HC Deb 06 November 1995 vol 265 cc589-90
13. Mr. Matthew Banks

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what action the Government are taking to tackle discrimination against disabled people. [39696]

Mr. Burt

The enactment of the Disability Discrimination Bill will mean that, for the first time, it will be unlawful to discriminate against disabled people in employment, access to goods, services and premises. There will also be a power to set minimum standards of accessibility for public transport vehicles. A national disability council will be created to advise the Government on the elimination of discrimination. The Bill will represent a huge advance for disabled people.

Mr. Banks

I congratulate my hon. Friend and the Government on the Disability Discrimination Bill, which I hope will complete its passage later this week. Does my hon. Friend agree that, now that the parliamentary debate is over, it is time for all of us who represent disabled people and for disabled people themselves to join him in getting on with the Bill's provisions, for the greater good of those who will benefit the most?

Mr. Burt

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for putting matters in such a way. That is absolutely right. There has been dispute, both inside and outside Parliament, about whether the Bill is the right way forward, but now that we have argued and proved our case, we believe that the Bill represents a substantial advance for disabled people. The efforts of all who really care for that should now be put into ensuring that the Bill's implementation goes smoothly and that the provisions that we have introduced, which create substantial new rights for disabled people, work. I will consult extensively on the basis of the new regulations that will make the Bill work to do exactly that.

Mr. Corbett

Will the Minister rethink his original answer, when he claimed that the Bill would outlaw discrimination in employment against people with disabilities? Are not 96 out of every 100 firms employing 20 or fewer staff free to continue discriminating? How can that be progress, when the fastest growth in jobs is among small firms?

Mr. Burt

As I am sure the hon. Gentleman realises, the point is that 80 per cent. of all employees are covered by the Bill. I do not think that any firm, small or otherwise, that discriminates against disabled people is getting a good deal. Disabled workers have an excellent record of both achievement and attendance at work. The new opportunities in employment being opened up to disabled people will make their continued employment even more secure.

There should be no discrimination. The Bill will help to change attitudes, but what it crucially does that other legislation does not do is to recognise the needs of those who will be supplying employment services to disabled people and create a balance between the needs of those firms and the rightful aspirations and expectations of disabled people. I repeat that 80 per cent. of all employees will be covered by the Bill, which represents the significant advance of which I spoke earlier.