HC Deb 27 May 1970 vol 801 cc2013-5

Lords Amendment: No. 38, in page 10, line 23, at end insert: () This Act shall come into force as follows:

  1. (a) sections 1 and (badges for display on motor vehicles used by disabled persons) shall come into force on the day appointed thereunder;
  2. (b) sections 4, 5, 6 (signs at buildings complying with sections 4–6), and (access to, and facilities at, university and school buildings) shall come into force at the expiration of six months beginning with the date this Act is passed;
  3. (c) the remainder shall come into force at the expiration of three months beginning with that date."

10 a.m.

Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

The Amendment provides that Clause 1 as amended shall come into force on a day appointed by the Secretary of State. Since the Clause deals with the vitally important question of how many disabled people there are, the kind of provision to be made for them and the responsibility of local authorities to inform disabled people of these provisions, I think both sides of the House would express the hope that the Secretary of State will come to a fairly rapid decision. Many of us regard the Amendment as a fuse which may lead to the explosion of apathy on the part of many local authorities.

The Amendment also provides that Clauses 4, 5 and 6 of the Bill as amended shall come into force within six months of the Bill being enacted. Because these Clauses are concerned with access and facilities, this gives the organisations concerned time to make their preparations in good time. I am sure the House will agree that these preparations should now be made. The Amendment further provides that the remaining clauses shall come into force within three months of the passing of the Act.

The Amendment serves notice that both Houses of Parliament are no longer content with fine words and noble sentiments about the disabled. It is a call to action —a clarion call that will be heard throughout the nation and certainly by the disabled who so far have been offered tears and sympathy. It tells the people of Britain that there will be no further fudging and fumbling over this matter.

The Bill, which has been so superbly handled by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) lays down a clear and specific time-table for local authorities. The Amendment tells local authorities that apathy towards the disabled ended in the 1960s and action must begin in the 1970s.

Finally, the Amendment tells the nation that a firm strong base has now been laid in the Bill by Parliament in which those who care about the disabled can build in the future. If we all make the effort, we can play a constructive rôle in ensuring that the disabled people of Britain are given the care, consideration and, above all, the opportunity to play their role in society.

Mr. Speaker

It is appropriate that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) who has triumphed so magnificently over his disability, should speak on this Amendment which is the last in the Bill. We are very proud of him.

Dr. John Dunwoody

I would commend this Amendment to the House, which was moved in another place as a Government Amendment. I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) that it is the Government's intention that the Bill when passed will be an effective weapon to achieve the aims which have been shared by all supporters on both sides of the House. I wish at this late stage to pay tribute to all hon. Members who have worked so hard on the Bill, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris).

The Bill represents a significant step forward. It is a compassionate and civilised charter for the chronic sick and disabled in our community. They are a group who in the past perhaps have not always been treated as well as they should by Parliament. I think this Parliament has done its best and we have in this legislation a base on which a great deal more can be built in the future.

Question put and agreed to