§ 12.45 p.m.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I rise to move the Second Reading of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill. Those who thought I was unwise, in these later years, to speak three times on Thursday have been vindicated by the fact that as a result of those long orations I have rather a bad throat. If any noble Lord cannot hear me, I hope he will ask me to speak up.
I do not intend to speak for very long. Quite apart from vocal troubles, there are to be many very distinguished speakers whose standing in this field is much greater than mine. I shall not mention any names except that of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, who is to make his maiden speech today. He is the son of one whom I shall always regard as a truly great man. That opinion is I believe coming to be accepted more and more widely as time goes by—not that he would have minded very much, but it would have given him quiet satisfaction to know that that is how people regard him nowadays. I can imagine no subject upon which his son might more suitably make his maiden speech than this, bearing in mind the lifelong services of Lord Attlee to the disadvantaged. In order to show that I am not suffering from the supposition that all high principle is confined to my own party, I realise that the present Lord Attlee is not speaking from the Labour Benches. And as I look across the Floor of the House I see the son of Lord Halifax, who set such an extraordinary example of Christianity in practice during my time in politics.
§ Lord Drumalbyn
My Lords, I hope that the noble Earl will forgive me for interrupting him. While expressing condolences for his temporary disability, he would marginally improve his audibility if he placed himself opposite one of the amplifiers.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I am most grateful for the suggestion. To be interrupted after paying a few tributes is what I call a thoroughly bad start. I suggest that as time goes on and I approach more controversial matters, I shall have a very rough passage, not least from the noble Lord. If the noble Lord cannot hear me, I must not suggest that perhaps he, like myself, is a little advanced in years and finding hearing somewhat harder than it is for younger people. But that might be unfair.
I rise to move the Second Reading of the Bill. It is the same as that which was introduced into the House of Commons by the honourable Member for Liverpool West Derby, Mr. Wareing. In spite of 10 hours having been spent upon discussing the Bill and its predecessor, a Bill very much the same as this, no vote has yet been taken on its merits. I stress that point, because somebody might say that the House of Commons has decided against the measure. That cannot honestly be said; there has not yet been a vote on its merits. If the Bill attains a Second Reading and passes through all its stages in this House, I hope that nobody will suggest that we are defying the House of Commons. I say that in order to counter possible argument later by some misguided person. I shall be ready at the Committee stage to consider any possible amendments. I have at least one to suggest, and it may be that I shall have other minor changes to make. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, will forgive me if I do not attempt to discuss the Bill which he has tabled, except to say that it comes from one who has laboured long and hard for the disabled.
It may be asked—possibly by the noble Lord opposite if he is in that kind of mood—whether I am the person best qualified, apart from any vocal trouble, to bring this Bill before the House. I agree that that is a good question, but it is hardly one I feel able to answer. When the Bill was blocked in the Commons, I was approached by the honourable Member for Wythenshawe, Mr. Alfred Morris, whose name will always be associated with the 1970 Act, and who has rendered unflagging service to the disabled both when he was in office and out of it. I myself cannot imagine—nor can I imagine anyone else—refusing to attempt to render any service to the disabled which I was asked to undertake by Mr. Alfred Morris. I suggested, honestly enough, that there were other more suitable persons—the names of whom will readily occur to your Lordships. But Mr. Morris insisted that I should take on this task—no doubt because I was in charge in this House of the Bill of 1970, although there are others here who were more eloquent and more influential.
We cannot abolish disability, however strenuous and well-intentioned our exertions. We can diminish it, but we human beings cannot abolish it. We can abolish discrimination by human beings against the disabled, and that is the purpose of the Bill now before us. The central principle of the Bill is one which I commended to the House when we debated the matter 417 last year. It derives most recently from the Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled Persons—usually known as CORAD. That committee was set up by Mr. Alfred Morris when he was a Minister and it was chaired by Mr. Peter Large, whose services in this field have certainly not been surpassed by anyone.
The committee published its report in February 1982. There were a number of recommendations. The most striking was that discrimination should be made illegal. At present, it is illegal in this country to discriminate against our fellow human beings on grounds of sex or race. It is not illegal—in fact, it remains perfectly legal—to discriminate against our fellow human beings on grounds of disability. This Bill will make that illegal from now on.
Do we, or do we not, accept that principle? The central issue is as simple as that. Machinery will be set up under this Bill to give effect to that principle. The Bill would, for example, set up a Disablement Commission to act on behalf of disabled persons and to make recommendations to the Secretary of State for Social Services. The commission would have the ability to investigate alleged discriminatory practices as well as individual complaints. It would have the ability, where necessary and appropriate, to take legal action. It would have the power to require people to furnish information to assist it.
That machinery would, no doubt, be carefully scrutinised in this House, but at the present stage, if I may suggest it, this is a very simple, yes or no, black and white issue: are we ready to make it a criminal offence to discriminate against the disabled? I say with all my heart that that, I feel sure, is our duty.
In the time available to me, I propose to concentrate on that central issue. If we really decide to make discrimination illegal, I cannot believe that we will decline to take such steps because they are too expensive. The Minister, in dealing with this issue in another place, said some excellent words on that subject:None of us would begrudge spending extra money on the disabled if we were convinced that it would help". [Official Report, Commons, 18/ 11/83; col. 1131.]He was not placing his main objections on economic grounds. The money involved in setting up the commission and in enforcing the law would be a mere bagatelle compared, for example, with the money we are prepared to spend on the defence of the Falklands and the 500 families who are resident there. The Sunday Times put that figure at more than £600 million a year in an article last week. It was earlier said that the figure was £1,000 million. Even if one takes the lower figure, the sums we are talking about today are a mere bagatelle compared with those.
The Minister in another place spent some time on the alleged difficulties of definition. Here, I cannot really believe that if we seriously want this Bill, difficulties of definition will prove a fatal obstacle. Section 28 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 gives the Secretary of State powers to define the disabled and disabilities by regulations. South Australia, in their Handicapped Persons Equal Opportunity Act 1981, have been operating successfully a definition which does not seem to raise any 418 difficulties. Similarly, in the United States of America, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act 1963 has also been operating successfully in respect of its definition of disability. The Human Rights Act of 1977 in Canada covers discrimination in relation to physically handicapped persons and employment; and it is clearly reflected in legislation in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. None of them seem to have any problems with definition.
In Australia, again, neither New South Wales nor Victoria envisage problems in respect of definitions of disability in regard to proposed legislation to outlaw discrimination there. I cannot seriously believe that anyone who would like to vote for this Bill on other grounds will say, "I am sorry, but I can't vote for it because of the technical, semantic problems of definition". If any one of your Lordships said that to me, I would wonder whether he really had given the matter proper thought.
I hope and believe that all of us should like to see a reduction in and the eventual elimination of discrimination against the disabled. The serious question is: can that be effected by education alone or will legislation of the kind now suggested also be necessary? The CORAD committee, which contained both disabled and non-disabled members, recognised the important role of education and persuasion. But it insisted—with the exception of one dissentient who refused to sign the report—that such could not in the foreseeable future be made effective without legislation.
For years we have had ample opportunity to end discrimination against the disabled through education and persuasion—yet discrimination on a wide scale still persists. Education and persuasion, particularly of the indifferent, is extremely expensive. Some £7.8 million, I am informed, was spent between 1971 and 1980 on publicity to persuade motorists to wear seat belts. But it only managed to increase the percentage of those wearing seat belts from 14 to 32 per cent. It was only after legislation was introduced that the great majority came to change their behaviour.
One argument—and I have no doubt at all these arguments are put forward in complete sincerity—against legislation is that it might damage the goodwill that exists towards disabled people. Personally—no doubt through some mental deficiency of mine—I cannot understand how any disabled legislation could upset or cause pain and distress, except to those who discriminate and wish to discriminate. How can people of goodwill object to a legal statement of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour towards disabled persons? My personal conviction is that legislation will reinforce the goodwill, and that the goodwill will ensure that the legislation actually works.
Given the fact that discrimination exists, it seems to me reasonable to set down in statute that which is not acceptable behaviour. The very existence of the law will ensure that people of goodwill will take steps to avoid transgressing it. The vast majority of those people are law abiding. They may not always be very conscious of the needs of all their fellow countrymen if they do not suffer from disabilities themselves, and the law will encourage this vast majority, in many cases for the first time, to think about where their duty lies 419 in relation to disabled persons. The habit once formed should in time produce a general attitude which would automatically rule out discrimination among the great majority of our population.
I well remember, if I am allowed one reminiscence, the objections raised by many Members of the House to the entry of women Peers for more than 40 years after women had become an accepted feature of the House of Commons. It was argued seriously, in the Chamber and outside, that we the Peers, who at the time were all men, would be greatly embarrassed if women came into the Library when we were half asleep; we would have to rise to our feet. All sorts of minor inconveniences were pointed to at that time. The problem of lavatories was, of course, treated by many people at that time as insuperable. So it is with prejudices. The most ridiculous arguments are brought up to justify them. It is not until an Act produces a new situation that everyone discovers suddenly that there was nothing in those old prejudices at all. Now, as I have ventured to say elsewhere, the women Peers have proved in recent years the great success story of this House. The old prejudices have been eliminated by experience. At least I hope they have. If there are any Peers now who object to women in the House, they do not dare say so in public or in my hearing. So, I feel confident, it will be with the disabled.
There is no doubt about the views of the disabled themselves collectively speaking. Neither I nor anyone can speak for every single disabled person. No one, for that matter, can speak for every single member of the Labour Party. In case anyone thinks that is a double-edged compliment for my party, I can say that the same is true for the Alliance Party or for the Conservative Party, which, as far as I know, still includes large numbers of "wets" in spite of the prevailing rule. None of us can get up and say, "I speak for all the disabled". but I can quote a letter in The Times which must carry a great deal of weight with your Lordships. It is quite short and I shall read it:We, all of whom have intimate knowledge of the prejudice and discrimination"—they mean the existing prejudice and discrimination—suffered by disabled people, implore Her Majesty's Government not to block the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Bill when it returns to the House of Commons for Second Reading this week".It was signed by Mr. Beckingham, Chairman of the Disablement Income Group, and by 12 other official representatives of societies concerned with the disabled. I have been given the names of a whole lot of other organisations concerned with disablement which support the present Bill. Mr. Peter Large, whom I mentioned earlier, and who is Chairman of CORAD and is spokesman to Parliament for the Disablement Income Group, has written to tell me that there is no organisation of disabled persons that is, to his knowledge, not supporting a Bill of some kind to make discrimination illegal. Mr. Jack Ashley, the very remarkable MP, who is chairman of the All-Party Disablement Group, has sent a strong letter of support.
I do not intend to take up your Lordships' time in trying to demonstrate the fact of grave discrimination today against the disabled. Later speakers, some of 420 them from poignant first-hand experience, will provide, no doubt, some telling illustrations. The letter in The Times which I have just quoted, coming from the representatives of the disabled themselves, will carry, I am sure, more weight with your Lordships than any words of mine. In a few moments the House will be listening to some who have had much more intimate, sometimes tragic, experience of disablement than I have. But I yield to no one in my conviction that discrimination against the disabled is a revolting, a contemptible evil, and we none of us should sleep easily in our beds if we do not take this opportunity of doing all in our power to bring it to an end. One leading newspaper has described the Bill as a charter for the disabled, another as a Bill of rights for the disabled. I am happy with either description. For myself. I would describe it as a long overdue measure of justice to our disabled fellow citizens. As such, I commend it to the House. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(The Earl of Longford.)
§ 1.6 p.m.
Lord Campbell of Croy
My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for he has enabled us to have a debate on this subject. He has explained his Bill very clearly: despite the trouble he described with his voice, I can assure him that he came through very clearly indeed. His sincerity is there for all of us to see, and he did pilot the 1970 Act through your Lordships' House.
The noble Earl and I must both have had similar ideas at about the same time. He presented an identical Bill to that of the honourable Member Mr. Wareing when that Bill had apparently run out of time in another place. On the same day I presented another Bill on the same subject which I had ready for that moment. My Bill also proposes the establishment of a disablement commission. It has been suggested that for the convenience of the House the two Bills might now be discussed together in one Second Reading debate. I am. therefore, speaking to explain my Bill and to compare it with the noble Earl's.
My Bill is based on one which I introduced when I was in the Commons and had been successful in the annual ballot for Private Members' Bills. It would have established a disablement commission, like the other Bill which is before us today. But it failed in another place when the Government Whips, Labour at that time, forced a Division at the end of the Second Reading debate, acting themselves as Tellers in the Division. The idea of a disablement commission is now clearly more in favour in those quarters than it was then.
The noble Earl's Bill is exactly the same as Mr. Wareing's Bill, whereas mine offers an alternative course. My Bill makes the commission the chief instrument for investigating difficulties and discrimination experienced by disabled people, and it does not include two features which were causes of objection to Mr. Wareing's Bill. In the first place, my Bill does not attempt to create new law and new offences in an area difficult to define and prove, namely, deliberate discrimination against disabled people. Secondly, my 421 Bill does not require local authorities to carry out door to door surveys of their areas. In my opinion, the results to be obtained are not worth the expenditure involved. Local authorities are already free to do this if they so decide, and a few have done so, often using volunteers. As the House will remember, during the International Year I was encouraging volunteers to direct their energies to doing useful work rather than entering into sponsored walks, climbing Snowdon or other activities. Obtain sponsorship, yes, but direct the energy to useful purposes in helping with such surveys.
I am sure that my Bill would benefit from redrafting and amendment at later stages. In particular agreement could be reached on defining more precisely what the functions of the commission are to be. I am ready to listen to suggestions from all quarters.
When my original Bill was in another place it was mainly directed to the financial plight of severely disabled people. The reason for that was that it was before the present allowances had been devised or introduced—for example, invalidity benefit, attendance allowance and mobility allowance. These and other benefits were introduced later, in the early 1970s, when I was one of the Ministers concerned. Before the 1970s I had been engaged in drawing attention in Parliament to the categories of severely handicapped people who received nothing—those who from birth or early youth had not been able to work and had therefore not entered the national insurance scheme and did not have even a number. There were also disabled housewives who were not then eligible for any help for total incapacity, which could often come suddenly as a result of accident or illness.
One of the few organisations which then existed to represent such disabled persons was the Disabled Income Group (DIG), which had just been set up in the mid-1960s. I have with me today a letter from the then chairman, the co-founder and leading spirit, Mrs. Megan du Boisson. The letter strongly supported my Bill as it was then in another place. Unfortunately, she died the following year in a road accident. She was a housewife in a wheelchair, and I think that she will always be remembered as a pioneer in this field by those in both Houses of Parliament who knew her.
In comparing the two Bills I should point out that my Bill has a different approach to discrimination. The commission would look into both difficulties and discrimination experienced by handicapped people. It could examine situations in general or particular cases. Every noble Lord in the House will be united in wishing to eliminate any deliberate discrimination because of disability and to reduce to the minimum the difficulties encountered by all kinds of disabled people—for example, people in wheelchairs, the deaf and dumb and the blind. But it is not easy to classify precisely the cases which can arise.
The large majority of situations in which handicapped people are at a disadvantage and could be thought to be discriminated against are not intentionally created or contrived. For example, in this country not every bus is equipped to carry a wheelchair passenger, but it is arguable whether every bus should be so equipped. For example, the requirement would tend to accelerate the disappearance of 422 rural bus services if new vehicles had to be produced or expensive adaptations had to be made to existing ones. Let me give another example. Epileptics are denied driving licences unless a certain period has elapsed—it used to be three years—without a fit. Road safety must be paramount. If an epileptic were to have a blackout at the wheel, many lives could be in danger. This example has been put to me quite genuinely during my parliamentary life as discrimination. I am sure that the noble Earl would not regard that as the kind of case to be covered by Clause 1 of his Bill, but he must be ready for such cases to be put forward if the Bill becomes law.
Yet another example concerns access to buildings for the wheelchair disabled. The House will recall a new clause which I tabled here two years ago to a Scottish Government Bill and which the Government accepted. It has caused some progress to be made. The provisions of that clause were later extended to England, Wales and Northern Ireland by additions to a Private Member's Bill. It was carrying out the recommendations that had been put forward by the Jubilee Committee on Access. I must point out that the progress was limited to new buildings for public use. To apply such requirements to existing buildings has not been attempted for reasons which I can illustrate in this way. If lack of access except by steps were to be regarded as a form of discrimination, the most flagrant offenders would probably be the Churches,of all denominations. Church buildings provide a good example of difficulties for disabled people being created unintentionally. When most of these churches were built no one involved was thinking about disabled people or wheelchairs. To legislate now that ramps, lifts or other alterations should he added would place unbearable financial burdens on many congregations.
There can then be instances of alleged discrimination in employment. Besides the basic suitability of the work, safety again has to be taken into account. I can illustrate this point best by the example of very good employers in the textile industry in Northern Scotland. They have a special plan for employing deaf and dumb people. In parts of a factory it would be dangerous for people who cannot hear or speak to be employed among the machinery. But these employers have found places where they can be employed. Often the eyesight of deaf and dumb people is particularly acute and that can be made use of. If someone wanted to be difficult he could say that discrimination exists within that factory because disabled people are limited to working only in certain sections. Fortunately, everybody is sensible enough to fit in and recognise that the firm is carrying out an enlightened policy.
For those who do not know, I should explain that I happen to be in a good position to comment on the difficulties that may be encountered by the disabled. Over the past 38 years I have experienced various degrees of handicap. At times I have been in a wheelchair, for many months I have been on crutches and, thanks to surgery and the medical profession, I am lucky to be on my pins. But at times I have been limited to only a few steps, and of course I am easily knocked over. From this past experience I am aware of the obstacles met by people with mobility handicaps and of the need for ramps, handrails, seats, perches, 423 wide doors and, above all, consideration in the design of vehicles and public places.
However, I am very doubtful about the wisdom of passing a new law to create offences, with the accompanying procedure for the courts. That is what the noble Earl's Bill seeks to do. Most of the cases in which charges would be brought would not refer to deliberate discrimination but to inadvertent action or inaction. Other cases could be defended on grounds of safety or on the basis of what could be regarded as reasonable expenditure.
Let us consider a letter in the Glasgow Herald a few days ago from the chairman of the Glasgow Access Panel. He complained that the design for a new hotel in Glasgow, which had just won a Civic Trust award, completely ignored the needs of disabled people. In the last sentence of his published letter he describes this as,apparent discrimination against the disabled".Would the noble Earl regard that as a case in which proceedings should be brought under Clause 1 of his Bill? Presumably the Civic Trust could be in the dock, too.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for not interrupting me, and I had not meant to interrupt him. He has put a question to me. I certainly do not propose to answer it offhand. But I hope that it will not interrupt his flow if I call attention to Clause 9(2) of the Bill that I am bringing before the House, in which the Secretary of State would be given power to make arrangements for the difficult situations to which the noble Lord may be referring.
Lord Campbell of Croy
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Earl for interrupting me for the very good reason that I cannot stand for very long. When I was in another place everybody knew that, in particular those Members on the other Benches. Every three or four minutes they interrupted and asked me to give way, and I was quite glad to do so, except when it came to some of the very difficult questions that they then put to me. But as I say, I am grateful to the noble Earl. I was simply putting to him a point which I thought he might have dealt with when he wound up the debate. However, I am obliged to him for dealing with it straight away. It means—he confirmed this—that there is Quite an area where discretion is left to the Secretary of State in any case. But I foresee difficulties because what will he regarded as discrimination by some people—in particular those who are affected —will not to others seem such a reasonable case.
I am not suggesting that there are no malefactors in this sphere; that is, people who deliberately will try to exclude severely handicapped people and so discriminate against them. I am afraid that such people exist. From hearsay reports there appear to be genuine grievances that certain publicans have prevented handicapped people from entering their pubs or bars. If such conduct were made known widely, it would surely bring them into disfavour with public opinion and other customers. It would also be highly unpopular with the brewing and distilling industries, which are notably interested in expanding their custom. I believe that if the legendary publican—this Rachman of licensed premises—were arraigned under the proposed 424 Clause 1, proof would be difficult to establish, and with the help of lawyers he would probably get off. That is what I fear. He could give reasons of another kind for his having excluded a handicapped person. Bearing in mind a very recent case which has had publicity only this week he could, for example, say that the person concerned was boring the other customers.
I must not make a long speech. I do not intend to do so, first because I hope that at later stages there will be opportunities to go into some of the particular points; and, secondly, because two years ago there was published a small book of mine. It was commissioned by the Nuffield Trust for the International Year, and in it I have set out an account of these matters in a way which cannot possibly be put into the confines of a parliamentary speech. In addition, as I have already pointed out, I am not very good at standing.
However, I must add a few words about Part II of the noble Earl's Bill. Subsection (1C) of Clause 12 would have the effect of requiring house-to-house surveys in each local authority area—a kind of mini-census. This proposal has a considerable history in which I have been involved. Over a period of months in 1966 and 1967 in another place I was pressing the Government for a national survey to assess numbers of severely disabled people. In reply to a question of mine in October 1967, the Government announced that a survey was to be carried out. It became known as the Amelia Harris Report. It took nearly four years to come out, and it has been regarded as the most important assessment of disability in the country. That was carried out simply by sampling methods, and it was limited to people aged 16 and over in private households. Nonetheless, it provided a real picture of the country as a whole.
It was over two years after the survey had been commissioned that the right honourable gentleman Mr. Alf Morris came first in the ballot, and Clause 1 of his Bill, at the end of 1969, required local authorities to inform themselves of numbers; they simply had to inform themselves of numbers of disabled persons. The Government of the day made it quite clear to those of us who were helping with the Bill that in those days they would not have supported anything that went further than that because of the expenditure and the obligation placed on local authorities.
Since then the controversy has continued as to whether local authorities should be required to do more. Now this Bill, and this particular Part of it, takes sides in the controversy and appears to be placing on all local authorities an obligation which could be burdensome and expensive; and I for one do not think that that is necessary. Local authorities are able to obtain information about severely disabled people in other ways—and I must emphasise the word "severely". This is not the kind of survey which should include someone who is missing a finger or a couple of toes. It should be a survey of severely handicapped people. That must be the chief concern of Parliament in these matters.
I must add a few more words, since both of these Bills would introduce a commission and therefore a quango. My view on this subject is well known. I think that I made what was the first parliamentary speech criticising quangos. That was on 11th February 1976. Your Lordships may recognise it because when 425 criticising the numbers and the functions of some of these bodies I pointed out that a number of Members of this House were being appointed to them, and I said that it appeared that the Barons were holding more power in the land than at any time since Magna Carta.
Therefore against my general principle I am suggesting a quango, and the reason for doing so is that many of the complaints about discrimination are against Government departments or Government offices—certainly a great many that come my way are. Therefore I believe that people will not be completely satisfied if the complaints are being answered from within the Government machine. I believe that to have a concealed quango is worse than having a quango at all.
Then the question arises about which department should be involved. The Home Office has been suggested. I should certainly consider any proposals for switching responsibility to other departments. But the Home Office does not deal with Scotland, which has its own home department. The Department of Health in Scotland deals with health; and, for example, the Minister for the Disabled has no writ in Scotland at all, and never has had. That is something which is not widely understood. Therefore we run into problems there. I realise that some of my noble friends and some noble Lords will be aware that to me it is almost as bad a crime to overlook Scotland as it is to overlook disabled people. So I think that a body is needed outside the Government machine.
It is not surprising that many disabled people outside Parliament—and the noble Earl was absolutely right on this—think that passing a law to proscribe discrimination must be a good thing. Surely, they feel, a Bill to help the disabled should not be criticised; it should be above criticism. I fully understand that. However, as parliamentarians and legislators, we have the duty of deciding upon measures most likely to be effective and workable. Therefore I ask the House to have that in mind when examining both the Bills.
§ 1.28 p.m.
§ Lord Banks
My Lords, I hope the House will allow me to begin my few remarks by paying a tribute to my late noble friend and colleague Lord Amulree. We were saddened to learn of his death yesterday. It is particularly appropriate that we should remember him today, when we are discussing disablement, because as a doctor he specialised in dealing with the problems of the old, which often include disablement, and he always took a keen interest in the kind of debate that we are now having. He was Liberal Chief Whip in this House for 22 years, during which time he contributed much to the smooth working of the House. We on these Benches knew him as a jovial, modest and kindly man. We remember him with affection, and we know that he was widely respected in the House as a whole.
The House is indebted to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, for presenting to us these two Bills to consider today. Among other things, the occasion will allow us to hear the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Attlee, to which reference has already been made. We look forward to it.
426 It is an important question that we are discussing, directly affecting 5½ million people. We are told that 29 per cent. of families have at least one disabled person in their family circle. I suppose that the first question we have to decide is: does discrimination exist on any scale? All the organisations representing the disabled say so. Many individual complainants say so. The Committee on Restrictions against Disabled People has said so. In a recent Gallup poll, 58 per cent. of the public said so. In the debate on Charter for the 80s which we had in this House just over one year ago, on 17th November 1982, I asked whether the Government would conduct research into discrimination against disabled people. The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, who was speaking for the Government on that occasion said:This will take time and will be costly, but I am certainly willing to consider the possibility within our other research priorities".—[Official Report, 17/11/82; col. 596.]I am wondering whether the noble Lord who is to reply to the debate today on behalf of the Government can tell us what is the outcome of that consideration. Such research would certainly help. Nevertheless, I believe there is sufficient evidence already to indicate that there undoubtedly is considerable discrimination.
My second question is: does discrimination demand legislative action? The Committee on Restrictions against Disabled People said, "Yes". It is significant that some members of that committee who doubted the need for legislation at the outset of their deliberations ended by recommending it after they had completed their investigations. It is interesting, too, that they recognised the objections and the difficulties, some of which have been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. But they felt that the arguments for legislation greatly outweighed those against. Certainly we on these Benches are conscious of the danger of too much legisation. We are conscious of the danger of surrounding the individual with too many restrictions; but we also know that some people would never enjoy the freedoms or the benefits enjoyed by others were it not for legislation. So it is a question of balance. We must get the balance right, and in that connection we have supported legislation to deal with discrimination on grounds of race or sex, and we believed it to be necessary. We now believe that it is necessary in the case of disability. Such legislation, of course, would not be novel. As the noble Earl, Lord Longford, reminded us, it exists in, for example, Canada, South Australia and the United States.
I should like to see legislation dealing with discrimination administered under one general umbrella, if I can so describe it. I should like to see race discrimination, sex discrimination and discrimination against the disabled all handled by one body. Certainly I am prepared to accept that discrimination against the disabled should be made illegal. When the Bill which we are discussing, presented today by the noble Earl, was before the other place, the Liberal and Social Democrat Members in that place supported it, and we will support it today. I think it is no reply to the case for such legislation to list the benefits provided for the disabled by the Government. We all welcome these, from whichever Government they may have come; but the virtue of the Bill which the noble Earl has 427 presented to the House is that it enables disabled people to stand up for themselves. It is not just a question of other people doing things for them, important though that is.
May I now say a word about the Bill presented by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. I underline, as he said, that this Bill also appoints a commission. It seems to me that this commission would have a useful role in monitoring (I think that is the appropriate word) the position of the disabled, and in suggesting to the Government what should be done. It would be rather like the Social Security Advisory Committee, and, in so far as it would be much concerned with benefits, it would cover a good deal of the same ground. It would come under the general auspices of the Department of Health and Social Security, since the Secretary of State for Social Services would appoint that commission. Under the Bill of the noble Earl. I do not think it is quite clear which Secretary of State is to do the appointing. It would seem to me that there is a case for any such commission being under the general supervision of the Home Office rather than the DHSS in view of the experience which that department already has in the field of discrimination and in view of my feeling that it would be desirable to have all the different pieces of legislation that deal with discrimination operated together.
The Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, does not make discrimination illegal. It may have a greater chance than a Bill which has recently failed in the other place. Certainly I could support it as far as it goes, but it has no teeth, and I believe that teeth are now required. The Bill of the noble Earl may require much amendment in Committee—I am sure it would—but today we are concerned with the principle, and that is why, if we were making a decision here by preferential voting, a system which in an entirely different context I strongly support, I would make the Bill of the noble Earl my first preference and the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, my second.
§ 1.36 p.m.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, I also pay tribute to Lord Amulree. He was a friend and physician of elderly and disabled people. He did a great deal towards educating doctors to the problems of disability. He used to send medical students from his London teaching hospital to the spinal unit at Stoke Mandeville hospital to learn about the dangers and medical problems of paraplegia. He will be greatly missed by many of us in your Lordships' House.
I bring today apologies from my noble friend Lady D'Arcy (de Knayth). She has pneumonia and cannot be here. She very much wanted to speak in your Lordships' House today. The noble Baroness is a supporter of the move against unnecessary and unfair discrimination.
I greatly look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. We are fortunate to have the noble Earl as a supporter of disabled people.
I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, for giving us the opportunity to discuss these two 428 Bills now before us. Both the noble Earl and the noble Lord are great campaigners of long standing for disabled people and other causes. Many disabled people throughout the country were disheartened by the way the Government treated the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill in another place.
I would not dispute the fact that this is a very difficult and delicate matter and that the correct balance should be found. Great diplomacy ought to be forthcoming. Many members of the public look to the House of Lords as a place of appeal. They get us muddled up with the work which the Law Lords undertake. We are nearing Christmas, which should be a time of goodwill towards each other. I hope what is said today will give hope to people who are struggling with their lives against great difficulties.
The Government in another place said that they think discrimination against disabled people is wrong. It is easy to say that. It is easy to pay lip service, but the acid test is what happens in practice. We who are disabled and are trying to live as independent lives as possible keep coming up against petty officialdom. When some people get into uniforms, such as those of the police, traffic wardens or fire officers, they become little Hitlers or tin gods and seem to enjoy making disabled people's lives even more difficult than they already are.
Severely disabled people who drive their own cars and try to shop or get themselves to places of employment cannot do so unless they can park near the place that they need to visit. They are subject to the two-hour waiting rule which does not take into account the extra time everything takes when one is disabled. Because of the difficulties some disabled people have had to give up their jobs.
I believe that what disabled people want is equal opportunities. They want to be part of the general community, but they need concessions and a more flexible approach. Rigid rules, which cannot be bent, force them into impossible positions. Far too often one hears of people who are blind being divided from their guide-dogs. That is worse than separating a young child from its mother, because they feel lost and afraid without their security.
During a debate in your Lordships' House in 1981 I brought up the matter about guide-dogs being able to accompany their blind owners in your Lordships' House. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, with his usual understanding and good sense, undertook this matter and guide-dogs can now come in so that blind persons can listen to our debates. That shows that your Lordships are more forward-looking over these matters than another place. I am pleased to say that Jill Allan, a campaigner for the blind and disabled, and her dog Brandy are here today.
Several years ago when my noble kinsman and I were planning our house we visited the Ideal Homes Exhibition to get ideas. On arrival we found a big sign saying:No dogs, prams or wheelchairs".End of visit. My noble kinsman was furious. That was our first taste of discrimination.
I will try to say in a few words what I feel is needed by many people who have to live with the realities of 429 life and have to cope with disabilities. I believe that they need something to help protect them from the unthinking and uncaring members of our society. I wish that I could say that we live in a society which is always understanding, that acts of helpfulness came from the heart and that there is no need for any legislation. There are many wonderful people and societies working on behalf of disabled people, but many of those societies have spoken out on behalf of their members for legislation to stop unfair discrimination. One example of the immense damage which has been done by able-bodied people against disabled people who drive their cars with hand controls and who have to use wheelchairs without helpers, is the abuse of the orange badge. In my view, those able-bodied people who have used the badges to their own advantage have committed fraud.
We who try to parl our cars now get no help and only parking tickets. If it were not so difficult for the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, to park his car where he stays in London, I am sure that he would come more often. His frequent absence from your Lordships' House is a great loss. If he had been here today I am sure that he would have added a great deal of good advice to this debate.
I was a little worried when I read in the report of the debate in another place on the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill that the Minister for the Disabled had said that standards have been agreed for all new court houses, so that they will include full provision of access and toilet facilities for disabled people. I thought that at least they would be able to get into the courts when they had to defend themselves for parking offences. But the same access has not been forthcoming to social services departments throughout the country. In Harrogate, the police station has a beautiful ramp while the social services department has a large step.
I am sure that the Government will make it clear that they will not, or cannot, accept Part II of the noble Earl's Bill. Local authorities seem to be having a difficult time providing existing services. Belts are having to be tightened, and in the health service efficiency savings are being made. There are more and more pressures on community services. There is a move to get mentally handicapped people into the community. If that is done correctly it will cost more. Health authorities are worried that they are not providing adequate care for physically handicapped people in many districts, and social services are cutting back all the time. Now, new and frightening problems are emerging. such as the increased evils of drug addiction and increased violence, all of which cost money.
With so many pressures on, perhaps it is time we had protective legislation so that disabled people can have some focal point to help secure reasonable equal opportunities and so that there is a centre point to monitor and collect the problems which get lost between departments. One of the voluntary societies which has done a great deal of work on this matter is the Spastics Society. It has as its director a Conservative Member of Parliament. I hope that what we are discussing today will not be considered party political. People with disabilities come under nearly all Government 430 departments and embrace all colours of party politics, race and religion.
The Disabled Persons Bill, so ably explained by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, I feel has weaknesses. The commission will be appointed by the Secretary of State for Social Services. I feel that if we have anti-discrimination legislation it should either be independent or the responsibility of the Home Office, which has experience and expertise through its involvement with race and sex discrimination legislation. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, has said that there might be a problem for Scotland. However, Scotland is generally very capable of doing its own thing, very often better than England—and I say that as a Scot.
Disabled people do not want to be seen just in terms of social services and social security—that is too money orientated. Many of the problems involve other departments such as employment, transport, education, shops, entertainment and so forth. The Bill's commission has no powers to recommend further procedures if conciliation fails.
There has been criticism of the Bills that they lack a definition of "disability". Looking up "disability" in the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, it states:Disability—a permanent physical flaw, weakness or handicap, which prevents one from living a full normal life".Unless disabled people have concessions to bring them into line with able-bodied people, this definition would cover most people in need of protection, giving them equal opportunities. I hope that an independent commission will be established with two branches: one for the problems of the physically handicapped, and one for the mentally handicapped. The problems are totally different and should not be mixed. For years, physically disabled people have tried to educate the public against the "Does he take sugar?" attitude. If one submerged the problems of the two groups it would confuse the public even more. In South Australia their legislation covers only the physically disabled. most likely for this reason.
After discussions with groups from all disabled organisations and disabled individuals, I would hope that the Government will bring forward their own Bill, which would be for an independent commission not linked with any Government department except the Home Office, with a clearly defined conciliation process, and, if all else fails, recourse to the courts. This would cover behaviour from all bodies.
For so long now committees have discussed disability problems. Is it not time to move on? We have been round several circuits of committees and discussions. When I receive a telephone call from a mother in tears who has taken her handicapped child to the cinema and been told, "You cannot have that thing in here", or I see the priest who redesigns the church and puts a flight of steps up without even a handrail, is it surprising that I have unchristian thoughts towards these acts of discrimination? I just say to myself:Forgive them, for they know not what they do"—but legislation might educate them and make the unthinking more thoughtful.
§ Earl Attlee
My Lords, I should like to start by thanking my noble friends for their kind remarks. It is not very easy for me to follow the noble Baroness, who knows so much, and so very personally, about this subject. My own qualifications for addressing your Lordships are tenuous in the extreme. As a child I suffered an impairment, and I also suffered then, and still suffer, a disability. Many years ago when I was a little boy I went to a junior school and suddenly started to stutter, and my stutter became progressively worse. Luckily for me, my parents worked out what was wrong, which was that I, a very much left-handed boy, was being forced—and I stress the word "forced"—to write with my right hand. As this was a fee-paying school my parents insisted that I be allowed to write with my left hand, and my stutter slowly diminished and finally disappeared.
At least, I thought it had disappeared until about three weeks ago when, at the London Press Club, I was having a quiet talk with a middle-aged, pleasant lady who suddenly said to me "Did you stutter when you were a child?" and it turned out that, in fact, she was a qualified speech therapist. Obviously, even today, I still have a trace of that childhood inability to speak properly. The fact that already I have stumbled on several words today is merely nerves, and not my stammer.
Obviously, there are many disabilities which are self-evident to third parties, but there are also other disabilities which cannot be seen. Throughout my years at school, and especially in my more formative years, my school reports were monotonous in what they said. I do not have the exact words in front of me, but the kind of thing they said was: "Lazy", "careless", "must try harder", "can do better". The inference, although never actually put to me, was that I was backward.
This built up in me a terrible feeling of frustration, because in my heart of hearts I knew that I was not backward; I was not bright or clever, but I knew that I was not backward. If any noble Lords think that what I have just said rings a bell somewhere, it is probable that they have read that moving book by Susan Hampshire called Susan Story. In that book she says very much the same kind of things as I have just said, for, like Susan Hampshire, I am dyslexic. The difference between Susan and myself is that when she went to school she was young, beautiful and talented and I, alas! could lay claim only to being young.
Dyslexia, which is sometimes called word blindness, afflicts between 3 per cent. and 15 per cent. of the population, which means that those percentages apply to noble Lords here and to the honourable Members of another place. To take my case, I was educated privately where the classes were small, consisting of, say, 10 or 12 boys, so the teachers could give more individual attention to those children who were not getting on quite as well as others. My dyslexia had a catastrophic effect on me, so one can imagine what effect dyslexia is having in our state schools today, where classes are large and are filled with unruly children, many of whom, so we are led to believe, are not at all interested in learning. Those children who have dyslexia are bound to be grouped in the teacher's mind with those who do not want to learn, and the 432 teacher therefore tends to concentrate on the brighter children. If every schoolchild was screened for dyslexia and those who were found to have it were given remedial training—and neither of these suggestions would cost very much money—many children who today are discarded to the waste-paper basket, and who never achieve their full potential, could be saved.
However, if so-called normal children suffer from dyslexia, what about those children who are disabled? Some of these children have difficulty in speaking, in writing, and in learning. The disabilities of some are so obvious that unfortunately on too few occasions does anyone look behind their difficulty in speaking and writing. As between 3 per cent, and 15 per cent, of these disabled children are also dyslexic, I should like to see every child screened for dyslexia.
As a case in point, a great friend of mine had a half-sister; my friend came to me because she knew I was dyslexic. She thought that her half-sister, who suffered from Down's Syndrome, might be dyslexic and asked me to see her. In my eyes that child was the most classic case of severe dyslexia that I had ever met, but once her parents appreciated that she had dyslexia she was given remedial training. Today, although still obviously severely brain-damaged, she is, in fact, being educated in a normal school, which must do a lot for her self-respect.
I support both these Bills—not one, and not the other. I am in favour of anti-discrimination against the disabled for the very obvious reason which I have stated. I do a little voluntary work with the disabled and I have found them to be kind, thoughtful, cheerful and very rarely sorry for themselves. If only the rest of our people would treat the disabled people as they treat themselves, I feel that this world would be a much better place. Thank you, my Lords.
§ 2 p.m.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, I have, unexpectedly, the great pleasure of congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, on a most remarkable and moving maiden speech. We have listened to a testament of youth; of one who underwent experiences in circumstances which we realise imposed a great test upon the character of the person concerned. We have heard of the problems of young people who are suffering from disablement. Those at school, young people, are sensitive, but probably moving among others who care little for their disabilities and can often be very cruel indeed. We have been greatly moved by hearing from the noble Earl. When he left the merchant navy he did not take the soft option. He became assistant public relations officer to British Rail, which was a great adventure undertaken, I am sure, with confidence and courage.
There can be no dissent about the purpose of these two Bills. The aims and purposes of these Bills command the unanimous support of your Lordships' House. The question is: how are we to approach this problem? We have united in one debate on two Bills. What are we to do with them? Are we to pass them both; make our choice between them; refer them to a Select Committee? What are we to do? The practical side of today's debate is of considerable importance.
433 I have no hesitation in preferring the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, to that of my noble friend Lord Longford. I believe that the second Bill has the merit of being shorter, simpler and more benign. It has by far the better approach of the two. Non-discriminatory legislation can often create in the minds of society an unwarranted sense of guilt. One has to carry the whole of society with one in imposing, by legislation, standards of behaviour and attitudes towards other people.
Moreover, the topic we are debating today contains far more problems, and infinitely more difficulties, than the two previous non-discrimination Bills. After all, the gender division and the ethnic division are both more easily identified than the varying degrees of disablement. I am sure that the noble Earl would find the problems of definition baffling, or so difficult to construe as to lead to many difficulties of a practical kind.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, I should like to carry on for a little longer, if I may. The noble Earl will have an opportunity to reply at the end. I am only saying at the moment that I think he probably has underestimated the problems of construction, definition and interpretation which his Bill would create. After all, discrimination is the making of a distinction, and a distinction has to be either self-evident or readily ascertainable. It has to be defined. It is necessary then, having defined it, to say what one is going to do about it: whether one standard of nondiscrimination applies throughout, or whether there are to be refinements of choice between one person and another, which in some circumstances are reasonable and in others not. There are many problems here which have to be faced if we attempt to legislate too definitely and too quickly on this subject.
I believe that the role of study, investigation, advice and recommendation which the commission in the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, would give us would enable a good deal of educational work to be done, which is necessary, and would enable us to go forward with greater confidence in what we are doing. I am not in favour of using legislation, wholly or mainly, for educational purposes.
Legislation is to lay down the law, and the law must be clear, and the law must be enforceable. That is why it can be quite misleading to think that because Canada, Nova Scotia and the United States have done something in this field, that necessarily creates a favourable precedent for us. Their standard of legislation is entirely different from ours, and their constitutional system is different from ours. One thing about British law is that it has to be clear. You have to try to get it clear for certainty—and it can be construed in the courts—as to the reasonable interpretation of the meaning of words. In most legislation that I have studied on other subjects in the United States and elsewhere, the phraseology is so loose that it would never pass muster as good legislation in this country. Therefore, we have to beware of that, too.
However, where discrimination rests upon distinctions of varying degree, and where discrimi 434 nation rests upon the lack of, or refusal to provide, facilities, then you are in a much more difficult field than before. What is talked of as being discrimination may be failure to provide facilities, and we have heard a good deal about that already. Indeed, you might say that this problem is beset by, first of all, the definition of loss of faculty; and, secondly, the prescription of the facilities that there must be to avoid deprivation of opportunity to disabled people. The draftsmen are going to have a pretty difficult job to translate all this into statute law.
I feel that a Bill of this kind could not command the support of the House as a practical measure of legislation. We should bear in mind that when we were dealing with the issue of sex discrimination we had almost a parallel situation where a Bill introduced by a Private Member in the House of Commons made no progress; it was blocked. In your Lordships' House a Bill of a similar kind was introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. The House passed the Bill and referred it to a Select Committee where evidence could be taken, where people could be identified and, if possible, reconciled.
The noble Earl did not mention that the director of the Spastics Society, who is a member of the House of Commons, criticised the Bill strongly. I suggest that one cannot ignore the opinion of the director of the Spastics Society when expressed in the House of Commons on a measure of this kind. There is obviously work to be done on the contents of the Bill.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I am not sure whether the noble Lord was here when I was speaking —he gives no evidence of having been here—but is he aware that the overwhelming body of those representing the disabled has come out strongly in favour of the Bill?
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
Yes, my Lords. I regret the reproach that the noble Earl has made. I was here sitting in this Chamber long before he came in. I do not think that that is a very courteous reference to make to a friend and colleague. I listened to his speech throughout; I heard his testimony to the united, overwhelming opinion of the voluntary bodies, but I am entitled to point out that he failed to mention one important society that expressed a dissenting point of view.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, may I be allowed to proceed? The Select Committee which was appointed to consider the Sex Discrimination Bill by your Lordships provided the main body of material from which ultimately legislation was undertaken. 435 When we came to deal with the matter again in the House of Commons we found that the report of your Lordships' Select Committee was the main instrument of approaching the matter from a constructive and legislative point of view. I only mention this because I think that a similar process would be much more likely to succeed if it were undertaken in relation to this Bill because of the greater complexity of the subject which we have to consider.
If I am given the opportunity of making a choice, I would unhesitatingly support the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. But if your Lordships intend to pass both Bills for a Second Reading I sincerely hope that we shall hear from the Minister what the Government propose to do about them.
I have regretted before the unhappy position we are often in in having a long debate on a subject, when we would have liked to hear the Government view earlier in the debate rather than at the tail end. To know how the Government view this Bill would help the debate greatly. However, we shall wait for the noble Lord to give us a Government view on these proposals at the end of the debate. I warn your Lordships against the practical problems of legislating in this difficult field without a great deal of preparation and a great deal of agreement.
The goodwill for which my noble friend Lord Longford appealed will be available. It can be mustered; it can be mobilised, if only we carry people with us. But all non-discrimination legislation is admonitory and that is very often a drawback in legislating on matters concerned with emotions, with temperament, with attitudes towards civil liberty and important matters affecting the citizen. There is always a hint of reproach to society in general, all of us, that such things should be necessary, that we have to have the finger wagged at us and be told, "You must not do that any more". The greater the goodwill, the greater the benefit to those concerned with it.
Having had the Bill in the House of Commons blocked, not for the first time, a little time spent now would help if it meant that we could go forward from here with a constructive approach to legislation, amply prepared, and study all its complexity, in order to get a good Bill that is effective and generally accepted.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I apologise to him if I have said anything which he found offensive?
§ 2.14 p.m.
§ Viscount Knutsford
My Lords, may I add my congratulations to those of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, on the maiden speech of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, which I found to be both interesting and admirable. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, explained the reasons why he had decided to introduce this Bill, and I feel that I should declare my interests in it. They are two. I have been disabled for 40 years and for the last 36 of them I have been concerned with both statutory and voluntary organisations who themselves were concerned with the rehabilitation and training of disabled people for open industry and the provision of sheltered employment 436 for those who need it en route to open industry or permanently. Different people have different definitions for the word "rehabilitation". For me, in relation to both my declared interests, it means helping disabled people to help themselves to maximise their abilities, with the aim of overcoming their disabilities and becoming integrated into society.
The noble Earl's Bill states in Part I, Clause 2(1)(a), that the objects of the proposed commission are to eliminate discrimination and promote integration. I find these two objects contradictory. Anti-discriminatory powers proposed in the Bill, by picking out disabled people and categorising them as a special and separate group, in my view would hinder and not promote integration and, indeed would militate against it.
I must accept what has been said today, and in another place last month, that there are employers who have an antipathy to employing disabled people; although I must confess that I have never come across any. But, apart from the administrative problems to which the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, has already referred, and the cost if this Bill became law, are we really satisfied that there are so many disabled people who are out of work because they are being discriminated against that the patent disadvantages to effective rehabilitation and integration that these proposals would cause are outweighed? I believe that this sort of discrimination is not widespread; or, anyhow, not as widespread as has been made out. And if so, the old maxim that hard cases make had law is only too applicable. It is ignorance and not deliberate discrimination that is the major problem.
When the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944 was being thought out, legislation of the sort that the noble Earl is proposing might well have been, and probably was, considered. Today, the attitude of the general public and of employers has entirely changed and especially so over the past 15 years to 20 years. You have only to be disabled yourself to know that. This is due not only, or even mainly, to legislation but because of the contributions and efforts made by all concerned with rehabilitation, not least those who are in favour of this Bill, but, above all, by the example of disabled people themselves. In view of this change, which continues, these anti-discriminatory proposals are as outdated in my view as they are misguided.
We who are disabled must sometimes take a pull and consider how far claims for special treatment and privileges are compatible with our oft-repeated demand to be treated as normal people—which we are—and to be integrated into society. We cannot always have our cakes and eat them. To have anti-discriminatory legislation is discriminatory in itself; but, above all, it is a negative approach. We need to be positive and to increase efforts to educate employers, many of whom even now have not heard of the quota nor realise the capabilities of disabled people.
The Bill of the noble Lord. Lord Campbell of Croy, if I may say so, does less harm than that of the noble Earl in that he has said that it is free from enforcement proposals. It is, as the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, has said, more benign; but it, too, advocates a commission and therefore emphasises once again and underlines the point that disabled people are 437 different from others in contrast to the aim of most of us to educate the public into knowing that we are not.
The whole apparatus of existing legislation, both as to employment and the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, is enough, if it worked. What needs to be done is to make it work and not add yet more to it. What is the Minister for the Disabled for but to do this? Also, why should there not be one in Scotland? We have been told that there is not one. He does not need a commission, with or without teeth to do so. He has quite enough of his own, as he has proved in the six months which have elapsed since he was appointed. I do not therefore support either of these Bills.
§ 2.21 p.m.
§ Lord Rea
My Lords, I should like first of all to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, on his maiden speech, which, like the utterances of his father, was modest but most effective. I should like also to add my affectionate tribute to the late Lord Amulree, who was one of my teachers as a medical student and was also a great personal friend of my late uncle, who was a colleague of his on the Liberal Front Bench.
This afternoon we are not talking about a tiny minority of the population. There are many more disabled people than, for example, black people, for whom anti-discrimination legislation has been passed and has brought great benefit. As to the total numbers of disabled, I should not like to be quoted as giving an exact figure because it is extremely difficult to decide who is and who is not disabled, but I think we can be clear that there are several million of them in the population: something like 1 in 10.
I am afraid there are no signs that the total numbers are decreasing, although some types of disability are becoming much less common as a result of improvements in preventive medicine and in obstetrics, poliomyelitis being the outstanding example of this since effective vaccination became available. But less progress in eliminating disability is being made in other areas—multiple sclerosis, for example. Paradoxically, some types are actually increasing directly as a result of improvements in medical science. Some who would have died are now surviving, spina bifida (a neural tube defect) being the biggest group.
Another result of technological progress and improvement is that disabled people are becoming more mobile, better able to contribute to the economy and better able to move out into the world and enjoy it. There are now also more survivors from severe accidents, some of whom are left disabled.
Here I should mention how useful legislation has been—and in this respect I am following the noble Earl, Lord Longford—in reducing the number of severe injuries in road traffic accidents. Education and persuasion cost a lot of money (£7.8 million: is that the figure that he gave?) and only resulted in 30 per cent. of drivers and passengers using seat belts. Since February, the majority wear them and are still wearing them, with noticeably beneficial results in accident and emergency departments throughout the country. Even I now mostly wear a seat belt, whereas before I used to rationalise that on short journeys it did not matter. That was a very faulty rationalisation as I 438 realised at the time, but the law has made me look after myself better.
Furthermore, increasing numbers of the population are now surviving into old age, where disability of some kind or other affects 25 per cent. of those over 75; so the topic is very relevant to your Lordships' House. On the horizon are increases in understanding which will eventually lead, we hope, to a decrease in the number of disabled people; but that does not alter the fact that there are millions with us now. Among handicapped people are many with able minds but impaired bodies or defective vision or hearing; others have able bodies but less able minds. Among all of them there is a very strong desire to belong to the rest of us and to overcome their handicap. Quite prodigious achievements, despite the difficulties, are sometimes attained. We have only to look around us today to see outstanding examples of this.
What is at issue has already been clearly put before us, and what we have to decide is whether we are to wait until employers, civil servants, administrators, hotel managers, licensees and all the other people who can help or hurt disabled people become enlightened. Or are we to encourage them a bit, in such a way that they will really take notice through the law? People do not like breaking the law; and, especially, if it is made by Parliament, they will respect it all the more.
I know that my disabled patients want me to back the Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, whether they are suffering from multiple sclerosis, the results of polio, traumatic paraplegia, epilepsy, dwarfism, rheumatoid or osteo arthritis, acromegaly or are deaf or blind. I have on my list numerous examples of patients in nearly all those categories. I am also sure that those with mental handicap feel the same, although they cannot express it so clearly.
But I am also well aware of a number of difficulties. One problem is that of classifying the type and severity of disability. I see that the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, is raising the matter in a Question next week. Some disabled people are so extra determined to win through that they will do well in any case. Others with the same impairment or defect will give up more easily and be more functionally disabled. There is the difficult problem of deciding when a job is really too dangerous or physically demanding.
But I think that the Bill is mindful of these difficulties. Clause 5 allows the Secretary of State to draw up regulations as to whom the Act will apply, and what it is reasonable or unreasonable to regard as discrimination. The Committee stage in this House or in another place can help to iron out these problems. There are many experts to call and to consult. I commend this Bill to your Lordships. Just as ethnic minorities have gained in status and become more respected through race relations legislation, so will the disabled community be aided by the passing of this amendment Bill.
§ 2.27 p.m.
§ Lord Holderness
My Lords, I should like to add my gratitude to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for his first speech to your Lordships. As one who had a very great admiration and also affection for his father, it did not surprise me to hear from him an understanding and a 439 very caring speech and I hope that we shall hear often from him in the future.
As on other occasions. I feel very diffident in entering a debate in which many of those highly expert in this field have taken part and where my own qualifications for doing so are relatively very meagre. My only boast is that I had as teacher in the years immediately following the last war none other than the late Dame Georgina Buller. I have it on very reliable authority on many occasions that both Ministers and civil servants used to quail before Dame Georgina's persistent expertise when she visited them to put them through it. She lost no time in pressing me, at the same time as my noble friend Lord Knutsford, into service with what was then called Queen Elizabeth's Training College at Leatherhead, where I have remained in one way or another ever since.
I fear that Dame Georgina Buller would have given only a lukewarm welcome to the Disabled Persons Bill of my noble friend Lord Campbell, and I feel fairly certain that she would have disapproved very strongly of the anti-discriminatory provisions in the Bill introduced by the noble Earl, Lord Longford.
There seems to me to be a very real sense in which discrimination is right, proper and unavoidable. The very word "disability" means, if it means anything, an inability, on physical or mental grounds, to do certain things which others without those physical or mental limitations do without difficulty. Therefore it seems to me again not unreasonable for one individual to discriminate against another in cases where the disability of that other person makes it impossible for him or her to perform as efficiently (I am not thinking only in terms of questions of employment) as others would perform.
If this analysis be correct, it naturally prompts the question whether any human being is entirely free of disability. The disability of the noble Earl is, we all hope, only temporary, brought on by over activity in the last few days. I hope that the effort he has made today will not increase that disability and that it will disappear in time for Christmas. But apart from the obvious handicaps which make it essential for me and a few other noble Lords to use a pair of spectacles to read our notes, and which may soon force on me some device through which I can listen more perfectly to the excellent speeches of noble Lords. most of us, whether we are young or old, possess some defect which may make us less suitable than others for various occupations and activities.
As far as those occupations and activities are concerned, it seems to me in no way unjust to be discriminated against. The only person who, it seems, could justifiably complain of discrimination is the perfect man or woman, free from all physical or mental defects, a stranger to inhibitions, prejudices and hang-ups of all kinds, and with a knowledge of and an aptitude for the whole range of enterprise with which the human race is concerned. Sadly, it is unlikely, during my remaining years on this planet, that I shall meet such a wondrous character. Therefore I think it wiser to look more positively on the other side of the matter and to try to build on the abilities, some of which will probably belong to us, if we are 440 lucky, almost to the day of our death. This positive attitude seems to me to be more soundly based than condemnation of a discrimination against disabilities, or disabled persons, which I have attempted to suggest may be perfectly fair.
I suggest that we can more properly direct our energy towards teaching employers and others—the kind of people my noble friends spoke about this morning—exactly what so-called disabled people can do. In the case of employment, instead of what I believe to be the rather sterile message, "Don't turn Smith down because he is paralysed", or blind or deaf, I would prefer to see the Government, with all their authority, continue to ram home the truth, "Have a look at Jones. He's in a wheelchair, but he's got two very good hands and a first-class brain. You may have to build him a ramp to get him into his office or his workshop but it's certainly going to pay you dividends, because Jones wants to show you what he can do. He'll want to prove to you what thousands of other disabled people have proved to hundreds of other employers: that the disabled, given a job which fits their abilities, can do it better than the so-called able-bodied".
I wish, incidentally, we could escape from the depressing adjective "disabled", which suggests a condition—particularly after the definition given by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton—without much hope and really fit only for the scrap heap. Although it has other shortcomings, I prefer "handicapped", if only because I know, from my rather slender association with the turf, that the most severely handicapped horse quite often wins the race. After some experience of it, I believe that the main stimulus of the physically handicapped is towards a recapture of the greatest degree of independence which circumstances make attainable. I do not believe that we shall be helped towards that goal by legislation which is very well meant, but which will vainly and unconvincingly try to assure us that there is no discrimination against us. But I believe the handicapped will be helped forward more effectively by an acceleration of the changes in public attitudes.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Knutsford that attitudes have changed dramatically over the past 10, 20 and 30 years. I am vastly encouraged by the growing disregard of loss of function and the much more intelligent concentration on the degree of capacity returning. I hope that neither the noble Earl nor my noble friend will consider that my criticism of their Bills is unreasonable or irrelevent. I happen to be convinced that the approach I should like to see made for the benefit of the disabled must be less anti-discriminatory and more positive, if we are to build securely on the foundation which was significantly broadened 40 years ago, to the lasting benefit of the handicapped, by the extreme hunger for labour during the last war, and by the unprecedented need of services which the disabled were and are able to provide.
§ 2.37 p.m.
My Lords, I too, should like to add my congratulations on his moving maiden speech to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee; to express my sorrow at the death of Lord Amulree, who was a friend of my father; and to wish the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth) a speedy recovery. I must also apologise to 441 noble Lords who will be winding up the debate in case I have to leave to catch my plane before they have finished.
I am sure that all of us in this House have the greatest possible sympathy with the aims and objects of both the Bills we are discussing this afternoon—and also great sympathy for and, I hope, some understanding of the immense problems which face the disabled. But while I have enormous admiration for the courage with which they face their difficulties—and particularly, for the disabled noble Lords and Baronesses who come here to fight for those even more unfortunate than themselves—Icannot regard either of these Bills with very much enthusiasm.
I agree with every word that was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Knutsford, and with much of that said by the noble Lords, Lord Houghton of Sowerby and Lord Holderness. The Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, will in the first part create another quango similar to its older sisters—the Race Relations Board and the Equal Opportunities Commission, both of which rapidly became the laughing stock of the country.
Sensible people find totally ridiculous a situation whereby one cannot legally advertise for a Scottish housekeeper or a daily woman, but have to resort to such circumlocutions as, "Housekeeper able to make good porridge" or, "Cleaning person speaking good English". One can, of course, get around the problem, but doing so is time-consuming and annoying. So the law—which in this instance is an ass—cannot be enforced and falls into disrepute.
I can see several very awkward areas in the noble Earl's Bill. For example, in Clause 8(3), how is a court to assess the cash value of hurt feelings? Then, in respect of Clause 9(1)(c), if one employs a person to do a job, them he must be able to do that job—otherwise one cannot employ him. And when one gets into the grey area of what is or is not "reasonable" in Clauses 4 and 5, one will have endless acrimonious argument and litigation as to what is or is not "reasonable".
What may seem reasonable to a disabled person wishing to be employed in a shop or factory may not seem at all reasonable to the owner of the shop or factory who is trying to build up a business in difficult times, and who would have to make expensive alterations to his premises.
To return to the Race Relations Board, I believe it has actually exacerbated race relations problems because it has produced a situation whereby native Britons feel they are actually at a disadvantage in their own country. For example, if someone of another race gives cause for justifiable complaint, they dare not complain for fear of being accused of racial discrimination. They are understandably resentful—and this situation has done nothing for race relations.
Regarding the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, I am truly sorry not to be able to support it either. But it seems to me that it will only create another quango, perhaps a less expensive one, and we really cannot afford more quangos. Incidentally, neither Bill mentions anything about financial costs. Over the last 10 years or so we have had a good deal of legislation to help the disabled. Some is scarcely two years old and has not yet had 442 time to work through. It takes time to improve access to buildings even when it is possible to do so, and very often it is not, especially with old buildings.
I believe that the average employer, councillor, shopkeeper, restaurant proprietor or whoever, is not really a bad chap but he does not always have a lot of imagination. I am sure that if people knew and understood more of the real problems of the disabled they woulddo a great deal to help, without legislation. Surely the best way to help is to try to get the problems and difficulties of the disabled more widely understood, through existing organizations, and to spend available money on this. Perhaps the DHSS, other Government departments, local authorities, the Churches and the media could do more to help over this, because particularly now since the International Year of the Disabled there is a greatly increased awareness of their needs and concern for them.
I am sorry, but with the very greatest respect to both noble Lords whose babies these are, I am afraid that both these Bills will actually prove counterproductive. I think this is a "softly, softly, catchee monkey" situation, and not one for the bludgeon of an Act of Parliament creating yet another category of criminal offences.
§ 2.42 p.m.
§ Lord Fitt
My Lords, I am suffering from the same complaint as the noble Earl was suffering from in moving this Bill, but I have been furiously sucking throat lozenges over this past 10 minutes to ensure that I would be able to make some small contribution. At the outset let me say that I would want to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, on what I regarded as a very moving speech which obviously must affect those in the Chamber who have been able to listen to it. I congratulate him. I have not been a Member of this House for very long but I take great pleasure in congratulating the noble Earl on his maiden speech.
I first became involved with the problems of the disabled because of the peculiar and tragic circumstances that existed in my homeland, in Belfast, in Ireland, and particularly in my own constituency. In the early 'seventies many people were murdered and many more were seriously maimed and disabled. I came to know many of those people and I saw the awful extent of their injuries. I also had letters, and people came to me and told me of the terrible injuries that had been inflicted on their loved ones. Because of the awful situation, I became involved in trying to get benefits for those people who were so badly maimed. I appeared at many local tribunals and made many representations to the Government department concerned.
Arising from that, I then began to ask myself about the other categories of disabled people, not those who had been maimed because of the murderous activities of the paramilitary organisations, but those who had been born disabled or been disabled by accident. I found that there were no great indications of how many people there were in those categories. So with the help of a researcher, whom I understand was very well known to the honourable member in another place, Mr. Alf Morris, Mr. Peter Mitcham and I put down a series of Questions to the Northern Ireland 443 Office. I had not heard of some of the disabilities and diseases, some of which have been mentioned by the noble Earl. In a series of Questions that we put down in the other place we asked the Northern Ireland Office how many people suffered from dyslexia, how many from multiple sclerosis, howmany from spina bifida, and so on—all the other diseases that I needed to be taught about. In every case the answer was, "We do not know. We do not have a clue". Arising from this, an organisation called Outset carried out an investigation in Northern Ireland. It made a door-to-door survey. When the conclusions were published, it was found that in that small region of Northern Ireland a higher proportion of people are suffering not only from disabilities brought about by the troubles but from diseases and disabilities caused by poverty and social deprivation. There is a very real problem.
I then decided to do what I could to alleviate the pain and suffering of these people. I was successful in getting the House of Commons to pass the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1978. That was done with the support of the then Labour Government. In some respects it was a great advance on the exisiting legislation. For those reasons, I give my overwhelming support to the noble Earl who has moved this Bill.
Let us consider the objections to the Bill. Clause 1 of the Bill sums up what the debate is about:No person shall discriminate against another person on the grounds of physical, mental or sensory disability in any activity to which this Act relates".We are not so concerned with every detail in Part II of the Bill. I hope that the majority of noble Lords taking part in the debate have read the CORAD report. The people who compiled it had vast experience in dealing with the problems of the disabled. They have come to the unanimous conclusion that there is discrimination against the disabled, although the report mentions the debate in another place, which has also been mentioned in this debate today.
Irrespective of how complex the Bill may seem, if we accept the fact that there is discrimination, we should ask ourselves today, "Are we prepared to do something about that discrimination?". That is all this House has to decide today. We do not have to go into the complexities of one or other of the two Bills. We have to ask ourselves whether we are convinced that there is discrimination, and, if the answer is yes, can we do anything to alleviate it? I am totally convinced that there is discrimination and that we should do something about it.
One of the arguments to be adduced against the proposals will be that we do not want to set up another quango. Many quangos exist which were created by both Labour and Conservative Governments. Their purposes appear to me to be far less worthy than the purpose suggested in the Bill. There is every justification to set up a commission to inquire into the problems of the disabled.
We are told that we cannot legislate against discrimination, that we will get the backs up of people who believe that they are being unjustly charged with discriminating against the disabled. Again, I would draw the attention of your Lordships to the existence on the statute book of what is now known as the Fair 444 Employment Act, by referring to the history of Northern Ireland, where there was put forward the most serious and the most justifiable case that the minority Catholic population had been the victim of discrimination throughout the whole 60 years of the province. The last Labour Government who were in power in this country took it upon themselves to put on the statute book the Fair Employment Act. I was a member of the committee which was involved with the legislation and people said, "You cannot legislate for discrimination against Catholics". The other part of the Bill contained legislation to prevent discrimination against people for their political belief.
Upstairs in committee in another place we met with furious opposition from the Unionist Members on the committee. They said, first, that there was no discrimination, that it had always been a figment of people's imagination; then that, even if there were discrimination, we could not legislate against it. But, with great courage, the Labour Government insisted that that legislation be put on the statute book, and today in Northern Ireland people accept it. The legislation has had a great effect in preventing employers from discriminating against people on the grounds of religion or political belief.
What is equally important is that we should take the same kind of decision in relation to discrimination against disabled people. Under the fair employment legislation—and I have listened to what many noble Lords have had to say here this afternoon—employers were asked to sign a declaration that they would not discriminate against a person on the grounds of his or her religion or political belief. When the legislation was going through the House all the employers in Northern Ireland, including the Federation of Employers, said "We are not going to sign it. We are not going to be intimidated into signing a declaration because we don't discriminate, anyway". They had a guilt complex.
Now the position is that 98 or 99 per cent. of employers have signed the declaration, and the legislation has achieved a great deal. It has not been wholly successful. Given the whole history of Ireland, it would be unlikely to be wholly successful, but it has done much to create the atmosphere in which religious discrimination would be less likely to succeed.
In any democratic society there must be laws. That is what our civilisation has been founded upon. There are some laws that we do not like. Some laws that have been promulgated by Conservative Governments would be total anathema to me, and some which have been put on the statute book by Labour Governments would be totally objectionable to members of the Conservative Party. However, our society believes—and we have read about this even in the past two or three days—that where there is a law, it must be obeyed. For example, if there were not a law against shoplifting, Marks and Spencer would not be in business for very long, and neither would Fortnum and Mason—and you would be inclined to get a better class of people going in there. Law prevents people from doing things which are regarded as being injurious to society. I believe that. if it were to go on to the statute book, a Bill such as this would create the atmosphere in which it would be less likely that people would be discriminated against.
445 The noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, drew attention to the fact that it is now December, the season of goodwill, only a few days before Christmas. I believe that, irrespective of what happened in another place, it would do nothing but good to the reputation of this House if we agreed to the Second Reading of these Bills. I unhesitatingly support the Bill moved by my noble friend Lord Longford. I do so because his Bill states that it will be applicable to Northern Ireland. The Bill moved by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, specifically states that it does not apply to Northern Ireland. That is one valid reason why I am supporting the noble Earl. By the way, there is something I found amusing in the CORAD Report, chapter 5.9, under the heading of "Education". It said:If we can encourage children to accept their disabled peers",—I do not quite know what that meant!—then future generations will be likely to regard disabled people as full members of the community".I am not sure how many disabled Peers there are in this House, but when I first saw the Bill I thought it would he passed on the nod, and many of us, including myself, thought that many Peers should be asked to declare what interest they have in this legislation!
Seriously, I believe this is legislation to which no significant section of our community could take objection. If objection is taken, those objections are not worthy of consideration by noble Lords in this House.
§ 2.56 p.m.
§ Baroness Lane-Fox
My Lords, I find it hard to oppose the noble Earl, Lord Longford, in his loyal and fine efforts to improve life for disabled people. His courtesy and consideration for their problems is heartwarming, and deserves the gratitude of every one of us who comes into contact with it. Yet, despite this, I am bound to oppose him on this Bill. Even for the noble Earl I could not be enough of a hypocrite to abandon views in which I firmly believe. It would be convenient for me to go along with the Bill, as otherwise I find myself on the other side of valued colleagues in earlier campaigns on disablement causes, such as Peter Large, John Beckingham and others. We were in the Disablement Income Group together. I feel compelled to remind them that the late honorary director, Miss Mary Greaves, who was so much respected and who did so much for DIG, considered that it would be naive and unworkable to attempt to legislate against discrimination.
The strength of DIG's case has been its impeccable accuracy. I was, therefore, a little shaken to find in its latest paper a statement claiming that disabled people are united in favour of this legislation. I fear that their enthusiasm has led them to make a false claim. The number of disabled people who do not think that way, and who share my opinion, often have arrived at that view after considering the following factors. Is this the best way to spend precious funds when there are other important measures needing to be taken, such as the extension of the invalid car allowance for married women; the "partial incapacity to earn" provisions; and, above all, the national disability income, which has always been DIG's goal, based on the extent of disability and not the cause?
446 The Bill before us today would cost millions to operate, and local authorities would get involved in costly surveys and then be unable to deal with what was revealed because of resource constraints. When people think about that they consider whether this Bill really could be a magic wand to change everything when it would be dependent on other legislation. Would it not be wiser to tackle the separate problems through amending legislation in the areas affected, whether it concerns access (and how much discrimination does not really boil down to access problems?) or whether it is transport, housing, education, employment opportunities, and so on? Surely it makes more sense to act in this way than to dress the shop window with hopes and expectations raised perhaps rather too high.
These are the thoughts of most who would oppose the Bill, added to the fact that it is foolish to overlook kindness and consideration afforded to disabled people in the past, for it could well be counter productive to threaten legal action and lose supporters. No matter what other noble Lords may say about it, those are my views.
I cannot help but suspect that there is a little playing to the gallery in the essence of the Bill, for many disabled people do not realise that even if it is won, it cannot on its own deliver the goods and it would use up a large lump of their own rates and taxes. I personally, thank goodness that 50 years ago—I think that I am, perhaps, 10 years up on my noble friend Lord Knutsford—when I was first disabled, there was nobody—thank Heaven!—who said, "You are being discriminated against", for I dread to think what would have been the possible reaction. I might well have grown a chip and felt incurably sorry for myself, which would have removed the sustaining wish to circumvent the difficulties. To have a grudge just does not help anyone.
When we talk of discrimination I suppose we realise that it can work both ways. For example, the orange badge scheme and travel concessions are surely discriminations in our favour. Some who are disabled actually feel embarrassed about what is now being sought. My noble friend Lady Macleod of Borve, an ambulatory but, I am sure other noble Lords would agree with me, a gallant disabled person, cannot be here today. She has asked me to say that she and her disabled friends from all levels of life are embarrassed at the thought of seeking what is asked for here. They know, as I do, that the progress made in recent years, whether on benefits, including the mobility allowance, and general support, including aids, simply cannot be swept under the carpet and forgotten. If your Lordships wish, I could lead you through those measures, but I shall not subject you to such a list.
My aims when working for disabled people are how can we get first, the best care; secondly, the best housing; and, thirdly, the best employment and recreational opportunities. These would not be affected directly by the Bill. We all receive desperately sad letters from sadly handicapped people and to the best of our abilities we try to deal with the problems. But which of us can truthfully say that this Bill would do anything to reduce the frustrations involved?
447 Many times we have all said that access at every point needs to be improved, and now we have a national access committee funded by the DHSS with a very able disabled chairman, Mr. Arthur Goldthorpe, OBE. This is a great step forward. It is one of the many recent positive moves. These have been achieved without reducing the popularity achieved for disabled people during the IYDP. But to impose legislation against allies and potential allies seems to me to be ill-advised almost in the extreme. When I say "potential allies", I am referring to the people who do not yet understand but who should be recruited by the example of disabled people themselves. For I agree with my noble friend Lord Holderness that the example of disabled people probably does more than most things to ease the path for others. But where shall we get if we have threats of legislation and court action? Those few remarks outline many of my reasons for opposing the noble Earl's Bill.
The Bill in the name of my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy is intensely interesting as an illustration of his long determination to further the interests of disabled people. My noble friend was president of the IYDP in Scotland and as the author of a book recording progress since the late 1960s he has been our champion. But although he asks for no legislation to be applied, he wants a commission—a quango—which would involve a lot of expenditure. I believe that he and I are close in our requests to help those sad disabled people who just cannot get referred to those who will help them. The difference in my case is that I should like a voluntary organization—monitored as regards performance—to receive those letters, to consider them, and to help the people concerned on their way.
It would need to be an organisation with special independence of Government departments and yet with special muscle. I am wondering about the Prince of Wales' Group on Disability, started some 18 months ago after the IYDP. Its first aim is to provide a point of inquiry to which people with any disability can look for guidance on where to go for the resolution of the problems they meet. It seems to me to fit pretty well.
Although this group started quietly, it is now getting into full swing and, as a member of it, I should like to suggest to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy that this could be the means of receiving and re-routing those inquiries, which I believe is central to my noble friend's Bill. If he could find it possible to incorporate the use of this, or some other suitably independent voluntary organisation, instead of calling for the expenditure involved in a commission. I should be delighted to support his Bill. Otherwise, I fear that I cannot do so.
§ 3.6 p.m.
§ Lord Stallard
My Lords, like other speakers, I should like to begin by congratulating the main sponsors of both these Bills. First, I want to congratulate them on giving us the opportunity to discuss this important subject this morning and on the way in which both the main speakers introduced this very delicate and sensitive subject. I should also like to add 448 my congratulations to those that have already been offered to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, on his very excellent and moving maiden speech. I am sure he will accept that, as a new Member not long having made my own maiden speech, I understand those difficulties. I was exceedingly interested in his personal experiences and in the way in which he related them in his maiden speech.
So far the debate has followed the almost predict able course which all debates on this subject have followed in recent months and, indeed, in recent years. It is at this stage that there is little left to say, which means, noble Lords may say, that. mercifully. I can be brief. However, the main theme running through all the speeches to which I have listened here and in the other place, and outside Parliament itself, has been: do we need anti-discrimination legislation? Has the case for anti-discrimination legislation been proven? The second theme in this debate has been: if it has been proven, is this the right vehicle by which to carry out this legislation?
Having listened to some of the contributions today, I would say that if we were embarking on a new situation, an entirely new system and a new area of legislation versus the voluntary and educative approach, and we had no experience of either, that would be fine and some of the remarks would have been relevant. But, in my experience, I do not think that that is the case in real life.
For 30 years I served as a member and chairman of a disablement advisory committee set up by the then Ministry of Labour to monitor, to assist, to advise and to guide in the implementation of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944. The committees were sustained by all Governments and for all those years their approach was educative, persuasive, cajoling and rewarding. It is an ironic sadness to me that these committees were abandoned by the present Government and reorganised during the International Year of the Disabled—1981.
However, the function of those disablement advisory committees was almost exactly the function that has been described by opponents of this Bill as being the only relevant function. It is to that that I want to address a few remarks. I have nothing but admiration for the people with whom I worked—the disablement resettlement officers, and their staff—and for the dedication of those officers and staff concerned. In all departments they worked tremendously hard—in working hours and outside them—in order to improve the lot of and facilities for disabled persons, particularly in employment. They had some successes. It would be churlish to say that the approach did not work at some stage; of course it did. There were a great number of successes. But there were far more frustrations, in my experience.
I could mention one which has already been mentioned—the 3 per cent. quota for the obligation on employers to employ disabled people. This has always been a source of frustration. There are those—and I was one of them—who have argued ever since the early 1950s that that quota was not strong enough. There was a need to strengthen the provisions of the quota in order to have it enforced. That has always been resisted by all Governments. They have resisted 449 the strengthening of the 3 per cent. quota and relied rather on personal approaches, on discussions, on consultative documents, and so on.
What has happened? Where are we today? We know that today that quota is not complied with by 68 per cent. of employers. That is 68 per cent. of employers still do not meet their obligations under the 3 per cent. quota in spite of all those years of the educative, persuasive, and cajoling approach. It has reached the stage now where there is an active campaign, and a threat to abandon the 3 per cent. quota altogether as being unworkable. Rather than submit to the examination, they will produce reasons to prove that perhaps it is not strong enough; that perhaps there ought to have been more stringent application of it. They will find reason and excuses to abandon it altogether, because it is becoming a bit of an embarrassment in many instances. Therefore, in my experience that campaign did not really succeed.
There were other campaigns. I listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Holderness. He took the approach that we ought to try to persuade employers to talk to the organisations, and so on. I would remind him of a campaign in which we all participated—and I am sure he will recall this—the 1977 "Positive Policies" campaign, which did exactly that. It consisted of a whole series of seminars, meetings, discussions, and conferences aimed directly, individually, jointly and personally, at employers to get them to accept the responsibility, to educate them in the way that the noble Lord seemed to be suggesting. The campaign document was well produced. It was launched with a great deal of publicity by the department. It was sent to 55,000 employers up and down this country. There were a lot of employers who received that document.
Both the CBI and the TUC had special meetings and both tried to persuade their members to accept the policies outlined in that positive approach to their difficulties. The divisional disablement resettlement officers were brought in to make more and more visits. For 12 months there was a campaign of visits to every establishment throughout the country. But, as I said, we still have not got the implementation of the 3 per cent. quota, even with all that publicity.
There have been a few successes here and there, but nothing like what was merited, and nothing like we should have hoped for.
That had to be followed in 1979 by a much more concentrated campaign, called "Fit for Work". Again noble Lords will remember that campaign. It was an even more expensively launched campaign. It was an excellent campaign. It included broadsheets, news sheets, photographs and the usual seminars and discussions necessary, as they said, to combat the problem of lack of awareness by emphasising the abilities of disabled workers. It was a positive approach to emphasise their abilities rather than to concentrate on their disabilities. It was a necessary approach, but it was 1979 and we were still arguing that we ought to be bringing this to the awareness of people. After all those years of the educative approach and the persuasive approach, they still were not aware.
That campaign included the same general advice and notes of guidance. It was linked, too, to a national 450 award scheme which noble Lords may recall. That national award scheme was almost like a beauty queen contest, where there was great publicity for the firm which had performed the best under the notes of guidance, and so on, and they were given a national award with all the publicity, locally and nationally, that that entailed. That did not work. It did not have the results that we were entitled to expect in the field of discrimination against the disabled. We have tried financial rewards, we have tried job introduction schemes where employers were given a grant to employ disabled people for a period of time to prove that these people who had been trained under the many excellent training schemes organized by the disablement resettlement officers were capable, willing and able to do the job. Thus financial rewards were offered to employers.
Finance was offered to employers to adapt their premises. The adaptation of premises scheme, I can recall, was intended to give money towards the adaptation and to meet some of the access problems but that has been glossed over today as though it did not exist. Some people said that if we were to implement this legislation the first people to be penalised would be the churches. Of course, if the churches did not take advantage of some of the financial provisions or if they did not say that the provisions should have been available to them, then they have only themselves to blame. I do not see why they, any more than this place—which is almost as guilty of access problems—ought to be used as a lever or an excuse to pour scorn on this kind of legislation.
For all the years that I have been personally involved—and I have known thousands of people who still are—for all the advice and information that we have had and have disseminated in the way we thought was right, I felt we have really only been speaking to the converted. We have not got through to the mass area of discrimination which still exists against the disabled.
I have mentioned the quota, which is important to me, because it is one that I started with in the early days. I have watched its progress—or lack of progress—ever since. The other two main areas of discrimination against the disabled with which I have been involved are the two main areas of life: unemployment—the seeking of jobs—and housing. In both those areas we know that discrimination exists. We know that unemployment among the disabled is twice as high as among their able bodied fellows. We know that four out of five disabled people are on the dole in some areas. We know from our experience and our case work that a great deal of this is due to discrimination. Starts on provision of mobility housing fell by half between 1979 and 1980, so it is not really making a serious contribution. We do not take it seriously enough; so many people are discriminated against in housing. I have mentioned the access problems and I could go on, but I do not have time to mention many more of the problems of access which discriminate against the disabled.
If I needed more support for the need for legislation, I would quote the CORAD report that has already been mentioned. It evolved as the result of two years' hard work by many people. They studied examples not just from abroad but examples of discrimination 451 within our own shores. They came out unanimously in favour of legislation. I do not think that we can afford to ignore the opinions and views of people at that level.
The director of the Spastics Society was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby. I think that he implied that the director of the Spastics Society had opposed legislation. He will correct me if I am wrong. That is not my recollection at all. The retiring director of the Spastics Society, to whom my noble friend referred, said this:The Spastics Society has examined the issue carefully. I believe that it was the first organisation to canvass the views of disabled people throughout the country on a wide scale at conferences, to which reference has already been made. The result of that process was overwhelmingly to refute the argument that disabled people do not want legislation for this purpose.Therefore, 1 strongly endorse the principle of legislation to prohibit discrimination against disabled people."—[Official Report, Commons, 18/11/83; col. 1136].That is the view of the retiring director, the Member of Parliament for Suffolk South, Mr. Tim Yeo. It is as well to get him quoted correctly in case he takes umbrage.
I know, too, that the Spastics Society set up a number of national and regional conferences through out the country when their new consumers' council was set up. All of those conferences were unanimously in favour of legislation. The National Executive Committee of the Spastics Society met in September to discuss the outcome of all those conferences, and that national executive committee endorsed, welcomed and supported the idea of legislation and we have known that the other place has supported similar legislation. The joint chairmen of the All-Party Disablement Group have lent their support to all the attempts to introduce legislation, including this one.
I feel that the case has been made; it is almost unanswerable. There have been other examples given where the same arguments have applied—the question of drink and driving, of seat belts, of crash helmets for Sikhs, the question of race and sex; and my noble friend Lord Fitt has mentioned another one, the Employment Bill, in which I, too. had the privilege to take part. So there are precedents. It can work if there is a will towards the legislation. I shall have no difficulty in deciding which Bill to support. I support the Bill introduced by my noble friend Lord Longford because it has the necessary bite which, after my experience, I feel is needed. It is that bite which is lacking in the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. I look forward to hearing the Government's approach and their attitude to both these Bills.
§ 3.22 p.m.
My Lords, first of all, may I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. He is not in his place at the moment—and that is quite understandable—but I once had the pleasure of being taken to the zoo by his father and spent a very pleasant afternoon. I do not suppose the noble Earl remembers now but I had the chance of meeting him as well. I think that he made a very fine speech today. I should also like to pay a tribute to the late Lord Amulree. He and I together went to Europe to rescue civilian prisoners of war. He did a magnificent job there as well as in connection with one of his voluntary 452 organisations last year. I should like, too, to say a word of praise to Peter Large because I think that he has done a splendid job, and to Mary Greaves who was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox. But I did not like the headlines that the local press put out:Disabled People's Hopes Dashed".I do not think that they will be dashed at all by this debate. They will be encouraged, I think, for so many people have taken part and so many views have been put forward.
Whatever happens to these two Bills, some good will come out of it. I myself cannot support either of these Bills. I think that Lord Longford's Billis too bureaucratic and I think that the better of the two is that of my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy. Even if his Bill is not agreed to today, I should like to say that I admired the work that he did in the other place. On many occasions he laid wonderful stepping stones for the disabled both in England and in Scotland.
Neither of these Bills says anything about costs. I gather that the commission alone would cost about £3 million. I should much prefer that money to be spent on people instead of on bureaucratic administration. Eleven times, in the noble Earl's Bill, the Secretary of State is given powers to decide this and that by regulation—and I have always been very chary of, and very nervous about, regulations—and such powers are given five times in my noble friend's Bill. Therefore, I suggest it would be difficult to bring these Bills to fruition, as was so well put by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. He always puts his finger on the point. I think, and he did so very graphically for us today regarding the real, technical difficulties of these two Bills.
I worked for many years with the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, and in fact I was in at the beginning of the formation of DIG. Megan du Boisson, who has been mentioned already, was a personal friend of mine. She was a constituent, and she stayed with me during the day on which we had the very big rally in Trafalgar Square. She was at that moment suffering from multiple sclerosis, regrettably having had rather a bad attack. But she came. It was a marvellous occasion. People came from all over England, including, I remember, one woman who had been born with no arms and no legs. She came right down from the North. I myself, for the first and only time, spoke in Trafalgar Square—and the pigeons gave me their blessing!
Then we took a petition to Downing Street. We pushed chairs, and those who could do so walked all the way down the hill and back again. We had a very good reception. I was absolutely determined to carry out work on behalf of DIG; and just to show how easy it can be if one goes about it with a will, for years we had a coachload of very disabled people who came up here from Plymouth. We found a hotel to take them; and they went to the military tournament and to Kew Gardens. Then, on the Friday afternoon they used to come here to this building, and, by kind permission of the police, the coach was allowed into the forecourt. Everybody helped. Our people were pushed everywhere around the building, and eventually ended up eating strawberries and cream on the Terrace.
453 I remember that the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, very kindly came to one of our meetings when he was Minister, and we are very grateful to him. Also, there happens to be a ferry that goes from Plymouth to France, so what did we do? We took those disabled people over to meet the Papillons Blanches in France. They liked everything except the French food—and they did not like that at all.
I should like now to refer to Clause 14, with regard to local authority charges for services. I think this is very unfortunate, because there is not going to be very much money to spare and already in some areas—and in particular, in the area I am interested in now, there is Pewsey Hospital, North View Hospital and Purton and Burderop Hospitals—they are going to lose their teachers, because the numbers have already been cut. A great deal of good work has been done in these hospitals, particularly in the first one, and as a consequence there will be boredom and frustration among patients and hospital staff if this work has to be cut. This is one of the reasons why I much prefer to have the money spent on people rather than on Bills such as these. My greatest wish is to get the people into the community. We have very good local homes: and I started an hotel for the disabled on Dartmoor. I am sorry to say that it has now closed down: not really for lack of funds, but I am afraid that many people found getting to it rather difficult.
I should like to draw attention to what is being done in regard to travelling, which is so important for disabled people. I received a letter in October, and I understand that 55 major stations are being improved by British Railways to make them fully accessible and readily available without anxiety to the disabled travellers who may wish to use them. One of the things they have already started to do is to provide dedicated parking places, fixed and portable ramps, unisex WCs with special fitments, conversion of goods lifts for passenger operation and low-placed telephones, which I think is a wonderful idea for those in wheelchairs. There will also be the marking of stairs and platform edges to help people with sight problems.
Furthermore—and this may be of interest to your Lordships—there is to be the introduction of loops in booking offices to help those who are hard of hearing. I understand it is quite often difficult to talk through those glass screens. So people will be helped in that way. To give an example, £240,000 will be spent on Plymouth Station alone. On a different matter. I wonder whether consideration can be given to help those people who are sacked and who cannot really take their complaints to an industrial tribunal.
I should also like to draw your Lordships' attention to the Fit for Work campaign. Recently people came from all over Great Britain when awards were given to employers who had helped unemployed disabled people. More than 100 employers, both large and small, came down to London. Furthermore, a lot of them had gone a long way beyond the statutory requirements or the statutory hopes. The chairman of the Manpower Services Commission stated that 70,000 disabled people will be placed, in comparison with his estimate of 40,000. That is a great increase, about which we should all be very pleased. I think, too, that we should remember Remploy, which has not 454 been mentioned. It is a Government organisation which gives very good employment to disabled people.
So I feel that these two Bills would be much better not accepted today and that we should concentrate our minds on individual people, individual organisations and voluntary organisations. and keep DIG going. They are doing a very good job and have a good programme for the future. We should see that the money is spent on people and not on words and complicated commissions, and especially not on so many more duties for the Secretary of State.
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ Lord Ennals
My Lords, I deeply regret the fact that I was unable to hear the maiden speech by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, though I think I heard almost the last speech of his very distinguished father. Though I did not hear him today, for which I apologise, I am sure that his contribution to this House will be very great. I want to thank the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for introducing this Bill which, unfortunately, was denied the opportunity of a Second Reading about three weeks ago in another place. I was abroad at the time, but I read about it in the newspapers and I was extremely saddened that the Bill was not given a Second Reading. I very much hope that disabled people will today be encouraged if this Bill is given a Second Reading. A number of those who have spoken have been against it and they include people whom I have known and respected over many years. Certainly the noble Baronesses, Lady Vickers and Lady Lane-Fox, are two people whose views on most things to do with the disabled I share, but on this Bill I profoundly disagree.
I was deeply involved in consideration of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, which this amendment Bill seeks to change. I was then a Minister in the DHSS, together with Alf Morris to whom I gave every possible support. I should have hoped that the Government would give every possible support to this Bill, including changing it, because very often when Bills are put forward by private Members they give the opportunity for improvement in the course of debate. which happened with the Bill which became law in 1970.
I regret that at that time the Bill did not include references to discrimination and we have to recognise that 13 years have passed since then. Therefore, the second reason why I very much support this Bill is that it is supported, so far as one can see, by the vast majority of those major organisations which know of, and speak for, disabled people in this country. I think immediately of MENCAP and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, who is their very distinguished president, will be speaking following me. There is also the Spastics Society to which reference has been made. I think that almost all the organisations which work daily with disabled people are not just aware of the degree of discrimination which exists, but believe that some legislative action is now necessary. If that were not so, why would it have been the recommendation of CORAD, which is so ably chaired, as has been said, by Mr. Peter Large? This committee was set up to examine this and a number of other questions. It reached its conclusions with clarity and with only one dissenting voice. The committee included among its 455 members those with great experience because of their own disabilities.
Certain noble Lords in this House who are disabled have put forward a particular point of view, but the Bill is not for those who have such guts and determination and such distinction and achievement as to be honoured by entry into this House. The Bill is for those people who are not going to be able to fight for themselves. It is to help the literally hundreds of thousands of disabled people who look to the voluntary organisations and to Parliament to protect their interests.
There are a number of reasons why we ought to give a Second Reading to the Bill. I shall not seek today to dot all the i's and cross all the t's, nor to say that I agree with everything the Bill contains. In fact, I do not agree with certain parts of it. However, I hope that the Bill will receive a Second Reading today. If it does, I hope to take part in the Committee stage and to be involved with Members on both sides of the House in seeking to make the Bill more reasonable and workable than I believe it to be now.
Those of us who are in daily contact with disabled people and the organisations which represent them cannot doubt that they are greatly discriminated against. We all wish that the educational campaigns and the International Year of Disabled People could have swept away discrimination, but it has not done so. The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, said that no impact whatsoever had been made by legislation dealing with sex and racial discrimination. I disagree entirely. When the first Race Relations Act was passed (there have been two subsequent Acts) it was argued that one could not legislate against discrimination. We cannot legislate against prejudice but we can legislate against the way in which people behave. If a hotel in a particular town says that it will not allow a particular group of people to stay there because they are disabled, that, in my view, is an act of discrimination which ought to be made illegal.
My Lords, with due respect to the noble Lord, I did not mean that those Acts had done no good. I meant that they had done a certain amount of harm.
§ Lord Ennals
My Lords, the noble Lady's intervention takes it a little further. If the noble Lady thinks that the Acts have done harm, she must believe that they have not done much good. Legislation is only one of the ways in which we can do battle against discrimination, whether racial discrimination or discrimination on the grounds of sex, but I believe that it is one of the instruments which should be used and which this House ought now to examine. We cannot legislate against prejudice but we can legislate against the actions of those who are prejudiced.
I have already mentioned that I believe that the Bill contains a number of defects. I hope we shall be able to rectify some of them. The defects have been referred to by a number of speakers. Over the years, Bills have been introduced which have been greatly improved during their various stages. Your Lordships' House has a reputation for improving Bills, a reputation 456 which perhaps exceeds that of the House of which I was a member until only a few months ago.
It has also been argued that there are other ways in which we can help disabled people. That is true. I strongly support those who say that there should he better allowances for disabled people. As Secretary of State, I introduced many of the measures which have helped to improve the lives of disabled people. I want more money to be put into this effort, but it is not a question of "either/or", any more than it is a question of "either/or" between education and legislation. This is simply another weapon at our disposal. The example has been given of seat belts, and that was a very good example. Year after year, we tried to persuade people to show good sense. They did not show good sense until it actually became illegal not to wear a seat belt. I believe it should be illegal to discriminate against disabled people.
Finally, I hope that this House will do today what the other House failed signally to do three or four weeks ago—or however long it was. I was abroad at the time and was shocked to read what had happened. I believe that the reputation of this House will be greatly enhanced—particularly among disabled people across the country—if the two Bills are given a Second Reading today and if we are then able to debate them in Committee to make all the improvements and changes which the Government may want to make—and there are many cases of changes which noble and friendly Lords want to make. I hope that this House will give a Second Reading to the Bill proposed by my noble friend Lord Longford.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, most of the speeches in your Lordships' House in this most interesting and moving debate have referred to the physically disabled. It will not surprise your Lordships if I confine myself to the ways in which these Bills will affect the mentally handicapped, who are the largest single group of disabled people, and whose problems are quite different from those of the physically disabled.
As the noble Lord. Lord Ennals, was good enough to mention, I am president of MENCAP. I shall be expressing my own views because we at MENCAP have not yet formed a definite and detailed policy on these two Bills. Therefore, for the time being at any rate, I should record that we do intensely deplore discrimination against the mentally handicapped —but then I must go on to say that, in my opinion, it would be unwise and could be unkind to raise their hopes or the hopes of the parents of the mentally handicapped that either of these Bills will necessarily be the best way to try to reduce discrimination.
The great eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, was, I fear, somewhat misplaced because he seemed to assume that either of these Bills will abolish discrimination—especially the Bill of the noble Earl. Lord Longford. In fact, although the Bill of my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy has no teeth, all that the Bill of the noble Earl would do by way of providing a sanction against discrimination—and he himself did not seem to understand this, if I may say so with deep respect to his eminence—would be to give the people discriminated against a right to sue in a civil action for 457 damages for tort. They could only succeed if they could bring themselves within the rather vague definition in Clause 9 of the noble Earl's Bill.
The noble Earl gave us the impression—and he may have given the great world outside the impression—that his Bill is to become part of criminal law, but there is nothing in it to indicate that at all. We should be perfectly clear about that. So whereas the Bill of my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy has no teeth. the Bill of the noble Earl has false teeth.
§ Lord Renton
Earlier this year, my Lords, there were flagrant attempts to discriminate against mentally handicapped people at a Devonshire holiday resort, where a splendid hotel proprietor encouraged disabled people to stay in his hotel to such an extent that, at the time of the demonstration, 22 per cent. of the guests in that hotel were mentally handicapped. But some members of the local chamber of commerce objected to seeing them about the town and on the beaches; they said that it discouraged other visitors and was had for trade—a shocking business! Some tradesmen went so far as to suggest that they should be confined to one end of the beaches where they would not frighten the children of other people. Others suggested that they should have provided for them a remote hotel on the edge of Dartmoor.
Mr. Brian Rix, our secretary general, who has done so much, by broadcasting and in other ways, to improve the public's understanding of mental handicap, went down there, and he was shouted down by some people at a public meeting when he defended the rights of the mentally handicapped in that ugly situation. But he stuck to his guns; he showed that the outcry against the mentally handicapped was unfounded and unworthy, and the criticism faded away. The crude suggestions were withdrawn and things went back to normal, and they did so without any help from any anti-discrimination commission or indeed without any sort of legislation being invoked.
Another example of discrimination was in my personal experience. We used to live with our daughters in a block of flats in Westminster, not far away from here, where there was a clause in every lease which stipulated that no person of unsound mind should be allowed into our flats. We have a mentally handicapped daughter, severely so. She used to come and stay with us there and we ignored that clause in our lease. There was never any trouble at all. Although that clause was discriminatory, there was some justification for it, for if our daughter had had serious behaviour problems which caused her continuously to scream loudly it would have been unfair to other tenants. But the clause referring to all people of unsound mind was of course too widely drawn, and if the landlords had tried to turn us out the court would, in my opinion, have given us relief against forfeiture of our lease.
What about discrimination in employment, about which we have heard something today, so far as the mentally handicapped are concerned? Quite frankly, the 1944 and 1958 Acts, which attempted to deal with employment of disabled people and attempted to 458 impose quotas, did not fully succeed. I think it is generally accepted that they do not—even after all these years, in spite of the fairly stringent legislation in them—fully succeed. But what is the position? At present, in spite of large scale unemployment, there are thousands of mentally handicapped people in employment, employment which is suitable to their limited abilities. No two mentally handicapped people are quite the same; they all vary very much. They are employed not only in sheltered workshops under the Acts to which I referred, or employed in adult training centres. But many of them are employed in ordinary open employment in which enlightened employers have found places for them, often doing so through our MENCAP pathway scheme which, by the way, started in South Wales.
I suggest that it would be better to continue to make further progress along the lines of that already achieved in the employment of mentally handicapped people, through conciliation and persuasion, rather than by forcing unwilling employers to take on mentally handicapped people and providing a civil action for damages if they fail to do so. Suppose that we tried by legislation to force unwilling employers to take on mentally handicapped people, Would that necessarily be in the interests of the mentally handicapped? Some unwilling employers might make things difficult and unpleasant for them, without that necessarily giving rise to an action for damages. Mentally handicapped people are sensitive. I know plenty of them. That could lead to unhappiness for them. Even if an action for damages were successful, it would not necessarily correct the harm done and the unhappiness that was caused. in spite of what is said, most unusually, in the Bill about compensation for damaged feelings.
If the noble Earl's commission were to avoid the many pitfalls which might arise, especially with regard to employment, and which would often be seen too late, it would have a daunting task of definition under the regulations that it would be empowered to make.
I invite your Lordships' attention to Clause 9 as a piece of drafting. It makes a valiant attempt at definition, hut I fear that it will lead to endless wrangles in the courts and frequent and costly disappointment for those who fail to come within the definition and thereby lose the action for damages. Let us not be too general in raising people's hopes.
We must not let eloquence and our natural desire to help the mentally handicapped carry us away. The noble Earl said—and as a lawyer I accept that this is sometimes rightly said—that we should not bother about the technicalities. But I invite his attention to the fact that unless he gets the technicalities so right that they will not cause disappointment, it would be better not to legislate. In Parliament we must not flatter ourselves that legislation is a cure for all social ills. If we reflect, we know that it is not. Nobody respects more than I do the wonderful work that the noble Earl has done for oppressed people of all kinds, some of whom may deserve it less than others. But let us not be carried away.
The cost of either Bill would be considerable. The commission proposed in either Bill would have to cover the whole country. As my noble friend Lady 459 Vickers said, that would require a nationwide bureaucracy. It would cost millions of pounds. In MENCAP we could make better use of that money. We could use it to continue to get mentally handicapped people out of these vast hospitals where they are hidden away and lost to the community. That is an act of discrimination which has gone on for 100 years or more and for which al! parties are to blame.
We could use the money to continue to educate the public and to produce better understanding and more conciliation, thereby more effectively reducing discrimination. As has been said, public attitudes towards the mentally handicapped have improved vastly in the past 25 years, and they are improving all the time. Most of the mentally handicapped would like to be treated as ordinary people. But we must be careful of legislation which would single them out in a way that they and their parents would not always relish. As has been suggested by my noble friend Lady Lane-Fox, it would be much better to have an advisory council representing the voluntary bodies which live with and work so close to the problem. That might be a far better solution than is contained in either of the Bills.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Viscount Ingleby
My Lords, I regret that I cannot entirely follow the noble Lord, Lord Renton, who has just spoken, much though I respect all that he has done in this field. However, I must begin by thanking the noble Earl and the noble Lord who have introduced the Bills and by congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, on his maiden speech.
As disabled people we are all to some extent deprived. We do not complain about that; there is not much that can be done about it. But what we ask for is that unnecessary obstacles be removed. Today I heard of one very small unnecessary obstacle, which I am sure could be removed very quickly without the need of legislation. I refer to the fact that while apparently there is a guide in Braille to the House of Commons, there is no guide in Braille to this House. That is a very small example.
However, there are bigger obstacles that could be removed. For example, the gangways in most aircraft are not wide enough to take a wheelchair, though they need be only a few inches wider to do so. Until quite recently if travelling by air, one was unceremoniously removed from one's own wheelchair on arriving at the airport and put into a chair which might have been designed for someone either much bigger or much smaller, or with longer legs. On being placed in the chair, one was completely immobile. Once taken out of one's own chair, one found that the other chair had no rims on the hubs and so one was absolutely immobile. Fortunately, that practice is, I think, now changing, and I am delighted about that.
Another great difficulty for people in wheelchairs is presented by kerbs. A friend of mine who is in a wheelchair, and who lives in Walsall, writes as follows:For five years I have not been able to cross the road outside my own house, but this year when resurfacing was going on I went out to ensure that the levelling off was done properly. I would have hoped that two years on from the international year when a road 460 widening scheme was going on the council would have been aware of the need for dropped kerbs. When they altered a main road in the centre of our town however, not one was included, even though it was very near an old people's home".Surely if the council is carrying out road works in a street where there lives someone who is in a wheelchair, it is not too much to ask that at the same time dropped kerbs are put in.
The same lady from Walsall also writes as follows about the theatre:When attending a ballet performance in a Birmingham theatre I had to pay four and a half times the amount I used regularly to pay when I was able to walk into the auditorium just because I was remaining in my wheelchair throughout. Previously I chose to sit at the back of the stalls, now £4 per seat, but I now find that I have no choice but to pay £18. This is because the wheelchair positions are sited in the most expensive range of seats—£9 each—and fire regulations demand that I find an escort who may or may not be interested in the production, and I am obliged to pay for him, too".What disabled people need is an independent authority with teeth. If the teeth in the present Bill are false teeth, then I hope that, if it is given a Second Reading, some real teeth will emerge in Committee. An independent body is needed, to which disabled people can go and which can look into the matter and. hopefully, conciliate and arrive at a suitable answer.
There has been too much talk about bringing in the law. The law should only come in as a very last resort. If people who were treating disabled persons unfairly knew that at the end of the day there would be the possibility of being taken to court, many of the difficulties would be solved.
A tremendous amount has been said about the cost of the Bill. But we are talking about justice for disabled people and justice is not cheap. I imagine that the administration of all our law courts costs a great deal, but no one suggests that they should be abolished. Moreover, on the question of cost, the only guide we. have at the moment is that RADAR—the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation—has looked into 1,500 cases over the past two years at a cost of £10,000 each year. That is the only guide that we have on what this Bill might cost.
I feel that the noble Earl's Bill would change the climate. It would speed up progress. I know that my noble friend Lady D'Arcy (de Knayth), who is unfortunately unable to be here, shares my views. I very much hope that both these Bills, but especially that of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, will get a Second Reading.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I intend to be exceedingly brief but I want to say a few words, although not as an expert with special experience. I have listened to, and been moved by, as I am certain have all Members in your Lordships' House, the contributions we have had from those who have had personal experience of disability and those who have served with pride and achievement on associations responsible for those with disabilities.
I begin in the conventional way by offering my warm congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for his moving maiden speech. I am certain that we shall hear from him many times in the future.
I also want to say immediately that I rise to support the Bill in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, 461 and that I very much hope it will be given a Second Reading. Reference has been made to raising false hopes. I should have thought that if a poll had been taken more disabled people would have been found to be disappointed than pleased with what happened in another place. I know that from my constituency experience as a Member of Parliament and from moving about, as I still do, in my former constituency of Edmonton. I do not talk of thousands or even hundreds but in terms of a few disabled people who have spoken to me since 18th November. Those people were not only disappointed but distressed. They may not understand the technicalities and they may not appreciate the niceties of procedure, but they did believe that it was an opportunity to make progress of some kind on what they believed was discrimination, even though—and I respect what has been said—there may not be as much discrimination as some people may feel.
I carefully noted what the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, said: that we must move on and that we have been round this course many times before. But what I wish to say as a non-expert is that surely there is nothing wrong in giving this Bill a Second Reading. I have served in the Whips' Office, in Government and in Opposition, in another place. I am well aware of the pressures of time and of the professions which have been made that there are other and better ways of dealing with this matter. I am reminded of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, who said, I thought rather kindly, that we must get the technicalities right. I know of no one better in the House who could assist a Committee to get the technicalities right if we have the opportunity of a Committee stage to look at the matter. There are men and women of goodwill who I am absolutely certain will do their best to assist during a Committee stage.
I am delighted to congratulate my very good personal friend who is the honourable Member for West Derby. I commiserate with him as regards what happened to his Bill in another place, but I congratulate him on his persistence. He is a new Member of the other House and one who I know from my personal experience to be pugnacious, tenacious, well experienced and compassionate. I can imagine how distressed he was to find that the procedures of both places—meaning both Houses—led to the distress of 18th November. He must be heartened to find that there is a different atmosphere and, I would hope, a different response from the Government on this occasion.
I should also like to take the opportunity to pay a warm tribute to another honourable friend of mine, the right honourable Member for Manchester, Wythenshaw, who was the progenitor of the whole raison d'être of what we are talking about today. He speaks not only as the first Minister for the Disabled but as the person who brought in the Chronically Sick and Disabled Bill. He also speaks from personal family experience of disability. I well remember hearing the right honourable Member say more than once that one speaks not in terms of a disabled person, but in terms of a disabled family. If one member of a family is disabled then the whole family is part of the nexus which needs to grapple with it. As I see it, what we 462 have been served with in the other place is a great deal of passion, a great deal of argument, and at the end of the day we in this House will have the opportunity, I hope, to pick up the pieces and make a fresh start.
I point out to the Minister who is to reply that I am well aware of the problem of resources; I am well aware of the difficulties and the technicalities. But I ask him to take it from me, as someone without a vested interest other than as a person who is compassionate, that there are men and women of goodwill all around this House who will try to make his task as easy as possible when it comes to the question of recognising the realities. There are difficulties about money. There are difficulties about persuading local authorities to make provisions. There are difficulties about employers, neighbours, hotel keepers and so on. However, I see the Bill as providing one opportunity of taking a tiny step forward for a section of the community who, in my view, ought not to feel that yet again they have received a blow from which they cannot be sheltered. Should there be a vote, I certainly will be voting for the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ 4.8 p.m.
§ Lord Swinfen
My Lords, although I work for the John Groom Association for the Disabled, what I wish to say is entirely my own view and has not even been discussed with other officers in the association. I know that there are a number of organisations for disabled people who welcome the Bill put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, as a hook upon which to hang the coat of informing people about the problems of disability. However, my own feeling is that legislation is not the best way in which to deal with the problem. I would prefer to see it dealt with by education. However, despite that feeling, I am quite happy to give the Bill at this stage a Second Reading to see whether it can be improved as it goes through this House and comes out a much better beast at the end of Third Reading. If it does not come out as the right kind of beast, then we can always deal with it at that stage.
Of the two Bills that we are discussing this afternoon I should prefer the Bill put forward by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy. Both Bills suggest a commission, and I think that a commission of the kind that my noble friend suggests could be used for educating the public in general to assist those who are either mentally or physically handicapped, so that they can be helped to live independently. This is an aim of the association for which I work. We try to encourage to that end all the disabled people that we help. We train them, we encourage them and we teach them, so that eventually they can live on their own, totally independently.
In this particular respect, since the Year of the Disabled we have sent an exhibition round schools, the aim of which is to try to teach children in schools what it is like to be disabled. Children have been put into wheelchairs and asked to cook a meal; they have been blindfolded and asked to find their way around. We try to teach them by amusing them, and at times they have gone round an obstacle course in a wheelchair with, if the weather is warm, a bucket of water on their lap, to see whether they can succeed. If the weather is cold they have something else, because it is no use freezing them.
463 In this respect, can my noble friend the Minister tell me whether any progress has been made on the suggestions in the Warnock Report towards the integration of physically handicapped children into schools? I ask this because this is the best way of educating physically handicapped children to live a normal life with so-called normal people (though I do not believe any of us are really normal; in one way or another we all have our disabilities, even if it is only a tendency to bad temper) and of educating the ordinary child to be aware of the problems and needs of disabled people. A great many of the problems of disabled people could be overcome purely by courtesy and good manners—by holding a door open for them, or by helping them up a kerb if their wheelchair is not equipped with a climbing device or if the kerb does not have a ramp.
On the question of discrimination generally, I was impressed by the suggestion put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Banks, that there should be one body to look after and to look into discrimination of all sorts. Most discrimination is caused by a lack of knowledge. This one body could look into all aspects of it and make certain that people in all walks of life are taught about the problems of other people.
I was encouraged by the very moving maiden speech of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, who demonstrated to us that, with good teaching, training and encouragement, disabilities can he overcome. Some disabilities are obviously more difficult to overcome than others, but it is essential to make certain that people are taught about disabilities and the problems of disabled people, not only while they are children but as adults. As adults, most of us need to learn a great deal more about disabilities. Although I work for an association for disabled people, I appreciate that I know very little. I am amazed at the courage, the ingenuity and the strength that many physically disabled put into their lives. Most of us who are not physically disabled give up all too easily, and most of us would be amazed at the courage and fortitude of people who are physically disabled, some of them having the most appalling disabilities.
I welcome both these Bills at this stage, and I should be grateful if my noble friend, when he sums up, could give an answer to the questions I have put to him. If he has not got the answers at this stage. perhaps he could write to me later.
§ 4.15 p.m.
Lord Wallace of Coslany
My Lords, we come to the end of one of the long days before Christmas. I was sorry to learn from the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, that the noble Baroness. Lady D'Arcy (de Knayth), is ill with pneumonia. Knowing how active the noble Baroness is in this House I hope that the House will seek an opportunity to pass on our good wishes for a speedy recovery. No doubt the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, will forward our message.
I should also like with great personal pleasure to compliment the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for his very human speech. I do so for another reason. I was one of the people who served under his father and was appointed by his father to be an Assistant Whip, unpaid. Unfortunately, his estimable father did not 464 refer to us as unpaid Whips, but "unpaid lance corporals', in his rather typical terse fashion. It was a great privilege to serve under his father, who we all know was a man of absolute integrity.
We have before us two Bills combined in one debate, which is a rather unusual procedure. Both my noble friend Lord Longford and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, deserve our thanks and, may I add, in spite of differences of opinion on various Benches, deserve our support for a reason I shall give later. Discrimination exists. This fact was brought out rather strongly by the noble Lord, Lord Banks. and by my noble friend Lord Fitt, and it certainly needs to be dealt with.
When a similar Bill to that now put forward by my noble friend was forced into defeat in another place, considerable concern and some anger was expressed by many disabled people, mainly due to headlines in the media. We now have the opportunity in this House to redress their grievances by giving a Second Reading to both Bills, or at least one of the Bills before us. I say quite definitely and advisedly that for this House, with its great reputation. to fail to give a Second Reading to these Bills is quite unthinkable to me. We must in all decency give them a Second Reading.
The Bill put forward by my noble friend goes much further than the Bill put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, although it must be noted that both noble Lords incorporate in their Bills one key factor; namely, the establishing of a disablement commission. My noble friend's Bill gives wider powers to such a commission, and introduces a measure of legal sanction.
I shall not go into great detail on my noble friend's Bill now. The Bill has been fully discussed by various Members of this House. Part II puts compulsion onto local authorities. My noble friend Lord Graham mentioned that this, under the present extreme restriction on finance placed on local authorities, raises a difficult situation. Of course it is a difficult situation that is being experienced in the social services and in many other directions.
I would draw the attention of the House to the fact that Clauses 15 and 16 ensure inclusion of disabled people on governing bodies of public organisations, council committees, et cetera. This is a desirable objective because, as at least we well know in this House, such people do, and can, bring practical experience to our debates. As we all know, what I term the wheelchair commandos—perhaps they may not like that phrase—are formidable when they are in action. I shall not name names, but one or two of them are certainly very formidable. I strongly support this move as most desirable to include handicapped people on such committees because they bring practical experience. We should perhaps get away from the word "disabled". A number of noble Lords today have spoken from practical experience.
Clauses 15 and 16 are in my view vital clauses and should he strongly supported. I have no hestitation whatever in supporting my noble friend's Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, in his Bill has played somewhat safe. I can understand the reason. It is a simple, clear and straightforward measure which, after discussion, might just possibly receive support in 465 another place. We always have to bear another place in mind. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell opted only for a disablement commission with fewer powers than called for by my noble friend; but both noble Lords have opted for what might be called a "quango", as far as the commission is concerned. The term "quango", unfortunately, is used mainly as a term of derision by the majority of Government supporters and this puts the Bill in danger. It is an unfortunate word which should never have been invented and does not help when the term of derision is used.
I regret this because so many so-called quangos render useful service to the community. This Bill is good as far as it goes; it is simple and direct. It should also be supported and if my noble friend's Bill is unfortunately not given a Second Reading—which is possible but which I hope will not take place—it is a possibility that much of its contents could formulate amendments in Committee to Lord Campbell's Bill, but I hope that will not arise.
It could be fairly said that to some extent in making these remarks I am backing both horses in the same race. Both are handicap Bills so the question raised by another noble Lord about handicap does not matter. I must express the opinion that my favourite is my noble friend's Bill. My main reason is support for the idea of a disablement commission which would not only deal with discrimination against some disabled people, but would keep a close watch on all the many aspects of society which affect the disabled. It also gives support to the disabled to fight for their own rights backed by legal powers to do so.
I was much impressed by an article in the Guardian last Tuesday headed "How to put muscle into a declaration of independence". I should like to quote from the final section:'There's a growth in the determination of disabled people to speak for themselves. There's so much needs changing that you can't but win if you select your issues and strategies carefully—and that will help the fence-sitters to see that the risks are worthwhile. The Government here should be afraid. When the disabled community get more and more organised, they will become a group that has to be contended with. You won't change everything in five years. But there will be a whole host of other problems if you don't plan now for change over the next 10 to 15 years.'It's better,' says Judy Heumann cheerfully, 'to have to fight, because that will never allow disabled people again to feel that the non-disabled are going to be nice to them. You get what you work for—even in a welfare state.'I would strongly support those words. They are blunt and straight to the point. In essence, what she is saying is that sympathy is not enough. We have had sympathetic noises in this Chamber this afternoon during this debate. But sympathy is not enough; that is why we should support these Bills. Friday is not always a good day for Private Member's Bills in another place but in this House we are capable of decision on the merits of a case irrespective of Government policy; and what is more we have no payroll vote, or, at least, only a very minute one facing us. We have quality, indeed, because all of us, except for the tiny payroll vote on either side, are voluntary workers. That is the essence and the strength of this Chamber.
My Lords, this House now has the opportunity to redress a grievance and to extend hope to the disabled. We have had many speeches today and I welcomed them, but the speeches are now nearly at an end. After 466 that, my Lords, let us take positive action in the direction of providing better justice for those handicapped where discrimination still exists—and we cannot fail to notice it even if some advocate voluntary action.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, there is no doubt, as the noble Earl himself said when he introduced this debate, that the primary issue before us is discrimination against disabled people. Understandably, it has aroused a great deal of controversy and interest over recent months. It is a very important issue and I welcome the opportunity that your Lordships have had to consider it in some depth. I have listened with a great deal of interest to the debate. It has been a very good debate, a balanced one and one that has been helped by much practical experience which has been aired by many noble Lords who have taken part. I should like particularly to pay a tribute to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy for introducing their Bills. As we have heard, they are very different in content but both have the interests of disabled people very much at heart. I am sure that all of us in this House share my very great respect for the very considerable contribution which both the noble Earl and my noble friend have made over the years towards improving the quality of life for disabled citizens in our society.
I must also congratulate most sincerely the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, on what was a most moving, caring. and excellent maiden speech. He spoke movingly and from personal knowledge. Not only do I share with him the fact that some of my school reports sounded rather like his and that I, too, am left-handed but I also share the hopes of all your Lordships that he will intervene again soon and often. I should also like to associate myself with the tributes that have been paid by the noble Lord, Lord Banks, and others to the late Lord Amulree. He will be very sadly missed.
My Lords, it is with some regret that I must take issue with several of the arguments put forward in favour of the Bills before us today. First, let me make it crystal clear that I am utterly opposed to discrimination against disabled people. I deplore it wherever it occurs and whatever form it takes. In saying that, I am speaking for the Government as a whole and for my party. I must say to my noble friend Lord Renton that I fully share the sentiments that he expressed about discrimination in the mental health field in the examples which he has quoted. As he knows, I have a particular responsibility towards the mentally handicapped. I deplore the sort of examples which he gave; but I think that the most appropriate way to try to change people's views is just the sort of method which is adopted in the cases he quoted.
Also, I share fully what I take to be the common aim behind both Bills; that is, breaking down the attitudinal, physical and financial barriers which often deprive disabled people of independence and the choice to lead the life they want to lead—the type of life which most of us take for granted.
Where the Government differ from those who have introduced these Bills is over the means to that desirable end. We believe that the difficulties which so many disabled people have to contend with are the 467 result of a whole variety of specific practical problems which require specific practical answers. These problems will never be removed by some sort of "catch-all" law. That was a point also made by my noble friend Lord Renton. We shall be deceiving not only ourselves but the millions of disabled people in this country if we pretend otherwise.
I will endeavour to show your Lordships that the Government have adopted a practical approach over the past years; one which has brought solid gains towards the attainment of our common goal. I think that was reflected to some extent in the remarks of my noble friend Lord Knutsford and also by my noble friend Lord Holderness. In fact, while the debate was going on. I counted up to some 69 different initiatives across all areas which have taken place between 1979 and 1983. I have to say that the measures before us today will not bring the attainment of that goal any nearer: indeed, in some respects they may make the task more difficult.
This is rather an unusual Second Reading debate, in that we have these two quite distinct Bills before us. The first, introduced by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, is extremely complex and far-reaching. The second is more modest and of quite a different character. I am sure your Lordships will understand, therefore, if I confine my remarks to what I consider to be the main principles, rather than attempting to cover the full scope of the proposals contained in these texts—although I shall try to answer particular points which have been put to me.
The noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, raised two points which do not fit neatly into any other part of my speech: namely, the question of the Braille guide to another place and the fact that there is not one available here. That point will almost certainly be borne in mind by those responsible for these things. The question of aircraft design was also raised. This is a subject which is particularly close to my heart. In my experience and I think many people would agree, the airline staff are efficient and extremely gentle in the way they look after disabled people and I do not think the right way forward is necessarily to redesign aeroplanes. However, I am sure that these points will be taken into consideration and borne in mind.
I should like to concentrate first on the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill. This has two quite distinct purposes. The first, as we have heard, contained in Part I, is to outlaw discrimination against disabled people and to establish a complex regulatory machinery—a disablement commission, with investigative, conciliatory and penal powers. Part II covers in the main the social service provision made by local authorities for disabled people and seeks broadly to strengthen the operation of Sections 1 and 2 of the existing Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act.
I have several grave reservations about Part II of the Bill. Certainly I am worried by the very considerable costs it would place upon local authorities, and they are worried too. A possible £30 million has been estimated for the cost of the surveys required under Clause 21 alone, but I am particularly concerned about the sheer impossibility, in practical terms, of the 468 tasks which would be imposed upon local authorities. For example, 13(1B)(b) would require an authority to assess a person's need and decide what arrangements should be made to meet it and notify the person, all within seven days of receiving the request. Clause 14(3)(b) would virtually require an authority to interrogate a disabled person about how he had spent his mobility allowance before deciding whether it could be taken into account for charging purposes.
However, it is the contents of Part I of the Bill which lie at the heart of today's debate. I do not want to make detailed drafting points but I cannot conceal some disappointment that the noble Earl, in producing this Bill, has not attempted to overcome some of the manifest defects which were highlighted when this very text was recently debated in another place. That was a point also made by the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, and she gave some examples. These are not just defects caused by faulty drafting. They reflect the fundamental problem of trying to achieve by legislation objectives which simply cannot be achieved in that way. All the basic definitions upon which the Bill ought to be founded—thedefinition of disability, or the areas which the Bill is to cover, the definition of the action or inaction in those areas which may constitute discrimination; all these vital concepts—are to be left to regulations.
I can understand the noble Earl's difficulties in overcoming these problems: to my mind, they cannot fairly and satisfactorily be defined in legislative form. That is a point of principle and not of drafting, and I think it would be wrong of me to give your Lordships the impression that these are matters which could easily be sorted out in Committee.
But there is another, perhaps even more important, principle to be considered. It would be wrong, in my view, even to contemplate setting up a new bureaucracy—possibly costing £3million a year—with far-reaching investigative and penal powers, and it would be wrong to subject people to the power of the courts, unless there was good evidence, both that genuine discrimination is widespread and that legislation is the best way to deal with it. The question of genuine discrimination is a point which was well brought out by my noble friend Lord Holderness when he made his contribution.
Frankly, that evidence is not apparent. The main source remains the report of the Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People, published last year. Yet CORAD's recommendation for legislation was not unanimous. I do not think any members of the committee could put their hands on their hearts and say that their survey provided conclusive proof of the need for it. And despite the strong views which I know many disability organisations hold on this issue, I believe many individual disabled people have grave fears that law would be counter-productive. This is something to which many of your Lordships who have spoken and who are disabled have alluded this afternoon—
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend will allow me to intervene before he moves on. This is most important. The only penal power for the commission is the very minor one that there is a 469 penalty imposed under Clause 6(c) for failing to supply information.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, I am grateful for my noble friend's intervention. Perhaps that is something which I can consider afresh; but I think I ought now to get on with the rest of my speech, because there is quite a lot to cover. Of course, the Government want to see what real evidence there is. The noble Lord, Lord Banks, raised the question of research into discrimination. We have looked at this, but we see considerable difficulty in designing an effective protocol. If, however, a researcher came forward with a proposal which seemed workable, we would certainly consider it. But one of the problems about research is the time it takes to get useful information from it.
My honourable friend the present Minister for the Disabled has continued the invitation by his predecessor, extended in another place in February this year, to receive notice of cases where there is evidence of discrimination. Perhaps I ought to say here that my honourable friend's remit covers the whole country. His remit, as I understand it, is not a statutory one, but if he wishes to bring about certain things in Scotland then he does so through the relevant department of the Scottish Office.
Only 21 cases have so far been received in response to the invitation, so one really cannot conclude that discrimination is widespread. But the cases have shown some very sensitive problems which are probably unique to the disability field, as opposed to the equal opportunities or race relations fields. I am thinking, for example, of differences in medical opinion over the effects of a person's disability, or the true balance to be drawn between improved access and safety in buildings. These are not problems which some grand law would easily overcome.
I have concentrated so far on what seem to be the negative provisions of this Bill as they affect discrimination: the penal and investigative aspects. I think I have made it clear that the Government do not support this approach. These negative provisions are perhaps those which distinguish it most from the second Bill introduced by my noble friend Lord Campbell. Both Bills, however, also share a common, more positive, concept: that of a disablement commission acting as conciliator and educator of public attitudes towards disability.
I can see the attraction of this more positive role. Indeed, the Government have always placed great emphasis on the value of education and persuasion. We believe that a great many of the problems facing disabled people are caused not by malice or prejudice but by lack of understanding or ignorance of their needs and, above all, of their abilities. But we have a duty to consider very carefully how necessary it is to establish a new statutory body to carry forward this vital work. It is bound to be costly; it is bound to be more bureaucratic; it is bound to divert resources away from other areas where such resources are badly needed. And one has to ask whether it will achieve more than is already being achieved in a variety of ways.
A disablement commission is the centrepiece of the second Bill under consideration, the Disabled Persons Bill, but its scope is more modest than that which is 470 envisaged by the noble Earl, Lord Longford. It is to consider in general the disadvantages experienced by disabled people and to look at the issue of discrimination, but it would have the particular task of keeping benefits and pensions for disabled people under continuous review. Clause 2 is, indeed, worded in such a way as to suggest this would be the major role of the commission. This echoes a similar Bill my noble friend introduced some years ago when he was a distinguished member of another place. If I recall correctly, that measure was defeated by supporters of the then Labour Government. I think, though, that he would be the first to concede that much has changed since then in the field of benefits provision for disabled people. The introduction during the 1970s of major new benefits, such as the mobility and attendance allowance and the non-contributory invalidity pension, are cases in point.
Furthermore, the need to keep benefits provisions under review is already well recognised through the work of the Social Security Advisory Committee which we set up to replace the National Insurance Advisory Committee in 1980. That committee has the job of advising the Secretary of State for Social Services on the discharge of his functions under various enactments. Its recently published report for 1982–83 contains a special chapter on benefits for disabled people which is well worth reading.
The proposed disablement commission would unnecessarily duplicate an important part of the work already carried out by the SSAC, work which has earned great respect. I fail to see how the commission would improve existing arrangements in this respect. On the contrary, the resultant duplication and confusion of roles could be a positive disadvantage.
The noble Earl, Lord Longford, referred to other countries—in particular he mentioned Australia—which have established bodies similar to that which he seeks to establish. One can argue about how effective these measures have been in improving the quality of life for disabled people. Certainly the South Australian legislation is still too young to be able to provide any firm conclusion but, as the South Australians openly concede, influencing and changing public attitudes does not happen overnight, even with such machinery. Whatever course we adopt, it will be a gradual process and one which is bound to cause frustration to disabled people, eager for more radical change.
When looking abroad, we should also ask ourselves against what background these bodies were set up. This was a point which the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, made in his speech. Was there a strong, well-organised, respected and vociferous voluntary sector? Was there legislation on the statute books such as the Disabled Person Employment Act, the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, the 1981 Disabled Persons Act and the 1981 Education Act? I think one would find that those countries were starting from a very different baseline in that respect. And it is worth asking why, of all the West European countries, which in many ways have more similar welfare and voluntary provision to our own, not a single one has opted for anti-discrimination legislation or a statutory body to look at discrimination.
As I have already indicated, the Government believe that the often severe difficulties disabled people 471 experience in participating to the full in the life of our society are the result of specific practical problems requiring specific practical solutions. To my mind, there is simply no sense in lumping together all these problems, calling them "discrimination", and then hoping that an anti-discrimination law or some new commission will solve them. Indeed, by concentrating on this very unsatisfactory, negative and ill-defined concept of "discrimination", I believe that attention would be distracted from the positive, practical approach which this Government have adopted and which I sincerely believe to be essential if we are to continue to make real advances.
Perhaps I may give your Lordships some examples of that approach in one or two areas which the wider discrimination debate has shown to be of particular concern to disabled people. I believe this will be helpful to those of your Lordships who may have gained the impression from today's debate and from elsewhere that no channels currently exist for the voice of disabled people to be effectively heard or their interests protected: and that no attempts are being made to increase awareness of their problems both in the Government and in public.
Perhaps I may first take the issue of access provision. No one denies the vital importance to disabled people of making buildings and facilities accessible. It was a central theme of the CORAD report and is the core problem in many cases of alleged discrimination. There are those of your Lordships who I am sure have bitterly frustrating personal experiences to relate, and who know how deeply frustrating and demeaning it is to be excluded from enjoying a film or play, going to a shop or participating in some other activity—even getting onto the road, in the way that the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, described—purely because they cannot gain access. Some would call this discrimination and would look to a commission, or ultimately the courts, to sort it out. But I would call it a severe practical problem, and one which is being worked on actively right across Government.
My own department recently announced its plans for an Access Committee for England, and preparations are now well in hand. It will be funded by the DHSS but will be based with a voluntary organisation, the Centre on Environment for the Handicapped, which has considerable experience in this field. I believe that this inititative will not only help bring about practical improvement over access but it will also encourage the participation of disabled people on matters which affect their lives and promote a general awareness of the problems they can face.
At the same time, the Department of the Environment is awaiting comments on its plans to amend building regulations. These plans would mean that for the first time, those who failed to make appropriate access provision in buildings to which the regulations applied would be potentially subject to the full sanctions of a breach of the building regulations.
The Department of Education and Science is also revising its design guidance on educational buildings in the light of the Department of the Environment's work. As an example of practical work on buildings for which the Government themselves are responsible, the 472 Property Services Agency has agreed standards for all new court houses to include full provision by way of access and toilet facilities for both disabled members of the public and disabled jurors. This was a point which the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, has raised.
One particular frustration which disabled people face is the difficulty of gaining access to cinemas, theatres, and so on, because they are told that fire regulations do not permit it. This was another point brought out by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, and by the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby. In response to one of the recommendations in the CORAD report, the Home Office is now intending to include guidance on access for disabled people in a national advisory standard on fire precautions in places of public entertainment. This is currently being prepared and will encourage fire and licensing authorities to adopt a liberal approach towards access matters. Guidance currently being revised on safety in cinemas will also refer to the relevant CORAD recommendations.
Of course, it is all very well to say that buildings and facilities must be accessible, but that is useless if people have not the mobility to reach them. To that end, the Government aim not only to make public transport more adaptable—for example, the Department of Transport's work on the design of the new London taxi in conjunction with Carbodies Limited—but to encourage development of alternative patterns of transport provision.
Perhaps this would be a suitable moment at which to refer to the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, on the orange badge scheme. She expressed concern about abuse of the scheme. The Government are determined to clamp down on such abuse, but I do not see why one needs an anti discrimination law to do that. We have existing legislation under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act and under other legislation, and there will be further regulations this year. Indeed, earlier this year the Government tightened up both the criteria for the scheme and the penalties for abusing the scheme.
The Department of Transport funds a small advisory unit which gives expert advice to voluntary schemes with special emphasis on the needs of disabled people. Worth mentioning in this context is the encouraging growth of Dial-a-Ride schemes. There are now 40 around the country with a further 20 in the planning stages. The Government are working, too, on development of facilities to test and assess disabled people who wish to drive their own cars, and this is in addition to the facilities that already exist at Banstead Place Mobility Centre.
My noble friend, Lord Swinfen asked about education and the integration of disabled children in ordinary schools. He asked what progress had been made on the Warnock Report, in particular in regard to integrating physically handicapped children in ordinary schools. Of course, many of the aims of the Warnock Report were incorporated in the 1981 Education Act. In order to pursue those aims, it is important for the teaching staff in those schools to understand the special needs, and that is why the Government have made £1 million available for training teachers on this. If my noble friend made any 473 other points that I have not picked up, of course I will, as he asked, write to him.
Perhaps of most interest to the context of this debate is the fact that disabled people are more closely involved in policy formulation at national level. In June this year my honourable friend the Minister of State at the Department of Transport set up a panel of advisers on disability to guide her department on the directions and priorities of its future work. All are experts in this field, and many are themselves disabled.
We believe that we have made solid gains in breaking down the physical barriers disabled people face on access. They complement the advances we have made in chipping away at the financial barriers through steady improvements to the benefits available to disabled people, despite difficult economic circumstances. I wonder whether at this stage I ought to go into those in any detail. I will certainly look at Hansard, and, if there are any particular points which need to be elucidated, I will, of course, do so, but I think that, in the interests of brevity, I will cut out the particular remarks which I had intended to make.
One cannot talk of the financial barriers (which I have not done) brought about by disability without reference to the vital importance of employment. This is something that I think I ought to cover. It is an area, of course, where the voice of disabled people has been represented for a very long time through bodies like the National Advisory Council on the Employment of Disabled People and the network of local committees on the employment of disabled people. It is also an area where legislation has been on the statute books for almost 40 years aimed specifically at protecting the interests of disabled people in employment. There are, incidently, lessons to be learnt from that for those who place all their hopes in the power of legislation to solve all problems. As the Manpower Services Commission demonstrated in its review of the quota scheme, it is mathematically impossible to achieve the 3 per cent. quota of registered disabled people. This was something which the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, mentioned. As he will know, there are insufficient people registered as disabled to fulfil the 3 per cent. quota.
The Government are only too well aware of the particular difficulties facing disabled people in the employment field. Of course, they, too, have been affected by the general employment situation, which no anti-discrimination law can wish away. But the Government clearly have a special supportive role here, and in 1982–83 the Manpower Services Commission spent an estimated £139 million on its wide range of services for disabled people.
Again, the main thrust of the Manpower Services Commission's policy is to concentrate not on coercion but on positive aspects, improving disabled people's skills, easing job placements through adaptations at work and advice to employers, putting the message across that disability is not inability, a point brought out so well by my noble friend Lord Holderness. That is the basis of the Fit for Work Award Scheme which my noble friend Lady Vickers mentioned, and the principal aim of the disablement advisory service now being set up following the MSC's thorough review of its services for disabled people.
474 The Bills we are considering today are clearly motivated by a concern to improve the quality of life of disabled people and to develop their opportunities to lead full and independent lives as active participants in our society. I share that concern, and it is reflected, as I have tried to show, in a great deal of Government activity across a wide front. I believe the practical approach we have adopted of seeking specific solutions to specific problems is bearing fruit, and I have indicated that I do not see the need to set up yet another statutory body in the disability field which will merely duplicate so much that already exists.
In particular, I must ask your Lordships, with especial reference to the measures proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, to consider very carefully whether an anti-discrimination law, with its costly bureaucratic and penal machinery and its emphasis on investigation and coercion, is really the way to advance the interests of disabled people, or whether it will simply divert efforts and resources away from the more positive approach adopted by this Government.
In drawing my remarks to a close, I have to make it quite clear that, while I understand the sincere motives behind these Bills, they are both unacceptable to the Government. It is not, however, my intention to divide the House against them, but should one or both receive a Second Reading then I think I must make it clear that the Government will not provide sustenance for them in any way at any further stage. Our policy remains as before. We have done much already to help disabled people; and where we can we continue to devise schemes to help even more. These schemes must be given a chance to work.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. They have spoken with a great deal of feeling and knowledge. I should like to thank the Minister for his answer. As always, he speaks most charmingly. Although his message was not in any way acceptable to me and to many others, no one could have put it more pleasantly. This is not a criticism; after all, I have been on the noble Lord's side in past years. But I hope that he will forgive me saying that he was inevitably reproducing arguments that were used by the Minister in another place. I say that for a particular reason. It gives me an excuse for not answering the arguments at length. They were in my mind when I made my introductory remarks.
I should like to join in what was said about three people—first, the late Lord Amulree, with whom I was in this House for many years. I was amazed to learn how old he was. He always seemed to me to get younger and younger. I always think of him as possessing a spirit of eternal youth. I join with my noble friend Lord Wallace of Coslany—and I am sure that all noble Lords would wish to do so—in sending a message to the noble Baroness, Lady D'Arcy (de Knayth). I understand that she was anxious to come to the House for the debate and that it needed all the guile of the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, to stop her. I am glad that she did not come, although I know she will be disappointed to have missed the debate and will be glad of my good wishes. Finally, I join with all the other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Earl, 475 Lord Attlee, on his maiden speech. I cannot remember any other speech quite like that. I remember when the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, made a speech about his mongol child years ago and how much effort, and how many whiskies and soda, that required. I do not know how many whiskies and soda this speech cost the noble Earl. It was a heroic effort and will give untold comfort and encouragement far and wide.
I shall not try to comment on the speeches in any detail. Naturally those on my side of the argument seem to me the more powerful. In saying that, I shall be told, "You would, wouldn't you?", to quote the phraseology of the famous lady. I shall not try to present an objective balance sheet.
I repeat my apologies to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, if I said anything that was in any way offensive to him. I should have had to set him right about the spastics, but that was done by my noble friend Lord Stallard. I notice that among the list of people who wrote to the The Times—which I quoted at the beginning, although I did not give the names—was to be found that of Joyce Smith, the chairman of the Spastics Society. I shall not repeat my offence by annoying the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, a second time. I merely repeat the apology.
I would just accept the thanks of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for removing any possible ambiguity in the language that I used. But I was glad to find that evil communications across the Floor seem to corrupt good manners, because I understand that the noble Lord fell into the same error by talking of penal methods. If I may put it with respect to the Minister, he and I were in danger of together earning the censure of the noble Lord, Lord Renton. It should be quite plain that the only remedy, except in the one case mentioned, is a remedy in tort.
If the noble Lord will allow me to say so, he paid a tribute—a very proper tribute—to the famous Brian Rix, secretary-general of the Royal Society for the Mentally Handicapped. I am sure that the noble Lord is aware that Brian Rix was one of the people who signed the letter, and so I do not know whether he had Brian Rix on his side of the argument.
I shall conclude in a moment or two, but I should like to refer to one important point which the Minister emphasised. Obviously he believes it very strongly, as do several noble Lords who have spoken, including some who are handicapped. In one way or another they have given the impression—and I think that it is the Minister's conviction—that this is not a very serious problem, that this discrimination does not go far and wide. My words are of no special value in this connection. So instead I shall repeat what I said at the beginning of the debate, and read a few sentences from a letter that appeared in The Times newspaper:We, all of whom have intimate knowledge of the prejudice and discrimination suffered by disabled people, implore Her Majesty's Government not to block the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons BillThose words are followed by a list of the names of a number of people, including those I have mentioned just now.
476 So I fear that I must say, with the greatest of respect, that neither the opinion of the Minister, nor mine, nor perhaps that of others in this House weighs very heavily on the question of facts. Is there or is there not discrimination against the disabled? Every opinion here counts for something, but in my view the opinion that matters is that of the organisations involved.
I would remind the House that, assuming I understood her correctly, the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, said that what we must do is encourage the voluntary bodies. Well, the people I have in mind are the voluntary bodies, and so we really must not regard them as idiots who know nothing of what they are talking about. They are the people who know best, and in the light of that I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.
On Question, Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.