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Baroness Thornton: My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a very good point. Child protection agencies always face a difficult dilemma with cases of FGM. There is little warning that a child is about to undergo the procedure; research suggests, as the noble Baroness will know, that the key barrier to prosecution is pressure from the family or the wider community that leads to cases being unreported; and, of course, at the time, mutilation victims may be too young, too vulnerable or too afraid to report offences or to give evidence in court. However, despite the lack of prosecutions to date, the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 provides

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a clear message that FGM is an unacceptable practice. We believe the Act has been a catalyst for the outreach work which has helped to raise awareness of FGM.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, what guidance is given to midwives and health visitors dealing with families in which FGM has taken place?

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, all nurses and midwives have a duty of care to girls and women who are at risk of having FGM performed and to those who have already been cut in the past. The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s professional code of conduct states that nurses and midwives in the UK must act to minimise the risk to their clients. This includes reporting information that a child is potentially or actually at risk to the social services and to the police.

War Graves

11.30 am

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): First, my Lords, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in offering sincere condolences to the family and friends of Marine Dale Gostick, who was killed on operations in Afghanistan on 25 May.

Turning to the Question, I can confirm that human remains, likely to be British and Australian, have been found at Fromelles. There has been close co-operation with Australia and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on this project. When we receive the archaeologists’ report, we will, along with representatives from Australia, France and the commission, decide how best to commemorate those brave men, British and Australian, interred at the site. All of us should acknowledge their sacrifice.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer and associate myself wholeheartedly with her tribute to Marine Dale Gostick.

On behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary War Graves and Battlefields Heritage Group, which I chair, I thank the MoD and the Government of Australia for the support they have given to this unique and very special excavation. Their support has been both material and financial and they are working together, as my noble friend says, in an extraordinarily constructive way. We should also express our appreciation to archaeologist Tony Pollard and his colleagues, who are working this week at Fromelles in distressing and difficult circumstances.

Is my noble friend aware that I spoke yesterday to Major-General Mike O’Brien, who is heading the

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excavation on behalf of the Australian army? He confirmed that, on opening up five pits, extensive human remains have been found there. Does she accept that there is strong support for the site to become an official war grave and for an appropriate service of commemoration to be held there to honour the Australian and British soldiers who died at Fromelles on 19 and 20 July 1916?

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his comments about the co-operation from the MoD. He was instrumental in obtaining it, and the all-party group deserves some credit for it. With regard to what happens from here, as I said earlier, we want to work with those in Australia and in France and with the commission to decide what it is best to do. It is a principle of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which is accepted by all the Governments concerned, that the remains of those members of Commonwealth Armed Forces who died during the two World Wars are not repatriated, recognising that those who fought and died together should be buried together without distinction on account of military or civil rank, race or creed. That is one of the factors that will have to be borne in mind.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, we on these Benches also send our condolences to the family of the marine killed. Turning to the Question, a number of Australian journalists and politicians are asking for these bodies to be DNA’d. How practical is that?

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, the noble Lord is right to say that there has been a great deal of speculation about the possible use of DNA to identify individuals. While that is understandable and while DNA techniques have developed, we should not underestimate the difficulties that might be involved in that, not least because of the conditions in which these bodies have been kept. We need to think carefully before we go down that route, but of course all these issues will be considered by everyone involved.

Baroness Sharples: My Lords, does the Minister have any estimate of the number of Australian troops who were buried at Fromelles?

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, it is difficult to give estimates on this particular site, not least because it is early days. It is thought that about 400 bodies could have been buried there, but those would include Britons, Australians and possibly even some Germans. There have been rough estimates that about 150 could be buried on this site.

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer and my noble friend for raising this Question. Will she note that the church has a particular interest in this matter, first, because of the concern about the appropriate treatment of human remains; secondly, because of the pastoral care of all those who are related to those who died—I speak with some feeling, since I had a great-uncle who was killed around that time, although not at that site;

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and, thirdly, because I presume that there will eventually be some sort of service in which we would naturally expect to be involved? Will the Minister take care to inform the church as the matter goes forward of what plans are being laid and keep us in the loop, perhaps in Australia as well as here?

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, I am happy to take that suggestion on board. It is absolutely right that we deal with this matter very carefully, that we have the appropriate treatment and that we do not forget those who may have relatives involved. Many of us, including me, have had great-uncles who were involved or died in the First World War. I have visited the cemetery where my great-uncle is buried and I know that all those involved do a great deal to show the appropriate level of respect and to involve everyone, be it churches or others, in what should happen.

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I must declare a past interest as a one-time ex officio commissioner of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. I am sure that everyone who has ever been to one of its cemeteries around the world must admire hugely the dedication of the gardeners and the way in which they care for the people in those cemeteries. One of my constant concerns at that time was that the subvention to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission should be enough to keep the gardeners employed around the world. Therefore, if there is to be an additional cemetery at Fromelles, will the ministry assure us that additional funds will be made available to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission rather than it having to provide for it out of its subvention, which is already severely constrained?

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, the budget of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is currently provided by all the countries concerned on a pro rata basis depending on the number of bodies they are looking after. The UK currently provides 78 per cent of the funding, more than £34 million a year. We all admire the dedication of those involved in the care of those cemeteries. If we go down the route suggested, we would have to make sure that the resources were available.

Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords—

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): I am sorry, my Lords. We are out of time.

Business of the House: Debates Today

11.37 am

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the debates on the Motions in the names of Lord Morris of Manchester and Lord Pendry set down for today shall each be limited to two and a half hours.—(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That Lord Brett be appointed a member of the Joint Committee in place of Lord Gould of Brookwood, resigned.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to; and a message was sent to the Commons.

Rail Vehicle Accessibility (Interoperable Rail System) Regulations 2008

Ministerial and other Salaries Order 2008

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, I beg to move the Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the draft regulations and draft order be referred to a Grand Committee.—(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)

On Question, Motions agreed to.

Disability Rights

11.38 am

Lord Morris of Manchester rose to call attention to the 30th anniversary of disability rights legislation covering the whole of the United Kingdom and the progress of disability rights; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a deeply evocative occasion for me, marking as it does the 30th anniversary of the coming-into-effect in 1978 of all the provisions of my Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act throughout the United Kingdom and the centrality of rights in any debate on the status and well-being of disabled people.

When the Act became law in 1970, it applied only to England and Wales. It was not until 1972, in response to insistent pressure from disabled people north of the border, that it was extended to Scotland and then, responding to disabled people there, to Northern Ireland 30 years ago.

That we are marking this anniversary is due primarily to the inflexible commitment to making life better for disabled people of my noble friends Lady Royall, Lady Massey and Lord Grocott, and my noble friend Lord Corbett with whom I have been closely associated since 1964 when, already in government, I was with Fred Peart at the Ministry of Agriculture and Robin—that is, the noble Lord, Lord Corbett, not Robin Hood—was an ever-foraging reporter with Farmers Weekly.

As so often before, I am hugely indebted also to my noble friend Lord Ashley for his fellowship, long and true, ever since he entered Parliament in 1966. It was of course hoped that he would open this debate but, most regrettably, he is not well enough to do so. He phoned me this morning and, naturally, my thoughts and heart-felt best wishes are with him. Without him—and there can be no higher parliamentary tribute—our proceedings seem strangely unofficial.

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He kindly describes me in his autobiography, Journey into Silence, as,

and said that it was his role in the proceedings on my Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Bill that convinced him,

to which my response is that no one ever had a more considerate friend than him, nor did anyone work with more enthusiasm for the enactment of the Bill than he did.

I spoke of this being an evocative occasion. Sadly for many of us it is also a most poignant one, for there is another missing voice that we would have loved to hear—that of the late and revered Davina, Lady Darcy de Knayth, who made her maiden speech in your Lordships' House in the Second Reading debate on my Bill 38 years ago. Although I knew of the cruel injuries that she sustained in the appalling tragedy that had so devastated her young family, I was not prepared for the grievous extent of her disabilities when I first met this new kind of parliamentarian, as she was lifted from car to wheelchair at the Peers’ Entrance. Yet her speech was mainly about prioritising help and provision for severely disabled young people whom she saw as more needful than herself. I shall always treasure the honour that Davina and my dear friend Sue, the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, conferred on me in making their maiden speeches on my Bill.

It seems incredible and outrageous now, but from 1945 to 1964 there was no mention in any party manifesto of anything specifically to help disabled people. Between 1959 and 1964, there was not one parliamentary debate on disability. No one even knew how many disabled people there were in Britain. They were mostly seen or heard only by their families or, if they were in institutions, by those who controlled their lives. Legislation on access for them to the built environment was unknown in this or any other country, while autism and dyslexia were dismissed as figments of parental imaginings.

The notion that disabled people had rights was regarded as absurd, just as it had been for peasants, slaves, religious minorities, black people and women. To talk of as-of-right cash benefits for services for disabled people was to invite ridicule, while local authority services were mostly discretionary and often non-existent.

That was how things were when, against all the odds, my Private Member’s Bill became law in May 1970. It was, said Marcel Napolitain, France’s foremost campaigner and a world figure on disability rights, “un moment critique” for disabled people everywhere.

My Bill became law as an Act of 29 sections, imposing new duties and responsibilities on 12 government departments and quickly became the model for legislation in many other countries. It amended 39 existing Acts of Parliament in the interests of disabled people, including such major statutes as the Public Health Act 1936, the Education Act 1944, the National Health Service Act 1946, the National Assistance Act 1948 and the Housing Act 1957.

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In the decade after the Bill’s enactment, huge leaps were recorded in the numbers of people identified as disabled. Millions received help in the home from a wide range of aids, including the installation of a telephone; adaptations to their homes; purpose-built new housing provision; and free parking and extended parking rights. Official estimates showed that by 1990 there were 12 million cases of assistance under Section 2 in England alone, while in Scotland, over a shorter period, there were 1.7 million. These were minimal figures, since they did not include the then 1.3 million orange—now blue—badge holders in England, or those helped by radical improvements in the care of young long-stay hospital patients in the 29 small purpose-built new hospitals opened for them under the Act, by its provisions on autism, dyslexia and deaf-blind children; and those for expediting the payment of pension entitlements to the war disabled and bereaved.

Public spending on related benefits and services rose from £330 million to £3.3 billion in the Act’s first decade. Yet wide-ranging as its provisions were, its impact went far beyond its stated purposes. Thus it was in direct consequence of its enactment that I became Minister for Disabled People in 1974, and that by 1976 legislative provision had been made for four entirely new as-of-right cash benefits: the severe disablement and mobility allowances, as well as those for carers and disabled housewives. The Warnock committee had been appointed and set in motion; Motability had been conceived and, although relief for its beneficiaries from vehicle excise duty had still to be negotiated with the Treasury, would soon be operational.

Even more important in the longer term, I was poised to appoint a committee of inquiry on disability rights—the Committee on Restrictions against Disabled People, CORAD—with terms of reference wide enough to allow it to recommend legislation for making disability discrimination unlawful. CORAD was chaired for me by Peter Large, and its membership comprised identifiably representative disabled people, parents of severely disabled children and voluntary workers of distinction. Colin, now the noble Lord, Lord Low, who assisted Peter Large so ably, was among them, as was the late Audrey Callaghan in recognition of her unrivalled services to children at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

CORAD’s historic report, from which all subsequent legislation on discrimination lineally descends, was superbly crafted by Peter Large. Often reliant on an iron lung to stay alive, he had intellect to spare and excelling integrity. It is said that he witnessed in his lifetime a revolution in the status of disabled people. The truth is that he had a pivotal role in creating that revolution. A towering figure in the disability movement, he will be honoured wherever discussion on the history of disability rights legislation is even moderately well informed.

In 1991, Peter was much involved with me in drafting my Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. Alan, now my noble friend Lord Howarth, having described the 1970 Act as

and an

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said, in 1995, that so, too, could the then Government’s legislation on disability discrimination have been had they modelled it on my Bill; but it was not to be, notwithstanding the skill and success of my noble friend Lady Lockwood in twice taking my Bill through all its stages in this House. More effective legislation had to await the arrival in 1997 of the Government in which my noble friend—who had crossed the Floor over the treatment of my Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill and the implications for social policy as a whole—was such an exemplary Minister.

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