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Baroness Seear: My Lords, we on these Benches also wish to express our horror at the murder which took place on Saturday. We send our very sincere sympathies to Mr. Rabin's family, to the Government and Parliament of Israel and to Jewish people throughout the world for whom Israel and its future are matters of cardinal importance.

Mr. Rabin was here some months ago and he addressed us in the Moses Room. Those of us who had the opportunity to be there were, I believe, enormously impressed by the courage, determination and skill of that very great statesman. To those who were listening to him—to me most certainly—it came over very strongly that he must have been aware of the dangers that he encountered. Of course, he was a soldier and a leading statesman and never let those factors deter him in any way.

I join very much with those who say that the best tribute to him would be the continuation and successful conclusion of the peace process. It has got so far but it is far from concluded. Let us hope and pray that it will be possible for that process to be taken forward swiftly while the horror of what has happened is still with the people of Israel and before any other events intervene in the progress towards peace.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I knew Yitzhak Rabin and I admired him enormously. Certainly, within the Jewish community here he was a figure who had assumed an enormously important role. He will be greatly missed. It is a terrible tragedy borne of dark and irrational forces with a vested interest in fuelling hatred and seeking to take advantage of legitimate anxieties which afflict both sides in this lasting, long-enduring tragedy. But it also provides a strong moral for democratic leaders opposing a government's policy in a democracy. They should distance themselves from that hate and refuse to collude in its dire consequences. I fear

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that that has been the story in Israel, with the burning of effigies of the leaders and the pouring of odium and hate on their heads.

Yitzhak Rabin was a man of extraordinary frankness, and indeed bluntness, which could displease a lot of people quite often. But he spoke as he felt. The one thing that he felt so deeply about was the security of Israel and the promotion of peace with the Palestinians and her Arab neighbours.

I remember vividly meeting him just after his election victory in the summer of 1992. He was not in the least triumphalist and neither was he daunted by the immense challenges that he knew that he faced. He was dedicated to the task that he knew was his. Along with Shimon Peres, that task was to bring the opportunity of a peaceful solution to the problems of Israel and her neighbours. As a general he had seen too much blood of young people spilt. He hated that. He played a pivotal role, along with his colleagues—and, it has to be said too, with Yassir Arafat—in stimulating the peace process. He enjoyed a huge confidence in Israel in his strong leadership and in his vision, even though there was also massive criticism—for no one can dispute the divisions that exist in Israel and among the Palestinians about the peace process. One can only hope that Shimon Peres is likely to become the next Prime Minister and that he and Yassir Arafat can translate the vision of that great statesman, Yitzhak Rabin, into a lasting reality.

Lord Weatherill: My Lords, in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, who, I believe, would have been the right person to express the feelings of the Cross Benches today, I would like to be associated, on behalf of the Cross Benches, with the tributes which have been paid.

The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, outrage and sorrow about this assassination are deeply felt by Christian churches throughout the world. It was because Yitzhak Rabin was such a tough, battle-hardened warrior, as the Leader of the House has already said, that he was so effective in leading his people towards reconciliation. He pursued peace as boldly and courageously as he had fought in war.

The killing of this brave leader was a violation of the sacred commandment against murder which is at the centre of the Judaeo-Christian religion. It is a reminder of how demonic religion can become when it is perverted by hatred and fundamentalism. In the name of the God of justice and love, I express my abhorrence of this crime, my heartfelt sympathy for the people of Israel in their grief and my profound hope that the momentum towards lasting peace will continue as Yitzhak Rabin would have wished.

Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill

3.20 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

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Moved, That if a Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill is brought from the House of Commons in the next Session of Parliament the Standing Orders of the House applicable to the Bill, so far as complied with in this Session, shall be deemed to have been complied with in the next Session.—(Viscount Goschen.)

On Question, Motion agreed to; and it was ordered that a message be sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.

Loch Leven and Lochaber Water Power Order Confirmation Bill

Read a third time, and passed.

Disability Discrimination Bill

3.21 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons reason and amendments be now considered.

Moved, That the Commons reason and amendments be now considered.—(Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

[The page and line refer to Bill (54) as first printed by the Lords.]


Clause 12, page 9, leave out lines 26 to 28 and insert—

("( ) For the purposes of this Part, references to a service provider who discriminates against a disabled person shall include references to a service provider who—
(a) treats a person who has a physical or mental impairment that does not have a substantial and long term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day to day activities, as having a substantial and long term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day to day activities;
(b) treats a person who does not have a physical or mental impairment as having a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day to day activities.") 30A The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason—
Because the definition of discrimination in Part III of the Bill should not be widened to include treatment of a person who is not disabled or whose condition does not have a substantial effect.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 30, to which the Commons have disagreed for the reason numbered 30A.

The amendment seeks to extend the coverage of Part III to people who are not covered by the definition of disability in the Bill, either because they do not have a disability or have only a mild disability, but who are "treated" by service providers as if they were disabled.

The Commons have now considered this amendment and have disagreed with it,

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    "Because the definition of discrimination in Part III of the Bill should not be widened to include treatment of a person who is not disabled or whose condition does not have a substantial effect".

I urge your Lordships to agree with the Commons.

Over the past year, we have consistently emphasised that the Bill is concerned with discrimination against people who are or have been disabled. It will not provide protection for all those who may be discriminated against. The definition the Bill uses is therefore a clear one: it covers people who are disabled in common sense terms.

Any attempt to widen its scope to include those who are merely thought to be disabled would dramatically reduce the Bill's effectiveness. I am convinced that service providers will respond positively to the legislation, but we will have to carry them with us. Vagueness and uncertainty will not do. They must be clear about what their obligations are, who has rights and who can take them to court. What they would fail to understand, and in many cases refuse to accept, is a Disability Discrimination Bill which sought to protect people who were not and never had been disabled. The success of the legislation rests on its credibility and public acceptance of it. This amendment would raise enormous questions of principle which might fatally undermine that acceptance.

And what about the burden on service providers, upon whom the successful implementation of Part III depends? We must remember that discrimination against disabled people is not like discrimination on the grounds of race or sex. It introduces the concept of reasonable adjustment—taking practical steps to make jobs or services accessible. Covering non-disabled people and those with minor conditions would result in an unacceptable degree of uncertainty on the part of the service provider. He would never know for certain whether a customer was someone for whom some form of adjustment was necessary; for example, a change to a policy or practice which made access unreasonably difficult. This would create a considerable burden for a small business trying to come to terms with its duties under the Act.

I do recognise that there may be concerns over people whose impairments have only a minor effect on their normal day-to-day activities. But it is hardly likely that service providers will treat people with an impairment which has substantial effects fairly but discriminate against those with a milder form of disability without substantial effects. That is not the way in which commercial enterprises operate. When they overhaul an existing policy or practice, they seek to create a consistent new approach which minimises needless distinctions and rules. The Government have pointed out frequently that the Bill will prompt people to reconsider their attitudes. Their duties to disabled people will produce new non-discriminatory business practices from which everybody stands to benefit. However, this change of attitude depends crucially on public acceptance of the basic purpose of the Bill—to deal with the genuine discrimination and disadvantage suffered by people with substantial disability.

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Furthermore, let us be sure about the degree of disability covered by the Bill's definitions. "Substantial" disability does not mean severe disability. The word "substantial" is used in the definition to indicate an effect which is more than minor. As a result, I believe that many disabled people, who may think the Bill does not cover them, will find that they enjoy its protection. This will become clearer once we have published guidance on the definitions.

Perhaps I may turn for a moment to some of the consequences of the way in which the amendment has been drafted. First, the amendment removed the subsection which makes victimisation unlawful under Part III. I feel sure that that must have been an error on the Opposition's part. The prohibition of victimisation against those who have, for example, given evidence in court in support of a disabled person who had been discriminated against is an important element in the Bill and corresponds to a similar provision in race and sex legislation. In fact, one could argue that the provision is all the more necessary in disability discrimination legislation because the victims will often be amongst the most vulnerable in society.

That is not the only serious drafting problem. The amendment also has the effect of creating a new definition of the word "discrimination" which applies to non-disabled people. This means that the vital elements in the existing definition do not apply in this context; for example, there is no requirement that the treatment must be "less favourable". It could mean that a service provider who merely offered to help an apparently disabled customer could be committing an unlawful act. In other words, it might operate to outlaw favourable treatment.

Perhaps more importantly, the provisions allow no scope for justification. If the service provider treats a non-disabled person in the way described in the amendment, he has discriminated and—in legal terms—he is strictly liable. There is no scope for him to say there was a perfectly justifiable misunderstanding, for example, or that the treatment would have been fully justified and therefore lawful if the person had been disabled. That is not a protection: it is a ludicrously unreasonable burden which it has never been suggested should apply even in the case of people who are genuinely disabled. Those effects may not have been intended, but they mean the amendment is fundamentally flawed. They are further reasons why we cannot afford to allow the amendment to remain on the face of the Bill.

The amendment is misconceived in intention and would be damaging in effect. I urge the House not to insist on it.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 30 to which the Commons have disagreed for the reason numbered 30A.—(Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

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