Major is urged to clear way for Bill on disability

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The Independent Online
John Major should insist that five Tory backbenchers withdraw controversial blocking amendments to the Bill outlawing discrimination against disabled people, a Labour MP demanded yesterday.

The Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill resumes its Commons Report Stage on Friday but the continuing debate on 80 government- drafted amendments will ensure that the measure is 'talked out'.

The five MPs who put down the amendments, particularly Lady Olga Maitland, the MP for Sutton and Cheam, came under intense fire last week for putting them down as if they were their own.

A letter to the Prime Minister yesterday from Alf Morris, Labour MP for Wythenshawe, invokes Mr Major's endorsement of less confrontational politics in the wake of John Smith's death. The best tribute to Mr Smith's memory would be to 'respond to John's condemnation of the shabby tactics used to obstruct the progress of the Bill'.

John Monks, TUC general secretary, also appealed for more parliamentary time for the Bill in a letter to Nicholas Scott, the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People, who last week came under fire for misleading the Commons over departmental involvement in the amendments. At least 332 MPs, including 36 Tories, support anti- discrimination legislation, according to a TUC poll.

Mr Monks said: 'I am concerned about the manner in which disabled people and their allies were encouraged to believe that their objective of statutory protection from negative discrimination was shared by a government which was in fact quietly undermining the only concrete proposal for such protection.

'This betrayal is much more significant than the issue of parliamentary privilege.

'It is, however, possible to remedy the damage which has been done to the regard in which the Government is held by disabled people. I urge you to arrange for sufficient parliamentary time to be made available for the Bill to complete its Report Stage.'

Mr Morris, a campaigner for the disabled, yesterday highlighted the Commons approval given to a private member's motion moved by Sir John Hannam, Tory MP for Exeter, on 29 April. The motion called on the Government to find time for the Bill to complete all its Commons stages by next Friday so that it could move on to the Lords.

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