HL Deb 06 March 1984 vol 449 cc211-31

7.25 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Campbell of Croy.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD HAYTER in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Constitution and proceedings of the Commission]:

Lord Kilmarnock moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 8, leave out ("four") and insert ("eight").

The noble Lord said: I think it might be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak also to Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 which are all part and parcel of the same purpose. Amendment No. 2: Page 1, line 9, leave out ("six") and insert ("ten") Amendment No. 3: Page 1, line 9, after ("members") insert ("(of whom not less than four shall themselves be disabled and whose various disabilities are those to which the Act applies) who shall be")

I have not previously spoken on this Bill. I was unable to be present on Second Reading so I could not, at that time, express my general sympathy for it, Despite that general sympathy, I have one or two reservations about the drafting. As at present drafted, the Bill makes no suggestion as to the composition of the Disablement Commission except in Clause 1(3) which specifies: Members of the Commission shall be appointed in their personal capacities and not as representatives of particular organisations.

This may be designed to ensure that organisations representing the disabled do not dominate the commission and there is no doubt a case can be made out for that. The noble Lord, as a former Secretary of State, doubtless has great experience in this field. However, if organisations are to be excluded as such, it would seem to me highly desirable that some disabled members should be included "in their personal capacities", to use the phrase in the Bill. I also believe that it is important that disability should not just be talked about but should be made apparent in the physical presence of disabled members on the commission.

The small size of commission, suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, in the Bill, while not making it impossible for the Secretary of State to appoint one or more disabled members, rather inhibits the choice from among the disabled and also the range of disabilities. The amendment would permit a membership of eight eventually to be picked by the Secretary of State and allow an equal balance between disabled and non-disabled. There are precedents for such an arrangement. As the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, will recall, there once existed what was called the Minister of Health's Advisory Committee on the Health and Welfare of Handicapped Persons. A number of handicapped persons served on that committee. It was disbanded in 1971 with the advent of the Personal Social Services Council; a much larger and more representative body with a much wider brief which accomplished a whole range of personal social services and which also included some disabled members. Regrettably, the Government in their first quango hunt killed off the PSSC along with a number of other perhaps less deserving bodies.

To many people "discrimination" is just a word embodying a concept which it is hard to pin down. Such people might find great difficulty in judging in what circumstances discrimination occurs and even greater difficulty in assessing what for the purposes of this Bill is termed "unjustifiable discrimination". Who better, therefore, in my submission, to serve as members of the commission than a few people who, because of their own disability and their experience, know exactly what discrimination against the disabled means and can assess whether or not such discrimination might be justified.

I want to be constructive. This is a matter of judgment. I am not claiming that I have the balance immutably right. But I hope very much that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, the promoter of the Bill, will think carefully about what I have said as it proceeds through its stages and perhaps be inclined to favour the amendment in some measure. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Croy

I think that it would be convenient if I spoke now to indicate what my intentions have been in the Bill. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, was speaking to Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 as well as to Amendment No. 1. I see that his first two amendments, which would have the effect of making the commission larger, are in fact related to his third amendment, which requires that at least four members of the commission be disabled persons. I have no difficulty in accepting amendments which would make the commission a bit larger. As I think your Lordships know, my intention had been that the commission should be small and inexpensive. A number of the objections which were raised on Second Reading and on other occasions were that people did not want a new large commission. Mine certainly is small, as in this Bill.

I would draw attention to Clause 1(3) which makes it clear that there is no question of the members of the commission having to be representative of the chief bodies in this field. Once you accept representation of the many bodies which are concerned and active, you would have claims which might bring the number to 30, 40 or more. In subsection (3) it is absolutely clear that it is to be a small commission, naturally with wide experience and ability, but not one which was trying to represent particular bodies.

I now come to Amendment No. 3. If the total number of members on the commission was to be eight, under Amendment No. 3 half that number would have to be disabled persons. That might well fit in. But to require at least four members—and half, if the commission is to have eight members—to be disabled persons places a restriction on the composition of the commission. In certain circumstances I believe that it would hamper the Secretary of State in achieving the best possible group of members.

We cannot now foresee the possible combination of talents and experience which might be available when the commission is being established. It could be that the Secretary of State and the country might have to lose the chance of an eminently suitable person who was available and prepared to offer his or her services being made a member of the commission because the quota of able bodied persons had already been used up. It there were to be a requirement such as that put forward, for at least four of the members being disabled persons—and from the drafting of the amendment they would have to be people with serious disabilities—I would suggest a figure of two rather than four. If at least two members were disabled, that should be enough to provide at least the practical experience which the commission would need. That would be particularly so if they were of different categories of disability, perhaps one a wheelchair person and the other a person with a quite different disability. But I think that to stipulate that at least four of the members have to be disabled persons would cause an unnecessary restriction.

I shall say no more now. When we come later to amendments concerning the membership of the commission I wish to say something about giving the Secretary of State and the other Ministers concerned as wide a discretion as possible to secure the services of the most suitable people and therefore get the best possible commission. But I think that to provide that as many as four members have to be disabled persons would perhaps be going too far.

Lord Ennals

I had hoped perhaps that the noble Lord. Lord Campbell of Croy, would have accepted the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock. I do not at all take his view that it would be a restriction on the Secretary of State. After all, on CORAD, of which Mr. Peter Large was chairman, roughly half the members—whether it was exactly half or slightly more I am not certain—were disabled people. In many organisations—and I am thinking epecially of Motahility—the contribution of disabled people and their various abilities are outstanding. The Secretary of State would have no difficulty at all in finding four people who would he representative of a wide variety of interests and different types of disability.

Lord Campbell of Croy

I was not suggesting that it would not be possible to have four disabled members. The Secretary of State may be able to appoint six or eight members who are disabled persons. I just say that in certain circumstances the provision might be restrictive. There is nothing to stop the Secretary of State from appointing a commission every member of which was a disabled person. But the restrictions might mean that in certain circumstances he could not achieve the best possible combination of talents and experience.

Lord Ennals

If the Committee wants there to be a rough balance between able bodied and disabled people, the best thing is to say so in the Bill. If the amendment was not accepted, it would he perfectly possible for whichever Secretary of State it is—and we shall come to an amendment on that in a moment—to appoint only able bodied people. I think that that would be a mistake. I hope that before we come to the Report stage the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, will he seen to find favour with the promoter of the Bill.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

I should like to speak briefly in support of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, as it reads at present. But I wonder whether otherwise there might possibly be a compromise. I think that in the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, when dealing with the representation of disabled people on committees, mention is made of the desirability of having members who are themselves disabled. I wonder how the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, would look upon that.

Lord Campbell of Croy

I should be very happy to accept that. As I have indicated, I should be happy to put down an amendment at Report stage in the terms of that of the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, but with the figure two rather than four, simply because once the provision is in the Bill it has to be followed. But there is nothing in the Bill to stop the Secretary of State from appointing four or more disabled persons if in his opinion that seems to be the sensible thing to do.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, exactly what powers the commission will have. I rather agree with him that one does not want to impose a limitation. If the commission's powers are to be quite strong, it might be important to have on it people with legal experience to sort out any problems. That is the point which I should like him to answer.

Lord Campbell of Croy

This point really comes up under Clause 2, but I entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, that there would certainly have to be at least one member of the commission—and probably more than one—who, among other things, had the legal knowledge to help the commission.

Earl Attlee

I should like to support my noble friend Lord Kilmarnock. The commission may have to look at important business, and with a small commission of only four or six members, there need only be illness, pressure of business or holidays and the odds would be against there being a sufficient number to carry out the business. That is all that I wanted to say.

Lord Campbell of Croy

If I may just recapitulate, I am pefectly happy to accept Amendments Nos. 1 and 2, which is the point that the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has just been speaking on, and I just have this reservation about putting in the fixed number of as much as four in Amendment No. 3.

Lord Kilmarnock

I am grateful to all those who have spoken and to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy,in particular. As I said in my opening remarks, this is really a question of balance and judgment. The noble Lord referred to greater restriction and to hampering the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State would undoubtedly get a great deal of advice on the formation of a body of this sort and he might in fact appreciate some guidance in the Bill.

I think the best thing to do—and I have listened to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, who says that he is prepared to bring forward an amendment at the Report stage—and the most practical thing for us to do would be for us possibly to get together and see whether we can agree a joint amendment in which possibly the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth), would also like to participate. I have also listened to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, on the CORAD Report. In those circumstances, I think it would be appropriate for me not to move Amendment No. 3, which is the amendment specifically concerned with the disabled members of the commission. But the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, has expressed his willingness to accept Amendment No. 1, and on those grounds I beg leave to move this amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Kilmarnock moved Amendment No. 2:

[Printed earlier: col. 211.]

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

Lord Campbell of Croy moved Amendment No. 4: Page I, leave out line 10 and insert ("the Home Department, after consultation with the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Social Services")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 4 standing in my name. Like my other amendments, this is to meet criticisms which were voiced at Second Reading and in discussions elsewhere. With this Bill, I am aiming to provide a more acceptable alternative to the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill which has been sponsored by the noble Earl, Lord Longford. Within reasonable limits, I would be prepared to put down amendments to meet substantial points that have been made. The other Bill did run into doubts and objections. For example, the question whether making discrimination illegal is the most practicable way of proceeding, given the difficulties of defining both discrimination and disablement. The Government have seen objections to the other Bill on that score and I share some of those objections. My object therefore is that this Bill should be a vehicle for making progress against discrimination, and disadvantages suffered in general by disabled people, which can command the widest support.

In the Second Reading debate, and in many of the talks which I have had with people concerned, there was a preference shown for the apppointing Minister to be the Home Secretary, and my first amendment brings that about. This is not simply a health subject but involves the rights and equality of disabled people and others, and humanitarian matters in general. The Home Secretry is the Minister who appoints the Equal Opportunities and Race Relations Commisssions. I have proposed that this be done in consultation with other Ministers concerned. I regard this as important, first because the Secretary of State for Scotland is the Minister for both home affairs and health in Scotland (the Home Secretary's writ does not run there) but he is not responsible for social security. On that, the Secretary of State for Social Services is responsible, both north and south of the Border.

There are aspects of the existing system of administrative devolution which must be kept in mind. This is best illustrated as follows. In the debate on the Second Reading of both Bills on 16th December, my noble friend Lord Glenarthur assured us that the Minister for the disabled had a mandate to cover the whole of the United Kingdom, and I was very glad of that assurance. However, during the International Year of Disabled People, when I was the chairman of the international year for Scotland, the then Minister for the disabled Sir Hugh Rossi announced, in a debate in the other place on 3rd July, a competition including a panel of judges which was part of the international year. From the reading of Hansard and the press reports, it seemed clear that everybody who took part in that debate thought that it covered the whole country but I was suspicious because I noted the judges all came from England. So I wrote to Sir Hugh Rossi on the 20th July 1981 and made inquires. Of course, I then received the answer that it applied only in England. Also in his reply he went on to say that because of the separate health departments, the separate finances for the health departments in Scotland, England—and I think Wales—in this case and in other cases he could only take initiatives and do direct dealings in matters affecting England although he could influence the other parts of the United Kingdom. I give that as an example because that is why the amendment which I am moving makes the Home Secretary responsible but requires him to have consultations with other Ministers who are responsible for home affairs and health in other parts of the country. I beg to move.

Lord Ennals

If it is of any relief to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, I shall support every other amendment that he has tabled, but I do not want to support this one. In fact, I want to put forward some arguments to seek to change his mind, although I must say that if the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, were to leap to his feet—which he has not been doing very much of in these debates—and to say that the Government would accept this Bill, because of the amendments tabled by the noble Lord Campbell, then of course I would immediately sit down and say that I would take anything if the Government would accept it. But there is no sign of the noble Lord leaping to his feet. So, in spite of the discussions that the noble Lord has had, quite clearly he has not managed to persuade his noble friend the Minister. So I think it is far better that it should he done by the Secretary of State for Social Services, though I fully agree that he should consult with the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales and, of course, the Secretary of State for the Home Office, and I would have thought with the other Government departments that have an interest. There are about nine other Government departments that have an interest one way or another in disabled people, such as the Department of Transport in connection with the organge badge scheme; the Department of Employment, the Department of Education—I need not run through the whole list. But of course he should consult as widely as possible, and maybe the noble Lord would think that it would he wise to have an amendment which says that he should consult. But we are looking at who should take the initiative, and if one looks at the role of the Secretary of State for Social Services, it seems to me that he is the most appropriate Minister.

Most of the provisions for disabled people are the results of DHSS initiatives. This is whether it is in the field of cash benefits, which later amendments will, I think quite properly, remove from the Bill; whether it is the assistance that is given by health authorities to disabled people often in their own homes and with particular types of equipment and aids; whether it is the provision of social service benefits and the assistance of social workers and again under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act the many forms of assistance that local authorities can provide, and if one also recognises that the Minister for the Disabled is of course a DHSS Minister.

The very fact that Sir Hugh Rossi got it wrong and made a boob is no reason why there should be an amendment. Certainly, in my day as Secretary of State for Social Services, when Mr. Alf Morris was the Minister for the Disabled, not only did he consult other Government departments, but he was also the chairman of the interdepartmental committee involving all the Government departments which, in one way or another, were concerned with disabled people. I am not so much in touch now with how things work in the department. Perhaps this would be a moment for the noble Lord to enlighten us. I hope however that that interdepartmental committee still operates and that it is not a form of quango that has been abolished, as was the Personal Social Services Council. One of the best ways to look at all the needs of disabled people is to have one person who is especially concerned and then to consult all the other Government departments which have a special interest.

I believe that I have certainly proved that the Secretary of State for Social Services, with his Minister for the Disabled, is in the best possible position to know the people who would best serve on the commission. It was to the Secretary of State that the CORAD committee reported, and, as I am certain the noble Lord will recognise, most of the initiatives that were taken during the International year were taken by the Secretary of State for Social Services. So I hope that there will perhaps be an amendment to ensure that there is maximum consultation with other departments. But I hope that if it is to be a choice between the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Social Services, it will be borne in mind that it is the Secretary of State for Social Services who has the natural responsibility for the welfare of disabled people in this country.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

In a way, I rather feel able to support the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, because I think that the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, has made a very good point in that he has illustrated that the present DHSS is not interested in disabled people; and sadly there are no Lords a leaping from the ministerial Bench. Perhaps if the responsibility lay with the Home Office—and I know personally the Home Secretary, who is an exceedingly hardworking person—disabled people in this country might he better off.

Lord Campbell of Croy

Well, I make no further comment on that at this stage. I am not surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, should be taking this line, because he was a distinguished Secretary of State for Social Services and he knows how much there is to be done in that department and no doubt he considers that this responsibility should lie there. But, certainly in the Second Reading debate, there were voices which suggested that the responsibility should lie with the Home Secretary in preference to the Secretary of State for Social Services. But the Secretary of State for Social Services was my first choice, and, indeed, my amendment was put down in order to bow to what seemed to be overwhelming opinion of another kind.

In case there was any misunderstanding, I must point out that what Sir Hugh Rossi was telling me at the time related to departmental budgets and the difficulties of moving money if there is a scheme with prizes which is going to cost money. I am sure that he was co-ordinating on committees and doing all those things. But when one gets to projects and schemes, one runs up against barriers that are no doubt set up by the Treasury. That is why I think, as the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, agrees, it is necessary to bring in other Ministers and ministries.

I do not know whether any other noble Lords wish to speak on the amendment; no other noble Lord seems to be rising to his feet. But if there is an objection from the Opposition Front Bench, I can certainly take away the amendment and think about it, since I could put it down again at the Report stage.

Lord Ennals

I was present during the Second Reading debate and I was not really aware that there was a mass of opinion saying, "We want the Home Secretary". I do not know whether the noble Lord can give any arguments in favour of it; he has not yet done so.

Lord Hylton

Before the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, replies, I should like to put a point to him. Clause 6 states that, This Act shall not extend to Northern Ireland though I now understand that that is being changed. It had made me wonder why the noble Lord wanted the Secretary of State to be consulted. I am delighted that the Bill is to extend to Northern Ireland, where there are many disabled people, where there is general poverty, and where needs are very great.

Lord Campbell of Croy

The question of the Bill not extending to Northern Ireland (which I propose to explain when we reach the relevant amendment) involved a financial matter, covering the question of pensions and benefits when, in fact, they were in the Bill. But that situation will not continue, since I hope that my amendment to extend the Bill to Northern Ireland will be passed when we reach it.

In view of what has been said from the Opposition Front Bench, I certainly will not press this amendment. I noted some comments made during the Second Reading debate. I have also had many comments from people who took part in the Second Reading debate, as well as from people who are concerned with the subject, who did not take part in the Second Reading debate, but who, in meetings upstairs and elsewhere, have told me that they would think the Bill better if the Home Secretary were the appointing Minister. In particular they referred to the Home Secretary's role (which I mentioned right at the beginning) with the race relations commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission, on the basis that this type of discrimination question comes into that kind of category. I shall not start an argument about that, and I think that at this stage the best course would be for me to withdraw the amendment so that I shall be able to talk about it to those concerned and then consider whether I should table it again at the Report stage. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Banks, is rising to his feet.

Lord Banks

I wish to say only a few brief words and to support what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, said when he described what took place during our Second Reading debate. I was certainly one of those who suggested that it might be better for the power to be exercised by the Home Secretary, on the very grounds that have been given by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell. On that day, since we were also considering the Bill brought forward by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, we were concentrating on discrimination and outlawing discrimination, and it seemed that there was a case for having all of the Government apparatus (if I may so call it) dealing with that under one roof and that it should be within the Home Office.

I believe that there is still a case for that, though this particular Bill is in a way divided between discrimination and disadvantages; and, of course, disadvantages go much further and may be linked to considerations other than those which moved us when perhaps we had the other Bill in the forefront of our minds. However, I think it is worth considering the matter further and bearing in mind the desirability of having all powers dealing with discrimination handled by the one Minister.

Lord Campbell of Croy

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.59 p.m.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth) moved Amendment No. 5: Page 1, line 15, after ("the") insert ("chairman and").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment was originally no more than a probing amendment to learn a little more about the kind of people whom the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, envisaged having on the commission. I put down the amendment long before the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, put down his amendment to extend the size of the commission. Under the Bill as at present drafted, only the deputy chairman has to be full-time, though the other members can be full-time. I feel that now that the commission is to be larger, perhaps we should have two full-time members, and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, will agree. I do not feel that one of them should necessarily be the chairman, though perhaps he would be the most suitable. I look forward to hearing what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, thinks. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Croy

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for raising this point for clarification. I think that it would be useful if, at this stage, I indicated the purpose of the Bill. I am perfectly willing to listen to views and to make changes. What occurs to me immediately is that an amendment which might be more suitable (and which could be tabled for the Report stage) would be one that proposed that the deputy chairman and one other member of the commission should be full-time, particularly in view of its enlargement. I should like to suggest that the chairman should not be tied to being a full-time member. It leaves the option open for securing the best available person and the widest choice. As the noble Baroness has indicated, there is nothing to stop it: the word "may" is there. The chairman could be full-time but there are technicalities which arise about full-time and part-time when members are appointed to Commissions of this kind. They have to give up all directorships, partnerships and other occupational and business interests. When that happens it eliminates some of the most suitable of the people who would otherwise be available—especially the younger ones.

I must remind the House that I was a Secretary of State who had to make many appointments to various bodies and boards, including chairmen. I found that when I had to try to find a full-time chairman—because the statute required him to be full-time—it was exceedingly difficult. The first 10 people suggested from all quarters had to be crossed off because they could not give up everything; they could give up good deal, but one or two things were their life and they could not give them up—even something which met only twice a month. So there are these technicalities which have the effect of removing well-qualified people from consideration.

I also add that in my experience I found it particularly difficult when it came to approaching women to be appointed as chairmen. I had a record of appointing quite a number of women as chairmen and members of bodies when I was a Secretary of State, but it was particularly difficult when it was a full-time job because many women could do a very good part-time job as members or chairmen but found it difficult when it was written into the statute as full-time, either because they had some interest which they could not give up or because they simply did not have the time to do what was described as a full-time job. Instead of excellent candidates in their forties or fifties, one very often had to rely for full-time chairmen on people who were retired completely and were in their late sixties or seventies. So I hope we will not put a restriction of this kind on a commission where we want to try to secure the best possible available group, including the chairman.

Lord Ennals

We are a hit short of executives. I entirely agree with every word of that former Secretary of State, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, for his full reply, and I totally appreciate his point about not wanting to limit the choice of chairman to someone who should be full-time because the best person may not he able to give his service full-time. I am glad he agrees that we can have one more full-time person, and I think his suggestion of putting down an amendment of "and one other" on Report is a very good one. I have no hesitation in withdrawing the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 1 stand part of the Bill?

8.4 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy

Perhaps I could just say something first on Clause 1 stand part. I see the noble Earl, Lord Longford, rising but I simply want to indicate that I am perfectly willing, as a result of representations that have been made to me, and also because of what was said in the debate I think by my noble friend Lady Lane-Fox, that one's mind should be open to the possibility of some existing body doing the job that is now set out for the commission and thereby not have to establish a new commission. Certainly some misgivings have been expressed about bringing into existence yet another new commission. I should point out that in the Bill the commission is a small and inexpensive body, even though it has been slightly enlarged by the amendments we have just made.

Provided that there is an existing body—perhaps a voluntary organisation which has been concerned with disabled people for 20 years of more—and it clearly has the resources, or resources specially buttressed for this purpose, I should like to indicate that I would not close my mind to that. But I must make this clear: if a voluntary organisation which is normally financed entirely by voluntary contributions were to be suggested, I feel most strongly that this part of its work should be carried out with grants from the Government. It would surely be wrong for the work of investigation and reporting on alleged discrimination to be financed by the haphazard system of responses to letters from appeal committees and similar arrangements with which many of us are familiar. This would be another way. It would be a less expensive way of making progress outside Government departments and offices than a new commission.

That is a very important point because I know the Government's attitude in recent times has been that the work of a commission can all be done within the Government machinery. I and others, I think, know only too well that many of the complaints of discrimination which come to us are about Government departments and Government offices, and there can never be complete satisfaction that such complaints can be seen to be investigated fully and with impartiality when it is done by the same Department or a sister Department. After all, that was the reason for the setting up of an ombudsman to look into the question of maladminstration.

I just want to make the point that if there is to be investigation by a body outside the Government machinery, and if there are overwhelming objections to a Commission, then I would be perfectly happy—but I think it would be less satisfactory—for some existing voluntary body (if it were really qualified to do it) to take on this task.

The Earl of Longford

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, very courteously refrained from criticising my Bill when it was going through the Committee stage, and I therefore feel the least I can do is to follow his example and remain as silent as the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur. I will make sure that on this occasion the best is not the enemy of the good. I think my Bill is better but I think there is a great deal to be said for the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Banks, pointed out, in some respects it would confer benefits on the disabled which are not covered in my Bill. All I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy is that I wish him well.

Viscount Ingleby

May I say a brief word here and ask the Minister this. When handicapped people experience difficulties or, indeed, something which they might call discrimination, does he feel that the existing channels of communication are adequate, bearing in mind his statement on Second Reading about the offer by the Minister for the Disabled to act as a channel in this regard? He stated that at that date only 21 enquiries had been received.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

; I should like to ask a question of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. Under this Bill, if there is an obvious case of discrimination—for example, not calling a disabled person for a job interview solely because he is disabled even though he is qualified with excellent references, and all other external factors are suitable—and if it is very obviously a case of discrimination, what would the commission do about it? If they attempt to conciliate and fail, what recourse does a disabled person have and what power has the commission?

I support the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, when he says that the Commission ought to be independent. So many voluntary bodies are worried about raising funds, and they spend so much of their energy raising funds and worrying whether they can carry on. As he has so rightly said, so many of the problems are right across the board with many different government departments being involved.

I have been attending the all-party disablement committee today and there was great concern from the Spastics Society because of the move out of the large mental institutions by mentally handicapped people into the community, where some local authorities and health authorities are not coming together and adequately planning this move. It is felt that there may be some very severe problems which need to be dealt with. The ghetto situation, which arises when the places where they are living are sometimes far from suitable, is becoming a problem. Therefore, more than ever before I think that there is a need for an independent commission.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Lord Glenarthur)

The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, need wait no longer for me to rise to my feet. I have been waiting for a suitable opportunity to speak on the Question, Whether Clause I shall stand part of the Bill. But the Committee will be aware, as my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy said, of the Government's position regarding the Bill. I stated it as clearly as I could during the Second Reading debate in December. That basic position has not changed. Of course my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy has himself suggested deleting some references to benefits and pensions, thus removing some obvious pieces of duplication between his proposed commission and the work of an existing body, the Social Security Advisory Committee.

However, the point remains that such a commission would be expensive to establish and run, and would duplicate work already going on elsewhere both in the voluntary and the statutory sectors. One of the most obvious examples is that of access. That is generally acknowledged to be one of the main causes of disadvantage suffered by disabled people, and would undoubtedly also be a major concern of a disablement commission, such as that proposed by the Bill. But a national access committee for England is being set up with funding from the Government, and is about to start its work. It would be more sensible to see what impact this has in tackling this major problem before establishing yet another national body.

In answer to the particular question raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, let me point out that there have been one or two further complaints since I spoke during the Second Reading debate on the Bill. I do not have the exact number; all I am able to tell him now is that there have been one or two. But the existing channel for communication is working well. My honourable friend the Minister for the disabled is well aware of many of the issues which have been discussed. Indeed, they have been discussed outside your Lordships' Chamber during the passage of this Bill and the Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Longford. In the light of what I have said about the Government's position as regards the Bill, I have to say to the Committee that I do not propose to comment now one way or the other on the amendments which have been proposed to it.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

Before the noble Lord sits down, I should like to ask him a question about the access committee which I wholeheartedly welcome and whose chairman I know. What will the access committee do when it is faced with matters of discrimination? I hope that it may tackle the problem of fixed rails at London Airport which stop any wheelchair-bound person using the facilities.

Lord Glenarthur

I had hoped that I had just explained to the noble Baroness that the access committee is being set up and is about to start its work. We shall have to see how it goes before I can answer the question which has been raised by the noble Baroness.

Viscount Ingleby

Will the Minister be kind enough to consider a little further the point that I raised? He mentioned that there have been one or two more inquiries, which I think would bring the total up to 22 or 23. On that evidence, surely the explanation for the fact that the Minister has only received 23 inquiries is either that disabled people are not suffering disadvantage or discrimination, or that disabled people do not feel that this is a satisfactory way in which to raise their difficulties?

Lord Glenarthur

I cannot really comment any more than I have already. I made the Government's position perfectly plain on Second Reading. We believe that the situation as it stands is the best way in which to cope with the problem. I shall certainly read the noble Viscount's comments; but beyond that I have nothing further to say.

Lord Ennals

I cannot say that I am disappointed with the noble Lord because I knew that he was going to be as negative as he has been. Of course one welcomes the access committee, but the supposition that the only disadvantages and discriminations that disabled people face are those of access, is one that I could not for a moment accept. However, I do not intend to proceed with an argument about that.

The figures regarding those who have registered with the Minister their concerns or their complaints, mean nothing. Indeed, I can add one further case to those figures, because I have just written to the Minister today enclosing a letter from someone else who made a complaint. But it is not normally to a Minister that people write, especially to a Minister who has many other functions. The Minister for the disabled is also the Minister for all sorts of other matters and he carries out his duties very well. But dealing with disablement is only a part of his job. Most people would not naturally write to a Minister if they were concerned. It may be that they think that the Government are not doing their job right. Thus there is advantage in having an independent body.

So, in general, I welcome the initiative taken by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell; but I have to say that in my view his is a pretty modest proposal compared with that of my noble friend Lord Longford. If one had to make a choice between the two Bills, I know that I would strongly support the Bill, as it has so far been amended, that has been moved by my noble friend Lord Longford. But if we have to find a fallback position, if the Government decide to use the same powers in another place as they used to prevent the same Bill getting a Second Reading, and if there is a possibility of this modest proposal coming through, then I would rather have a modest proposal than nothing at all. It is in that mood that I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, for bringing forward what I consider to be a long stop alternative.

Lord Campbell of Croy

I should like to reply very briefly to the points that have been raised. The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, raised a case concerning employment. In my opinion, in that type of case, if the person accused had legal proceedings brought against him, he would undoubtedly get off with a good lawyer—even with an adequate lawyer—because he would be able to plead various other reasons for not having employed the person concerned. The commission proposed under the Bill is limited to investigating, reporting—and the reports would be to Parliament—and to publicising, because the reports would be public. It does not try to bring the person concerned to a court, but in my opinion it would be more effective.

I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for the kind words which he said. Of course I should be very grateful if he did want to comment on or criticise the Bill. I maintained silence during the discussion on his Bill because the points that I am dealing with now were more appropriate to raise today.

I thank my noble friend Lord Glenarthur for again expressing the Government's attitude, which I do understand. However, there is one matter that I should like to raise. My noble friend referred to the access committee. I hope that I am not being mischievous when I state that I heard him referring to it as a national access committee established for England. That brings out my point, because my noble friend is briefed to tell us what is happening for England, but I want to hear what is happening for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well. The DHSS is the Health Department for England and this is the "Rossi syndrome" which I mentioned earlier.

But an access committee is not the same as a commission like the one proposed. The access committee will look into all the problems of getting into buildings for public use. To illustrate what I mean I will mention one point which I mentioned on Second Reading. As regards access, possibly the perpetrators of some of the worst obstacles in the country are churches of all denominations, because they have so many steps and difficulties. An access committee does not necessarily deal with discrimination; an access committee would be trying to find all the ways of improving access to churches in the most inexpensive way for the congregations, et cetera, but it would not start treating that as a matter of discrimination. Therefore, I see the role of the commission as quite a different one.

Of course, access is a matter that will arise in certain allegations of discrimination, but an access committee has very much wider work to carry out. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, will not mind my mentioning an event which took place when I was chairman for Scotland in the International Year for Disabled People. I am sure that she will correct me if I am wrong. During the year a ceremony was held in St. Paul's Cathedral and one of the administrative problems was getting the noble Baroness, in her wheelchair, into that cathedral for the service. There were no easy methods of doing so, and one has only to think of the front of St. Paul's to appreciate that. There were no easy methods round the back either. I give that as an illustration because certainly Sir Christopher Wren and others were not trying to discriminate against disabled people. However, that is the kind of thing with which an access committee would deal. It is not the kind of thing which I regard this commission as being brought into existence to deal with.

Lord Glenarthur

Before my noble friend thinks that I made his point rather better for him than he made it himself, he might like to know that the other three countries of the United Kingdom have already established access committees.

Lord Campbell of Croy

Thank you.

Viscount Ingleby

May I just inform the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, that there is now a splendid lift at St. Paul's?

Lord Campbell of Croy

I was aware that it was installed, I think as a result of the incident to which I referred.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 [Duties of Commission]:

8.23 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy moved Amendment No. 6: Page 2, line 8, after ("disadvantages") insert ("experienced").

The noble Lord said: This is a straightforward drafting amendment. Somehow in the printing of the Bill a word was omitted. This amendment would put it in. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth) moved Amendment No. 7: Page 2, line 9, leave out ("deliberate").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment would enable the commission to look at cases of unintentional discrimination as well as at deliberate cases. I think that we are all agreed that, in fact, 90 per cent.—and probably much more—of cases of discrimination stem from ignorance, thoughtlessness and lack of imagination. Very few people actually set out to discriminate against disabled people in the first place. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, himself said on Second Reading at column 421 of Hansard of 16th December 1983: 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".

However, in Clause 2(1)(a) the commission is to consider only cases of deliberate discrimination. From the debate at Second Reading when he was dealing with the noble Earl's Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, seemed to fear that the rural bus service would rapidly disappear and that the churches would become impoverished if they had to be made accessible. But I do not think that he need have worried because there was, of course, the concept of "reasonableness" written into the noble Earl's Bill, and we see that my noble friend Lady Masham is seeking to embody the concept of "reasonableness" in this Bill with Amendment No. 11.

I must also be honest and make it clear that, like the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, I prefer the Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Longford. We are in this very difficult situation of both Bills going through the House at the same time. But in case the noble Earl's Bill fails, I think that we must strengthen the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell.

There are many cases of unintentional discrimination that should and can be rectified. There is the example of guide dogs not being admitted to restaurants under the no-pets rule. This is really due to lack of understanding about the way in which guide dogs behave in restaurants, which is not like other dogs. There is the pedestrianisation of shopping areas, which can be a boon to the wheelchair disabled and also to the ambulant disabled if there are parking places provided nearby, but otherwise can turn these areas into a nightmare of inaccessibility.

With a bit of thought, such problems could easily have been solved in the first place. Bearing in mind that it is only unreasonable behaviour and barriers about which we are talking, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, will think that he can accept this amendment. I beg to move.

Viscount Ingleby

I should like to support this amendment. Like the noble Baroness, I think that the vast majority of cases of discrimination are not deliberate.

Lord Campbell of Croy

It would perhaps save time if I spoke immediately. For myself, I see no difficulty about accepting this amendment, but, in reply to the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy, who moved it, I must explain that subsection (1)(a), which was to consider disadvantages experienced by disabled people, was meant to cover the kind of discrimination which is intentional, because I wanted the discrimination to be looked into here to be those forms of discrimination which appear to be deliberate.

I am, in the hands of your Lordships' Committee as to whether or not to accept this change. I note that in Amendment No. 11 the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, has proposed a definition of "discrimination". I think that we should take that into account as well. However, I should he satisfied to accept the amendment which is now before us, though I should be perfectly ready to listen to any views expressed in the other direction.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

I am delighted to hear the noble Lord's words because, although it is a very small amendment, it is really quite important and I think it strengthens this Bill a great deal.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Campbell of Croy moved Amendment No. 8: Page 2, line 12, leave out paragraph (b).

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this amendment and with it I suggest that Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 might be considered. Amendment No. 9: Page 2, line 16, leave out ("under paragraphs (a) and (b) above"). Amendment No. 10: Page 2, line 36, leave out from ("1970") to end of line 40.

Amendment No. 10 has a star against it, but it has been down for several days. It is simply that, unknown to me, the form has been changed. It makes no difference to the words that are taken out. When I first presented a Bill on these lines in another place after I had been successful in the annual ballot there, the question of pensions and benefits was a most urgent subject. Since then, and, felicitously, when I was a member of the Cabinet in the early 1970s, the principal allowances for disability were introduced. So, while there is still a need for these matters to be kept under review, I do not believe that they need be in this Bill.

There is also now an advisory committee in existence, and this brings me to a further point. If your Lordships' Committee agrees with me on this and believes that the advisory committee can cover the whole area, then personally I should be ready to drop subsection (2) of Clause 2 as well. That would mean that the commission would not have any responsibilities for looking at the financial emoluments of disabled people. However, I should prefer to hear the views of the Committee before proposing to table that amendment before the Report stage. If I was satisfied that everybody agrees that the advisory committee should and can do all this work, then that would be an amendment which I should add to these that I am moving today. I beg to move.

Lord Kilmarnock

I was about to suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, that, if he removes subsection (1)(b), as I think he rather implied, in fact, subsection (2) is also unnecessary, and perhaps the whole of Clause 3 as well. I must confess that I think the Bill is running into difficulties here. I understand the noble Lord's thinking that the Social Security Advisory Committee has been established and is already keeping under review all pensions and benefits for disabled persons. If the noble Lord wants to go down that road, and if he is going to rely on the SSAC, it seems to me logical that he will need to drop subsection (2) of this clause and also Clause 3, which also becomes superfluous.

Lord Campbell of Croy

As regards subsection (2), that is what I was suggesting, but not Clause 3. Clause 3 is an important clause, which requires the Secretary of State within one month to place before Parliament reports which would be made under what is at present paragraph (c) in Clause 2.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Campbell of Croy moved Amendment No. 9:

[Printed earlier.]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 2, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Ennals

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, will take out subsection (2) when we come to Report stage. Any reference to a review of the pensions and benefits is inappropriate in the Bill.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

Before the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, replies, may I say that I was delighted to hear a, "Content" from the Government Bench—from the noble Lord, Lord Lyell—which was so nice.

Lord Campbell of Croy

On Clause 2 stand part: that was a voice from the Opposition Front Bench that I was glad to hear in favour of dropping subsection (2), which is what I was asking for opinions on. I shall certainly be tabling an amendment to take out subsection (2) at Report stage. The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, asked me a question about functions of the commission which I said would be more appropriate for Clause 2 stand part, but I think I answered her question when she raised the case concerning employment. Therefore, I do not think that we need pursue that again.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Interpretation]:

Lord Campbell of Croy moved Amendment No. 10:

[Printed earlier.]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Masham of Ilton moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 2, line 36, at end insert— (" and () "discrimination" against disabled people means imposing conditions which will adversely affect them to an unreasonable extent.")

The noble Baroness said: During 1970 when Members of both your Lordships' House and another place were working together in a committee on the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Bill I showed the Bill to my noble kinsman, the late first Earl of Swinton. Some of your Lordships may remember the noble Earl, as I do, as a Member of your Lordships' House with immense parliamentary experience and having a clear, legally trained mind. The noble Earl said that the Bill should have a definition of "disability". I took that message to the committee, who agreed, and a definition was incorporated.

I find that in this very reasonable Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, "discrimination" is not defined. Therefore, I bring before your Lordships what I hope your Lordships will agree is an amendment which will benefit the Bill. I feel that it is useful to have "discrimination" defined, as I hope it brings with it a message that I believe to be the wish of everyone, disabled people and able-bodied people alike, that we should all work together to smooth our problems and help these unfortunate people who sometimes feel that the difficulties of life, because of their disabilites, are so great that the odds against them are insurmountable. I beg to move.

Viscount Ingleby

I should like to support this amendment. It seems to me to be admirably clear and simple. May I also express my preference for the phrase "handicapped people" rather than "disabled people".

Lord Campbell of Croy

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, for having raised this matter. I remember her noble kinsman the late Lord Swinton, and I would regard his advice as very wise advice, but in these situations I have often received legal advice which conflicts. It is a good thing to have a definition in some cases, but in other cases it is much better not to have a definition where the subject is a difficult matter to define.

I think I rather prefer to have a definition, having seen this one. It was circulated to me only yesterday, but I have been able to get some quick advice from at least one legal mind in your Lordships' House. He said that he could not be here at this moment but he is interested in these matters, and he thought that this looked a good definition. I agree to it in principle, but if there is any question of the word "handicapped" going in instead of "disabled" I should like to suggest that perhaps we leave it to Report stage, when there will have been more time to get some advice on the exact wording.

Baroness Darcy (De Knayth)

May I say a few words here, because I totally support my noble friend on the principle. I think it is necessary to define "discrimination" and to embody the concept of "unreasonableness". However, I am not sure whether she would cover all the aspects of discrimination. Indeed, I do not think that she would cover the instance she gave earlier where the disabled person was discriminated against when applying for a job. I do not think it covers the circumstance where a disabled person is treated less favourably than an able-bodied one would be in identical circumstances. Therefore, I hope that she might reconsider the wording of this amendment.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken and given advice. With the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, and others I shall take it away and try to get something of satisfaction to everyone, and to see that it covers everything that is necessary. What I wanted to do was to keep it simple because this is a fairly simple, straightforward Bill and I did not want to complicate it. I shall certainly do that, and I have pleasure in withdrawing this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6 [Short title and extent]:

Lord Campbell of Croy moved Amendment No. 12: Page 2, leave out line 42.

The noble Lord said: I am advised that there is no difficulty with the Bill as amended, and, in present circumstances, in extending it to Northern Ireland; and that is the effect of this amendment. I know it will give pleasure to the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, who raised as his only objection to the Bill at Second Reading that it did not extend to Northern Ireland. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule [Constitution of the Disablement Commission]:

On Question, Whether the schedule shall be the schedule to the Bill?

Lord Campbell of Croy

As there is nobody speaking to the Schedule, may I simply thank all who have taken part in this Committee stage and made such contributions to improving the Bill. May I say to my noble friend Lord Glenarthur that I hope that when the final version appears, after all this assistance, it will commend itself to the Government.

Schedule agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the amendments.