Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, I had perhaps expected the reaction the noble Baroness has given to the order. It is no secret that the party opposite is unhappy with CCT extension. It has made that clear when we have brought forward orders. I do not agree with the noble Baroness that fragmentation of local authority services will take place in the way she described. One has only to look at the benefits that have occurred over the past 15 years. In my opening remarks I mentioned the figure of some £400 million. But there are not only financial benefits. I believe that an improvement in service quality and efficiency has been brought about by the better management and the clearer strategic focus.

The noble Baroness was concerned about the lack of provision of core services. My answer to that is that the percentage which is subject to the competition requirement in the extension programme that I am

27 Jun 1995 : Column 685

announcing today is designed particularly to allow local authorities to retain that client capability and corporate responsibility that she feels would be lacking. The percentages are relatively low in order that the local authority can retain those core services.

The noble Baroness said that the costs of local authorities will be increased at a time when they are stretched by the local government settlement. We have to look very carefully at the estimated reduction of about 7 per cent. of costs overall and indicate that that is purely to the benefit of council tax payers who receive that in a lower council tax and also a better quality service and better efficiency.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there can be hidden increased costs? If the majority of people providing services, such as school meal services or cleaning services, fall below the poverty line as a result of the process, they then become eligible for other benefits. There are many examples of people's wages and conditions of service being driven to a far worse point as a result of compulsory competitive tendering. For the record, it is also the case that from these Benches we oppose the compulsory nature of competitive tendering when Whitehall imposes a uniform rule across the country without knowledge of or regard to local circumstances.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, perhaps I may add to my noble friend's point. The Minister made much of 7 per cent. savings. I think he will find that virtually all the savings so far found from CCT have come from the low-paid jobs of catering and cleaning and have disproportionately disadvantaged very poor women. That is where the savings have come from—by pressing women down to and below benefit level.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, that may be the noble Baroness's view of how savings have been achieved. I was going on to deal with housing benefit, about which the noble Baroness was particularly concerned, and to quote, for instance, the London Borough of Bromley, where housing benefit claims dealt with correctly, first time, have gone up from 67 per cent. to 95 per cent. That service was contracted out. It was contracted out voluntarily, before the competitive nature of the process was brought about.

I understand that compulsion is what noble Lords opposite are unhappy about. There is a recognition of the improvement in the quality of the service delivered by those local authorities that have undertaken competitive tendering. A considerable number of local authorities have undertaken a lot of competitive tendering with a lot of jobs; IT in particular. Therefore, compulsion on some of these extensions will not affect a great number of local authorities as they are probably undertaking, if not the percentage then very nearly the percentage at the moment.

The noble Baroness was concerned about the confidentiality of housing benefit claims. We have a list of items in the order. Although that is one of them, the percentage is indeed smaller. That would allow any local authority to contract out under compulsory tender sufficient other work, but it would not need to if it did

27 Jun 1995 : Column 686

not want to. So there is no compulsion. They are not compelled to subject housing benefit to compulsory competitive tender. Some authorities have already done so. They do not seem to feel that the mechanistic side of the delivery of housing benefit is in any way compromised by what the noble Baroness is concerned about. It is for that benefit that there is no compulsion. The percentage has been set that delivers no compulsion on that side.

I believe that decisions on these matters in the order tonight have entailed careful judgments which balance the need to bring competition to bear on white collar services with the operational flexibility that individual authorities rightly seek. The noble Baronesses have indicated that they do not agree with some of the answers which have been arrived at in the consultation. That is inevitable. There is perhaps a point of principle between us. I hope that all recognise that we have given each decision very careful consideration.

My department intend to monitor closely the implementation of white collar CCT and will undertake to reconsider aspects of the regime if there is hard evidence of problems in applying the new rules.

We have met many of the concerns of local authorities in putting together a challenging but, I believe, a fair regime. The CCT will not impose a rigid model for service delivery, but instead encourage innovation, improved quality and greater value for money. The onus is now on local authorities to respond positively to the challenge of competition. I commend this order to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.30 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.2 to 8.30 p.m.]

Disability Discrimination Bill

House again in Committee.

Clause 28 [Victimisation]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 129:

Page 21, line 18, leave out ("his disability") and insert ("or a person who has had a disability, the disability in question").

The noble Lord said: We have already debated this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 28, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendment No. 130 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Clauses 29 to 32 agreed to.

Clause 33 [Appointment by Secretary of State of advisers]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 131:

Page 23, line 19, at end insert ("and persons who have had a disability").

27 Jun 1995 : Column 687

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Airedale): I must advise the Committee that if Amendment No. 132 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 133.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 132:

Page 23, leave out lines 28 to 30 and insert:
("(6) The Secretary of State may by order—
(a) provide for section 17 of, and Schedule 2 to, the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944 (national advisory council and district advisory committees) to cease to have effect—
(i) so far as concerns the national advisory council; or
(ii) so far as concerns district advisory committees; or
(b) repeal that section and Schedule.").

The noble Lord said: Clause 33 provides a power for the Secretary of State to appoint people to advise and assist him on matters concerning the employment and self-employment of disabled people. This amendment is being introduced to clarify the wording of subsection (6) which concerns the power to end the current arrangements for national and local advisory bodies.

We believe it important to ensure that the legislation under which the advisory bodies of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State operate provides sufficient flexibility for them to be adapted as circumstances require. The clause provides for this by giving him the option of retaining the existing arrangements for so long as he considers them to be appropriate or of bringing them to an end, either in part or in full. He would then have the power to appoint people to advise him either nationally or in relation to particular localities on employment issues.

At present my right honourable friend receives advice and assistance on employment issues affecting disabled people from NACEPD and from the 60 committees for the employment of people with disabilities (CEPDs). These bodies are established under Section 17 of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944 and are referred to in that section respectively as a "national advisory council" and "district advisory committees".

Although both types of body are appointed under the 1944 Act, they have different functions: NACEPD advises on national employment and training issues relating to people with disabilities, while the CEPDs advise on local employment issues, including matters referred to them in relation to the registration and quota provisions of the 1944 Act. In practice, CEPDs work with the Employment Service locally to promote the employment of disabled people. The two types of body are independent of each other. Subsection (6) was accordingly intended to enable the provisions concerning NACEPD and CEPDs to be repealed either separately or together as appropriate. Our legal advice, however, is that the current wording of subsection (6) does not make this option sufficiently clear.

The amendment before your Lordships is, therefore, intended to remove any doubt that may exist that the duty to have NACEPD and the duty to have CEPDs can be ended separately or both together. It does this by

27 Jun 1995 : Column 688

expressly providing the Secretary of State with a power to provide by order for either the repeal of the whole of Section 17 and Schedule 2 to the 1944 Act or separately for the part affecting NACEPD or CEPDs to cease to have effect. The amendment is an improvement over the original wording as it provides clarity on what can be done. For those reasons, I commend the amendment to the Committee. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page