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Baroness Hanham: Could the Minister answer a hypothetical question? The reason for postponing the revaluation is the Sir Michael Lyons interim report, and Sir Michael Lyons has now been charged with coming to other decisions. We know, and it is clear, that there are other reviews relating to local government. So if this House is to be denied the opportunity to scrutinise the Secretary of State's view about the date of a revaluation, under what legislation or opportunities is this House likely to have to discuss the conclusions that Sir Michael Lyons reaches, the new systems that will be likely to be set up, or the decisions to continue a current system, which would end with the possibility of a revaluation? Ultimately, the decision to decide the date of a revaluation may not actually matter much; what will matter will be the
 
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discussions on the decisions that lead up to that decision. I very much hope that the House will not be excluded from those discussions on the basis that anything that mentions revaluation is suddenly aligned and assigned to the other place alone.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market: I do not know whether I am having a dense moment, but I am finding this difficult to understand. It seems that we are in a position where a decision was made that we would have revaluation, and a decision has subsequently been made that we will not have revaluation. Not revaluing would have profound financial and economic effects, just as much as revaluing would have done. We seem to have a procedure where we are involved in the decision not to revalue but debarred from being involved in the decision to revalue. I find it difficult to understand why. I understand the procedures, but in practical terms, I find it difficult to understand why one is regarded as okay and part of the process and the other is regarded as finance and just untouchable. I would be grateful if the Minister could help me out.

Lord Hanningfield: We are talking about the future of local government in a way. This is not just a taxation matter. I do not accept the constitutional arguments when we are talking about the future of local government. It is all tied up together. That is our strongest objection to the whole Bill and the Government must accept that.

Baroness Andrews: I will try to reassure noble Lords opposite. The general point was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, that there needs to be an opportunity for this House to debate anything that comes forward and follows from any of the current debates—they are generally not reviews. As I said in the House, David Miliband is not conducting a review. Debate is ongoing but there is no formal committee or anything that I would consider to be a review.

Baroness Hanham: But consultation is taking place and what I call the Miliband review on the future of local government.

Baroness Andrews: Large numbers of people are engaged in a debate throughout local government at the moment, not least the Local Government Association.

Baroness Hanham: In addition to the Sir Michael Lyons review.

Baroness Andrews: Yes, it is running parallel.

Lord Hanningfield: I had a letter from David Miliband yesterday asking me to be part of the discussions about the future structure of local government.

Baroness Andrews: Absolutely. We have said that we will bring together our discussions on a wide-ranging set of issues about local government and its future in the form of a White Paper. As I said, we have not taken any decisions about structures. That White Paper will
 
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obviously be open to debate in this House as will anything that flows from that. If primary legislation is required, this House will be fully engaged. How could this House be excluded from the debate about anything that comes from the Lyons report involving restructuring? It has an important role to play, not least with the experience around this Table. Many noble Lords would seek the opportunity to make sure that the House was fully engaged in that process.

However, this amendment is an attempt to apply the affirmative regulatory procedure to a very narrow part of the taxation-raising powers, albeit local taxation. For all the reasons that I have given, that is contrary to our constitutional position—the relationship and functions of the two Houses—and that has been confirmed by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. To that extent it does not forbid or bar any discussions on where we go with future
 
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structures, but it puts us in an anomalous position if this House seeks to extend its powers in relation to this narrow area of debate.

Lord Hanningfield: I thank the Minister for that reply. As we have already said, we feel strongly about this part of the Bill. When the revaluation does take place it will be a fundamental part, not just of a taxation measure in relation to the other House, but of a review on the future of local government. We will look in some detail at what the Minister has said but I am certain that we will return to this matter on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 7 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment.

Written Statements

Tuesday 7 February 2006


 
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Disability Discrimination Act

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Anne McGuire) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today submitting to Parliament, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the draft revised Guidance on matters to be taken into account when determining questions relating to the definition of disability (hereafter referred to as the guidance).

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA), as amended, prohibits discrimination against disabled people in a range of circumstances, including in employment and occupation, education, transport, and the provision of goods, facilities and services. Only those people who are defined as disabled in accordance with Section 1 of the Act, and associated schedules and regulations, are entitled to the protection that the Act provides. Under Section 3 of the Act, the Secretary of State has the power to issue guidance on matters to be taken into account in determining whether a person is a disabled person for the purposes of the Act.

The guidance does not impose any legal obligations of itself, nor is it an authoritative statement of the law. However, Section 3(3) of the Act requires that an adjudicating body (such as a court or tribunal) which is determining whether a person is a disabled person for the purposes of the Act, must take into account any aspect of the guidance which appears to it to be relevant.

The original guidance was published in 1996 (when the Act first came into force), and has not been amended since. As a result of various legislative changes since 1996, including the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 (which provides automatic coverage for people with HIV, cancer and MS from the point of diagnosis, and removes the requirement for a mental illness to be "clinically well-recognised"), the guidance now needs to be updated. It also needs to take account of developments in case law to reflect key court and tribunal cases, which have helped to improve understanding of how the definition works in practice. Finally, it needs to take account of commitments that the Government gave during the passage of the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 through Parliament that they would consider how the guidance might be revised in order to make clear how people with a mental impairment can be covered by the Act.

With these aims in mind, the guidance has been redrafted. The revised text was subject to a consultation exercise, aimed at the primary users of the guidance, but also including organisations representing disabled
 
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people, business and employee interests, and the legal and medical professions. The consultation document was also made available to the public through the Stationery Office and via the Internet. The consultation took place between 5 September and 31 October 2005 and we have carefully considered the comments received. As a consequence, a number of amendments have been made to the draft to clarify the guidance and the illustrative examples that it contains. An evaluation report on the consultation exercise has been produced and I have arranged for copies to be placed in the Library of each House.

In accordance with Section 3(6) of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, I am today laying a copy of the draft revised guidance before each House. Subject to parliamentary approval, the Secretary of State aims to bring this revised guidance into force on 20 April 2006.


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