HC Deb 25 February 1999 vol 326 cc383-4W
Mr. Berry

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the impact on his Department' s policies of the goods and services provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to be implemented in October 1999. [71273]

Review Actual report date Anticipated report date Comments
Review of the law relating to bribery corruption 31 July 1998
Review of arrangements for confiscation of criminal assets 1 November 1998
Review of community fire safety 3 November 1997
Interdepartmental review of the treatment of vulnerable and intimidated witnesses 10 June 1998

Mr. Straw

We have already done much work to ensure that the Department's policies meet the needs of disabled people and that we comply with our legal requirements. We shall continue to do so, not only by complying fully with new duties in the Disability Discrimination Act but by aiming to exceed them where appropriate.

We have promulgated within the Department the guidance "Policy Appraisal for Equal Treatment" which the Cabinet Office issued to all Government Departments in November 1998, and which was signed jointly by the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment and the Minister for Women. All ministerial submissions on new policy initiatives or significant policy changes are now assessed for any adverse impact not only on disabled people but on any minority or disadvantaged group.

Different areas of the Home Office have different requirements. Two examples of good practice where specialist provision is available are the Immigration and Nationality Department Public Inquiry Office at Croydon, which includes interview booths being wheelchair accessible and fitted with induction loops, the provision of hand rails, special access arrangements for callers with disability, low level pay phones and adapted toilet facilities.

The Passport Agency provides, among other things, staff trained in sign language, textphones, the Typetalk service provided by BT and the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, literature in alternative formats and Braille stickers to identify a passport.

My hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth), the Under-Secretary, chairs a Working Party on Electoral Procedures which considers disability access to electoral services of all kinds.

Consolidated and enhanced guidance which includes advice on national access standards will be issued shortly to all returning officers.