Are the Lords listening? Creating connections between people and Parliament - Information Committee Contents


110.  Lord Lipsey suggested to the Committee that the Information Office should circulate "to all peers once a year—and more widely if desired—a 'top 5' or 'top 10' of lordly achievements" in influencing or changing government policy in general and/or legislation in particular" (p 141). Lord Howe of Aberavon advocated a similar development. He proposed that the House should issue a press release after it passes a bill or after a stage during which the House significantly amends a bill. The press release would identify "the quality of the participants" and "the impact of the work of the House on that particular bill—identifying not the negative sounding 'defeats' of the Government but the quality and number of changes made in a bill" (p 136). Similarly, Lord Hunt of Chesterton recommended that the House should follow the example of the Scottish Parliament, which provides a "running commentary for MSPs and the public about the progress of a Bill. Nothing like that happens at Westminster, and we and the public are mostly in the dark" (p 136). In a recent debate on people and Parliament, Lord Soley called for the House to produce an edited version of Hansard with pictures in order to make the House more accessible to the public.[20]

111.  There is a case for these developments, and we agree that they could increase public understanding of the work of the House of Lords. But how would they work and what would they cost? The Committee will later this year examine how the House might best inform the public accurately and impartially about how the House amends particular items of legislation (whether by press release or by other means). The Committee will at the same time examine the case for the House producing an accessible accurate and impartial summary of debates and consider the various issues involved. We have asked the administration to provide information on whether other parliaments produce such press releases or summaries and to prepare samples to show what such documents might look like for the Lords.

Information and access for people with disabilities

112.  The Committee is keen to ensure that the House relates better to people—and we want all groups of people to feel included. When our Chairman put a video on YouTube to launch the inquiry, people noticed that we had not made the video accessible to people with a hearing impairment, and we rectified that omission by providing a transcript. Similarly, contributors to our web forum raised the need to make the parliamentary website accessible to those who are visually impaired. The Committee is publishing a summary of its report in Easy-Read.

113.  Pointing out that there was not a Parliament-wide strategy for improving access for people disabilities, Andrew Dismore MP, Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, asked "whether palantypists and British Sign Language translators could be made available at Committee public meetings, and whether and how people could access parliamentary information in formats such as Braille, audio, British Sign Language and Easy Read" (pp 113-14).

114.  We recommend that the House of Lords administration invite officials in the Commons to work with them to develop a Parliament-wide strategy for improving access for people with disabilities (including learning disabilities and mental health issues) both to Parliament and to parliamentary information.

20   Lords Hansard, 16 June 2009, columns 1026-27. Back

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