My Lords, I support the Bill and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, on his efforts on this subject. I should like to draw the attention of the House to one or two things, and ask that “public places” include places of worship. I have visited almost every kind of place of worship including churches, gurdwaras, mandirs and mosques. However, I want to refer in particular to mosques.
There are thousands of mosques, both big and small, in this country. Many are in converted buildings, ranging from ordinary houses and warehouses to listed buildings. Some, of course, are modern, newly built structures that may comply with most DDA requirements. However, while external access to a mosque may not be such an issue, noble Lords will know that ablutions are compulsory for any member of the congregation who attends a mosque for prayers. I have noticed that in most mosques, particularly those sited in older buildings, hardly any consideration has been given to mosque-goers using the washing facilities. There are few facilities such as wheelchair access and aids for visually impaired people. I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, that perhaps we could have a discussion before Committee to see how mosques could be included in the list of public buildings.
I understand that almost all mosques are run on voluntary contributions and we do not want to put too much of a burden on them, particularly if a mosque is situated in a building that would make it too difficult to comply. Even so, there is a dire need to include mosques in the terms of the Bill, so a meeting before Committee stage would be a good idea to table an amendment that would cover this area.