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'DRAFT DISABILITY BILL TO DRIVE OUT DISCRIMINATION'

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'The draft Disability Bill published today is landmark legislation to ...
'The draft Disability Bill published today is landmark legislation to

serve the civil rights of disabled people, driving out discrimination

and bringing practical benefits to disabled people and the whole

community', said work and pensions secretary Andrew Smith.

Speaking on International Day of Disabled People, Mr Smith said:

'Taken with other measures the government has brought in, it

transforms the landscape of disability rights compared to 1997 and

puts Britain at the forefront of international best practice'.

Minister for Disabled People Maria Eagle welcomed the news and

pointed to the major reforms contained within the draft Bill:

'The draft Bill is a signal that we are not only honouring the

commitment we made to disabled people, but going beyond it.

'It would allow disabled people to challenge more effectively

discrimination in many walks of their everyday lives - such as

renting a home, using transport services or joining a private club.

And an important new measure would help break down institutional

barriers found in the public sector.

'We have developed this draft Bill during the European Year of

Disabled People and are proud that we remain among the leading

countries ensuring that disabled people have comprehensive civil

rights.'

Bert Massie of the Disability Rights Commission said:

'The DRC warmly welcomes this. The Bill offers the long awaited right

for disabled people to use public transport, it deals with injustices

caused to cancer and HIV sufferers by providing protection from

discrimination and makes it clear that the functions of public bodies

are now covered within its scope.

'The provision for a public sector duty to promote disability

equality similar to that used for race will have seismic implications

in reforming practices and policies across a wide reach of activities

bringing about systemic progress for all disabled people.

'The DRC will work with the government on the Bill in the months

ahead to secure its actual passage as soon as possible.'

New measures announced today include:

- A new positive duty on public bodies to promote equality of

opportunity for disabled people.

- The extension of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) to cover

almost all activities of the public sector, including such

functions as issuing licences.

- Bringing within the scope of the DDA more people diagnosed with the

progressive conditions of HIV, MS and cancer.

- Ending the exemption of the use of transport vehicles from the DDA

duties on service providers. Also, setting an 'end date' by which

all rail vehicles will have to be accessible. [See Note 2]

- Enabling disabled people to challenge discrimination when renting

property and in their dealings with landlords and managers of

rented premises.

- Bringing larger private members' clubs within the scope of the DDA.

- Bringing local Councillors within the scope of the DDA - new rights

not to be discriminated against by their local authority including

rights to reasonable adjustments. [See Editors' Note 3]

The draft Disability Discrimination Bill, mentioned in last week's

Queen's Speech, will amend the existing Disability Discrimination

Act. It will be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by a

parliamentary committee. The government's priority remains to meet

its commitment to extend rights and opportunities for disabled people

during this parliament.

Notes

1. The secretary of state for Work and Pensions published a Written

Statement in the House of Commons today announcing the publication of

the draft Disability Discrimination Bill, which will undergo

pre-legislative scrutiny by a parliamentary committee. The draft Bill

contains measures which would:

i. clarify that the current exemption for transport services extends

only to the vehicles themselves, and create a power to enable that

exemption to be lifted for different vehicles at different times;

ii. extend the Act to cover the exercise of functions of public

bodies, so that it would apply to most of their activities, not just

those which consist of the provision of services;

iii. introduce a new duty on public bodies to promote equality of

opportunity for disabled people, so they would be required to

consider the needs of disabled people as early as possible at every

stage in their policy and decision making;

iv. bring within scope of the DDA private clubs with 25 or more

members, so that such clubs would be unable to discriminate against

disabled members or prospective members or others who have rights to

use such clubs;

v. extend the definition of disability to cover more people with HIV,

MS or cancer, so that more disabled people would benefit from the

Act's protection;

vi. require those who manage or let premises to make reasonable

adjustments to their policies and practices for disabled tenants or

prospective tenants;

vii. allow disabled people to issue a questionnaire in relation to

discrimination complaints, not just in employment cases as now, but

also cases concerning service providers, private clubs, landlords or

public bodies carrying out their functions;

viii. make third party publishers (eg newspapers) liable for

publishing discriminatory advertisements, so that they would be

acting unlawfully if they published a discriminatory job

advertisement.

ix. make clear that insurance provided on group terms to an

employer's staff is covered as a service under the Act.

2. The rail vehicle 'end date' is not contained in the draft Bill

published today but is likely to be added to the Bill at a later

stage. The measure is presently the subject of consultation by the

Department for Transport.

3. The clause relating to councillors is not contained in the draft

Bill published t oday. It is being developed and will be published

shortly.

4. The draft Bill builds on other steps already taken by the

government, such as:

- setting up a Disability Rights Commission;

- protecting disabled students and pupils against discrimination;

- bringing into force, in October 2004, the duties in the Disability

Discrimination Act (DDA) concerning service providers making

reasonable adjustments to physical features of their premises;

- bringing into force, also in October 2004, major changes to the

employment and vocational training provisions of the DDA, including

ending the current exemption of small firms.

5. The draft Bill introduces further measures proposed in 'Towards

Inclusion', the government's 2001 response to the recommendations of

the Disability Rights Task Force. It also covers measures not

originally proposed by the government such as legislating on private

clubs, introducing a questionnaire procedure into Part 3 of the DDA,

extending the scope of the DDA's provisions on discriminatory

advertisements and bringing within scope of the DDA's definition of

disability more people with MS.

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