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Lord Morris of Manchester: Although I am strongly convinced that we must return to this issue, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment at this stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 not moved.]

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 25:

Page 10, line 22, at end insert ("so long as his total continuous term of office does not exceed 10 years").

The noble Baroness said: I shall be brief. Amendments Nos. 25 and 27 are in my name, and Amendment No. 26 is in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ashley; however, they all meet the same point. We seek to introduce into the Bill limited terms of office both for commissioners and for the chairman and deputy chairman. The amendments are self-evident regarding the time limits for the appointments. However, I wish to point out that I have included the word "continuous" in Amendment No. 25 in order that a person could be re-appointed at some later date but could not serve a continuous appointment for longer than 10 years. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Gardner of Parkes): I must inform the Committee that if Amendment No. 26 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 27.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Amendment No. 25 from the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, seeks to put a 10-year limit on the amount of time a commissioner may serve. Amendment No. 26 tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Ashley, Lord Addington and Lord Swinfen, and the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, seeks to ensure that the chair and deputy chair of the commission serve for specified periods. Amendment No. 27 from the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has a similar effect.

The guidance from the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments indicates that we should allow flexibility so that appointments can be made for between

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two and five years and Schedule 1 to the Bill replicates that. The guidance recognises that re-appointments are also acceptable. It stipulates that, overall, and taking account of one re-appointment, posts should normally be held for no longer than between six and 10 years. Given the terms of the guidance, it is inconceivable that a commissioner will ever serve longer than 10 years.

Regarding chairs and deputy chairs, noble Lords will, I am sure, understand that to appoint a chairman and deputy chairman rigidly for a minimum of four years--or indeed a fixed term of five years--is inflexible and may not necessarily prove to be in the best interests of the commission and its key stakeholders. I am sure that noble Lords will recognise the wisdom of avoiding a situation in which several, if not most, of the commissioners, including the chair and deputy chair, are required to stand down during the same year, for no reason other than that the Secretary of State was required by this amendment to appoint them for a similar fixed term. Furthermore, noble Lords will sympathise with the personal circumstances of potential commissioners who are simply not in a position to accept re-appointment lasting for a minimum of four years, and who may be forced therefore to decline the offer of appointment or re-appointment. Generally, it will be our intention to make these appointments for more than two years in the first instance.

For those reasons, I ask the noble Lords and the noble Baroness to withdraw these amendments.

Baroness Blatch: I shall read the Minister's remarks. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 26 to 29 not moved.]

Baroness Gould of Potternewton moved Amendment No. 30:

Page 12, leave out line 28 and insert ("publish it within six weeks").

The noble Baroness said: I, too, wish to lend my support to Amendments Nos. 30 and 31.

I tabled this amendment in order to receive clarification that the annual report would be publicly available. The report is important for three reasons. It will provide ways in which the public and people with disabilities will be able to judge how effectively the commission is working, how it is carrying out its functions and responsibilities. A study of the proceedings of the Disability Rights Commission will provide an indicator as to the effectiveness of the Disability Discrimination Act, its strengths and weaknesses. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, an understanding of the work of the commission will help voluntary organisations to be more effective in their own work of campaigning, raising awareness etc. Information such as the details of the number of cases, the type of issues and what kind of action was undertaken by the commission will enable organisations which represent people with disabilities to see where particular difficulties arise. A voluntary organisation might then, for instance, choose to direct

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awareness-raising campaigns towards training for a particular group--employers, cinema managers, social security or council officers etc.

To satisfy any of those points, publication of the report will need to be prompt and not be delayed for any reasons. I am not certain that the present wording ensures that. It may be that it is mandatory on the Secretary of State to publish the report. If that is the case, it should be clearly expressed.

I specified a period of six weeks in the amendment. It is a rather arbitrary limit. I should be happy if the period were much shorter.

I wish to say a brief word on Amendment No. 31 on accessible formats. The commission must clearly comply with the Act and publish the report in accessible formats for people with disabilities. Further, it should be in plain English and simple language so that it is easily communicable to all people with disabilities. I beg to move.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: I support this group of amendments. In relation to Amendment No. 31 on accessible formats perhaps I may put in a little plug for a brownie point for the White Paper which contained the proposals for establishing the commission. MENCAP said that it was a model of good practice from the point of view of clarity for people with learning disabilities. Therefore, it is only logical that the report should be equally so.

Lord Rix: Amendments Nos. 31 and 32 stand in my name. I shall be brief as the time available is very short. It is a sine qua non that the report needs to be published in a formula accessible to people with sensory impairments or learning disability. I cannot believe that the Government would rule against Amendment No. 31.

Turning to Amendment No. 32, the constitution of the commission should be subject to review so that improvements could be made--possibly the guaranteed insertion of people with physical disabilities, sensory disabilities, learning disabilities and mental health problems.

Earl Russell: I support Amendment No. 30. All governments have published controversial reports on the day before the Summer Recess!

Lord Swinfen: I wish to ask a rather impish question. Some time ago the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said that the report would be presented to the Welsh Assembly. Will it be in Welsh?

Baroness Blackstone: Starting with Amendment No. 30, on speed of publication, I assure my noble friend Lady Gould that publication of the annual report will occur as soon as is practicable after all the necessary administrative procedures have been dealt with. Indeed, I believe it is common practice for the reports to be published on the day that they are laid before Parliament. To provide a statutory timescale in legislation would, I believe, unnecessarily constrain matters. I hope that my noble friend will agree not to press her amendment.

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I turn now to Amendment No. 31. It must be right that the Disability Rights Commission should produce its annual report in a range of formats that will make it accessible to a wide range of disabled people--not just on demand, but in anticipation of a clear need. To that extent, I welcome the intention behind the amendment. Noble Lords will appreciate that experience and time will inform what that need is. Indeed, I hope and expect that the commission will adopt this principle when it issues other documentation intended for use by disabled people.

I turn now to Amendment No. 32. As a non-departmental public body, the commission will be subject to a review every five years, during which it will have to show that it provides the best framework for carrying out the functions with which it is charged. The review may consider both the powers and the constitution of the body. In addition, the Department for Education and Employment has a policy of subjecting every new non-departmental public body to a financial management survey 18 months after establishment. The commission will also have to produce and lay before Parliament an annual report. Noble Lords need be in no doubt that the commission will be under close scrutiny from many quarters to ensure that it is meeting its obligations. We do not believe that an additional review of the constitution of the commission will add anything to the quality of its service. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, the DRC report will need to comply with the requirements of the Welsh Language Act.

8 p.m.

Baroness Gould of Potternewton: In light of the Minister's reply and the assurance that there will be early publication of the report, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 31 and 32 not moved.]

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Formal investigations and non- discrimination notices]:

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