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Lord Carter: I shall be extremely brief. These are helpful amendments. When the Minister replies perhaps he could tell the Committee how the department proposes to ensure that the organisations which represent disabled people are truly representative and whether they are organisations of disabled people or organisations for disabled people. I can see the Minister holding his head. He is aware of the problems that that will raise, but I know that he is aware of the important distinction. Therefore, it would be helpful if he could say just a few words, first, about how the Government intend to ensure that they understand the distinction between organisations of and organisations for disabled people and, secondly, about how the Government propose to ensure that they are appropriate organisations.
Baroness Seear: At a previous stage I mentioned that when consultation is to take place with employers' representatives and representatives of disabled persons, it is regrettable that no reference is made to trade unions, or at least organisations of employees, because disabled people will be working alongside other workers. It is a common experience that some workers can find that difficult. They need to have the position explained to them.
I recall many years ago the issues that arose when a person with epilepsy was introduced into a typing pool without the other typists knowing that that person had epilepsy. If that person had suddenly had a fit it would not have had a good effect on relationships in the section or on the future of the person with epilepsy. If people with disabilities are to be happily employed inside organisations, it is important that fellow workers should understand the position and should be willingwhen they do know they normally areto accept such a person. They should understand that they are likely to do a good job but they may have special problems. It is a pity that that has been overlooked.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I shall deal with each amendment in turn. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, that I understand the difference between organisations of and organisations for, and probably organisations which are both of and for, disabled people. We appreciate the wide range of bodies that there are in this field. Some overarching bodies exist to bring them together, otherwise consultation might be impossibly lengthy.
On Amendment No. 107, as the Bill is currently framed the NDC would be empowered to consult any persons it considered appropriate before giving advice to the Secretary of State. It would be free to consult appropriate organisations representative of employers and disabled persons, but might also wish to consult a wide range of other people, organisations and service providers, depending on the area under consideration. I hope that that answers the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I did say representatives of employers. As I said, depending upon the area of consideration, the organisations could easily include representatives of employees. A trade union is obviously one such organisation which represents employees. If that encourages and helps the noble Baroness, I am happy to say it.
The NDC is required to consult bodies set up by statute or by Ministers for the purpose of giving advice on disability. Representatives of business and disabled people already sit on those advisory bodies. Moreover, the NDC itself will include members from business as well as disabled people.
We do not think it right to place in legislation further reminders to consult specific types of organisation. The NDC's membership will be appointed with a view to gaining the respect and confidence of all sectors of society. Therefore we envisage that it will see the good sense of consulting organisations whose members are likely to be affected by its recommendations. But we must leave the NDC to decide whom it is appropriate to consult before giving advice to the Secretary of State on particular issues. I am sure that the Secretary of State will take an interest in whom the NDC has consulted and it would be open to him to consult more widely before coming to any decision if he considered that to be appropriate.
On Amendment No. 112, the legislation as currently framed allows the Secretary of State to consult whoever he considers appropriate before making appointments to the NDC. The intention is that both appropriate organisations representative of business and representatives of disabled people would be consulted along with others with an interest in the work of the NDC. It would be wrong to put some types of organisation on the face of the Bill, as proposed by Amendment No. 112, while leaving others out.
The effect of Amendment No. 119 would be to require the Secretary of State to specify at least one person to be consulted by the NDC whenever he asked it to prepare a code of practice. That would not always be appropriate. The legislation as currently framed allows for the proper amount of flexibility.
Amendment No. 120 seeks to specify that appropriate organisations representative of employers and disabled people should be included among those the NDC considers consulting when preparing codes of practice. However, it would be inappropriate to make such a provision. As I have already said, there will be a number of other bodies with an interest in the work of the NDC and it would not be sensible to specify two groups on the face of the Bill and leave others out. In any case, the Bill as currently framed allows the NDC to consult whoever it wishes.
I am sure that the NDC will be careful to consult organisations representing those with a direct interest in the matters under consideration when preparing proposals of codes of practice. But I would also remind my noble friend and other Members of the Committee that there are further safeguards which require draft codes of practice to be published before they are put to the Secretary of State. Those will ensure that everyone with an interest has an opportunity to make representations to the council and, I suppose, to the Secretary of State.
We believe that the provisions in this Bill for consultation prior to the appointment of members or the giving of advice, and on the preparation of codes of practice, are sufficient to ensure that the views of all those with an interest are taken into account. I hope that, given my assurances and my explanation on the record, my noble friend will consider withdrawing the amendment.
Baroness O'Cathain: I am grateful to my noble friend for giving that reassurance and for the fact that it will be on the record. But will he enlighten me on one point? He said that membership of the NDC will include representatives of business in relation to the provision of access. Will there be something in the remit of those appointed to the NDC which will make them responsible for consulting widely the people whom they might represent? I cannot get my mind around whether a member of the NDC will be someone who happens to be a good business person (man or woman) or an articulate member of a disabled lobby who might just give his or her own views rather than consult. In that case the rest of business would not be consulted. Does my noble friend see the point I am making? I should like to know what he thinks about it?
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: That is always a problem. If one wishes to consult a body, one writes a letter to the secretary and receives a letter back from the secretary. One may well be left puzzling whether the secretary is writing on his own behalf or whether he has decided that that is what everyone thinks. It is a general problem, but I do not believe that it happens often. I suspect that people are always careful about ensuring that their organisation is involved if it is being consulted.
The people on the NDC will be drawn from the background I mentioned. On employers, I hope that they will do a great deal more than just represent employers' interests. I hope that they will be of such a calibre that they will realise that they must try to listen to what all employers are saying before they give the views. I hope that they will take a wider interest in the NDC's business. Even if it does not directly involve employers, I hope that they will still be prepared to give their expertise, help and advice. That is it.
On appointing people to the council, we shall of course be consulting about that, but all the people appointed, whether they are from disabled groups, employers or wherever else, will be appointed in their individual capacity. It would not be in the interests of the NDC's best working if all the members felt that they were only there to bat for whatever or whoever they represented. Some Members of the Committee, like me, may have served on bodies where that view was sometimes held by a member. It did not serve the body well when the member took such a narrow view of his responsibilities. I hope that that helps my noble friend.
I come back to the point: will they be charged with not necessarily giving their own personal opinion, but when issues arise which have wide implications charged to consult on behalf of those particular groups?
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