HL Deb 25 June 1981 vol 421 cc1151-2
Viscount Ingleby

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many local authorities at district level in England and Wales have, and how many have not, designated one of their officers as access officer in accordance with the recommendation of the Silver Jubilee Committee on Improving Access for Disabled People dated January 1979.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Baroness Young)

My Lords, I am sorry to say that this information is not held centrally. I appreciate that it is a matter of great interest to many noble Lords, but the only way of obtaining the information would be to write and ask every local authority individually.

Viscount Ingleby

My Lords, while thanking the noble Baroness for her reply, may I ask her whether she agrees with the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, who said (Official Report, 9th June; col. 128): I think it important that there should be a clearly identified point of contact on questions of access for disabled people in all authorities which exercise planning and building control responsibilities"?

Baroness Young

Yes, my Lords; the Government support the principle behind this Question and this recommendation. As the noble Viscount, Lord lngleby, will know, under the Disabled Persons (No. 2) Bill local planning authorities will be under a new duty and will have to have someone who will be able to consider this duty. The point is that we think it would be unsuitable to require them to appoint a named officer in that respect.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that environmental health officers, through their central organisation, have already indicated their willingness to be designated as access officers and take on these responsibilities? Is she also aware that the environmental health officers now give advice on home adaptations for the disabled and many of these matters, but if they were designated as access officers the public would at once know who is responsible, without the cost of an additional penny to public funds or without increasing staff for the local authorities?

Baroness Young

Yes, my Lords, I know what the environmental health officers have said on this question and I should like to assure the noble Lord that this is a matter which the Government understand and accept in principle. However, it is not for me to say whether or not we should accept this suggestion. Local authorities have responsibilities and it is right for them to determine how this new duty should be met.

Lord Wilson of Langside

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that in Scotland at the last count all but two of the responsible local authorities had responded in this context, and that it is confidently expected that the response will shortly be 100 per cent.?

Baroness Young

Yes, my Lords, I am aware of it.

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