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Mr. Kevin McNamara (Hull, North) (Lab): It had not been my intention to oppose the Bill, but having heard what the right hon. Gentleman had to say, there are too many questions that he has not answered, whether in relation to his pamphlet or the various sources on which he has called to support his arguments.
First, in relation to setting an annual limit, the right hon. Gentleman has not defined in any way what the criteria should be in deciding on that limit. Nor has he said how, within that limit, we will judge between those who might be here temporarily or for whom we are satisfying requirements under the refugee conventions and in relation to other humanitarian matters. He has also suggested that, if we bring in more migrants, that will be self-defeating. It is a strange sort of policy whereby we can only bring in people who have enormous skills, without considering the other broader skills that are seen as necessary in our society.
We need a proper migration policy. The right hon. Gentleman is suggesting one that is not capable of sensible implementation, and that does not have strict criteria set down by which we can judge the proper course of action. On that basis, I oppose the Bill.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Peter Lilley, Sir Sydney Chapman, Mr. John Horam, Miss Julie Kirkbride, Mr. Edward Leigh, Dame Marion Roe, Mrs. Gillian Shephard, Sir Michael Spicer and Mr. Andrew Turner.
Mr. Peter Lilley accordingly presented a Bill to enable annual limits to be set on immigration; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 13 May, and to be printed [Bill 98].
The whole House will have heard the Deputy Prime Minister confirm today, at Prime Minister's Question Time, that the general election would take place on 5 May. As the Prime Minister has confirmed that, it would surely be impossible for the Standing Committee proceedings to finish on that date, because the House would have dissolved by then. Given your experience, Mr. Deputy Speaker, can you offer us guidance on what to do next?
The Bill completes the most far-reaching programme of disability rights legislation that any European country has ever seen. It fulfils our manifesto commitment to deliver enforceable and comprehensive civil rights for disabled people and represents a major landmark on the road to a world in which disabled people can be empowered to live independently, fully recognised and, indeed, respected as equal members of society.
The Bill extends the definition of disability to provide protection against discrimination for at least another 175,000 people. It covers more people diagnosed with the progressive conditions HIV, multiple sclerosis and cancer and removes the requirement that mental illnesses be "clinically well recognised." It closes gaps in the pre-existing legislation relating to, for example, the inclusion of local councillors, private clubs and transport services, and it extends the coverage of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to almost all activities of the public sector, placing a duty on public authorities to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people, mainstreaming disability equality into the core business of the public sector as a whole and helping to eliminate the institutional disadvantage that many disabled people still face. Well over 40,000 public bodies will be covered by those duties in some way.
For the first time, disabled people can be confident that their needs will be to the fore rather than being considered as an afterthought. For example, if a health
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trust is reorganising its services or a local authority is thinking of pedestrianising a town centre, it will need to think first about the way in which disabled people are likely to be affected.
I want to do two things. First, I want to set this Bill and some of its specific measures in the wider context of our previous legislation and the delivery of our longer-term goal of equality and independence for disabled people, as set out in the Prime Minister's recent strategy unit report.
Alan Johnson: I cannot guarantee anything that goes through the usual channels, but I am confident that it will. Given good will in all parts of the House, I see no reason for it not to be on the statute book by the time a general election is called, even if that happens earlier than some people expected.
The second thing that I want to do is explain the Government's position on a number of specific issues in the Bill, which I hope will inform the debate and ensure the Bill's quick passage through the House.
We have come a long way since the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. That is when Alf Morris, the first ever Minister for Disabled People, laid the foundations for disability rights legislation in the UK. When we came to office in 1997, despite 14 previous attempts to produce legislation, only the most blatant forms of direct discrimination against disabled people had been outlawed and there was no protection at all for disabled employees of small firms or for disabled pupils and students. The 1995 Act lounged on the statute book, falling far short of its potential and with no champion to help people enforce their rights or give employers advice and guidance on how to meet their obligations.
Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry) (Con): The Secretary of State is normally a most reasonable person. To set the record straight, will he acknowledge that the 1995 Act was described by the Equal Opportunities Review as
Alan Johnson: I will acknowledge that. It was. The trouble was that there was no effective system to ensure its enforcement. MoreoverI think the hon. Gentleman will accept this, because he too is a fair and reasonable personit did not go as far as the disability lobby wanted it to, or as far as Members throughout the House pursuing private Members' Bills wanted to take disability discrimination legislation. We have now created the champion that the 1995 Act needed, first through the work of the Disability Rights Task Force and then with the hugely successful Disability Rights Commission.
Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab):
I wholeheartedly welcome the Bill, and wish it to be sped on its way whenever the general election may occur. Did my right hon. Friend notice an under-reported part of the
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Budget, which gives 2 million disabled people free travel? Can he say how that welcome development might work in practice?
Alan Johnson: I agree that it was under-reported. Most of the focus was on free off-peak bus travel for people over 60 from April 2006. The statement, of course, included all disabled people. It is indeed a welcome development and another development that improves the whole position by empowering disabled people.
Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): My right hon. Friend mentioned the 1995 Act. One of the disappointing features of that Act was the length of the lead-in times. Had it not been for this Government's actions, part IIIpassed 10 years agowould still not be operation. We introduced "Access to Goods and Services" last year.
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