HC Deb 19 June 1995 vol 262 cc1-3
1. Mr. Evennett

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what action his Department is taking to tackle discrimination against disabled people; and if he will make a statement.[27598]

The Minister for Social Security and Disabled People (Mr. William Hague)

The Government's Disability Discrimination Bill will provide effective protection for disabled people against discrimination in employment, access to goods, services and premises, transport and education. The Bill, unrivalled in the history of Government provision for disabled people, has already received the approval of the House and is currently being considered in another place.

Mr. Evennett

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply and congratulate him and his Department on their excellent work in this field. Does he agree that education is important in raising public awareness? Furthermore, many public body facilities, such as the British Rail station at Erith, at which it is impossible for disabled people to get on to the London-bound platform, have to be brought into line. Public bodies must provide access for disabled people to railway stations, and Erith station must be one of the first to have such provision.

Mr. Hague

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the continuing importance of education and persuasion. Even after the Disability Discrimination Bill becomes law, it will be important for people in all political parties to join together and lead the nation in showing why it is important to combat discrimination against disabled people. My hon. Friend is also right to draw attention to the difficulties that disabled people often face when using public transport. I assure him that the transport infrastructure will be covered by the Bill, which will also contain the power to set minimum access standards for public transport vehicles.

Mr. Barnes

The unrivalled Bill on disability is not that of the Government but the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, which has had solid support in the House. Will the Government at least seriously consider introducing a disability rights commission, in line with that proposed in the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, through their measure? That would start to turn it into far more reasonable legislation and give all disabled people hope for the future because, in time, that commission would see that the Government's Bill was brought into line with the principles in the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill.

Mr. Hague

The hon. Gentleman's Bill—he knows my view on it after our eight Committee sittings—is confusing, unfair and inflexible. The Government measure is clear and fair to others, and it will command the support of the nation in bringing discrimination against disabled people to an end.

Mr. Tredinnick

Can my hon. Friend confirm that the Disability Discrimination Bill, which is in another place, will do much for schoolchildren? Does he agree that it will oblige education providers to make special provision for disabled people at school and university?

Mr. Hague

Yes. The Bill will strengthen the Education Act 1993 by further improving provision for disabled pupils. In addition, the Government have announced a new £10 million fund for education providers to improve physical accessibility at schools.