Disabled campaigners have asked their local MPs to back calls for tough new laws that would prevent councils granting alcohol or entertainment licences to inaccessible venues.
The Central Beds Access Group (CBAG) wrote to its three local Bedfordshire Tory MPs – Nadine Dorries, Alistair Burt and Andrew Selous – after hearing of a new access law that could soon be introduced by the Scottish parliament.
The Scottish law would mean bars applying for new licences – as well as existing venues applying for major changes to their licences – would have to provide details of how accessible they were to disabled drinkers.
Roy Storey, CBAG’s chair, welcomed the attempt to improve access in Scotland, but said he wanted the law to go further and ban councils from issuing licences to inaccessible venues.
In his email to the three MPs, Storey said the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was “being ignored or misrepresented by those who are in a position to make a difference”.
He said that only a tenth of pubs and clubs in his local village were accessible to disabled people.
Storey said: “It is totally unacceptable. It is time we bit the bullet and said we are letting down the disabled people of the UK.”
He has also called on his local council to stop granting licences to inaccessible venues, arguing that doing so was a potential breach of its disability equality duty under the DDA.
But councillor David McVicar, Central Bedfordshire Council’s portfolio holder for safer communities and healthier lifestyles, said the law did not allow local authorities to take access into consideration in granting licences.
He said the council took its duty to promote the DDA seriously and would be consulting with CBAG on new guidance for licence applicants, which would ensure that they paid “due consideration” to accessibility.
Roy Storey is keen to hear from disabled campaigners in other parts of the country who want to campaign for a change in the law.