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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, they were lying on cushions.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I should say to the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, that for the first three years I had to work in the Foreign Office, where I worked personally with Mr Ernest Bevin, for whom I had a great admiration. Certainly I do not think that I was expected by him to lie on anything. I got to know him extremely well in the job that I was doing.
I spent 12 years in sedentary appointments arranged by the Foreign Officemostly in Londonand then I had to leave. My surgeons would not permit me to go to distant and insalubrious places.
In the distant pastand after a world warthe Armed Forces were able to find appropriate jobs for disabled people. I accept that it may be difficult now. The Army is much smaller and most soldiers have to be able to perform front-line duties. This has been confirmed by Field Marshals and others whom I have consulted.
Disabled soldiers may be a liability to their comrades beside them, certainly in World War II situations of the kind that I took part inthat is to say, major offensives, usually those of Field Marshal
I turn now to the RAF and the Navy, in which there are one or two areas where it is possible for someone who is disabled to do a jobfor example, to fly an aeroplane. Of course, usually in such cases they will have trained and obtained experience before they became disabled. A very good example, of course, is Douglas Bader, whom I knew quite well. He set an extremely good example to others, but, of course, he had earned his wings and learnt to fly before he became disabled.
I would encourage the placing of disabled people in suitable jobswhich I understand may be limitedin the Army. It is not possible for every soldier to be transferable to a front-line combat unit, and we should concentrate on those areas in the Army where someone who is not able bodied can do an office or other job.
I have spoken about the Armed Forces because they are an important exemption at present in the DDA. This is an area with which I am familiar. Very careful consideration would have to be given along the lines that I have outlined before the Armed Forces could be removed from the Act and no longer exempted. I look forward to hearing what the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, has to say about the Government's intentions. In general I support the noble Lord, Lord Ashley.
Lord Addington: My Lords, talking about the DDA brings back memories. When we discussed it in this Chamber, I felt that we were taking the first step towards giving people real rights. It was a rather faltering step; it took a great deal of pushing to get it going. It faltered because the rights that it introduced were given out in a rather piecemeal way. They had to be fought for; we stumbled left and right; we left things out; we did not bound into the field.
The noble Lord, Lord Ashley, said, quite justifiably, that this Government have probably the best record on disability of any government. That is true. It is also true that the government before them were also the best in their turn, and probably the government before that. There has been a great deal of progress in the field of disability discrimination because of the pressure that has been applied for many years. We have become more educated.
The last time I spoke to the noble Baroness in her position on the Front Bench, I pointed out the number of areas in which I had spoken about disability. Her department is not the only one which is favoured by my dulcet tones. The noble Baroness's department has to carry the can for many of these issues, but disability affects everything. As has been mentioned, transport is one of the glaring omissions from the original Bill.
Rights have been introduced in a piecemeal way. Regulations have been brought in so slowly that people have forgotten about them and are now panicking. We started with the National Disability Council; then we went to the Disability Rights
Perhaps I may do something I rarely do and quote from a document I have received from the commission. It states:
Basically, we are in a mess. Even if cannot have a new Bill, we could certainly have a consolidation Bill. That would be a challenge both for the draftsmen and for joined-up government within Whitehall. Education meets transport meets works and pensions. Those departments could come together and talk.
The Bill itself was a good initial step but it was a product of its time. Time is now moving very fast. The Government did not really want to bring the Bill forward; they were frightened of its consequences. There were scare stories everywhereindeed, there still arethat it would cost millions, billions, for the alterations to various buildings; business would not be able to handle it. This meant, of course, that business had such a time-scale that it has not handled it. A little bit of pain up front is often worth it in the long run.
We have to get a coherent over-view. There are many ways of piggy-backing on other legislation. Indeed, many people consider that bringing all forms of discrimination together may be a way forward. But some people will say, "Possibly we have the same goal but we have different aims and objectives and a different client base". That is a valid argument, certainly at this time. But we have to try to bring these things together. The confusion and diversity of approach in terms of solutions holds back any consistent progress.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell, cited the example of the Armed Forces. Again, in this area we must attempt to move with the times. A great many disabled people have served in the Armed Forces at times of national emergency. Over a long period dyslexic people have served quite happily in a variety of roles. That, for instance, would be covered. I apologise for referring again to dyslexia. I merely cite it as an example of how definitions will change over time. In a more technological ageduring which time there has been a conviction that war can be fought like a game of "Space Invaders"it may be possible for various branches of Her Majesty's Armed Forces to find an ongoing, continuous role.
Certain other exemptionsfor example, the police force, the Fire Service and other emergency servicesshould be treated in the same way. If we have a better definition of "reasonable adjustment", or something along those lines, that will make sure that we do not have absurd exemptions, as happens at present. If we
We should remove some of the onus on individuals to bring cases and prove them in case law. We should try to move ahead. The noble Lord's suggestion is timely. Much can be done in this area. The first point is to attempt to bring the current legislation together into a coherent whole.
Lord Higgins: My Lords, perhaps I may begin by making a point about the title of the department. For a Government who regard inclusivity as a major priority, it is rather strange that when the former departments of social security and employment were amalgamated the Government did not simply opt to call it the "Department of Social Security and Employment" rather than the Department for Work and Pensions. Clearly, the expression "work and pensions" excludes quite a number of interests. It excludes, for example, both the disabledmany of whom, alas, are not in work despite all our effortsand pensioners. The change that arose in the title is strange.
We are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, for raising this issue. It is in many ways an extension of the debate that took place in July, initiated by my noble friend Lord Campbell. In replying to that debate, the Minister was still under the impression that the matters that we discussed earlier today would be dealt with in a welfare Bill rather than by regulations. As the two debates are linked, perhaps I may ask the Minister which provisions mentioned in the Queen's Speech are contained in the welfare Bill. Given the priority that the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, would like the Government to give to these matters concerning the disabled, if a welfare Bill is still to be presented to Parliament, is there now something of a cap for these matters to be covered?
In her final remarks, the noble Baroness said that the proposals made in the orders that we discussed earlier could be taken up by people when they were ready. She used the words "right and ready" or some such expression. My understanding is that people will not have that opportunity. They will not go for an interview or take up a job when they are ready; they will go when the department asks them to go.
The noble Lord, Lord Addington, suggested that the existing legislation on this subject might be included in a consolidation Bill. I am not quite clear what that would achieve. I know full well, having tried in another place to make a speech on a consolidation Bill that it is the most difficult thing in the world.
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