HC Deb 03 April 1995 vol 257 cc1387-8
32. Mr. Thurnham

To ask the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, as representing the House of Commons Commission, what further representations the Commission has received about financial provision for access for the disabled to the Palace of Westminster. [15722]

33. Mr. Corbyn

To ask the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, as representing the House of Commons Commission, what steps he is taking to improve financial provision for disabled access to the Palace of Westminster. [15724]

Mr. Beith

Following the comprehensive review of disabled access carried out by the Accommodation and Works Committee, projects have been included in the works programme shared between both Houses. Provision of about £240,000 was made in the previous financial year and £372,000 has been approved for the current year. A list of the completed and planned items of work has been placed in the Library.

Mr. Thurnham

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that this building is an obstacle course for the disabled, and that it is high time that it was improved?

Mr. Beith

The hon. Gentleman is right. When the building was designed, thought was not given to the way in which disabled people might obtain access to it, and much work is going into discovering ways in which that can now be achieved. The expenditures that I have described are part of that process, but there will be much more as the Accommodation and Works Committee considers the matter further.

Mr. Corbyn

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that, when that money has finally been spent, the whole building will he fully accessible to all the people who come here who suffer from any type of disability?

Last week, when there was a large lobby for the Disability Discrimination Bill, the staff in the building were helpful to those who came. Nevertheless, it is humiliating that someone who comes in a special vehicle has to get special permission to park it and someone to take them from their car up to the Lobby, and then they have to go up in a goods lift to get into the Gallery, where there is limited space for them.

Frankly, the manner in which we treat people who come to this House belongs in the 18th century or earlier. I have been a Member for 12 years, during which the question has been raised time and time again. Yet there are still no proper facilities for people who suffer from disabilities. They are grossly discriminated against by this House.

Mr. Beith

The sums that I have already described will be only part of the process. I have already indicated that more proposals will be needed to achieve the objective described by the hon. Gentleman—if, indeed, we can ever achieve perfection in a building which was not purpose-built with the concerns of the disabled in mind, as I believe our new building over the way will be. The staff of the House have made every effort, not so much to provide special permission as to give special and appropriate assistance. A variety of measures is being considered to ensure that disabled people may have access to all parts of the building.

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