HC Deb 09 February 2004 vol 417 cc1116-8
16. Mr. Anthony D. Wright (Great Yarmouth) (Lab)

What plans he has to publicise the introduction of changes in 2004 to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. [153186]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Eagle)

In October, those providing goods, services and facilities, whether for payment or not, will have to make reasonable adjustments to physical barriers that prevent access for disabled people. At the same time, the obligation not to discriminate against disabled people in employment will be extended to employers of fewer than 15 staff. These are welcome improvements for disabled people. We are undertaking information work to advertise these new requirements in conjunction with the Disability Rights Commission. This includes direct mail, advertising, website and media activity in addition to recognising those who do well through initiatives such as "access all areas" awards.

Mr. Wright

I thank my hon. Friend for that response. I congratulate her and the Government on doing more for disabled people than any other Government in the past 25 years. With the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, the Government will extend the definition of disability to certain groups, including those with HIV infection, cancer and multiple sclerosis. I ask the Minister also to consider those people who suffer from ME, which has now again been recognised by the Government and by the chief medical officer as a debilitating illness and one that should be recognised as falling within the Disability Discrimination Act.

Maria Eagle

I know that my hon. Friend is the chair of the all-party group on ME, and I congratulate him on his interest in the subject, which has not always been top of the popularity lists, so I am grateful to him for taking such an interest. I am not aware of any difficulties encountered by those with ME that relate to the definition in the Disability Discrimination Act. Unlike cancer and HIV, where people can suffer discrimination in advance of having any symptoms, it would be unusual for anyone to be diagnosed with ME before they had had symptoms. However, if he is aware of any specific problems in his capacity as a Member of Parliament or as chairman of the all-party group, I would be more than happy to listen to what he has to say on the subject.