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Disabled People (Access)

Volume 264: debated on Tuesday 24 October 1995

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To ask the Chairman of the Accommodation and Works Committee what recent improvements have been made in access to all parts of the Palace of Westminster for disabled people; what plans there are for further improvements; and if he will make a statement. [38393]

I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) on 8 February at column 243, which described in detail the conclusions of the review by the Accommodation and Works Committee into access for disabled people. Since then the Parliamentary Works Directorate has continued to implement many of the recommended improvements. The new entrance, which has been created at Black Rod's Garden, enables people in wheelchairs to go directly to the start of the line of route. A ramp has been constructed at the entrance to Speaker's House giving access to the North Door. The ramps in Star Chamber Court allow access for people in wheelchairs to the Strangers Gallery via lift number 1 and the new ramp at the Medals Corridor enables them to go on to the Terrace, the private dining rooms and via lift number 15, to the Principal Floor and Committee Rooms. This lift has been specially adapted to include such features as relocated control panels with embossed and illuminated buttons, handrails to the sides and rear of each car, and door edges with time delay sensors. Lifts numbers 3, Peers and Gallery, and 17, Speaker's House, have been similarly adapted as has one in the other place. Modifications to lavatories have been carried out and there are now specially adapted facilities in the following locations:

Centre Curtain Corridor, Lower Waiting Hall, opposite Committee Room 7 on the Main Committee Corridor, and opposite Committee Room 19 on the Upper Committee Corridor.
In addition, a continuous handrail has been ordered for installation on the Strangers' Gallery staircase and a platform lift is shortly to be installed to take people in wheelchairs from Westminster Hall to the Grand Committee Room. In time, we hope to install a proper lift in that area as part of the plans for a visitor centre in 1996–97. It is planned to spend a further £250,000 on overhauling five lifts including the provision of facilities for the disabled and £55,000 on other access facilities.Some £688,000 is to be spent this financial year in the Palace of Westminster on facilities for disabled people.