|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I, too, rise to support the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, first, because he has made a powerful case and, secondly, because those who have to read the legalese are left in great confusion about what does and what does not apply to Scotland. As the noble Earl said, people need to have an acute knowledge of the small print of the schedules before the matter makes any sense. His points on Clauses 14 and 15 were well made, and would make explicit what does and what does not apply in Scotland.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, for the considerate way in which he spoke to his amendments. I remember that he exercised a self-denying audience one early morning, for which all noble Lords were duly grateful. He certainly deserves as full a response to his amendments as I can give. My noble friend wrote to him about Amendment No. 38, following the Committee stage.
The phrase "as the case may be" is in the Disability Discrimination Act, which is why it has been replicated in the Bill. I understand the point made by the noble Earl that things could be made a little clearer by referring specifically to Scotland. We have been guided by the Disability Discrimination Act, and there is a general presumption in statutory construction that Acts passed by the United Kingdom Parliament are intended to extend to the whole of the UK, unless there is an express or implied provision that part of the UK is to be excluded. Clearly, Scotland is not intended to be excluded from this legislation, which is why the phrase appears in the Bill in that way. I respect the support of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for the amendment. He may be suggesting that the phrase is perhaps a little less felicitous than it might be.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, indeed it did, but we have followed the phraseology of the Disability Discrimination Act in this Bill because it relates to the main principles behind that Act, in so far as it refers to education.
Remedies in cases of alleged discrimination on grounds of disability should be available in the Court of Session in Scotland and in the High Court in England and Wales. The amendment is intended to remove a supposed ambiguity in the reference to the "High Court" on the grounds that such a court also
Turning to Amendments Nos. 40 and 42, the Bill already confers power on the Disability Rights Commission to produce either Great Britain-wide codes, separate codes for England and Wales and for Scotland, or Great Britain-wide codes with separate chapters for Scotland. Disability discrimination legislation in education is new, so we need flexibility to ensure that we can pursue the option that will give the most sensible and effective result. However, as I explained in Committee, our present intention is to have two Great Britain wide codes, with one covering schools duties and the other covering post-16 duties.
I do not think that there is a fundamental difference between us. We both want codes that are relevant and which can easily be understood by users. However, there is a difference as to the best starting point to enable us to achieve this. A separate Scottish code would not be substantively different in legal terms from an England and Wales code. Therefore, we think that the best way to ensure the necessary coherence is to begin with codes for Great Britain. I know that the Minister for Disabled People has recently met with the lobby group, Children in Scotland, and others to discuss that point and that they were reassured about our intentions. I understand that Children in Scotland was particularly attracted to the possibility of having Scottish chapters in a Great Britain code.
The noble Earl also asked about the preparation of these codes. The DRC is a Great Britain-wide body with a commissioner appointed specifically to represent Scottish interests. We have asked the DRC to consider how to ensure that the codes are made relevant to users in different educational systems. That might include the language used and the choice of examples. Experts in Scotland will certainly be on the drafting groups for both codes. My experience of Scottish contributions to any deliberations is that they are never sold short in their presentation of the needs of that country. There will be a Great Britain-wide consultation on the draft codes.
We do not rule out the possibility that the DRC might produce separate codes for Scotland, or that Great Britain codes might include separate chapters for Scotland. The need for that will emerge as part of the drafting process. We want to retain the flexibility that exists in the Bill to allow us to consider the most sensible option.
Turning to Amendment No. 44, I fully understand its intention. The noble Earl was extremely articulate in Committee about the necessity for it, and I responded to his representations at the time. Of course, we considered his further representations very carefully, but we do not accept that the amendment is necessary. The extent of the various provisions in the Bill is entirely clear. On the basis of my explanation, I hope that the noble Earl will withdraw his amendment.
I received the answers that I expected, and I am sure that the Minister is technically correct. It is true that the term "Court of Session" is well known. It is not only pre-devolution, but pre-Union. I am weakly reassured about the Scottish element in the codes of practice. I fully take the point that the duties will be the same, but they need to be expressed in a Scottish context. Again, I am weakly reassured that there will be Scots in the drafting groups. These codes of practice will eventually come before us for approval, so we shall have the opportunity to say what we think about the handiwork of the DRC.
With regard to Amendment No. 44, I conclude by saying that the struggle for clarity in reserved powers legislation must go on. The Minister is undoubtedly technically correct but not clear. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, government Ministers and noble Lords will know that I have some reservations about this clause. I was not involved in the detailed discussions on the Disability Discrimination Act nor the detailed discussions on this particular part of the Bill. Nevertheless, I remain concerned.
The clause allows for owners of buildings which are let for educational purposes to be compelled to make alterations to their buildings, even in situations where they disagree and, for one reason or another, do not want to make those alterations. Many defences are available but they are somewhat obscure as they are spelt out in legislation.
Lord Renton: My Lords, this Bill consists mainly of legislation by reference to previous legislation. It is an amending Bill on a large scale. I agree with the comments made by my noble friend Lady Blatch. However, I make an impassioned plea to the Government that when this Bill has reached the statute book, efforts will be made as soon as possible to consolidate all this important legislation.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page