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Arrangement of Business

Volume 730: debated on Tuesday 4 October 2011


My Lords, welcome to Committee Room 4A. I think it is time we started—you can hear Big Ben from the Moses Room, so it is very easy to know when to start. If there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting, the Committee will adjourn for 10 minutes and resume after that.

I wonder whether I could raise a point in relation to that. If there are disabled people in wheelchairs present in the Committee in large numbers—that could be three, four, five or six Members of the Committee when we are discussing the Welfare Reform Bill—how are they are going to get down to the Chamber to cast their votes?

I understand that the usual channels are discussing that and it is something that will probably be in place for future Committee meetings. However, this afternoon it has not yet been agreed so if there are wheelchair users, on this occasion they will have to get down to the Chamber discussed.

I know, but it is in order to answer the noble Lord’s question and perhaps save a bit of time. There are discussions about whether anybody in a wheelchair may have their vote taken here rather than having to go down to the Chamber. That is what is currently being proposed and we will wait to hear the results of that, if it is agreed by the usual channels. It is under consideration.

I appreciate that, Lord Chairman, but we are here this afternoon and the Welfare Reform Bill is on the agenda as soon as we have finished the Education Bill. It is quite possible there could be Division in the Chamber when the Committee is sitting later. It is quite possible that a number of Members who are in wheelchairs will wish to vote. No agreement has yet been made through the usual channels and I think there may be some problems with any agreement that is made. What is going to happen this afternoon if there is a Division and we have four or five Members of the House of Lords in wheelchairs in this room? I would appreciate a response.

My Lords, might I point out that for this session there are not people in wheelchairs to whom that might apply? By the time we start the Welfare Reform Bill, when it might apply, we will have had confirmation of what the system will be. We perfectly understand that it would not be possible for people in wheelchairs to get down from this room to vote should a vote be called.

My Lords, might I raise a further question? I am not quite yet in a wheelchair but I have a badly damaged knee. I could easily not manage to get down there, particularly if the lift was not working. When these discussions take place could you not confine it just to people in wheelchairs but include people who are hampered in other ways?

I add that I am able to make the temporary recess while we go down to vote a little longer if I feel it is necessary, so I shall keep an eye on that.