HL Deb 19 July 1983 vol 443 c1041

2.54 p.m.

Baroness Lane-Fox

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will take steps to ensure that the interests of blind people are protected in the Telecommunications Bill.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Cockfield)

My Lords, the Government shares my noble friend's objective. The Telecommunications Bill places a formal duty on the Secretary of State and the Director General of Telecommunications to promote the interests of disabled persons, including the blind. The Bill also includes a new provision to enable public funds to he paid to meet the cost of developing apparatus to make it capable of being used by blind and other disabled persons. The Government are already in discussion with the Royal National Institute for the Blind about the way these provisions can be implemented to benefit blind people.

Baroness Lane-Fox

My Lords, in thanking my noble friend the Minister for that very encouraging reply, may I ask whether the Government have plans to introduce grants for adapting the office switchboards known as PABX, and, if so, who will administer those grants?

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, the Government are well aware of the problem relating to PABXs and it is important that those switchboards should continue to be available in a form which they can be used by the blind. Discussions are continuing with the bodies representative of the blind, and also with the manufacturers, to investigate the best way of resolving the problem. Provision is made in the new Clause 81 for the Government to make grants available, should that be necessary. The actual cost of adapting the apparatus is already paid by the Manpower Services Commission, and that will continue.