LETTER: A flawed disabled Bill is better than nothing

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The Independent Online
AN PARKER quotes Rachel Hurst as implying that I do not believe in civil rights for disabled people ("Spitting on charity", Sunday Review, 9 April). Nothing could be further from the truth. In a paper published last year by the Commission on Social Justice, "Disabled People and Social Justice", I called for all the things the disability movement seeks in comprehensive civil rights legislation.

Ian Parker quotes me as saying that the Government's Disability Discrimination Bill had some merit but not why I hold this view. Let me explain. Given the choice, the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (Radar) would prefer to see Harry Barnes' Private Member's Bill enacted, but the Government has made it clear that it has no intention of allowing this Bill to become law and has an arsenal of weapons to ensure that it fails. We would, therefore, be left with the government Bill or no Bill.

If we had no Bill there is no guarantee we would get a Bill through Parliament next year. If a Labour government is elected there is no guarantee that civil rights legislation, while part of party policy, will be the highest priority. We could wait two or three years for a Bill, during which time disabled people would continue to experience forms of discrimination which even the government Bill will help prevent.

As introduced, the Government's Bill was extremely flawed. It remains flawed, but the Government responded to representation and has made a number of changes. I believe further improvements can be obtained when the Bill reaches the House of Lords.

Bert Massie

Director, Radar

London EC1