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Mr. Andrew Smith (Oxford, East) (Lab): I apologise for not having been here for the earlier speeches. I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for her kind and generous remarks. She is evidently drawing her remarks to a close, but we should not fail to mention that her energy and dedication to the cause and the evident command of her brief that she has shown today and on other occasions are largely responsible for the fact that the legislation is now receiving its Second Reading. In particular, my hon. Friend, her officials and her ministerial team have worked with disabled people and that is the key to getting the Bill right and to implementation, so that we can translate the rights on paper into rights in reality. That will be a huge step forward for disabled people in this country and this Government can be truly proud of that.
The Bill places the public sector unequivocally in the lead as exemplars, requiring of us all a systematic effort to remove institutional discriminationthe often unthought-of barriers that provide the biggest obstacles to disabled people's equality. It is that provision that has the potential to enable us to end discrimination for good by designing it out of how we do things. I believe that that is an exciting prospect.
Once the Bill is enacted, we can move on to focus our efforts on making the rights we have placed on the statute book a reality in the day-to-day lives of our
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disabled fellow citizens, instead of being theories in a law book. The Government already have a blueprint for doing just that in the Prime Minister's strategy unit report "Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People". Our next great challenge is to implement that and to make a reality of independent living and employment opportunities for all. That is our manifesto for disabled people and, as a cross-Government paper, it already has the merit of being accepted Government policy.
Today, however, we should not allow the remaining challenges of the future to obscure the sense of celebration that we should all feel as we send the Bill on its way through the House. The Disability Rights Commission says that the Bill
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Disability Discrimination Bill [Lords], it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable by virtue of any other Act out of money so provided.[Gillian Merron.]
The Strategic Rail Authority has put out to tender the integrated Kent franchise rail network. Consultation took place in January 2004, after which the SRA proposed a balance of services to London Victoria, London Bridge and Cannon Street from Bexleyheath. However, a year later, the specification issued to companies that wish to run the services has cut all peak and off-peak services to Victoria station. Such a departure from the original proposals devalues the consultation process. Many people from my constituency use the Victoria service regularly to get to work or to the west end for leisure. That change in service will cause substantial inconvenience to those commuting to Victoria and stations in between, such as Denmark Hill, which serves King's College hospital.
I am today submitting 618 handwritten signatures. A further 1,176 signatures appear on Bexley council's website, making a total of roughly 1,800 signatures, which suggests the strength of dismay about the sudden change to transport provision for south-east London. Bexley council also objects to the removal of the Bexleyheath to Victoria service.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to press for the Strategic Rail Authority to reinstate services between Bexleyheath and Victoria Station, along with other passenger rail services to Charing Cross and Cannon Street (as derived from consultation), in the specification of services that companies tendering for the Integrated Kent Franchise will be expected to provide.
Mr. Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater) (Con): I wish to present a petition on behalf of the residents of Woolavington village in the county of Somerset. The petition is signed by 315 of the village's residents, who declare that
and a danger to villagers, especially children who have to cross the busy road, because of the speed at which the lorries go through the village. To use the modern term, it is a rat-run between the motorway and the main road.
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