HL Deb 06 November 1995 vol 566 cc1581-94

3.21 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish)

My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons reason and amendments be now considered.

Moved, That the Commons reason and amendments be now considered.—(Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


[The page and line refer to Bill (54) as first printed by the Lords.]


30 Clause 12, page 9, leave out lines 26 to 28 and insert—

("( ) For the purposes of this Part, references to a service provider who discriminates against a disabled person shall include references to a service provider who—

  1. (a) treats a person who has a physical or mental impairment that does not have a substantial and long term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day to day activities, as having a substantial and long term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day to day activities;
  2. (b) treats a person who does not have a physical or mental impairment as having a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day to day activities.")

30A The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason—

Because the definition of discrimination in Part III of the Bill should not be widened to include treatment of a person who is not disabled or whose condition does not have a substantial effect.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 30, to which the Commons have disagreed for the reason numbered 30A.

The amendment seeks to extend the coverage of Part III to people who are not covered by the definition of disability in the Bill, either because they do not have a disability or have only a mild disability, but who are "treated" by service providers as if they were disabled.

The Commons have now considered this amendment and have disagreed with it, Because the definition of discrimination in Part III of the Bill should not be widened to include treatment of a person who is not disabled or whose condition does not have a substantial effect". I urge your Lordships to agree with the Commons.

Over the past year, we have consistently emphasised that the Bill is concerned with discrimination against people who are or have been disabled. It will not provide protection for all those who may be discriminated against. The definition the Bill uses is therefore a clear one: it covers people who are disabled in common sense terms.

Any attempt to widen its scope to include those who are merely thought to be disabled would dramatically reduce the Bill's effectiveness. I am convinced that service providers will respond positively to the legislation, but we will have to carry them with us. Vagueness and uncertainty will not do. They must be clear about what their obligations are, who has rights and who can take them to court. What they would fail to understand, and in many cases refuse to accept, is a Disability Discrimination Bill which sought to protect people who were not and never had been disabled. The success of the legislation rests on its credibility and public acceptance of it. This amendment would raise enormous questions of principle which might fatally undermine that acceptance.

And what about the burden on service providers, upon whom the successful implementation of Part III depends? We must remember that discrimination against disabled people is not like discrimination on the grounds of race or sex. It introduces the concept of reasonable adjustment—taking practical steps to make jobs or services accessible. Covering non-disabled people and those with minor conditions would result in an unacceptable degree of uncertainty on the part of the service provider. He would never know for certain whether a customer was someone for whom some form of adjustment was necessary; for example, a change to a policy or practice which made access unreasonably difficult. This would create a considerable burden for a small business trying to come to terms with its duties under the Act.

I do recognise that there may be concerns over people whose impairments have only a minor effect on their normal day-to-day activities. But it is hardly likely that service providers will treat people with an impairment which has substantial effects fairly but discriminate against those with a milder form of disability without substantial effects. That is not the way in which commercial enterprises operate. When they overhaul an existing policy or practice, they seek to create a consistent new approach which minimises needless distinctions and rules. The Government have pointed out frequently that the Bill will prompt people to reconsider their attitudes. Their duties to disabled people will produce new non-discriminatory business practices from which everybody stands to benefit. However, this change of attitude depends crucially on public acceptance of the basic purpose of the Bill—to deal with the genuine discrimination and disadvantage suffered by people with substantial disability.

Furthermore, let us be sure about the degree of disability covered by the Bill's definitions. "Substantial" disability does not mean severe disability. The word "substantial" is used in the definition to indicate an effect which is more than minor. As a result, I believe that many disabled people, who may think the Bill does not cover them, will find that they enjoy its protection. This will become clearer once we have published guidance on the definitions.

Perhaps I may turn for a moment to some of the consequences of the way in which the amendment has been drafted. First, the amendment removed the subsection which makes victimisation unlawful under Part III. I feel sure that that must have been an error on the Opposition's part. The prohibition of victimisation against those who have, for example, given evidence in court in support of a disabled person who had been discriminated against is an important element in the Bill and corresponds to a similar provision in race and sex legislation. In fact, one could argue that the provision is all the more necessary in disability discrimination legislation because the victims will often be amongst the most vulnerable in society.

That is not the only serious drafting problem. The amendment also has the effect of creating a new definition of the word "discrimination" which applies to non-disabled people. This means that the vital elements in the existing definition do not apply in this context; for example, there is no requirement that the treatment must be "less favourable". It could mean that a service provider who merely offered to help an apparently disabled customer could be committing an unlawful act. In other words, it might operate to outlaw favourable treatment.

Perhaps more importantly, the provisions allow no scope for justification. If the service provider treats a non-disabled person in the way described in the amendment, he has discriminated and—in legal terms—he is strictly liable. There is no scope for him to say there was a perfectly justifiable misunderstanding, for example, or that the treatment would have been fully justified and therefore lawful if the person had been disabled. That is not a protection: it is a ludicrously unreasonable burden which it has never been suggested should apply even in the case of people who are genuinely disabled. Those effects may not have been intended, but they mean the amendment is fundamentally flawed. They are further reasons why we cannot afford to allow the amendment to remain on the face of the Bill.

The amendment is misconceived in intention and would be damaging in effect. I urge the House not to insist on it.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 30 to which the Commons have disagreed for the reason numbered 30A.—(Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, we on this side are doubly sorry that the Government overturned this amendment in the other place. Basically, it is a sound amendment but I am perfectly willing to accept that, as the Minister explained at some length, it may have been flawed. However, given that the amendment was supported by your Lordships in Committee, the Government had Report stage and Third Reading in this House, as well as the opportunity of amendments in the other place—three occasions—on which they could have amended it had they seen fit. Therefore, that is not a substantive objection.

Why is the amendment sound? Without it, someone may not be discriminated against if they are disabled, but they may be discriminated against if they are thought, wrongly, to be disabled. We believe that that is perverse. Perhaps I may give two simple examples.

First, a publican may not refuse service to someone who has epilepsy, but if he thinks, wrongly, that that person has epilepsy he may discriminate against him and not come within the law. Secondly, a publican, cinema owner, or whatever, may discriminate against someone who is severely deaf. If, however, that person is merely wearing a hearing aid and the publican thinks, nonetheless, that that implies severe deafness when it does not, the publican may discriminate and does not come within the framework of the law.

The difference between us is that the Minister is focusing upon the issue of disability while we on this side are focusing upon the question of discrimination. We believe it perverse that a person may not discriminate against someone with a severe or substantial disability but may discriminate against someone with a minor or a falsely believed disability. That is equally offensive. It is the first reason for being sorry that the Government have seen fit to overturn the amendment. They are left in a perverse position.

The second reason is a more general one. The Bill started on a negative note. It started because the Government resisted and rejected the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. So the opening of this round of debate was on a negative note. To our sorrow, it has closed on a negative note. When the Government vetoed the amendment, the last words the Minister spoke in another place were to ask for the rejection of an amendment that disabled people wished to have. It is churlish and grudging that the Government's last word on this matter in the other place should have been to negative an amendment, something which we, at this stage, can do nothing but acquiesce in.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, if the amendment were accepted, a provider of goods and services would be offending against the new law if he were to discriminate against someone who was thought to be disabled but in fact was not, or against someone with only a slight disability who would not fall within the definition of the Bill. Virtually everyone concerned agrees that there must be a definition of "disability" for the purposes of the Bill. That includes in the Bill people who have had a recognised degree of disability in the past which might recur. It would be going too far to include people who are not disabled but are merely perceived to be so. A whole range of people and cases having little connection with real disablement would come within the terms of the Bill.

My understanding is that the Bill was never intended to deal with discrimination of all kinds. It is directed towards disabilities of significant handicapping kinds. It is indeed the first measure in this field ever to be introduced by a government in this country. It is not a general anti-discrimination Bill. There is another relevant consideration. I have had the privilege of associating with people with disabilities and organisations concerned with disablement for 50 years, ever since I sustained a physical disability in World War Two. Over that long period, I have come to know severely handicapped people who make light of their personal difficulties and manage cheerfully and skilfully to cope with life. They deserve our admiration.

At the other end of the spectrum, however, there is a minority of citizens under the delusion that they are suffering from disabilities when there is in fact little wrong with them. There are hypochondriacs in disability as well as other medical conditions. This addition to the Bill would be an invitation to some of them. It could become a charter for such hypochondriacs.

The amendment would apply only to Part III relating to goods and services. There was debate at the beginning of our Committee stage on 13th June on amendments to introduce perceived disablement into the definition. Those amendments were withdrawn after full debate. Later that day, an amendment worded similarly to this one, but applying to Part II of the Bill on employment, was not moved as a result of the debate. The amendment to Part III was the result of an unusual Division at about 9 p.m. on 15th June when voting was 94 for the Opposition and 50 for the Government. The Government were clearly caught napping on that occasion.

It was a well organised operation on which I congratulate the Opposition Front Bench. It was good clean fun. From a seemingly empty House, numbers of Opposition Peers materialised from nowhere late in the evening. I have taken part in similar episodes when I was in opposition in another place, also with success. So I appreciate and can admire a skilful exercise of that kind.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, is the noble Lord saying that some votes are more real than others?

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, not at all. The noble Baroness has been on the Opposition Front Bench for a long time. She must remember many Divisions after 9 o'clock in the evening when figures of 94 were not registered because no one was expecting such a Division. I have the Division List with me. I could read out some of the names, but I do not want to bother the House now. Noble Lords can look them up for themselves. On 17th June they will see the names of people who do not often appear here after 9 o'clock at night. I say, with admiration, that it was a well-organised operation.

The amendment was successful while equivalent amendments to other parts of the Bill were not even pressed to a Division. This left inconsistent definitions for different parts of the Bill. The amendment happened to be the beneficiary of an unusual Division. It applies to part of the Bill only and is inconsistent with the definition applying to the rest of the Bill which was not put to a vote. The Government were right to advise reversing it in another place and to propose that we should now agree with the Commons in their view.

Lord Addington

My Lords, the fact that the amendment was accepted by a surprise vote late at night, as the noble Lord said, does not matter very much. The fact is that the Opposition won the vote. If every time we disagreed with noble Lords on the Government Benches we were to have a Division, we should not have had a summer break and would still be going through the Division Lobbies. We have to be selective when choosing when to make a stand.

Regardless of technical deficiencies, the amendment's aim was to introduce a wider definition of disability as a whole. The Government said that they did not want that but that they wanted targeting. We have heard a great deal about targeting and resource allocation. We have it again in the Bill.

The amendment's aim was to ensure that discrimination in itself was seen to be something that was wrong. Surely, every opportunity should be taken to achieve that. That is why I have no reservations about opposing the Commons. I understand, however, that it is not the opinion of the Benches to my left that we should do that. Therefore I am reluctantly forced to back down.

Lord Ashley of Stoke

My Lords, I had not intended to speak because we are not pursuing this issue, as the Minister knows. It is a bit rich for the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, to talk about unknown and unfamiliar faces voting on this side of the House when that happens every day on practically every vote on that side of the House. It is a bit rich for the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, to make that accusation. It is staggering. He was selective in saying that votes we win really do not matter while votes that they win do. That is an odd version of democracy. He is in the wrong country to be putting forward that kind of view.

More seriously, the defeat of this amendment means that even with a Bill about discrimination it will still be legal to discriminate against people who are perceived to be disabled when they are not. That is absurd. Written into the Bill is a provision that no undue burden should be placed upon the providers of goods and services. Given that provision, which we accept, and indeed which we advocated, I do not see why the Government cannot accept the amendment because it would be a reasonable provision. I am sorry that the amendment cannot be accepted.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I am glad that the amendment was not accepted because it widened the Bill far too much. Instead of the Bill having the effect that we all wanted—that is, really helping disabled people—it would have produced a counter-reaction from people who thought that it was unreasonable. I refer in particular to self-perception, not merely to how others perceive one. In our debates we discussed how one might perceive oneself. I know many people who have unfortunate perceptions of themselves and who, under the Bill as it would have been worded as a result of the amendment, might have been able to bring cases and cause a great deal of hostility towards the Bill. Therefore, I am in favour of the amendment being refused by the Commons.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, in Committee I was not in favour of the amendment because it is impractical. I am glad that the Government have reversed it in another place. If the amendment remained it would not do the Bill any favour. This is the first piece of legislation in this country relating to disability discrimination and we have a great deal to learn about it. I believe that the question of perceived disability is extremely difficult to deal with at this stage and I prefer it to be left out of the Bill.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate. I am grateful in particular to my noble friend Lord Swinfen who takes a great interest in these matters. He clearly underlined the distinction that I tried to make on a number of occasions during the various stages of the Bill. It was that the Bill is not a general discrimination Bill, as the noble Lords, Lord Addington and Lord Ashley, would prefer, but it is a disability discrimination Bill. With the backing of many of your Lordships, I and the Government are intent on trying to prevent discrimination against disabled people. We believe that the amendment before us would widen the Bill to such an extent that it would be almost impossible for the ordinary person, the ordinary service provider, to apply the definition. As I said, this is not a general discrimination Bill but a Bill about discriminating against disabled people. For that reason, I hope that your Lordships will not insist on your amendment.

On Question, Motion agreed to.


43 Clause 18, page 15, line 5, at end insert—

("(2) For the purposes of this section, treatment is justified only if—

  1. (a) in A's opinion, one or more of the conditions mentioned in subsection (3) are satisfied; and
  2. (b) it is reasonable, in all the circumstances of the case, for him to hold that opinion.
  3. (3) The conditions are that—
  4. (a) in any case, the treatment is necessary in order not to endanger the health or safety of any person (which may include that of the disabled person);
  5. (b) in any case, the disabled person is incapable of entering into an enforceable agreement, or of giving an informed consent, and for that reason the treatment is reasonable in that case;
  6. (c) in a case falling within section 16(3)(a), the treatment is necessary in order for the disabled person or the occupiers of other premises forming part of the building to make use of the benefit or facility;
  7. (d) in a case falling within section 16(3)(b), the treatment is necessary in order for the occupiers of other premises forming part of the building to make use of the benefit or facility.

(4) Regulations may make provision, for purposes of this section, as to circumstances in which the condition mentioned in subsection (2)(a), or that mentioned in subsection (2)(b)—

  1. (a) is to be taken to be satisfied;
  2. (b) is to be taken not to be satisfied.
  3. (5) Regulations may make provision, for purposes of this section, as to circumstances (other than those mentioned in subsection (3)) in which treatment is to be taken to be justified.")

The Commons agreed to this amendment with the following amendment—

43A Line 22, leave out from 'which' to end of line 25 and insert—

  1. (a) it is reasonable for a person to hold the opinion mentioned in subsection (2)(a);
  2. (b) it is not reasonable for a person to hold that opinion.'.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 43A to Lords Amendment No. 43.

This amendment restructures subsection (3) of Clause 18, one of the provisions relating to premises in Part III of the Bill. The key element of a justifiable refusal to sell or let property to a disabled person is not simply that one of the conditions set out in subsection (3) is met but that it is reasonable for the landlord to hold the opinion that one of the conditions is satisfied. An example of this could be if a landlord thought that a prospective tenant with a mental disability was not capable of understanding the terms of the lease. This amendment makes the clause consistent and coherent regarding the concept of reasonableness and the part that this plays in any justifiable refusal to sell or let premises. It makes this section of Part III consistent with the right of access to goods and services. I commend the amendment to the House.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 43A as an amendment to Lords Amendment No. 43.—(Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

3.45 p.m.


50 After Clause 22, insert the following new clause—





.—(1) The Secretary of State may make regulations ("taxi accessibility regulations") for the purpose of securing that it is possible—

  1. (a) for disabled persons—
    1. (i) to get into and out of taxis in safety;
    2. (ii) to be carried in taxis in safety and in reasonable comfort; and
  1. (b) for disabled persons in wheelchairs—
    1. (i) to be conveyed in safety into and out of taxis while remaining in their wheelchairs; and
    2. (ii) to be carried in taxis in safety and in reasonable comfort while remaining in their wheelchairs.

(2) Taxi accessibility regulations may, in particular—

  1. (a) require any regulated taxi to conform with provisions of the regulations as to—
    1. (i) the size of any door opening which is for the use of passengers;
    2. (ii) the floor area of the passenger compartment;
    3. (iii) the amount of headroom in the passenger compartment;
    4. (iv) the fitting of restraining devices designed to ensure the stability of a wheelchair while the taxi is moving;
  2. (b) require the driver of any regulated taxi which is plying for hire, or which has been hired, to comply with provisions of the regulations as to the carrying of ramps or other devices designed to facilitate the loading and unloading of wheelchairs;
  3. (c) require the driver of any regulated taxi in which a disabled person who is in a wheelchair is being carried (while remaining in his wheelchair) to comply with provisions of the regulations as to the position in which the wheelchair is to be secured.

(3) The driver of a regulated taxi which is plying for hire, or which has been hired, is guilty of an offence if—

  1. (a) he fails to comply with any requirement imposed on him by the regulations; or
  2. (b) the taxi fails to conform with any provision of the regulations with which it is required to conform.

(4) A person who is guilty of such an offence is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

(5) In this section—

but does not include a taxi which is drawn by a horse or

other animal.")

The Commons agreed to this amendment with the following amendment—

50A Line 49, at end insert the following clause—

'Designated transport facilities.

.—(1) In this section "a franchise agreement" means a contract entered into by the operator of a designated transport facility for the provision by the other party to the contract of hire car services—

  1. (a) for members of the public using any part of the transport facility; and
  2. (b) which involve vehicles entering any part of that facility.

(2) The Secretary of State may by regulations provide for the application of any taxi provision in relation to—

  1. (a) vehicles used for the provision of services under a franchise agreement; or
  2. (b) the drivers of such vehicles.

(3) Any regulations under subsection (2) may apply any taxi provision with such modifications as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

(4) In this section— "designated" means designated for the purposes of this section by an order made by the Secretary of State; "hire car" has such meaning as may be prescribed; "operator", in relation to a transport facility, means any person who is concerned with the management or operation of the facility; "taxi provision" means any provision of—

  1. (a) this Act, or
  2. (b) regulations made in pursuance of section 20(2A) of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, which applies in relation to taxis or the drivers of taxis; and

"transport facility" means any premises which form part of any port, airport, railway station or bus station.'.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 50A to Lords Amendment No. 50.

The strength of feeling voiced by some of your Lordships when we debated the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwin of Clee, at Third Reading did not go unheeded. I am pleased to see the noble Lord in his place.

As I have explained to the House, that amendment then before us was seriously flawed. I am pleased to recall that enough of your Lordships agreed with me to carry my position in the Division Lobby. It would have undermined the ability of airport operators in particular to protect the interests of their passengers by regulating fares. The purpose behind the amendment—to enable disabled people the same freedom of access to onward transport as other travellers enjoy—was, however, one that we could endorse and the intervening time has allowed us to bring forward amendments which achieve that purpose without the unacceptable difficulties which would have been created by the earlier proposal.

Our amendments do not call into question the principle of a contract between the operator of a transport facility and a taxi or private hire vehicle firm. We believe that there is considerable merit in these contracts. They enable a menu of fixed fares to be agreed for the benefit of all passengers. If we had agreed to let taxis ply for hire at all transport facilities there was a danger that people could be over-charged by unscrupulous drivers once the taxi had left the area in which it was licensed.

To avoid this happening, the amendments before us look primarily at the vehicles used. The effect is that the Secretary of State can, where appropriate, apply the taxi provisions, modified if necessary, to the vehicles used under these contracts.

For this purpose, the Secretary of State is given a regulation-making power. That power could be used to ensure that when accessibility requirements are in force for taxis generally, equivalent requirements can be imposed on vehicles used under a contract to provide hire car services at say, an airport. It is a flexible power—sensibly I suggest—so that the Secretary of State is well able to solve problems as and when they arise.

But the principle is that it will enable the Secretary of State to ensure that the standards of accessibility for vehicles used under contracts can be kept in step with those for taxis generally. It can also ensure that the drivers can be placed under the same obligations as the drivers of wheelchair accessible taxis. I hope your Lordships will agree that this is both a sensible and a proper response to the concern which has understandably been voiced on this issue in previous debates. I commend the amendment to the House.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 50A as an amendment to Lords Amendment No. 50.—(Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, at Third Reading it was accepted on all sides that my noble friend Lord Gladwin had demonstrated a loophole in the provision of taxis. He demonstrated that, without such an amendment, where there was a monopoly provision of services—for example, at an airport or railway station—a disabled person who was highly dependent on public transport might not be able to find a taxi which was suitable or available to meet his needs.

At Third Reading the Minister vigorously argued that such an amendment was not only unnecessary but highly undesirable. I believe that he will now admit that his reply did not convince the House—and possibly not himself. However, given the votes to which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, referred earlier, the amendment was passed.

We are delighted that as a result of that debate the Minister and his right honourable friend the Minister of Transport have, even at this late stage, been able to close a loophole. A former Member of another place once said that when he realised that he was wrong he changed his mind. That was Aneurin Bevan. I believe that it is in order to congratulate the Minister on following that precedent and to congratulate my noble friend Lord Gladwin. We warmly congratulate the Government on seeing the wisdom of my noble friend's amendment, even at this late stage, and we welcome their climbdown.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend the Minister will be good enough to make just one thing clear. The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwin, which has been accepted, referred to taxis when used for disabled people whether or not they are in wheelchairs. However, the new clause which has just been introduced refers to "a franchise agreement" and "a designated transport facility". Can my noble friend simply confirm that those facilities may or may not refer to the carriage of disabled people? They may in fact be just for the transport of the public generally.

Lord Gladwin of Clee

My Lords, perhaps I may join in the general welcome for the amendment. Noble Lords who were present when we divided the House on Third Reading will recall that the Minister said that he did not accept that there was an argument at all. I believe that that was the night that we got into "high windage" as regards problems of delay of airliners. It was interesting that during the whole of the debate the Minister for Transport (the Minister's noble friend Lord Goschen) was sitting alongside him. Six days later we received an amendment which seemed to do everything that I had been seeking to achieve from 15th June. Mr. Norris in another place was kind enough to say that as soon as the matter was drawn to their attention they immediately thought that it had merit. But 15th June to 30th October is not my idea of immediacy, even in this relaxed atmosphere.

However, one must not be churlish. I welcome the amendment. But there is a problem; namely that the way the matter has been handled has meant that there has been no consideration of the amendment that the Government tabled in another place. Questions asked by my honourable friend Tom Clarke from the Opposition Front Bench and indeed by Mr. Vivian Bendall, the Member for Ilford, North, were not answered by the Minister because he did not have time to do so. Therefore, I wonder whether our Minister could respond to some of them.

First, for example, the new clause refers to "taxi provision" with "modifications", but what kind of modifications? The key taxi provision in the Bill states that all taxis are to be wheelchair accessible. Is there to be a movement away from that principle? Secondly, the new clause will apply only to transport facilities that are "designated" by the Secretary of State. Which transport facilities are likely to be so designated and on what basis will the choice be made? Thirdly, why does not the new clause give us a definition of "hire car"? It says that a hire car shall have, such meaning as may be prescribed". But what definition is likely to be prescribed? As I said, I welcome the new clause. I believe that it solves the problem that the Government belatedly recognised. But that late recognition has denied both Houses the opportunity properly to discuss the amendment.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

My Lords, I should like briefly to express my thanks for the amendment which will, I hope, remove the hitch in what will eventually prove to be a trouble-free journey on wheelchair-accessible transport. It is indeed most welcome.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for their welcome of the amendment. Those noble Lords who were present the other day will be happy to hear that my plane was, as I predicted and as usual, on time this morning. That topic formed part of the discussion that we had when we turned to the subject of airports.

I should like to help my noble friend Lord Renton and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwin, by saying that, of course, the requirements on vehicles will be equivalent to those in the main part of the taxi legislation. There will also be similar requirements on drivers, because it would not be sensible to require vehicles to be wheelchair accessible, or disabled person accessible, and yet not require the drivers to carry disabled people. Noble Lords who have taken an interest in the matter will know that I am merely paralleling here what is in the main body of the taxi part of the legislation.

None of that will happen until the taxi regulations come into force. Those who have listened to the debates on the subject will know that we have not yet reached the position where the kind of vehicles that we think we can reasonably expect taxi operators around the country to purchase and use are available. However, with the regulations on design, and so on, coming in and with the new methods being used by the builders of cars and taxis to deal with the problems associated with disabled people as regards their ability to get in and out of motor vehicles, we hope that vehicles will come on the market in the foreseeable future which will in fact meet the standards that we all wish to see.

I trust that what I have said has gone some way towards meeting the points raised. I was asked what services would be designated. I am afraid that I must give a fairly vague answer in that respect because that will become obvious when we come to designate them. Clearly it will depend on the circumstances. There may be many transport facilities which have a contract with a local transport firm, but the latter may already be in the taxi business and all its vehicles may well be accessible at that time in the future. It is difficult to give a straightforward answer as to what facilities will be designated. It will rather depend on the circumstances at the time and where such problems arise. I hope that that response is helpful.

I believe that I have now answered most of the questions, except that regarding hire cars. I am not sure that I can give an answer in that respect. However, I guess—and I shall certainly write to the noble Lord if I am wrong—that the definitions will be the same as those currently used in the main part of the Bill (which will ultimately become the Act). We are talking about the "plying for hire" part of what I suppose could be described as the taxi business, but it is wider than that. We are not talking about private hire where you phone for a car and it comes to collect you; we are talking about people who ply for hire whether in the street or in the town square or, indeed, transport facilities.

On Question, Motion agreed to.


89 After Clause 35, insert the following new clause—


("—(1) This Act applies to an act done by or for purposes of the House of Lords or the House of Commons as it applies to an act done by a private person.

(2) For the purposes of the application of Part II in relation to the House of Commons, the Corporate Officer of that House shall be treated as the employer of a person who is (or would be) a relevant member of the House of Commons staff for the purposes of section 188 of the Employment Rights Act 1995.

(3) Except as provided in subsection (4), for the purposes of the application of sections 12 to 15, the provider of services is—

  1. (a) as respects the House of Lords, the Corporate Officer of that House; and
  2. (b) as respects the House of Commons, the Corporate Officer of that House.

(4) Where the service in question is access to and use of any place in the Palace of Westminster which members of the public are permitted to enter, the Corporate Officers of both Houses jointly are the provider of that service.

(5) Nothing in any rule of law or the law or practice of Parliament prevents proceedings being instituted before an industrial tribunal under Part II or before any court under Part III.").

The Commons agreed to this amendment with the following amendment—

89A Line 8, leave out '188 of the Employment Rights Act 1995' and insert '139 of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978'.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 89A as an amendment to Lords Amendment No. 89. The amendment ensures that the correct reference to existing legislation covering House of Commons staff is made. Without the amendment the effectiveness of the provisions applying the Disability Discrimination Bill to Parliament would be weakened, and that should clearly be corrected.

I am sure that everyone on all sides of the House would wish to join me in congratulating the House authorities on their decision and also in welcoming the amendments which apply the Bill to this House. They give the clearest signal that we recognise how important it is to provide the fullest possible access to the political process for disabled people. I commend the amendment to your Lordships.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 89A as an amendment to Lords Amendment No. 89. — (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.