§ Brian Cotter
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what action is being taken to encourage(a) central and (b) local government departments and agencies to ensure that public meetings are accessible for those with disabilities. 
§ Maria Eagle
I have been asked to reply.
Where central and local government departments and their agencies are holding public meetings as a service to the public, they are covered by the service provider provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and have legal duties under Part 3 of the Act to make reasonable adjustments to enable disabled people to make use of them. In some instances, public meetings may form part of the function of a central or local Government department or its agencies. Currently, the access duties under Part 3 of the DDA do not extend to functions of public bodies. However, a proposal in the draft Disability Discrimination Bill would bring all such functions within the scope of Part 3 of the Act.
The Government are currently running a campaign to remind service providers of their duties under the DDA. The campaign focuses on the new duties being introduced from 1 October 2004, which require service providers to make reasonable adjustments to physical features of premises which make access to the service impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people.
The Disability Rights Commission (DRC), which is a non-departmental public body of the Department for Work and Pensions, published a revised statutory Code of Practice in 2002 explaining the service provider provisions, including the new duties from October 2004. In addition, the DRC has been working in partnership with the Local Government Association to raise awareness of the implications of the service provider duties for local authorities and to develop guidance on implementing the DDA duties within local authority service provision.