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Mr. Allan: I do not wish to delay the Committee for long this afternoon because we have a lot of other business to deal with, but I simply want to place on record the concerns that remain among Liberal Democrat Members about another aspect of clause 18: the ability to prevent, by regulation, certain types of cancer from falling within the Bill's scope.
I understand that the issue was debated at some length on Second Reading, but our concerns remain about how such things will be achieved, and in particular about how we can respond to the concerns about the possible exclusion of people who should fall within the Bill's scope that have been expressed by a lot of significant cancer charities and other bodies interested in caring for people with cancer. We are not able to do anything about that today, and it is a source of much regret among Liberal Democrat Members that we did not have the normal long Committee stage to achieve a more significant debate about an issue that is very important to people who suffer from cancer.
As I said in my opening remarks, we do not wish the Bill to fallwe want it to reach the statute bookbut we would have preferred such legislation to be introduced a couple of years ago, when we might have had the time to debate such issues at greater length. I do not expect to make progress this afternoon, but I want to ensure that, as the Bill completes its stages, the outstanding concerns about how people with one type of cancer may be excluded remain on the platform for political debate. I hope that the Minister can offer at least an update on her thinking on the issue, although I realise that she would have said something about it on Second Reading and perhaps has nothing to add today, but it would be helpful if she could fill us in on where she has got to with her thinking, as she did with the previous amendment.
This amendment will remove the privilege amendment that was made in another place. As hon. Members will be aware, the financial powers of the other place are restricted by the rights and privileges of the House and by the Parliament Acts. As the Bill originated in another place and contains financial
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provisions, a privilege amendment was added before its introduction in the House to ensure that the House's financial privilege was not infringed. The privilege amendment provided that nothing in the Bill should impose or vary any charge on the people or public funds. The amendment is technical, but it is necessary to remove the privilege amendment, thereby reinstating the financial provisions.
Elsewhere in the Palace of Westminster at this very moment, parliamentarians past and present from both Houses are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the implementation of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. It was an achievement of Lord Morris of Manchester, who was the first Minister for disabled people, and the first legislative recognition in Britain that disabled people need adjustments to have equality. The passage of this Bill, somewhat more expeditiously than we had all originally expected and perhaps than many of us would have liked, builds on that insight of Lord Morris and is a real and lasting achievement for disabled people in Britain.
The Bill strengthens, deepens and widens the coverage of our anti-discrimination legislation. It extends the law to all functions of public authorities and places a duty on them to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people. It plugs remaining gaps in our existing law by including councillors, political parties and other larger private clubs within its provisions, and it completes the proper coverage of transport by including it under part 3 and setting end dates for existing public transport vehicles to be fully accessible. New vehicles already have to be.
I would like to thank all those who have improved the Billin particular, the Disability Rights Commission and organisations of disabled peopleby responding to consultations and giving evidence to the Joint Committee. I would like to thank parliamentarians in both Houses who have contributed extensively. Last but not least, I would like to thank very warmly my officials who have worked well and tirelessly for a number of years to get this Bill right.
The House is doing good tonight. This is a Bill of which we can all be proud. It is a stepping stone towards the Labour Members' goal of giving disabled people full opportunities in life to live, work and contribute to our society like anyone else, and to have equal respect and equality. It is also the fulfilment of a manifesto commitment. I commend the Bill to the House.
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Mr. Goodman: We have said before that we think it a pity that the House has not had an opportunity to have full Committee and Report stages, which would have enabled the Minister to respond, for example, to the points that were raised by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan). However, it is an extremely welcome Bill that has had strong all-party support. It builds on our Disability Discrimination Act 1995, and it is part of a journey that Lord Morris was one of the first parliamentarians to set in progress. The Minister was right to refer to him.
It is a much improved Bill as a result of consideration in the other place, and the Disability Rights Commission has correctly paid tribute to my party and other political parties for helping to bring this happy conclusion about. I pay tribute to my colleagues Lord Skelmersdale and Lord Higgins for improving the Bill. If we had had full Committee and Report stages, I am sure that I would at this point have been able to thank the Minister for guiding us through those proceedings skilfully and with good humour. I do not have a chance to do that, but her role on the Bill should not go without a passing comment. She has worked very hard on it and gave strong evidence to the Joint Committee.
This is an extremely important Bill. It will make a real difference to disabled people, and it passes another milestone in the continuing journey to a society of more equal opportunities and social justice.
Mr. Allan: I have arrived at the Bill late in the day because of the unavoidable absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Paul Holmes) who, like many other Members, is elsewhere because of events that appear to be starting in constituencies. I place on record my thanks to him for the work that he has put into the Bill, and his thanks to the Minister, the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Goodman) and everyone else who has worked on the Bill.
The Bill has rightly enjoyed strong cross-party support. It is instructive that the original Bill was introduced in 1995 under a previous Administration, and 10 years later we are amending it with a Bill from an Administration of a different party. Such issues are so important to many of our constituents, irrespective of party, that they rightly achieve cross-party consensus. They perhaps benefit more from consensus than other legislation that is introduced consensually, but does not always have the same positive effect.
We hope that the Bill will become law. As the hon. Member for Wycombe said, it will make a significant difference to many people throughout the country, especially by addressing transport and including people with conditions such as HIV, cancer and multiple sclerosis in the definition of those covered by disability discrimination legislation. We wish it every success on the statute book.
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