HC Deb 08 March 2004 vol 418 c1306W
Mr. Dodds

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to extend provisions against discrimination against people on grounds of disability. [152593]

Mr. Spellar

We are committed to the elimination of discrimination against disabled people in Northern Ireland and are continuing to build on the significant impact made by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). We intend to extend the DDA to provide further protection for people with disabilities.

New Regulations, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2004, will extend and improve protection for disabled people in the field of employment and vocational training from 1 October 2004.

A number of measures in relation to transport will extend protection for disabled people in Northern Ireland. The Department of the Environment intends to begin consultation in April 2004 on proposals to implement the Government's commitment on making (public hire) taxis accessible to disabled people.

The Department of the Environment also intends to extend provisions relating to the carrying of guide dogs, hearing dogs and other prescribed categories of dogs to licensed drivers of private hire vehicles in mid 2004.

The Northern Ireland Executive agreed in principle to proceed to removal of the transport exemption in Northern Ireland. It is proposed to issue a Northern Ireland consultation document on the removal of the exemption based on the consultation by the Department for Transport in Great Britain by May 2004.

In education, Special Educational Needs and Disability legislation, which will effectively extend the provisions of the DDA to education in Northern Ireland, is in preparation and is expected to be made later this year.

Finally, the single Equality Bill which will harmonise (extending and updating where appropriate) existing anti-discrimination legislation in Northern Ireland, including that relating to disability, will be the subject of a Green Paper public consultation in the spring.

By extending the legislation in these ways we will strengthen and improve civil rights for disabled people.