• Disabled Tory peer says government rejection of pub access plan is an ‘insult’

    A disabled Tory peer has accused his own government of insulting disabled people by rejecting the chance to improve access to pubs, clubs and restaurants.

    Lord [Kevin] Shinkwin said his party was in danger of “disowning” the laws it introduced through the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) more than 22 years ago.

    He was speaking during a Lords debate – a few days before Christmas – on the recommendations made by a committee of peers that had scrutinised the impact of the Licensing Act 2003.

    One of the committee’s recommendations was a call for the UK government to follow the Scottish government in adopting a measure* that would force all licensed premises to produce a “disabled access and facilities statement” when applying for a licence to serve alcohol.

    The statement would include details on access provisions, and any facilities the business had for use by disabled people.

    The committee said in its report: “The provision by licensees of disabled access facilities does not impose on them a new obligation or financial burden, since this is no more than what they are already required to do by law.

    “This requirement is a simple way of enforcing the law and ensuring that licensees comply with it.”

    But when it responded to the committee’s report in November, the government said only that it would “consult disabled peoples’ organisations [DPOs] to understand better the extent of the problem”, and work with licensing enforcement officers and the licensed trade “to explore what practical measures can be taken”.

    Lord Shinkwin – who is currently in dispute with the government over the alleged “collusion” of a minister with the decision not to appointment him as a disability commissioner on the equality watchdog – told fellow peers that to describe this response as “inadequate” was to be “charitably polite”.

    He said the government’s response was “a carefully worded, sensitively put, insult” and was “a feeble fig leaf for yet more of the same – ​more inaction”.

    He said: “What worries me most is that we seem rapidly to be getting to the point where my party is in danger of effectively disowning its own DDA.

    “How can I say that? Sadly, all too easily, because, had we pursued such a passive approach to tackling disability discrimination 20 or so years ago, there would never have been a DDA.

    “It simply would not have reached the statute book, and the Conservatives would not have been able to claim the credit for having accepted that, in the case of disability rights, change does not just happen by accident.

    “It requires government action. In its absence, we are instead going backwards.”

    The Tory peer Baroness McIntosh, who chaired the Licensing Act scrutiny committee, was also critical of her government.

    She said: “As the government say they are sympathetic on the issue of accessibility and point out that the 2017 Conservative manifesto made a commitment to review disabled people’s access to licensed premises, why, when we offer them a cheap, easy and painless way to achieve that, would they not want to seize the opportunity?”

    The Liberal Democrat peer Lord Foster, who was also a member of the scrutiny committee, said he was “deeply disappointed by the government’s rejection of our pragmatic proposals on disabled access”.

    Baroness Williams, a Tory Home Office minister, repeated the government’s position that it was “sympathetic to the issues that have been raised on disabled access and the problems with ensuring that business and service providers comply with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010” and would consult with DPOs, licensing professionals and the industry.

    She said: “We hope that this will result in significant improvements for disabled people without the need for additional regulations.”

    *The Scottish government has still not implemented the measure, more than seven years after it was approved by parliament through the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010. It told Disability News Service last January that it would bring in the measure by the end of the current parliament in 2021.

    News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

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    • Jane Weller

      But its not only pubs its still everywhere even at places like the Jump Factory Basingstoke for children to enjoy however the disabled can’t enjoy the restaurant upstairs as no lift to get there and a very narrow staircase!!! When will the leglistation be tighten up and an enforcement put in place to say whoever takes on premises has to abide by the criterias!!! WHEN

    • denise clendinning

      Let me say discrimination is still happening i was on a Virgin flight at christmas i asked for disibility assistanst for that day i got it alright minding i was in a wheel chair we were last on the plane i got to the planes door they asked me if i could walk so i said a little on crutches i struggled to get on board becaus people were putting their hand luggage away and we never had anywhere to put my crutches my cushion that i had to take on board When we land at my destination i waited until everytone was off the plane and my husband took the hand laggage and i was left to walk as if it seemed for ever to the one door opening on the plane with a coat and cardigan yes you guessed it i did not make it to the door i calasped before i got to the door but halfway down the plane there was an assistant just standing there saying bye bye to everyone and she did not budge one inch to help me down through that plane i complained to virgin but it fell on deaf ears.

    • Margaret Simpson MBE

      I am really saddened that the act has never done anything to really help create an inclusive society. I even joined the licensing forum in my area to try and make restaurants, pubs and clubs more accessible, there are strict rules around weights and measures, food and hygiene but when it comes to getting people in and treating them with dignity this is left to whatever people interpret “reasonable” as. I have managed to make the business case with a few of our local businesses by pointing out the benefits of making premises accessible. It allows better access for everyone and we even approached our local authority and NHS to ask if they were booking venues for meetings and events that they would only use places that were accessible!! The two key areas that need to be addressed are travel and transport and being able to go out with family and friends. I do hope that we can see some changes how great would that be.