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I do not intend to tax anyone's patience but perhaps I may say one or two things very quickly. First, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Hastings. It was my bad luck to be out of the Chamber for two minutes when he referred to something that I had said. I am very sorry about that. Secondly, I should like to thank everyone for taking part in a very well informed, very wide-ranging, sometimes provocative and fascinating debate, which will not be reported in the newspapers at all. That is a great pity, because many of the things that have been said are of great public importance.

I should like to say to the self-appointed “Peer in the street”—although I say to myself, which street, and which street in which city?—the noble Lord, Lord Patten, and to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford that I am as opposed to totalitarianism, whether it is secular or religious or in the guise of secularism or religion, as they are. I wonder whether the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford meant exactly what he said when he seemed to imply that there was no moral justification for interfering with cannibalism or human sacrifice. I would say that, these days, we certainly want to tackle abuses and not have, in the name of diversity or anything of that kind, a hands-off approach.

As a liberal I believe above all in the existence of human fallibility. I keep on my wall—carved on a Welsh slate, because the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, brought it to my attention—my creed. My creed is:

I am not sure that everyone in the human rights movement or in churches adopts that creed but that is my definition, and I think John Stuart Mill’s definition, of the spirit of liberty that animates, in my judgment, the Human Rights Act.

As for a British Bill of Rights, I end simply by saying that a philosopher whose work I do not normally respect, Wittgenstein, ended a vast tome with these words: of those things of which one cannot be certain, one must needs be silent. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Disabled Persons (Independent Living) Bill [HL]

4.17 pm

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

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[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Viscount Simon) in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [General principles]:

Baroness Darcy de Knayth moved Amendment No. 1:

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 1, I shall be speaking also to Amendments Nos. 2, 11 and 12. These amendments have been developed by the Princess Royal Trust for Carers in conjunction with the Disability Rights Commission. Their aim is to clarify the principles that should underpin the delivery under the Bill of support to families and children affected by disability. In strengthening and clarifying the rights of disabled people to independent living, the Bill will have a direct and hugely positive impact on the one in four families in the United Kingdom that include disabled members, and more particularly on the 175,000 children and young people who are relied on by disabled family members for care that would normally be expected of trained adults.

We know from the 2001 census that, in that year, 18,000 children aged between five and 15 provided 20 hours of care or more a week, which is nearly three hours a day, and that a further 9,000 children provided at least 50 hours a week—that is more than seven hours a day—of whom 800 were under seven years of age. I find that terrifying. The main reason why children and young people find themselves taking on these support responsibilities is that their disabled parents do not get the assessments and help from local authorities to which they are entitled.

Amendment No. 1 establishes the principle that, in exercising their duties under the Bill, the responsible bodies—local authorities, health services and their partners—should ensure that independent living support is delivered in such a way that no disabled person has to rely on care or support provided by a child or young person, such as may impair the child or young person’s educational opportunities, health or well-being.

Amendment No. 2 amends the definition of “accessible information” given in the Bill so that it is clear that it includes information that is suitable for children—whether disabled children or children with disabled siblings or parents. Young carers will, of course, have rights to information and advice under Clause 12 of the Bill.

Amendment No. 11 tackles the need for improved joint working and more effective co-ordination between children and adults services to support families affected by disability. It is inspired by the work of the Princess Royal Trust for Carers, the Disabled Parents Network and the Children’s Society in developing an exemplar protocol for children and adults services. A few local authorities already have a protocol that sets out the roles of children and adults services in ensuring that families affected by disability

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receive appropriate support rather than having to rely on the inappropriate caring role of a child. The amendment specifies that measures towards this must be included in the local independent living strategies. This complements other measures in the Bill that support families.

Amendment No. 12 specifies that registers of disabled persons should include the details of any carers whom a person may have to enable better forward planning and to facilitate identification of carers who may have support needs.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, will be able to accept the amendments in the group and thus enhance the delivery of support to families and friends affected by disability. I beg to move.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: I realise that it is not the Government’s position to respond formally to these amendments, but I thought that it might be useful to the noble Baroness to know what the Government’s view is. I have, as noble Lords know, been privileged to speak for the Government on two previous occasions in responding to the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Ashley—a wonderful and extraordinary campaigner, who has done so much to improve the lives of people with disabilities. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to two noble Lords who are not in their places today; I am sure that they would wish to be here but they cannot be because of ill health—the noble Lord, Lord Rix, and my noble friend Lady Wilkins. We wish them well.

I hope that I have made clear to your Lordships just how committed the Government are in supporting independent living for disabled people. I well understand and appreciate why the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, has suggested the changes in the amendments to protect children and young people from unnecessary levels of responsibility in caring for disabled parents and other family members. The Princess Royal Trust for Carers does a fantastic job. We thank it, especially for its work with children and young people.

As noble Lords may be aware, my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the New Deal for Carers on 21 February. A key component of that new deal will be a review of the Government's strategy on carers. This is a pan-government strategy and I will ensure that the point at issue about the well-being of children who care for sick or disabled people is drawn to the attention of those charged with the review of the strategy.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: We have just heard two excellent speeches, which began the debate with great understanding and which I commend very warmly. I am glad to say that I accept the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth. One of the greatest scandals of our social care system is that children can be robbed of their childhood by the failure of statutory services to provide the necessary services. These amendments deal with that issue, so I am happy to accept them.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: I thank the noble Lord for accepting the amendments and I thank the Minister very much for saying that she will draw the attention

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of the government strategy review to this debate. I think that the Office for Disability Issues has another independent living review. Perhaps she could update us on that. I thank her very much for the letter that I received today on the issue that I raised on Second Reading: how the age equality regulations will impact on specialist agencies employing carers for severely disabled people, which is a very demanding job for people above a certain age. I draw the Committee’s attention to the fact that the Minister has today placed a copy of the letter in the Library and I thank her for the very sympathetic way in which she has handled the issue. I am delighted that the amendments will be accepted.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Interpretation]:

Baroness Darcy de Knayth moved Amendment No. 2:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Ashley of Stoke moved Amendment No. 3:

The noble Lord said: All the amendments grouped are intended to respond to and implement the recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. They make some further small drafting changes. I do not want to bore the Committee; they are technical but necessary amendments. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, for drawing these points to my attention on Second Reading. She is always making constructive contributions, and none more so than this. Without the amendments, we would be nowhere, the Bill would be technically inoperative, so I am grateful to the noble Baroness.

Amendments Nos. 3, 32 and 33 and 38 take account of the Government of Wales Act 2006, following which regulations and orders should be made by Welsh Ministers rather than the National Assembly. We wrote in the National Assembly for Wales early on, not realising the changes that had taken place. The amendments will fix that.

Amendments Nos. 13, 20, 21 and 25 address a concern of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee that there are clauses in the Bill which do not specify who is to make the regulations. The committee recommended that it should not be left to implication that these powers, too, should be exercisable by the Secretary of State or the Welsh Ministers. Hence, the amendments make it clear that the appropriate authority is responsible.

Amendments Nos. 8 to 10, 17, 22, 24, 26 and 27 and 31 and 34—I did say that this would be technical and boring—leave out those subsections which enable the appropriate authorities to “make further provision” in connection with the relevant section. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory

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Reform Committee recommended that the regulations should not be included in the Bill, as it is not clear what such broad delegations might be used for, and I would be happy for them to be removed.

4.30 pm

Amendments Nos. 4 and 5, and 35 to 37 relate to parliamentary procedure on the use of delegated powers. All the powers conferred on the Secretary of State by the Bill, except the power in Clause 24(2), would be made subject to the affirmative procedure by Clause 36(2), including commencement orders and the orders applying the Bill, with modifications, to the Isles of Scilly. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee commented that the only power in the Bill that seems to warrant the affirmative procedure is that in Clause 3 to extend the definition of “disabled person”. The amendments therefore act on that recommendation. If the amendments were accepted, regulations and orders made under the Act would be subject to the negative procedure rather than the affirmative procedure of both Houses of Parliament, or of the National Assembly for Wales, as appropriate. The exception would be the definition of “disabled person”. The amendments specify that only the Secretary of State, not Welsh Ministers, could extend the definition of a disabled person.

Amendment No. 15 would make it clearer that the regulations referred to in Clause 14(2) are those to be made under subsection (5) of that clause. Amendments Nos. 18, 19, 28 and 29 would amend references in Clauses 14 and 19 to consultation with the organisations of carers and of older people to consultation with organisations representing those groups, bringing it into line with the wording used elsewhere in the Bill.

Amendment No. 30 would remove some superfluous wording in Clause 21(2) where, given the definition of “prescribed”, the words “in regulations” are unnecessary. I beg to move.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I congratulate the noble Lord on his patience and perseverance in having made all these technical changes. I am sorry to say that I was the person from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee who drew his attention to them, but he has clearly done a good job, and I support the amendments.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: I promised not to speak too long on the Bill. I shall say simply that, in the context of the Bill, my noble friend’s amendments appear to be very sensible and reflect exactly what the noble Baroness and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee said. As noble Lords are aware, the Government have set out a 20-year strategy to improve provision and services for disabled people. I explained at Second Reading the many initiatives that we already have in place and in the pipeline. I believe that the Government can be proud of what has been achieved to date. We recognise that much more is still to be achieved, but we believe that huge strides have already been made and that the right foundations are in place to ensure continued progress.

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The Government do not believe that we have a monopoly of wisdom on what is needed for continued improvement. We will continue to listen to, and to learn from, all those with an interest and knowledge in this field. However, the Government remain unconvinced of the need for legislation of this nature and at this time. I assure the Committee that the Government share wholeheartedly the commitment of the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, to the principles underlying the Bill. However, there are undoubtedly some aspects of the Bill with which we would disagree or which we believe are already achieved through existing provisions. There would also be major cost implications in implementing all that is proposed here, especially at the pace implied.

The noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, asked earlier about the independent living review, which I announced last year. It will report this summer. This 12-month project, led by Jenny Morris with the help of an expert panel chaired by Dame Jane Campbell, is considering whether any changes to legislation are needed to support independent living. Here I should like to congratulate Dame Jane Campbell on being nominated as a People’s Peer. We look forward very much to welcoming her and benefiting from her great expertise in this House. The panel is developing a five-year strategy to deliver independent living for disabled people. However, it is not possible at this stage to make any statements about the final recommendations of the project.

All of this demonstrates our shared commitment with my noble friend Lord Ashley, but we do not believe it is necessary to deliver our common goals by means of imposing legislation, at least until we have the results of the important review of independent living. I am grateful to my noble friend for again giving us the opportunity to discuss these extremely important issues.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: I appreciate the comments made by my noble friend, but I disagree with her about the timing. I believe that we should get on with things now rather than wait. We have had many investigations, inquiries and reports and we could go on like that without ever reaching a determined end. I am confident that my noble friend has the welfare of disabled people very much at heart and that she will do all she can. None the less, my fear is that, with the Government adopting this position, things will just drag on while the need for strong legislation is urgent. However, I accept what she has said.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Ashley of Stoke moved Amendments Nos. 4 and 5:

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4 [National independent living strategy]:

Lord Addington moved Amendment No. 6:

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The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 7. These amendments address Clause 4, which is probably the heart of the Bill. They have been tabled to draw attention to the need for advocacy and support for any form of independent living. Making sure that you actually get the right advice and that it is delivered in a way that can be understood is crucial to anyone who wants to conduct their life in their own way. Knowing what is out there and engaging in an interchange of ideas is vital. I suggest that Amendment No. 6 would strengthen the core aim of the Bill.

The same is true of Amendment No. 7, which would enable people to go to the organisations that are effectively the bulwark of those support groups which actually help people through advice and advocacy procedures. The organisations for and, better still, of disabled people that address these issues on a day-to-day basis will be the best source of practical information for those involved in giving the right advice.

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