HC Deb 02 July 1984 vol 63 cc14-5
31. Mr. Hannam

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he is yet able to confirm access arrangements for blind persons and their guide dogs when they visit the Gallery of the House.

Mr. Biffen

The Services Committee agreed earlier this month that part of the space behind the partition at the rear of the Strangers' Gallery should be made available as a small partitioned area for two guide dogs, with suitable accommodation for each dog to sit beside its owner.

Mr. Hannam

Will my right hon. Friend extend the thanks of the House to the Services Committee for at last finding an answer to this difficult problem, but accept that it should not have taken so long? Will my right hon. Friend congratulate the Committee on the ingenious method that it has found for ensuring that guide dogs can stay close to their owners?

Mr. Biffen

I shall, of course, pass on my hon. Friend's expression of gratitude to the Services Committee. I agree that considerable ingenuity has been shown in creating a special area for guide dogs.

Mr. Wigley

I welcome this step forward, but is it not a disgrace that it has taken so long for blind people to have access to the Gallery without discrimination? Will the Leader of the House give an assurance that blind people, with their dogs, will also be able to go to Committee and other Rooms, to which people can go without dogs, without discrimination being shown against them?

Mr. Biffen

One should put into context the circumstances in which blind people have access to the House, as it is only in the Galleries hitherto that they have not been accompanied by their guide dogs. But I shall consider the other matters raised by the hon. Gentleman.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the helpfulness of the police and the staff in the Palace to our blind and other disabled constituents who visit us here is worthy of praise?

Mr. Biffen

Absolutely. I am delighted that my hon. Friend raised that matter. The whole House will endorse the courtesy with which the staff of the House greet the blind and disabled and make them feel as at home as possible.

Mr. Greenway

Will my right hon. Friend now confirm, with the welcome news that he has just given to the House, that every category of disabled person may now be admitted to the Galleries, subject to the availability of space and other such limitations?

Mr. Biffen

I should like to consider that in the context of the answer that I gave to the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham).

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