§ 29. Mr. Gunnell
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what plans he has to publish a comprehensive charter for the disabled.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of Public Service and Science (Mr. David Davis)
None. All charters should address the needs of all those who use the service.
§ Mr. Gunnell
I am sure that the Minister is well aware of the fact that organisations representing different categories of disabled people are extremely anxious to see comprehensive legislation on their behalf and that 297 hon. Members have signed an early-day motion relating to such legislation. Will he think again about providing at least a citizens charter that would cater for those who are disabled and would tell them what they can expect in a civilised society, even from this Government?
§ Mr. Davis
The Government understand the hon. Gentleman's point of view. However, the best approach to charters is a service-by-service approach. That is because the people working in that service have targets and performance measures that they can seek to achieve in the interests of the disabled. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be interested to hear that 27 out of the 31 charters contain a direct reference to disabled people.
§ Mr. Thurnham
I warmly welcome my hon. Friend as he makes his debut at the Dispatch Box. Will he confirm that the Government's commitment to people with disabilities is shown by the trebling in real terms of expenditure on the disabled? Is not that a far better record than the Labour 14 party ever had when it was in power? Has any other Government programme shown such a big increase in spending?
§ Mr. Davis
I thank my hon. Friend for his congratulations. I shall try to be as helpful to the House in this role as I was in my last. He is quite right to say that the Government have trebled their real commitment to the disabled in the past 15 years. That is not all we have done. We have also made progress on legislation targeted at giving access to new non-domestic buildings, at employment—85,000 disabled people have been helped by specialist advisers—at transport and at many other sectors. That will continue for the future of the Government.
§ Mr. Wigley
I also welcome the Minister, and look forward to his giving the House the same benefit he gave it in his last job.
However, may I press the hon. Gentleman on the need for disabled people to know what is available to them? In an ideal world, that should be by comprehensive legislation such as anti-discrimination legislation. If such legislation is not forthcoming, there most certainly needs to be a citizens charter. If no such citizens charter is forthcoming, will the Minister add his voice to ensuring that we have an antidiscrimination Bill in the next Session of Parliament?
§ Mr. Davis
I thank the hon. Gentleman, although I shall not call him my hon. Friend. The reality is that disabled people want practical assistance and practical access to the services that the Government provide, and we are trying to provide that practical service. For example, as part of the new experimental charterline telephone service that we are providing to tell citizens in the east midlands about Government services, there is a minicom service to help hearing-impaired people. Throughout our policy, everything that we do reflects that practical commitment to giving real access to the disabled.
§ Mr. Sheerman
While welcoming the Minister to his new position, may I ask him to be more vigorous on behalf of people with a disability? That is what they are, as there are no disabled people in our country. All people with a disability and their organisations have consistently asked not only for a charter, but for a commission to safeguard their rights. Is not it about time that his Government listened to the voice of people with a disability and acted in their interests?
§ Mr. Davis
I am not going to bandy politically correct words with the hon. Gentleman. My interest is in providing the best service possible. That is what we are trying to do. He may think that that is not the right approach, but we are interested in delivering a good service to every single person suffering from a disability.