HC Deb 14 July 1995 vol 263 cc1270-81

'.—(1) Nothing in Part III applies in relation to an employer who has fewer than 20 employees.

(2) The Secretary of State may by order amend subsection (1) by substituting a different number (not greater than 20) for the number for the time being specified there.'.—[Mr. Burt.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

The Minister for Social Security and Disabled People (Mr. Alistair Burt)

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: New clause 2—Codes of practice prepared by the Secretary of State—

'.—(1) The Secretary of State may issue Codes of Practice containing such practical guidance as he considers appropriate with a view to—

  1. (a) eliminating discrimination against disabled persons in the field of employment; or
  2. (b) encouraging good practice in relation to the employment of disabled persons.

(2) The Secretary of State may from time to time revise the whole or any part of a Code and re-issue it.

(3) Without prejudice to subsection (1), a Code may include practical guidance as to—

  1. (a) the circumstances in which it would be reasonable, having regard in particular to the costs involved, for an employer to be expected to make accommodation in favour of a disabled person; or
  2. (b) what steps it is reasonably practicable for employers to take for the purpose of preventing their employees from doing, in the course of their employment, anything which is made unlawful by this Act.

(4) A failure on the part of any person to observe any provision of a Code does not of itself make that person liable to any proceedings.

(5) A Code is admissible in evidence in any proceedings under this Act before an industrial tribunal, a county court or a sheriff court.

(6) If any provision of a Code appears to a tribunal or court to be relevant to any question arising in any proceedings under this Act, it shall be taken into account in determining that question.

(7) In this section and section (Further provision about Codes issued under section (Codes of practice prepared by the Secretary of State)) "Code" means a Code issued by the Secretary of State under this section and includes a Code which has been revised and re-issued.'.

New clause 3—Further provision about Codes issued under section (Codes of practice prepared by the Secretary of State)

'.—(1) In preparing a draft of any Code under section (Codes of practice prepared by the Secretary of State), the Secretary of State shall consult such organisations representing the interests of employers or of disabled persons in, or seeking, employment as he considers appropriate.

(2) Where the Secretary of State proposes to issue a Code, he shall publish a draft of it, consider any representations that are made to him about the draft and, if he thinks it appropriate, modify his proposals in the light of any of those representations.

(3) If the Secretary of State decides to proceed with a proposed Code, he shall lay a draft of it before each House of Parliament.

(4) If, within the 40-day period, either House resolves not to approve the draft, the Secretary of State shall take no further steps in relation to the proposed Code.

(5) If no such resolution is made within the 40-day period, the Secretary of State shall issue the Code in the form of his draft.

(6) The Code shall come into force on such date as the Secretary of State may appoint by order.

(7) Subsection (4) does not prevent a new draft of the proposed Code from being laid before Parliament.

(8) The Secretary of State may by order revoke a Code.

(9) In this section "40-day period", in relation to the draft of a proposed Code, means—

  1. (a) if the draft is laid before one House on a day later than the day on which it is laid before the other House, the period of 40 days beginning with the later of the two days, and
  2. (b) in any other case, the period of 40 days beginning with the day on which the draft is laid before each House, no account being taken of any period during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than four days.'.

New clause 6—Appointment by Secretary of State of advisers

'.—(1) The Secretary of State may appoint such persons as he thinks fit to advise or assist him in connection with matters relating to the employment of disabled persons.

(2) Persons may be appointed by the Secretary of State to act generally or in relation to a particular area or locality.

(3) The Secretary of State may pay to any person appointed under this section such allowances and compensation for loss of earnings as he considers appropriate.

(4) The approval of the Treasury is required for any payment under this section.

(5) In subsection (1) "employment" includes self employment.

(6) The Secretary of State may by order repeal section 17 of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944 (national advisory council and local advisory committees).'.

New clause 7—Amendment of Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944

'.—(1) Section 15 of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944 (which gives the Secretary of State power to make arrangements for the provision of supported employment) is amended as set out in subsections (2) to (5).

(2) In subsection (1)—

  1. (a) for "persons registered as handicapped by disablement" substitute "disabled persons";
  2. (b) for "their disablement" substitute "their disability"; and
  3. (c) for "are not subject to disablement" substitute "do not have a disability".

(3) In subsection (2), for the words from "any of one or more companies" to "so required and prohibited" substitute "any company, association or body".

(4) After subsection (2) insert— (2A) The only kind of company which the Minister himself may form in exercising his powers under this section is a company which is—

  1. (a) required by its constitution to apply its profits, if any, or other income in promoting its objects; and
  2. (b) prohibited by its constitution from paying any dividend to its members."

(5) After subsection (5) insert— (5A) For the purposes of this section—

  1. (a) a person is a disabled person if he is a disabled person for the purposes of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Act 1995; and
  2. (b) "disability" has the same meaning as in that Act."

(6) The provisions of section 16 (preference to be given under section 15 of that Act to ex-service men and women) shall become subsection (1) of that section and at the end insert— and whose disability is due to that service. (2) For the purposes of subsection (1) of this section, a disabled person's disability shall be treated as due to service of a particular kind only in such circumstances as may be prescribed.

(7) The following provisions of the Act of 1944 shall cease to have effect—

  1. (a) section 1 (definition of "disabled person");
  2. (b) sections 6 to 8 (the register of disabled persons);
  3. (c) sections 9 to 11 (obligations on employers with substantial staffs to employ a quota of registered persons);
  4. (d) section 12 (the designated employment scheme for persons registered as handicapped by disablement);
  5. (e) section 13 (interpretation of provisions repealed by this Act);
  6. (f) section 14 (records to be kept by employers);
  7. (g) section 19 (proceedings in relation to offences); and
  8. (h) section 21 (application of Act as respects place of employment, and nationality).

(8) Any provision of subordinate legislation in which "disabled person" is defined by reference to the Act of 1944 shall be construed as if that expression had the same meaning as in this Act.

(9) Subsection (8) does not prevent the further amendment of any such provision by subordinate legislation.'.

New clause 8—Government appointments outside Part III'.—(1) Subject to regulations under subsection (3), this section applies to any appointment made by a Minister of the Crown or government department to an office or post where Part III does not apply in relation to the appointment. (2) In making the appointment, and in making arrangements for determining to whom the office or post should be offered, the Minister of the Crown or government department shall not act in a way which would contravene Part III if he or the department were the employer for the purposes of this Act. (3) Regulations may provide for this section not to apply to such appointments as may be prescribed.'.

Amendment No. 12, in clause 1, page 1, line 17, after 'below' insert 'or issued under section (Codes of practice prepared by the Secretary of State) below'.

Amendment No. 43, in clause 4, page 4, line 32, leave out 'in relation to any employment'.

Amendment No. 60, in page 5, line 26, at end insert— '(2A) Subsection (1) does not apply to any term, condition or privilege of employment comprising the provision of a benefit by the employer if the employer is concerned with the provision (whether or not for payment) of benefits of that description to the public, or to a section of the public which includes the employee in question, unless—

  1. (a) that provision differs in a material respect from the provision of the benefits by the employer to his employees; or
  2. (b) the provision of the benefits to the employee in question is regulated by his contract of employment; or
  3. (c) the benefits relate to training.
(2B) In subsection (2A) "benefits" includes facilities and services.'.

Amendment No. 68, in page 6, line 2, at end insert— '(5C) Nothing in this section imposes any duty on an employer in relation to a disabled person if the employer does not know, and could not reasonably be expected to know that the disabled person concerned—

  1. (a) is, or may be, an applicant for the employment; or
  2. (b) has a disability.'.

Amendment No. 69, in page 6, line 2, at end insert— '(5D) Subject to the provisions of this section, nothing in this Part is to be taken to require an employer to treat a disabled person more favourably than he treats or would treat others.'.

Amendment No. 70, in page 6, line 2, at end insert— '(5E) This section does not apply to employment in any such occupation as may be prescribed by regulations.'.

Amendment No. 108, in clause 28, page 14, line 39, at end insert— '( ) For the purposes of subsection (2)—

  1. (a) where an unlawful act of discrimination is attributable to a term in a contract, that act is to be treated as extending throughout the duration of the contract;
  2. (b) any act extending over a period shall be treated as having been committed at the end of that period; and
  3. (c) a deliberate omission shall be treated as having been committed when the person in question decided upon it.
( ) In the absence of evidence establishing the contrary, a person shall be taken for the purposes of this paragraph to decide upon an omission—
  1. (a) when he does an act inconsistent with doing the omitted act; or
  2. (b) if he has done no such inconsistent act, when the period expires within which he might reasonably have been expected to do the omitted act if it was to be done.'.

Mr. Burt

Before I speak to the new clauses and amendments, perhaps I may be permitted to say a few words as the proud new Minister with the responsibilities for disabled people. I wish to stress my personal commitment to the aim of eliminating discrimination. I recognise the dedication of so many Members on both sides of the House who have worked tirelessly to help disabled people to realise the freedom and independence that they rightly deserve. I pay tribute to them all. I am pleased, therefore, to have been given the opportunity to carry the baton. I shall do all that I can to help disabled people achieve their goal.

I relish especially the prospect of shepherding home the Government's Disability Discrimination Bill when it returns from another place in the autumn and bringing forward detailed proposals for implementing its provisions from an early date.

Voluntary organisations of and for disabled people have done an enormous amount to raise the profile of disability and to heighten society's awareness. I am looking forward over the coming months to meeting the representatives of some of these organisations. I look forward especially to meeting disabled people themselves.

The first group of amendments concerns the employment provisions in the Bill. New clause 1 exempts employers with fewer than 20 employees from the requirements in part III. It also gives the Secretary of State power to reduce this figure by means of regulations. Hon. Members who have followed the debates on the Bill in Committee, and on the Government's measure, will know why we think that this exemption is so important. Small employers will not have the personnel or management resources to get to grips with the requirements of disability discrimination legislation. Where they can improve their practices, the Government will seek to persuade them to do so, but they should not be compelled.

New clauses 2 and 3, together with amendment No. 12, give the Secretary of State power to issue codes of practice on the new employment right. This is necessary to ensure that a speedy start can be made to implementing a new employment right rather than waiting for the establishment of a new independent body.

New clause 6 allows the Secretary of State to replace the National Advisory Council on the Employment of People with Disabilities—NACEPD—with a new advisory body. That is not to say that the Government have decided to abolish NACEPD. It rather indicates a desire to have a more flexible statutory framework than the current overly prescriptive framework set down in the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944.

The worth of NACEPD is shown by the fact that the Government have tabled amendments to the Bill with the intention of excluding employment from the remit of Commission/Council No. 27. NACEPD has provided advice on employment and training issues for many years and possesses considerable experience and expertise. It has 18 members in all, including an independent chairman. Three members are appointed to represent workers and three to represent employers. In addition, there are 11 other members. All the members are appointed because of their knowledge and experience of employment and disability issues.

NACEPD has developed considerable expertise over the years and has high standing. It has advised Ministers, for example, on issues such as the Employment Service's code of good practice, the establishment of the network of placing, assessment and counselling teams, the disability symbol, access to work and the medical test for incapacity benefit.

Most immediately, we need NACEPD's help on issues to do with the Government's Disability Discrimination Bill, including the new employment code of practice, relevant regulations and other detailed matters such as the future arrangements for local advice and the review of the access to work programme.

There is no need to mention training as other powers provide my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State with the power to appoint people to advise her on training matters. It would be permissible to exercise the two powers together if we wanted to cover the same broad area as NACEPD currently does but to have greater flexibility in appointing members.

Committees on the employment of people with disabilities, known as CEPD, do not have any remit when it comes to training. We shall certainly need to look at that when considering whether new local advisory arrangements are needed.

New clause 7 makes a number of important changes to the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944. Chief among them is the repeal of the discredited and failed registration and quota schemes. Giving disabled people rights to fair treatment in all aspects of employment is a better solution than a quota scheme that serves only to stigmatise them.

New clause 8 should be welcomed by the Bill's supporters. It requires Ministers who are making appointments to posts that are not covered by part III to act as if they were subject to the new employment right. That would apply mainly to appointments to posts with no contract of service in which the work is not for the purposes of a Minister or a Department. Examples include certain appointments to non-governmental bodies.

Amendments Nos. 43 and 70 amend clause 4 to allow some occupations to be exempted from the employment right. That would allow occupations with particularly demanding physical requirements to be exempted. An example is the armed forces, as Baroness Hollis accepted when the question of exempt occupations was discussed in another place during consideration of the Disability Discrimination Bill.

Amendment No. 60 is technical and is designed to ensure that the employment rights in part III do not apply to a disabled employee who shops at his employer's store. In that instance he should enjoy the protection of part IV, which protects disabled people from discrimination by those providing goods and services.

Amendment No. 68 again relates to an important point. In the Bill as drafted an employer could be held to have discriminated against a disabled job applicant even though that employer did not know, and could not reasonably have been expected to know, that the person was or might be an applicant or that that person was disabled. In particular, I refer to a situation in which the employer, being unaware of the applicant's disability, fails to make available reasonable accommodation as required by clause 4.

It is simply not reasonable for an employer to be expected to make accommodation for a difficulty arising from a disability unless that employer was or should have been aware of that disability and of the likelihood of its affecting the disabled person in that way. The Bill should not require the making available of reasonable accommodation simply on the hypothetical basis that at some time in future there might be a job application from a disabled person.

The obligation to make such accommodation is confined to cases where it proves necessary to address the particular needs of a specific disabled person. To put it another way, the Government amendment is designed to ensure that an employer is not penalised simply because he or she is unaware of the relevant facts. For example, if a disabled person failed to attend for a job interview and was subsequently rejected, the employer would not be held to have acted unlawfully if there was no reason why that employer should have known at the time that the person was disabled in a way that was likely to affect his attendance. I do not wish to stray too far from the amendment, but I remind the House that under clause 5 as it stands the employer's freedom to seek information about the health or medical status of a job applicant would be severely limited. The amendment is entirely sensible.

Amendment No. 69 is intended to ensure that positive discrimination in favour of disabled people is not required by the Bill. Amendment No. 108 is technical and is aimed at the time limits for making a complaint to an industrial tribunal. It makes plain the time limit that would apply in cases where discrimination does not arise from a single discriminatory action—for example, where it stems from a term in a contract or from a failure to act, such as not promoting someone.

Our amendments are designed to make the Bill better. As hon. Members are aware, the Government believe that the House should prefer the Government's Disability Discrimination Bill. It is clear and contains a simple definition of disability that will be understood by employers, service providers and disabled people. It is flexible, has regulation-making powers and provides for consultation with all interested parties to make sure that the legislation works effectively in practice. Our Bill is fair and strikes the right balance between the legitimate concerns of business and the equally legitimate concerns and needs of disabled people.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Is the Minister aware that, notwithstanding the fact that the Government introduced their own Bill after my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) introduced his, following others that had been introduced in previous Sessions, almost all the disabled organisations that I know have declared their opposition to the Government's Bill; they want my hon. Friend's Bill.

The Minister's speech is an affront to democracy, as were all those others by Tory Members who have been on their feet. We had more than four hours debate. I have been watching the monitor, and it has been occupied by the names of Tory Members and Tory Ministers for the whole morning because they want to filibuster and stop my hon. Friend getting a decent civil rights for disabled people Bill through. It is no wonder that disabled people in wheelchairs have been blocking the traffic on Whitehall. They feel affronted by the Government's Bill.

Mr. Burt

The hon. Gentleman is using the House to make his usual mischief. He knows full well that, from the very outset of this Bill, the Government made it clear that they were not prepared to accept it, and have not suggested at any time that they would allow it enough time to proceed. We are determined that the Disability Discrimination Bill that the Government have introduced, which has been built on many years of patient work by hon. Members on both sides of House, will provide an enormous advance in terms of civil discrimination legislation for disabled people.

The Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East was never going to be able to achieve its objectives. We made it clear from the start that it would not proceed. I have therefore no problems in saying that the Government's Bill will achieve its aims and objectives for the reasons that I have given: it is clear, flexible and fair, whereas, by comparison, the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, as the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) should know, is unclear, inflexible and unfair.

For those reasons, and for the best purposes of advancing legislation affecting disabled people, the Government's Bill is infinitely preferable. With the best will in the world, therefore, we shall proceed to pass that Bill in due course, with all the advantages that that will have for disabled people, but I am afraid that the Bill before us today is flawed. I have moved a series of amendments at this stage to improve this part of the Bill and, if pressed, I would have to move further amendments later. I should like to close with these amendments just now, and of course I would be willing to listen to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East.

Mr. Barnes

As part of normal parliamentary pleasantry, I welcome the Minister to his new post, although I was disappointed when, in a rush at the end, he just managed to turn up. I thought that we were in for a procedural coup by which his host of amendments would not be moved. I would not have moved my amendments and we could now be into Third Reading, which is what the whole civil rights disabled movement requires.

I have, however, some sympathy with the Minister because he seems to be given all the worst jobs by the Government. He has just come away from having responsibility for Child Support Agency provision and all the difficulties around that, and now his first appearance here in his new role is to stop the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill.

The Minister said that his amendments were entitled to make the Bill a better Bill, but then, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), he clearly said that that was not what they were about. They are about blocking the progress of this Bill, which the Government fundamentally disagree with. They favour instead their own measure and therefore the amendments are part of the blocking procedure that has taken place, often in Committee corridors, in quiet and not in public.

Mr. Burt

I repeat my earlier remarks. With the best will in the world, I can seek to make the hon. Gentleman's Bill better, but I cannot make it good enough because that is not possible, which is why the Government prefer their own Disability Discrimination Bill.

Mr. Barnes

The Government are not trying to make my Bill a better Bill. They persistently try to turn it into the Disability Discrimination Bill. That is why I raised a point of order about whether a problem exists in relation to the Government importing their measures entirely into my Bill. That is what new clause 1 does. It says that my Bill should not apply to firms with under 20 employees. That is part of the principle included in the Government's Bill and it makes nonsense of my Bill.

Such a proposal might work in terms of the Government's Bill because it is limited, restricted and tends to give what they see as privileges to disabled people, in some way bringing them up here and there.

Mr. Skinner

That Bill patronises disabled people.

2.15 pm
Mr. Barnes

It patronises them considerably. My Bill, however, is saying that human rights should apply to disabled people. The notion that civil rights in employment do not apply to a firm with fewer than 20 employees is nonsensical. There may be other arguments, such as reasonableness and cost—and they are contained in my Bill—but to say that whatever the circumstances in a firm, which may be a wealthy firm, employing fewer than 20 people the civil right not to be discriminated against should not operate is offensive to the principles in my Bill.

Time and again on this Bill, the Government have engaged in an ideological battle. They have an alternative position and they have tabled a set of amendments aimed at turning my Bill into their Bill, which has already made progress. Sometimes, they have tabled technical amendments—for example, the Minister referred to amendment No. 108 as being technical. We had reasonable discussions in Committee about technical amendments. Once we could get the former Minister away from the discussion of ideological matters and an attempt to turn my Bill into the Government's Bill, we made some progress.

The matters in my Bill are complex and I accept that some correction is required. For example, the Bill applies to the United Kingdom, yet in two sections it originally referred to Britain. The Government noted that and tabled amendments that I accepted. The Committee Hansard shows that I accepted a host of technical amendments. What I did not accept were ideological amendments based on a different Bill that has already made progress. The majority of hon. Members who served on the Committee were opposed to such ideological amendments, as are the majority of hon. Members in the House. My Bill received a Second Reading by 175 votes to nil, which shows its cross-party support—if only the Whip was taken off and hon. Members given a fair chance to decide between the principles in the two Bills.

Mr. John Austin-Walker (Woolwich)

Will my hon. Friend reflect on the fact that there are no exemptions for small firms in the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976? They include the right not to be discriminated against. Will he comment on why disabled people should not have the same right?

Mr. Barnes

That matter is at the heart of the difficulty with my Bill. It would set up a disability rights commission, similar to the commissions set up under the two Acts to which my hon. Friend referred. It would be obnoxious to include in my Bill any limit on a civil right that the proposed commission is intended to safeguard. Amendments in the batch that we are discussing relate to that point.

For example, some amendments would extend the role of the Secretary of State to the production of codes of practice and they reflect exactly the Government's ideology to which I have referred. They are more to do with the Government's Bill and how it is supposed to operate. In that Bill the responsibility for the monitoring of provisions is given entirely to the Secretary of State. That would not be the case under my Bill, where the dynamic for ensuring that civil rights for disabled people become a reality—and that we do not just state general principles—would be given to the proposed disability rights commission. The Government's second new clause would affect the commission's role.

We are debating the first of 21 sets of amendments and we need to get through all 21 sets and Third Reading within 12 minutes, in the face of implacable Government opposition. They have tabled major amendments, both in this set of amendments and in others, which ties in with their past practice. They have treated the House with utter contempt.

My Bill received its Second Reading by 175 votes to nil. We were then prevented from taking the Bill into Committee by tactics adopted by the Government in preceding Committees. When we finally got the Bill into Committee, it turned out to be the longest serving private Bill Committee for 11 years. It was stopped only because the Minister had achieved his objective of blocking us until today—the last possible practical day on which the Bill could be discussed.

The Minister should not look to that to help shield the Disability Discrimination Bill. It might get him a place in the Cabinet because one was granted to his predecessor precisely because of what he did in getting the Disability Discrimination Bill through and stopping the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. The Minister has not got blood on the floor of House as occurred last year in respect of the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry). That led to apologies from a Minister and another hon. Member.

Mr. Skinner

My hon. Friend referred to the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry), of which this Bill is a replica. The Minister said in reply to me that my hon. Friend's Bill was flawed. My hon. Friend may have heard my sedentary intervention to the effect that the Bill cannot be flawed when it has been tested in the heat of the Commons, in Committee, on Report and on Third Reading once already. Surely when it has been through the mill that many times we can assume that it is ready to be enacted.

My hon. Friend should address his remarks to the Minister's darned cheek, having just got the job—he got it because he served in the Prime Minister's campaign team—in accusing my hon. Friend of sponsoring a flawed Bill when it has been tested in the heat of battle so many times.

Mr. Barnes

This is not my Bill but that of the disability movement. I am carrying the baton for it this year. Previously, other hon. Members have dealt with it.

This is the third time that a measure that is as well tuned as this one has been introduced. The major alteration that I have made to it—to which there have never been any amendments—concerns access to polling stations. I assume that that is therefore acceptable to the Minister. Why was it not supported when a similar amendment was tabled in another place to the Government's Bill?

The amendments attempt to block the Bill and relate to matters such as employment and the role of the Secretary of State. They do not recognise that, in respect of employment, the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill is an all-embracing measure. The right for people to be treated decently and have proper access to employment that is in the Bill is also applied to refer to goods, facilities, services, premises, new constructions and polling stations. The Minister has had to table other amendments to try to undermine those provisions, though not those relating to polling stations.

If we had the time for a proper debate we would discover that the same forms of arguments would keep re-emerging. We would move on to access for shops, buildings and accommodation. The Minister would not attempt to improve the Bill, although he disagrees with it, by technical changes but try to turn it into the Disability Discrimination Bill. That should not be done now. I could understand it being done when only my Bill was before the House and the Government took a different position.

However, the Government's Bill has passed from this House to the Lords and is progressing there. Some amendments, like those that we examined earlier, will be made there which will give us a final opportunity to have our say on that Bill. His Bill is cut and dried, apart from the Lords amendments. If the Government's Bill is cut and dried, we should consider this Bill in the context of the principles that inform it because although it has been fine tuned and developed, there will be little technical bugs here and there. However, we are not going to be able to discuss the technicalities or ways to improve the Bill here and there because we are hearing the same argument over and over again. It will now be produced by the new Minister—indeed, he used it in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)—and was produced by the previous Minister.

New clauses have been tabled, covering codes of practice and new roles for advisers, whereas this Bill provides that the advisory body and any alterations that need to be made to it must be made in relation to the disability rights commission. The Government, however, have chosen to spend a great deal of time arranging for masses of civil servants to produce amendments. For this particular debate, they have produced 173, of which 140 or so have been selected for debate by Madam Speaker. However, of those 140 amendments, 20 at the most contain concepts that need to be considered to ensure that the Bill is not flawed. We are being denied that opportunity. Instead, we shall have to choose between the big issues and principles on which we have already voted on Second Reading and in Committee. We took many of the relevant decisions when debating the Government Bill.

The approach to be taken by the Minister, who has only just got his new job, is entirely inadequate. I feel sorry for him for being given a terrible task. The last time I saw him I was sympathising with him about the football results at Wembley because he supported Bury and I supported Chesterfield, but my sympathy then is as nothing compared with that which I feel today.

I hope that the Minister will do the honourable thing and say that all the amendments—except those which he deems to be of a technical nature, such as No. 108—will be withdrawn so that the Bill can proceed with only its technical provisions being examined. It is still possible for it to make progress. The Leader of the House should be informed of the situation and make provision for the Bill and its technical amendments to be debated properly instead being condensed into 32 or 33 minutes. Given the volume of new clauses and amendments, it is impossible for the Bill to progress at the moment.

At 2.30 pm, I shall be asked what I want to do. I shall say that I want the Bill to be considered on Monday. It will not be dealt with on Monday, but I want it to be included among the remaining orders of the day for that day and for every day thereafter. That should give the Government time to revise their position and consider whether the principles of the Bill can be discussed before any firm decision is taken with regard to the Government's Bill. That would enable us to do something honourable instead of our getting involved in the same old game time and time again—the Disability Discrimination Bill, which is being debated in another place, will come back, be squeezed into the skin of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill and destroy my Bill in the process.

If we do not debate the principles of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill in this Parliament, someone will pick up the Bill in the next Parliament, or someone will promote an equivalent one. All the Opposition parties are committed to such a Bill. I hope that when we finally debate the Lords amendment, even Conservative Members will vote in support of the establishment of a commission.

I now ask the Minister to withdraw the amendments that are of an ideological nature and which represent the divide between us. He has got his way and the Government Bill is making progress; I now ask him to let this Bill progress and give the House the opportunity to decide between the two.

Mr. Burt

The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) spoke with passion and conviction, as always, but he also spoke of honour. This year the Government recognised the concern expressed by many people over a long time to seek to end discrimination against disabled people. The Government took forward those concerns, picked up that baton and moved honourably and decently this year.

On Second Reading on 10 February, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), now the Secretary of State for Wales, made the Government's position clear. The Government fully support the aim of eliminating discrimination against disabled people, but they remain rightly opposed to a Bill that is unclear, inflexible and unfair.

It being half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Debate to be resumed what day?

Mr. Barnes

Monday next, Sir, and every day thereafter.