HC Deb 27 November 1995 vol 267 cc923-4
31. Mr. Cox

To ask the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, representing the House of Commons Commission what further funding he will make available to improve facilities for disabled people who attend meetings at the Houses of Parliament; and if he will make a statement. [674]

Mr. Beith

The hon. Gentleman will recall the statement made by the Chairman of the Accommodation and Works Committee on 19 October this year, outlining improvements made during the summer recess to try to make this place more accessible to the disabled. By the end of this financial year, we expect to have spent some £688,000. Further expenditure will be authorised as necessary following any advice that we receive from the Accommodation and Works Committee.

Mr. Cox

I note that reply, but the right hon. Gentleman must be aware that the House has an obligation to help disabled people, many of whom are confined to wheelchairs, when they come here to see us. Is he aware that, when a lobby took place in Westminster Hall recently on a very unpleasant day, no facilities were available for those people to have a hot drink, or even a cold drink? We now have a sales kiosk in Westminster Hall, but when will priority be given to disabled people? They have a right to come and see us and we have a duty to make facilities available to them when they do so.

Mr. Beith

The Commission is sympathetic to the sort of argument that the hon. Gentleman makes and has sought at every stage to implement practical suggestions on how facilities for the disabled could be improved, including providing additional toilets, adapting lifts, and making a new entrance via Black Rod's Garden, which provides better access for disabled people to certain parts of the building. I shall ask the Commission to look at the point that the hon. Gentleman raises.

Sir Anthony Grant

To help the funding of facilities in the House, would it not be a good idea to place at each exit from the House a box, so that, quite voluntarily, visitors in their increasing numbers could contribute to improving those facilities? I am sure that the hordes of foreign visitors who increasingly come here would be only too delighted to help in that voluntary fashion.

Mr. Beith

The Commission has never discussed such a proposal but, if I may venture an opinion, I think that those who come here feel that they pay for this place out of their taxes and are entitled to have a look round.