HC Deb 10 December 1974 vol 883 cc218-9
7. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will take steps to amend the Fire Precautions Act so that adequate access to public buildings is provided for disabled persons.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Amendment of the Fire Precautions Act would be a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am concerned to promote the fullest possible access for disabled people to public and social buildings. I understand that my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for the Home Department and for the Environment have this question of access to public buildings under active consideration at present. They are keeping me in close touch with developments.

Mr. Hannam

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply, but is he aware that there are grave anomalies, for example where disabled people have to be removed from wheelchairs in cinemas or theatres and put into seats and are not allowed to remain in their wheelchairs in the gangways? Is he also aware that other disabled people are not allowed to use the lifts by themselves in concert halls and other public buildings when for years they have been accustomed to using the lifts? Will he press the Home Secretary to relax the strict interpretation of the rules under the Fire Precautions Act to allow disabled people to continue to have increasing access to public buildings?

Mr. Morris

I shall do everything possible to help. There was a meeting on access yesterday between officials of the Department of the Environment and of the Central Council for the Disabled. This followed a meeting in July. The Department is also consulting the Central Council for the Disabled on the draft of a design code on means of escape from fire for buildings not covered by the existing Building Regulations, and I have asked to be kept closely in touch with the outcome of the discussions.