Disability Rights Commission fears government cold feet on legislation

The Department for Work and Pensions has
rejected allegations from the Disability Rights Commission that it
has back-tracked on the government’s manifesto pledge to introduce
enforceable civil rights for disabled people.

Labour’s 2001 election manifesto
committed the government to implementing the bulk of the
legislative proposals put forward by the disability rights task
force in 1999. But DRC chief executive Bob Niven said last week
that he had learned that the next parliamentary session would not
see the introduction of the anticipated disability bill.

argued that, without legislation, some gaps would remain. He said:
“Legally enforceable entitlements to equality are an essential part
of transforming the opportunities available to disabled people in
practice, as well as providing foundations for co-operative working
with employers and service providers.”

In a
letter sent last week to seven leading disability charities asking
for their support in challenging the government, Niven complained
about the effect of the failure to secure a slot for primary

wrote: “Some of the disability rights task force’s recommendations
of key importance to disabled people will not be implemented, in
particular the extension of disability rights to cover transport,
housing and all public functions through a positive duty on the
public sector to promote disability equality, as already exists in
respect to race.”

chairperson Bert Massie has also written to Prime Minister Tony
Blair, objecting to the failure to implement the task force’s

spokesperson for the DWP declined to comment on the content of the
Queen’s Speech or whether any timescale had been set for the
introduction of a disability bill. But she insisted that the
government remained committed to fulfilling all its manifesto
pledges, including the delivery of enforceable civil rights for
disabled people.

lead the way in Europe with the most comprehensive and far-reaching
package of rights for disabled people,” she said.

will continue to extend those rights through the most appropriate

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