HL Deb 19 December 2000 vol 620 cc53-4WA
The Earl of Sandwich

asked the Chairman of Committees:

Whether he has proposals to improve the facilities in the public galleries of the House as suggested by Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts in the House Magazine on 11 December. [HL187]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish)

The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, wrote in theHouse Magazine on 11 December that "the Order Paper is unclear, the visibility of the House is poor and the audibility of the speeches in the Chamber is worse. In this audio/visual age it is surely not beyond the wit of man to provide for our fellow citizens a gallery which enables them to see, hear and understand what is going on in their name in the Chamber before them".

The Order Paper can certainly be difficult to understand for those unfamiliar with it. Every visitor to the Public Gallery receives an illustrated Guide for Visitors to the Galleries, which includes, among other things, an explanation of what the different items on the Order Paper mean. For the visually impaired, two Braille versions of the Guide are available.

I accept that in certain parts of the public gallery there is a restricted view of the Chamber. That is why there are two television monitors in the Gallery. One of the monitors shows the current business, while the other is tuned to the Lords' annunciator and records the business before the House and the name of the speaker in the Chamber.

On the question of audibility, a speaker system identical to the one used in the Chamber has been fitted to every bench in the Gallery and there is an induction loop for the hard of hearing.