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Mr. Robathan rose—

Mrs. McGuire: All right then, I give way.

Mr. Robathan: At the risk of breaking up the love fest, might I take the Minister back to the issue of the Routemaster bus? She seems shocked that people might like the Routemaster, but I would like her to tell me what research was done to find out the opinion of the people of London on whether they thought the Routemaster was good. While it was totally unfriendly to wheelchairs, it had a conductor who could help people with other mobility or sight problems on to the bus. Furthermore, it was a great deal safer for cyclists than the bendy bus. I can tell her that it was much more popular with the people.
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Mrs. McGuire: The hon. Gentleman needs to realise that the Routemaster bus, in spite of its historical significance, was not just inaccessible for wheelchair users; it was not particularly friendly to people with other disabilities, and in many respects was probably unfriendly to most of the population. I know that it is a kind of historical icon for him, but I understand that the Mayor of London has said that it can still do heritage tours. I hope that the hon. Gentleman, when he recovers fully from what he said was his temporary disability, will be able to enjoy the Routemaster bus on tourist routes.

I thank the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) for his comments on children with dyslexia and dyspraxia, as I am aware of the issues in relation to getting statements for such children. I congratulate him specifically on his comments on mental health and the scaremongering about the development of projects relating to mental health conditions. I have had some experience of that, and I know exactly what he was alluding to. We all need to work together to recognise that having a mental health condition does not make someone a danger to society, a criminal or any less a good neighbour. The most telling fact is that many people in this country think at this point of time that they will never have a mental health condition, but they may develop one. We need to think in those terms. I hope that he will accept that we extended protection under the DDA to people with mental health conditions.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South apologised earlier for that fact that she could not be here for the winding-up speeches. She made an eloquent speech, which came from the heart, as it came from her experience. As I have said, I have had experience of trying to get into taxis with her in London, and I know some of the daily difficulties that she had to face, not just here but in other parts of the country. One of the significant changes down here is that there will no longer be parliamentary receptions, certainly for Scottish MPs, that do not have an accessible venue, because the rest of us will not go to any company's or organisation's parliamentary reception to which she cannot get access.That has changed the mood and the attitude of organisations and companies towards disabled people. I was delighted that she mentioned the devolved Administrations, with which we are working closely, as disability rights is a reserved issue and cuts across all parts of the United Kingdom. I also compliment her on mentioning the Scottish Federation of Small Businesses, which does a significant amount of work promoting the disability agenda among its members.

I was going to compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood on being another warrior of the 1995 campaign, but in the new consensual environment that I hope that I have established, perhaps that would be inappropriate. I know that he still wears the campaign medal secretly under his jacket. As always, I recognise his valuable contribution to these debates and his continuous promotion of access to work, which, we all agree, is one of the great success stories of the Government. We have quadrupled the amount of money going into it. Yes, we inherited that programme from the previous Government, but in our opinion it was underfunded. Let me say to hon. Members that we do not hide the access to work programme—we spend a
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significant amount of money promoting it through local medical practices and our disability employment advisers.

I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood mentioned disability employment advisers. We are trying to ensure that DEAs have the training that is essential to do the work that we want them to do in supporting disabled people into employment.

My hon. Friend made various other points, one of which related to whether the contracts for voluntary sector organisations in programme delivery should be for one year. I assure him that Ministers in the Department for Work and Pensions are awaiting a report on the issue, and acknowledge the importance of some of his comments.

The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East raised issues relating to care home standards. He gave the impression that it was all about bureaucracy, but I would like to think that it is about improving standards. He also referred to specialist schools. We have never said that parents do not have the right to send their children to such schools—there is an understanding that every disabled child should be offered a place in mainstream education—but it is not a case of either/or. The Department for Education and Skills has been trying to develop joint campuses where children can still be given specialist training if that is what their parents want, while at the same time benefiting from the full educational and social experience of being at school. We should bear in mind that years ago children who were taken away from their local communities were not given the rounded education that many deserved, and some of the social interaction that comes from education was not part of their experience.

My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood made some telling comments about human rights. I know that she is a doughty fighter when it comes to issues relating to disabled people. I shall be interested to see whether she does encourage her colleagues to change the name of the all-party parliamentary group on social care, but the point that I shall retain from her speech is that we should listen to the voice of the child. I agree that that is very important.

I shall be delighted to meet the group from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Ochil and South Perthshire.

I welcomed what was said by the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham), not least his suggestion that we should parade the message that making reasonable adjustments is good for business.

I have left my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill until the end, not because of how I ranked his speech but because I want to pay a special tribute to him. He was a distinguished spokesman on disability rights when we were in opposition. He too is a battle-scarred warrior in the campaign, and I am delighted that as a result of work that he did along with others in the House and outside, we have arrived at a general consensus on disability rights. While there may be subtle differences between us, much of the present political consensus is largely due to people like my right hon. Friend who continued the battle when it was not always easy.
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I welcomed my right hon. Friend's comments about the disabled facilities grant and the Employers Forum on Disability. He is right: the best advocates for employers' taking on disabled employees are employers themselves. In my experience many employers have seen the value of stability in their work forces, and have made the necessary adjustments either to retain a member of staff whom they value after that person has developed a disability, or to recruit disabled people. My right hon. Friend has a special interest in people with learning disabilities, and I share that interest with him.
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I thank the House for a very worthwhile debate, and leave Members with the words of the chairman of the Disability Rights Commission. When people say to him "I am not disabled", he always responds "Not yet." That is the message that we should all take from today's debate—

It being Six o'clock, the motion for the adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

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