HC Deb 22 November 1977 vol 939 cc1292-3
5. Mr. Walter Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what success has been achieved with the Campaign for Access for the Disabled; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Alfred Morris

The Silver Jubilee Committee on Improving Access for Disabled People has been pursuing a wide range of initiatives. These include letters asking for their help in the campaign to all hon. and right hon. Members, to the first citizens of local authorities throughout the United Kingdom and to a large number of organisations of and for disabled people. The committee has been heartened by the general response to its initiatives. A special "Access Week" is to be held in June next year, by which time the committee will be better able to judge the full impact of its efforts.

Mr. Johnson

I congratulate my hon. Friend, but does he agree that much remains to be done to assist the disabled by, for instance, the design of post office and bank counters and telephone boxes, and access to places of entertainment and public buildings? Will he therefore regard this matter with some urgency and get all the assistance that he can from his right hon. Friends?

Mr. Morris

I entirely agree that much more needs to be done, and I know that my hon. Friend will accept that a great deal has been done in recent years to improve access. Some 60 hon. Members have responded favourably to the request for help from the Chairman of the Silver Jubilee Committee. Some hon. Members have taken positive action to publicise the campaign. I hope that more hon. Members will help, because they could do nothing better to improve the status of disabled people than helping this campaign.

Mr. Hannam

Does the Minister accept that, notwithstanding all the work of the committee and all the exhortations, architects and local authorities are not producing the improvements in access for disabled people that we should like, bearing in mind, for instance, that our own interview rooms off Westminster Hall still do not provide access for the disabled? Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the only real solution is to alter the planning laws so that access for the disabled is made a statutory requirement?

Mr. Morris

I am familiar with the claims for further legislative change. The non. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam), as secretary of the All-Party Disablement Group in the House, will accept, however, that there have been improvements both here in the Palace of Westminster and throughout the country. I am not complacent. I am anxious to make further progress and I shall use my best endeavours to secure further improvement, with all that has been said very much in mind.

Mr. Hardy

I welcome my hon. Friend's comments and the advances made in respect of public buildings, but does he not agree that the most outstanding current need concerns access to public transport?

Mr. Morris

There are many conflicting demands in this area. Some would say that the greatest single need is for improvements in personal transport. I have been in touch with British Rail and with organisations in many different parts of the economy to try to persuade them to do everything they can to help disabled people to integrate into society. As I have said before, I shall continue trying to improve the status of disabled people by improving their access to public and social buildings alike.