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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I am delighted with the Minister's response and we look forward to his amendment. We appreciate the moves he has made in that direction, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Baroness Gardner of Parkes moved Amendment No. 74:

Page 11, line 20, at beginning insert ("Subject to subsection (4A),").

I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 74 and 75 together. The amendments concern the insurance industry. Clause 14 defines the circumstances in which the provider of services is justified in treating disabled people less favourably. Subsection (4) includes a recommendation making power to allow the Secretary of State to specify the circumstances other than those on the face of the Bill where such treatment would be justified. The subsection makes specific mention of providers of insurance services as being likely to need such regulations.

The amendments seek to limit the scope of the regulations as they might apply to providers of insurance in one specific sense. That is that any special circumstances in which less favourable treatment in the provision of insurance services is allowed under the Act should be justifiable on objective actuarial or other criteria. To put it more bluntly, the amendment seeks to ensure that no regulations are made which simply exempt insurers entirely from the provisions of the Act.

Why is that necessary? I am afraid that the insurance industry's record, although improving, is not good on dealing with those who are disabled, particularly through HIV or AIDS. Before my noble friend tells me that the Bill is not concerned with the rights of those with HIV but with the disabled, I hasten to remind him that HIV leads to AIDS. In the past, in order to try to identify at an early stage anyone who might be at risk of becoming an AIDS case, the industry would almost certainly have discriminated against them by demanding tests. That, of course, is no longer so. As I mentioned at an earlier stage in the Committee proceedings, the British Association of Insurers has now adopted a voluntary code under which that is not done.

I do not wish the Committee to misunderstand the issue. The amendment is limited, it does not seek to ask insurers to insure the uninsurable or to force them to take on uneconomic business. There are, however, circumstances where people with other disabilities need insurance and where a blanket exemption for the insurance industry would be unreasonable discrimination. To give the Committee a concrete example, in the past some insurers have simply refused travel insurance to people disabled with HIV. That could be understood if it were a concern about healthcare costs involved in a person becoming ill with HIV while he or she was away. But surely, most people have themselves, or know someone who has, lost a suitcase at an airport. Why should someone who has an incurable illness or a disability not be able to obtain travel insurance that excludes the conditions due to and specifically related to the illness for something such as the loss of his or her luggage?

With short-term travel insurance, even against healthcare costs, a disabled person might well find themselves to be insurable although at a higher premium than that set for other people. Premiums should be set according to objective criteria on a purely actuarial basis. I believe that the insurance industry has every

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right to assess the risk that it is undertaking and to determine which specific exclusion related to a precondition it would wish to impose on someone taking out a policy.

However, the clause worries me because I fear that it gives a blanket exemption. After what my noble friend said on the previous amendment, I hope that when he brings back an amendment on that matter he will also take this point into consideration. I beg to move.

Lord Rix: I need to begin by declaring a non-pecuniary interest, in that I am chairman of MENCAP City Insurance Services. It is a company which we established precisely because people with learning disabilities and their families were finding it so difficult to get a fair deal in the existing insurance market. The creation of the company has, I think, acted as something of a goad to the insurance market elephant, making it a little more responsive to the disabled part of the market.

My contacts in the insurance industry before and since the setting up of MENCAP City Insurance have given me the realisation that in some instances discrimination is based not on actuarial tables or painful commercial experience, but on what I can only describe as prejudice and ignorance. It really is quite extraordinary how usually well-informed people can blunder into ill-informed decisions—though I suppose that I should not be totally surprised when immigration rules of certain world powers have apparently been based on the assumption that Down's syndrome is a contagious disease!

The amendments tabled by the noble Baroness is inoffensively broad. It meets the Minister's point that actuarial evidence is not the only sort of reasonably objective evidence. Discrimination would, under the amendment, not be unfair where it can be justified, but would be unfair where it cannot be justified. I find it very hard to see any objections to that approach, and accordingly I support the amendment.

Lord Swinfen: I shall be very brief. As it is getting late, I shall not produce examples. I very strongly support the amendment moved by my noble friend.

Lord Addington: Very briefly, I associate myself with the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen. I hope that a measure as reasonable as this is not needed in the Bill; but if it is, I wholeheartedly support it.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh: On the subject of services and insurance, we are aware that risk is involved; that discrimination—premium setting—marks the quality of the insurer and of the underwriter. It is painfully clear that, like or not, Father Time, age and disease do not discriminate: we shall be, or are, struck by both inevitabilities.

Many disabled people, and those over the age of 75, are subject to discrimination should they wish to travel a long distance—let us say, from England to Scotland—by train, boat or air and, when they reach their destination, wish to hire a car. Although the Association of British Insurers has warned its members of the implications of the Disability Discrimination Bill, it

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simply cannot direct its members to adopt a common approach towards the disabled, or to those over the age of 75, who drive a car.

In mentioning cars, I beg the Committee to digest the following information from the Association of British Insurers, which I received this morning. It may be of interest to the Committee that there is a 30 per cent. chance of claim in any one year in relation to drivers aged between 17 and 24 years of age, but an 18 per cent. chance of a claim in any one year in relation to those over the age of 70. It is also of interest to note that inquiries have been made and it is understood that,

    "market practice is that where an individual aged 74 or over seeks to hire a car the hirer will request clearance from the insurer".

That presumes that the person arrives during working hours, not at a weekend. Otherwise, how can a person who is over 75 be insured when hiring a car?

Whether it be on business or holiday, a disabled person is subject to discrimination when hiring a car: It may be felt reasonable by the car hire company to impose a substantial increase of premium payment or—to use a verb coined in the Committee stage on Tuesday—it may "perceive" the risk to be unacceptable.

The distance between London and Edinburgh is 378 miles. Many people travel there and to other parts of Scotland by train. Imagine how much more exhausting it is for those over the age of 75 and for those who are disabled but can drive. But Her Majesty's Government's attitude toward the rail network in the United Kingdom has put the rail services—and so the British Government—top of the pack as discriminators.

The franchising director for the rail services has had the subsidy for ScotRail reduced sufficiently to force the motor-rail services to Scotland to stop. At present, were the Government to return just £7 million of the deducted subsidy, the franchising director could include Motorail in the privatised sale package, market it more fully, make a profit margin and make disabled drivers happier.

Perhaps we should remember that the blind cannot discriminate about the colour of our skin and the deaf cannot decipher our race from our tongue. The only discrimination shown by the disabled is appreciation of the degree of help received. Let us not discriminate against that.

11.15 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy: The noble Lord, Lord Clifford, has gone rather wider than the amendment, which my noble friend Lady Gardner so concisely told us was limited in scope. I understand what she is aiming for. But I hope that my noble friend, in replying from the Front Bench, can dismiss any impression that the regulations will include blanket exclusions. Clearly, some people are worried about that.

I hope also that, when my noble friend replies, he will confirm my understanding that it is the intention that before regulations are drafted there will be consultation by the Government with the disabled organisations concerned and with the Association of British Insurers. This is a field in which the technical details need to be worked out in full with the Government by the disabled

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organisations and the insurers. One hopes that then regulations of the right kind will emerge after the Bill has been enacted.

This is a case—I mentioned it on Tuesday—where those concerned, including the disabled organisations, hope that too much will not be put into the Bill in the next two months which would prejudge all the consultations and work that they feel will have to go into the vitally important regulations which will come later.

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