HC Deb 27 March 1995 vol 257 cc767-99

22.—(1) As soon as possible after 31st March in each year, the Commission shall make to the Secretary of State a report on their activities during the year, hereinafter referred to as an "annual report".

(2) Each annual report shall include a general survey of developments during the period to which it relates in respect of matters falling within the scope of the Commission's duties.

(3) The Secretary of State shall lay a copy of the annual report before each House of Parliament and shall cause the report to be published.'.

Amendment No. 23, in schedule 3, page 32, line 32, leave out from beginning to end of line 13 on page 34.

Amendment No. 56, in page 33, line 3, after 'chairman', insert 'provided that both the chairman and the deputy chairman shall be persons who at the time of their appointment are disabled persons or authorised representatives of disabled persons appointed pursuant to section 1 of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 or section 1 of the Disabled Persons (Northern Ireland) Act 1989.'.

Amendment No. 57, in page 33, line 13, leave out 'try to'.

Amendment No. 58, in page 33, line 15, leave out 'parents or guardians of disabled persons'

and insert 'authorised representatives of disabled persons appointed pursuant to section 1 of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 or section 1 of the Disabled Persons (Northern Ireland) Act 1989.'.

Amendment No. 59, in page 33, line 32, leave out from beginning to end of line 43 and insert— '6. The Council may, after consultation with the Secretary of State, appoint such officers and servants as it thinks fit, subject to the approval of the Minister for the Civil Service as to numbers and as to remuneration and other terms and conditions of service.

7.—(1) The Secretary of State shall pay to the Council—

  1. (a) expenses incurred, or to be incurred, by it under paragraph 6, with the consent of the Minister for the Civil Service and the Treasury, and
  2. (b) such other sums as, with the approval of the Treasury, he determines to be required for enabling the Council to meet other expenses which it has incurred, or will incur.

(2) The Council shall keep proper accounts of its income and expenditure and shall prepare and transmit to the Secretary of State statements of accounts in relation to each financial year of the Council which shall be included in the annual report made under paragraph 9 below.

Amendment No. 25, in schedule 6, page 37, line 7, leave out from 'Act' to end of line 9 and insert 'for "Disability Rights Commission" substitute "Disability Rights Commission for Northern Ireland".'.

Amendment No. 26, in page 37, line 10, leave out from beginning to end of line 14 on page 39 and insert— '(2) In section (Disability Rights Commission)—

  1. (a) in subsection (1), for "Disability Rights Commission" substitute "Disability Rights Commission for Northern Ireland";
  2. (b) for "Secretary of State" in each place where it occurs substitute "Department of Health and Social Services";
  3. 768
  4. (c) in subsection (6) for "Parliament" in the first place where it occurs substitute "the Assembly" and for "either House of Parliament" substitute "the Assembly";
  5. (d) in subsection 7, for "either House of Parliament", "that House", and "Parliament" respectively, substitute "the Assembly" and for the words from "prorogued" to the end of the subsection substitute "or during which the Assembly has not sat for any continuous period of more than four days.".'.

Amendment No. 60, in page 37, line 10, leave out from 'State"' to end of line 33 and insert 'substitute "Department of Health and Social Services".'.

Amendment No. 62, in page 39, line 20, leave out from beginning to end of line 8 on page 40 and insert— '16. In section (Investigations by the Council: procedure), for "Secretary of State" substitute "Department of Health and Social Services".

16A. In section (Investigations by the Council: anti-discriminatory notices, etc.)

  1. (a) in subsection (1), for "Secretary of State" substitute "a Northern Ireland department", and
  2. (b) in subsection (2)(b), leave out ", or a sheriff court for an order,".'.

Amendment No. 63, in page 44, line 24, leave out '6'.

Amendment No. 64, in page 44, line 26, leave out '7(d) for "Treasury"' and insert '6 and 7 for "Treasury" in each place where it occurs'.

Amendment No. 27, in page 45, line 43, at end add— '29. In Schedule (The Disability Rights Commission)

  1. (a) in the heading, after "Commission", insert "for Northern Ireland.",
  2. (b) for "Secretary of State" in each place where it occurs, substitute "Department of Health and Social Services";
  3. (c) in paragraph 3 for the words from "the Commission" to the end of the paragraph substitute "the Commissioners are resident in Northern Ireland.";
  4. (d) in paragraphs 9, 10, 11, 12 and 17 for "Minister for the Civil Service" or "Minister for the Civil Service and Treasury", substitute "Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland";
  5. (e) for paragraph 19 substitute—
19. In Part II of Schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975 (bodies of which all members are disqualified) there shall be inserted at the appropriate place the following entry: 'Disability Rights Commission for Northern Ireland'.".
  1. (f) in paragraph 21(2)(b), leave out ", or a sheriff court for an order,";
  2. (g) in paragraph 22(3), for "each House of Parliament" substitute "the Assembly".'.

Mr. Clarke

I am delighted with the growing support for our measures.

New clause 1 and the associated new clauses and amendments deal with the disability rights commission and go to the heart of the Bill. The first test of good law is whether it is enforceable: the Bill fails that test. Ministers have resisted a disability rights commission, despite the overwhelming force of the arguments in its favour-not least those expressed in Committee.

Why do not the Government listen even to Conservative Members? The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth), who has made distinguished contributions on the subject, made clear his view on Second Reading—and no doubt he will do so today if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. He described the Government's proposals for an advisory council as opposed to an effective commission as insufficient, and he was right.

The hon. Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam) suggested that something stronger than an advisory organisation might be required, and he called on the Minister to reconsider his opposition to a commission. We will learn tonight whether the Minister has paid any heed to that call, and whether, in the absence of any response, Conservative Members will join us in the Lobby voting for a positive response.

In The Guardian last Wednesday, Jonathan Kaye, who is a member of the Conservative party and has responsibility for disability policy in the Bow group, joined the chorus of support for a fruitful, powerful commission. He predicted that, if the Government do not create a commission now, they will be forced to do so in two years' time because the Bill will not work without one—a view with which I entirely agree.

Mr. Kaye noted that, under Government proposals, Britain will be the only country to pass such legislation without creating a suitable enforcement body to ensure compliance. He asked why a party claiming to be dedicated to law and order—as the Conservative party increasingly does—seems reluctant to provide the means to enforce a law. He asked why the Government have placed themselves in that unbelievable position. The Minister should try to give a convincing answer.

New clauses and amendments on the amendment paper include those in the names of the hon. Members for Stratford-on-Avon and for Brighton, Kemptown (Sir A. Bowden), and propose to add to the powers of the national disability council powers similar to those that we propose for the disability rights commission. Conservative and Opposition Members are on common ground on that issue, and I hope that we go through the Lobby together at the end of this debate. That which matters more than anything else is not the name but the substance, and in substance we are agreed. The Bill needs more than any other improvement the establishment of a body with powers to investigate and to eliminate discrimination against disabled people.

The Government's proposals will not only make British law uniquely unenforceable by international standards but put disability discrimination in a new legal category at home. Models for anti-discrimination law exist, and legislation on discrimination on grounds of race or gender include provision for enforcement—and so they should.

That is the right road to follow, yet the Government have deliberately chosen not to follow it in respect of disabled people. They propose to give disability discrimination a lower status than race or sex discrimination. If the commission model works in other areas, it should work for disability, yet the Government ignore the existence of other models of anti-discrimination law at home and abroad. Parliament has provided the best protection that it can devise against race or sex discrimination, as it should, but it is asked to provide second-class protection for disabled people.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be far better to have just one commission named the commission for fair employment to deal with race, sex, disablement and other forms of discrimination—instead of establishing another miniature empire?

Mr. Clarke

If the hon. Gentleman takes that view, it would have been more helpful if he had tabled an amendment or a new clause. His idea may sound progressive, but for that reason the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People would have resisted it. Even the logic that he promotes is not something that the Department would find appealing.

Disabled people should have more than just the law on their side—they need law enforcement. Our proposals would create a commission with a range of powers. The disability rights commission would be able to provide assistance, including financial and legal assistance, to disabled people seeking redress for acts of discrimination. That alone is profoundly important for what we regard as a free society. The commission would be able to carry out general investigations, to determine whether discrimination—including indirect discrimination, of which there is much evidence—was taking place and to encourage employers and service providers to comply with the law.

The commission would, where necessary, be able to bring proceedings to compel employers or service providers to obey the law. There is no reason why it should not. The idea squares with the Government's approach to many other matters, including race and gender.

We believe that the onus should not always be on disabled people to prove that they have suffered discrimination, or to take action to obtain a remedy. Alleged discriminators should be obliged to show that their practices comply with the law. Investigative powers for the commission will ensure that practices that discriminate are found out and remedied sooner rather than later. The very existence of such powers will encourage compliance with the law.

Most cases brought to the Commission for Racial Equality under the Race Relations Act 1976 are settled without the need to go to court. That is important to the overwhelming case for a commission. The Government appear to anticipate that the same will happen here—and we hope that they are right. But the point that they seem to miss is that most race discrimination cases are settled out of court precisely because the alleged discriminators know that the CRE has the powers to enforce the law, so they sensibly choose to comply at an early stage.

The disability rights commission would have a general duty to work towards the elimination of discrimination—as the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission do. This duty would involve promoting awareness of the profoundly important issue of disability discrimination. That would save many people and organisations from finding themselves in breach of the law in the first place. The commission would be free to initiate its own research and education in pursuit of its wider objectives. That too would allow it to achieve prevention rather than cure—an idea that should appeal to the Minister and the Government.

The powers that we propose are complementary. The commission that we envisage would quickly build up the necessary expertise to allow it to draft effective codes of practice and to recommend to Ministers practical improvements to the law. That is far more effective and efficient than the Government's approach. It is a way of promoting equality, instead of relying on complainants pursuing their cases, given that so many impediments are placed in their way.

The Commission for Racial Equality has found that promotional work is greatly strengthened by the awareness of employers that, if it fails, formal investigations are possible … Guidance and codes are heavily based on the information that has come … through formal investigations and individual complaints. Investigative powers and promotional duties go together, therefore, and form a coherent package which we propose and support. Disabled people want that package too, and for employers and service providers the existence of a credible national body with the authority to oversee and to enforce the law provides a clear point of reference and source of guidance for those who wish to know how to proceed.

The Institute of Personnel Development and the Employers Forum on Disability have both called for a national body with powers, status and resources equivalent to those of the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission. The CBI has also expressed disquiet about the lack of clarity in the plans for the Government's national disability council—in particular about whether it can carry out independent research, and about its interaction with the other equality commissions and the arbitration service ACAS. In the CBI's words: The latter is particularly important given the potential complications arising from overlaps of jurisdiction in cases of compound discrimination". That is a diplomatic and technical way of putting it.

8.15 pm

Let me put it another way: employers want to know what happens when an employee or job applicant is discriminated against more than once. For example, what happens when a disabled woman is refused promotion for no apparent reason? Most employers do not want to discriminate unfairly, and rightly want to ensure that their competitors do not obtain an unfair advantage by unfair discrimination.

The unacceptable answer is that, under the Government's proposals, a disabled woman will have much more effective redress if she suffered discrimination on account of her gender than if she did on account of her disability. If the former applied, the Equal Opportunities Commission might take up her case, provide her with legal and financial support, issue a notice of non-discrimination against her employer and impose financial penalties if the employer failed to co-operate—all laudable and practical steps. If the same disabled woman suffered unfair discrimination because of her disability, however, the Government-proposed national disability council would be able to do absolutely nothing.

The plain fact is that the council will be able to monitor discrimination but not do anything about it. It will be able to advise the Government in certain areas, but not to tell anyone if the Government choose not to follow its advice. It will be able to offer draft codes of practice, but only when asked to do so by the Secretary of State. That is simply not good enough. Disabled people want and are entitled to first-class protection under the law.

Lord Snowdon recently reminded me of what Martin Luther King said about discrimination: Morality cannot be legislated, but behaviour can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrict the heartless. With the benefit of 30 years' experience of race relations law in this country, we can and should go further in this area. Effective law can make unthinkable forms of discrimination that were standard practice only a generation before. Enforceable regulations can change the rules of the game and allow those who have suffered discrimination in the past the benefit of the level playing field to which they are entitled in a modern democracy.

A disability discrimination Act—even the measure before us, with all its weaknesses and omissions—can transform the prospects for disabled people in future generations, especially if it is accompanied by an effective enforcement body that can ensure its implementation and inform Ministers of what more needs to be done to make discrimination against disabled people a thing of the past.

Mr. Alan Howarth

I have tabled new clauses 14 and 15 and amendments Nos. 52 to 59 to extend the powers of the national disability council. My objective is very much the same as that of the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke), but I proceed by a different route. Instead of seeking to establish a disability rights commission, I seek to build on the institution that the Government propose to create, the NDC. My amendments would extend the powers of the council. At present, its role will be purely advisory. The amendments would give it a role and powers that would be in line with those of the commissions that have been established under other equal opportunities legislation.

Why do I wish to extend the powers of the council? I do so because I believe that for us to create rights without providing the means to sustain them is a hollow act. The rights of disabled people and our support for them should be no less than the rights and support that we accord to our fellow human beings on grounds of race and gender. Any discrimination against people because they belong to a particular group or category is odious, dehumanising and deeply offensive to the principles of a liberal and humane society.

It is not good enough to leave disadvantaged people to use their exiguous resources to assert and gain their rights against others richer and more powerful than themselves. Major employers, such as those in membership of the Employers Forum on Disability, agree with that proposition. For example, British Rail and the Midland bank have observed that, without an enforcement agency, too many firms will continue to do what they want and what is convenient to them.

We have always accepted in Parliament that it is the role of the state to step in to protect the weak and the vulnerable from the abuse of power, whether exercised by mediaeval barons, mill owners, landlords, trade union bosses or the limited number of today's employers who insist on acting in a discriminatory fashion.

We should have a disability rights commission or a strengthened NDC. I do not mind what the body is called, so long as it does the job that it is needed to undertake. It must have powers to investigate and enforce.

We need a commission that has a strategic role, in the same way as the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission. The legislative model that we have in relation to those two bodies will serve us well in the establishment of the body that we need to sustain the rights of those who may experience discrimination because of their disablement.

Any such body should work with a light touch. No one wants a commission that bears down heavily and is excessively bureaucratic, excessively litigious and looking to interfere and to pick fights. I know that those are the fears of some of my hon. Friends, but I believe that they are very much misplaced. If my hon. Friends look open-mindedly and fairly at the record, they will recognise that that is so.

Nor is the organisation that I have in mind to be compared with the American Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, which has a particular role that I do not propose for a strengthened NDC. The commission has a remit, I understand, to screen all cases that may come to court. It is much better to do as the Government propose and to provide direct access to tribunals and courts for complainants. The strengthened council's role would, in a sense, be more selective. It would always be seeking to advance the principle of equal opportunity and the unacceptability of unjustified discrimination. It would proceed by taking up cases where there was a special cause to do so—for example, because of their representative importance or because of the wider beneficial impact that its involvement in a case would have.

The need for that is vital, as are the other needs that have been acknowledged by my hon. Friend the Minister. There is a need for the Government to receive advice and a need for individual disabled people to be assisted by the adoption of practical remedies.

I understand that my hon. Friend the Minister has argued against a broader enforcement role for the commission or strengthened council on the basis that all disabled people are individuals and disabilities are unique. That is true, but we wish to act against the evil of unjustifiable discrimination, which occurs in an all too regularly repeated range of ways.

I shall give the House an example. Where there are medical screening procedures with overly restrictive criteria, a procedure that is simple in itself will act differentially and, in effect, involve indirect discrimination. If an organisation has a broad-brush policy, it is wrong to require individuals who may be unfairly affected by discrimination to seek an individual remedy.

I am assured that the Post Office—I was surprised and disappointed to hear this—has a policy of not allowing its employees who have diabetes to drive its vehicles. It is not against the law for diabetics to drive, but the Post Office has adopted a blanket policy. That is my information. If what I have said is incorrect, I shall apologise and readily withdraw. I am advised on good authority, however, that what I have said is, indeed, the position. The Post Office does not make an individual assessment of the ability of an employee who has diabetes to drive its vehicles.

The Post Office's policy seems unreasonable, especially as it does not apply the policy to someone who was diagnosed as diabetic before 1984. The policy seems to be comprehensively confused. That is surely a good instance of a broad employment issue in an enormous organisation which a disability rights commission or a strengthened NDC could usefully investigate.

Mr. Pickthall

The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. I am insulin dependent and know a little about what he is saying. I had not thought of myself as disabled. It is important to understand that the licensing authorities will not allow the driving of public service vehicles by diabetics. That is true of the fire brigade and of heavy goods vehicle drivers, who automatically lose their licence if they become insulin dependent. They can apply for the restoration of their licence after a period, but it is extremely rare for such a driver to regain his licence.

Mr. Howarth

The hon. Gentleman's intervention was interesting and helpful. We are clearly in debatable territory. It seems eminently suitable for a public-spirited and expert agency to investigate it and to consider what the appropriate criteria may be, and to make recommendations, if it judges that necessary, for improved employment policy or, possibly, improved legislation.

Rev. Martin Smyth

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will note that the body that has instilled that practice is under Government direction. Does he agree that it is important that the Government do something to change that direction?

Mr. Howarth

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He makes the point well. The Government have a responsibility to promote good employment practice throughout our economy and society, especially where large public service organisations are involved.

Let me give the House another instance where a commission could usefully be involved. I am advised again—on the evidence of a consultant psychiatrist writing in The Lancet—that it is the policy of some health authorities not to employ anyone with epilepsy. That seems quite extraordinary and to my mind is disgraceful and indefensible. If an employer does not take a rational view of the nature and prognosis of epilepsy, a disability rights commission or a strengthened national disability council, could look at the issue—for example, in health service employment—and make recommendations.

Mr. Devlin

Hang on a minute. Suppose a local health authority or health trust were to be sued by a patient for the results of an epileptic attack during a medical procedure, how would the national health trust justify itself to the patient in those circumstances?

Mr. Howarth

It is interesting that practice between health authorities is very different. Some health authorities—to my mind in this particular respect, the better employers—look carefully at the individual circumstances and the health of particular people whom they might employ, and they do not invariably take the view that there are no circumstances in which they could responsibly employ someone with epilepsy. There may well be certain responsibilities than an epileptic should not be expected to carry out, but I do not think that my hon. Friend, on reflection, would really wish to argue that there are no jobs in the health service that someone with epilepsy could reasonably be expected to perform.

8.30 pm

What my hon. Friend says bears out my contention that we badly need an intelligent, expert body charged with the responsibility to help us to evolve good practice in such fields. It seems to me that the system that my hon. Friend the Minister envisages would place unreasonable demands on individuals affected by such discrimination. Certainly, if the individual is left to fend for himself or herself, to try to establish his or her own rights, that will not help adequately to generalise good practice. Indeed, we may be left with a series of piecemeal, confused—even contradictory—resolutions by different industrial tribunals.

It is tempting for employers in the unhappy situation where they have to make redundancies to look for rather simple rules of thumb, to look for simple criteria, for example, rates of absenteeism. If that is to be the criterion for selecting those who are to be made redundant, it is all too likely that it will bear heavily on people who have good cause to be absent, because they need medical appointments. Those people have valid reasons, because of their condition, to be away from work from time to time. Again, that seems to be the kind of problem with which a commission could deal.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

The absenteeism rate of people with disabilities is normally lower than that of others because disabled people are so exceptionally conscientious.

Mr. Howarth

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point, and I accept her implied chiding.

Let me give one instance of the useful work that the Equal Opportunities Commission carries out. I refer to its investigation, the results of which were published in March this year, into employment agencies. The EOC found that there was indeed widespread sex stereotyping, and opportunities were restricted for all too many people. If individuals had been simply left to take their own cases in this matter to tribunals, they would not have had access to the knowledge and experience that the EOC had.

If some of those individuals had been successful in bringing their cases, I still do not believe that the outcome would have been sufficiently generalised to influence practice in the way in which an EOC investigation is able to do. Within five days of the EOC report being published, 250 organisations contacted it for further advice. I would like to see such opportunities and developments occurring in respect of disability.

The EOC and the Commission for Racial Equality provide invaluable advice to businesses. Similarly, advice and help will be needed in the disability field—certainly advice and help that go beyond what I believe, with the best will in the world, the placement, assessment and counselling teams or, indeed, citizens advice bureaux, will be able to provide. The citizens advice bureaux do a marvellous job in advising citizens on how they may find remedy for their grievances. I do not think that the CAB would wish to be entrusted with the major role of advising employers on what proper practice should be.

I very much welcome the Government's commitment to remove the restriction in the National Assistance Act 1948 on the provision of direct payments to disabled people. It always seemed to me to be an unfortunate provision. I recognise the complexity of what will be entailed, however. I was sorry that my right hon. Friends felt unable to incorporate in the Bill a clause that would at least have cleared away the legislative roadblock to further detailed progress. That is one more example of where I believe that a commission would be helpful.

There will, indeed, be much to be thought about, to be considered carefully and to be learnt from subsequent experience. My amendment No. 45, which has been selected, says that the national disability council should have a duty to advise on policy developments in a range of fields, apart from employment. That is one such instance in which it could play a valuable role. I hope that, in due course, it will do so.

I have proposed that the national disability council should be given additional powers. The strengthened national disability council should have wide powers to provide assistance to people who complain of discrimination. It should have broad law enforcement powers, including the ability to conduct formal investigations and to take certain forms of legal action in its own name. It should have the power to conduct formal investigations either to examine whether a particular organisation is discriminating or to promote equal opportunities within a specific area, such as the practices of employment agencies, to which I referred just now, or estate agents. It should have the power, in specified circumstances, to issue non-discrimination notices and to make recommendations about improving practices to specific organisations.

It should have the power to apply to the court for orders restraining persons from persistent discrimination. It should have the power to draw up codes of practice, subject to approval by the Secretary of State and Parliament, and to make recommendations for the improved operation of the law.

The existence of a national organisation, able actively to promote equality of opportunity, both through advising organisations and through taking legal action in specific instances where necessary, is crucial to developing our culture, to changing entrenched attitudes and to working effectively towards removing the patterns of discrimination which still disfigure our society, and which my hon. Friend the Minister deplores as much as I do.

It is important to recognise that the various powers, duties and activities that a strengthened council would undertake are mutually interdependent. They would reinforce one another. The capacity of the council to carry out successful investigations and to make valuable recommendations will depend on the accumulation of its practical experience: in advising individuals and in taking individual actions, as well as its broader overview.

It is through operating the totality of their responsibilities that the CRE and EOC have been able to build up the expertise that then makes it possible for them to draft effective codes of practice and recommend practical improvements to the law. It is not only the Government or the individual who is the victim of discrimination who would benefit from that, but organisations of many sorts, especially businesses.

The credibility and the depth of experience that the existing commissions possess enable them to work pro-actively to remove discriminatory barriers and to promote equality of opportunity. They wish to do that and, almost invariably, they indeed do so in a conciliatory manner. It is not their desire to seek recourse to the courts.

However, the existence of a strategic enforcement power enables the commissions, when necessary, to influence recalcitrant individuals and organisations as, sadly, is necessary from time to time. I am certain that that long-established mode—we now have 20 years' experience of it—is effective and efficient and would be more so than what the Government propose in respect of disability, which is to rely solely on individual claimants, if they are driven to it and if they can manage to do so, having recourse themselves to legal remedies.

As the hon. Member for Monklands, West said, that is why organisations such as the Employers Forum on Disability and the Institute of Personnel Management have called for a national body to oversee the operation of disability law, with powers, resources and status equal to those of the EOC and the CRE.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister is willing to reconsider his position. I feel strongly that if we do not have either a disability rights commission or a strengthened national disability council, there will remain a hole in the heart of the Bill—a Bill that represents an enormous advance, for which my hon. Friend the Minister should be personally congratulated. I hope that he will recognise this necessity, and be able to persuade our right hon. and hon. Friends of the necessity, of completing the task that he has set himself.

Mr. Wigley

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak in this debate, not only to new clause 1, which I support, but to new clause 17, which stands in my name and that of my hon. Friends. I am grateful to Madam Speaker for including my new clause in this group.

My new clause provides for the position in Wales, but before discussing that I want to deal with the generality and to follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth). We all know from our constituency surgeries and from work in our own areas of the difficulties and frustrations faced by disabled people and their families because they cannot get what they need, what they know they need and what they feel they have a right to have.

Our challenge is to make the Bill meaningful for them; for it to be more than just a tablet of stone that says, "Yes, you have a right, but you cannot have that right delivered to you." The Bill needs to be accessible to them, usable by them, understandable, comprehensible, sensitive, quick acting and within reach. It also needs to be effective—and for it to be so, I cannot but feel that there needs to be more than the council provided for in the Bill.

The danger is that the council may well give good advice, may well look at the generality of the scene and may be able to help individuals with conciliation services and so move their cases forward, but when it comes to the really hard cases, the ones that conciliation cannot crack, stronger measures may be needed. Existing bodies already try a conciliation process. For example, disability organisations such as RADAR, Mencap and Scope play their role within their client groups to try to get answers to problems. The citizens advice bureau does the same. Numerous agencies try, on a voluntary basis, to get people together to solve the problems, but fail to do so.

8.45 pm

I could cite individual cases in my area. In earlier debates, I have mentioned people with disability not being able to get work and not knowing where to turn to get the support that would ensure that the discrimination practised against them was set aside and that they got the opportunities they deserved. I know of a case in the Swansea area, which has been running for some months, of a family with a disabled son who need substantial adaptations to their house. That is within the power of the local authority's grant-making structures, but the machinery is not working and is highly unsatisfactory. There was a need for somebody to get in there and sort it out, but it was only when one of the voluntary sector bodies began to play it rough that the problems began to be sorted out, although they are still not totally sorted out.

In one of our earliest debates on civil rights, I cited the case of a cinema in Cardiff that would not allow access to someone in a wheelchair because of the difficulties should there be a fire. We have heard all that before. We need a body to which people who have been treated in that way can turn and which they know will take action on their behalf and make it stick. They need to know how to get access to such a body.

With all the good will in the world, the council, as it is described and defined in the Bill, will be much too passive a body. It will need to have teeth. Although it may be in only a small minority of cases that people need to go to court—the last thing I want to do is to give money to lawyers on either side of the argument—the ultimate sanction of being able to go to court, with an Act of Parliament behind them, must be significant for those who are trying to enforce all the other rights embodied in the Bill and the further rights that we want built into it now or at a later stage.

If we are to overcome discrimination in employment, leisure services, the provision of facilities, transport and education, there must be a cast-iron guarantee. Without one, people will not have the confidence to come forward. They need to be sure that someone is there who will make sure that their case is heard.

Having referred to the generality, and having expressed my support for new clause 1 and the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon, I want to deal with my new clause 17, which provides for the establishment of a disablement commission for Wales. Such a body is needed; Wales specifically needs to have the structure of a commission, with the rights outlined in the new clause. The same case can be made for Scotland, and I am aware that new clause 19, tabled by the Scottish National party, provides for a similar body in Scotland. However, I shall confine my remarks to Wales.

I believe that such a body in Wales is necessary for three or four reasons. First, there is a high level of disability in Wales—some 300,000 disabled people. The profile of disability has, to some extent, grown out of our industrial past. The characteristics of that manifest themselves in, for example, the high level of invalidity benefit in Wales, which is some 50 per cent. higher than it is in other parts of the United Kingdom. There is a high level of need in Wales, which I am sure Welsh Members of Parliament from all parties recognise.

Secondly, the Welsh Office in Wales has a one-stop-shop function for a number of critical responsibilities relevant to disability. It has responsibility for health, social services, education, employment, housing and planning. All those functions are relevant to disabled people. I have heard friends in the voluntary sector in the west midlands say how sorry they are that they do not have such a government structure that brings those various facets together to develop disability policy.

No doubt the existence of the Welsh Office enabled Wales to take strides that, I think, were not taken elsewhere in the early 1980s, when Nicholas Edwards was Secretary of State for Wales. The all-Wales strategy for mentally handicapped children and adults was a significant advance. Other advances have been made in Wales in other aspects of disability. We must have a body that relates to public policy, as has already been developed in Wales under the structure in the Welsh Office.

It is equally important that an interface exists between local government and either the commission, which the new clause would give us, or the council, which the Government have put forward. A new local government structure comes into force in Wales in April next year. The elections are in May of this year. That unitary structure throughout Wales will again bring together at local level all local government departments that deal with disabled people—social services, housing, education and planning. Again, a close working relationship should exist between what we would call the disablement commission for Wales, or the council as the Government would put it, and local authorities. No interface exists in the Government's model, but it is provided for in subsection (2)(a) of new clause 17.

We believe that it is important that that interface exists and that there should be a close working relationship between the commission and the voluntary sector. Goodness knows, in the world of disability, the voluntary sector is vital. In the past 20 years, that sector in Wales has reorganised itself to shadow the Welsh Office. There used to be a Mencap in north Wales, north-west England and south Wales. Mencap in Wales was established to respond in a strategic manner—I use the words "strategic manner", which were mentioned earlier—to disabled people's needs.

That is equally relevant in relation to the disablement commission for Wales, for which we are pressing. Coterminosity and co-operation on a day-to-day basis should exist between that body and the voluntary sector. It can be the provider of links with individuals. It can be part of the fine tuning of policy that is needed for feedback to go through to the Welsh Office and to the Secretary of State, as would happen on a general level in London.

One additional dimension is covered in subsection (12) of new clause 17. In the event of a parliament or legislative assembly for Wales, which is likely to happen after the next general election within a year or two—[Interruption.] I see the Under-Secretary of State for Employment smiling. He may feel that the Conservative party will win the next general election, but opinion polls suggest otherwise.

When such elected bodies are set up in Wales and Scotland, there will be a question of answerability. The hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) is not here but, equally, I suggest to him that his model should include provision to ensure that such a structure is answerable to a Scottish or Welsh Parliament or Assembly. A close working relationship must exist with the decision-taking mechanism that affects disabled people. In the Scottish model, most of the powers would be devolved to a Scottish Parliament and, in the Welsh model, to the Welsh Parliament or Assembly. Those ideas are on the cards.

Any commission must be close to the people whom it is serving and who are taking decisions on a day-to-day basis. It should not be remote or faceless. We have felt the lack of a race discrimination structure in Wales. Some cases have been followed in an unfortunate way because of that lack. Developments are afoot to try to overcome that. We have recently established the Welsh Language Board. For many disabled people, the language dimension must be taken on board. An interplay exists between language ability and provision of services, not least in relation to speech therapy services, which are often inadequate.

Those are the, reasons why we introduced our new clause 17. We want to ensure that there is a commission in the context of Wales. We would equally like the new clause moved by the hon. Member for Monklands, West to be brought into effect after Report. The Government may succeed in withstanding the new clauses in this group, but I hope that the Minister will say clearly how the council, as he has envisaged it, will interface, in Wales and in Scotland, with government structures. I accept that he may not go down the road of envisaging the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly, but how will his council make adequate provision for the needs of Wales with the Welsh Office, the Scottish Office, the different local government structures, and the voluntary sector? There appears to be no provision on that in the Bill. That perhaps was not given an adequate airing in Committee.

If the Government, after considering the debate tonight, withstand our attempt to write in new provisions, will they at least say that some fine tuning is necessary in the other place to ensure that the structures that arise are responsive to regions such as Wales, where circumstances are slightly different and where we need the mechanisms to respond to that? Then and only then will disabled people in Wales receive the full benefits of the legislation that we are enacting. There is a responsibility on us to ensure that that takes place.

Mr. Devlin

In new clause 1, we have a foretaste of what would come if a Labour Government were ever elected. In the past, Labour Members have made a general onslaught on quangos throughout the country. Representing a constituency that is covered by an efficient quango—the Teesside development corporation—I know that such attacks are regularly on their lips. Despite that, tonight they are trying to establish yet another regulatory body to go along with the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality. I am not sure that that is in the interests of the country or of disabled people.

The country is very much over-regulated. People constantly complain about the European Community coming in and interfering, in the niggly way that it does, with a range of regulation and red tape. They feel that the country is gradually being ground to a halt under a great burden of regulation. I do not wish us to have yet more interfering commissions to regulate the affairs, business and every other feature of life. Some hon. Members may be keen to make well-intentioned changes, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Mr. Berry

Will the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that disabled people are possibly the most regulated group in the country by virtue of the fact that they are denied access to transport, jobs and leisure opportunities? Would it not be nice to deregulate life for them?

Mr. Devlin

Yes, it would be very nice. I have been a member of the all-party disablement group for many years. I have examined many different ways in which these things could be done. I do not see that to create yet another commission is the right way to go about it.

When I asked a question of the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke), who is not here any more, I said that perhaps the best way forward would be to merge the existing two commissions, put the further commission in with it and create a single commission called something like the fair employment commission. To carry on building yet more bodies which will turn out to be great empires of bureaucracy, officials and inspectors with investigating powers issuing codes of practice will create yet another industry all by itself.

I have seen the Equal Opportunities Commission, and in particular the Commission for Racial Equality, in action. They take the attitude that anyone who does not agree with the positive discrimination measures that they suggest is politically incorrect and to be treated in an offhand manner.

Mr. Berry

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Devlin

No. I have given way to the hon. Gentleman already, and he did not make a good point then.

The House should be wary of creating any more such bodies. I dealt with a complaint to the Commission for Racial Equality not many months ago. The initial reaction was negative, even though my constituents had a perfectly valid point. They wanted to know why there was positive discrimination in respect of Asian women in a particular situation. The next thing we knew, there was some fobbing off comment in the local press. People got angry about it and the whole thing became ridiculous, simply because the people in the commission would not accept that there was another point of view which should be treated in a valid and sensible way. I wonder whether we would not be going down the same road with the disablement commission which has been proposed by the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair).

I listened with great care to my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth), who always makes eloquent and impressive speeches. I have known him for a long time—since he was at the Conservative research department. I know how well informed he is and how much he cares about disabled people and the voluntary sector. I was worried when I heard him say that the commission should work with a light touch. It should not be bureaucratic, overbearing or self-advancing—I think that those were the words that he used.

My experience of the two commissions is that that is precisely what they are—bureaucratic like nobody's business, overbearing, intrusive and self-advancing in every aspect of life. If we set up another commission, having had experience of the two commissions, we will find ourselves in yet further trouble.

9 pm

Mr. Barnes

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Devlin

I do not wish to detain the House for long.

Mr. Alan Howarth

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Devlin

I give way to my hon. Friend, because I mentioned him.

Mr. Howarth

My hon. Friend is kind. He has explained to the House why he does not think that it would be a good idea to have a disability rights commission. He is a lawyer. He will undoubtedly have a commitment to justice. If he does not think that a commission is a good way to promote justice and insists on seeing a commission as only a regulatory body and not a suitable agency to promote justice in our society, what constructive means does he propose?

Mr. Devlin

If we are to advance further rights for disabled people, which is the purpose of the Bill, we must encourage them to use the court system if they find themselves prejudiced in any way. As my hon. Friend says, I am a lawyer. Rights are enforceable in the courts of law.

I should like to see, and I am sure that the vast majority of my constituents would like to see, legal aid given to deserving disabled people taking action against bad employment practices rather than handed out to the Maxwell brothers or to people who want to sue the tobacco industry, having spent their entire life smoking and knowing the risk. There is a great deal that we could do with legal aid to make it more accessible to people so that we could make the justice system work rather than allow it to be the perquisite of people who could afford to pay lots of money.

In my time at the Bar, I took a percentage of cases for nothing because I believed that poor people who cannot afford to go to law should be able to do so and be represented at tribunals. I have appeared before medical appeals tribunals and other tribunals for nothing. That is the way it has to be if we are not to reduce the ludicrous charges which are passed on to the consumer of law.

Mr. Pickthall

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Devlin

No. I am sorry. I have taken two interventions. I am trying to keep my speech short because I know that many hon. Members are anxious to have a go. If the hon. Gentleman wants to debate law with me, I will be happy to do so in a debate on a more appropriate piece of legislation.

The debate tonight is about whether we should have a commission for disabled people. I firmly believe that we should have no more commissions and that the commissions that we have should be merged. We should have something like a fair employment or equal employment rights commission. We should have no more extra bureaucracies, no more inspectors, no more codes of practice. Let us leave the people of this country to get on with the serious business of creating wealth and adding to the value and quality of life in our country.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Again, I follow the hon. Members for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) and for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) who, as before, made well-informed, highly principled and strongly persuasive speeches. I also wish to say a brief word about the speech by the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin). The House ought to be grateful to him for letting us hear in this debate the authentic voice of Conservative opposition to the very concept of a disabled rights commission.

Having brought to this House more legislation on disability than anyone else—all of which has stood the test of time—I offer the present Minister a word of well-meant advice. It is that nothing does more to damage to the reputation of a Minister or to that of this House than to enact legislation that cannot be enforced. That is what could happen in the case of this Bill if the Government persist with their proposal for a mere advisory council in place of what we propose in new clause 1. My inclusion in the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill of provisions for a strong commission to enforce the Bill's other provisions was to avoid the serious danger of unenforceable legislation.

Nothing upsets the disability organisations more than the Government's refusal give disabled people in this Bill the same protection against discrimination as the law already affords to women and to ethnic minorities. They cite that as proof positive that, in their Disability Discrimination Bill, the Government are offering only second-class rights to second-class citizens. The Minister must have heard that statement from the disability organisations, as all of us have heard it from them in their condemnation of the Bill for failing to confer full citizenship on disabled people.

The Government said year after year that to legislate on discrimination against disabled people would lead to a lawyers' paradise; that there would be a glut of litigation. But the disability rights commission we propose is about reducing, not provoking, litigation. It is about keeping differences within bounds, not about encouraging litigation. Disabled people are not looking for avoidable trouble. They have enough problems to contend with already.

The Government's Bill provides only for an individual to take an action at a tribunal or in the county court, but there will be issues to be determined that affect whole groups of disabled people and that a disabled rights commission could tackle in a constructive way. As I said at an earlier stage of the proceedings on the Bill, the Government's proposal for an advisory council is, in the words of Sir Peter Large, a whey-faced ghost of what is required.

Not only does it lack teeth: it enjoys no life of its own. It can act only in response to summonses of the Secretary of State. Its subservience is blatantly obvious in that it will be specifically excluded by statute from even daring to offer advice on any of the important issues covered by the Government' Bill. In saying that, I was reflecting the opinion in the organisations of disabled people. They reject the national disability council, and they want, in its place, the disability rights commission for which the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill provides.

The Government's attitude has not basically altered since an hour-long meeting I had with the Prime Minister after the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill was first talked out in January 1992, for which the then Member for Kingswood had to make a personal statement of apology for misleading the House. The Prime Minister said to me at our meeting: The proposal for a Disability Rights Commission sits uncomfortably with the Government's policy of deregulation. That is what he said and what the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) has said again tonight. I repeat that the hon. Member has given the House tonight the authentic Conservative view to the very concept of a disability rights commission.

Mr. Barnes

The view of the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) was so strong that, logically, he should also oppose the national disability council. Even though we think that it is a limited measure, it has certain functions to fulfil and considers such things as codes of practice put to it by the Secretary of State. That is the logic of the hon. Gentleman's position, and he should oppose the Government's Bill.

Mr. Morris

I welcome the opportunity to pay a warm tribute to my hon. Friend, who has done marvellous work in carrying on the battle to enact the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. I am absolutely certain that, if his energy and commitment can turn that Bill into law, then the battle between the two Bills is not yet over by a long chalk.

I agree with the point made earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry). The lives of disabled people are very heavily regulated by the limitations imposed upon them by their disabilities. They want their very lives to be derogated by a disability rights commission with the full powers of enforcement.

I return to what the Prime Minister said about the commission being inconsistent with the Government's policy of deregulation. If that is the case, then so is the Equal Opportunities Commission. That also sits uncomfortably with the Government's policy of deregulation. So does the Commission for Racial Equality. That sits uncomfortably with the Government's policy on deregulation as well.

So I use this debate to warn the millions of people who benefit from the Equal Opportunities Commission and from the work of CRE that there is an implied threat to the EOC and the CRE, in what the Government are saying about our disability rights commission. I hope that people other than disabled people will wake up to the significance of this debate. I hope that they will recognise that the bodies that exist to protect them are in danger if we cannot protect the proposal that we are making for a similar body to protect disabled people.

There are many views about what precisely it was that plunged this Government to their unprecedented unpopularity last year. Different Members will have different views about that phenomenon, but all of us here should listen to the views of others as well as to our parliamentary colleagues.

In Wales the week before last, in the constituency of my good and hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), I was in discussion with constituents of his who work in the professions supplementary to medicine. Let me confide to the Minister that they were in no doubt why the Government's standing plummeted to an all-time low last year. They agreed without exception that nothing did more to damage this Government than their wholly scandalous treatment of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill.

They were disgusted, like millions of other people all over Britain, that such a Bill could lead to three Members of Parliament having to make personal statements of unreserved apology for misleading the House of Commons about the Bill. The best way to make good for their malfeasance is for the Government now to concede what the organisations of and for disabled people want from this debate. They want, like the vast majority of other people want, a strong and effective Disability Rights Commission that will fully enforce their rights.

The House knows my views on unfair discrimination against disabled people. It is that such discrimination is morally wrong, and that what is morally wrong ought no longer to be legally permissible. That requires a strong and effective disability rights commission, and I implore the Minister not to persist in obstructing that vitally important safeguard for disabled people.

9.15 pm
Ms Lynne

I support the new clause, because of a desire to assist the Government in seeming consistent and logical.

The Bill reminds me a little of a cardboard cut-out policeman. It is cost-effective to start with, because it slows traffic and stops people speeding. Placed at the side of the road, it looks like a policeman from a distance and cars slow down. Everyone thinks what a great success it is, until they suddenly realise that it is a cardboard cut-out, and they will not be stopped or fined. Car drivers then ignore it and continue speeding. Without force, without compulsion or without legal sanction, the Bill will be as weak as that cardboard cut-out policeman. It is a public relations novelty with limited effect. Ultimately, unless we have a commission, it will appear to be ridiculous.

The Bill needs teeth. It needs a commission with the same monitoring and investigative powers as the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality, both of which support the setting up of a disability rights commission. They demonstrate that we cannot rely on good will and good practice alone for equal opportunities legislation to be adhered to.

By introducing the Bill, the Government admit that education and persuasion simply have not worked, and that legal sanction is required. Why, then, do they introduce an advisory council, which is a neutered body whose remit is purely to advise? Might it be that they could not withstand the criticisms or see their failure to adhere to UK or European legislation? I appreciate that they may be resistant to it, but the overriding importance for any legislation we pass is that it be effective and adhered to; otherwise, what is the point of passing it?

To remain consistent with existing legislation and precedent, the Government must accept this new clause. Our constitution is an unwritten and unspoken acceptance of parliamentary trust, and it requires detail and clarity. Our laws need detail and clarity, but also force. The Bill will be simply academic and will lack credibility unless we have a commission to enforce it.

It was traumatic enough to start with; the Government were forced kicking and screaming into providing it, and they introduced it in a hurried and embarrassed way. Let us hope that, when it reaches maturity, as I assume it will, it will have a few more teeth and be a little stronger and healthier than it is today.

I hope that the Government will accept the new clause.

Rev. Martin Smyth

I support the new clauses moved by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) and, at the same time, welcome the strength that they would give the Bill. It is good that the Minister has moved forward in positive ways. I hope not only that will he be able to accept the proposal in the new clauses and amendments, but that he will persuade his right hon. and hon. Friends to support them too.

The argument that we should deregulate was set forth by the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin). The harsh reality is that this Government have regulated more than they have deregulated. The areas in which they have pursued deregulation have been specifically connected with market forces, yet, if one considers the proposal for this advisory council, one notices that one of its main thrusts is that the council should deal with finance rather than with the specific needs of people who have been blatantly discriminated against.

Such a proposal comes rather strange from a Government who changed the Fair Employment Agency in Northern Ireland to the Fair Employment Commission. Indeed, it is fascinating that some people in Northern Ireland are agitating for the extension of the Commission for Racial Equality to Northern Ireland. So, in future, a Chinese woman may be able to raise issues of discrimination, but if she happened to be disabled, there would be absolutely no redress in law. Per head of population, however, Northern Ireland has a higher percentage of disabled people than any other part of the United Kingdom.

Considering the pressure on our time tonight, I simply urge the Government to think again. They have moved with the feeling so far and I welcome that, but I ask them to go a little bit further and to give us a commission, or a council with increased powers, which will strengthen the case of people with disability. Incidentally, it may be rather significant that the Northern Ireland Employers Forum for Disability has employed a person who once worked with the Equal Opportunities Commission in Northern Ireland so that it may forward the case of people with disabilities.

In other aspects of the Bill, one cannot find a scrap of evidence of support for the most deprived section of our community. If the views of the hon. Member for Stockton, South were accepted, those people would be in a fascinating position. Lawyers approached by disabled people could be dilatory in taking up their cases because they had a remit from the firm which could be sued for disability.

There is a place for an independent commission or a council with teeth to take up the rights of people with disability. I support, on behalf of my colleagues, the cry from the Conservative and Opposition Benches that the Government should accept such a proposal with good grace and go forward with vigour and power.

Mr. Barnes

There have been some important votes tonight and we shall have some important votes tomorrow on this Bill, but the most important of them all is that on new clause 1. If the disability rights commission were to be established, it would entirely transform the nature of the Bill. The Bill would still have imperfections if definitions were not put right, and whole areas of exemptions would not be covered, but agreeing to the proposal in new clause 1 is exactly what we should do.

There are two main factors about the disability rights commission. First, it has already been stressed considerably that it would be the key enforcement agency. It is no use giving people rights, even if under this Bill they are restricted rights, and having no means by which we may begin to put them into operation. That would be a cruel deception, and we do not want the Bill to be guilty of that. Conciliation services, legal back-up and the other items described by Opposition Members and certain Conservative Members are the key elements.

The other thing that annoys the Government, and certainly annoys the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin), is that the commission would be a dynamic force. In time, it would help to extend the areas covered by legislation, so that discrimination against disabled people did not take place.

The concept of reasonableness runs through the Bill, as it does through the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. What is reasonable now depends on current circumstances, the interpretation of the courts, back-up and understanding. That concept is not necessarily static, because the boundaries of its responsibility will be extended as fresh interpretations of that concept are made. The commission would have a key role in that regard. It would monitor, conduct research, issue reports and codes of practice, as well as publish annual reports which would be available to the House. The commission would push the fight against discrimination across different areas of responsibility.

Because of its intended work, that commission would come to realise that the Bill is subject to certain limitations and restrictions. In time, it would recommend that the enactment of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill represented the final required means of removing exemptions and clarifying definitions. The commission is the key to the Opposition's support for the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, as distinct from the Government's stance.

The commission would not be bureaucratic, nor would it dominate and control, as the hon. Member for Stockton, South has suggested. It would make reports available to the House, which would then have the opportunity to investigate and respond to them. The House might even recommend that certain of the commission's notions should not be adopted, or that the direction of the commission should be altered.

The commission would do a service for disabled people; a service for others in society and a service to Parliament by resolving the problem of discrimination. A future Secretary of State for Social Security, of whichever party, will always need to be pushed and nudged to ensure that the concerns of disabled people are always before him or her at all times.

I hope that the key vote on the new clause will be carried, so that we are left with an entirely different Bill.

Mr. Hague

As hon. Members have explained, the large group of new clauses and amendments is intended to substitute a commission for the national disability council or provide that council with powers akin to those of a commission.

The right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) reminded us that, if we pass legislation, we must ensure that means of redress and enforcement exist. I thoroughly agree that we must be confident of being able to enforce legislation that we pass. The Government have no interest, and I have no interest, in securing the passage of legislation that would not work in practice.

I believe, however, that the assumption that the creation of a commission represents the only means of approaching the problem is flawed. It is not the only way, and it is certainly not the best or most effective way, of providing for enforcement.

Hon. Members have maintained that disabled people need a commission with powers similar to the commissions that deal with discrimination in sex and race. We must decide whether disabled people will be best served by a single organisation with those powers. I ask the House to be open to the concept that there are other ways to provide for the needs of Government and Parliament to receive expert policy advice and for the needs of disabled people to be able to seek redress.

9.30 pm

There are other ways that will be highly effective in taking us towards our goal of ending discrimination that provide for much of the role carried out by commissions but are better suited to that purpose. They will be better suited because they recognise the need for a high-level organisation to advise Government about policy and to prepare clear, practical codes of practice for business and disabled people, and because they recognise and provide for the specific needs of disabled people for accessible mechanisms to resolve disputes. They will be more effective because they have been developed taking account of the social and economic circumstances of disabled people and business, and will provide technical assistance and the individual approach necessary to overcome discrimination against disabled people.

Before I discuss the Government's proposals, let me respond to one or two of the specific arguments made during the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) referred to employment policies in the Post Office and in health authorities. I cannot necessarily comment in this debate on the specific examples he gave, although I can tell him that the example that he gave of Post Office drivers with diabetes is one that I am pursuing in my role not as Minister for Disabled People but as Member of Parliament for Richmond, Yorks on behalf of a constituent. I have written as a constituency Member of Parliament to the Post Office and asked it for the basis of that policy.

The employers whom my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon mentioned would be required by the Bill to consider whether a reasonable adjustment might allow disabled people to work for them. My hon. Friend cannot sustain his argument by saying that employers such as the Post Office or the national health service would flout the law proposed in the Bill. Indeed, as he said earlier in another debate, legislation itself has a great declaratory force, and I think that, especially with organisations of that type, we would discover that it has great declaratory force. The question of whether the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency permits people with diabetes to drive certain types of vehicle is exactly the type of question that the national disability council may wish to consider and advise the Government on.

The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley), with all the consistency and force of someone who sits in the House as a nationalist, made the case for new clause 17 and for a specific organisation for Wales. The Bill relates to the whole of the United Kingdom. Although there is considerable precedent for setting up a separate Northern Ireland disability council because of the different body of Northern Ireland legislation already in existence, and because Northern Ireland has its own advisory bodies such as the transport advisory committee and committees for the employment of disabled people, that is not true of the rest of Great Britain, where a unified approach has traditionally been taken to such matters.

I said in Committee that we intend that the national disability council will include members representing Wales, Scotland and England as well as the regions of England. Experience of other Great Britain organisations—and of the House, too—suggests that Welsh Members are well able to argue their point of view and to ensure that their interests are appropriately taken into account.

There are considerable benefits in one organisation taking a consistent approach in advising on the elimination of discrimination—for example, in ensuring that the best and most effective practice can be shared. We are not aware of a need for a separate Welsh or indeed Scottish organisation of any type. Of course, the national disability council will want to listen to the advice and the representations of local government throughout the country—throughout Wales, Scotland and England—and there is no reason why there should not be contact and discussion between the council and representatives of local government.

There are two reasons why people are asking for a commission to be created in relation to the legislation.

Mr. Wigley

Does the Minister regard the council as a fairly centralised body, or will it have offices not only in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast but in English cities, such as Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham and Leeds? What role will such offices have? It is vital that disabled people should feel that they are able to access a body that is close at hand rather than a remote body centralised in London.

Mr. Hague

I do not envisage that the body will have offices around the country, but I expect that it will take steps, through its membership and the way in which it organises its discussions and seeks information, to keep in touch with views from all over Great Britain—and, in the case of the Northern Ireland council, views from all over Northern Ireland. I agree with the hon. Member for Caernarfon that disabled people must have an easily accessible and available body to which they can turn for advice about the matters to which the Bill relates. I will return to that point in a few moments.

Mr. Berry

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hague

No, I must continue with my speech. The hon. Gentleman and I have had many constructive discussions in Committee. I will give way to him later if time permits, but I wish to afford the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) the opportunity to respond to what I have said and to enable the House to reach a decision.

People seek a commission for two purposes: first, to give advice, follow progress and provide a forum and a focus of expertise; and, secondly, to help people to seek redress. As to the first purpose, I believe that our proposals for the national disability council provide for a strong and well-informed body that will advise the Government on issues relating to discrimination against disabled people.

It will be a powerful voice for disabled people that will focus on the wider issues, informed by the skills and experience of its members and by information collected by its advice and support services, to which I shall return shortly. It will also be assisted by research commissioned on its behalf and by consultation with existing advisory bodies. I am confident that it will fulfil the important advisory function every bit as well as a commission would and every bit as effectively as the National Council on Disability in America.

Mr. Alan Howarth

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Hague

To be fair to both sides of the House, I shall give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Howarth

My hon. Friend is extremely generous. Will he explain to the House how he foresees the national disability council being able to provide advice of the reach and the quality that he requires if it does not have powers of formal investigation?

Mr. Hague

I have mentioned that it will have the range of information that is provided by research that can be commissioned on its behalf. It will be able to consult existing advisory bodies, information will flow from the operation of the advisory and support services and it will have the continuing day-to-day experience of its members—at least half of whom will be disabled people or their parents or guardians and all of whom will have a great interest in the matter. I do not think that the national disability council will be short of views, evidence and examples of what is happening around the country with which to inform its discussions about the future progress being made in tackling such matters.

Mr. Berry

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hague

I must carry on, as I wish to give the hon. Member for Monklands, West time to respond.

The national disability council's code of practice will be invaluable in providing clear and practical advice to disabled people and to business in what could potentially become a very complex area, given the vast range of businesses that will need to comply with the legislation and the varying and possibly conflicting needs of disabled people with different impairments.

Our proposals for the national disability council to prepare codes of practice clarify the responsibility of Government and the council, while permitting an open exchange of advice on which to base policy decisions. We have no wish to silence the voice of the national disability council. It will be open to its members to recommend, for instance, that a code of practice be prepared or that an existing code requires updating. The council will be a continuing, powerful voice that will speak to the Government and have its reports laid before Parliament. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I intend to ensure that the council's membership will be such that it will be in a strong position to be that powerful voice.

Some hon. Members advocated a commission not so much to provide advice to the Government and Parliament but to help people seek redress. The Government recognise that disabled people will have a need for advice and support, but that role does not have to be played by the same body that advises the Government on wider issues. The skills needed to advise individuals and to resolve disputes are in many ways different from those needed in giving advice and making policy recommendations.

The discrimination suffered by disabled people is different from that faced by others, and is unique. While the disadvantages may have a similar effect, it is too simplistic to suggest that the causes are the same as those that give rise to sex or race discrimination. The Bill recognises and seeks to address the wide range of causes of discrimination against disabled people.

It requires service providers and employers to go much further than they have had to do in the past to overcome discrimination against other groups. They are being asked to do more than change their attitudes to those commonly considered proper in a civilised society, as in other legislation. In this case, service providers and employers must act to ensure that their employment practices and their services are accessible to disabled people in the manner required by the Bill.

An important plank in ensuring that the Bill is enforced and effective is communicating its provisions properly to employers and service providers. The hon. Member for Monklands, West rightly spoke of the CBI's concern that clear and impartial advice should be available to employers both nationally and locally. We will discuss with the CBI and other business organisations how best to make such advice available. We will consult them on draft regulations and the operation of the legislation, and they will have an opportunity—as will other people—to comment on any codes of practice.

We know from the experience of the Americans with Disabilities Act how important it is to make information available as widely as possible. Despite all the commissions and enforcement bodies in the United States, several years after the enactment of the ADA, most of the public had not heard of it. In those circumstances, of course it is difficult to provide for enforcement.

I am determined to ensure that employers, service providers and traders across the nation will be in no doubt of what they are expected to do and why. As well as written guidance, we are considering freephone advice lines and other facilities so that employers and service providers can be sure of their responsibilities under the legislation. I am sure that the vast majority of them will want to act in accordance with the measure, provided that we make clear to them the measures passed by this House and the other place and the reasons for our doing so.

We are determined not only to communicate but to provide conciliation, advice and support. Because the Bill reflects the needs of disabled people, our proposals in those regards also take a different approach. In goods and services, we intend to provide a nationwide, locally available advice and support network whereby people can meet face to face if necessary, without travelling long distances—a point of particular concern to many disabled people.

That process will inevitably involve an exploration of the facts, and local knowledge could play an important role in bringing greater understanding to resolving disputes involving physical access. We also intend that a standard investigation procedure should apply throughout the country—service providers will welcome a consistent approach, which will consequently help to maximise the number of disputes which are settled in a spirit of co-operation. Where disputes cannot be resolved in this forum, there will be recourse to the courts.

The Employment Service will be able to help employers and disabled people to identify suitable adjustments at the workplace to overcome the practical effects of a disability. This should help to avoid many disputes arising in the first place. When a complaint is made to a tribunal, there will be access to the conciliation services provided by ACAS, which has many years of experience of conciliation on employment issues. Should these not reach a resolution, there will be access to industrial tribunals, which are tried and tested mechanisms for securing employment rights.

9.45 pm

I know that some hon. Members are concerned that the conciliation, advice and support services will not actually provide financial assistance in taking cases to industrial tribunals and courts; they fear, therefore, that disabled people will not be able to enforce their rights. I believe that those fears are unfounded. The procedures in both small claims courts and industrial tribunals are relatively simple. The decision makers in each institution are familiar with, and used to, ensuring that individuals are helped to present their case.

I would also, however, draw to the attention of the House the evidence of experience with other legislation. Experience of the Commission for Racial Equality suggests that the vast majority of cases are settled without recourse to legal action. Furthermore, of the cases brought to industrial tribunals under the Sex Discrimination Act, 90 per cent. are not assisted by the Equal Opportunities Commission.

I believe that our proposals will provide the assistance that disabled people will need without setting up the centralised bureaucratic monitoring and policing body proposed in new clause 1 and the amendments.

I also believe that conciliation, advice and support services will be more effective in achieving resolutions and encouraging employers and service providers to go that bit further to end discriminatory practices when they slip up. We cannot ignore the fact that this legislation, in giving new rights to disabled people, places considerable duties and obligations on business. It will need good guidance to comply with it—we shall give business that—and to increase its understanding and awareness of the needs of disabled people. This we intend to provide through extensive publicity, through guidance about the Act and through practical codes of practice.

I believe that the new rights can and will be enforced under the arrangements that I have set out, but that they could not be achieved without obtaining the good will and efforts of both service providers and employers. Another policing body could well prove counter-productive. A commission positioned entirely as an advocate for disabled people would not be best placed to encourage those efforts, and as such its success, in my view, would be limited.

I believe that the combination that I have set out will work. There will be a national disability council to provide continuing advice in the coming years to this House and to this and future Governments. Its membership will include strong representation of disabled people and of others with expertise. We shall make extensive efforts to communicate thoroughly with all those who have duties placed on them, to tell them what those duties are, why they have been placed on them and what, in detail, they are expected to do about them. In addition, there will be a locally available advice and support network, where people can talk to people who know the high street in question and who know the circumstances of the employer. All these provide the right combination and will encourage the right kind of attitude across the nation to ensure that the legislation works well in practice.

I therefore hope that the House will reject the new clauses and associated amendments.

Mr. Tom Clarke

The more I listened to the debate, including the Minister's speech, the more convinced I became that the rights of disabled people will be well served by the decision of the House to endorse new clause 1. It was moved from the Opposition Benches, but it became clear during the ensuing debate that the divide was not on cross-party lines. We heard the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth), whose views we deeply respect, say that rights without means to sustain them are unenforceable. Nothing that the Minister and a handful of his hon. Friends have said has altered my view about the realism of the approach of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon.

The Minister has said otherwise. He has asked the House to ignore the American experience, to ignore what has taken place in Canada, Australia and New Zealand and to ignore the impact of the Equal Opportunities Commission on gender and race discrimination. Instead, he has asked us to embrace an advisory council that is still ill-defined and still promoted by a Government who are appallingly lethargic in advancing the rights of disabled people and their carers. Given the Government's record of talking out Bill after Bill which would have delivered genuine civil rights, the Government are on trial and I do not believe that they were convincing to a national audience.

We have heard some interesting speeches. The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley), who makes such excellent contributions on these issues, seemed to be looking forward to a time when we have genuine subsidiarity—which I think that the Father of the House would endorse—in Scotland, Wales and elsewhere. Contrary to the Government's claim that they are handing power to people, the Minister struggled and struggled again in resisting the new clause. He failed hopelessly in his efforts to persuade 6.5 million disabled people, 7 million carers and those who are determined to embrace civil rights that their rights would be recognised.

It would be churlish not to admit that there was some support for the Minister's view. It did not come from organisations of disabled people or for disabled people. It did not come from the two commissions which exist to ensure that there are equal opportunities and no discrimination. It did not come from the Confederation of British Industry or from the Employers Forum on Disability. It did not come from the overwhelming majority of people who responded to the consultation document which was hastily published and submitted to the British people during a recess last year. There was no support from those organisations and people for the Minister's views.

There was support from the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin)—

Mr. Devlin

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Clarke

No, I will not give way.

Mr. Devlin

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. As the hon. Gentleman was not in the Chamber during my contribution to the debate, I do not understand how he can comment on it.

Madam Speaker

That is not a point of order for me. The hon. Gentleman was attempting to intervene. It is up to the hon. Member who has the Floor to decide whether to allow another hon. Member to intervene.

Mr. Clarke

Thank you, Madam Speaker. I have an efficient colleague in my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett), who took the trouble to write down even that which was uttered by the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin).

What was the hon. Member for Stockton, South saying? The overwhelming body of opinion which advised the Standing Committee that considered the Bill, and which advises the House, took the view that there was a case for a commission. The hon. Gentleman said that the Opposition were offering no more than a quango. I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that a quango is indeed on offer in the Division Lobby today, but it comes from Ministers on the Government Front Bench, not from my hon. Friends or from Members of other parties, to whom I pay tribute.

Right hon. and hon. Members have travelled from all parts of the United Kingdom tonight to take part in a vital vote, and I welcome their presence. They are not here to support a quango. They say that, in the light of our experience and on the basis of everything that we have talked about today—education, vital though it is, transport, jobs and human rights—the Government have failed miserably in their attempts to reject the case for a commission.

It is true that the Minister said tonight, as he did this morning on BBC Breakfast News when he spoke from his ivory studio, as I sat elsewhere, recognising the rights that some of us will introduce in a few months' time—or no more than a few years' time—that we would not have a commission, as we rightly have for race and gender, but a little advisory body. He suddenly decided, almost as a flash of inspiration, when questioned on television, that the citizens advice bureaux would have a network of opportunity, which had not been mentioned hitherto in any of our discussions. That is an interesting development.

The Minister did not say that on Second Reading. He did not say it during the weeks of Standing Committee sittings. Not until this morning, and confirmed tonight, did he announce that he intended to depend so firmly on the activities of that admirable organisation, the CAB. I shall tell the House why he did not say it—

Mr. Hague


Mr. Clarke

Perhaps the Minister will allow me to finish.

Far from suggesting that our new clause is unworkable, the Minister knows that to make further demands on the CAB is unworkable, not least because of the staff reductions that have taken place from one constituency to another as a result of Government policy.

Mr. Hague

The hon. Gentleman and I, and our colleagues in Committee, discussed the Bill for five weeks earlier this year. In Committee, I set out my proposals and how they related to the CAB, and I explained the discussions in which the Government are currently engaged with them. Does the hon. Gentleman have no recollection of that at all? It was clearly set out in Committee.

Mr. Clarke

I have a full recollection of the ideas that the Minister floated as to the "options"—as he called them—that were before the Committee. Not only do I have a vivid recollection of the fact that there was no agreement, but I challenged the Minister—I will give way to him even in the closing minutes of our debate—to say whether the CAB agreed at any time to accept that responsibility. Of course they have not, because of the reductions in resources and manpower.

In a letter of 27 March, the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux said to my hon. Friend the Member for Erdington: As you know, NACAB strongly supports the call from many organisations for a Disability Commission to ensure enforcement of disabled people's rights. Without a body along the lines of the Commission for Racial Equality or the Equal Opportunities Commission, disabled people will find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to enforce their new (albeit limited number of) rights. That does not sound to me like an organisation determined to co-operate with the new ideas that the Minister has produced.

I end by referring, not to hon. Members' important views—if they will forgive me—but to two recent opinions that have been expressed to me as I have travelled around the country, in support of the commission and of civil rights. A woman in Leicester told me last Friday, while sitting in a wheelchair, that her dream was to travel to London—something that she had never achieved and will not achieve because of the limited transport provisions in the Bill. A man from Birmingham told me that he had gone to see a film, as all of us are entitled to do, and was told at the door, "We have three wheelchairs here already." He replied, "I am not a wheelchair—I am a person."

On behalf of people like that—6.5 million of our fellow citizens—I plead with the House to endorse our new clause.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 286, Noes 299.

Division No. 117] [10.00 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Austin-Walker, John
Adams, Mrs Irene Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Ainger, Nick Barnes, Harry
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Barron, Kevin
Allen, Graham Bayley, Hugh
Alton, David Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Bell, stuart
Armstrong, Hilary Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Bennett, Andrew F
Ashton, Joe Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger Graham, Thomas
Betts, Clive Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Boateng, Paul Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Bradley, Keith Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Grocott, Bruce
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Gunnell, John
Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Hain, Peter
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Hall, Mike
Burden, Richard Hanson, David
Byers, Stephen Hardy, Peter
Callaghan, Jim Harman, Ms Harriet
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Harvey, Nick
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Campbell-Savours, D N Henderson, Doug
Canavan, Dennis Hendron, Dr Joe
Cann, Jamie Heppell, John
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomery) Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Chidgey, David Hinchliffe, David
Chisholm, Malcolm Hodge, Margaret
Church, Judith Hoey, Kate
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Home Robertson, John
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hood, Jimmy
Clelland, David Hoon, Geoffrey
Coffey, Ann Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Cohen, Harry Howarth, George (Knowsley North)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Hoyle, Doug
Corbett, Robin Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Corston, Jean Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cox, Tom Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Cummings, John Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Hume, John
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Hutton, John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Illsley, Eric
Dafis, Cynog Ingram, Adam
Dalyell, Tam Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Darling, Alistair Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Davidson, Ian Janner, Greville
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Johnston, Sir Russell
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Denham, John Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Dewar, Donald Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Dixon, Don Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Dobson, Frank Jowell, Tessa
Donohoe, Brian H Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Dowd, Jim Keen, Alan
Dunnachie, Jimmy Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Eagle, Ms Angela Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Eastham, Ken Khabra, Piara S
Enright, Derek Kilfoyle, Peter
Etherington, Bill Kirkwood, Archy
Evans, John (St Helens N) Lewis, Terry
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Liddell, Mrs Helen
Fatchett, Derek Litherland, Robert
Faulds, Andrew Livingstone, Ken
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Fisher, Mark Llwyd, Elfyn
Flynn, Paul Loyden, Eddie
Forsythe, Clifford (S Antrim) Lynne, Ms Liz
Foster, Rt Hon Derek McAvoy, Thomas
Foster, Don (Bath) McCartney, Ian
Foulkes, George McCrea, The Reverend William
Fraser, John Macdonald, Calum
Fyfe, Maria McFall, John
Galbraith, Sam McGrady, Eddie
Galloway, George McKelvey, William
Gapes, Mike Mackinlay, Andrew
Garrett, John McLeish, Henry
George, Bruce McMaster, Gordon
Gerrard, Neil McNamara, Kevin
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John MacShane, Denis
Godman, Dr Norman A McWilliam, John
Godsiff, Roger Madden, Max
Maddock, Diana Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Mahon, Alice Rowlands, Ted
Mallon, Seamus Ruddock, Joan
Mandelson, Peter Salmond, Alex
Marek, Dr John Sedgemore, Brian
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Sheerman, Barry
Martin, Michael J (Springburn) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Martlew, Eric Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Maxton, John Short, Clare
Meacher, Michael Simpson, Alan
Meale, Alan Skinner, Dennis
Michael, Alun Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Milburn, Alan Smyth, The Reverend Martin
Miller, Andrew Snape, Peter
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Soley, Clive
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Spearing, Nigel
Moonie, Dr Lewis Spellar, John
Morgan, Rhodri Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Morley, Elliot Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe) Stevenson, George
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Stott, Roger
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Strang, Dr. Gavin
Mowlam, Marjorie Straw, Jack
Mullin, Chris Sutcliffe, Gerry
Murphy, Paul Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strgfd)
O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire) Taylor, Matthew(Truro)
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
O'Hara, Edward Timms, Stephen
Olner, Bill Tipping, Paddy
O'Neill, Martin Touhig, Don
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Trimble, David
Parry, Robert Turner, Dennis
Pearson, Ian Tyler, Paul
Pendry, Tom Vaz, Keith
Pickthall, Colin Walker, A Cecil (Belfast N)
Pike, Peter L Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Pope, Greg Wallace, James
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Walley, Joan
Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Wareing, Robert N
Prescott, Rt Hon John Watson, Mike
Primaroto, Dawn Welsh, Andrew
Quin, Ms Joyce Wicks, Malcolm
Radice, Giles Wigley, Dafydd
Randall, Stuart Williams, Rt Hon Alan (SW'n W)
Raynsford, Nick Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Redmond, Martin Wilson, Brian
Reid, Dr John Winnick, David
Rendel, David Wise, Audrey
Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW) Worthington, Tony
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E) Wray, Jimmy
Roche, Mrs Barbara Young, David (Bolton SE)
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Jeff Tellers for the Ayes:
Rooney, Terry Mr. Joe Benton and
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Mr. George Mudie.
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan Baldry, Tony
Alexander, Richard Banks, Matthew (Southport)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Bates, Michael
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Batiste, Spencer
Amess, David Bellingham, Henry
Ancram, Michael Bendall, Vivian
Arbuthnot, James Beresford, Sir Paul
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Biffen, Rt Hon John
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Ashby, David Booth, Hartley
Atkins, Robert Boswell, Tim
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Baker, Rt Hon Kenneth (Mole V) Bowden, Sir Andrew
Bowis, John Garnier, Edward
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Gill, Christopher
Brandreth, Gyles Gillan, Cheryl
Brazier, Julian Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Bright, Sir Graham Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Gorst, Sir John
Browning, Mrs Angela Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset) Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Budgen, Nicholas Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Burns, Simon Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Burt, Alistair Hague, William
Butcher, John Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald
Butler, Peter Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Butterfill, John Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Harris, David
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln) Haselhurst, Alan
Carrington, Matthew Hawkins, Nick
Carttiss, Michael Hawksley, Warren
Cash, William Hayes, Jerry
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Heald, Oliver
Churchill, Mr Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Clappison, James Heathcoat-Amory, David
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hendry, Charles
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif) Hicks, Robert
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence
Coe, Sebastian Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Colvin, Michael Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Congdon, David Horam, John
Conway, Derek Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Cormack, Sir Patrick Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)
Couchman, James Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Cran, James Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Hunter, Andrew
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Jack, Michael
Davis, David (Boothferry) Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Day, Stephen Jenkin, Bernard
Devlin, Tim Jessel, Toby
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dover, Den Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)
Duncan, Alan Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Duncan-Smith, Iain Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Dunn, Bob Key, Robert
Durant, Sir Anthony King, Rt Hon Tom
Dykes, Hugh Kirkhope, Timothy
Eggar, Rt Hon Tim Knapman, Roger
Elletson, Harold Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Knox, Sir David
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Evennett, David Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Faber, David Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Fabricant, Michael Legg, Barry
Fenner, Dame Peggy Leigh, Edward
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Fishburn, Dudley Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Forman, Nigel Lidington, David
Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (Stirling) Lightbown, David
Forth, Eric Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Luff, Peter
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger MacKay, Andrew
French, Douglas Maclean, David
Fry, Sir Peter McLoughlin, Patrick
Gale, Roger McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Gallie, Phil Madel, Sir David
Gardiner, Sir George Maitland, Lady Olga
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan Major, Rt Hon John
Malone, Gerald Soames, Nicholas
Mans, Keith Speed, Sir Keith
Marland, Paul Spencer, Sir Derek
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Mates, Michael Spink, Dr Robert
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian Spring, Richard
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Sproat, Iain
Mellor, Rt Hon David Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Merchant, Piers Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Mills, Iain Steen, Anthony
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Stephen, Michael
Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants) Stern, Michael
Moate, Sir Roger Stewart, Allan
Monro, Sir Hector Streeter, Gary
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Sumberg, David
Moss, Malcolm Sweeney, Walter
Nelson, Anthony Sykes, John
Neubert, Sir Michael Tapsell, Sir Peter
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Nicholls, Patrick Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Temple-Morris, Peter
Norris, Steve Thomason, Roy
Oppenheim, Phillip Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Ottaway, Richard Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Page, Richard Thurnham, Peter
Paice James Townend, John (Bridlington)
Patnick, Sir Irvine Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Patten, Rt Hon John Tracey, Richard
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Tredinnick, David
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Trend, Michael
Pickles Eric Trotter, Neville
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Twinn, Dr Ian
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Powell William (Corby) Viggers, Peter
Rathbone, Tim Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Redwood, Rt Hon John Walden, George
Renton, RtHonTim Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Richards, Rod Waller, Gary
Rifkind,Rt Hon Malcolm Ward, John
Robathan, Andrew Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Waterson, Nigel
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Watts, John
Wells, Bowen
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Whitney, Ray
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Whittingdale, John
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Widdecombe, Ann
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Sackville, Tom Willetts, David
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Wilshire, David
Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Shaw, David (Dover) Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'fld)
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Wolfson, Mark
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Yeo, Tim
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Sims, Roger
Skeet, Sir Trevor Tellers for the Noes:
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Mr. Sydney Chapman and
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Mr. Timothy Wood.

Question accordingly negatived.

It being after Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), to be further considered tomorrow.