HC Deb 30 January 1995 vol 253 cc667-8
4. Ms Lynne

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what plans he has to meet groups representing disabled people in the near future to discuss access to buildings.

Mr. Dorrell

Ministers in my Department meet groups representing disabled people regularly. The most recent such meeting was between my noble Friend Lord Astor and the Holiday Care Service on 25 January. The Government's White Paper, "Ending Discrimination against Disabled People", makes it clear that disabled people will be consulted on the detailed implementation of its proposals. My Department will play an active part in that consultation process.

Ms Lynne

Is the Minister aware that access means not only the provision of ramps but the availability of information in Braille, audio descriptions and allowing people to take guide dogs to arts venues? Is he aware that training and employment opportunities in the arts for disabled people are also important? Does he agree that the Government's Disability Discrimination Bill is woefully inadequate in all those contexts?

Mr. Dorrell

I agreed with everything that the hon. Lady said until the last sentence. I do not agree that the Government's Bill is inadequate in dealing with the issues that she has correctly raised. She is right to emphasise that a disability policy in the area for which I am responsible must consider the rights of both employees and potential audiences; it must consider all the ways in which disabled people come into contact with sport, the arts and the national heritage. That is my Department's commitment.

Mr. Corbett

Is the Secretary of State aware of what some theatres, galleries and museums in London have done to provide tape guides, Braille signs and audio aids? Does he accept that, none the less, access to buildings, performances and exhibitions remains inadequate? Does he know, for example, that six out of 10 drama schools have no physical access for people with disabilities, and that some 40-odd colleges are little better in that regard?

What will the Secretary of State do to help provide more cash for organisation such as ADAPT and the arts and sports councils to end discrimination against people with disabilities? Will he also monitor progress made on access with the money allocated to good causes from the national lottery?

Mr. Dorrell

The hon. Gentleman rightly mentioned progress made by the museums sector in London. He might also have mentioned progress made by the national museums sector in the north-west. Museums and galleries on Merseyside, which are part of that sector, have set up a disability access group to implement priorities there, and the museum of science and industry in Manchester—which I visited before Christmas—has taken a number of steps to improve access to exhibitions of artefacts and processes. The progress is not confined to London, nor should it be.

In terms of resources to improve facilities for disabled people, the Sports Council distributes substantial quantities of money to the British Paralympic Association, the British Sports Association for the Disabled and to the United Kingdom Sports Association for People with Learning Difficulties. Therefore money goes specifically to assist access for the disabled.

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the lottery is potentially a further new source of cash. That is why in his guidance to lottery distributors my predecessor emphasised the importance of the access-for-the-disabled theme and why I fully intend to carry forward that commitment.

Forward to