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Courts: Physical Access

Volume 639: debated on Tuesday 24 April 2018

14. What discussions he has had with HM Courts & Tribunals Service on improving physical access to courts and tribunals for people with disabilities. (904907)

I regularly meet HMCTS to discuss the court estate. It regularly reviews the estate and has monitoring systems in place to ensure that there is appropriate physical access for disabled people and, when appropriate, to identify gaps and make improvements.

If there is monitoring, the Minister will be aware that the North Staffordshire combined justice centre, which is where my constituents from Stoke-on-Trent are sent for personal independence payment appeals, has small steps and insufficient parking, and on one occasion a gentleman was asked to remove a piece of life-saving equipment so that it could be scanned by security before he entered the building. Is the Minister willing to meet Pam Bryan and John Beech from the Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle disability network so that we can look at how the site can be made fit for purpose?

The hon. Gentleman is right: I am aware of that. The charity he mentions—the Stoke-on-Trent Area Network for Disability—made a complaint, and HMCTS had a meeting on 5 April to discuss the issue. It is looking at the feasibility of implementing the suggestions that were made, such as putting in place automatic doors, signage and improvements to the waiting area, but I would be very happy to meet the hon. Gentleman and his constituents to discuss them.

Access to courts for people with disabilities will not be improved by closing courts. It turns out from the response to a written question I recently tabled that this year no Minister has visited any of the courts that are due for closure. May I implore the Minister to come to Cambridge and talk to people with disabilities to see the impact that the Government’s plans will have?

I am always happy to meet people who use the courts service around the country. We are improving access in a number of ways, including by ensuring not only that we have court buildings, but that disabled people can take advantage of the ability to give evidence by video link so that they do not have to go to a court at all.