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Viscount Goschen: Well, my Lords, I believe that that is grabbing at straws. Indeed, it is about as far from the original Question as I can imagine. One might put at the top of such a list your Lordships' House, perhaps, as something we are not seeking to privatise. However, we are open to suggestions from the party opposite. The serious point is that the privatisations which the Labour Party has opposed over and again have turned out to be successes over and again. I am sure that that will continue.

Disability Discrimination Bill

3.10 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.—(Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

Lord Carter: My Lords, before the House begins to consider the amendments on Third Reading, perhaps I may draw the attention of your Lordships to yet another case of late tabling of amendments by the Government. Last Friday the Government tabled 13 pages of highly technical amendments covering such subjects as occupational pensions, the lease of premises, industrial tribunals and benefits.

The Bill started its passage in the other place many months ago. We have all stages up to Third Reading in this House. We had the Report stage in this Chamber on July 20th and the Government tabled the amendments exactly three months afterwards on October 20th. So they had three months to consider, consult and draft all the amendments. They are extremely technical amendments and effectively we were given only one day to get the advice that we certainly need when they are so technical. The Minister sent the amendments out by post on Friday and his office kindly faxed them to me on Friday evening because I happen to have a fax machine at home. They certainly did not improve my weekend.

It really will not do on such an important Bill, given the limited resources of the Opposition and of the Back Benches. We all tabled our substantive amendments by the middle of last week. It happens time and again. It is not fair to the House or to the Opposition. It prevents this Chamber from performing its job of properly considering and revising legislation. It makes for bad, ill-considered legislation, which is something that we have certainly become used to from this Government and especially from the Department of Social Security.

On Question, Bill read a third time.

Clause 1 [Meaning of "disability" and "disabled person"]:

Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 2, line 6, at end insert ("; and
(c) the interpretation of section (Definition of discrimination) of this Act.").

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, I see that the Minister does not intend to answer the point that I made. However, in moving Amendment No. 1 I should point out that it is a paving amendment for Amendment No. 53. It deals with organisations providing training, accommodation or other services specifically for disabled people which then find that they are discriminated against; for example, organisations which are not able to buy or rent property from which to operate.

As we understand it, under the Bill as it presently stands such organisations will not be able to challenge such discrimination because, as organisations, they are obviously not disabled persons as covered by the legislation. Therefore, the amendment would allow any person—the term includes organisations—to challenge discrimination when it takes place because they are providing training, accommodation or services to disabled people.

We all know from our own experience that organisations which provide services or accommodation for disabled people frequently find great difficulty in renting or buying property because the owner does not want disabled people to use the premises. We were sent by RADAR the example of the Surrey Heartlands which is a charity providing services to people with learning difficulties or mental health problems. The letter reads as follows:

    "During the course of the last year we have in two instances found the ideal place for training worksites, both within industrial estates...In both cases negotiations progressed smoothly up to the point where we were ready to finalise the leasing arrangements. At this point in both cases we were turned down, and it was inferred that the type of people who would occupy the premises would not be acceptable to the rest of the neighbourhood. We have of course encountered similar problems when looking for residential care".

I am sure that your Lordships will agree that that has a very damaging impact because it makes it extremely hard for organisations to meet the needs of their disabled clients. We feel that the Bill will be seriously flawed if such activities are allowed to continue unchecked. Although the majority of problems arise with the procurement of premises, difficulties may also arise with other services; for example, where a charity is refused a block booking for a holiday because its clients are disabled.

As I said, organisations which provide services, training and accommodation for disabled people experience discrimination as organisations. Indeed, landlords will not allow them to rent premises if they are to be used by people with learning difficulties or mental health problems. We all know of many such examples over the years affecting a wide range of organisations as regards property for the mentally handicapped or the mentally ill, holidays for disabled people or the provision of services.

We appreciate that disabled people are the receivers of that discrimination, but their organisations are discriminated against just as much. The amendments attempt to put that right. It is a very straightforward matter and we feel that it is a weakness in the Bill. We urge the Government to accept the amendments; indeed, they can always redraft them when the Bill returns to

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another place if the wording is not entirely correct. But I believe that it is most important for the point to be recognised on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I do not know whether the Government feel that the amendment is necessary. I hope that they will be able to explain other ways for dealing with the point. I should like to reiterate that it is a very definite matter which needs to be looked into. We know that disabled people will be able under the Bill to take action, as indeed will those supporting them.

However, most of us know of cases where places that have been assigned for disabled people to live in or be trained in have then been objected to by people in the neighbourhood. I speak particularly about mentally disabled people and also some other categories of disabled people who are thought not to make a district as acceptable as it was before. I hope that there will be a way to improve such situations where preparations have been made and everything is ready for something to be opened but then objections are received and the proposition falls through. I trust that the Government will be able to tell us what can be done in those circumstances.

Lord Addington: My Lords, the amendment effectively deals with secondary discrimination; that is, discrimination against someone through an organisation. Whether discrimination is of a primary or secondary nature—that is, to your face or behind your back—it still has the same effect. It restricts your activities. That is what the amendment is about. Surely the Government should have such a provision, or something very like it, on the face of the Bill. If you merely restrict where someone can go and do something, you are still restricting what they do. Moreover, it is not on any reasonable grounds—indeed, we have the grounds of reasonableness in the Bill—it is just allowing prejudice to stop people occupying a site for accommodation. Surely that is against the whole thrust of the Bill.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, I should like to put a simple proposition to the House; namely, for noble Lords to assume that the Bill provided that it was perfectly legal to kick over wheelchairs, to kick white sticks or, indeed, to kick the dogs of the blind. If the legislation did so provide, there would naturally be public outrage. But in point of fact the Bill as it stands does permit the most savage discrimination against the people and the organisations helping the disabled. That is why the amendment has been tabled.

The people and organisations helping disabled people are just as important as the wheelchairs, the white sticks and the dogs; in fact, far more so. That is why we propose that the amendment should ensure that the people and organisations be given the same kind of protection from discrimination as is provided for disabled people. We all know from personal experience about the absolutely horrific discrimination against some organisations and people helping the disabled. That is why we want the amendment to be passed.

I should also like to point out that the Bill as it stands is grossly inadequate. I refer to the way in which people suffer discrimination. I see that the Minister is nodding

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his head. There is no doubt that all the organisations which represent and assist disabled people suffer discrimination. Let them try to help mentally disabled people; let them try to help people with cerebral palsy and bring them in and give them accommodation or jobs. Then you find that the great British public revert to the old cliché, "Not in my backyard". Discrimination is widespread against the organisations trying to help disabled people. That is why we want the amendment passed.

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