HC Deb 28 November 1983 vol 49 cc650-1
39. Mr. Hannam

asked the Lord Privy Seal what plans he has for the improvement of facilities in the House of Commons for disabled visitors; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Biffen

The Accommodation and Administration Sub-Committee of the Services Committee is to review the matter in the near future.

Mr. Hannam

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is increasing frustration that the House fails to provide proper access for disabled people, especially to the Committee Rooms of Westminster Hall? Is he further aware that there is a piece of mobile equipment known as the Gimson Stairmate, which enables wheelchairs to go up and down stairs? If he is unable to find the funds to provide this piece of machinery, the cost of which would be less than half the cost of the stair rails that are being proposed, is he aware that we have an offer from the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation to lend us free of charge a Gimson Stairmate for the use of diabled people?

Mr. Biffen

I recognise the anxiety to which my hon. Friend refers. I am certain that the mobile equipment will be considered by the Accommodation and Administration Sub-Committee and that it will take account of the factors that have been mentioned.

Mr. Meadowcroft

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider sympathetically the possibility of the Galleries that are currently reserved for special visitors being made available to disabled people, particularly where there is a need to translate into sign language for the deaf and when people need to keep their guide dogs close to them?

Mr. Biffen

There should not be any difficulty about the provision of facilities for sign language transmission. As to the other point, which has been the cause of some difficulty in the past, I am certain that the Accommodation and Administration Sub-Committee will wish to consider that.

Mr. Dormand

Does the Leader of the House agree that not only should the physical facilities for the disabled be improved, but that hon. Members' facilities for debating such problems should be improved? Will he give an assurance that there will no repetition of the scandalous unofficial three-line Whip that took place recently?

Mr. Biffen

The hon. Gentleman will know that this matter has been raised several times in the House. I do not think that on this occasion I can go very much beyond what I have already said.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Have the Services Committee and the Leader of the House considered the possibility of introducing some form of closed circuit television facility in another part of the Palace, not only for the disabled, but for the many others who cannot see our proceedings from the Chamber?

Mr. Biffen

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be the first to acknowledge that his question goes very much wider than facilities for the disabled and that, therefore, within the terms of this question, I cannot helpfully answer his point.

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