HC Deb 14 January 1999 vol 323 cc258-9W
18. Mr. Stephen Twigg

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what progress he has made in securing civil rights for the disabled. [64056]

Ms Hodge

The Disability Rights Task Force, which I chair, has reported on the role and functions of a Disability Rights Commission and the Government have recently introduced a Bill to establish the Commission. The Task Force is now looking at what further rights disabled people might need and is due to make its final recommendations by July.

In the meantime we are pressing ahead with the implementation of the later rights in Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act 1950. The first phase will come into force in October, with the second phase due in 2004. They will give disabled people important new rights in relation to access to goods, facilities and services.

We have also taken an early opportunity to reduce the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 exemption threshold and bring more small employers into the DDA's employment provisions. Other Government initiatives include the extension, from October 1999, of Part M of the building regulations Access and Facilities for Disabled People to cover all new dwellings with the aim of enabling disabled people to visit friends and relatives more easily and to manage reducing mobility better, remaining in their own homes for longer.

The Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations came into effect in November 1998. Full guidance will be issued to all those affected early this year. The guidance will be a source of information to the industry on a range of issues, for example, the use of colour contrast in vehicle liveries and will apply to all new rail vehicles entering service from 1 January 1999.