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Parliament: House of Commons Commission about Deaf Access

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury & Atcham, Conservative)

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what services are provided within the parliamentary estate for hon. Members to facilitate meetings with constituents who are deaf; and if he will make a statement.

Nick Harvey (North Devon, Liberal Democrat)

There are deaf loop facilities in all Committee Rooms in the Palace and in all Committee and Conference Rooms on the first floor of Portcullis House. Portable equipment is available for the smaller meeting rooms in both buildings. Deaf loop facilities are also provided in the Public Gallery of the House of Commons Chamber and in Westminster Hall Chamber.

When sign language facilities are required in meeting rooms, House staff liaise closely with the Member concerned to ensure that the best possible solution is achieved for the deaf person and the sign language interpreter, depending on which room is being used.

The House provides advice and assistance to Members, but does not meet the cost of providing sign language interpreter services directly from central funds. Members are entitled to reclaim the costs incurred in engaging and using interpreter services from their individual Incidental Expenses Provision. This is set out explicitly in the Green Book which states, in section 5.13.2, on Incidental Expenses Provision, that an allowable expenditure would be:

"Interpreting and translation services (this includes sign language, interpretation and Braille translation)".

The Diversity Manager in the Department of Resources can provide contact details at the RNID for obtaining sign language interpreter services, which cost between £120 and £160 for a two hour period.

A loop is provided in the public gallery should a person want to sit in on debate. What happens if that member of the public is unable to use a loop? In other words, needs an interpreter or speech to text. Whilst the question was asked about meetings with constituents, the House of Commons Commission doesn't give any information about visitors either. It implies that it would not meet the cost of providing an interpreter, so would any access for sitting in the public gallery of parliament need to be met by a constituent's MP? What about an international observer? Why are people who have some residual hearing - and are able to access a loop - allowed to have access to proceedings, and BSL users or those requiring speech to text, not?

What is the deal with only the rnid providing BSL/English Interpreters? Is parliament guilty of promoting one organisation here, as if its a monopoly?

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