HC Deb 11 March 1994 vol 239 cc524-85

Order for Second Reading read.

9.40 am
Mr. Roger Berry (Kingswood)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The aim of the Bill could not be clearer—to secure for disabled people a statutory right to protection against discrimination. It is not about charity, being paternalistic or—as someone said to me the other day—being nice to disabled people. It is about rights.

The Bill's purpose is to ensure that the disabled have the same rights as everyone else in employment, housing, education, public transport and provision of other goods, services and facilities. It is certain that the Bill, or something like it, will eventually reach the statute book. When that happens, we shall look back and wonder why on earth that took so long—why, in 1994, we had to spend time debating whether or not 6.5 million people in this country should have the right to protection against discrimination.

This Bill and others having the same objective have been before the House several times previously. The Bill is not new, and nor is it mine—except that I used my good luck in the ballot to reintroduce it. Credit for the Bill's authorship and promotion must go to my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), who is the parliamentarian above all who has done most to campaign for equal rights for disabled people and to secure legislation to support them. It is a privilege and pleasure for me to move the Second Reading of what should be regarded as my right hon. Friend's Bill.

I am grateful to those right hon. and hon. Members who sponsored the Bill and so successfully campaigned for it. The Bill literally has all-party support. For the first time ever, it can be said that a clear majority of right hon. and hon. Members are on record as supporting such a Bill. I pay tribute to the crucial role played by the all-party disablement group—so ably co-chaired by the hon. Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam) and by my noble Friend Lord Ashley—in promoting anti-discrimination legislation. The role of the group will no doubt be referred to later. Suffice it to say now that its support for the Bill was both unequivocal and extremely active. I place on record my respect for the sterling work of the hon. Member for Exeter.

Credit for any success today and any success at subsequent stages of the Bill must go to organisations and individuals outside the House who campaigned long and hard for anti-discrimination legislation. There cannot be a right hon. or hon. Member who has not been lobbied and received letters, telephone calls and, yes, postcards. A quarter of a million postcards were sent to right hon. and hon. Members—and that campaign was certainly not co-ordinated by me.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

By the Post Office, perhaps?

Mr. Berry

Then God bless the Post Office.

Although we all like to take credit when we can, that remarkable campaign—which included Wednesday's mass lobby—was co-ordinated by a network known as Voluntary Organisations for Anti-Discrimination Legislation. Every organisation of and for disabled people was involved. The number is so great that it is impossible to name them all, but they are well known to right hon. and hon. Members. They want not thanks for a campaign well run but action from the House to eliminate discrimination.

I have received countless letters of support from organisations, and many local councils went to the trouble of passing resolutions. I also received letters from mayors here, there and everywhere. I am grateful for them all, and if I do not refer to all those organisations in this speech, it is only because I want to leave time for the many other hon. Members who want to speak.

Of the thousands of letters, telephone calls and postcards that I received in support of the Bill, I have yet to receive one opposing it. If any interests, community organisations, hon. Members or other individuals are unhappy about the Bill, thus far I have not received such communication.

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his success in the ballot. Presumably he is not on the mailing list of the Institute of Directors, because there are some rather uncertain signals coming from that body. Yesterday, I received a fax from the institute that suggested, somewhat disappointingly, that right hon. and hon. Members should oppose the Bill. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should note that opposition from one quarter.

Mr. Berry

It would appear that I am not on that institute's mailing list, because I have not received a communication from it on the Bill, or any other matter, in recent weeks.

At least 6.5 million disabled people in Britain face discrimination every day—an average, I remind right hon. and hon. Members, of 10,000 people in each parliamentary constituency. Discrimination may be direct or indirect, and the Bill seeks to address both forms. A disabled person with the skills required to do a job may be denied it because the employer refuses to appoint disabled people. Alternatively, inaccessible buildings, inadequate public transport and necessary conditions of employment may exclude a disabled person from undertaking a particular activity.

Mr. Doug Hoyle (Warrington, North)

I must tell my hon. Friend that the Houses of Parliament are among the worst in provisions for disabled people. In the mid-1980s, a friend of mine who suffered a disability came into the House. There were no handrails on the steps coming in to Central Lobby to help him to get up. He asked me whether I would undertake to try to get them provided. Does my hon. Friend realise that it took two and a half years to get them? Even when we start to make some progress in the House in helping people with disabilities, it takes an awful long time. Should we not also put our own House in order?

Mr. Berry

Yes. Indeed, one of the most obvious examples of indirect discrimination is present today. There is no ban on people who use wheelchairs from attending the debate and sitting in the Strangers' Gallery, but only four places are provided for them.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

I apologise to my hon. Friend for interrupting, but there are serious problems. In the seminar for disabled civil servants, one pointed out to me that his promotion is limited by the fact that his wheelchair cannot get into the Box in the corner. There are problems in the House that must be addressed, and will be addressed by the Bill.

Mr. Berry

That is an appalling situation. It is clear that one does not need much wit and intelligence to get around that problem. I hope that that it is resolved quickly. If the powers that be have any difficulty in identifying individuals who can advise them on how to get around that problem, if they contact myself or the organisations to which I have referred, we can give some advice. My hon. Friend is right.

The staff of the Serjeant at Arms' Department have gone out of their way to be extremely helpful today. I thank them most warmly for that. But I have to say, with not a little sadness, indeed anger, that the lack of sufficient space in the Strangers' Gallery for people who use wheelchairs is one reason why members of the disability equalities advisory sub-committee of Avon county council—my local council—have had to cancel their visit here today. They were planning to attend the debate, but cannot do so because of inadequate access in this place.

On a personal note, that means that many of those who contributed to my own disability awareness—people associated with Avon county council's equal opportunities unit and the Avon coalition of disabled people, to whom I pay great credit—like many others, are excluded from the debate today.

As we all know, the problems of access at the Palace of Westminster were illustrated on Wednesday, when 3,000 people—mainly disabled people—attended one of the largest lobbies to be seen here in many a year. Despite the best ever efforts of the staff of the Serjeant at Arms' Department—I again pay tribute to them—the situation, to put it mildly, was extremely difficult. Access was inadequate.

It was a successful afternoon, but the quote of the afternoon was the announcement, "You have to use the toilet now—the contractors are taking it away." Can one imagine the situation if, after Prime Minister's Questions, Madam Speaker said that to the House? If hon. Members do not have to accept that nonsense in the House, why on earth should the people we represent, who pay our salaries, have to suffer that appalling situation? There are countless examples of discrimination that, no doubt, will be referred to this morning.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on presenting the Bill, particularly representing the constituency he does, and recalling what happened on an earlier Bill. We hope that it will not be talked out today.

On access, some people make a big meal of the fact that it will cost a lot of money over time to get it sorted out. Will he confirm that clause 8 enables everything to be brought on stream over five years, thus avoiding the possibility of not having a starting order, and having a coherent time frame in which to ensure reasonable access to buildings which the public have a right to enter—not only private buildings—and that those problems have now been faced constructively and should make the Bill acceptable to hon. Members in all parts of the House?

Mr. Berry

I very much welcome that comment. I shall refer to costs in a few moments.

Before I do, and perhaps at the risk of repeating some obvious examples of discrimination that we have encountered simply by reading the newspapers, I shall give one or two examples of matters that we should address, and which can by addressed only by supporting the Bill.

Examples are legion: a doctor who spent much of her life helping fellow blind people, arrived at Buckingham Palace to receive the MBE in recognition of her work and was ordered to leave her dog outside; students with hearing impairment achieved three straight As at A-level—I used to work in a university and do not know many people who achieved that—and were not given interviews for a university place because of their hearing impairment, except by Bristol university; children are refused places in mainstream schools because of difficulties in physical access or because, allegedly, it is cheaper to segregate them in special schools.

The official statistics speak for themselves and are worth repeating. Disabled people are three times more likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people. Employers are six times more likely to turn down for an interview a disabled person with identical qualifications and experience as they are a non-disabled applicant.

Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent)

The 1991 census shows that, in Blaenau Gwent, 41 per cent. of households had someone suffering from long-term illness or disability. That is one of the highest in England and Wales. Blaenau Gwent is also the second poorest borough in Wales. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, in attacking discrimination, we are also attacking poverty, because more often than not the disabled have the greatest problems in achieving employment?

Mr. Berry

That is right. The statistics fully support that position. The denial of basic rights is confining millions of people to low incomes and poverty. That is one of the things that follows from discrimination. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing attention to that.

The evidence is irrefutable. Today in the United Kingdom there is no difficulty in discriminating against disabled people without breaking any law. Such discrimination is simply not illegal. Quite rightly, legislation outlaws discrimination on the grounds of gender and race, but no such protection exists for disabled people. The Bill seeks to put that right.

Before I outline the main provisions of the Bill and deal with the arguments against it, let me remind the House of its origins. Early in 1979, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe, who was then Minister for Disabled People, appointed a committee of inquiry to examine the matter, following extensive representations from disabled people and their organisations. The Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People reported to the Government in 1982 and recommended comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation. I refer briefly to three of its recommendations: There should be legislation to make discrimination on the grounds of disability illegal. The law should cover all areas where discrimination occurs". There should be a regulatory body or Commission with powers to investigate, conciliate and if necessary take legal action on individual complaints of discrimination". This is not the first time that the House has been asked to implement the recommendations of that report. The matter has been discussed often in the past, most recently on 31 January 1992 and 26 February 1993, when we debated the Bill for a total of seven hours.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on introducing this Bill. Will he comment on the electoral consequences of previous attempts to bring forward the Bill and on how it was blocked? The hon. Gentleman has good cause to know that the person concerned not only ceased to be a Member of this House but failed to return after the Christchurch by-election.

As the Bill has such strong support in the south-west, including my area of Cornwall, does he think that the Government have understood the lessons of that experience? Has he received any assurances that, whatever happens in the House today, the Bill will not be emasculated in Committee? Many hon. Members on both sides who support the Bill are afraid that that might happen.

Mr. Berry

On the first part of that intervention, I have already said that many people are concerned with equal rights for disabled people. Each constituency has an average of 10,000 disabled people. I am convinced that people who elect representatives by an overwhelming majority want such a provision. I do not wish to intervene further in private grief. Of course, the issue came up in Kingswood during the last election, but the key point is that the vast majority of people, all disabled people and organisations representing disabled people, without exception, want the Bill. I shall therefore not be diverted further in that direction.

When the House last debated the Bill, it passed a motion in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox), endorsing it. The Bill has been through all its stages in the other place. On the first day of this Session, together with other sponsors of the Bill, I tabled an early-day motion calling for anti-discrimination legislation and the Bill's early introduction. That early-day motion currently has the support of 310 hon. Members, which is more than any other early-day motion this Session.

Although, by convention, Front-Bench Members do not sign early-day motions—at least, some of them do not—I have 20 written statements from Front-Bench Members. So that makes a total of 330 Members who have supported the Bill in writing. I do not wish to be controversial this morning, so I am almost tempted not to mention that that is many more than the number of Members who voted for the Maastricht treaty. It is a clear majority of Members of this House, and we have never been in that position before. Parliamentary democracy requires that that be recognised with the speedy passage of the Bill.

The Bill seeks to be comprehensive. It outlaws discrimination in employment, housing, transport and the provision of goods and services of all kinds by public and private sectors. It also sets up a commission to pursue those objectives in line with the CORAD report, investigate complaints and assist disabled people to enforce their rights. The Bill provides that at least two thirds of the members of that commission should be disabled people. It also provides disabled people with new rights to equal treatment at every stage in the recruitment, promotion and dismissal process of employment.

Mr. George Stevenson (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

Does my hon. Friend share the concern expressed by many people that, as the labour market is forced to become more flexible and employers become more selective in their employment policies, unless the Bill is put on the statute book, discrimination in employment opportunities for people with disabilities is likely to get far worse?

Mr. Berry

I very much agree. The present position is clear and accepted by everybody: no-one can argue that discrimination does not take place, or that it is not serious. As the labour market becomes more difficult, unemployment and casual labour increase, and it becomes harder for people to enforce their rights. The Bill becomes even more important when people have more difficulty in securing employment because of high unemployment.

Not only does the Bill provide protection against direct discrimination, but employers are required to make reasonable accommodation for disabled people by adapting or modifying the work place. It makes unlawful direct and indirect discrimination in the provision of goods, services and facilities. Businesses and organisations that provide goods, services and facilities must provide reasonable accommodation for disabled people. Finally, the Bill establishes a commission to monitor the effectiveness of new legislation and assist in its enforcement.

There is nothing exceptional about those provisions. They are commonly found in anti-discrimination legislation dealing with sexism and racism in this country and in more comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in other countries, notably the United States' disability legislation of 1990.

Although the Bill has overwhelming support, a few opponents still raise objections to it. Opponents of anti-discrimination legislation cannot and do not deny that discrimination exists, but they argue, first, that discrimination can be eliminated by education and persuasion; secondly, that legislation is unworkable; and, thirdly, that its implementation would be too costly.

If education and persuasion were sufficient to guarantee disabled people equal rights, we would not need this debate today. The fact that discrimination still exists on such a scale exposes that argument for the nonsense it is. Even if we go back no further, we have had 12 years of education and persuasion since the CORAD report. We were told then that we did not need comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, because education and persuasion would work. Although those who believe that have been working hard to educate and persuade, 12 years later we still need to debate the matter.

I am in favour of educating and persuading people but discrimination against disabled people—or anybody else—is wrong. Anyone who thinks that it provides a credible alternative to legislating simply ignores the evidence before us. Without the proper legal framework, education and persuasion simply do not work. Those who used to oppose laws against sexism and racism said that education and persuasion would work. They were wrong for exactly the same reason that it is wrong to put that argument against this Bill.

The second argument is that legislation will not work. We are told that legislation cannot be used to promote equal opportunities for disabled people, because it would be unworkable.

It is important to remember at this point that the Bill has already had a Second Reading and been through all its stages in another place. There are probably more lawyers per square inch in another place than in the Old Bailey. If those lawyers say that legislation can work, they are sending out an important message: they say that it can work, and that it is absolutely essential.

Moreover, in its report of November 1992 entitled "Disability, Discrimination and Employment Law," the Law Society concluded: There is a need for the creation of a new statutory civil right to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities in the workplace.

Mr. Michael Stern (Bristol, North-West)


Mr. Berry

I shall give way in a moment.

The report went on to say: the employment provisions appearing in the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill indicate precisely the direction in which the law should move. Yesterday, the Law Society took the trouble of writing to me to reiterate that it believes that the civil rights basis is the correct approach to extending the rights of people with disabilities, welcomes the Bill and hopes that the Government will agree to support it. In that spirit, I am delighted to give way to the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern).

Mr. Stern

I simply wanted to ask whether the hon. Gentleman could recollect a previous occasion on which the Law Society had argued for less work for lawyers?

Mr. Berry

I can indeed, because the Law Society has not always supported anti-discrimination legislation in this sphere. As always, I am extremely grateful to my colleague, the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West, because he has made my point for me.

I should not want anyone to think that the Law Society has always supported the Bill simply because it would create jobs for lawyers. I am not a lawyer, so I too can have that suspicion. The Law Society reached its conclusion after a careful study of the situation and, with its knowledge and professional expertise, arrived at the result to which I referred.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

Is it not a confession that the Law Society and others recognise that there is wholesale discrimination and that they are frightened of being caught out? Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the real purpose of legislation is to reflect the basic values and standards of the society in which we live? Surely there is something wrong if we are not allowed to discriminate against a black person but can discriminate against a black—or white—disabled person.

Mr. Berry

Quite so. Discrimination is wrong, and the law should be used to protect people against it, whatever its cause.

The United States passed the Americans with Disabilities Act 1990, which is probably the most comprehensive civil rights legislation for disabled people in the world. It provides the legal framework that establishes the right of all disabled people to participate equally in society. When President Bush signed the Act—this is probably the first time that I have complimented President Bush in public; I hope that my colleagues will not hold it against me or think that I am becoming more moderate in my old age—he said: Let the shame of the wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down. All credit to him for that.

Since the introduction of that Act, all the evidence confirms that the quality of life of disabled people there has been significantly enhanced. If legislation can be effective in tearing down the "wall of exclusion" that faced millions of disabled people in the United States, it can be effective in the United Kingdom. That view was shared by the Select Committee on Employment in its report of 1991, which also called for legislation of this type. As I said, similar legislation already exists to deal with sexism and racism.

The third argument is that of cost, although I hope that it will not be deployed for much longer. It is perhaps the issue on which there is the most genuine disagreement. Those who oppose the Bill tell us that we might be right about education and persuasion, and they take our point about legislation—they accept that it might be difficult to argue that the law cannot be used to prevent discrimination against disabled people, but can be used to fight against racism and sexism—but the problem is the cost. They say that it would cost too much to secure equal rights for disabled people.

That is the thrust of an anonymous document that appeared on the table in the Press Gallery on Monday afternoon. It is entitled "Background Brief: Eliminating Discrimination against Disabled People." I recognise some of the documentation, but there is no name attached and no Government Department is identified. However, I think that it is fair to say that it seeks to put across the Government's view. In any event, that is how journalists interpreted it.

The document states that the Bill would potentially result … in massive costs to the taxpayer, business and the consumer … it is estimated to run into many billions of pounds.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the most despicable aspects of that argument is that no one has pointed out the cost to society of denying the many talents that the disabled can bring to our economy and all aspects of work?

Mr. Berry

Absolutely. There are two remarkable things about the document. The first, to which the hon. Lady referred, is the fact that there is no mention of the costs that disabled people face as a result of discrimination. There is no mention of the possible cost of not enacting legislation—not a word.

Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington)

I have here a document signed by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People which makes none of the comments to which the hon. Gentleman refers. It gives his reflections on the situation and some facts about costs.

I know that my right hon. Friend supports anything that we can do for disabled people. I, too, support the Bill, but it is unfair of the hon. Gentleman to make such accusations unless he is sure that the document comes from my right hon. Friend, who, as evidenced from this document that bears his name, adopts a reasonable and helpful approach—although I do not necessarily accept it—and has nothing to hide.

Mr. Berry

I am prepared to make the document available in the Library, or whatever the proper procedure is. I have been very careful; I have no idea who provided the document to journalists on Monday afternoon, as there is no name on it although it begins with the words, "the Government".

Either it represents the Government's view, or it is a forgery. There is open and not-so-open government. I have mentioned how the document appeared and the fact that it bore no name, but I do not want to digress—the point is that it states specifically that it will cost billions of pounds if the Bill is passed. It fails to recognise the costs of discrimination faced by disabled people.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)


Mr. Berry

I was hoping not to speak for too long, but I shall give way for the last time.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I have here a copy of a letter from the Minister which states that the Bill would lead to litigation and unquantifiable costs for business and taxpayers.

Mr. Berry

I am about to deal with that point.

The document gives three examples of the costs involved: the cost of lifts at British Rail stations, the cost of improving access to schools and the cost of refurbishing a cinema. Each and every one of those costs would have to be incurred if education and persuasion worked. How is it possible to be told on the one hand that we do not need legislation, because education and persuasion will give disabled people what they are entitled to, and on the other hand that, if we do those things, it would cost money and that is why we should not pass the Bill?

The arguments of those who oppose anti-discrimination legislation have been mutually contradictory. I could give other examples, but I do not have time. On occasion, there is evidence that the arguments are made up as we go along.

Cost is the crucial issue that may still divide us, although I hope that it does not. I think that we are winning the argument, but it may be the issue that still concerns some. It is 12 years since the publication of that CORAD report, which first recommended anti-discrimination legislation. Those who have been concerned about costs have had 12 years in which to produce serious evidence that, considering the benefits and the costs, there was a case to say that we should do nothing.

Where is the serious evidence and analysis of the economic implications of anti-discrimination legislation which was recommended in that report to Government 12 years ago? I have never seen it.

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)

I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman that a thorough cost-benefit analysis of anti-discrimination legislation is vital. It has struck me as strange that the Government did not commission one some time ago.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, at a meeting that I had with my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Employment on 1 February, I asked him whether the Government had such a cost-benefit analysis, and he said no? I asked him whether he would commission a cost-benefit analysis, and there and then he did so from his officials. However, in a question for written answer at the beginning of the week, I asked whether the Secretary of State for Employment could at least make available the preliminary findings of that analysis. The question was transferred to the Department of Social Security, and I was informed that there was no cost-benefit analysis.

Mr. Berry

The hon. Member is absolutely correct. As I recall, he and I attended a meeting of the all-party disablement group in the past week, where the Secretary of State for Employment and Lord Henley were asked for evidence of the potential costs of the legislation. Lord Henley, with the candour of a man who really believes that Ministers should not mislead the House, said: We do not know how much it would cost". The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. When they are pressed, we are told that they do not know. There has been more than adequate time for those who believe that costs are prohibitive to produce some evidence. They have failed to do so. It is ironic that, even on this subject, prejudice rather than facts seems to hold sway.

Research in the United States shows that costs need not be a problem. Anti-discrimination legislation is cost-effective and enables more disabled people to become economically active and independent, rather than having to rely on benefits. Businesses are open to more customers and therefore derive economic benefit; the more that disabled people are able to work, the greater the tax revenues and less has to be spent on social security.

The Bill explicitly recognises the need for gradual implementation and for any changes to be reasonable. Clearly, not all trains can be made accessible overnight, but all new trains can, and a phased programme of improvements can be implemented on existing ones.

More important than anything else, I would argue that it is the very discrimination itself that costs too much. The costs falling on disabled people are ignored by opponents of the Bill in favour of alleged costs to the Treasury. Disabled people have to deal with their disability, the cost of being denied work and the basic human rights of choice, participation and independence—the cost of being denied the same rights as everyone else.

It is intolerable that the costs which discrimination impose on disabled people should be brushed aside, while unquantified, alleged costs to the Treasury should be presented as a reason to deny people their basic civil and human rights. If anyone were to support that scandalous proposition, one may well ask about their view of existing legislation on equal opportunities and race relations.

During his New Year interview for the BBC Radio 4 programme "The World This Weekend", the Prime Minister committed his Government to a classless society with the words: When I talk about a classless society I am talking about a society in which everybody, wherever they may come from, whatever they may start with, will have the same opportunities to progress as other people who perhaps start from quite different circumstances. The Bill is about creating precisely such equal opportunities for disabled people. Anti-discrimination legislation is now supported by a majority of Members of Parliament. Such a Bill has now been through all its stages in the House of Lords.

Disabled people are rightly demanding their rights. They are demanding no more and no less than, to use the Prime Minister's words, the same opportunities … as other people". The Bill, or something very like it, will eventually reach the statute book. I repeat that, in years to come, we shall look back and wonder why on earth it took so long. Why should we accept any further delay?

Discrimination against disabled people is simply unacceptable. There ought to be a law against it—if the Bill reaches the statute book, there will be.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

Before I call the next hon. Member, may I point out that there is a long list of hon. Members who wish to speak, and that overlong speeches are not fair to other hon. Members?

10.27 am
Sir John Hannam (Exeter)

This is an important and exciting day for the 6.5 million disabled people in our country. I am proud, as I am sure many hon. Members are, to be able to lend support to the anti-discrimination Bill of the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry). He follows in the footsteps of eminent parliamentarians and hon. Members who have endeavoured to promote similar Bills. Indeed, he is sitting next to the most consistent of those campaigners, the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), whose efforts with all those who are active in the sphere of disablement are at last about to bear fruit.

We all congratulate the hon. Member on his excellent speech. It is hard to conceive of anyone, having listened to the arguments which he deployed, voting against the Second Reading. If there are opponents in the House, they only needed to be in Westminster Hall on Wednesday to meet the 1,000 or more disabled people who came to lobby their Members of Parliament. The deep and passionate feelings held by them were expressed most vividly to all of us and talking to some of those disabled to people produced some illustrative and interesting examples of the kinds of barriers that they face in their every day lives.

A person who came up to me as I was talking to Lord Ashley said that he was the organiser of the Horizon Adventure Club from Cornwall, which is a club for young adults with learning difficulties. It enables them to lead fruitful lives. He said that if I wanted an example of discrimination, he would tell me what had happened to that group in the past week. He said that they wanted to hire a meeting room in a publicly owned building that was operated by a voluntary organisation, but they were denied use of the hall on the ground that it could not be used by subnormal people.

When I asked other people on that rally on Wednesday whether they had individual examples of being denied their normal rights, every hand in the hall went up and a roar of support echoed around the vaulted heights of the Great Hall.

I admit that it was a very emotional afternoon. I know that, as legislators, we must be objective and put emotions on one side. However, it is only too easy for us here to become immersed in the technicalities of statutes and other legislation and we can forget what is going on in the world outside and in the lives of the millions of disabled people in the community. I refer to the hearing-impaired, the sight-impaired, the physically handicapped, those with learning difficulties, those with disabling diseases—which are not always visible—children and adults needing education, disabled people who want to work—and, as they so often tell us, to pay their taxes—and those needing accessible transport, housing and leisure. In other words, they are people who want to be able to live normal lives.

The removal of barriers and the ending of unfair discrimination is the background to today's debate. As the hon. Member for Kingswood pointed out, there was the same growing awareness in the United States of the need to legislate to remove the same barriers. In 1990, President Bush introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act. Like the hon. Gentleman, I shall quote the words of President Bush who said: Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down. I suggest that in disability legislation, we are in the same position as regards the United States as we are in the economic growth cycle; we are following a little later along the same path.

Like the United States, we have a Government who have done all that is possible through the voluntary approach to good practice—through education and exhortation, and through dramatically improved financial support—to try to achieve a shared objective. We must accept that it is a shared objective, although approached by different avenues. The objective is the elimination of discrimination against disabled people and the achievement of their full participation in all aspects of life.

Through the use of our much more extensive voluntary sector, the British Government have provided far more help than was given in the United States. However, the end result is the same. Despite all our efforts, barriers remain as insurmountable as ever. The frustrations of the millions of disabled people have steadily mounted, reaching near breaking point as they see the remarkable turnaround in countries that have introduced anti-discrimination legislation.

I have been an officer of the all-party disablement group for 20 years. Like other Conservative Members, I originally held the view that the Government path was right and that there was no real need to legislate except in the various Departments, one by one—the piecemeal approach. Following that path throughout those years, the all-party group tried to help to improve various areas for disabled people. There were employers' incentive schemes to improve employment prospects and we considered the quota system. We attended all the "Fit for Work" presentations and the working breakfasts across the country. I came to enjoy eating fried eggs again—I do not normally eat them.

We secured amendments to various pieces of legislation. One example is the Companies Act 1985, which one would not imagine to be a vehicle for disablement legislation. We actually built in a requirement that in their annual reports, companies had to include a statement on what they had been doing for disabled employees. At the end of the day, what was achieved? Where are we now?

Official figures show that disabled people are three times more likely to be out of work—and unemployed for longer periods—than non-disabled people are. They are paid one quarter less, despite all the studies showing that they give better dedication, loyalty and effort to employers than do non-disabled workers.

I was a member of the Standing Committee that considered the Education Act 1981. The Act was intended to encourage integrated education, yet segregation is still the order of the day with less than a 1 per cent. drop since the Warnock committee reported in 1977. As the hon. Member for Kingswood said, disabled students make up only 0.3 per cent. of the entire student population in universities and polytechnics. Anyone who wants to know why that is need only go round our universities to see how many of the buildings have been adapted over the years to give access to disabled people and those in wheelchairs.

Mr. David Congdon (Croydon, North-East)

My hon. Friend rightly mentioned the Warnock report and the Education Act 1981. Does anything show more strongly the need for the Bill than the failure of that important Act in enabling more youngsters, especially at primary age, to have access to mainstream rather than segregated education? It is incredible that, 13 years on, many young people still have to go to special schools when they could be catered for properly in mainstream education.

Sir John Hannam

My hon. Friend is right. There are examples of local authorities that, in that time, have increased by 25 per cent. the number of pupils they send to special schools. In many areas, the position has deteriorated rather than improved.

There are 4 million disabled people with mobility difficulties. One per cent. of the total adult population use wheelchairs. Despite all the efforts by the Government and the House, most of Britain's public transport and public buildings remain basically inaccessible. Steps, heavy doors, impossible toilets, a lack of lifts and pedestrian areas created round shops effectively prevent disabled people from gaining access and carrying out daily tasks, such as shopping.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the basic rights on which we build our other rights is the right to vote? Disabled people have considerable problems in gaining access to polling stations and exercising their right to vote on the same basis as able-bodied people. I know that the hon. Gentleman is aware of that problem, because he sponsored a meeting of the Spastics Society following a report about the problems at the 1992 general election. The report showed that polling station after polling station lacked basic access facilities for disabled people.

Sir John Hannam

That is another of the many examples of discrimination. The hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to secure the passage of private Members' legislation to try to address the problem. The all-party group secured amendments to a Bill to try to step up the amount of financial help that was available to local authorities to provide more access. However, the sad fact remains that 60 per cent. of all polling station buildings are inaccessible to disabled people. The answer given is, "They will have to find somewhere else that is accessible." That is often impossible for them and is a valid illustration of the difficulties.

For me personally, all the problems built up to a point, four or five years ago, when I began to realise that, despite all our efforts, we were running fast to stay in the same place, or perhaps moving only marginally forward. At every meeting or seminar, organised by our excellent voluntary organisations, that I attended, I heard increasing evidence of the fact that we were preventing our fellow citizens from entering everyday life.

It was when I attended an "access to the arts" seminar which was held in a Committee Room here that I finally concluded that anti-discrimination legislation was the only answer. Evidence came to the fore from studies and reports. We knew that many pubs, restaurants and sports stadiums were inaccessible to disabled people. However, I heard then of whole cinema chains that refused entry to disabled people and of concert halls that either did not admit disabled people or allowed them in only if they were accompanied. I heard of similar occurrences at art galleries, hotels and theatres. I heard of landlords saying, "We do not want you living here." I heard of employers saying, "No disabled people need apply." I heard of a transport system that continues to be inaccessible to a large percentage of the general public. I then knew what had to be done.

I have received today a letter from Dr. Stephen Duckworth who has produced, working in conjunction with one of our universities, a vast thesis on the problems. He says: To illustrate this: Last summer my wife and I were guests at the Queen's Garden Party. Afterwards on the spur of the moment, we decided to enjoy a West End show and selected one that was accessible. We bought the tickets and were about to enter the 'accessible' auditorium when I was told I had to leave because there was no place for me to sit whilst remaining in my wheelchair. They argued that I was a fire hazard but I could get out of building as fast as any 'severely' able-bodied person and, to my knowledge, I have never spontaneously combusted. Our big day was ruined by discrimination and I want the right to challenge this so that future generations of disabled British citizens enjoy the same opportunities as everyone else. Like many other hon. Members, I took an even closer interest in what was being proposed in the United States, Australia, Sweden and Canada. We shall be able to consider the evidence from those countries in detail in Committee—an opportunity which we have been denied in previous years—and substantiate our belief in the legislation and answer the Government's reservations about cost and their belief that the Bill would provide a bonanza for lawyers. In previous years, the main argument focused not on costs but on the belief that such legislation would create a lawyers' bonanza and a legal nightmare. Lawyers argued consistently against the statutory approach until 1992, when a committee of the Law Society conducted a survey on employment and concluded in favour of an anti-discrimination Bill.

As the hon. Member for Kingswood said, at last week's meeting of the all-party group, the Employment Minister in the other place, Lord Henley, argued, in opposing the Bill, that in the United States there had been remarkably few references to the courts in the 18 months to two years since the Bill took effect. He tried to use that argument to show that the legislation was not working, but it positively proved the reverse. Since its enactment in 1990, massive improvements have been made in access, but no single business has been brought down by the cost of compliance or the implications of the legislation. Many have found great benefits in tapping a previously unknown market.

Mr. Simon Coombs (Swindon)

My hon. Friend, like the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry), makes a persuasive case. I promised my constituents that I would listen to the debate and judge accordingly; so far, I am convinced by what has been said. Is my hon. Friend aware that the English tourist board, in conjunction with Glaxo Holdings, has produced a guide on access to tourism locations for disabled people this week? It has said that billions of pounds are being lost to tourist attractions of all types because of the lack of access.

Clause 6 of the Bill provides that it would be unlawful to discriminate by not providing access to small hotels and boarding houses. That would be play an important part in avoiding the loss of revenue to which the guide drew attention. On whom would the cost of bringing facilities up to the right level in small hotels and boarding houses fall? Facilities will have to be introduced if the terms of the Bill are to met and discrimination outlawed, but they will have to be upgraded only once.

Sir John Hannam

That is a key point and one with which the Americans had to deal. I received a letter from the United States Assistant Secretary about that matter. Compromises and costs had to be worked out. As my hon. Friend said, the tourist board has stated that a huge untapped resource exists. The issue is investment. When a company or business wants to invest, it does not come running to the Government or someone else to obtain the money—it decides whether the investment is worth while. The same will apply in this instance. There are huge potential gains, not losses, for the tourist industry.

Mr. Stern

I am not sure that my hon. Friend has appreciated the force of the comment made by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs). We all agree that such facilities will have a beneficial effect in society terms, but the expected gain in income for small boarding houses could never cover the investment required. We must have an answer to the question of who will cover the cost.

Sir John Hannam

I take issue with my hon. Friend. The Bill provides for a period of time to allow changes to be made and for finance, which the Government already provide, to improve access. The letter that I received from Dr. Stephen Duckworth and which was addressed to the Secretary of State for Employment deals with the point. It states: Your concerns over litigation, bureaucracy and unquantifiable costs for business and tax payers are important concerns. However if you look at the experience of companies in the United States, this does not seem to have become the problem that was previously anticipated. Indeed, evidence suggest that 170,000 new businesses and products have been designed as a result of the 'Americans With Disabilities Act'. As I am sure you are only too aware, employment in the UK is entirely dependent on the growth of small to medium enterprises. Evidence from the United States survey has shown that tourism companies and hotels that have quickly adapted their premises to remove discrimination have gained access to a new economic sector. In some cases, their turnover has increased by 15 to 20 per cent.

Under their departmental approach, the Government require the gradual implementation of such improvements. The financing of those improvements can be made in the most beneficial way.

Mr. Tyler

May I not only support what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but perhaps help him in one respect? The tourist industry in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can still benefit from section 4 grants for improvements to facilities. Sadly, and most significantly, that is not so in England, especially in the west country, in which the hon. Gentleman and I have a special interest. If section 4 grants were specifically available for this purpose, it would help smaller businesses to get over the hump of initial investment.

Sir John Hannam

I strongly support the campaign to extend section 4 grants to tourist areas such as the south-west. I do not want to slide into the trap of rehearsing the same old argument about having to go to the Treasury for more money. Experience in other countries does not show that that would be necessary. Tourist boards, for some 15 years, have operated schemes and policies to encourage hotels and restaurants to provide access. We are talking not about huge sums but about a ramp to get people into a building. Most premises have ground floor accommodation or some form of lift. I do not believe that arguments on cost are an obstacle to the passage to the Bill.

I said that I had received a letter from the United States Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. Its Assistant Secretary, Judith Heumann, wrote about this Bill and in her letter she states: In the short period of time that the ADA has been in effect, significant steps have been taken toward ending discrimination and enabling persons with disabilities to lead independent lives. According to a 1993 survey by the United States General Accounting Office, most features of the business and government facilities that were included in the study were accessible to persons with disabilities. The study also found that most owners and managers perceived barrier-removal efforts as beneficial and not burdensome. The ADA is providing persons with disabilities and their families with opportunities to be actively involved in all aspects of their communities. The ADA is creating job opportunities and enabling persons with disabilities to take advantage of the recreational and social activities, assume civic duties, access popular public media, and join with their family, friends, and neighbors in the countless mundane activities that make up the better part of our daily lives. The ADA is also reshaping our educational curriculums. Concepts of accessibility, universal design and accommodation are being integrated into teaching curriculums for designers, architects, educators, and administrators. As a result, a generation from now, persons with disabilities will be able to share the assumption of their non-disabled friends and neighbors that the stores, schools, and city services in their communities are accessible to them. The ADA requires society to acknowledge and accommodate the unique needs of individuals with disabilities. It empowers persons with disabilities and their families, and is making a positive difference in the economics and moral fibre of American society. Those words can apply equally to this country.

The other factor that I believe influences the Government's position on the Bill is their worry about the expense. It would be unrealistic to expect such changes as we propose not to have financial implications, about which some of my hon. Friends have questioned me this morning. There will need to be alterations to buildings and vehicles, and workplaces will have to be provided with equipment. All this has been recognised in the American legislation. In another part of her letter, the Assistant Secretary of State said that a number of key compromises were necessary: Many of these compromises attempt to draw the proper balance between the financial resources of a covered entity and its obligations to comply. That is the sort of thing that we shall have to look at carefully in Committee. In the United States, phasing-in periods were allowed for compliance, and monetary damages for non-compliance were limited.

The Americans took account of all the reservations that we might expect to hear expressed by companies, institutes of directors and others. This Bill recognises the need for gradual implementation and the idea of reasonable accommodation. In the United States, periods of up to 20 years have been allowed for implementation of some of the changes. We, too, will need some fairly long phasing-in periods—for instance, for changes in vehicle design and public transport. Imagine trying to adapt London Underground for disabled passengers within the next couple of years: it would be wholly unfeasible. We shall need to establish mechanisms for monitoring and promoting the changes and for checking the costs to employers of providing reasonable accommodation. Those costs will have to be met in some way.

It is important, however, to weigh the predicted costs against the potential savings in terms of benefits and the additional tax revenues that will flow if more disabled people gain employment. The Secretary of State for Employment has already recognised the need for such investment, in the access-to-work programme which we all welcomed during the past week.

As for the fear of an avalanche of legal cases, I believe that lawyers are doing a damn sight better out of the present piecemeal approach than they would from a comprehensive Bill which would in itself ensure far greater commitment to non-discriminatory measures in the private and public sectors. We seek only to outlaw unfair discrimination, not to force acceptance of things that disabled people cannot do.

We need to give the Bill a Second Reading today, not only to give hope to the millions of disabled people and the further millions who care for them but, just as importantly, to allow the Committee to thrash out in detail these vital issues. I believe that when we engage in detailed discussions we will allay the Government's fears and secure their support for our aim, as the Minister put it in his recent letter, to reduce and eventually eliminate discrimination against disabled people and enable them to participate fully in all aspects of life. We all share that objective. Now we have to find the means to achieve it. We have not managed that in the past, but we can now—by implementing the Bill.

10.54 am
Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam). Although we face each other across the Floor, we are, not for the first time, wholly at one in this debate.

All of us in the House represent disabled people who have looked forward to this debate with hope in their hearts. Their hope today is that the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill can win strong enough support to convince the Government that they must now assist the Bill's passage into law.

For the information of disabled people, I must explain that there are some Members of Parliament who very much want to see the Bill quickly become law, but who, for compelling reasons, are unable to be here today. That applies notably to my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke), one of the few hon. Members significantly to have legislated as a private Member for disabled people. He was totally committed to visiting Africa this week, as shadow Minister for overseas development, and he could not cancel the commitment. Typically for him, his absence is due to a commitment to Africa's poor.

All disabled people felt cheated by the talking out of this Bill by Robert Hayward—having explicitly stated that he would not be talking it out—when I first presented it for Second Reading on 31 January 1992. Five days later, he apologised for what had happened in a personal statement which concluded: I now recognise that the effect of my words was to mislead hon. Members and that Members were entitled to assume that I intended to resume my seat before 2.30 pm. I offer my unreserved apologies to you, Mr. Speaker, and to fellow hon. Members."—[Official Report, 5 February 1992; Vol. 203, c. 287.] But those apologies in no way undid the damage that had been done five days previously. By use of a crude blocking tactic, the Bill's progress had been halted indefinitely; and I am most deeply grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) for agreeing to use his good fortune in last November's ballot for private Members' Bills to reintroduce the Bill. Since entering the House, my hon. Friend has worked long and hard and with skill, sincerity and success to help disabled people. It was his early-day motion that demonstrated the very wide all-party backing for the Bill and the fact that it now has clear majority support in this House.

My hon. Friend's motion helped to keep interest in the Bill alive, as did the initiatives of my hon. Friends the Members for Paisley, South (Mr. McMaster) and for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) who, last June, introduced versions of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill that would have secured its benefits for the disabled people of Scotland and Wales had the Government Whips not blocked their Bills on Second Reading.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood said, my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) also helped to sustain interest by carrying, on 25 February 1993, his motion calling for the Bill's enactment.

As the House has heard, my noble Friend Lord Ashley and the hon. Member for Exeter are co-chairmen of the all-party disablement group in the House and, like the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth), the hon. Member for Exeter has been extremely and consistently helpful both at meetings of the group and in this Chamber. I am sure that they and many others on both sides of the House will join me in paying warm tribute as well to the immense help that we all receive from Vicky Scott, of the all-party disablement group, than whom no one has done more to promote the Bill. We are all in her debt. That could mean that we are, to some extent, also in the Minister's debt—but I must not pursue that implication in today's debate.

I have seen the suggestion in some recent statements from the Government that this Bill, as a private Member's measure, is almost by definition ill-drafted and incapable of becoming law without drastic change. That is not so. I suppose that, over the past 25 years, I have brought to this House more legislation about the problems and needs of disabled people than anyone else—most of it as a Minister from 1974 to 1979—including the mobility allowance., the invalid care allowance, the disabled housewives' allowance and the non-contributory invalidity pension, all of them entirely new benefits.

But none of that legislation, all of which has stood the test of time, was more carefully drafted than the Bill we are debating. The House should also note not only the Law Society's favourable comments on the Bill's viability and what some very distinguished legal authorities have said more recently about its drafting, but that it succeeded, with only some very minor amendments, in completing all its stages in the House of Lords. Of the employment provisions in the Bill, with which it was principally concerned, the Law Society goes as far as to say that they are precisely the direction in which the law should move". As my hon. Friend recalled, it was 12 years ago that the Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People— CORAD—the committee of inquiry I appointed, under the chairmanship of Sir Peter Large, when I was the Minister, reported to the Government on the urgent need for anti-discrimination legislation to protect the interests of people with disabilities. Since then, Ministers have insisted that education and persuasion, at nil cost to the Government, was the best way forward.

But more than simply time has passed. The social changes the Bill seeks are today all the more urgent and, as every new test of public opinion shows, massively supported by the electorate. Acts of discrimination against disabled people have increased, and the case for legislation is stronger now than ever before.

A young policewoman, badly injured when tackling a gunman, is turned away from a charity event because she is in a wheelchair. A soldier who lost both legs in the Falklands is banned from his local cinema because of his disability. A doctor who has devoted much of her life to helping fellow blind people is parted from her guide dog when entering Buckingham palace to receive the MBE. A disabled young man with a first-class degree is told by his employer that because he is disabled he will be paid less than other new employees for exactly the same work. A 21-year-old graduate, with the most brilliant degree of her year, spends over two years in the dole queue watching all her contemporaries secure jobs ahead of her simply because she is hearing-impaired.

These are but a few well publicised recent cases of blatant discrimination against disabled people. Too many more go unremarked. But that should not surprise us, because it is not illegal in Britain to discriminate on grounds of disability. No matter how unmerited and damaging the discriminatory act, there is no court that any of this country's 6.5 million disabled people can go to for redress. That is why today there is no more important issue for disabled people than that of civil rights.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South said, they are fed up with being "done unto" and weary of philanthropic gestures from on high. They want justice and they want rights. They insist that discrimination against them must be made illegal, and crave the right, enshrined in law, simply to be treated like other people when it comes to studying, working, travelling, enjoying their leisure or just plain living.

The Bill was drafted solely for that purpose and, I repeat, it has already been approved by the House of Lords. Its supporters in this House include all 17 of Northern Ireland's Members of Parliament—a parliamentary first if ever there was one—and some 90 per cent. of Scottish and Welsh Members of Parliament want its benefits for their disabled constituents from the only Parliament that can legislate for them.

The Bill does not argue for blind bus drivers or deaf piano tuners; nor does it pretend that all acts of discrimination can be ended overnight. It is about ending unfair discrimination, and we accept that it will take many years to turn legislative precept into social practice. Lord Renton, who preceded the Prime Minister as the Conservative Member for Huntingdon, speaking in the House of Lords, said of the Bill that he found it strange as well as wrong, extraordinary and not very creditable, that Parliament had not already legislated to outlaw unfair discrimination against people with disabilities.

He said also that, after all the thought given to the Bill in the House of Lords, he did not believe that many hours of discussion would be necessary in the House of Commons. Since then, Government Whips, knowing that the Bill effectively has a majority in this House, have worked overtime to prevent a vote on its provisions. But now, thanks to my hon. Friend, they can no longer avoid a vote.

The Government's principal reason for blocking the Bill is cost. Any action to end discrimination, says the Prime Minister, must proceed "without cost implications". In other words, we can afford civil rights for everyone else but not for disabled people. They and their organisations find this deeply offensive, just as they resent the criticism that the Bill does not sit comfortably with the Government's policy on deregulation". That argument must, of course, apply equally to the legislation on gender and race, and is an implied threat both to the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission on Racial Equality.

The Government's third main criticism of the Bill is that it takes "much too comprehensive" an approach to the problem. At an hour-long meeting I had with the Prime Minister to discuss the Bill, he accepted that discrimination against disabled people was "a very real problem" which he hoped education and persuasion and "piecemeal change" would remove. But the problems of discrimination against disabled people, not least in the employment field, cannot be solved ad hoc. As one employer put it to me recently, To end discrimination in the labour market, you must not only protect disabled people there, but also radically improve access for them to training and transport among other facilities and services. In his view, "piecemeal change" would be an attempt to divide the indivisible and a total waste of time and money.

Britain used to lead the world in legislating to make life better for disabled people. We did so in 1970 by becoming the first country ever to legislate on access for disabled people to the built environment; and again in the mid-70s by introducing a whole range of new benefits to improve their quality and standard of life. Today, we lag behind other countries. The United States, Australia, Canada, France and Sweden have all long since legislated to give disabled people legal protection against unfair discrimination.

As my hon. Friend recalled, President Bush, when signing the American statute in 1990, told United States business men: You can now unlock a splendid resource of untapped human potential that will enrich us all … let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down. There was no echo of that at my meeting with the Prime Minister. He said in mitigation that the American Act will not be fully operative for some years, which I accept. But at least the clock has started ticking there, and the sooner we legislate here, the sooner Britain's disabled people will achieve their undoubted right to full citizenship.

As of now, the "shameful wall of exclusion" stands as high as ever in this country. A recent survey found that employable disabled people here are six times more likely to be turned down for a job. With unemployment at 40 per cent., compared with 9 per cent. among non-disabled people, they are stuck at the back of the longest queue in Britain. Thousands of employers say openly that, whatever her or his qualifications are, they will never employ any disabled person "under any circumstances" and, indeed, will never interview a disabled job seeker.

That is not only totally outrageous, but a challenge to the House which legislated 50 years ago to require firms to give 3 per cent. of jobs to disabled people. We must not duck that challenge here today. The Government's record is worse than that of most other employers. In defiance of the 3 per cent. quota, the latest figures which I have seen show that the Department of Health have 0.7 per cent. registered disabled employees, and the Home Office has 0.3 per cent. The figures show not one disabled employee at No. 10 Downing street.

With all that to explain, Ministers are told—not only by disabled people, but by employers—that it is not what they say that impresses those they lecture about education and persuasion, but what they do. What respect can we have for advocates of persuasion who cannot persuade themselves?

The issue today is about social decency. As Lord Renton said, it is wrong and not very creditable that the Bill has been obstructed for so long. Fully assured civil rights have become the defining principle of all enlightened policy-making on disabilities, for without civil rights, disabled people are doubly disabled. The handicapping effects of their disabilities are made even harder to bear by gratuitous social handicaps for which there is no moral justification—and what is morally unjustified ought no longer to be legally permissible in Britain.

11.13 am
Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington)

I would like to speak in support of the Bill. Looking around the Chamber. I see that I may be the only genuine disabled person here. I was born a spastic with cerebral palsy, which is an injury to the brain just before, during or after birth. It is an injury to the motor part of the brain, although some of my opponents would say that it has affected other parts of the brain. That is open to debate.

I have been very lucky, because the impact has been small. I do not want to put hon. Members off with the sheets of paper I am holding, but many of them are blank because I find it almost impossible to hold one sheet in my right hand on its own. That is one example of a minor disability, but it is a disability that I have had now for about 57 years.

I have been fortunate and there is nothing in the Bill which could help me, but I understand that people who are more severely disabled need the help that the Bill will provide. It is called the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, and we ought to touch on the difference and the link between rights and responsibilities.

I give the example of terrorists. People ask me why I am not concerned about their rights as individuals. I say that rights and responsibilities are two sides of the same coin. A person cannot expect society to recognise his rights if he does not accept his responsibility to society to act in a way which reflects the democratic process.

In the case of disabled persons, the exact opposite is the case. They accept their responsibilities as disabled persons every minute of every day of every week of every year. It is our duty and obligation—morally and otherwise—to accept our right to help them: there is no doubt about that. The point has been made that there is sex and racial discrimination legislation on the statute book. I cannot believe why legislation to protect disabled people has not been on the statue book long before now.

Mr. Stern

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Dicks

No, with great respect. Many hon. Members want to speak, and I shall not be speaking for long. If we all gave way, other hon. Members would not get a chance to speak. I hope that my hon. Friend will please accept my decision.

There is a difference between lifetime disability and disability which comes later in life. People such as myself, and others who are much worse, have grown up with the disability and know no different. They must cope with the problems of life from birth. However, others who become disabled late in life have many more problems. They must cope with problems of adaptation, and problems of the mind and spirit. They must change their way of life, and see life in a completely different way.

One thinks of blindness which comes to some people later, losing one's legs or the capacity to use one's arms or losing the capacity to father or mother children. All those things may come later in life, and give a shock to the system and to the personality.

One organisation which I am fond of, which I do a little to help—perhaps not enough—and which I mentioned when we had a similar debate one year ago, is the Spinal Injuries Association. Many people belong to the association and are supported by it because their injuries have come later in life. It has recently produced a racegoers' guide for disabled people to enable those who enjoy the sport to get to racecourses where there are facilities for disabled people.

I said one year ago, and I repeat it now, that one of the people involved in the association keeps falling out of his wheelchair on certain racecourses because there is no facility to let him go smoothly over the ground to the appropriate place to watch the races. Organisations such as that need support, and they should get a good deal more.

Mention has been made of the Government's approach to financial resources and the lack thereof. It is strange that we have the money to build luxury prisons, and that two of the prisons built under the Government since 1979 have contained sports facilities worth £1 million each for thugs, rogues and wrongdoers—yet there is not enough money for the disabled. We give money to my old hobby-horse, the arts. Some £600 million a year is spent on the arts, and the Department of National Heritage budget is approaching £2 billion—but there is not enough to spend on the disabled.

We give money to immigrants. It is interesting that the Government's argument is that we should not go forward with the legislation because we do not know how much it costs. I have questioned my hon. Friend the Minister's boss—the Secretary of State for Social Security—on how much is spent on all the benefits which have been given to immigrants during the past few years. He replied that he was sorry, but he could not tell me as he did not know.

We have an open door. No matter how many people come in to this country, money is found to feed, clothe and house them and to give them benefits—but there is not enough money to give to the disabled, and we should not do anything because we do not know the cost. That is a silly argument, and I have proved that it does not apply elsewhere.

There is now to be a lottery. If ever there is a cause to which some, if not all, of the money should go, it is the disabled. But where is it going? It is going to the arts, which are looked after too well from the public purse and elsewhere, and to sport. Sport is good, and if money was going to disabled sport, I would not mind. However, it is going to sport in general, as far as I can see.

Here is a chance to raise money from the public domain. Have members of the public been asked where they want the money to be spent? The average guy in the street—certainly the average guy in Hayes and Harlington—would have said that it should be given to the disabled. The money is going to arty-farty people and sportsmen, some of whom are earning fortunes as so-called stars—but we do not have enough money to give to the disabled.

The Government have spent £1 billion in the past eight years on AIDS publicity. They have told heterosexual people who will never get AIDS in their life that they must be careful and wear a condom. God, what we could have done with £1 billion to improve facilities for the disabled up and down the country. Yet the money has gone on a completely unnecessary publicity campaign which helps no one and which will make no difference.

We can find money to give to service women who join the forces willingly and who become pregnant willingly. Those women must leave the job because they have become pregnant, and we give them hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation. Why should we pay them? They have made their own free decisions. Why could not that money provide facilities for disabled people? It is a crazy, stupid idea, and it is a stupid approach by the Government and by the legal process which allows that to happen.

The European Community, or the European Union as it is now called, wastes more money in a day than it would cost the Government to provide facilities for the disabled during the next five years. Do we care? Do we hell. We ought to say that we do not care what the European Union claims that it needs to spend, and that we should start siphoning off some of that money. The best cause for some of that siphoned-off money would be to help disabled persons, and the sooner we do that the better.

We must recognise that disabled people are special. Most, if not all, of the predicament of disabled people is not caused by anything that they have done. Disabilities are often unavoidable. They are not always able to fend for themselves, which makes them special. They are willing to stand on their own with minimum support.

One of the minor disagreements that I had with my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mrs. Browning) the last time we had a debate such as this was that I do not believe that disabled people are basically miserable and unhappy with their lot. They are resilient, and often their sense of humour is far better than that of some of us in the Chamber. We should not pretend that they need our help because they are dour, miserable and always whingeing—that is the last thing they are. We have to recognise their resilience and encourage them.

Disabled people do not wish to be a burden on the state, and most of them are not, although some of them have to be through no choice of their own. They make a contribution to society. As previous speakers have said, the opportunity for disabled people to make a vital contribution is often restricted through lack of facilities. Often they cannot gain access to study facilities, universities and theatres. We must change that.

Disabled people want to give their all, and to do things that the rest of us take for granted. They are willing to give up many things. I have not achieved much—I went to university and was elected to this place, if that is an achievement. I would give it all up to be able to take my wife into a bar and say, "Sit down there, darling"—I do call her that occasionally—pick up two drinks from the bar to take them back to where she is sitting. I cannot do that; she has to stand beside me and take the glass because I cannot pick up a pint or a glass with two hands. If we go to a restaurant and are served food on a platter, I cannot use it. My wife has to sit beside me and serve me carefully. I would give up everything I have to be able to do the things that most of my colleagues do normally.

Some people are much worse off than me and suffer far greater loss. Some people cannot walk—I walk with a limp. Some people cannot use both hands; some people cannot see the food and the sunshine. Some people cannot understand the things that I understand, even with all my weaknesses.

It is no excuse for people who are fit and able to say that the money is not available and there is a cost imperative. The first thing that I would do were it in my power would be to sack everyone in the Treasury. No other organisation in this country causes more harm and hurt across the board than the Treasury, and those who live and work there. I wonder how many of them ever go out into the real world to find out what it is all about.

Our duty is not to patronise disabled people, but to recognise them as our equals, respect their dignity as humans, help them to live a normal life as far as their disabilities allow and provide the resources to allow disabled civil rights to become a reality. If anyone in the House today does not have the guts to put the case for people with disabilities, they must be out of their mind. It is an excellent cause to support.

It was suggested that the Department of Social Security might be distributing leaflets suggesting why the measure should not be supported. I have never known a Minister with responsibility for disabled people who has been as helpful and understanding as my right hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People. I told him earlier this week that I would speak in favour of the Bill and he said that he understood my view. But, unfortunately, my right hon. Friend is governed by the mandarins in the Treasury, which has the smallest group of civil servants in the country and the highest paid permanent secretary. How they do it, I do not know. My right hon. Friend is governed by idiots who do not understand the real world. Therefore, before people criticise my right hon. Friend, they should bear that in mind. Things could be a damn sight worse if anyone else were doing the job.

The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), who is not present, had a set-to the last time that we debated this subject. I had a go at him because I thought that his speech was unfair, and had become political. In the same way, the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler), who is no longer present, made a silly remark about one of my colleagues. It is not a political issue, but one that involves honour, decency, justice and respect for our fellow citizens who are not as well off as the rest of us.

11.24 am
Ms Liz Lynne (Rochdale)

I understand that we are today debating the 12th Bill aiming to confer civil rights on people with disabilities. Naturally, my party and I welcome the Bill, but I do not welcome the fact that such an important measure has so far failed to be enacted. I hope that this is the last time that we have to debate such a Bill and that the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) will successfully steer the current Bill through the House.

For too long debates on disability issues have been dominated by arguments about health, social security and community care. I hope that today's debate will redress that imbalance and put the issue into the realm of human rights. Society's suspicion of what is different has led to the marginalisation of people with disabilities. Restrictions on their legal and social rights, access to buildings, information, employment and leisure have led to the exclusion, by default or design, of people with disabilities from the mainstream of society.

For example, the current law allows an employer lawfully to refuse even to consider a job applicant who uses a wheelchair or who has controlled epilepsy, no matter how well equipped the applicant is to do the job. The current law allows someone selling a house to refuse to sell it to a health authority that intends to use it as a home for former psychiatric hospital patients. The current law condones a holiday camp that bans a group with cerebral palsy from booking a week's holiday in high summer.

Those examples—hon. Members have mentioned many others today—show that people with disabilities are discriminated against daily in almost every aspect of their lives. Disabled people are six times more likely to be refused a job interview and two and a half times more likely to be unemployed. Therefore, it is not surprising that two thirds of people with disabilities live below the poverty line. It would be a mistake to say that the only people calling for the Bill are a vocal and politically motivated minority of the disabled population. There is a groundswell of support for the Bill precisely because disability does not affect a small minority.

The number of people with disabilities is thought to be about 6.5 million. However, the Royal National Institute for the Deaf estimates that 7.5 million people have some form of hearing loss. According to a poll conducted during the International Year of Disabled People in 1981, 29 per cent. of the people of this country—nearly one third of the population—are affected directly, or through a family tie, by disability.

It is not surprising that support for a civil rights Bill has grown across the country and commands the support of half the Members of Parliament. The only opposition to the measure seems to come from Ministers who argue that the best way forward is through education and persuasion. The evidence thus far shows that that approach simply does not work. Let us consider the failure to include in the Railways Bill when it was first published a provision for groups representing people with disabilities to be consulted. The Government's programme of education and persuasion does not seem even to have made the distance from Caxton house to Marsham street, let alone covered the rest of the country. The Government's piecemeal approach lacks the moral force that would be given by the clear statement of rights in the Bill.

The Government's further argument is that the implementation of a civil rights Bill would lead to extensive and unwelcome demands on public finances. However, the evidence from the United States, following the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, shows that that need not necessarily be the case, and the burden on business should not be excessive. Companies in America that have begun to improve access say that the cost arguments have been exaggerated. That opinion is supported by studies by the federal authorities that have found that, when access features are incorporated in new buildings or new construction work, they add less than 1 per cent. to the total cost.

Surely the fundamental question is, should the rights of any of us be limited by considerations of cost? To my mind, the answer to that is a resounding no. Why should people with disabilities have fewer rights than the rest of the population, and why should people with disabilities in this country have fewer rights than people with disabilities in America?

Rather than regarding the civil rights bill for disabled persons as a potential burden, the people of America and their Government responded positively to the challenges and opportunities afforded by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The New York Times heralded that Act as the most sweeping piece of anti-discrimination law to be approved since the Civil Rights Act 1964". That comparison with the civil rights campaign by African Americans is significant for, as Stephen Hawking reminded us in his letter to The Times on Monday, if black people or women were discriminated against to the extent that people with disabilities are, there would be a public outcry. As a result of the problems of access and the lack of wheelchair places, many people with disabilities are effectively barred from theatres, cinemas and restaurants as black people were in the southern United States before the Civil Rights Act.

For too long, Governments in this country have preferred to regard the people of Britain—all the people of Britain—as passive subjects, not active citizens. As was evident from the lobby of Parliament on Wednesday, one group of people, at least, is not prepared to accept that position any longer.

The Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill is a great liberating measure, comparable to the Civil Rights Act in America, that will unlock the potential of thousands, if not millions, of our fellow citizens. As many hon. Members have mentioned, President Bush declared to American business leaders on signing the American Act, You can now unlock a splendid resource of untapped potential that will enrich us all … let the shameful walls of exclusion finally come tumbling down. The Bill is the battering ram that will help to bring down the shameful walls of exclusion in this country. I urge all hon. Members to support this vital measure.

11.31 pm
Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry)., not only on his good fortune in the ballot and his decision to choose this subject for his Bill, but on the excellent way in which he spoke. He set a good tone for the debate. Reasonableness is evident in the Bill itself and was very evident in the manner in which he spoke. One hopes that it augurs well for the progress of the Bill from the Chamber into Committee.

As the hon. Member for Kingswood said, the Bill has a long pedigree, and the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) played a major part in its earlier progress.

The treatment of minorities is a hallmark of our society. Ignorance and prejudice lead to the disasters of wars, but through wars, to some extent, we have been able to dispel of some of that ignorance and prejudice towards disabled people. The Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Act 1944 came in towards the end of the second world war, undoubtedly as a reaction to public feelings about the war wounded. The same thing must have happened in America after the Vietnam war—people changed their attitudes to people with disabilities, which led to the Americans with Disabilities Act. One of the big questions that confronts us today is whether the US legislation is the model for us.

I have already referred to the Institute of Directors. I was a little disappointed with the letter that I received from the institute yesterday. It described the Americans with Disabilities Act as proving to be one of the costliest regulations in recent American history and felt that the Bill before the House today should be opposed on that ground.

Mr. Sheerman

As many Opposition Members will not have seen that letter from the Institute of Directors, will the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether the institute quotes its authorities in the United States for making that allegation? Some of us who have been to the United States to speak to business and political leaders do not believe that that is the case.

Mr. Thurnham

I shall be glad to make a copy of the letter available to the hon. Gentleman, but I do not believe that the Institute of Directors has come up with sufficient evidence on cost fully to justify that argument.

The issue of costs has emphasised the doubts about the Bill. The hon. Member for Kingswood attacked the Government for not having come up with a cost-benefit analysis, but perhaps he is open to the same criticism; he did not present us with a detailed analysis. Perhaps that is one aspect on which the Bill will be open to more examination in Committee.

I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) has left after his spirited attack on the Treasury. It was slightly unfair that he should have singled out the permanent secretary for his greatest ire, because the Treasury's record is amazingly good. The amount of spending on long-term sick and disabled people has trebled under the Government to a current figure of £16.5 billion—an increase of 225 per cent. in real terms. Also, two million people now receive help with the costs of their care or mobility needs—compared with only 360,000 when the Labour party was in government. I do not think that it is entirely fair to criticise the Treasury in the way that my hon. Friend did.

Mr. Howarth

My hon. Friend will also be aware that the Treasury is rather anxious to reduce its spending on long-term sick and disabled people. That is a rather important part of the background to the introduction of the Social Security (Incapacity for Work) Bill. Does he agree that a proper cost-benefit analysis might persuade Treasury officials, and all of us, that the economy would benefit so substantially as a result of anti-discrimination legislation that such legislation would be the most effective way for it to reduce expenditure, about which it is worried?

Mr. Thurnham

I agree with my hon. Friend that we want to see the cost-benefit analysis, but I think that he is a little unfair about the Treasury. The Treasury's anxiety is to reduce the increase in costs rather than to impose any cuts, as I understand it, because there has been the considerable increase that I have already quoted. Our anxieties relate to the extent to which we can fund continued increases in all the welfare provisions.

Before leaving the subject of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I strongly commend to Members of the House the report prepared by Victoria Scott on her Winston Churchill fellowship, entitled "Lessons from America." She goes a long way to dispelling the fears which exist but which have not been properly quantified.

I believe that in this country discrimination is reducing and people are becoming more aware of the contribution that people with disabilities can make. In my family we have been able to adopt a handicapped child—something which was not commonly possible for many years in the past. Stephen has made a great contribution to our family and friends and, I would like to feel, to society. This year, for the first time, he will be able to go to Buckingham palace for the garden party. I do not think that that is a result of the anti-discrimination legislation on disabilities—it is more likely to be owing to the lack of sex discrimination—but we shall be delighted to take him for the first time.

I was struck by the comment of my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam) in his excellent speech about Dr. Duckworth, at Buckingham palace last year, being unable to go on to, I think, a theatre afterwards. That type of restriction makes me feel that the Bill is necessary, because it is wrong that people should be discriminated against in that way.

I have spoken about the Government's record on spending overall. A considerable amount is spent on employment of people with disabilities, both through Remploy, at a cost of more than £10,000 per person employed, and through sheltered placement schemes such as Shaw Trust, at a cost of half as much as that. The question that confronts us today is, how much further should the Government go? My preference is that we should perhaps all lead by example more than by legislation. There is so much that we can do. All of us can do more. I do not think that we in this House do enough.

Perhaps I could comment on the other place, because there was an advertisement this week in the Evening Standard for a vacancy for a senior clerical officer, headed "House of Lords", and nowhere in the advertisement is there any mention of encouraging suitable people with disabilities to apply. As the code of practice makes provision for that, how is it that the Houses of Parliament can authorise it but fail to observe it?

We must lead by example before telling others what to do. The code of practice has on its cover a symbol comprising two ticks and two dots, making two eyes, with the words "Be positive about disabled people". One extraordinary anomaly is that Government Departments are not allowed to display that symbol. The Government tell everyone else to display it, but Departments are not permitted to do so because the Privy Council feels that that would be to discriminate against able-bodied people.

I hope that the hon. Member for Kingswood will forgive me if I hesitate about legislating, but it is my belief that it is wrong to tell others to do something that one does not do oneself. The Government must do more, as we all must, to set a better example before legislating.

A document published by the Trades Union Congress, "Disabled People Working in the Public Sector", estimates that there could be an extra 100,000 jobs in that sector if it were to set a better example. We know that not everyone wants to register as disabled, so that the known number of registered employed disabled does not tell the whole story. However, that document reveals that 30 health authorities and 12 local authorities do not employ any registered disabled people. A nationalised concern such as the BBC employs only some 70 registered disabled from a total of about 25,000 employees—0.3 per cent., or only one tenth, of the quota figure.

The public sector must set an example without legislation. A general directive should be sent to all Departments to employ more disabled people. If the Department of Employment can meet the quota, why not other Departments?

Figures show that the civil service does better than the public sector generally, but comparisons between the private sector and public sector show that in every year to 1992 the private sector employed proportionately more registered disabled than the public sector. We should not need to pass laws to make the public sector do what it should do anyway. I would prefer public sector organisations to set an example before telling the rest of the country what to do.

In my constituency, private companies such as Vernacare Ltd. and Indispension Ltd. have an excellent record of employing people with disabilities, yet I was told by the local Employment Service that it had a poor response from town halls and health authorities when they were asked to employ disabled people. The Government must do more to improve matters without legislation, but if necessary with legislation. My preference is to lead by example, but if that cannot be done, we must legislate.

Many of the Bill's provisions are for the Government, so it should be a Government Bill. However, I commend the hon. Member for Kingswood for introducing it and for giving the House an opportunity to examine the Bill closely in Committee to see which parts of it can be adopted by the Government.

11.44 am
Mr. Gordon McMaster (Paisley, South)

As many other hon. Members want to speak, I shall not repeat the points so excellently made by others. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) on using his luck to promote the Bill. We were all delighted the day that that result was announced, because, when my hon. Friend's name was drawn seventh, we all knew which Bill he would present—he has supported it consistently.

I also congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), who piloted the Bill on previous occasions and helped to keep up the pressure. It would not be right to speak about anti-discrimination legislation without giving an honourable mention to the joint chairs of the all-party disablement group, who have worked so hard over the years to achieve success.

The last occasion on which I spoke on this subject was when the Bill last received a Second Reading, on 31 January 1992, when it was blocked. I will not relate the circumstances, but I concluded my speech by saying of the Bill: If this is not its day, its day will come."—[Official Report, 31 January 1992; Vol. 202, c. 1258.] Its day has come—today.

Anyone who witnessed the lobby in Westminster hall on Wednesday will be aware that the will of disabled people throughout the United Kingdom is such that the Bill cannot be rejected again. If it is—as my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood said—there is no doubt that a similar Bill will be on the statute book one day soon.

The Bill is about the fundamental human rights of disabled people to be full and equal citizens. Although I try to be careful, I noticed that in my last speech I referred to treating disabled people as full and equal citizens, which perhaps displayed an attitude that I now regret. We must change attitudes, stop underestimating disabled people, and provide them with equal rights.

A Bill is not about reflecting basic values that are important to us, or about charity, paternalism or philanthropic gestures. It is about just rights for disabled people. That message came across loud and clear in Westminster hall, where I met a group from Strathclyde disability forum. People travelled from all over the country to attend that lobby, including from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams).

One of them, Irene Galloway, had to leave her wheelchair at the front of the bus, crawl to the back of the bus, climb on a seat and travel overnight to be one of the thousands of people at that lobby. That is how strongly Irene Galloway, who has experienced being both able-bodied and disabled, feels about the Bill.

She was accompanied by Gary Struthers. It was an emotional moment when I recognised him, which I did not at first. When I was an apprentice gardener, Gary was my journeyman. He was a fit, able-bodied person who enjoyed life, but then discovered that, through illness, he would become progressively disabled. Gary has also seen life from both sides in that way. He said that, when he became disabled, he could not believe how many doors were shut and how much discrimination existed. The Bill is all about changing attitudes and stopping some of the things that happen to disabled people.

I listened to some of the opponents of the Bill—for they were that—who spoke in Westminster hall. They said that they agreed with the Bill in principle, but that it needed amending. I would like to know what they meant by that. If one accepts the principle of the Bill—the Bill is about a principle—why amend it, except to improve it?

If right hon. and hon. Members mean that they want to amend the principle of the Bill, quite frankly they are not on. They are trying to con disabled people into believing that they support it when they do not. I must make it clear that many of us in the all-party disablement group—on both sides of the House—are determined that the principle of the Bill will not be destroyed in any of its stages. That does not mean that we are unwilling to listen to amendments that improve it, but its principle is sacrosanct.

If we agree with the Bill, it must be supported through all its stages. I hope that that happens today. We can no longer take a piecemeal approach to disabled people in providing small pieces of legislation. The Government's approach to the Bill was effectively destroyed this morning by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood, when he said that, if one really believes that education and persuasion can work, all the costs associated with the legislation are inevitable, because one will arrive at the same place.

It is a contradictory argument to say that, on the hand, we cannot afford it, but on the other to say that we disagree only about tactics and that we both want to get to the same place. My hon. Friend made a brilliant point when he highlighted that.

We must also look at the record of successive Governments, but I shall focus on the current Government's record on providing for disabled people. Inevitably, it leads to the conclusion that any legislation must be comprehensive. The piecemeal approach has simply not worked, for several reasons.

Let us take a few examples. We heard this morning that overall spending on personal services has increased—quite rightly. That must be seen in relation to the fact that the number of elderly disabled people has increased. We heard that, even taking that into account, benefits have increased in real terms; I accept that.

Then why do the Government see that as a problem rather than an achievement? The thrust of many of the Government policies at the moment, including the Social Security (Incapacity for Work) Bill, is to say that it is costing too much and that we must move away from that. Much legislation has been enacted by the House but is never enforced.

We know about the quota system, to which the hon. Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) referred, and the fact that even Government Departments are not achieving anywhere near the quota. I tell this story every time, but it is worth repeating.

When I was leader of Renfrew district council, it achieved I per cent. of the quota—not the 3 per cent. required in law—and the Department of Employment gave us a "fit for work" award. It gave us an award for breaking the law by only two thirds, because that was better than was being achieved elsewhere in the community.

The Government have a record of enacting legislation but not enforcing it. Words are now not enough. The legislation must be comprehensive, and include a disablement commission that can ensure that the law is enforced. The importance of the disablement commission is not only practical and about enforcement: it is about sending out the right messages that will change attitudes in society by saying that if people, discriminate against disabled people, there will be a commissioner to deal with it. That is another important aspect.

Hon. Members have made the point that there are 6.5 million disabled people in Britain. There are 651 Members of the House. It therefore follows that there are some 10,000 disabled people in every constituency. We are all here to represent our constituents. We cannot properly represent them if we do not support—I suspect unanimously—the Bill today.

We must get rid of the situation in which, in Britain today, I can advertise a job for a secretary and cannot say to a female, black, disabled candidate that I am not giving her the job because she is female, or because she is black, but can say that I am not giving her the job because she is disabled. That is wrong in society in 1994.

The hon. Member for Bolton, North-East asked how far the Government should go. I think that he would agree that the Government should go just as far as equality. We do not want disabled people to be given preferential treatment; they are not asking for that. They ask simply for equality. They have a right to be full and equal citizens. I think that the Bill's day has come.

11.55 pm
Mr. Michael Stern (Bristol, North-West)

Mr. Deputy Speaker, you made a plea earlier for short speeches. I shall do my very best to comply with that. We have had two and a quarter hours of debate. I shall be the first Member to speak today to express considerable doubts about the Bill. I hope that you will forgive me, therefore, if, while not in any way wishing to talk for too long—there are no tactics involved—I take a little while to express those doubts in as much detail as necessary.

Several references have been made to events on the two previous occasions, particularly by the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) and the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), who introduced the Bill on 31 January 1992. I shall come back to that shortly. The hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Tyler) made a particularly small-minded reference. I am sorry that he is not in his place, as he deserves all the obloquy that has been—and will be—heaped on him for his comments on this occasion.

The first occasion on which I was present in the House for a debate on a Bill of this nature was when the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) introduced a similar Bill on 18 November 1983. On that occasion, the hon. Gentleman, quite rightly—like the hon. Member for Kingswood on this occasion—took the opportunity of coming high in the ballot for private Members' Bills to introduce a Bill that had been the subject of considerable discussion.

On that occasion, because it was high in the ballot, the Bill had a full day's debate. The hon. Gentleman introduced the Bill—I thought very well on that occasion. According to Hansard, he spoke for about 49 minutes, with some 10 interventions. He did not speak at any great length. That example was quite rightly followed by the hon. Member for Kingswood today, who spoke for about three quarters of an hour.

Despite that moderate introduction to the debate, the House decided, after about five hours, that there had not been sufficient debate. There were various reasons for that, and there may have been various tactics behind that, but nevertheless that was the decision of the House.

The situation when the Bill was next debated on 31 January 1992 was different. The right hon. Member for Wythenshawe had not come that high in the ballot. The Bill therefore was the second Bill on that day. For those who do not regularly follow parliamentary procedure, it is worth making the point that a second Bill on a private Members' day has virtually no chance of proceeding further unless it is unanimously accepted by the House, and only then if considerable restraint is exercised by those who wish to contribute to what will necessarily be a brief debate.

I remember, because I was in the House that day, the expressions of horror and disbelief that gradually spread over colleagues' faces when the right hon. Gentleman, in a debate that could last a maximum of 1 hour and 55 minutes, spoke for 27 minutes without the excuse of a single intervention. Indeed, he spoke for longer than the Minister on that occasion.

It was not surprising, therefore, that, at 10 minutes past 2, an Opposition Front-Bench Member noted that at least two other Members of the Opposition wished to speak in the debate. I recollect that at least six Conservative Members still hoped to contribute to what was recognisably, by then, a hopeless debate.

Mr. Alfred Morris

It may help the hon. Gentleman to know why I chose 31 January 1992 for Second Reading. I had drawn eighth in the ballot and was advised that the debate on the previous Bill would be short and one on which total unanimity would rule. It is no surprise that hon. Members were disconcerted. Many hon. Members said that the debate on the first Bill could have been much shorter. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman spoke in excess of 20 minutes.

A Conservative Member told me that that was the date to go for, especially in view of the fact that Lord Renton had said in the House of Lords that there was scant need, after all the debate there, for much more discussion here. But I took it on the basis of advice given to me from the Conservative party.

Mr. Stern

I do not dispute the right hon. Gentleman's decision to go for that date, and accept what he says about the advice that he was given. I am simply saying that the pressure on that day was such that, when the right hon. Gentleman rose to speak, the Bill had virtually no chance. But it was effectively killed by the length of his speech.

Mr. McMaster

I am not sure exactly what point the hon. Gentleman is trying to make, but if he is trying to make the ridiculous proposition that the Bill's author, my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), tried to kill his own Bill, no one on this side of the House, hardly anyone on that side, and no one in the country believes him.

Mr. Stern

On that day, my hon. Friend the former Member for Kingswood suffered the same sort of barracking as I am getting. I was going on to make the point that, in what was intended to be a brief speech, he suffered not only barracking but an average of one intervention in less than every two minutes of his speech.

Mr. Howarth

Does my hon. Friend intend to come to the arguments against the Bill on the merits of the case that he wishes to make?

Mr. Stern

I certainly intend to come to the arguments against the Bill. I am also concerned that a former Member of this House who had a distinguished career while he was here has been traduced by Opposition Members, and that no one has yet been prepared to defend him. I therefore reject the comments that have been made about his speech—for example, by the right hon. Member for Wythenshawe, who said that it was a "crude blocking tactic".

Mr. McMaster

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Stern

As I have just been criticised for not getting on with my arguments, I am not sure whether I wish to give way further in my opening remarks. I shall give way for the last time on this subject.

Mr. McMaster

If all that the hon. Gentleman is saying is correct, why did the former Member for Kingswood feel that he had to make a personal statement to the House the following week?

Mr. Stern

I shall answer that, despite the fact that I may then be criticised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) for taking the time to do so.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are on Second Reading of a specific Bill. While it is perfectly proper to allude to the history of the Bill, I urge the hon. Gentleman now to move on to his comments on the Bill.

Mr. Stern

I should be delighted to do so, Mr. Deputy Speaker, while accepting that it means that I cannot answer the point made by the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. McMaster).

There is considerable agreement on the circumstances behind the Bill and what might be seen as the need for it. I wish to say nothing against the central proposition that there is considerable discrimination against disabled people. A great deal can be done to eliminate, or at least ease, that discrimination. But I have doubts about the Bill because, unlike many hon. Members who have spoken, I am not sure whether the Bill's approach in terms of setting up a disablement commission and establishing a legal definition of discrimination is necessarily right.

May I give one or two examples of why the piecemeal approach, which is adopted by not just the Government but many public bodies and institutions, is more appropriate? The hon. Member for Kingswood and I both represent parts of Bristol. We recently attended a reception, which I sponsored, in this House designed to publicise an initiative by the university of Bristol for access for deaf students. We were both rightly proud to be there and wanted to give publicity to the special effort that Bristol university has made over many years to provide the maximum and widest possible range of initiatives, particularly for access, so that deaf students can attend the university and play a full part in its activities and courses.

I applaud the university for that initiative. I hope that many other universities will follow its example and do the same, not just for deaf students but for students with other handicaps. However, it would be foolish and wholly impractical for us to assume that every university or major institution could provide the same range of aids and initiatives. It would be a gross waste of public resources for them to do so.

Mr. Berry

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of any individual concerned with the access for deaf students initiative at Bristol university who is other than fully supportive of the Bill?

Mr. Stern

I am not, because I have not bothered to inquire.

Mr. Berry

May I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he should do so?

Mr. Stern

May I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that I am fully aware that most, if not all, organisations associated with disabled groups welcome the Bill? I do not dispute that, but it does not stop me pointing out that the Bill may not be the best way to proceed for the benefit of members of those organisations. This is a debating forum, not just a forum for acceptance of pressures from outside.

Mr. Congdon

I would find the hon. Gentleman's arguments more convincing if there were more evidence that the piecemeal approach, which we have had for many years, had succeeded in reducing discrimination. Apart from one or two exceptions, it is virtually impossible for disabled students to gain access to higher education. Surely that demonstrates beyond doubt the failure of the piecemeal approach, and makes it necessary to introduce legislation along the lines proposed.

Mr. Stern

I shall happily try to show, in my subsequent remarks, that, although I accept the hon. Gentleman's strictures about the piecemeal approach—I accept that a great deal remains to be done—I still doubt whether the alternative approach proposed by the Bill would be more effective.

I mentioned the access for deaf students initiative as an example of a piecemeal approach that has worked in a limited way.

Ms Jean Corston (Bristol, East)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Stern

Of course I shall give way to my Bristol colleague, but I am conscious that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have asked for short speeches. So far, I have given way eight times. At the present rate, I shall be giving way about 40 times in the next 10 minutes.

Ms Corston

I thank my fellow Bristol Member of Parliament for giving way. Is aware that a member of staff at Bristol university, who I gather is one of his constituents and who came to lobby Parliament earlier this week about the Bill, spoke to me through a signer about the access for deaf students initiative? He said that it was all very well as far as it went, but that a statutory duty should be placed on organisations such as universities to provide such a scheme, and that the piecemeal approach was not appropriate.

Mr. Stern

That student is entitled to his opinion but, as I was saying, the depth and breadth of the work done by Bristol university on the initiative is such that it will undoubtedly act as a model for many other universities; however, to suggest that every university should be required by law to provide exactly the same facilities is wholly impractical and would indeed discourage other universities from adopting similar initiatives for other aspects of disability.

The Government have in the past favoured the piecemeal approach. A great deal has been said this morning about the failures of that approach. If we are to debate what are basically two alternative ways of proceeding, it is not fair to let that claim pass unchallenged.

Instead of trying to give a complete rundown of what the Government have achieved, I shall pick on one aspect, almost at random, in which I happen to be particularly interested—further education—and list what has been possible under the piecemeal approach backed by legislation. I am not denying that there is a role for legislation.

The Government have placed a statutory duty on further education authorities to reflect the fact that disability should not be regarded as a bar to access. Indeed, the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 strengthens that duty. It contains an explicit duty in relation to adult students, including those with learning difficulties. It applies to local education authorities and to the Further Education Funding Council, and does not allow the needs of disabled students to be disregarded.

The funding council has set up a specialist committee to review the range and type of further education available to disabled students and recommend how the council may best fulfil its statutory duties towards them under the Act.

Further education provision for disabled students has increased considerably in recent years. There are now more students in mainstream courses, and many institutions have developed link courses with day centres, adult training or social education centres and long-stay hospitals. In addition, there are special outreach classes for students who cannot be catered for on college premises. There are discretionary awards from some local education authorities, often paid at an increased rate in line with the grant supplements available. There is also a scheme to support building and equipment projects at independent FE colleges which cater for students with disabilities.

Like the records of all those dealing with disability, I accept that our record could be improved. However, our record shows that the cold water poured on the piecemeal approach today does not take into account the advances that have been made in this and many related spheres.

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton)

The needs of the disabled have also been considered in care in the community. In that instance, we have moved away from the piecemeal approach and decided that we need to analyse the needs of the individual—I stress the word "individual". Having analysed the needs of the individual, we no longer say that we shall provide whatever we happen to have available, however inappropriate it may be.

Care in the community now demands that a package must be developed based on individual needs. Therefore, does my hon. Friend agree that, in care in the community, which also affects disabled people, our approach is quite different from that which he advocates?

Mr. Stern

There are many different approaches. My doubts about the Bill are not to do with whether legislation or Government action can be used to back the improvement of facilities for people with all sorts of disability. I doubt whether the over-arching approach of a legal definition of disability, the establishment of a disability commission and its power to decide that there is a need for further legislation is necessarily the best. I happen to think that it is not.

I cite a further example of a case in which the piecemeal approach will continue to be necessary whatever the law says. It arises from this morning's newspaper.

I understand that the disability organisation Artsline has accused Buckingham palace of discrimination, because the palace asks disabled sightseers to book their trip in advance. It is an example of plain discrimination where I am entirely on the side of the organisers of visits to Buckingham palace, because Buckingham palace, which is only newly opened to the public, has not yet been able to make the adaptations that will be necessary in due course to allow full access to disabled sightseers.

I have no doubt that the palace will eventually do what is necessary but, in the meantime, Artsline is claiming that the disabled are being discriminated against.

Mr. Sheerman

If there were a commission on the rights of the disabled and a complaint was made about Buckingham palace's treatment of disabled people, the commission would evaluate the complaint. I should expect that its decision would be reasonable.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that Bristol Radio recently advertised for a researcher. The advertisement stated that Bristol Radio was an equal opportunities employer, but that the researcher had to have a full driving licence. That case would also go to the commission and, we hope, a sensible decision would be reached.

Mr. Stern

I accept that that might happen, but the intervention of a disability commission is introducing a wild card which seems unnecessary in the example that I am citing. Buckingham palace is quite willing to allow the disabled full access, but it needs time. That time will be provided, whether or not there is a commission.

I deal now with one of my principal objections to the Bill. The Bill would require the establishment of a quango—a commission—with full powers to intervene and perhaps to promote legislation. However effective it was in increasing access and rights for the disabled, the Bill would automatically introduce an overlay of costs and employment opportunities on the commission at public expense. Such costs are unnecessary, when the alternative piecemeal approach is also available.

Mr. Berry

Does the hon. Gentleman therefore advocate the abolition of the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality?

Mr. Stern

The two commissions to which the hon. Gentleman refers have been in existence for some time. I do not advocate their abolition, but I ask the hon. Gentleman a sincere question. Like me, he represents part of a city in which there is considerable social stress. Does he honestly believe, as I do not, that, after 30 or 40 years of work by the Commission for Racial Equality—work done by a long-standing and sincere commission established by legislation—acts of racial discrimination, while they may have changed in appearance, are scarcer now than they were before the Commission existed? I do not believe so, and I say that from experience in my constituency.

For the legislation to be effective, it has to be practical and enforceable. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have proved that it would be. I accept that they have proved the need for a fresh look at the legislation available to ensure the maximum possible speed and the maximum availability of facilities for the disabled. That is why, despite the fact that I am opposed to the central core of his Bill, I am undecided whether to call for a vote today. However, if the Bill is to go into Committee, the hon. Gentleman who introduced it must recognise that, in Committee or on Report, he will need to meet arguments about the wording of individual clauses—those will be important.

For example, I notice that, on a matter which was discussed earlier, clause 6(3) provides for a number of exemptions in relation to the provision of services in small boarding houses. I cannot see any reason for an exemption on the grounds that we are discussing—cost.

Mr. Berry

Would the hon. Gentleman like to advise the House which provisions in clause 7 do not deal with his objection?

Mr. Stern

On the face of the Bill, I must tell the hon. Gentleman that clause 7 may well deal with that objection. I am not sure, because the two items are in separate clauses, and one would need legal advice on the linkage. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that that matter needs to be discussed in Committee.

Mr. Berry

I hope that you have read the Bill.

Mr. Stern

I have read the Bill, as I have just demonstrated to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Austin-Walker


Mr. Stern

I am conscious of the time, and the fact that other hon. Members wish to speak. I am sure that the myth will grow about my speech, that I spoke for far too long, but it is because of the number of interventions that I have taken.

The hon. Gentleman, as I was saying, has introduced a Bill whose thrust is that the obligation to provide better facilities for the disabled should be by means of a disability commission and a legal definition of disablement. I am saying that many of us, while we accept the obligation under the Bill, do not accept that that is the direction in which the Bill should go to achieve the objectives that he seeks.

Therefore, in Committee or on Report, we shall be arguing, not that we disagree with the Bill or the need for it, but that the central thrust of it is in entirely the wrong direction. It may be that, in Committee or on Report, we shall be able to achieve a compromise which will enable the legislation in some form to go ahead. I do not know.

Unless the hon. Gentleman is prepared to accommodate the cost—to many of us the unnecessary cost—of the whole idea of a disability commission, and unless he is prepared to accommodate the doubts that many of us feel about the legal definition of disability, as set out in the Bill, I forecast many interesting discussions ahead.

I end my remarks as I began, by wishing the hon. Gentleman well in his endeavours, while doubting the means that he has chosen to bring them forward.

12.22 pm
Mr. John Austin-Walker (Woolwich)

I join other hon. Members in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Kingwood (Mr. Berry) on introducing the Bill and especially congratulate, as have other hon. Members, my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) on his determination over many years. I hope that today he will see his efforts come to fruition.

It is 15 years since my right hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe appointed Peter Large as chair of the Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People—CORAD. The Government's response to the recommendations of that committee were that, rather than go down the legislative route, they preferred to rely on education and persuasion. At that time, the Government said that they were benevolently neutral. Some hon. Members felt that at that time the Government were malevolently hostile.

I would not wish to heap all the scorn on the former Member for Kingswood, Mr. Hayward. It was clearly a Government tactic to talk the Bill out by allowing the previous debate to go on until 12.35 pm, so that there was not an opportunity to vote on my right hon. Friend's Bill. To leave that aside, I believe that there is a change in mood and I hope that the Government, if they are not to support the Bill, will at least be benevolently neutral and allow it to proceed to Committee.

There is a necessity for a Government programme of campaigning for education and persuasion, but that must be reinforced and underpinned by a legislative framework. There were arguments that legislation on gender and race discrimination was inappropriate and that in those areas one should rely on persuasion. I shall quote from Martin Luther King, when he dismissed the case for relying on education and persuasion only to end racial prejudice. He said: Morality cannot be legislated, but behaviour can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless. The Bill seeks to regulate behaviour to ensure that disabled people enjoy their full, basic human and civil rights.

In framing a law, we need to ensure that we are getting the right law. The Bill offers us that. We already have some laws in respect of disability, such as the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944, which many Members in the Chamber and many disabled people will think is perhaps the wrong legislation and is, in many senses, unworkable. It is the law of the land and has been since 1944, yet only 20 per cent. of employers comply with that legislation.

To fail to comply is a criminal offence. I question whether the criminal law should be brought in or whether it should be under civil law, but it is significant to note that, despite the fact that employers flagrantly flout that law, the party of law and order has not been involved in any prosecution since it came into power. I am not suggesting that prosecution is the right road to go down, but, clearly, that law is failing disabled people in the country and we need to have a law that provides for some redress and change.

The hon. Member for Bolton, North (Mr. Thurnham) suggested that it was not the job of the Government to lecture other employers on what they do, when they are not doing so well themselves. I take issue with that argument. It is clear that central Government, local government and public bodies generally fail to meet their requirements under the Race Relations Act 1976, under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, and fail to meet the needs of disabled people.

However, the fact that public bodies are failing does not mean that we should not have legislation for the private sector and other bodies as well. Other areas of legislation such as gender discrimination and race discrimination provide a right of redress for the person who is discriminated against, whether by a private employer, a private company, public bodies, central Government or local government. At present, disabled people have no rights of redress in law when they are discriminated against, whether by a public or by a private concern.

There is a need for education and persuasion, but that is not all. Some years ago, I was on a course with, among others, a man who used a wheelchair. As part of the course, we visited the local magistrates court in Greenwich. My colleague was unable to go into the magistrates court in his wheelchair because the clerk of the court told him that he was a fire risk. At that moment, he did not need education and persuasion, although he may have needed that over a longer period. At that moment, he needed legislation that gave him the right to enter that court. The person who is denied a job, when he or she has the capacity to do it, on the basis of some disability does not need education and persuasion at that moment. That person needs the law to guarantee basic civil rights.

The Minister said on 28 March 1991: some employers' recruitment practices discriminate unfairly against people with disabilities."—[Official Report, 28 March 1991; Vol. 188, c. 1148.] Other hon. Members have told us that a survey has shown that 6 per cent. of employers say that they would never, "under any circumstances", employ a person with a disability. To change that, we need legislation now. We do not need to wait for those employers to be educated and persuaded.

I appreciate that there are difficulties in legislation. There were difficulties in the race discrimination legislation. There have been some difficulties in the implementation of the gender discrimination legislation, but the fact that there are difficulties in implementing legislation is not an argument for inaction. It is an argument for introducing legislation, giving due and careful consideration to it in Committee and being prepared at a subsequent stage to amend, strengthen or enhance it if it proves necessary to do so.

There are other important aspects of anti-discrimination legislation. It is, for example, possible for someone in a restaurant or a cafe to refuse to allow disabled people to come in, on the ground that it might upset other users of the restaurant. It is possible for an employer in a shop, for example, to say that the customers might be upset if a disabled person served them. Employers can say, "I do not wish to discriminate. I am not prejudiced. I am doing this because there is pressure from my customers." Under the race discrimination legislation, pressure to discriminate is not allowed as an excuse and would not be tolerated. We need to ensure that the Bill contains provisions to ensure the rights of disabled people so that employers and providers of services cannot use such excuses for denying disabled people their basic rights.

Most references in the debate have been to people with physical disabilities or with learning difficulties. Before I came to the House, I was actively involved with my local MIND—National Association for Mental Health—group. With mental illness, disability is often far less visible. However, once an employer knows that someone has had some psychiatric history or episode, there is often a closed door to employment. Thousands of people are thrown on to the scrap heap because of discrimination and prejudice about mental illness. I hope that the Bill will become law and that it will end for all time the stigma associated with mental illness in employment.

There have been suggestions that the Bill runs counter to the Government's current philosophy in terms of their desire for deregulation. The hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) has some doubts about the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976. I hope that he does not reflect the Government's view of deregulation policy and that those equality measures are not under threat.

I hope that hon. Members agree that the benefits of the Sex Discrimination Act and the Race Relations Act have been clearly demonstrated in terms of opening up opportunities for women and for black people. I believe that, in many ways, that legislation needs to be strengthened, as I believe that the Bill may need to be strengthened. The fair employment legislation in Northern Ireland provides a far better framework for ensuring equality of opportunity in employment and I should like such legislation to be introduced for disability as well.

The hon. Member for Bristol, North-West demonstrated the old adage of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing, as most of his speech was dedicated to cost. There have been many red herrings about cost. I should like there to be a real analysis of the cost benefits of freeing the system so that disabled people can enjoy full civil rights. Many disabled people are denied their civil rights—the right to work and the right to pay their taxes—because there is no legislative framework to back up those rights. Why do hon. Members who mention cost never talk about the financial cost to disabled people of discrimination in the labour market? What price do we put on human rights?

My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. McMaster) mentioned the role of the commission proposed in the Bill. It will have an important function. Individuals should have the right to seek redress if they feel that they have suffered discrimination, but the commission has an important monitoring role to play to ensure that disabled people's rights are upheld.

It was clear that the hon. Member for Bristol North-West had not read the Bill. He said that clause 7 was separate from clause 6 in terms of the provision of goods, facilities and services, but I suggest that he reads clause 7(1), which states: In determining for the purpose of section 6 above the reasonableness of any modification. It is clearly related to clause 6. Clause 7(2) makes it clear that in determining reasonableness, The factors to be considered in determining whether such actions could be undertaken without undue hardship shall include—

  1. (a) the nature and cost of the actions in question;
  2. (b) the overall financial resources of the person or body concerned and the effect on expenses and resources or the impact of such actions upon the operations of the person or body;"

Mr. Stern

I do not wish to make a major point of this, because the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) may be able to give the necessary assurance in Committee that would make everyone happy. I merely made the point that putting the proposal on cost in a separate section gave rise to some doubt about its applicability to the previous section, where it could have been included. It is not a major point; I am sure that we shall discuss it in Committee.

Mr. Austin-Walker

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman now agrees. I refer him and other hon. Members to subsections (3) and (4) of clause 3, which make the same points.

Other legislation includes provisions on determining reasonableness. It is enforced every day of the week by industrial tribunals. Their view of what is reasonable for Shell, BP or British Gas will differ from what they regard as reasonable for small businesses employing 20 or 30 people. To try to suggest that the Bill departs from basic principles on reasonableness that operate day in, day out in courts, industrial tribunals and elsewhere is a red herring.

The Government advanced their arguments on why the Bill should not proceed to the Committee stage on a previous occasion. I cannot anticipate what the Minister will say today, but I can comment on what he said about the matter in an earlier debate. He said: There is still too much unjustified discrimination against disabled people. We know that that is wrong and often has a cruel impact on the quality of life of disabled people. I doubt whether any hon. Member would disagree with that statement. He continued: I have noticed attitudes towards disabled people changing, as well as changes in the attitude of disabled people towards their situation. I agree that attitudes are changing and that they may have improved, but it was clear in the Lobby last week that attitudes are not changing fast enough.

The Minister went on: Disabled people do not just want sympathy. They do not want to be patronised or to be looked-after people or people who are told what is good for them. No, they do not: what they want are their basic human rights. In the Chamber today we have an opportunity to give them those rights.

The Minister added: nor is there by any means unanimity in the disabled community … that legislation is necessarily the right way". None of us has ever suggested that there was unanimity, but the overwhelming feeling of disabled people is that the legislative route is the right one.

The other reason that the Minister gave for not wanting the Bill to proceed in the previous Parliament was this: I am influenced … by the fact of the prospective life left to this Parliament … a good long Committee stage might sort out some of those difficulties."—[Official Report, 31 January 1992; Vol. 202, c. 1251–52] Well, we have an opportunity now for a good long Committee stage to sort out any difficulties of the sort that the hon. Members for Bolton, North-East and for Bristol, North-West mentioned. Those difficulties can be resolved in Committee; that is where the Bill should go.

I share the reluctance expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood about quoting President Bush, but what he said has been quoted only in part and sometimes inaccurately. He spoke not only of the shameful wall of exclusion finally coming tumbling down. What he said in full was: you have in your hands the key to the success of this Act for you can unlock a splendid resource of untapped human potential that, when freed, will enrich us all. There is some argument about what terminology to use in this debate. I use the phrase "disabled people" because I believe that, by its attitudes, society disables them. We have the chance today to enable and empower them, which is why I hope that the Bill will be given a Second Reading.

12.41 pm
The Minister for Social Security and Disabled People (Mr. Nicholas Scott)

I will speak more briefly than I had originally intended, because I am conscious that there are still several hon Members who want to speak in the debate, as well as the Opposition spokesman. I also believe that there will be further opportunities later to discuss in more detail aspects of this Bill.

I add my congratulations to those of others who have paid tribute to the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry)—congratulations on his good fortune in the ballot and, although this might not be particularly convenient for me, on his judgment in choosing this legislation to bring before the House again. I also congratulate other right hon. and hon. Members who have contributed so constructively to the debate.

The hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Austin-Walker) reminded us of the fact that all too often when we use the description "disabled people" we automatically bring to mind wheelchair users and forget the range of others with physical disabilities, sensory handicaps, learning difficulties and various forms of mental illness. We have, therefore, to look at disability in the round. No one who takes an interest in this subject can fail to be conscious of the strength of feeling and passion behind the campaign to eliminate discrimination against disabled people—but for that strength of feeling and commitment we would not be debating the Bill again today.

I am also conscious of the all-party opinion recorded by those who signed early-day motion 2, and of the feelings expressed by the many people who attended the impressive lobby of Parliament on Wednesday. It vividly showed the strength of feeling on this issue among disabled people. I know from the numbers of letters to which I have responded that a great many hon. Members know the weight of that concern from their mailbags of recent weeks.

My discussions with the all-party disablement group and with its secretary and researcher have also reinforced my knowledge of the strength of feeling on this matter. There is no argument about the fact that discrimination exists and disfigures in many ways the attitude that we as a society have towards disabled people.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in the House earlier this week, the Government share the aim of eliminating discrimination against disabled people. We recognise that the aspirations and expectations of disabled people in our society are now firmly part of the political agenda. It is impossible for us to ignore them, even if we wished, and it would not be right to do so.

My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam) spoke of the emotion that is behind much of the campaigning on this issue. It is an emotion which I share. However, I do not think that that should prevent us from focusing our minds on the practicalities, and deciding the best way in which we can set about achieving the aim of eliminating discrimination against disabled people.

The sponsors of the Bill believe that its approach is the right way forward. I say this only in the mildest terms, but in a sense I am disappointed that the Bill has returned to the House in precisely the same form that it appeared hitherto. I understand that that was a conscious decision by the Bill's sponsors.

As we discussed the matter on previous occasions, I had hoped that there might be some attempt by the sponsors to respond to the concerns expressed by Ministers, business and other interests about this approach to what is undoubtedly an important issue. However, I make no great complaint about that. It might have been a more sensible way forward if it had been possible to adopt a slightly different approach. If we go into Committee, we will have an opportunity to discuss and reflect on that.

Much has been said about education and persuasion. I simply want to address that briefly. The Government have been doing their best to achieve progress by using targeted legislation where necessary, but by using education and persuasion as a sustained way of altering attitudes towards disability in our society. That has led to significant progress recently in altering attitudes, and it will continue to play an essential part. There is more to be done in this area, and more will be done.

Even if we had the Bill on the statute book, there would still be a need for education and persuasion. No one doubts that in areas of race relations and discrimination against women, the simple passage of legislation did not at a stroke, as it were, alter attitudes in society; a great deal had to be done. As one who voted in favour of race relations discrimination legislation when it was perhaps not the most appropriate thing in my party, I well understand the importance of education and persuasion on these matters, but it would be right for us to recognise that there has been progress in this area.

There are some matters that are entirely in need of legislation, whether it is targeted or over-arching, and I shall address that issue in a moment. What I call the gratuitous discrimination against people who are denied access to restaurants, cinemas or other public places simply because of their disability, the inconvenience of their being in a wheelchair, perhaps a facial disfigurement or a learning difficulty which leads to a speech impediment of one sort or another, is more likely to be addressed by education and persuasion, and making it clear that that is an unacceptable way forward, than by legislation that may not be able to address that sort of gratuitous discrimination, which is too often a feature of the experience of disabled people in our society.

I hope that the House will recognise that attitudes are changing and progress is being made on a number of fronts. Of course, we all wish that the pace of that change would accelerate.

At the outset, I must say that the Government will ensure that the Bill is examined carefully. We are aware that questions have been raised about it by employers and by industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) addressed a number of those issues. A series of press releases from the CBI have suggested that it would prefer a code of practice in that area rather than legislation, and the Forum of Private Business is concerned about the impact of the legislation on business. The Institute of Directors' initiative has already been mentioned today, and I will not return to it. The Federation of Small Businesses has expressed concern about the impact on small business.

Those fears have been expressed, and it is right and sensible that we should address them as we discuss the Bill in detail in Committee. If we are to have legislation, it is important that it is comprehensive or targeted to carry employers and other providers with us in our efforts to eliminate discrimination. It is right that the Bill should be examined carefully to see which aspects are consistent with the aims that the Government share with many who have spoken during the debate.

I have stated some of the reservations in terms of the concerns expressed by business, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West also stated significant reservations. However, it is important that those matters should now be discussed in a calm, sensible and constructive manner. I believe that a Standing Committee would help us in that regard.

Whatever the outcome of that consideration, it is right for me to set out some of the advances that have been made to open up avenues of opportunity for people with disabilities and, what is more, the way in which we hope to extend those boundaries.

Mention has been made of education. There is a recognition that, although much needs to be done, there has been significant recent progress in the arrangements for children with special educational needs, including those with disabilities. The Education Act 1993 builds on the principles of the 1981 Act and signals a significant advance in this area.

The Government will be shortly laying before the House a code of practice on the identification and assessment of special educational needs. It will be a comprehensive document, and it has already been widely welcomed in consultation. At the same time, the Government are taking action to improve access for disabled children to our educational establishments.

In further and higher education, attention is also being given to improving the position of students with disabilities, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England has now allocated some £3 million to some 38 projects which are designed to improve access for those students to institutions of higher education. The aim of improving access for students with learning difficulties or disabilities is also reflected in the further and higher education charters which education departments issued last year.

I am conscious that students with disabilities frequently find that they do not receive co-ordinated service in the transition from school to further or higher education, or into employment. There is sometimes a conflict between educational, social services and employment training funding. We must seek to ensure that there is increasing co-ordination in that area, leading to increased job opportunities for people with disabilities.

Obviously, our aim—it is also the aim of the sponsors of the Bill—is that people with disabilities are recognised as people with abilities who can contribute to wider society as well as to a range of enterprises in our economic pattern. They wish to contribute their skills and talents fully in a job, in the same way as anyone else in society. With that aim in mind, a programme has been developed to raise employers' awareness, to encourage them to concentrate on people's abilities and help them achieve success by releasing individual potential and initiative.

The programme includes a code of good practice and the disability symbol which has also been mentioned during the debate. The Employment Service recently enhanced the symbol. It carries the clear message, "Positive About Disabled People". The service asks employers who use it to make five specific commitments to good practice. In the past six months, the number of employers who have opted to use the new strengthened symbol has doubled.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) mentioned the role of the civil service and its use of the symbol. I am advised that there is a legal difficulty with it, but am assured that it is being urgently addressed. I hope that I may have better news for my hon. Friend in the not-too-distant future.

Mr. Thurnham

I think that I was told a year ago that the matter was being urgently addressed.

Mr. Scott

In response to the pressure that I am receiving from my hon. Friend, perhaps I can seek to ensure that it is even more urgently addressed. I accept that there are no grounds for complacency in either the public or the private sector. We have had a code of practice in place in general terms for 10 years, and we all recognise that there is still a long way to go.

Inside the civil service, which has a code of practice that will be upgraded to a programme of action in the near future, we have made substantial progress in recent years. Within the private sector, about 0.7 per cent. of employees are registered disabled people. The corresponding figure in the civil service is 1.5 per cent.—about double the level achieved in the private sector—and even that is, in a sense, an understatement of the number of disabled people employed in the public sector.

In the Department for Social Security and its agencies—the DSS family—the percentage of employees who are registered disabled people is 1.8 per cent. But 5 per cent.

of our work force identify themselves as having disabilities of one sort or another. A significant number of our employees with disabilities do not choose to register themselves as disabled, and it is important to recognise that distinction.

Mr. Wigley

Does the Minister accept that performance within local government varies considerably? Some local authorities, including my own in Arfon, have a good record, but some have appallingly bad records. Can anything be done to encourage the bad ones to do better?

Mr. Scott

That may be one of the issues that we want to consider when we discuss the subject in more detail. It may be no bad thing for local government if central Government set an example.

Last week, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment announced the final details of the access to work scheme, with extra funding. Most important, the plans for that scheme will no longer contain a requirement for employers to make a contribution. I understand the widespread concern that was expressed about that. I am particularly pleased that my right hon. Friend felt able to progress with the scheme without that provision.

Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam)

I warmly welcome the access to work scheme, but is my right hon. Friend aware that we need to work much harder to encourage the disabled to apply for that scheme, because they are totally lacking in confidence? We need to identify their skills so that we can make maximum use of them and propose them for the scheme.

Mr. Scott

I think that my hon. Friend may be understating the confidence of many disabled people and their wish to gain employment. There is a range of incentives and opportunities for disabled people to find employment—in the benefits system, through employment training, through the work of the placement and assessment counselling teams, and training and enterprise councils around the country.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment is clearly determined to carry forward that programme, and to build on the confidence and ambitions that are increasingly evinced by people with disabilities. They are anxious to find employment and to contribute, both to society and to the particular enterprise in which they are seeking work. As recently as this week, changes have been announced to the funding arrangements for the sheltered employment programme, which should improve its effectiveness and help severely disabled people to increase their employment opportunities.

We recognise that education, employment and living arrangements are important, but transport is also vital to disabled people. It is no good having job opportunities if disabled people cannot get to work. They need also to be able to engage in the social activities—visiting family and friends and shopping—that the rest of us are able to enjoy. In that aspect, too, I believe that real progress is being made.

The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee has recently updated a specification for local bus services, which will be a big step in the right direction. The Department of Transport has recently made widely available a training videotape teaching bus drivers and conductors how to be sensitive to the needs of disabled people, and that is being incorporated in the formal national vocational qualification training that is now required by many bus companies.

The next stage in improving physical access is to eliminate steps at entrances and exits of buses. The first route to be equipped with those vehicles went into service at the end of January in London, and by summer 70 low-floor buses will operate on five routes throughout London. Some hon. Members visited the bus that was brought into New Palace Yard just before Christmas last year. The designs of bus stops and bus stations are also being tackled.

Even the railways are now making significant progress in terms of accessibility. The hon. Member for Kingswood acknowledged that it will take time to transform the whole of the rolling stock on the railway system in this country to make it fully accessible for disabled people, but he urged on us the importance of ensuring that all new rolling stock was so accessible.

All rolling stock that is now being built is wheelchair accessible and incorporates other features to make rail travel easier for anyone with a mobility problem. All InterCity services are already wheelchair accessible and all new rolling stock on InterCity incorporates a wheelchair-accessible lavatory. In the privatising of the railways, the needs of passengers with disabilities will be safeguarded.

Railway providers have to tackle another problem—the difficulty posed by unstaffed stations. That problem was mentioned to me more than once at the reception that I gave for organisations of and for disabled people last evening. We must also tackle the issue of access facilities at stations, such as stair lifts, information systems, warning and guidance for those with visual impairments, and so on. All those are being actively pursued.

Mr. Austin-Walker

I welcome the Minister's comments in relation to British Rail. Will similar considerations apply to the London underground, which is perhaps the most inaccessible place for disabled people?

Mr. Scott

I was about to move on. The hon. Gentleman anticipated my next remarks.

My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter said that it might take 20 years to make the London underground—the oldest, and probably the deepest, underground transit system in the world—accessible to passengers with disabilities. London Underground has changed its attitude—there is no doubt about that. When I speak to other audiences, I frequently quote the spokesman for London Underground who said, when he was announcing its first steps in opening up the system to wheelchair users: From now on we shall be finding reasons to say yes rather than excuses to say no. If only that attitude could be transported elsewhere in our society, many of the difficulties that confront disabled people in our society might be overcome more quickly.

London Underground has provided a free access guide to each station. It recognises that it is still a long way from creating a fully accessible system, but it aims to give wheelchair users especially the right to make their own choices about where and when they travel by tube and to provide them with information to enable them to make that choice.

Freedom to travel is important in many other ways, and I am pleased that many service providers in the leisure and tourism business are giving the needs of disabled people greater priority.

The hon. Member for Rochdale (Ms Lynne) emphasised that the Railways Bill did not originally make provision for consultation with disabled people, but it does now place a duty on the regulator to prepare a code of practice in consultation with the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee—ADAPT—to protect the interests of disabled people. That is an important step in the right direction.

Mention was made of the Museums and Galleries Commission. It recently published guidelines to be used as the basis for developing a policy on admitting and giving help to people with disabilities. Considerable work has been inspired by ADAPT, under the guidance of Geoffrey Lord, to enable proper access for the disabled to a wide range of arts venues, concert halls, museums and galleries.

We still have a problem with many cinemas. When I addressed the annual conference of cinematograph owners and managers, I urged them to change their attitudes. There are signs that they are changing. The introduction of multiscreen cinemas all at ground level, allowing easier access, is making a difference. It is more difficult to adapt older cinemas, but I hope that it will be increasingly possible for proper provision to be made for disabled customers in those cinemas as well.

We are weakest in the provision of auditory aids for the deaf and hard of hearing, but cinema owners are beginning to examine ways in which they can improve that provision. I am looking for further improvements from cinema and club owners in their attitude to many disabled people who seek to use their facilities. I know that if I fail to honour that obligation, Lord Snowdon, who sits on the Cross Benches in another place, will vigorously remind me of my duties in that regard.

I return to the recurrent theme of the importance of better education and awareness of the needs and potential of disabled people. I pay particular tribute to the work of the Employers Forum on Disability. That national organisation represents some of the most important high street names in business—including Sainsbury, Abbey National, London Electricity, the Post Office and Marks and Spencer. The forum's guides on best practice in attracting disabled people as customers and employees are to be warmly applauded.

I was particularly glad two weeks ago to launch a new scheme to ensure that disabled people who need the assistance of dogs—whether guide dogs or dogs trained to help those whose hearing is impaired—and others who need the support of four-legged animals will be admitted to the food departments of Sainsbury, Marks and Spencer and other large organisations. That was a difficult barrier to overcome and many factors had to be taken into account.

The fact that a number of large providers in the retail sector found it possible to take that step will, I hope, set an example to others and, on a wider scale, persuade more retailers to acknowledge not just the social responsibility but financial advantage of attracting support from the large number of people in society who have disabilities of one sort or another.

Sainsbury, Tesco and Safeway have installed wider automatic doors and checkouts, adapted trolleys for wheelchair users and provided better signposting of goods. Progress is being made and we should recognise that, whatever view we may take of the Bill.

Access is immensely important. Building regulations require access and facilities for disabled people to and within new and extended non-domestic buildings. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is currently assessing whether it will be practicable to extend the scope of those requirements to non-domestic buildings subject to alteration or to change of use.

I draw the attention of the hon. Members for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) to the fact that funds have now been given to Disability Action in Northern Ireland for the employment of three access officers to promote and improve access to the built environment. I hope that that will be of significant importance in Northern Ireland.

I now address the problem of facilities within our place of work, which has been mentioned. Many of us are conscious of the lack of facilities here for disabled people. Many people may well say that it is not before time that we should address that problem. An audit of the Palace of Westminster and its facilities for disabled people has been carried out by Mr. Wycliffe Noble, who has considerable expertise in that area. A series of proposals for the improvement of access for disabled people have been drawn up and are now being considered by the Accommodation and Works Committee.

Some progress has been made. I understand that £250,000 has been allocated in the immediate future for improvements to the Palace to meet the needs of disabled people. I hope that that will be only the beginning of a process that will ensure that, as soon as possible, this place—the heart of our democracy—is properly accessible to disabled people.

I pay the warmest possible tribute to the all-party group for its hard work, co-operation, energy and advice that it consistently and energetically gives me on this important matter. I have had a number of meetings with the group during the past year. It is fair to say that we have all learnt a great deal from our discussions and can whole-heartedly agree that a change in public attitudes is crucial if we are eventually to eliminate discrimination against disabled people.

I have set out to the House some of the areas where we have taken action since we debated the matter last year. I have made it clear that we will continue to examine what more needs to be done to ensure that disabled people are able to enjoy their full rights in our society. There is more to be done, and more will be done, but the House needs to look carefully at the detail of the proposed legislation to see whether it is the right way forward.

There are practical questions, some of which I have addressed, that we should not ignore. I have made it clear that the Government fully share the aim of the Bill: to eliminate discrimination against disabled people. There is no dispute about that. Our concerns are about the practicalities. My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) talked about compliance cost assessments. Once the Bill has received a Second Reading—as I expect that it will—they will be provided as soon as possible.

I have tried today to give the flavour of the progress that is being made in the United Kingdom. I am not complacent about that progress. There is still a great deal of work to be done. I believe that we are getting there and I know that we can and will increasingly create a climate in which people with disabilities can share the opportunities that we freely accept, and enjoy the life that the rest of us can take for granted.

In closing, I repeat once more our commitment to ensuring that there is no discrimination against disabled people. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said at Question Time earlier this week: I hope that the Bill will go into Committee for detailed examination of its provisions."—[Official Report, 8 March 1994: Vol. 239, c. 148.] I look forward to that process.

1.13 pm
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

The Labour party unequivocally welcomes this historic civil rights initiative. I add my congratulations and those of my hon. Friends on the Front Bench to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry). The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks), who chided me in his speech—the only one that I had left the Chamber for, but not because of that reason—thought that I was too party political the last time we discussed this issue.

I feel a lot better about today than the last time we discussed this matter. I hope that he will find me in a different mode. After all, the Government hope to see the Bill proceed into Committee, which we very much welcome. I take it that there will not be a Whip shouting "Object", or that anyone will talk the Bill out today. Today's atmosphere is one of liberation, so I hope that I can respond to the change.

The measure has had the Labour party's full support for a considerable time. I can think of hardly a Labour Member who has not signed early-day motion No. 2 supporting the Bill. The Leader of the Opposition is an enthusiastic supporter of the rights which the measure would give disabled people. He only regrets that the Scottish Labour party conference prevents him from being here today.

It is not only Labour Members who have supported the Bill. Some of us who have joined this debate a little later than others feel a sense of humility when we look around the Chamber and see the number of dedicated Members who have tried to make the Bill happen year after year. They have never given up, but have always returned to have another go. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have worked tirelessly through the all-party disablement group. I pay due credit to the many Conservative Back-Bench Members have risked their easy life on those Benches by trying to persuade the Government to change their mind and accept the principle of the Bill.

Today, the strong measure of cross-party support is demonstrated by the increased number of people who have signed the early-day motion and the almost unanimous—just one speech prevents me from saying unanimous—support of the Bill. I am therefore optimistic that we shall succeed this time, because there has been a transformation in the mood not only of this House but of people outside. We are merely reflecting the change in public mood, not leading it; the public mood is dictating to us.

There has been an uplifting of consciousness and political leadership among disabled people and their organisations. I pay tribute to them, because they are responsible for the change in public mood. We follow that; we do not lead it. Disabled people have become increasingly aware of their political power and the part that they can play not only in the national political arena but by using their sheer power, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. McMaster) referred time and again.

He pointed out that, in the average constituency, there are 10,000 disabled people, not to mention their families and carers, who are rightly learning to flex their muscles. We politicians would be foolish indeed to ignore that power, the new mood of leadership and that heightened consciousness.

As an historian, I cannot resist the temptation to outline a little of the history of the struggle for civil rights for disabled people, and to put it into context. We are all aware of the history of the Bill from the early 1980s and the brave attempts since then to bring it into law. We also know of the fine efforts which so many hon. Members have made to introduce measures that would benefit, and have benefited, disabled people. The Opposition do not say that no progress has been made. Considerable progress has been made, but we cannot get past a certain level of achievement without a legislative structure.

During the months in which I have shadowed the Secretary of State, our basic disagreement has been on how far we can get by education and persuasion. When I first came to the House in the early 1980s, I spent many Fridays in the Chamber. My first private Member's Bill was the Safety of Children in Cars Bill, which led to the seatbelt legislation. In those days, we found that we could reach 30 per cent. by persuasion—Jimmy Saville doing his "clunk-click" publicity—but we could not go further. But once we had the legislation, we zoomed up to 95 per cent. That did not mean that we did not need to continue education and persuasion in terms of transport safety but the two—education and persuasion, and legislation—went hand in hand. That is the lesson that the Government have to learn. We need both to work together to form a successful combination.

I must mention noble Lord Ashley, my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) and the hon. Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam), who have especially remarkable track records. I also mention my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing), who not only introduced his own Bill—which went somewhat wider than the Bill that we are debating because it had a double side to it—but tabled an amendment to the employment legislation some years ago, which was one of the first occasions on which the House voted on such a measure. I pay tribute to all those right hon. and hon. Members and to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood.

Is it not strange that the history of the struggle for civil rights for disabled people is comparatively short? It was initiated to a large extent by a growing awareness of the issue and some far-sighted initiatives. In this context, I again refer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe, who introduced the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1972, which, as it were, lies almost halfway between the present and the other great landmark—the sometimes underrated 1943 Second Reading of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944. There was, of course, a coalition Government during the war.

That Act was passed 50 years ago and the "Wythenshawe Act", if I may call it that, was passed about 27 years later, halfway between the great landmark and the present day. In other words, there have not been many landmarks in terms of initiatives and progress.

The 1944 landmark was underrated but it has been rightly criticised today. By golly, why should it not have been uprated, brushed off and modified? I think that we all support the principle of the 1944 Act, but no one would claim that nothing could be done to upgrade and improve it, and make it more workable in new circumstances.

In a sense, the struggle for civil rights for disabled people had failed, certainly in the 1960s—a crucial period—to match the momentum of civil rights for women and ethnic minorities to which many hon. Members eloquently referred. That is surprising, because discrimination against disabled people is evident throughout recorded history.

For those who are so minded, it can be traced through literature, theatre, novels and medical treatises. Discrimination against this minority has an ancient and shameful pedigree. There is a catalogue of discrimination, neglect and hardship endured by many men and women, with just the few bright interludes to which I referred.

So much territory has been covered today that I shall concentrate on one or two aspects of the Bill—what it could achieve and the criticism that, if it became law, it would somehow cost the taxpayer, the private sector and the country dear. If my colleagues will allow me, it is to those aspects that I shall direct most of my remarks.

Dear old Ernest Bevin got it right in the famous debate in 1943 on what was then the Disabled Persons (Employment) Bill. He was answering critics who said that the Bill would be costly and was being introduced only as a reflection of the "poignancy of war"—what a lovely expression. His language is a little archaic, but it is good none the less. In winding up the debate, he said: No, it has not been the poignancy of war which has led to this; it has been the terrible cost to the nation and to the individual that has forced this matter upon our minds. I saw the other day a note in one of our papers to the effect that this Bill was going to cost £3 million. It will add to the national income by many hundred of millions. It is an investment. It may be a charge on the Exchequer, but … the thing that influences my mind in all these problems is how many man-hours of production I can get to add to the total national wealth".—[Official Report; Vol.395, c.1345.] That was especially important, as we were at the height of hostilities.

Those remarks, that the Bill will cost, could be directly addressed to the Bill's critics 50 years later, but the other side of that argument is that the Bill will liberate talent, resources and energies which will repay a thousandfold the cost of which anyone is speaking in the House.

Civil rights for disabled people are an investment in lives, in hopes and in opportunities. If we liberate disabled people and enable them to use their abilities, talents and labour, as a country we shall reap a rich reward. Yes, there will be an initial charge on the Exchequer, but we shall enrich our nation in every way.

That brings me to the heart of matter, which we cannot evade and which many of us have mentioned. Does discrimination exist? I do not want to tell the House that discrimination exists. The experts in the House know that it exists. I not sure whether all hon. Members realise that it exists. We only have to listen to the disabled lobby and to disabled people.

We have all the methods by which to do that and they have all been tried—opinion polls, personal interviews and so on. The message is loud and clear, as it was at the lobby in the past week, that people are discriminated against, they feel that discrimination bitterly and they want an end to it. That is why the Bill is before the House, and that is why we must get it into Committee and on to the statute book.

We all have poignant feelings about the lobby in the past week. The most poignant moment for me, which I must share with the House, was when two young deaf girls talked to me through a signer. There is a crisis over signers, because of the terrible dearth of them in the courts and everywhere one goes. Even if one can use an interpreter, there is a crisis in their availability to enable deaf people to participate and to converse.

One of the wonderful things that the all-party disablement group and Victoria Scott have done is to enable days when one can go to constituents who are deaf, have interpretation provided and have a proper political debate and discussion. One does not get an easy time, whatever the political party.

I asked the young girl why she did not get into politics, because we needed more women in Parliament and we needed more people with a disability as representatives in the House, which is evident if one looks around the Chamber today. The girl asked: "How do I start?" She said that she could not even go to a political meeting or to a ward meeting to have a discourse, because there was no signer.

It suddenly came to me that that young girl of 17 or 18 years old, at the beginning of her life, was totally inhibited from doing what we all did—become politicians and get involved in the political discourse—because they have no ability to do so. We must do something about that situation, whether through Emily's List or the 300 Group. We need a new initiative to enable access for people with disability, not only to the House—that is important, as the Minister and so many other people have said—but to political discourse. I hope that we can do something for that young woman.

Yes, there is discrimination; and no, the path of education and persuasion on its own will not do. Perhaps attitudes have changed. Language has changed. We have had the debate on political correctness, and if one goes to the far extreme of that concept in this sphere, one is frightened of saying anything. A lot of gross and vile language has disappeared, is no longer acceptable, and if people use it, they are frozen out of conversation and are disapproved of.

I approve of that. If that is politically correct, "right on", as we used to say. There have been changes and no one would say otherwise, but in fighting so many years of great prejudice and discrimination, it is not enough to educate and to persuade. We need the legislation, because so many hundreds of years of prejudice lie behind the issue.

Consider the record of achievement of disabled people through the eyes of one leading campaigner, Richard Wood at the British Council of Disabled. I hope that the Minister is listening, because he knows Richard well. When I talked to Richard only yesterday, he said: Education and persuasion has achieved 60 per cent. unemployment, 50 per cent. of children in segregated schools, 80 per cent. dependence on social security, no coherent policy on transport or housing all against a background of pervasive unfair discrimination. That is how one disabled person thinks about the matter and describes it. I believe that he is right; we need the legislation.

The momentum towards securing civil rights legislation is unstoppable. Thank goodness the Minister and the Prime Minister have said that the Bill will be considered in Committee. I warn the Minister that we shall go for all-party agreement as far as we can get it, but that, if the Government try to stifle the Bill in Committee, there will be a row to end all rows. The truth is that the legislation is unstoppable. We and disabled people themselves will not let it be stopped.

I repeat Ernest Bevin's words. In that famous debate, he said: I know that this is a subject which has been boiling in the body politic for some time. That is the politician's job. He meant that he did not invent the subject and that other politicians had not invented it, but that they could recognise—I love the language—that it was a subject which has been boiling in the body politic for some time. All that has fallen from my hon. Friends and myself to-day has been with the object of crystallising the desire for action and putting it fully before hon. Members in a Bill which will, I hope, remove forever a blot from our national life."—[Official Report, 10 December 1943; Vol. 395, c. 1346] That is precisely what we are about today. We are trying to remove a blot from our public life.

Our role in the House today is to crystallise the desire for action, felt by the electorate, by disabled people and by their leaders, to remove a blot from our national life and to introduce a liberating, comprehensive civil rights bill for disabled people.

1.31 pm
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

I am sure that the House is indebted to the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) for his historic digest of the matters before us today. I associate myself and my fellow Members with his tributes to those who have fought long and hard to come to this day. I congratulate the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) on introducing the Bill in the House today. All of us who have been in the House and who have witnessed the strong and courageous stand taken on these matters by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) salute him today and pay tribute to his courage, persistence and patience.

I am probably the only Northern Irish Member who will have an opportunity to address the House today. As such, I tell the House that we are grateful and indebted to the hon. Member for Kingswood and to the right hon. Member for Wythenshawe because, when they have sponsored such legislation, they have added the words: This Act extends to Northern Ireland. I put on record today the indebtedness of the people of Northern Ireland, and especially the disabled people of Northern Ireland, for that. Those words are deeply appreciated.

The debate today is not about privilege; it is about rights. I have done pastoral work for a long time and I know that people with a disability do not want preference, pity or patronage; they want equality. The debate today concerns the belief that they should have equality and that they should be on a level with the rest of the community. People with a disability could have a tremendous input in our communities. I trust that today we shall enable them to go about their business normally and to have the privileges that others enjoy.

A few weeks ago a woman from Belfast went to the rates collection agency to pay her rates bill. One would think that the authorities would be glad when people were prepared to pay their rate bills. She arrived at the office with her four-year-old disabled son. She was told that she could not gain access to the building unless she agreed to take her child from his wheelchair and carry him up two flights of steps. When she reached the ground floor, she saw a lift and asked whether she could use it. She was told that it was for staff only.

That is discrimination against a disabled person and the person who takes care of him. We are discussing such cases rather belatedly.

Some hon. Members have spoken of money. Take it or leave it, money will have to be spent. From a financial point of view, it would be better for money to be spent now because costs are always increasing, just as it would be better to replace transport now rather than later. Now is the time to be getting on with the job of looking after disabled people.

Many issues spring to mind. The first is public buildings. The vast majority of public buildings in Northern Ireland do not have the facilities that they should have. Disabled citizens cannot even attend a public meeting in their town hall because there is no wheelchair access. They are excluded from restaurants and cinemas because owners regard them as a fire hazard—or that is the excuse that is given.

We should face the issue realistically. I hope that the Minister is not sweeping the matter under the carpet. I was surprised when I received a copy of the Minister's letter—it may have been sent to me by mistake because I sit on these Benches. The third paragraph says: Whilst the Government share the overall aims of supporters of anti-discrimination legislation, we believe that the best approach to eliminating discrimination is through a vigorous programme of increasing awareness, education and persuasion, backed up by targeted legislation, where necessary. Comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation would present practical difficulties, lead to increased litigation and unquantifiable costs for business and tax-payers. The Minister has visited Northern Ireland, where he stepped into a minefield of controversy with regard to employment in Northern Ireland and religious discrimination. It is interesting to note that a Protestant, not a Roman Catholic, received the largest sum of money ever paid to an employee through the Fair Employment Agency, so there is discrimination. The Minister was all for a commission when he was on the other side of the Irish sea, but now he tells us that the commission will present difficulties.

Without a commission, the legislation will not be applied effectively. I am delighted that it is envisaged that the commission will include a large majority of disabled people, who will be able to monitor properly the application of every law passed by the House.

There will be costs, but it is a tall order to say that costs cannot be quantified. For the Minister to say today that he will quantify them and announce what he thinks they will be shows that at least we have made some progress.

As I heard the Minister speaking so ably at the Dispatch Box today, I was reminded of what was said in our old Stormont Parliament about one of the Ministers there: he had the perfect bedside manner. I only hope that the Minister does not intend to bury this Bill or to give it a lethal injection. The Bill needs to survive and to go into Committee. The principle must not be tampered with in Committee. It needs to remain intact, because it is only by building on that principle that we can give disabled people their rights and their equality.

I trust that today a blow will be struck in this House towards those ends, and that this great goal will be achieved.

1.39 pm
Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)

I am pleased to be in the House today to be able warmly to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) on his success in the ballot and on his selection of this subject for debate. Ten years ago, when I had just been elected to the House, I managed to come second in the ballot for private Members' Bills—within my first fortnight here. Perhaps that will serve as a warning to new Members that they may not be so lucky again. I certainly have not been, but I keep longing for the day when I am.

The Minister talked of attitudes changing. I am pleased to note that they are changing markedly among Conservative Members. Sitting here today I have noted down the names of five Conservative Members, including the Minister, who, on 18 November 1983, voted against my Bill on this subject. I also noted the reaction to the speech—it was the only one of its kind today—by the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern). That reaction, on both sides of the House, was almost wholly hostile.

Conservative Members' speeches made in the debate on 18 November 1983, however, were almost all like the one made today by the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West. Lord Merlyn-Rees. who was then in this House, described the speech made that day by the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) as the worst he had heard in 20 years in the House of Commons. Perhaps making such speeches denotes the first rung on the ladder to running the Home Department—I do not know.

What a difference in the atmosphere today. The change has come about because the political consciousness of disabled people has been awakened in the intervening years. They have campaigned and campaigned, and they have become a political power. No longer are they willing to be the Cinderella of minorities. I do not intend to be facetious when I say that I will never be a woman or a black person, but we could all become disabled people in time, so we are acting in the interests not only of those who are disabled already but of all who are able-bodied and healthy.

At the risk of aggravating hon. Members, I must remind the House that, in 1983, 210 Conservative Members, including all but eight Ministers, cancelled their engagements to make sure that my Bill did not get through. Last week, when I heard the Prime Minister say that this Bill would go to a Committee, I breathed a sigh of relief and said to myself, "Here is the breakthrough. There is now the opportunity to get this Bill on the statute book."

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

One of the biggest problems is that we need the Government to provide parliamentary time for this Bill to go through all its stages. Today is only a hurdle. We need the Minister, or someone like him, to say that the Government will provide the necessary time to carry it through.

Mr. Wareing

I am grateful to my hon. Friend because his intervention brings me to a major point. As my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) said, there has been an Act on the statute book for nearly 50 years this year. However, it has been enforced or, indeed, come anywhere near to being considered by the courts on only 10 occasions. Of the 10 cases which were heard by the courts between 1944 and 1975—there has not been one case before the courts since 1975—two were dismissed. In one case, the employer involved received an admonition; in the other seven cases, fines totalling only £434 were levied on the wrongdoers.

That is why we must be willing to ensure not only that this Bill reaches the statute book but that it is fully implemented, and we have a will to implement it. The Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke)—unfortunately, he is overseas carrying out his shadow Cabinet responsibilities—became a statute. In Committee, the Government made sure that they had the power to decide when certain clauses of that Bill would be implemented. To this day—eight years later—sections of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 have not been implemented.

I warn my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood to be careful because there are still snares on the way to legislation which will fully assist the 6.5 million disabled people and, indeed, their families in ensuring that discrimination against them is outlawed. That is why it is necessary to have added assistance. I hope that my hon. Friend will insist that the disablement commission continues to be a part of the Bill because it is necessary to have a body outside the Executive which will represent disabled people. Indeed, the commission will be composed partly of disabled people who will bring to light any discrepancies and issues which have contravened the spirit and the letter of the law.

This is a cause for which many have fought for so long. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), who is now a legend as far as fighting for disabled people is concerned, and my noble Friend Lord Ashley will be overjoyed if the Bill goes through Committee unemasculated. This is a cause for which so many have been fighting over the years, and it is a cause for which—at long last—the time has come. Shortly we will have the opportunity to eradicate all the bad memories of the past 10 years when, on about eight occasions, in either this House or the other place, we have rejected legislation for disabled people.

Mr. Skinner

We have not.

Mr. Wareing

My hon. Friend is right—the Labour party did not reject it. But the Houses of Parliament rejected consideration of the rights of disabled people as full citizens of our country.

1.50 pm
Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton)

It is a great honour to follow so many eminent speakers, who obviously have a long-standing reputation in this area. I pay tribute to the hon. Members who have worked hard on a subject that is close to many of our hearts. I congratulate the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) on choosing the subject following his success in the ballot.

Last February, I was pleased to take part in a similar debate and I do not intend to go through the same things as I said last year. Although I accept many of the advances which my hon. Friend the Minister reiterated from the Dispatch Box, in essence things have not changed that much. Many hon. Members today have made the point that education and awareness are important, but that in themselves they will never solve the problem because it is so diverse. Every 20 years, a new generation comes along which must be educated, or re-educated, about the difficulties faced by people with disabilities.

If that discrimination is part of their culture or their thinking—if they have grown up with it—it means that another wave of people must be made aware of this important subject. We all feel that there is a difficulty in giving people choice or the opportunity to make changes, when in fact the subject needs reinforcing with something more substantial.

Progress has been slow and that is the essence of the debate. We are all frustrated that progress has been too slow. The hon. Member for Kingswood said in his excellent opening speech that we need action, and I believe that that is what we are looking for.

In the debates last year and today, many speeches addressed the needs of people with physical disabilities. There has been much awareness in the speeches from hon. Members of the right to access, mobility and public transport, as well as housing. Those are all legitimate candidates in the debate.

However, with the indulgence of the House and in the limited time that is available to me today, I will concentrate on one section of people with disabilities. It is a section in which the House will be aware that I have a particular interest, as I am a special counsellor for the National Autistic Society. People with learning disabilities suffer no less discrimination and are often unable to articulate the difficulties and pain that they suffer as a result of that discrimination.

I welcome many of the programmes that have been announced and discussed in the House today. Access to work certainly will be a more flexible programme in future for that group of people. I said in an intervention that care in the community is now expected to address the needs of the individual so that a package can be put together which is adapted to that individual's needs.

There is a particular problem for the group of people who would come within the category of autism. There are estimated to be some 115,000 people in the United Kingdom with autism, and it is a condition which covers a wide spectrum. At one end of the spectrum there are adults and children who self-mutilate and require 52-week a year care for life, probably in an institution. Care in the domestic home is out of the question for them because of the nature of their difficulties.

At the other end of the spectrum is a group of people who are not necessarily intellectually impaired. Many of them, through education, enter higher education. Some of them obtain university degrees, but they are still fundamentally impaired by autism, which makes it difficult for them to communicate, particularly social communication and awareness of their social relationship with other people. That makes life especially difficult for them. Such difficulties affect their employment as well as their integration into social activities.

Today we have discussed the difficulties facing people with physical disabilities, but autistic people have problems over and above those that have been mentioned. They face the problem of diagnosis and assessment. Many of the 115,000 autistic people do not receive proper diagnosis until they are quite old—some are even adults. That means that their civil rights and their other essential needs in terms of education, further education if appropriate, and employment, are not considered.

We are talking about the civil rights of people, but some of them do not even receive a diagnosis. Even when they are diagnosed, the lack of awareness among professionals and other carers means that, not only are they denied access to the civil rights that the Bill seeks to introduce, but they lose and do not even receive the fundamental requirements of people with disabilities, in education, training, housing and other areas.

People with autism often experience problems using public transport. Their inability to relate to other people and their lack of communication skills create difficulties. Organisations such as the National Autistic Society place great emphasis on equipping people in its establishments with the necessary skills to use public transport.

One young adult man was taught how to get on a bus, pay the fare and get off at the right stop—a big step forward even for some autistic people with academic qualifications. He was told to board the bus and sit in his seat. He was a little concerned about looking at other people and was told to take something with him to occupy himself on the bus, pay his fare when asked and get off at the right stop. He managed to do that, but, on his first trip alone, he sat in his seat and occupied himself by spreading out a set of water colours. He put them over not only his lap, but that of the person next to him—[Laughter.] It is amusing to us, but imagine the horror of the passengers around him. They found that behaviour, coming from a young adult, difficult to understand. There is much progress to be made, particularly with autistic people, in relation to access to civil rights and raising awareness.

Carers have been mentioned in today's debate. I should also like to flag up the fact that the burden of trying to gain access to information, rights, and civil liberties is also borne by the carers, particularly parents. Parents often feel that they are constantly having to battle with the establishment to obtain rights for their children and for other carers with responsibilities.

I am often invited to talk to groups of people about what it is like to be the parent of someone with autism. I usually begin my speech by saying that I am a pushy mother. I make no excuse for that, but I am critically aware of the fact that I should not have to be a pushy mother in order to gain access to services, facilities and civil rights. Many parents and carers are unable, for one reason or another, to be pushy.

As Members of Parliament, we are all familiar with the situation in which constituents—usually parents—are trying to challenge a statement for a child in education. Whereas one is quite prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with them and to give them support, all too often one hears the parents say, "I do not want to cause any trouble at the school." So that is one group of people who will back off from being pushy parents because they are rather intimidated and worried about the possible consequences. In other words, they do not access their rights; they feel intimidated; they need those rights to be clarified and they need someone to be alongside them to help them obtain them.

That applies throughout the services. It can be social services and—if I may return to my group of people with autism—it can also be the medical profession. If we cannot even convince certain groups of professionals—who are also important in the debate—to recognise the rights and needs of people with disabilities, especially people with learning disabilities, how much harder it is to rely on public awareness and education in the wider population.

I have had great pleasure in making what I hope has been a short speech in response to the speech of the hon. Member for Kingswood. His Bill commands cross-party support and the support of a wide audience in the country. I hope that the Bill will pass to Committee, that we shall be able to consider the detail and that something will come out of it that is positive and—in the words of the hon. Member for Kingswood—that that produces some action.

Mr. Alfred Morris

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 231, Noes 0

Division No. 162] [2 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene Cummings, John
Ainger, Nick Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Darling, Alistair
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Allen, Graham Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Denham, John
Armstrong, Hilary Deva, Nirj Joseph
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Dewar, Donald
Aspinwall, Jack Dicks, Terry
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Dixon, Don
Austin-Walker, John Donohoe, Brian H.
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Dover, Den
Barnes, Harry Dowd, Jim
Barron, Kevin Dunnachie, Jimmy
Battle, John Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Bayley, Hugh Enright, Derek
Beggs, Roy Etherington, Bill
Bell, Stuart Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Fatchett, Derek
Benton, Joe Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bermingham, Gerald Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Berry, Dr. Roger Fraser, John
Boateng, Paul Fyfe, Maria
Body, Sir Richard Galloway, George
Booth, Hartley Gapes, Mike
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) George, Bruce
Bradley, Keith Gerrard, Neil
Bray, Dr Jeremy Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Godman, Dr Norman A.
Browning, Mrs. Angela Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Gordon, Mildred
Burden, Richard Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Byers, Stephen Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Grocott, Bruce
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Gunnell, John
Canavan, Dennis Hall, Mike
Cann, Jamie Hannam, Sir John
Chisholm, Malcolm Harman, Ms Harriet
Clapham, Michael Harvey, Nick
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hendron, Dr Joe
Clelland, David Heppell, John
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Coffey, Ann Hinchliffe, David
Cohen, Harry Hoey, Kate
Congdon, David Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Connarty, Michael Hoyle, Doug
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Corbett, Robin Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Corbyn, Jeremy Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Cormack, Patrick Hutton, John
Corston, Ms Jean Illsley, Eric
Cousins, Jim Ingram, Adam
Cox, Tom Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Cran, James Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Cryer, Bob Jamieson, David
Janner, Greville Prescott, John
Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Primarolo, Dawn
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Purchase, Ken
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Quin, Ms Joyce
Jowell, Tessa Radice, Giles
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Randall, Stuart
Keen, Alan Rathbone, Tim
Khabra, Piara S. Raynsford, Nick
Kirkwood, Archy Reid, Dr John
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Rendel, David
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Livingstone, Ken Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Loyden, Eddie Rooker, Jeff
Lynne, Ms Liz Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
McAllion, John Rowlands, Ted
McAvoy, Thomas Ruddock, Joan
McCartney, Ian Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
McCrea, Rev William Salmond, Alex
Macdonald, Calum Sedgemore, Brian
McKelvey, William Sheerman, Barry
Mackinlay, Andrew Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
McWilliam, John Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Maddock, Mrs Diana Short, Clare
Mahon, Alice Simpson, Alan
Maitland, Lady Olga Sims, Roger
Malone, Gerald Skinner, Dennis
Mandelson, Peter Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Spearing, Nigel
Martlew, Eric Spellar, John
Maxton, John Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Meacher, Michael Steinberg, Gerry
Michael, Alun Stevenson, George
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Strang, Dr. Gavin
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Milburn, Alan Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Miller, Andrew Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Turner, Dennis
Morgan, Rhodri Tyler, Paul
Morley, Elliot Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Mudie, George Waller, Gary
Mullin, Chris Wareing, Robert N
Murphy, Paul Wicks, Malcolm
Neubert, Sir Michael Wigley, Dafydd
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
O'Hara, Edward Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Olner, William Winnick, David
O'Neill, Martin Wise, Audrey
Paisley, Rev Ian Worthington, Tony
Patchett, Terry
Pawsey, James Tellers for the Ayes:
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Mr. Gordon McMaster and Mr. Alfred Morris.
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Tellers for the Noes:
Mr. Terry Lewis and Mr. Paul Flynn.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. At the commencement of business this morning, a number of Members, from both sides of the House, asked whether the Chair had been given notice of any intention to make a statement about the second bombing incident at Heathrow. During those exchanges, a Minister from the Home Office was present on the Treasury Bench. I wonder whether you have had any indication that a statement will now be made, as during the morning we have heard that the Queen flew into Heathrow overnight. We do not know whether the runway used was close to the incident, but in view of the Home Office's clear responsibilities, not just for the security of all passengers going through Heathrow, but obviously for one or two, I wonder whether you have now been given an indication that the Home Secretary intends to make any statement to the House, having obviously briefed the media on the matter during the morning?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

I have received no such indication.