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House of Commons Hansard

Leaving the EU: Disabled People’s Services

11 July 2017
Volume 627

  • I beg to move,

    That this House has considered consultation with disabled people on the effect on their services of the UK leaving the EU.

    It is a pleasure to serve under your chairpersonship, Mr Hollobone. I start by thanking Disability Rights UK for its support while I was preparing for today’s debate and for the excellent work that it continues to do on the impact of Brexit on disabled groups.

    The Brexit debate in Parliament has to date focused largely on trade, access to markets and business objectives. Little has been said about the type of society we wish to be after Brexit, and even less about the impact of Brexit on groups in society such as disabled people and on their daily services and human rights. Today’s debate in Parliament is therefore important, because it highlights our need to consult widely and to think tangentially about Brexit. Fundamentally, Brexit is not just about markets and money; it is about people. To work for everyone in our society, Brexit must therefore be inclusive. For disabled people, Brexit must have equality legislation and vision placed at its heart.

    Disabled people make up one in five of the UK population. That is a significant sector of our population that will be affected by the legislative changes flowing from the UK’s decision to leave the EU. It is therefore incumbent on the UK Government to consult disabled people and their organisations on post-Brexit Britain. How extensive is the consultation likely to be and what should be the remit for a consultation with disabled people on Brexit? We are concerned about the very real potential for Brexit to have a significant impact on the ability of disabled people to live and work independently and with dignity in our communities.

    Many of the rights that are upheld for those living with a disability have their foundation in European Union law. Examples include the 2000 employment equality directive, which requires member states to prohibit disability discrimination in employment; the 2006 air passenger rights regulation, along with similar regulations on rail, ship and coach travel, which require disabled people to be given assistance when travelling in the EU and European economic area; and the 2004 medicinal products for human use directive, which requires the packaging of all medicinal products to include Braille labelling to make them accessible to disabled people. Indeed, the groundbreaking European Accessibility Act is currently being negotiated at EU level. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has said that it will benefit disabled people by providing common rules on accessibility in relation to computers, ATMs, ticketing machines and banking services. In the last few years, there has been a really strong set of initiatives from the EU, with accessibility very much part of the EU strategy, which impacts on the UK in a host of areas.

    We ask ourselves what will happen to the financial support—the millions of pounds—that the EU provides from the European social fund to support a range of schemes and support for those living with a disability. Will successive United Kingdom Governments continue that important support? Will they set out how they will do so? Will they guarantee continued support for disability services post Brexit to disability rights groups and organisations, which currently benefit from that funding?

    Understandable concerns have been raised about the settlement criteria proposed by the UK Government. It is alarming that disabled people from other EU countries might be disadvantaged when it comes to establishing a right to permanent residence in the UK. If the criteria are to be employment based, what of disabled people with fluctuating conditions, who may require breaks from employment? Consultation on settled status must be carried out with disability groups to ensure that disabled people are not excluded from settled status purely by virtue of their condition.

    The impact of Brexit on NHS and social care staffing levels is a great concern. Adequate access to health and social care is vital for many disabled people, but with all the new implications that Brexit brings for EU citizens in terms of gaining work permits for the UK, and with EU workers perhaps deciding to leave the UK because of those conditions, there will be inevitable and undue strain on services. Recent reports show that, post Brexit, the UK may be a much less attractive proposition for EU workers, particularly skilled workers, and that healthcare could be one of the hardest hit areas, with a staggering 84% of workers in that sector from EU countries saying that they will leave the UK. For Scotland, that is also worrying, because according to the most recent figures, 5.8% of the health and medical workforce are non-UK but EU passport holders, and experts tell us that losing EU workers will have a significant impact on our NHS workforce.

    How will disabled people be able to access the care packages and support and NHS treatment that they need in the light of the potential exodus? Many EU nationals are already considering leaving the UK. Will the Minister tell us what plans are in place to deal with the potential shortfall in staff, and address the extremely important concerns about the criteria?

    Many disability rights groups across the UK have expressed concerns about the level of support and, some would say, the lack of understanding and compassion shown to those living with a disability, who have suffered as a result of UK Government policy, such as the cutting of the employment and support allowance work-related activity group component by £30 a week and the tightening of eligibility for personal independence payments. Those measures have pushed more disabled people into poverty and potential social isolation. Concerns about what life in the UK will look like post Brexit for people with a disability must be taken extremely seriously. Given those recent events, it is understandable that many disabled people are beginning to feel quite alarmed. The implications of Brexit and the potential impact on disabled people, which we will hear about today from many hon. Members, need to be addressed urgently by the Minister and the UK Government.

    I was today given a briefing from the Guide Dogs association on the effect on disabled people of the UK leaving the EU. It makes key points to which I would like the Minister to respond. It states:

    “The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union has the potential to have a serious impact on the safety, mobility and independence of people with sight loss, by placing at risk two key areas:

    Disability awareness training for bus drivers

    The audibility of electric and hybrid vehicles”.

    Will the Minister respond to those points? I understand that EU regulation 181/2011 is due to come into effect in 2018 and requires all bus drivers to undertake disability awareness training. That regulation was due to come into force in 2013, but the Government used a derogation to delay its introduction. Guide Dogs says:

    “We are now concerned that the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union may mean mandatory training will either not be brought into effect, or later translated into UK regulations once the UK has left the EU.”

    Training for bus drivers is badly needed. It ensures that drivers are aware of the needs of passengers with sight loss and respond appropriately. In a 2014 survey, only 14% of respondents said that a bus driver always responded appropriately to their needs as a disabled passenger. To tackle social isolation and people’s very important need for independence and mobility, those issues must be addressed.

    The concerns expressed today are very real. We need commitments from the Minister and the UK Government that the rights of those living with a disability will not be diminished or eroded over time. We need to know that the financial support for disabled people that is in place from our EU membership will continue; that those from other EU countries will not face discrimination if they choose to seek settled status; and how the Minister will address the seemingly inevitable shortfall in those who provide support and care for the disabled in our communities and NHS. Recruiting and retaining workers in the social care sector is already challenging, but Brexit could precipitate a shortfall that becomes a crisis.

    I ask the Minister to ensure that, as the Brexit negotiations unfold, the rights and needs of those living with a disability are central to discussions and negotiations. Post-Brexit considerations may seem of most significance to trade, but they are also of fundamental significance to people, and ultimately to the inclusiveness and the nature of our society for those with a disability.

  • I see no Back Benchers standing, so we will go straight on to the speeches by the Front-Bench Members. I take it that you are the Scottish National party Front-Bench spokesperson, Mr Linden. Normally there is a limit of five minutes for the SNP, five minutes for Her Majesty’s Opposition and 10 minutes for the Minister, but I think we can be far more liberal—with a small “l”—this afternoon. You cannot speak for as long as you like, but you can speak for longer than five minutes.

  • Thank you very much, Mr Hollobone. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship and to see the generosity once again of Kettering, which I know you are proud to represent in this Parliament.

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) for bringing this important debate to the Chamber. There are a number of issues and policies that have been forgotten about in the heat of the Brexit campaign. It is only now, as we start to work through what the British people have delivered, that we as legislators begin to see the job on our hands. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work that she has done, particularly with the all-party parliamentary group for disability.

    I have a number of points that I want to make, but my fundamental approach is that Brexit could have a hugely detrimental impact on the ability of disabled people to live and work independently and with dignity in the UK. The UK Government need to reassure us that disability rights groups will be consulted on decisions every step of the way. The main themes I want to touch on from the outset are that EU law has played a vital role in upholding the rights of disabled people across the EU; that the EU also supports, both financially and through co-operation, initiatives across the EU to support disabled people in member states; that concerns are now starting to be raised about the possible impact of the UK Government’s proposals for settlement criteria given the often fluctuating conditions of disabled people; and that disability groups have stressed the impact that a fall in the number of NHS staff as a result of Brexit will have, particularly on social care. I visited Greenfield Park care home in Carntyne in my constituency just two weeks ago, and that point came up and was well made. The UK Government must ensure that disability rights groups are consulted fully on any potential impact of Brexit on services that those groups use.

    My hon. Friend touched on the European Accessibility Act, which is currently being negotiated. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has said that it will benefit disabled people by providing common rules on accessibility in relation to computers and operating systems, ATMs, ticketing and check-in machines, as my hon. Friend mentioned. The proposed Act would require domestic provisions to allow consumers and interest groups to take action under national law. It would require authorities within member states to have the power to restrict, prohibit or recall offending products and services. Manufacturers would be required to produce information relating to complaints, compliance and product recall. When we consider the effort that has been put in, it really does ring true, and I hope that the Minister understands just how serious this is. In giving evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee, Anna Lawson, Director of the Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Leeds, said:

    “In terms of accessibility, in the last few years there has been a really strong set of initiatives from the EU. Accessibility is very much part of the EU disability strategy. It is embedded in a whole raft of legislation and policies, which impact on the UK in areas such as transport, procurement, social funds and websites. There is a new one coming in on public websites.”

    There is real cause to look at the support that the EU provides financially and through co-operation initiatives to support disabled people in member states. Disability organisations such as the Papworth Trust have said that the EU provides millions from the European social fund to support a range of schemes for disabled people such as work experience, wage subsidies and support for the self-employed. At this stage, in extending a hand of friendship across the House, I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper), who held an excellent event recently for Mencap on how we get disabled people into work. I know the Minister was present at that, and I hope that it will be factored in to these strategies as well.

    I want to talk briefly about my hon. Friend’s concerns about settlement, because concerns are now starting to be raised about the impact of Brexit. Disability Rights UK interviews have highlighted that disabled people from other EU countries might well experience disability-related disadvantages when it comes to establishing a right to permanent residence in the UK. The UK Government have published a document on the rights of EU citizens living in the UK. It suggests that EU nationals will apply for a new settled status, but does not provide further fulfilment criteria. I hope that the Minister will touch on that.

    I am mindful of time and do not want to detain the House much longer, but there are two other points that I want to raise. The UK Government must ensure that disability rights groups are consulted fully on any potential impact of Brexit on services that they use. This Government need to realise that decisions they make on Brexit will have a very significant impact on disabled people, whether they are about social care, establishing the right to residence, or a loss of vital funding. We know that the last Parliament demonstrated a staggering contempt for disabled people who are on low incomes, with legislation cutting the ESA WRAG component by £30 a week as well as tightening the eligibility for PIP.

    As we embark on what will be the most challenging time for us as legislators in this country, we need to have the rights of disabled people first and foremost and front and centre. I hope that the Government will do that.

  • It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship once again, Mr Hollobone. Can I start by congratulating the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron)—I hope I have pronounced that correctly—on securing this timely debate? I also thank the hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden) for contributing this afternoon.

    During the referendum campaign relatively little was said about the impact that exiting the EU would have on disabled people, their rights and their services. With some notable exceptions, not a great deal more has been heard since. That is a big mission. It is crucial that this issue receives the attention it deserves, not only because Brexit is ultimately about people—the outcome of the negotiations will impact on every aspect of our national life and everyone living in this country—but because the outcome of the most difficult and complicated negotiations that this country has undertaken since the second world war could have serious implications for the more than 10 million disabled people in the UK and their families. That is why the Opposition have consistently called on the Government to ensure that the priorities of disabled people are at the heart of their approach to the Brexit negotiations.

    Indeed, the fact that Brexit will affect disabled people in specific ways is precisely why we sought to amend the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill to ensure that the Government considered the impact of withdrawal on protected characteristics—including disability—by means of detailed equality impact assessments. Sadly, they used the majority they enjoyed at the time to vote down that amendment. Now that the article 50 negotiations are formally under way, it is more important than ever that the Government make it clear, to an extent that they have not done to date, that the voices of disabled people are being heard and that their interests will be championed throughout the Brexit debate.

    The comprehensive Disability Rights UK consultation and manifesto clearly sets out the range of concerns felt by disabled people in relation to Brexit. There is far more in that report than I can hope to cover in the short time available to me, but I want to touch on a couple of the main issues that both the hon. Lady and the hon. Gentleman have raised, and put a series of questions to the Minister that add to theirs. They both spoke passionately about their concerns for the future of disability rights once the UK has left the EU. I know that the repeal Bill will not be published until Thursday, and the Minister will be limited in what she can say, but can she give some sense of how the Government intend to consult with disabled people and disability rights groups when it comes to converting EU disability law into UK law, particularly in terms of corrections undertaken by means of secondary legislation? What means of redress does she envisage being available to disabled people to enforce their rights once we have left the EU? Can she confirm whether the Government’s intention is to keep pace with any positive developments in EU disability law that occur after our exit? The European Accessibility Act, which is making its way through the European legislature, is a case in point.

    Both the hon. Lady and the hon. Gentleman mentioned funding. Brexit clearly jeopardises the funding provided by the EU to disabled people’s organisations and to projects that directly benefit disabled people. Will funding be honoured for such projects signed before or after the autumn statement of last year, financed either under the social fund element of EU structural and investment funds or by means of the European regional development fund? Will the Minister offer some clarity about the funding prospects for these projects after 2020?

    Both hon. Members touched on the potential impact of Brexit on our health and social care system. There is particular concern among disabled people that a sharp reduction in the number of EEA/EU personal assistants and carers could have a detrimental impact on independent living. Where that sort of support is reduced, disabled people could for forced to choose between residential care and living at home with inadequate support. We do not want to see either outcome.

    Can the Minister clarify whether her Department, the Department of Health or the Department for Exiting the European Union have undertaken any assessment of the impact of exiting the EU on the health and social care workforce on whom disabled people rely? Will that impact assessment and that issue be taken fully into account during the drafting of the forthcoming Immigration Bill?

    We have touched on the impact that exiting the EU will have on the rights of UK citizens abroad and EU nationals living here at home. It has the potential to become a serious concern and challenge for the Government, because many EEA/EU citizens either act as full-time carers for family members who are UK nationals or live here of their own accord but are unable to attain permanent residence because the Home Office does not consider them to be working persons exercising their treaty rights. The Government’s recent offer to UK nationals made no mention of disabled people or their carers, so there are understandable concerns that those individuals will not qualify for settled status. What assurances can the Minister give about safeguarding the position of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU, so that disabled people and their carers will not face unequal treatment?

    To conclude, disabled people are worried about the risks that Brexit poses to their hard-won rights and the services that they value. I look forward to hearing from the Minister about those issues and others of concern not only to disabled people but to the disability rights groups, such as Disability Rights UK, that advocate on their behalf.

  • I am sorry, but the Minister will have to tear up half her speech, because she has only 36 minutes of time available. Would she be kind enough to conclude her remarks no later than 5.27, to allow Dr Cameron three minutes for a winding-up speech?

  • I think I can manage that, Mr Hollobone. I thank the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) for securing this important and helpful debate. I put on record my thanks, and those of the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and his Ministers, to Disability Rights UK for the welcome and helpful work that it has done on the manifesto. I also thank the other Members who have contributed to this discussion.

    I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady that this is not just about markets and money. I say that not just as a politician or an avid leave campaigner. I have gone the length and breadth of the country, and I know the public think that Brexit is more than markets and money. They voted to leave or remain for a variety of reasons: for this country’s potential to have a positive effect in developing nations, which could have huge benefits for the disabled community overseas; for all sorts of societal reasons; for the primacy of international humanitarian law; for skills training in the UK; and for lots of other reasons, including additional funding for our public services.

    As we talk about Brexit in this place and consider what we need to do as we exit the EU and how to maximise and lever all the opportunities that will come with it, we must talk about a broad range of issues that matter to the public, of whom disabled people form a large cohort. In research done by the Papworth Trust last year, a randomly sampled survey showed that 54% of disabled people voted to leave. Clearly, the community has clear ideas about what it wants us to secure and protect as we exit the EU.

  • I thank the Minister for referring to that important piece of research. My understanding of the Papworth Trust’s research is that many disabled people voted to leave based on the consideration that additional funding might come to the NHS, and therefore to their care. Does she not think that that shows how important it is that we recognise the needs and care of disabled people in our Brexit negotiations?

  • I agree completely, and I will address the issues that the hon. Lady and other Members have raised during this debate.

    Members have spoken about services and about strengthening rights and supporting disabled people to reach their full potential, whether through employment or by other means, and play their full part in society. The decision to leave the EU does not change those priorities. Government officials are comprehensively considering the impact of the transition on disabled people.

  • Many disability activists—including Muscular Dystrophy UK’s Trailblazers, a group of young disabled campaigners tackling social equality issues affecting young disabled people, such as access to transport, higher education, employment and social and leisure opportunities—are concerned about the potential impact of leaving the EU on their human rights and ability to live independently. They want to know whether the Minister will guarantee whether all rights for disabled people contained in EU directives will be incorporated into the repeal Bill.

  • Yes, certainly. I will come to the detail in a moment, but absolutely. The repeal Bill, contrary to what its name might suggest, is about transferring those rights into UK law.

    As we have a little time, let me give an example of the direction that we want to take. A muscular dystrophy trailblazer—in fact, the muscular dystrophy trailblazer of the year, a fantastic young woman called Lauren who is a fashion student—inspired some changes that we have made recently to the Motability scheme. She got a fantastic work opportunity overseas that she felt she could not take because of the admin that she would have to do on returning to secure her Motability car. We have changed the rules for that scheme to enable anyone who has an opportunity to live overseas for a long period—a sabbatical, a work experience opportunity, romance or whatever—to do so without being prevented by our admin. We listen to disability organisations extremely carefully. As young people like her seize greater opportunities through more global trade and business relationships, we should ensure that admin in our Departments keeps pace with them rather than being an obstacle.

    My Department, the Office for Disability Issues and other Departments are supporting DExEU in its aims. As negotiations about our future relationship with the EU progress, the Government will ensure that any impact on disabled people is taken into account. As part of its work to uphold rights and equalities, DExEU’s stakeholder engagement team is working with civil society groups and disability organisations and their members to consider the broad range of those issues in detail. DExEU officials have already met a number of organisations, including Mencap and the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group, and some of their membership.

    Officials are also developing plans for further engagement across the sector, including meetings with the Disability Charities Consortium, with which DExEU is currently liaising to ensure that officials and Ministers are hearing the sector’s concerns. There will also be direct engagement with other groups run by and representing disabled people. DExEU Ministers are keen to hear from any disabled people or disability groups who want to draw their attention to any aspect of the matter.

  • I get the impression from the Minister that the Government are in listening mode. May I therefore extend an invitation to her, and indeed to DExEU Ministers and officials, to come to Glasgow for a meeting with the Glasgow Disability Alliance, which has done excellent work with its manifesto to get these issues on the agenda?

  • I would certainly be happy to do that. I am always happy to visit, although it may have to be during the recess. The Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker), has responsibility in this area and responsibility for Scotland. I am sure there will be opportunities to talk to him directly.

    Throughout the negotiations, Ministers and officials are holding meetings with the business community and others about a variety of issues. I know from my own sense check of DExEU that the materials that may be needed to support those meetings, such as documents in accessible formats, are in good order.

    DExEU’s engagement with stakeholders will ensure that our commitment to equalities through the transition remains steadfast. Indeed, we hope to use the EU exit as a potential opportunity to create standards that are higher than the EU’s in many areas—I know that the Disability Charities Consortium is particularly keen on looking at such opportunities. To support this work, DExEU will share with colleagues in other Departments, including me in the Office for Disability Issues, the insight gained from its stakeholder engagement on this and other matters. Brexit is a cross-cutting issue, and the Government are co-ordinating work to ensure continuity for everyone in this country in the wake of the legislative transfer. In our relationship with the EU, the UK has been a leader on many equality issues. I hope we will continue to hold that leadership role even outside the EU.

    Let me address some concerns mentioned by the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow. Our standards on rail vehicle accessibility for disabled people were used as the model for EU-wide standards. That is just one example. On bus driver training, which she mentioned, the EU regulation came into force on 1 March 2013 and training has to be put in place within five years. As she will know, the Department for Transport has been doing an awful lot to ensure not just that the right legislation is in place, but that bus drivers are trained and that the standards of customer service that people enjoy on public transport are maintained. My Department is supporting that work. One of our disability sector champions, Jane Cole, is promoting good practice on disability awareness training—I place my thanks to her on the record.

    I hope we maintain our leadership role. The UK has some of the strongest equalities legislation in the world, including the Equality Act 2010, which enshrines equality in domestic law. A huge focus of my Department is on ensuring that that law is enforced, because we cannot rely on people having to sue organisations to enforce it. We have some new opportunities to achieve that, particularly by utilising technology. That is one way in which the Office for Disability Issues can support this agenda.

    The hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook) raised the ESF. For projects signed off after the autumn statement, which will continue after we leave the EU, funding will be honoured by the Treasury. We expect those projects to provide value for money and to be in line with our domestic priorities. We want leaving the EU to mean that we can take our own decisions and set for ourselves the policy objectives that were previously targeted to gain EU funding. The Government will continue to consult stakeholders to review EU funding schemes in the round and ensure that any ongoing funding commitments best serve the UK’s national interests.

  • Has there been any discussion of whether the funding that was received from the EU will be matched in the long term?

  • For projects that are already ongoing, the funding will continue. That will be honoured by the Treasury. In a way, the European social fund is the easiest issue to grapple with, but a large focus of DExEU’s work is on other issues. Future projects that meet the objectives of the Government of the day and that offer good value for money will be funded by the Treasury. New as well as continuing projects will be dealt with in that way. However, we are well aware that the UK’s third sector has mapped the fact that it relies on funding from all sorts of other sources than the European social fund. DExEU and the Equality and Diversity Forum have a project that is looking at how to ensure that the sector will not suffer, and that leaving the EU will not be detrimental to the funding that goes into those projects.

    My office is looking across all areas at how to enable the third sector to derive a greater income. Understandably, we have cracked down on all sorts of fundraising—chugging and so forth—that the sector has done over many years and that the public are concerned about. However, these organisations provide amazing services to some incredibly vulnerable people. We have to enable them to continue to provide those services and, ideally, extend their reach. In every aspect of our work, we are actively doing more work in partnership with the sector and more co-funding, enabling those organisations to derive a larger income for the services and support that they provide. That is a particularly important project that does not get a lot of airtime, whereas understandably the social fund does.

    On freedom of movement, there are opportunities for disabled people. It has been too easy to neglect not just the vocational and skills training that people need, but things like independent living support that we know people need in order to thrive and undertake meaningful activity and work. The negotiations on freedom of movement as we leave the EU will force us, and will force business, to look at our labour market strategy. There are some opportunities to be seized as we leave the EU.

    The hon. Members for Greenwich and Woolwich and for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow focused on healthcare and social care, which are obviously incredibly important. I point them to the manifesto, which paid particular attention to EU nationals working in our NHS and the priority we wish to give them. I also underline the work on social care that is going on across Government. Understandably, the media have focused on social care for older people, but we are also looking at social care for those of working age, who do not get a lot of press attention. My office is heavily involved—hon. Members will see more of that in the near future.

    The hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich made a point about the Home Office. As in the preceding debate, hon. Members will have to make do with the Minister in the Chamber, but DExEU is the co-ordinating Department. However, I am sure that I can commission either DExEU or the Home Office to answer in detail on visa applications and support requirements for people who wish to come here.

    With regard to my own Department, I will point to what we have done for other groups. One of the first things that I did was to amend the rules on the past presence test for refugee children who had a disability. I felt that, if we were taking refugees and they had particular needs, we should meet them. I point to that as evidence that we are very aware of our responsibilities and I undertake to ensure that either the Home Office or DExEU update the hon. Members for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, and for Greenwich and Woolwich, on the specific points about visas.

    In the time that I have left, I will just touch on some other points. It is important to put on the record as well that we are going through a process of examination by the United Nations regarding the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. That also affords us some opportunities, and I am undertaking a piece of work in my Department to consider how we can use the principles set out in the convention to enshrine them in the heart of the work of every Government Department. As I say, that convention affords us some opportunities, and that work will be a very encouraging and positive exercise.

    We have other considerable opportunities as a result of leaving the EU. I am hotfooting it from Westminster Hall over the road to launch a paper with Localis on a sector deal in the industrial strategy on disability. There are some tremendous opportunities that join up all the agendas that hon. Members have spoken about today on employment, our ambitions on international development and all sorts of things, and on harnessing the tremendous innovation, the science, and the research and development that goes on in the UK, whether it be in assistive technology, design or all the things that we showcase at the global disability innovation hub not far from where we are today. We have tremendous opportunities that not only play into growth, jobs, markets and money but do so much more.

  • I thank the Minister for being generous in giving way once again. Will she meet the all-party group on disability to discuss its recent inquiry report, “Ahead of the arc”, which examines some of the important issues that she has referred to, including industrial strategy and why disability rights and employment for people who are disabled should be at its core?

  • I am always happy to meet that group and I await an invitation.

    In closing, I thank hon. Members for their contributions today. I hope that, as legislation is introduced and as negotiations progress, we can continue to keep the issues of specific interest to disabled people high on the agenda. I am very encouraged by what DExEU has done to date and by its plans for the future, and I encourage disabled people and their organisations to engage with the process. Only then will we get a Brexit that we can be proud of. I thank the hon. Lady for playing her part in that today.

  • I thank hon. Members for taking part in the debate today, and I thank those on the Front Benches for their thorough responses. As we have heard, research indicates that many disabled people voted for Brexit. That shows that we cannot let disabled people down—we must honour promises that have been given. Many disabled people voted for Brexit believing that it would enhance the future provision of their services, so we must uphold their rights, their support, their services and their opportunities. We must ensure that those things are maintained, prioritised and continued; that we in the UK are always ahead of the curve when it comes to disability rights and never fall behind it; and that all funding is maintained.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Resolved,

    That this House has considered consultation with disabled people on the effect on their services of the UK leaving the EU.

  • Sitting adjourned.