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Session 2006 - 07
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Public Bill Committee Debates

Draft Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (Amendment) (Further Education) Regulations 2007

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Hugh Bayley
Anderson, Mr. David (Blaydon) (Lab)
Carswell, Mr. Douglas (Harwich) (Con)
Curry, Mr. David (Skipton and Ripon) (Con)
George, Mr. Bruce (Walsall, South) (Lab)
Hayes, Mr. John (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con)
Irranca-Davies, Huw (Ogmore) (Lab)
Khan, Mr. Sadiq (Tooting) (Lab)
Milburn, Mr. Alan (Darlington) (Lab)
Mulholland, Greg (Leeds, North-West) (LD)
Rammell, Bill (Minister for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning)
Raynsford, Mr. Nick (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham, South) (Lab)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles) (Lab)
Watkinson, Angela (Upminster) (Con)
Williams, Stephen (Bristol, West) (LD)
Wilson, Mr. Rob (Reading, East) (Con)
Winnick, Mr. David (Walsall, North) (Lab)
Mr. E. Wilson, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

Second Delegated Legislation Committee

Wednesday 25 April 2007

[Mr. Hugh Bayley in the Chair]

Draft Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (Amendment) (Further Education) Regulations 2007

2.30 pm
The Minister for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning (Bill Rammell): I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (Amendment) (Further Education) Regulations 2007.
Mr. Bayley, before I explain the purpose of the regulations I should first explain that they only make a small technical amendment to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. In truth—I will be completely upfront about this—they are only required because of an error made by the Department for Education and Skills during the passage of last year’s Education and Inspections Act. I apologise for this error and hope to persuade members of the Committee that it is a genuinely straightforward matter which can be resolved without taking up too much time.
Last year we introduced the Education and Inspections Bill. Clause 6 of that Bill proposed to insert into the Education Act 1996 a series of new provisions designed to increase young people’s participation in positive leisure time activities. I recall that this legislation was broadly welcomed across the House. Having been brought into force in January of this year, it is now driving delivery of opportunities for young people in every local authority area. Before we discuss the regulations I should like to remind hon. Members why section 6 is so important.
The green paper “Youth Matters” identified evidence that showed the benefits to young people of engaging in constructive out-of-school activities. Those were shown to support their personal and social development, as well as to divert disaffected and vulnerable young people away from risky or antisocial behaviour. However, “Youth Matters” and the following “Next Steps” document focused on evidence from surveys, research and from young people themselves, to show that far too many positive activities were inaccessible, too expensive, unpopular or simply not available. Furthermore, our evidence showed that these barriers to participation were often greatest for vulnerable and disaffected young people who, of course, have the most to gain from participating. “Youth Matters” therefore proposed a legislative response to drive local authorities to address these barriers.
Clause 6, now section 6, was our response to this proposal, and inserted new section 507B into the Education Act 1996. Section 507B places new duties on local authorities. They include a requirement to consult young people about local activities; to publicise and keep up-to-date information on a local offer of things to do and places to go; and—the main duty—to secure, so far as reasonably practicable, that all young persons in the authority’s area have access to sufficient educational and recreational leisure-time activities for the improvement of their well-being and sufficient facilities for these activities.
When we submitted clause 6 to Parliament, we included in schedule 1 to the Bill an amendment to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. That was needed to update the definition in the DDA of “recreational or training facilities” so that it referred to the new legislation. Unfortunately, and this is the nub of the issue, while section 6 was still subject to parliamentary scrutiny, the section of the Disability Discrimination Act that we sought to amend through schedule 1 was itself amended by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (Amendment) (Further and Higher Education) Regulations 2006. This rendered the schedule 1 amendment ineffective because it referred to a paragraph that had been amended. To put it bluntly, the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing.
It was frustrating and a potentially significant error which I am pleased to say we are able to remedy through the regulations laid before the House today. They correctly locate the new definition of “recreational or training facilities” within the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and will restore coherence within section 6. I trust on the basis of that explanation and given the positive reception originally accorded to our legislation on positive activities, that members of this committee will similarly affirm the regulations laid before them today.
2.34 pm
Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con): I am delighted to say that I will not detain the Committee too long, given the typical candour from the Minister about the reason for us being here in the first place. I take his point that this is essentially a technical matter to make sense of clause 6 of the Bill that he and I had the pleasure of debating, which became the Education and Inspection Act. As he has sought your indulgence for a moment, Mr. Bayley, to say a word about aspects of the Act, I hope that you will send similar generosity in my case when I say that I entirely endorse what the Minister said about this important aspect of what was then the Bill and now the Act.
I just want to highlight for a second the significant issue about access for disabled people. There is substantial evidence, from Mencap, Scope and others, that disabled people often have considerable difficulty accessing leisure activity, after-school activity, and recreational activity in our schools. That matter was raised in Committee, when we debated the Bill, and there was a short debate on it, as the Minister will recall. I simply say to members of this Committee that sometimes we caricature disability around physical impairment. Of course, many disabled people are physically impaired: wheelchair users, for example. However, disability extends to a wide range of disadvantages, some of which are subtle and dynamic, and which require a sensitive response to the needs of those young people if we are going to make leisure and out-of-school facilities and other opportunities available to them.
I know that the Minister will take those remarks in the spirit in which they are meant. It is about looking at the needs, for example, of the visually impaired, people with hearing difficulties, and those with learning difficulties, and ensuring that they can participate with the same kind of pleasure and reward that able-bodied young people can, and that youngsters who do not face similar challenges can.
We want a sensitive interpretation of this part of the Bill, in the light of the regulations that, I hope, we are agreeing today. I am grateful for the opportunity to make that case again, and to say that we, as an Opposition, are just as determined as the Government
—I will not say more so, because that would be unnecessarily partisan—to ensure that those disadvantaged young people enjoy the opportunities that the Minister and I have briefly highlighted.
2.37 pm
I do not need to detain the Committee any longer. Obviously, what lies behind this measure, as the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) just said, is a very important motive—that everyone in the community has access to sporting and recreational facilities laid on by further education colleges, or by local education authorities—and we are happy to support the statutory instrument as it stands.
Question put and agreed to.
That the Committee has considered the Draft Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (Amendment) (Further Education) Regulations 2007
Committee rose at twenty-two minutes to Three o’clock.

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