HL Deb 15 March 1994 vol 553 cc100-1

2.54 p.m.

Lord Airedale asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will amend the Building Regulations to require that, wherever practicable, staircases in public and private buildings are fitted with handrails on both sides for the safety of people disabled by the loss of use of one arm.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (The Earl of Arran)

My Lords, the Building Regulations do already require staircases in new non-domestic buildings to he designed to suit the needs of people with disabilities. To satisfy this requirement handrails should be provided on each side.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Earl for that encouraging reply. Will he have the Palace of Westminster surveyed from this point of view so that we can set a good example to everyone else?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, I have some good, practical and sensible news and information for the noble Lord. After a comprehensive review of the facilities existing in both Houses of Parliament it has been decided that £250,000 is to be spent in the coming year on improving facilities in both Houses.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that it is even more important that there be at least one rail on each side and that this applies also to people who have to walk with sticks? For them safety requires, when there are no rails at all, that they go down backwards, as noble Lords may have been intrigued to see me doing; for example, when I leave the Painted Hall at Greenwich when I attend meetings there.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, I take very seriously the points my noble friend has made and indeed any other points that noble Lords might make this afternoon concerning the Palace of Westminster. I am certain that my noble friend's points will be taken into account when deciding precisely what facilities are to be made available.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford

My Lords, does the noble Earl accept that this Question highlights the need for what is known as barrier-free housing so that a house can be adapted should the occupant of that house unfortunately become disabled? Is the noble Earl aware that one of the great problems in housing disabled people is the inability to adapt a house when the occupant sadly becomes disabled? Will he give an undertaking that the Government will look closely at the Building Regulations in order to introduce the concept of what is known in the field of work for the disabled as barrier-free housing?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, we are assessing the potential means of achieving better provision for disabled people in new dwellings. We are already considering applying the access requirements of the Building Regulations to alterations and conversions of non-domestic buildings.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that some local authorities such as Ealing have an exemplary record of first-class immediate action in providing handrails where they are required? In so far as one local authority has proved that it can be done, would the noble Earl be prepared to ensure that other local authorities carry out the desire of Parliament and indeed of Her Majesty's Government?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, I am sure that many local authorities set a very good example. It is to be hoped that other local authorities will follow their example.