HC Deb 19 December 1994 vol 251 cc1392-3
39. Mr. Flynn

To ask the Chairman of the Finance and Services Committee what new proposals he has for expenditure to improve facilities for the disabled in the Palace of Westminster.

Mr. Channon

The Finance and Services Committee has approved expenditure of £220,000 in 1995–96 on improvements to facilities for the disabled in the Palace of Westminster. Further sums will be available in subsequent years.

Mr. Flynn

What progress has been made in providing facilities for wheelchair users who work in this place, including catering staff, civil servants who cannot gain access to the Box, which limits their chances of promotion, and hon. Members who are wheelchair bound?

Mr. Channon

As the hon. Gentleman is probably aware, a special report by a firm of architects who are specialists in this work was produced to deal with the whole question of disabled people in the Palace of Westminster. I understand that the Accommodation and Works Committee has recently considered the report and it will come forward with recommendations. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Finance and Services Committee has never been backward in providing money to help disabled people.

Mr. Jessel

How about facilities for the mentally disabled?

Mr. Channon

I shall consider my hon. Friend's suggestion with the seriousness that it deserves.

Mr. Barnes

The failure to offer access to the Palace of Westminster for disabled people was revealed at no time more sharply than during the debates on the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, when many disabled people wanted to be in the Gallery to listen to the debates. As a private Member's Bill, the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, will be debated on 10 February and as the Government are planning to produce their own Bill, can special arrangements, which could be built on in the future, be made to enable the disabled to have access to the House, because the paradox is that that legislation calls for access to buildings? The disabled should also have access to the House.

Mr. Channon

I have a great deal of sympathy for that point of view. Perhaps the hon. Member will address his remarks to the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), whose Committee is considering the disabled. We would certainly be only too anxious to advance reasonable sums of finance for that important cause.