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Lord Rooker: My Lords, we will look further. The review is being undertaken in order to see what has happened to Part M. It concerned only the provision for people to visit new dwelling houses and to use the principal storey. That is not the same as designing a building for lifetime experience. It is true that some of the builders are ignoring it. The public end up subsidising the building industry by way of the disabled facilities grant which last year was £175 million. That is the overall effect. If we can install facilities when homes are built in the first place, we will not only save money but improve people's quality of life.
Baroness Wilkins: My Lords, is the Minister aware of the enormous hidden costs caused by the scarcity of accessible housing? I have in mind the huge additional burdens on care services and the costs in unemployment and loss of employment. Is he aware that that affects not only people who are permanently disabled, but those who are temporarily sosuch as from breaking a leg? I declare an interest on both counts. Have the Government made an assessment of the potential savings of ensuring that lifetime home standards are adhered to in all new housing developments?
Baroness Maddock: My Lords, will the Minister reassure us on another point? He will know that there is a perception among some builders of a conflict between planning policy guideline 3, which tries to increase density, and Part M of the regulations? Density is also increased in the sustainable communities plan. Will the Minister reassure us that the Government will look seriously at that issue so that many of the homes built under the sustainable communities plan will not ultimately be inaccessible?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I absolutely refute that building to a higher density means building to a lower quality. That includes the facilities for people with disabilities and Part M. It is an excuse made by builders and those who want to continue building at low densities, wasting the valuable asset of our land.
Baroness Greengross: My Lords, how can the Government encourage more flexible lifetime housing, which he mentioned; for example, the kind of houses that are being constructed in The Netherlands? In those, only the outer shell of the house is fixed and the inner walls are easy to move around so that as one goes through the life the house will adapt to suit one's needs rather than the other way around.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, yes, I have heard about some of the work that is going on in The Netherlands. As I say, we will seriously review the regulations because there is a good case for designing properties for lifetime use. That means flexibility. That still means that we are dealing only with new buildings while there are 25 million existing dwellings in the country to deal with. We must not ignore the fact that we shall still have a large programme of adaptations.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, although the Government are to be commended on commencing a review of the regulations in relation to residential housing, the fact is that they have just completed a review of non-residential buildings. I may have a peculiar sense of priorities: while access to non-residential buildings for disabled people is very important, access to residential buildings is absolutely essential, fundamental and vital. Can the Minister explain how the Government managed to get their priorities the wrong way round?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I do not believe that we did get them the wrong way round. Where practical, all buildings, whether old or new, should be available for use by all citizens, particularly if they are public buildings where access is required by the public. It does
Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Best for all that he does with regard to housing for disabled people. I want to say how important that is. Will the Minister encourage greater accessibility to old as well as new buildings? Is he aware that I am going to dinner tonight in Westminster Gardens and that my block of flats, on one side of the building, is accessible because I live there? However, I am going to dinner on the other side, where there is a four-inch step. It is so easy to install ramps in those buildings. Will he encourage the use of such aids?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, of course. That follows on from what I said in answer to the previous questions. We have an overall policyit is a public policy shared by everyoneto ensure that, where practical, all buildings are accessible by all people.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, no. That is why, over the past few months, my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General has vigorously expressed to the United States Administration our strong reservations about the military commission's procedures. Our objective has been to ensure that if any British nationals are detained at Guantanamo Bay and prosecuted, a fair trial takes place in accordance with generally recognised principles. Discussions continue.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer, and I know of the great efforts that are being made. However, I remind the House that the detainees have now been in small mesh cells for nearly two years, that they have no access to families, friends or defence lawyers, and that, by any international standards of human rights, this has become a totally unacceptable scandal.
In view of the strong statements made by the Attorney-General to the International Bar Association in which he pointed outI thought very eloquentlythat one objective of terrorists was to undermine democratic governments' commitments to the rule of law and human rights, can the noble Baroness suggest at the very highest level of government, by which I mean the Prime Minister, that representations should be made to the President of the United States that this is no example of the way that democracies should treat even the poorest and most disadvantaged of our country's citizens?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her acknowledgement of the great efforts that have been made. Indeed, there have been five rounds of talks on the issue of trying to secure a fair trial. I hope that the noble Baroness will also acknowledge that there have been six visits from officials at the Foreign Office to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay. I assure her that, in addition to those contacts, numerous contacts have been made between British and United States officials on this matter.
I am sure the noble Baroness will remember that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister raised these issues with the President of the United States. Therefore, these matters have already been put on the agenda as matters of concern at the highest levels in both governments.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I find myself in some difficulty and I am sure that my noble friend will understand the point that I am about to make. The discussions and negotiations are continuing. On 22nd July, following his initial round of talks with the United States, my noble and learned friend issued a statement in which he made a number of points about progress thus far. However, in relation to the specific point raised by my noble friend, at present so much is under discussion that nothing can be agreed in addition to the position on 22nd July until everything is agreed. But I assure him that his point is also very much in our minds.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General for, to my knowledge, the very strenuous efforts that he has made to do his best in extremely difficult circumstances. Is there a processand, if so, can the noble Baroness say what it isto distinguish between a terrorist and a prisoner of war?
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