Stuart Jeffrey Randall, Esquire, having been created Baron Randall of St. Budeaux, of St. Budeaux in the County of Devon, for life--Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Clinton-Davis and the Lord Howell.
Norman Hogg, Esquire, having been created Baron Hogg of Cumbernauld, of Cumbernauld in the County of North Lanarkshire, for life--Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Kirkhill and the Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale.
Bryan Davies, Esquire, having been created Baron Davies of Oldham, of Broxbourne in the County of Hertfordshire, for life--Was, in his robes, introduced between the Baroness Blackstone and the Lord Healey, and made the solemn Affirmation.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his kind words. I apologise to your Lordships for failing to declare an interest, which he has very properly and rightly mentioned. The possibility of moving your Lordships' Hansard reporters to another part of the Chamber has been considered before. It will form part of the consideration that I shall be inviting the Administration and Works Sub-Committee to give to these matters next month. The noble Lord would not wish me to anticipate the outcome of those discussions. However, I feel sure that this particular matter will be considered. Perhaps I should draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that while on the whole the provision of space for wheelchairs in the Chamber has worked reasonably well, one of the great difficulties is access to the Chamber through the wicket gate behind the noble Baronesses, Lady Masham and Lady Macleod of Borve. One is required to negotiate a rather tortuous passage. It is difficult to do something about that; it is a considerable problem.
Lord Renton: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that those in wheelchairs are among the most articulate and important Members of your Lordships' House? Does he agree that when more than three of them are interested in, or wish to speak in, a debate, it is absurd that they should be confined to their present space which allows only three to be present?
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I wholly endorse the words of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, about the participation of noble Lords and noble Baronesses in our debates. They bring not only an added dimension of quality to our debates but they are able to speak on particular matters from their own experiences. As to the substantive point raised by the noble Lord, I shall ensure that it is borne in mind when further consideration is given to these matters.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, can the noble Lord give an assurance that the accommodation arrangements for your Lordships in this place are subject to periodic inspection by representatives of the Health and Safety Executive, as happens in other public places outside this House?
Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, I seem to have to be heaved up and down a considerable number of steps when I go to Abbey Gardens and the rooms off Westminster Hall. As a health and safety measure would it be possible to have some portable ramps? Many firms now produce lightweight portable ramps.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, the noble Baroness is right. Abbey Gardens are one particular problem. As I have previously reported to your Lordships, many improvements have been made within the immediate precincts of the Palace of Westminster. Abbey Gardens remain an area where provision is admitted to be inadequate. We shall continue to see whether anything further can be done. I shall ensure that the noble Baroness's points are taken into consideration. Westminster Hall, too, is a bit of a problem, particularly as regards access to the Grand Committee Room. It is hoped that when improvements are made in that part of Westminster Hall the stairlift will be replaced by a much more suitable arrangement. That has not been lost sight of. I must warn your Lordships that that can be done only when the cafeteria improvements in that area as a whole are made.
Baroness Darcy de Knayth: My Lords, does the noble Lord know how delighted I am to hear that arrangements inside the Chamber will be considered. I am appreciative of what has been done today because normally there are just two places for a possible nine wheelchair users, five of whom are regular attenders. I feel that the access is unkind to the knees of those on the Privy Council Bench. Outside the Chamber, is the noble Lord aware that although the parking spaces for disabled people are welcome, they do not conform to the recognised standards because they do not leave extra space so that one can get in and out in one's wheelchair?
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I shall of course ensure that the first point is taken into consideration. I am not sure about the answer to the second point. I should like to look into it to see whether further provision may be made.
Lord Mason of Barnsley: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that this matter came before the Offices Committee six years ago and that nothing has happened since? To revert to the original Question, as is obvious today, if the tables were removed and the shorthand writers went upstairs, there would be space behind the Clerks' Table. Is it not worthy of consideration that were that to be done the Cross-Benches would be moved one Bench forward, and the disabled would be able to sit on the back row and therefore not have to negotiate the legs and ankles of the Privy Counsellors on the Privy Council row?
Baroness Macleod of Borve: My Lords, perhaps I may thank the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for what he said about the interventions, which are few and far between, from those of us who, unfortunately, have to occupy wheelchairs. We cannot ask a Question; we cannot ask a supplementary Question. And it is rare for us to have one place from which to make a speech. Further, it is now difficult to get down to the Cholmondeley Room, the new refreshment room, or the new Attlee Room, because no lifts are provided which will take wheelchairs. I wonder whether, in his capacity as Chairman, the noble Lord can raise those matters at the next meeting of the sub-committee of which he is chairman.
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