Written Answers. - Legislative Programme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

115 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects to publish the disabilities Bill; if the heads of the Bill have been agreed; if he will consider publishing the proposed heads of the Bill to allow discussion on its final content; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27665/01]

A commitment has been made in the Government's legislative programme to publish a disabilities Bill. Work on the legislation is on-going in my Department, based on agreed heads of Bill, and is now at an advanced stage of preparation. Deputy O'Sullivan will be aware from previous statements in the House and elsewhere that the Government intends to publish the Bill before Christmas.

The disabilities Bill is a positive action measure which will enhance and underpin the ability of people with disabilities to participate more fully in everyday life. Consultation with agencies, organisations and interest groups associated with the disability sector was undertaken in the latter part of 2000 in tandem with research and analysis of relevant national and international legislation. Consultation with Departments has also been ongoing. In view of the extensive consultation that has already taken place and the fact that the broad thrust of the proposals are already known, I do not propose engaging in any major consultation process prior to the anticipated publication of the Bill next month. In any event, I and the Minister of State continue to be available to engage with disability groups and others in teasing out specific issues relevant to the Bill. Ample opportunity will be available to study the detailed provisions of the Bill on its publication and passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The disabilities Bill will be the fourth piece of major legislation relating to disability equality to be introduced by this Government and has been progressed in the context of the legislative and infrastructural framework for equality which the Government has put in place. The Employment Equality Act, 1998, and the Equal Status Act, 2000, prohibit discrimination on nine specified grounds, including that of disability, in the workplace and in the provision of goods and services. The Equality Authority and Director of Equality Investigations, established to implement this legislation, are now fully operational. The National Disability Authority Act, 1999, provides for the establishment of the National Disability Authority as a statutory agency dedicated to disability policy and practice, and is also fully oper ational. The disabilities Bill will further reinforce the principles of disability equality and greatly consolidate the strides made by this Government in creating a full framework for their implementation.