repeatedly quoted on and off the record, was a gross distortion of the cost of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. I am prepared to acknowledge the substantial movement in the Government's position on that issue, but they should acknowledge that they misled people last year and that disabled people's organisations in particular deserve an apology. The outcome of the Government's consultation exercise in the summer was that, of those who offered a view on the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, 98 per cent. wanted the Bill, which was originally introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), for whom I have the greatest respect, and which is currently being promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes).

There are serious problems with the Government's Bill and they will not go away. The definition of disability is still too narrow. When I came here today, I thought that I would have to argue that the Government should include within their definition those who have a record or history of impairment and those who are regarded as having such an impairment. I immediately acknowledge with gratitude--perhaps gratitude is the wrong word --

Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow): Just acknowledge.

Mr. Berry: I acknowledge the fact that the Minister now recognises that those who have a record of impairment should be protected by anti- discrimination legislation, but that still leaves those who are regarded as having such an impairment. In particular, it leaves those with a diagnosed but as yet asymptomatic condition: people with multiple sclerosis, a genetic illness, Alzheimer's disease, or HIV infection. Those people do not have a symptomatic condition that would qualify them for protection under the Bill, but surely they should be protected by it.

We debated the small firms exemption at some length. Equity demands that if our legislation to outlaw unfair discrimination on the grounds of gender and race does not provide a small firms opt-out, neither should legislation that is designed to protect disabled people.

The Bill offers us a blank piece of paper on transport. This time last year we were accused of being vague in our transport proposals in the Civil Rights (Disabled

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Persons) Bill, which vagueness, we were told, made the Government uncomfortable. We have been asked today to accept from the Minister a blank piece of paper as the Government's clauses relating to transport in the Bill.

The omission of a commission is the crucial error. The more the Government have taken on board some of the points that we have made in recent years, the greater has become the need for a commission. I have paid my eight quid to the Bow Group to buy Jonathan Kaye's pamphlet. I did not read its summary in The Guardian-- I sent off good money for it. Jonathan Kaye was arguing, as a Conservative, that it would be nonsense to claim that the Disability Discrimination Bill can effect true equal opportunities for disabled people if there is not a commission to investigate complaints and to enforce people's rights.

I urge the Government to take on board a whole range of omissions that we highlighted before Committee, during Committee and again on Report--above all, the fact that without a mechanism to enforce the law, without something akin to a disability rights commission, the Bill will not be effective. If the Government are serious about outlawing discrimination, they must will the means to do so. If they are prepared to make concessions in another place, disabled people will be far happier than they are at present. Disabled people feel that the Government have made a move in the right direction but that they have not moved far enough--much remains to be done.

9.24 pm

Mr. Wigley: I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry), who has played such an important part in bringing this subject to the fore through his Bill and his work with the all-party group.

A succession of hon. Members have taken up the baton. A parallel Bill is being promoted by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) and I wish that many of its provisions were included in this final version. I say that this is the final version but, of course, it is not.

Nor, I suspect, is this the last time that we shall discuss the Bill, even though this is a Third Reading debate. We shall need a great deal of time in July to debate the Lords amendments, assuming that the new clauses promised by the Minister relating to education, transport and other issues are tabled in another place. We shall need time to apply ourselves to any further amendments when the Bill returns to the House in due course. This is adieu but not farewell, or whatever the appropriate saying is.

We should put on record the support that we have received from disability organisations and from disabled people themselves, who have campaigned vigorously for many years for progress to be made in the relevant legislation. The legislation that will reach the statute book will not be everything that they want but it is a step in the right direction. The Minister has succeeded in making more progress than appeared possible on Second Reading. Nevertheless, some important provisions still need to be tightened, not least that relating to the commission, which has been mentioned by several hon. Members.

It is not realistic to expect individual disabled people to go to court and fight on an ad hoc basis to get their rights. There must be a structured approach. If the Government have not seen the light during the passage of the Bill, I hope that this will be one of the first things taken up by an incoming Government after the general election.

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I am still unhappy about a number of the Bill's provisions. I think especially of the problem of small companies. At the end of yesterday's debate on companies employing fewer than 20 people, the Minister said that it would be possible to have a "zero option"--or effectively a zero option--in the regulations. I hope that the Government will be prepared to review the situation not over five years but perhaps over a couple of years to ascertain how the small companies provision is working and will use the flexibility that they have given themselves with the order-making provision to include if not a zero option then an option relating to firms employing even one employee. That will effectively mean that the Bill will apply to every company.

As the hon. Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam) said, we skipped over Government amendment No. 120, which gives examples of the adjustments that employers should be making for disabled people. It is not clear who will bear the cost of the provisions listed. Will any expenditure come from the public purse or will it land on the employer himself? It is an important matter that should have been dealt with earlier. I am also worried about the position of carers. We did not have the opportunity to deal with this topic earlier because of the pressure of time. I am concerned that carers may be subject to discrimination when they are working on behalf of and are involved with disabled people. This could arise in the provision of goods and services--an amendment was tabled in this regard--and in the context of employment.

The work undertaken by carers is of immense benefit to disabled people. We are trying to ensure that disabled people are not discriminated against because of their disability and I should hope that that spirit would extend to people who give their lives to disabled people by being carers.

The Bill will go through to the other place. We know that many Members in the other place have tremendous experience of many aspects of the work with which we are dealing. We know that the other place passed a civil rights Bill way before we got to this one. We can look forward to the other place positively amending the Bill to make it stronger.

I hope that, some day, the saga will be written of how the Government started off totally opposed to any anti-discrimination legislation, and of how, with a succession of movements, change took place. I do not want to score political points on that. I say hallelujah to the fact that change has taken place. I hope that change has not finished and that more progress will be made. 9.30 pm

Mr. Barnes: I remind the House of the position on Second Reading. A reasoned amendment was tabled by the Leader of the Opposition. On a three- line Whip, that was carried by 27 votes--

Mr. Hague: It was defeated.

Mr. Barnes: I am sorry--it was defeated. The vote for the Government was made up entirely of Conservative Members. The vote that lost was made up of hon. Members from all other parties. When the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill received its Second Reading, it was carried by 175 votes to nil, and it had support from hon. Members on both sides of the House. Members on

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both sides of the House supported the measure in early-day motions and were among its sponsors. It is clear that the principle of civil rights for disabled persons has clear support in the House when it is presented fully and when it is considered in line with the Government's measure.

Where does the measure before us, which is leaving now for another place, stand in comparison with the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill? I have always thought that three areas should be considered. The first is the definition of whom the measure applies to. The second is the measure's scope, including exemptions, to which the definition obviously also applies. The third is the enforcement of the legislation.

The Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill refers to 6.5 million people. There has never been any dispute about that. The Government have promised a further extension of the definition in another place. A "history of impairment" will be added to the definition, but not having a "reputation" for impairment. Many points in schedules considerably restrict and limit the definition.

The definition needs to apply to the discriminator. We should say that people cannot use the term "disabled" to discriminate anywhere in society. But that is not what the Government want. They want to try to define the people who, on technical grounds, will be considered to be disabled. They want employers and others to have the right to know whom that definition applies to. A massive distinction must be made between the two areas. The Government have never told us what the additional definitions that they have announced today will mean in terms of the 6.5 million figure.

There is the question of scope and exemption. Some of the exemptions have been removed by the Government or are in the process of being removed. Northern Ireland was exempted initially, but that was changed in Committee. Certain provisions in connection with property were exempted initially; they, too, were altered. We have had statements on education and transport. Yesterday's statement is well worth considering in detail. We have already had some examination of it. What does it actually mean? I want the amendments in the other place to fulfil the objective. In interpreting the areas that are liable to be covered, one must be careful about the Minister's words. I am willing to bet that there will be a minimum interpretation of the words that have been given to us about education and transport. As has been pointed out, the employment adjustment is very minor. Perhaps the number 20 would not have been increased in any case, but now it is to be written on the face of the Bill. There are also extra exemptions, on which we have just voted.

Then there is enforcement, and the question of a disability rights commission. Last night I said that the biggest item on our agenda and the big vote before us would be the decision whether to have a disability rights commission. We lost that division by 13 votes, but such a body would have done more to transform the legislation than anything else. No adjustment that may occur here or in another place will have as great an effect, unless we can get a commission back on the agenda. As I have already argued, a commission would be a dynamic force not only in helping to implement measures but in extending the boundaries of what is covered.

Other issues covered by the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill have not been touched at all by the Bill before us. For instance, there are the provisions covering

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polling stations. Those would have given us the opportunity to discuss civil rights and access to justice. Moreover, within them lies a most important principle: the building block of democracy is the ballot, and the ballot should be as open to disabled people as it is to everyone else.

Welcome as the changes and advances are, the Government's Bill is by no means good enough. The Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill should be let out of the cupboard and sent into Committee so that we can investigate it. As the Bill before us is likely to be passed and to become law, the original Bill will need altering because it will be able only to fill the gaps. We want the opportunity to begin to do that.

The movement supporting civil rights for disabled persons will now require legislation slightly different from the form in which it existed before. The Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill will have to amend, alter and transform the Disability Discrimination Bill when it becomes law--and the sooner the House can get down to that process the better.

9.36 pm

Mr. Gerrard: I am glad to have the opportunity to make a brief contribution to the debate. I welcome the changes that the Government announced yesterday on education and today on history and transport. Obviously we shall have to wait and see exactly what the amendments are like when they appear in another place, and especially how education is to be included, but there has been a significant shift and we welcome that.

There are still several problem areas, however, and I shall briefly describe one or two of them. The most glaring problem is that of enforcement, which has already been mentioned many times--the absence of a commission independent of the Government, with its own staff, able to set its own agenda and to help people directly by representing them, if necessary, at industrial tribunals and in court.

We should have learnt from our experience in operating anti-discrimination legislation through the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 what happens when people try to take cases as individuals, as the Bill will require them to do. It is difficult to take discrimination cases to industrial tribunals. Yes, as the Minister said yesterday, tribunals are becoming more familiar with the processes, but discrimination cases are still different from the bulk of cases that they hear.

Such cases have a low success rate, and in general employers will not admit that they have discriminated; indeed, it is extremely rare for one to do so. One of the key factors behind people who are successful in discrimination cases brought before industrial tribunals these days is their having gone through the process of a formal questionnaire. Clearly, that process is much more likely to be successful with proper advice and assistance. Even if the Minister is not prepared to concede the need for a commission, which I would ideally like to see, I hope that he will look very carefully at the processes that he says that he will put in place to assist people to bring cases.

There is still a glaring weakness in the Bill in relation to advertisements. We still have the provision that, if a discriminatory job advertisement appears, someone who

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is disabled has to apply for the job, fail to get it and then be prepared to go to an industrial tribunal for action to be taken. That seems quite ludicrous. It ought purely and simply to be illegal for an advertisement which discriminates to be published. I trust that the Minister will look again at that because it is a clear, simple point and it ought to be possible to take it on board.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) has already pointed out the logic of the argument that, in widening the scope of the Bill by including education and transport, the Minister is strengthening the case for a commission able to act on behalf of disabled people.

I welcome the fact that history of a person's health will now be included in the definition for the purposes of the Bill. I understand that the Minister does not want a definition which is too wide and that it must be understandable. He said earlier that vagueness and uncertainty will not do, but that means that one needs to think about the levels of knowledge and understanding among people who are not necessarily expert.

I particularly want to mention again the plight of people with HIV or AIDS. The Terrence Higgins Trust pointed out that it is hard to define precisely what is symptomatic HIV, but medical knowledge is developing fast. Although lists have been developed for incapacity benefit, they are about conditions which stop people working. This Bill should be about allowing people to continue to work. The definition used for incapacity simply will not do.

The Bill is wide ranging. Despite improvements, however, gaps still exist. We welcome the changes, but I hope that when we consider the Bill again when it returns with amendments from another place some of those loopholes will have been plugged.

9.41 pm

Dr. Godman: I have to be brief. I was not a member of the Committee which considered the Bill because I chose to be appointed to the Children (Scotland) Bill, which, in some instances, dealt with related matters.

I want to pick up on three issues. First, the omission of a commission is a grave error and seriously weakens the Bill. Secondly, with reference to observations made by the hon. Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam) about the architectural faults to be found in many English magistrates and Crown courts, which present formidable problems for disabled people, may I tell him that the same holds for many of our courts in Scotland, which is deeply regrettable? I look forward to the day when, say, people with learning difficulties are treated, as are children, as vulnerable witnesses in our courts. If this Bill cannot deal with that objective in another place, perhaps the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993 may be so amended.

Thirdly, the Minister said that we should raise our eyes from the details of the Bill. May I urge him and his colleagues to raise their eyes to Scotland, in particular to the passenger ferry services? In a Scottish context, to exclude ferry services from the transport provisions lately introduced to the Bill is an act of folly and insensitivity. People living on our islands catch CalMac ferries as others travel on trains and trams. The CalMac ferry timetable is a remarkable piece of delphic draftsmanship to many of us, but most islanders read it as if it were written by Catherine Cookson.

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CalMac, which has its headquarters just down the road from me in Gourock, has a fairly good record of assisting people with disabilities. Nevertheless, I hope that the Minister will ensure that the deeply regrettable omission to which I have referred will be righted in the other place. The islanders who use the ferries on a daily basis, and particularly those who are disabled, deserve better than this. They may be few in number in terms of Scotland's population, but it is disgraceful that their essential travelling needs have been so grievously ignored by the Minister and his officials.

In conclusion, I urge the Minister to rectify the omission. I know that there would be problems if we were talking about international ferry services and that negotiations would have to take place with the International Labour Organisation and the International Maritime Organisation, among other international organisations. However, the Bill could be appropriately amended to cover our domestic ferry services in Scotland, in the interests of disabled islanders. They deserve no less from the Bill.

9.45 pm

Mr. Corbett: I thank both Ministers for their patience and courtesy during all stages of the Bill. I thank my hon. Friends and the hon. Members for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) and for Rochdale (Ms Lynne) and, indeed, the hon. Members for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) and for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam) and others for their contribution to the latest stages of the Bill.

I often regard Third Readings of Bills as rather like a great liner coming into port. In this case, I intend to be the noisy little tug at the back pushing it into the berth. I want to read something to the House.

"We are convinced that persuasion and education alone will not bring about the changes that are needed; an attempt to change behaviour merely by changing attitudes is not a cost-effective option."

Those words were in a letter from Peter Large 13 years ago to the then Minister for the Disabled when he presented the report and recommendations of the Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People established by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris). In many senses, my right hon. Friend is the father, or perhaps the grandfather, of the Bill. He was aided by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry), who tried so valiantly to promote a Bill last year, and my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes), who picked up that torch this year.

I do not know whether Ministers have read the report of the Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People. If they have, they have not understood what it argued. Their approach is, "What is the least that we can do?" rather than "What needs to be done?" What needs to be done is to give people with disabilities the rights, status and opportunities that able-bodied citizens have.

While we welcome the removal of the ability of Ministers to extend the exemption for small firms to firms with more than 20 employees, it is regrettable that there will be no phasing out of that exemption over a number of years.

We have had last-minute announcements of all these great things that are going to happen in education. As my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr.

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Clarke) said, we need to see them written down. What the Minister said yesterday, as reported in Hansard , and what has been said by the Department of Education today, are just promises. They deliver nothing, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Pickthall) said.

We will never get rid of discrimination against children with disabilities who need to have their special needs met, on the basis of an extra 10 million quid--if it is a new 10 million quid--when school bids against school and council bids against council. Many schools, colleges and universities have needs and there ought to be a phased programme, as promised by the Government, so that over a number of years the resources will be provided to enable them to meet those needs.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West said, perhaps the greatest failing of the Bill is that the Government, in spite of the consensus view across the Chamber, have shied away from the critical element of enforcement--even enforcement of the modest steps in the Bill. The Government say that there should be enforcement on matters of race and gender, but that it is not needed when discrimination against people with different abilities is as rampant and persistent as it is in those two areas. I believe that that is a prize example of discrimination in a Bill which claims to tackle discrimination. Yet again disabled people are to be treated as less than equal citizens. People with disabilities and their carers simply will not understand that second-class treatment. That is why they and their representative organisations much prefer and insist upon the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill which is being promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East.

All of us in the House have a duty now--we have had it for some time--to ask people with disabilities what they can do. We must provide them with the help to do it and treat them with respect for their different abilities and as equal citizens, rather than jumping to assumptions about what they cannot do. I do not believe that the Bill goes far enough to treat them as equal citizens. The Opposition know and believe that people with disabilities can do so much more than they are now allowed or are enabled to do. A new Labour Government will give them just those opportunities.

9.50 pm

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