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Lord Addington: My Lords, we have reached the point in the Bill where everything has been said but not everybody has said it. So I shall try to be as brief as possible in adding to the discussion. First, I would like to thank the Minister for acknowledging the role of the whole of Parliament and all the people around this House in getting where we are today.

I have always felt that disability legislation is a little like a snowball; it needs the odd push but as it gets bigger and we go through the process changes will come. The first steps are always the most difficult in any journey. It is said here that every time we have taken the matter on a little further we have been able to do more. Also I believe that Whitehall and the Government have learnt that there are no limitations to the matter. The read-across for any form of legislation which deals with a basic human/civil right will affect everything else.

The most welcome part of the Bill must be Clauses 2 and 3. There we take a step on from the welcome—as it was—1995 Act. People will now be proactive. The first step forward is that we will not have to put things right in the courts. I congratulate the Minister on being the one to bring this major concept to the Floor of House. We can all gather behind the provision. However, if we are now promoting good relations I cannot help but feel that the role would be easier if we cut across society and made sure that we had access to the whole of it. We should stop looking at departmentalising disability legislation and deal with the whole of society.

As a member of the committee that looked at the draft Bill, the eyes of the noble Lord, Lord Carter, glazed over at certain points. He said, "Well, you don't
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realise that it goes to all other parts of society when people are bringing forward legislation". Most of the people dealing with that Bill did because we knew about it from different experiences. Moving slightly away from naming every single disability group and trying to bring things together as one section is a step forward.

As the noble Lord, Lord Rix, was speaking, it occurred to me that many of the things he was saying applied also to many other groups. Autism is a group that did not get its head above the parapet in many of the discussions on the Bill. I am not absolutely sure why it did not, but we can put that right. Many considerations in autism are common to the other groupings here—for instance, problems with communication. When such issues are brought into consideration, one realises why people get worried about getting definitions right.

To jump around the Bill, I believe that Clause 17, dealing with the difficulty in communication, will plug an important gap. It is very easy for an articulate person with a disability to present himself, especially under the new climate, and being able to communicate and to make people aware of problems surrounding his rights. In this House we tend to see people who, either by ability or by luck, have managed to deal with their disability or at least to cope with it in a certain way which allows them to push themselves forwards. Most people, especially those on the edge, are able to play a full part in society with a little help and not be excluded. That is where your Lordships must focus your attention. We must allow people to pop over that edge and the help provided in this Bill will enable them to do that. It will tie them in with the rest of the Government's legislation. The reason the Government give assistance in other areas is to enable people to play a full part in society. That helps with, for instance, tax and revenue to enable them to do other things. If we draw all that together this legislation starts to make much more sense. However, there are problems within the Bill. We must draw attention to the provisions which do not allow those people to go a little further.

To go back to Clause 3, I would ask the Government to make sure that schools are covered in the Bill. Many of the major steps on disability taken in this House have been in relation to schools. Good qualifications will make it easier for the disabled to work. We should make sure that schools are tied into Clause 3. If the noble Baroness can give us an assurance and tell us how it will be done, either now or at some time in the future, she will see me quite happily throwing away the amendments that are undoubtedly being prepared. To do that will be a major step.

I turn to the rights of tenants. On the draft Bill committee we were told that the 1927 Landlord and Tenant Act covered the issue, but everybody said that it did not. We have not moved any further. If you are a tenant you should have the right to make some reasonable adjustments. There might be the caveat that one must make good, say, the decorative quality of the building after one has finished with it. Perhaps we can explore that line of compromise. But, we must
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include a provision that removes the barrier. We must be allowed to do that within the framework of a reasonable provision.

Transport has been covered by many noble Lords. As my noble friend said, there is a balancing act between the whole of society and those who are disabled and I believe that the Government are taking steps in the right direction. However, I remember the long discussions we had on 2020 as opposed to 2017 for compliance. We asked the Government: "Is there any reason why you cannot do it?". We were told that, for example, it was inconvenient, it cost a bit more or you have to bring forward schedules of work.

I believe that one of the reasons why 2020 may well have been put to the Government as an acceptable date was because the 2005 enactment date requires 15 years for refurbishment. That is probably the reason for it. We could speed it up by those three years. There is the physical capacity within the rail industry. There will be opportunity costs, but that is the sort of question we must look at long and hard in the course of the Bill. Where do we draw the line?

However, having done that I believe that compliance certificates give a more realistic way of enforcing what is expected of the rail industry. It is a good idea. This should be dealt with in a non-criminal way with fines being imposed. That is probably a sensible way forward on agreed matters.

The Bill, as it stands, is a good thing. It could be a lot better if we just go—it is not even a mile, it is a few inches—a little further and make sure that we are more ahead of the game or at least keeping up with current thinking. If we do, other things will come from it. The central air quality commission will have an easier job. Other legislation will not have to take account of many of the things to do with disability; we will stop having to include disability issues, as we have done, in housing Bills and so on; and we will be able to carry on and take the provision as read.

The one ambition that I have ever really had is that the disability lobby can say that it is no longer campaigning. We are monitoring the Government's existing legislation to see whether it will be comprehensive enough to say that that is where we have got to. We can take a step towards that and we can go further, but I am afraid that we are not there yet.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, whenever one looks at the list of those who have put down their names to speak in debates on Second Reading in your Lordships' House, it is interesting to contemplate to what extent the message has gone out, "Round up the usual suspects". Certainly as far as concerns today's speakers, the usual suspects have all turned up—with the exception, alas, of the noble Lord, Lord Morris, whom we certainly miss from our debate today. In fact, the list is rather more than that; it is almost a roll of honour of those who are not simply expert in the field but who have given up large parts of their lives to fight the cause of the disabled. Therefore, it is with very considerable diffidence that one comes to the Dispatch Box today to wind up this particular debate.
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It is a good thing that the debate is starting in the House of Lords after our experience on the Pensions Bill, which arrived from the Commons in a hopelessly under-debated state. If we can send it back to the Commons when we have examined it in considerable detail, that will be a good thing. I want to say a word about timing. It is almost exactly a year ago that the question first arose of why it was a draft Bill, rather than a Bill, that was proposed specifically for approval by your Lordships' House in the first instance.

I was concerned to notice that Mr Peter Hain said in another place:

That was a disgraceful statement. Nothing could be further from the truth. Only four days later, the noble Baroness paid tribute to how we were co-operating in getting the Bill through. It is important to put that firmly on the record.

Having said that, when I spoke a year or so ago when the noble Baroness the Leader of the House proposed a Joint Committee to consider the Bill, I expressed concern that that would delay it unnecessarily—or delay it, at any rate. That has turned out to be the case, but, having said that, I entirely withdraw what I said about the utility of our having considered it because, under the noble Lord, Lord Carter, the proposals have undergone considerable detailed scrutiny and we are in a much better position to deal with the Bill in Grand Committee, I understand, and later stages than we would otherwise have been.

In effect, the noble Lord's committee has provided us with an agenda and enabled us to focus—a terrible "in" word—on the key issues for consideration. There are about 75 recommendations from the Joint Committee; the Government have rejected or, at any rate, expressed doubts about some 28 of them. So we can now balance the arguments, some of which are finely balanced, between the views expressed by the Government and the Select Committee.

At this point, I ask one question. On the recommendations with which the Government agreed, will the Government be tabling amendments or will it be left to Members of the Committee and the Opposition? It would be helpful to know how we will handle that aspect of the matter.

One reason why I said a year ago that there was no reason why we should not go ahead was that the matter had, even then, been discussed for about seven years, including by the Disability Rights Task Force, and so on. A great many aspects of the matter had been cleared in advance. There are obviously further points that we will need to consider, but the other essential reason why I thought that we could proceed with speed is that there is always a balance to be hit on such issues between the problem of those who are suffering from discrimination because of disability and, on the other side, the cost that may be imposed on private industry, and so on. It is fascinating that virtually the only representation received other than support for the Bill from the Confederation of British Industry, has concerned how one should define disability by clinical
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examination and so on. Generally speaking, there is now agreement that we can proceed, having balanced those two aspects.

I turn to particular amendments. Some are comparatively easy to deal with, such as the extent to which one can consolidate the legislation—it is certainly spread all over the place at present—and to what extent we should change the title of the Bill, and so on. Has the Scottish Parliament now confirmed that it is content that the Bill should cover Scotland as well as England and Wales?

As I said, a great many of the list of recommendations and the Government's response to them are agreed all round, including by us. I do not think that there are any on which the Government and the committee have agreed where we especially want to disagree. That is perhaps important in proceeding with the legislation as quickly as possible.

As for the specific proposals, there has been extensive debate and particular attention has focused on the issue of transport and all the problems that that involves, not least the time limit for railways, where substantial costs are obviously involved in carrying out any necessary modifications. The question of whether it is 2020 or 2017 is no doubt something that we can examine in Committee. There are other issues. The noble Lords, Lord Oakeshott, Lord Rix and Lord Ashley, all dealt with transport problems. An interesting point was made about audiovisual equipment on trains, which I take to mean Underground trains, which are rather good in that respect, as well as surface trains. The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, raised the problem of airlines, which is not considered in detail at present. There are the problems with transport staff, buses and so on. We will need to consider all of those in considerable detail.

The other main area in which there is a lot of concern is how we should treat various health conditions. In particular, having extended the proposals to HIV, MS and cancer, the extent to which one should take steps at least to give the government power to exclude certain forms of cancer is a matter on which there is disagreement between the Government and the Joint Committee. We will need to consider the whole matter of progressive illnesses and particular problems concerning depression. The noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, who has considerable expertise in the field, expressed concern on those issues and the difficult question of whether it should be a two-year period or the fact that a depression lasts for six months in a two-year period. Again, we will have to consider whether amendments are necessary to address those particular problems. So there is a whole range of health issues.

In a sense, the housing issues are simpler. The noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, and, in particular, the noble Lord, Lord Rix, expressed concern about the common parts of the accommodation that might be modified and the housing issue more generally. The noble Lord, Lord Rix, also dealt with the crucial issue of what he described as hate crime and the question of to what extent the Government can promote better relations proactively rather than passively between the disabled community and others.
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Those are all very important issues, but I stress once again that I hope that we can make rapid progress on all of them. An interesting point is that, apart from the question of transport, where considerable cost may be involved, the regulatory impact assessment suggests that the cost involved is really quite trivial. It must be seen against the background of the number of people affected. The figure given normally is 10 million adults and, strangely, 0.7 million children—although I am not sure what is the basis for that figure. That is important and we need to consider it in some detail.

All these measures build on the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, which, as my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale pointed out, was put forward by Mr William Hague when he was in the Department of Social Security. It is very important that we do all that we can to proceed on these matters as rapidly as possible—subject, of course, to noble Lords' careful consideration of the issues, particularly where there is disagreement between the Committee and the Government. I am sure that those points can be resolved. If we can do it quickly, it will be greatly to the advantage not only of disabled people but of the whole community.

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