Disability Discrimination Act

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 13th June 2005.

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Photo of Rosie Cooper Rosie Cooper Labour, West Lancashire 2:30 pm, 13th June 2005

What assessment her Department has made of the progress of leisure and tourism facilities towards compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

My Department is working to ensure that all service providers in the tourism, leisure and sport sectors not only meet their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, but go further in making opportunities available to people with disabilities. That work includes funding support for sports and leisure disability organisations, and for VisitBritain's work in promoting accessibility standards in the tourism industry.

Photo of Rosie Cooper Rosie Cooper Labour, West Lancashire

In my constituency of West Lancashire, in the past 12 months, the council has gone into partnership with Serco to provide leisure facilities. The partnership was predicated on the promise to modernise both services and equipment. Unfortunately, in the Skelmersdale area, for example in the Nye Bevan pool, the works did not include making facilities such as changing rooms suitable for use by disabled people. That has led to constituents in the Skelmersdale area feeling left out and excluded. Simple inexpensive work such as putting an induction loop in the reception area was not done either. Can my right hon. Friend remind organisations and local authorities of their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, so that any improvements, no matter how small, are undertaken with the needs of disabled residents and their responsibilities under that Act in mind?

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

I can readily understand that my hon. Friend, as a former director of the Merseyside centre for deaf people, has a great deal of passion for this subject, which is probably why she took a little longer with her question. Yes, I will write to local authorities, which must take opportunities to ensure that there is such investment in facilities for disabled people. I will write to local authorities, not just to those in Skelmersdale, to remind them of their obligations under the 1995 Act.

Photo of Anne Begg Anne Begg Labour, Aberdeen South

While physical access to a whole raft of leisure facilities is beginning to improve, staff attitudes are often still a barrier to disabled people being able to access such facilities. Is the Minister's Department doing anything to ensure that proper disability awareness training is in place in all such facilities, and are there any examples of good practice that his Department is promoting?

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

Yes, many example of good practice exist. As I said in answer to the initial question, it is not just the obligations under the 1995 Act but the spirit of that Act that must be met—we must promote such access for disabled people. For example, Sport England is investing in excess of £1 million in the inclusive fitness initiative to make sure that facilities in centres are adapted for people with disabilities and able-bodied people. Bringing people together in that way increases awareness of how they can work together. In the Commonwealth games a couple of years ago, disabled people and able-bodied people competed together for the same medals, which was a first and a move in the right direction.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, The Family & Culture, Media & Sport

I am not really surprised that the Minister did not give his assessment of the progress in this area, because accurate statistical information on disability provision, or on any matter, is woefully inadequate in the tourism sector. Given that the Government have made commitments both nationally and to the European Union to move to a basis defined by specifications laid down by the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation, when will they invest the money for the tourism statistics improvement initiative to which they say that they are committed? Only when they do so will we really know how provision for disabled people is progressing.

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

As I have said, we are working through VisitBritain to promote accessibility standards in the tourism industry. There are 8.5 million people with disabilities in the country, they have 6 million carers, and their spending power amounts to about £40 billion a year. The industry has a vested interest in attracting those people, and it is doing that. I think that we have a very good record.

If the hon. Gentleman wants an assessment, I will write to VisitBritain and obtain one for him, but he should support what is being done, rather than deriding it. He would do a lot more to change people's attitudes than he does by carping.