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Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. He mentioned the question of the amount under the scheme being reviewed in the next public spending round. My honourable friend Danny Alexander, whose constituency's name I will not attempt to repeat at this time of night as it would detain us, mentioned a fair point in the Commons. As the public spending round was now being put off for review from 2007 to 2008, that is effectively a year's wait for people. He did not get a proper answer. Now that one has had a few days to consider it, will the Minister undertake to raise with the Chancellor of the Exchequer the fact that those who suffer under the FAS should not have to wait an extra year for it to be reviewed, just because the public spending review has been put off?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: No, my Lords, I do not think I can do that. It is quite clear that the review of the required sum for the FAS will have to be set alongside other government priorities. It must therefore fall to be dealt with within the next spending round review.
 
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I say again that this discussion will have a rather better foundation when we actually know the likely numbers involved. We will not know that for a certain amount of time. As I said, as soon as I can, I will of course make available to noble Lords as much information as I can.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, I am sorry to come back again. However, just now I asked about the department's advertising of the scheme, to which the Minister did not respond.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, my understanding is that information is available on the web. However, I will double-check to make sure that it is. To be fair to everyone likely to be involved, we clearly have a responsibility for making sure that publicity is available. I will check what manner of publicity is available, but we will be seeking to make information available to all who may be eligible.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Financial Assistance Scheme (Appeals) Regulations 2005

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 26 October be approved. [7th Report from the Joint Committee and 13th Report from the Merits Committee].—(Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Disability Discrimination (Private Clubs etc.) Regulations 2005

7.52 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 19 October be approved. [6th Report from the Joint Committee and 13th Report from the Merits Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in my view these draft regulations are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. They will ensure that private members clubs with 25 or more members are under essentially the same duties of reasonable adjustment which are imposed under Part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act on providers of goods, services and facilities to the general public. That is what we proposed in our consultation document published during the passage of the Disability Discrimination Bill, on which we received a small but positive response in agreement. Many private clubs which provide services to the public, such as rooms for hire, will of course already be well acquainted with these duties. I stress that private clubs will only be asked to do what is reasonable in all the circumstances. That means that disability discrimination legislation will provide a familiar and consistent regime of law for disabled people, whether in relation to providers of
 
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goods, services and facilities to the general public or private members clubs providing benefits, facilities and services to their members, associates and guests.

The duties are anticipatory, so private clubs must consider the likely needs of any actual or future disabled members, associates and guests in advance of a person facing difficulties, and make arrangements to meet them where this is reasonable and in all the circumstances. Clubs must be prepared to make changes to their policies, practices, procedures and physical features of the premises they occupy. They must also be prepared to provide auxiliary aids or services to help disabled people access their benefits, facilities or services.

In all these cases, they must do these things where not to do so would make it unreasonably difficult or impossible for a disabled person who is a member, associate or guest to make use of the benefits, services or facilities provided by the club for its non-disabled members, associates or guests—the threshold of "unreasonably difficult" or "impossible to use" being the same as that which currently applies to service providers under Part 3 of the DDA. The duties also extend to prospective members and guests within the scope of the non-discrimination duties provided for in the Act. Any breach of the duties is enforceable only by a disabled person who is adversely affected. Clubs also have broadly the same limited range of justifications for not making reasonable adjustments, as do providers of goods and services to the general public.

The duty to make reasonable adjustments is intended to apply from 4 December 2006. The Disability Rights Commission is in the process of producing a revised code of practice on Part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act, which will include practical advice and guidance to clubs on how to apply these duties. The consultation period on the code has just ended, and the commission will shortly be submitting a revised code to us for approval and for laying before Parliament.

However, in extending these principles to private members clubs, we have had to bear in mind the special relationship that such clubs have with their members, associates and guests. There are, therefore, some differences of detail to deal with the particular circumstances of clubs. For example, where a private club—perhaps one which comprises a local interest group—meets in a private house belonging to one of the club's members or associates, additional considerations apply to ensure that the member or associate concerned would be under no obligation to agree to making changes to his or her home.

The regulations also set out certain circumstances where there are exceptions to the duty not to treat a disabled person less favourably than a non-disabled person for a reason which relates to the disabled person's disability. These circumstances are similar to those which apply in relation to providers of goods, services and facilities to the general public. It is intended that these provisions will apply from 5 December 2005.
 
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We have consulted on the policy behind these regulations. We have framed them to provide a consistent legislative framework across providers of goods, facilities and services, and we have taken account of the special relationship that clubs have with their members. I think that we have reached a fair balance between the rights of disabled people to participate fully in all society has to offer, and the rights of people to associate in private. I commend these draft regulations to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 19 October be approved [6th Report from the Joint Committee and 13th Report from the Merits Committee].—(Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.)

Lord Addington: My Lords, as we are all busy giving way to each other at a rate of knots, I will just say that I basically welcome these regulations. I remember that when we did the pre-legislative scrutiny on the Bill a representative of the London clubs came to see us. The whole committee was thrown into shocked surprise when he basically said "Yes, we can do this. There isn't a problem. We will be able to come into line with what else is going on here". There was a sense of anticlimax, a few of us having expected a stonewalling rearguard action.

The regulations basically say that private clubs, which have quite an important place in our society, must ensure that they are consistent with provision for the disabled population in other parts of their lives. The regulations are totally in keeping with the most recent legislation, which filled in all the gaps around the initial legislation. It may not have gone far enough. Perhaps we will need a single equality Act. But as far as the regulations go, in the current framework, I can find no real objection to them.

Lord Carter: My Lords, the regulations are extremely welcome. The Joint Committee looked hard at the issue and welcomed the new function in the draft Bill. We examined it in depth. We had the evidence from the London clubs, which surprised us all because they were in favour. This adds to the whole armoury of things that the 1995 and 2005 Acts and the rest are doing to help disabled people. It is wholly welcome.


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