Tories face 'narks' jibe as disabled Bill is lost

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TORY backbench MPs were accused by one of their own colleagues of acting as 'narks' for the Government whips yesterday as a Bill that could have transformed the lot of disabled people was killed off.

The Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, an anti- discrimination measure with all-party backing, was given a Second Reading earlier this year by 231 votes to none. But the Government made plain all along that it would not be allowed to pass into law.

Nicholas Scott, Minister for the Disabled, said that according to a compliance cost assessment, the Bill would cost employers and services pounds 17bn initially and then pounds 1bn a year. There were protests when he revealed the existence of the assessment. It was placed in the Commons library on Thursday, but not even the Bill's sponsor, Roger Berry, Labour MP for Kingswood, was informed.

Even greater anger was provoked by the way the Bill was effectively 'talked out' by a handful of Conservative backbenchers - branded as 'narks' by their party colleague Terry Dicks. By tabling 80 amendments they ensured the Report Stage was not completed.

Lady Olga Maitland, MP for Sutton and Cheam, was the target of particular bitterness as she dismissed pleas, even from Tory colleagues, to let the Bill pass for the sake of 6 million disabled people.

Mr Scott said that 'to the best of my knowledge' the DSS had had no part in drafting the amendments. But immediately the debate closed, it was disclosed in a written Commons answer to Alf Morris, a former Labour minister, that they had been drafted by civil servants in the Office of Parliamentary Counsel.