Bill to protect disabled people under threat

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Indy Politics
THE GOVERNMENT yesterday was accused of 'murder by proxy' of a backbench Bill to protect the rights of the disabled after Tory MPs tabled more than 80 amendments.

Alf Morris, the Labour spokesman on the disabled, who has sponsored the Bill, said the amendments were likely to kill the measure tomorrow, when it is due to have its report stage in the Commons.

'There will be a tremendous row about this,' Mr Morris warned after 57 amendments were tabled by Michael Stern, with more amendments from Lady Olga Maitland, Edward Leigh and James Clappison.

The Conservative MPs denied that they were trying to kill the Bill, but Mr Morris said he had information that some had been drafted by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, lawyers who draft Acts of Parliament for the Government.

The Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill seeks to outlaw discrimination against the disabled. It would create a disability rights commission to investigate complaints, and would require employers to pay equal wages to disabled people.

'The Government has said it will not be tabling amendments at the report stage. Their hands are cleaner than Pontius Pilate's but the Bill is being done to death by others. A stack of amendments have gone down. It is murder by proxy.

'But it is doubly offensive that the Office of Parliamentary Counsel has been involved. It means that disabled taxpayers have helped to pay for the amendments which will kill this Bill.'

The Bill was given an unopposed Second Reading, but John Major told Mr Morris at a private meeting that it 'sits uncomfortably' with the Government's commitment to relieving companies of the burden of regulations. The Government is also worried about the cost for employers of implementing the measure.

Sir John Hannam, the Tory MP for Exeter, who supports the Bill, used a Commons device last Friday to urge the Government to provide more time for the Bill's passage.

Nicholas Scott, the minister for social security, gave an assurance that the Government would fulfil the Prime Minister's promise to 'see what common ground exists and what ways there are forward'.

But the Conservative backbenchers' amendments are likely to mean that there will be too little time for Mr Morris's Bill to proceed to a Third Reading, unless they are withdrawn as a result of the public outcry.

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