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Equality Bill (Access to Information)

Volume 505: debated on Wednesday 3 February 2010

Letter of correction from Maria Eagle:

The oral response given to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Miss Begg) on 28 January 2010 included reference to a Braille copy of the Equality Bill.

The exchange was as follows:

The problem is that organisations such as the Royal National Institute for Blind People feel that the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 to which the Minister referred are unenforceable because access to information is classed as an auxiliary aid and service. I hope that my hon. Friend will look favourably on the suggestion that the Equality Bill needs a separate clause to make these provisions absolutely clear. Will she also confirm that trying to solve this problem by means of a judicial review would not be the way forward?

The requirements of the current Disability Discrimination Act are enforceable, and they can be enforced in appropriate circumstances. However, we want public authorities to take a leading role and to lead by example in providing accessible information to those with visual impairments and others. In that respect, I hope that the House authorities themselves will consider whether refusing to allow a visually impaired parliamentarian a Braille copy of a Bill is really helping that parliamentarian to do his job. Should we not be leading by example in this respect? I believe that we should be, and I hope that the House authorities will reconsider that decision.

[Official Report, 28 January 2010, Vol. 504, c. 943.]

I would like to clarify that no Member of either House has requested a Braille copy of the Equality Bill and therefore that no such request has been refused by either House. Any impression I gave that this was the case was a result of a misunderstanding by my officials that made its way into my brief. Each House provides support for disabled Members in a variety of ways, having regard to their individual needs. The suggestion that the authorities of either House have refused requests of this kind is unfounded.