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Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington): We welcome Government amendment No. 77, although we regret that the Minister resisted a similar amendment when we tried to move one in Committee. Nevertheless, that amendment has now been tabled.
My hon. Friend the Member for Caernarfon(Mr. Wigley) made the case exactly. The debate is another example of taking a minimalist approach. Let me give the Minister one or two examples.
When one buys any electrical goods, it is rare for them not to include a guarantee, shaped like a concertina, that is translated into four or even six languages, not all of
Column 849them European. Many of those products are made in Japan or the far east, and those guarantees are obviously designed for the markets in which the products are sold. If such information can be provided, why cannot the Minister at least open discussions with some of the main importers of those goods to try to encourage them to make information available, on request, to people with disabilities who need it to overcome the safety problem raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarfon?
Manufacturers had better wake up to the fact that, as in the provision of services, unless they provide such information, they will increasingly be at commercial disadvantage. There is something in it for them as well.
Mr. Hague: The hon. Gentleman has put it the right way, because there is certainly scope for future discussions about that. There is a great commercial incentive for manufacturers and retailers to think about supplying operating instructions. That is beyond the Bill, but I, as Minister for Social Security and Disabled People, and the National Disability Council would want to pursue it. It is another step to say that we should incorporate in legislation an attempt to regulate manufacturers that may be based in Japan, Germany or the United States.
Mr. Corbett: I understand that, but I am glad that the Minister has taken my point, and that his Department or the National Disability Council, or both, will pursue it. I understand his reluctance to lay duties upon British manufacturers which it is not possible to lay upon foreign manufacturers, but there is nothing to stop him opening discussions with major British manufacturers. We are talking about providing information when it is requested, be it in braille, tape form, large print or text, as People First has done in its excellent presentation of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, the better Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes).
Birmingham city council is not alone among local authorities in translating its main documents--not just those about the council tax and extracting money from citizens--and issuing either a summary or a complete translation of them in the main languages used by the ethnic groups which make up a quarter of the population of the city of Birmingham. I might add that the council is extremely good at making such documents accessible to people with disabilities.
I believe that it is a small step from people accepting the sense of respecting the different languages used throughout a community, particularly those in big cities, to making sure that such documents are available to everyone. It re-emphasises the argument that has run through our debates, because, unless the Bill starts the process of ensuring that every person with disabilities becomes, in time, a person with equal rights and equal status in our society, it will not succeed.
I ask for a number of small things to be done, and I hope that the Minister will try to do something about them between now and when the Bill is considered in another place.
"access to and use of means of communication"
and information services.
Column 850Access to information for blind and partially sighted and deaf people and those with learning difficulties iscrucial. Misconceptions about the difficulty of providing access must not deter providers of services from giving basic information to disabled people. It is an all too common assumption that doing so can be expensive, but it does not mean providing everything in braille, as the hon. Member for Caernafon said. The offer to read something out on the telephone or to use better print standards is often enough. The cost of audio tapes is pretty minimal these days. For deaf people, visual information indicators, which we are used to seeing on railway stations, would be helpful in hospitals and other public service waiting areas.
Advances in technology have opened new doors for handicapped people seeking information, so it is important that providers of information are aware of all the possibilities open to them in passing information to their customers. I believe that the Government have recognised that with their amendment, and it considerably strengthens the Bill.
I listened carefully to the Minister's comments. There is no doubt that he has moved from the original position he adopted, as we interpreted things, on Second Reading and in Committee, but I am unhappy that there remains an aspect that he has not tackled rigorously enough. I am not sure whether he is satisfied, if he is honest with himself, with regard to the issue of information in circumstances where goods are provided.
I noted what the Minister said about overseas manufacturers not being required to provide such information. However, if overseas manufacturers sell goods for sale in the United Kingdom, they must abide by the consumer laws and the other laws that exist in the UK. In the structures of the European Community, there is already a move to obtain standardisation of the provision of information for disabled people.
I was informed by an old friend of ours, a former researcher of the all- party disablement group, Diana Sutton, who is working out there now, that there is a move among Members of the European Parliament to achieve standardisation in that respect. I do not think, therefore, that the Minister's argument is entirely valid.
Sense--the National Deaf-Blind and Rubella Association--drew to my attention an example of a young deaf-blind man who recently bought a £900 washing machine from a leading high street store. I ask the Minister to bear that example very much in mind, because it goes to the heart of the problem. That young man was informed that, first, if he wanted the manufacturer's instructions in braille, it would cost him additional money and, secondly, it would be about seven months before he would receive those instructions. That is obviously unacceptable. From what the Minister has said, nothing in the Bill will avoid that happening in future.
The Minister cannot be happy about that. I suggest to him that there is room for the Government to reconsider that aspect. There may well need to be an amendment at
Column 851a later stage that enables a scheme to be introduced to cover circumstances so that disabled people may obtain information in a format that they can use.
Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe): In looking again at this matter, would my hon. Friend agree that the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) about People First is also one that we should all take very carefully into account? Would it not be a good idea for there to be consultation between the Minister and his Department and People First?
Mr. Wigley: Yes. I had intended to refer to the comments by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes), and I think that that is a helpful and constructive suggestion. I do not think that the Minister's mind is totally closed on that matter. I think that, if the Minister were able to find a way of doing that in practical terms, he would like to do it, because he would not like to think that a Bill that outlaws discrimination could lead to examples such as that of the deaf-blind person trying to buy a washing machine and being left in the circumstances in which he was left.
Obviously there is a weakness. We have not yet discovered, according to what the Minister says, a practical means and a form of legislation to overcome the problem. I believe that a system of schemes for sectors-- especially electrical and electronic gadgetry and so on--might be devised, provided that there is a handlebar in the legislation to allow orders or whatever to develop that in industries and in terms that the trade would accept. Obviously, the Minister would need to discuss the matter with manufacturers' associations and retailers before he could go all the way on that.
I ask the Minister, as the Bill moves on to another place, as he has come as far as he has with regard to the provision of information services and information about services, whether the third leg of the stool--information about goods--might be reconsidered at that later stage to discover whether there is any way in which we can close that gap. I think that the Minister is sympathetic towards it. May I entice him to respond to say that he is prepared at least to consider that in the later stages?
Mr. Hague: It would be wrong of me to raise the hopes of the hon. Gentleman that we could include provision about operating instructions in the Bill. There are fundamental problems of the type that I have described- -fundamental problems that have defeated the drafters of legislation in other countries, including the drafters of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as I said.
I certainly, however, believe that there is scope for the Government and the National Disability Council to work with manufacturers and retailers after the Bill is on the statute book, or even before, to ensure that it becomes increasingly common, and that it becomes accepted good practice, to tackle the aspect about which the hon. Gentleman is worried.
I think that we are now providing for information in the vast majority of circumstances to be covered by the Bill. We have made that absolutely clear. I think that that is as far as we can realistically go in legislation at the moment.
Column 852perceive that the Government would like, in the discussions that they hope to have at a later stage with those representative organisations, to close what they accept is a perceived gap and a weakness in the present provision.
I therefore suggest, in bringing the short debate to a close, that the Government actively consider introducing in the Lords a facility to make an order, if a Minister deems it practical and appropriate in the fulness of time after those discussions have taken place, whereby one might underpin a system by legislative strength to avoid discrimination in that area. Without doing so, we shall have a loophole allowing discrimination to continue, so that good companies may have acceptable practices but many companies may not. People will encounter difficulties of the type that I have outlined.
We have made progress on those issues. On the basis that the Government continue to consider the matter actively, and in my hope that they will persuade themselves to give a facility by way of order by amendment in another place, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.
`(1) The Secretary of State shall amend the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 and such other regulations governing other forms of public transport to provide for prescribed standards of accessibility for disabled people in all new public transport systems.
(2) Regulations may prescribe different standards for different classes of vehicle and may prescribe dates for different clsses of vehicle by which the standards must be met.
(3) In preparing or revising the standards referred to in this section the Secretary of State shall consult the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee established under section 125 of the Transport Act 1985.'.-- [Sir John Hannam.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
`The Secretary of State may issue regulations requiring Local Authorities to make provision for door-to-door transport services for disabled people unable or not reasonably able to use other forms of public transport.'.
New clause 18-- Design of means of public transport (No. 2) -- `.--(1) The Secretary of State shall, by regulations, set standards of accessibility for disabled persons for means of public transport designed to be brought into use after the dates set in those regulations.
(2) Means of public transport include, but are not limited to-- (a) buses and coaches,
(c) trains, including light-rail,
(d) trams, trolley-buses and underground trains, and
(3) Regulations under subsection (1) may set different degrees of accessibility for different means of public transport and different degrees of accessibility to be achieved by different dates. (4) In this section, "public transport" means any means of transport provided in return for payment, or, where no payment is required, on request.'.
Column 853Amendment No. 2, in clause 12, page 9, line 4, at end insert-- `(aa) any service so far as it consists of the use of any means of transport, subject to the provisions of section (Design of means of public transport) ;.'.
Amendment No. 3, in page 9, leave out lines 26 and 27. Amendment No. 24, in schedule 6, page 36, line 40, at end insert-- `8A. In section ( Design of means of public transport ) for "Secretary of State" substitute "Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland)".'.
Having fought hard to persuade the Government to adopt anti-discrimination legislation last year, I was extremely disappointed about the exclusion of transport vehicles from its provisions, because I believe that it is no use talking about making it possible for disabled people to obtain employment or to have access to places of entertainment or education if they are not able physically to get there.
As a member of the Government's Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, I was anxious to find a way of amending the Bill to ensure that transport is included and that regulations are updated to provide standards of accessibility for disabled people in all new public transport systems.
The extent of a disabled person's mobility will affect his independence, employment and integrated life. Lack of access to transport means a continual restriction in someone's ability to go outside his front door independently. The more severe the disability, the greater the restrictions. Buses and coaches are, in general, inaccessible to wheelchair users, and those with walking or mobility difficulties often find it difficult to wait around for long periods for transport to become available.
Recently, on television, a camera crew followed two young men in wheelchairs who came from the midlands and who decided to apply for job interviews in London. What, for any of us, would have been an hour and a half or a couple of hours on a train, with a transfer to a tube and a taxi, turned out for them to be a nightmare six-hour series of frustrations as they tried to find station staff with ramps, local trains or buses that were accessible to them and taxis that were suitable for wheelchairs.
Certain inter-city trains now have only one designated space available, which means that two wheelchair users cannot travel together on the same train. Recent reports in the press show that Eurotunnel has accepted that it is wrong, and has agreed to provide extra space. That is a worthwhile move, and I am pleased to hear about it, but, generally, train travellers have to book 24 hours in advance of travelling in the hope that arrangements can be made for them. As we all know from our constituency cases, those arrangements often fall down on the day. All those problems increase the sense of isolation and separation from the rest of us felt by disabled people.
A further problem is the lack of accessible toilets, which are available only on certain trains and stations. Disabled people have to become experts in bladder control. As the Bill is currently drafted, if discrimination
Column 854occurs on a transport vehicle, that will not be covered by the right to non-discrimination. But if the same offence occurs at a station, it will be. Surely the act of discrimination should be covered, not just the location.
Everyone welcomes the Department of Transport's review of taxis, but taxis cannot be considered as a substitute for generally accessible public transport. It is time that we made public transport--certainly all new forms of public transport--accessible to all the public. A low-floor bus, with easily operated ramp access and no steps inside the vehicle, allows all passengers to get on and off much faster. By "all passengers", I mean not just disabled people, but elderly people and mothers with children. More than 3,000 low-floor, accessible buses are in service in Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. Greece has plans for 1,600 such buses to be put into service.
Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon): Does my hon. Friend agree that, quite apart from the obvious rightness of introducing as rapidly as possible accessible vehicles and public transport systems, such adaptations have important advantages for the whole of society and the economy? Traffic moves more quickly because of improved accessibility, not only for disabled people but for others, and the environment benefits, because there is less pollution as a result.
We have some small pockets of provision in this country, but they are not widespread. The Government have announced that all new buses will be of low -floor construction, but that is no reason to exclude transport vehicles from the right of access to goods, facilities and services. The 1986 survey of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys showed that 1.1 million people did not use buses because of their disabilities. Our new clauses do not seek to achieve the impossible but, if accepted, would put us on the right path. More importantly, they would give reassurance to disabled people who are worried about the gap in the legislation.
New clause 13 is a probing measure related to local authority schemes. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People will be able to give reassurance on that. I have tabled the new clause in the hope that the Government will see that transport should be included in the anti-discrimination legislation.
Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West): I am sure that we all welcome the fact that the hon. Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam) has introduced an important subject. I find it difficult to understand why the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People is not rushing to accept the practical measures contained in the new clause. Perhaps the Minister has even more rabbits to pull out of the hat--his demeanour does not seem to suggest that today.
The new clause is interesting and helpful, as one would expect from the hon. Member for Exeter, given his contribution to the all-party disablement group. The new clause invites the House to consider the subject of transport. Many people have said to me that, in some ways, the subject is the forgotten, yet essential and pivotal issue, in relation to disability.
Column 855I shall concentrate my remarks on new clause 18, but I do not intend that to reflect on the excellent contribution of the hon. Member for Exeter or the advice from many sources that the Government have received, including the famous red book. If my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) has a chance to catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am sure that he will use that book and add yet more glowing information to our consideration of the issues. Once again, we are considering a gateway of opportunity for disabled people to play their full part in society. Once again, the Government have intentionally and specifically obstructed that gateway by excluding transport vehicles from the Bill. For many disabled people, mobility issues are the most important aspects in their everyday lives. Their first request of Parliament is to provide the means to tackle those problems to achieve their mobility. That is a perfectly reasonable request, and I have heard no arguments against it. Even in Committee, the Government did not advance an argument against it, but merely said that if we waited long enough, the aim might be achieved. The Bill avoids those important matters. I commend to the House the publication by Scope last year of a document entitled, "Disabled in Britain: A World Apart". I would find it difficult to believe that anyone reading that document would say that the hon. Member for Exeter was asking for too much. He is not a parliamentary Oliver Twist; he is ahead of the Government, but not ahead of our times. Some might even say that the hon. Gentleman asks for too little. If the new clauses are passed, we shall have made some progress.
The interesting document "Disabled in Britain: A World Apart" contains many insights into the ordinary lives of people struggling to overcome extraordinary difficulties. One comment is particularly revealing about what disability brings in its wake. The document states:
"One day you might lose your passport to everyday society. You will have no visa to travel in certain places."
Those are restrictions that millions of our fellow citizens experience day after day as part of their ordinary daily lives. They include restricting the right of disabled people to come to today's debate or participate in other, more interesting and compelling activities.
There is no reason why, given the opportunity and parliamentary time, if not in this Bill--although I find it extraordinary that the Government are not grasping at the opportunity--in the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes), we should not reach conclusions on one of the most serious problems that disabled people tell us they face. I think that the descriptions in the document issued by Scope present an incredible image. We see that people in this country are trapped because of their disability and are unable to play a full part in the everyday life of our society. I have spoken to many disabled fellow citizens who have confirmed that image.
Last night, I mentioned my recent experiences in Leicester and Birmingham, and I am pretty sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House could give similar examples from elsewhere. Disabled people are barred
Column 856from entering British life not by border controls but by the fact that the means of mobility do not exist. They are trapped behind their own front doors.
One might think that the Government would jump at the chance to improve access for our fellow citizens who are trapped in that way, and would view it as a challenge to which they could respond in a practical manner. I hope that the Minister is thinking along those lines today. The hon. Member for Exeter, the House and I wait patiently to hear whether the Minister will respond positively, if at all, to those transport questions.
That is one of the disabilities that the Bill should seek to tackle--not the physical disability of lack of mobility, but the social disability and immobility that comes from inadequate transport provision for disabled people which has been identified clearly in the speeches in this and in earlier debates and in all the responses to the Government's document, including those in the famous red book.
It is up to the House--if hon. Members have the will--to provide a visa to enable disabled people to travel in British society and to give them a passport to areas of life from which they would otherwise be excluded by disability. Many people--not just hon. Members who are in the Chamber or those members of the public who are observing the proceedings from the Gallery--must be asking why the Government do not appear to have the will to do that. We must remove the exemption of transport vehicles from the terms of the Bill.
It has been said many times in debate on the legislation--but it is worth saying again for the benefit of any hon. Members who may have missed the point--that one of the most ludicrous aspects of the Bill is that it obliges railway and bus operators to make reasonable adjustments in order to achieve equal access for disabled people to train and bus stations, but it avoids imposing any such duty in the cases of individual buses and trains.
Under the legislation, disabled people gain the right to access the station, but not the right to catch a train. That situation is patently absurd and unacceptable. We pleaded with the Government time after time in Committee to respond to that problem and to offer us some hope of a practical approach which has been missing from our deliberations so far.
For many people--disabled or otherwise--the car is the best answer to mobility needs. However, for disabled people, the cost of buying, adapting and running a private car often exceeds the support provided by mobility allowances--and, as we know, even they are under attack. Two in three households in Britain have access to a car. However, for disabled people, the equivalent figure is only two in five. Therefore, we must address the specific mobility problems that disabled people face.
Taxis and private hire cars can be the next best thing to having access to a household vehicle. Encouraging progress has been made towards the target involving wheelchair access to taxis in London. I said in Committee, and it is fair that I should repeat it now, that, despite the views of the Cabinet and the right-wing approach adopted by the Secretary of State for Employment, the practical measures that we propose are confirmed by history.
As a junior Transport Minister--before the dogmatists got hold of him--the Employment Secretary introduced
Column 857into London transport a measure whose aim was to adapt all taxis for people with disabilities by 2000. In 1995, he has achieved nearly 50 per cent. of that objective. The Secretary of State for Employment--a former junior Transport Minister--should be proud of that achievement. I am surprised that he is not in the Chamber listening to the debate and encouraging the Minister--whom many consider to be up and coming, as the Secretary of State for Employment once was--to do something practical and achievable in the transport field, not in order to advance his career but in order to be helpful.
We want to extend that London objective to Edinburgh, Belfast and other cities. We want all taxis to be wheelchair accessible by the end of the century or before. That is a welcome, perfectly reasonable and helpful objective, which could be achieved. I welcome the assurances given in Committee by the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People that steps will be taken to improve wheelchair access to taxis throughout the country. I am rather disappointed that he has not brought forward the promised new clauses in that regard at this stage. I look forward to seeing in the next few minutes whether there is a hat under the Front Bench with many rabbits in it.
I take the opportunity to encourage Ministers to have regard to the different taxi transport requirements of people with varying mobility problems. Despite some excellent progress, the London hackney cab is not invariably the best vehicle for disabled people to use. I welcome Ministers' assurances that there will not be a blanket requirement for a single type of vehicle throughout the country. Ministerial indications that the necessary work will be done on vehicle design are helpful to disabled people and to taxi operators alike. I do not wish to diminish the significance of what the Government have said. The important thing is that action has been promised and that the principle of making taxis accessible to disabled people has been established. That sends out a very clear signal that, once the principle has been agreed, it cannot be reversed and should be applied elsewhere. But it brings us sharply to the question: if that principle can be made to work for taxis, surely it can be established for other vehicles as well.
Let us not refuse our disabled fellow citizens a permit to travel. Let us instead extend permission to enter society through the gateway of public transport. Let us establish the principle of freedom of movement, and let us plan how disabled access to the means of travel can be achieved. As a means of so doing, I commend new clause 18 to the House.
Mr. Hague: I know that a number of hon. Members wish to speak in the debate, but as the new clauses have been introduced I think that it would be unfair to allow hon. Members to speak in ignorance of the Government's response.
At all stages in the preparation and progress of the Disability Discrimination Bill, we have made clear our commitment to achieving fully accessible transport. We have also made it clear that we believe that progress towards accessible public transport is best achieved by technical legislation or by regulations, codes of practice and so on--in other words, by targeted action rather than by blanket legislation. In the past few weeks I have listened carefully to the arguments advanced by organisations such as the Royal Association for Disability
Column 858and Rehabilitation and the Royal National Institute for the Blind as well as those put to me on many occasions by my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam) and the points that were raised in Committee. I have been considering, with my colleagues at the Department of Transport, how best we can meet the requirements for soundly based technical standards within the framework of the Bill. The amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter take a similar approach. New clauses 18 and 11 propose a requirement through regulations for the introduction of access standards for new public transport vehicles and systems. New clause 18 would require regulations to be introduced setting minimum access standards. New clause 11 seeks a similar result by amending existing regulations. Both new clauses are flexible in that they allow different time scales and access solutions for different modes of transport. That flexibility recognises the Government's concerns that the operation of the various modes of transport will require different access solutions to ensure that the approach adopted provides, as far as practicable, effective and sustainable transport for all passengers, including those with disabilities.
We would have no difficulty, as new clause 11 suggests, with charging the Secretary of State with a specific duty of consulting the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee on the detail of regulations. As it is the statutory adviser to the Department of Transport, the Secretary of State would as a matter of course consult on an issue of such major importance for disabled people, as indeed he does regularly on a wide range of issues.
On the specific examples of the transport modes that would be covered by new clause 18, for the most part we have no difficulty with them. On shipping, however, and equally on aviation, although the latter is not cited in the new clause but could be interpreted as being covered by it, we do not consider that it is right to introduce domestic regulations. In both cases, the international dimension of those transport operations would mean that domestic legislation would be of limited value, not least to disabled people, who would not have the assurance of access throughout the journey. In addition, United Kingdom operators would be commercially disadvantaged if they were subject to additional regulatory control in advance of similar measures in other countries.
On aviation, international guidelines on the accessibility of aircraft to disabled people are already well advanced.
On shipping, a new group has been set up under the International Maritime Organisation to draw up guidelines for the design of new vessels. We believe that those forums represent the best approach to tackling the access issue for aviation and shipping, and we would not therefore favour including those transport modes in the Bill.
Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow): Many Scots living on our numerous islands have no access to public transport other than the Caledonian MacBrayne ferries. The Minister's refusal to deal with passenger ferry services will cause them great
Column 859dismay. I ask the Minister, where mainland- to-island and island-to-island passenger ferry services are concerned, please think again.
Mr. Hague: The hon. Gentleman raises a point to which the disadvantage of international travel, to which I have referred, does not apply. I will bring the matter to the attention of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department of Transport. I would merely say for the moment that the IMO discussions that I have mentioned, if they are brought to fruition, would apply to our domestic ferries as well as to ferries for international travel.
We have no general difficulty of principle with the other transport modes listed, although in some cases the practical constraints on improving access to existing systems are considerable.
In relation to taxis, to which the hon. Member for Monklands, West referred, as we announced in Committee, we intend to table more detailed amendments. I had hoped to do so on Report, but the preparation has taken longer, so we shall do so in another place. On other modes of transport, as the House will have realised by now, the Government certainly support the spirit of the new clauses tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter and by the hon. Member for Monklands, West. There are, however, technical and legal difficulties with the clauses as drafted. We would, for example, have to be clear in our definition of public transport. The new clauses as drafted are not precise enough in that area. The issue is not tackled in either of the new clauses. Indeed, we would wish to go wider than new clause 11 envisages by specifically including rail as well as road-based vehicles.
Neither do the new clauses recognise to any significant extent the existing legislative framework for each mode of transport. The House will be aware that transport operates against a complex web of legislation--domestic and, in some cases, European--and regulations. In considering amendments in that area, we would need to ensure that any new transport clauses in the Bill did not cut across existing provisions.
Amendments have also been tabled to remove the general exclusion of transport vehicles and to add them to the specific list of services to which the general right of access would apply. Clause 12(5) already provides for the transport vehicle exemption to be modified. We believe that the most appropriate way to proceed is by separate regulations. Indeed, the new clauses aim to introduce regulations in that area.
We cannot accept the amendments as drafted, for the same reasons that we cannot accept amendment No. 24, which is consequential and applies to Northern Ireland. Therefore, on balance, while we accept the spirit of the amendments, we are not able to accept them as currently drafted. Government policy is already directed at ensuring a fully accessible transport system in the future. In the light of the representations that have been made and the arguments that have been advanced, the Government are preparing to introduce provisions at a later stage in the discussion of the Bill, to amend existing legislation or, where necessary, to introduce new powers covering buses, trains, coaches, trams, taxis, and underground systems-- even trolley buses, if such systems are reintroduced in