Jacqui speaks up for Reddich Deaf Club

October 15, 2009 at 7:49 pm 1 comment

Former home secretary Jacqui Smith spoke up for her deaf constituents during questions to the House of Commons Commission today.

She first asked what arrangements are in place to assist disabled people to undertake tours of Parliament.

Sir Stuart Bell, for the Commission, told her it was a “priority”.

“The visitor route is now largely wheelchair-accessible,” he said.

“Facilities are also available for visually impaired and deaf or hard-of-hearing visitors. A leaflet giving access information to disabled visitors, Members of both Houses and passholders has recently been produced.”

Smith then told the House of an incident earlier this year, when she tried to organise a tour of Parliament for the Redditch Deaf Club.

“My office was told that no one could be assigned to the group because of cost reasons.

“Furthermore, I understand that there is not full hearing-loop availability throughout the whole tour.

“I do not think that that is good enough, and I hope that the level of progress will be upped to ensure that all our constituents can access tours of this place, regardless of their disabilities.”

Sir Stuart Bell replied that induction loops are fitted in the Public Galleries, Committee Rooms and main Dining Rooms.

“On sign language, visitor services can provide a sign language tour, if it is booked in advance,” he said.

“Otherwise, the diversity managers can put a Member or visitor in touch with a British sign language interpreter, which would, of course, be at the visitor’s expense.

“The House is in the process of providing British sign language training for 12 House staff, who will be able to assist visitors at short notice and at no cost to the visitor.”

Tory MP Mark Harper said the “Parliament of our country, having passed Disability Discrimination Acts in 1995 and 2005, should be a beacon of accessibility”.

Sir Stuart said he was “focused very seriously” on disabled visitors who visit the visitor centre.

“We have provided for their assistance; we have provided facilities; and we have even provided disabled parking. We have provided training for staff to assist disabled visitors, and we have looked at the visitor route as a whole to assess its accessibility.

“I think that the Commission, on behalf of the House, can say that it has gone a great way towards meeting the demands of the disabled.

“We are always ready to improve and to listen to suggestions, and we are all trying at every moment of the day to increase these facilities.”

Earlier this week Ms Smith had to make a personal statement to the House apologising for claiming on expenses a Virgin Media phone and broadband package supplied to her Redditch address that also had “additional entertainment elements” including films and sport.

Her husband had watched two adult films, which she claimed for.

In his report the parliamentary commissioner for standards said Smith has “readily accepted that she should not have included claims for entertainment items, including paid-for films”.

“But this claim for additional items was not a one-off occurrence,” Legg said.

“Ms Smith made claims above the basic package costs in each of the eight claims she made since signing up to this media package. She failed to notice that additional entertainment items were being claimed for.

“She did not see the itemised bill when it was included with her claims, and by her own admission, did not check that claim carefully enough.”

Smith was also heavily criticised for her decision to designate her sister’s home as her main residence. The commissioner said her behaviour “was not consistent with the rules of the House”.

“I consider that was because her decision gave insufficient weight to the nature and use of her two homes and the balance of nights she was to spend in London and in Redditch,” he concluded.

“Ms Smith gained nothing from this lapse, and the public interest was not harmed. We therefore recommend no further action.

“The incident may, however, serve as a reminder to all members of their duty to inform the House authorities promptly of any relevant change in their circumstances.”


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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. karen wall information & communications officer for the deaf  |  October 22, 2009 at 8:32 am

    I worked for people who are profoundly deaf, my main problem is booking interpreters through education, hospitals, police. Any events that is happening deaf people are excluding because of lack of interpreters. Deaf people have to wait weeks to be seen either by a doctor etc. One nursing staff (sister of a ward) decide because the patient seem to understand what she was saying did not organise interpreter, however failed to notice they had questions, from which she would not understand and wrote everything down on paper. Her commons were ” they are not foreign, no need for translater” What hearing people fail to understand is English and the meaning of English is interpreted differently and this can lead to confusion. Leaflets are all in the English language not BSL. I think their should be more workshops training staff how to greet deaf people and put them in touch with the right service providers. I have families who parents are deaf and children are hearing, they need support as the child does not understand the way a word is pronounce, help with reading and of cours school activites are a nightmare – no interpreters! I am one person covering over 3 boroughs with very lilttle funding. Karen wall Information officer for Reading Deaf Centre, Reading, Berkshire.


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