Disabled Bill fails to satisfy demands

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The Independent Online
Campaigners for disabled people's rights angrily rejected the Government's Bill yesterday and vowed to continue the fight for equality for Britain's 6.5 million disabled.

The Disability Discrimination Bill, published yesterday, failed to end the row over Government attempts in the last session of Parliament to block a Private Members' Bill enforcing statutory rights for the disabled.

It failed to head off the campaigners' plans for a mass rally outside Parliament on 9 February in support of the Private Members' Bill, which has been revived by Labour backbencher Harry Barnes for a second reading on 10 February.

The Government's Bill would make it unlawful for employers to discriminate on the grounds of disability. It would also give the disabled a new right of access to goods and services with a National Disability Council to advise the Governmenton eliminatingdiscrimination. But it will apply only to companies with 20 or more employees.

William Hague, the minister for the disabled, said the Bill marked a "historic advance".

But the Institute of Directors said it signed a "blank cheque" which would increase the costs for employers. and it was attacked as "totally inadequate" by Alf Morris, Labour campaigner for disabled people's rights.

Campaigners criticised the Bill because it fell short of giving the disabled an equality commission such as those for sex and race. It also repeals the 1944 requirement on employers that at least 3 per cent of their workforce should be disabled.