Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Inglewood: The noble Baroness has merely given a specific example of the generality of the problem that we intend to address. She appears to be saying that in such circumstances a disabled person should be employed rather than someone who is more suitable. The Bill contains an entirely logical and coherent mechanism for dealing with such a problem as and when it arises. We dealt with this in our discussion on Part II of the Bill. We do not believe that an approach which entails quotas will achieve anything that is beneficial. On the contrary, we believe that it would be less efficacious than our proposal.

I turn now to registration. Were a quota to be retained, it must follow that registration must be retained too. But doing so would fail to take into account the views of disabled people, who have shown by their reluctance to register that the system fails to meet their needs and aspirations. Registration is seen by many disabled people as stigmatising them and sending the wrong messages to employers about their abilities. We should be concentrating on their abilities and not on their disabilities.

27 Jun 1995 : Column 713

We have heard arguments that disabled people chose not to register because quota is not working as a result of lack of enforcement. I do not accept that. Experience of stricter enforcement in the 1970s showed that the employment position of disabled people generally did not improve. Disabled people choose not to register for a number of reasons. Research commissioned by the Employment Service—I refer to Employment and Handicap 1990—shows that one of the main reasons for not registering is that potentially eligible people either do not believe that registration is appropriate for them because they do not see themselves as disabled or see no reason to register at all.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, raised a particular point. I wish to make it clear that a green card is not needed for help from the Employment Service. Disabled people will continue to receive specialist help where they need it and the Employment Service will continue to make sure that disabled people know about its services. We believe that registration is not worth keeping simply as a route into supported employment. We shall consult interested parties on the new arrangements but we expect the criteria to be broadly similar to those which now exist.

I have already touched on the key to our approach to these three matters. We believe that the new employment right contained in the Bill will be better and more effective in helping people with disabilities to obtain and to keep jobs. It is important that the new right goes wider than the right under the 1944 Act; and we believe that we should not keep this time-expired scheme alongside it. For those reasons, I urge the Committee to reject the proposals if the amendment is put to a vote. However, I hope that, as the noble Lord intimated earlier, he will reflect on what I have said.

Lord Gladwin of Clee: I am grateful to the Minister. I shall reflect on what he has said, as I am sure will my noble friends. I am sorry that I harried the Minister and I feel sorry for him. The Bill takes away things with which we are familiar, whether they have worked or not, and it puts nothing in their place. Therefore, in discussing the amendments the Minister is in a somewhat defensive posture.

I sincerely hope that before we reach further stages of the Bill—certainly before the autumn—we shall have a better idea about what the Government intend to put in place of what we have. This is not a peripheral matter. There is a great deal of anxiety among people with serious disabilities that, although we all support this legislation, in this area people may be worse rather than better off. I am sure that that is not what the Government want. We all want this legislation to succeed but at the moment the Government are batting off sensible suggestions in a rather defensive way. However, at this hour of the evening, I shall not divide the Committee and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 138 and 139 not moved.]

Clause 34 agreed to.

27 Jun 1995 : Column 714

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 139A:

After Clause 34, insert the following new clause:

Public service vehicles
PSV accessibility regulations

(".—(1) The Secretary of State may make regulations ("PSV accessibility regulations") for the purpose of securing that it is possible for disabled persons—
(a) to get on to and off regulated public service vehicles in safety and without unreasonable difficulty (and, in the case of disabled persons in wheelchairs, to do so while remaining in their wheelchairs); and
(b) to be carried in such vehicles in safety and in reasonable comfort.
(2) PSV accessibility regulations may make provision as to the construction, use and maintenance of regulated public service vehicles including, in particular, provision as to—
(a) the fitting of equipment to vehicles;
(b) equipment to be carried by vehicles;
(c) the design of equipment to be fitted to, or carried by, vehicles;
(d) the fitting and use of restraining devices designed to ensure the stability of wheelchairs while vehicles are moving;
(e) the position in which wheelchairs are to be secured while vehicles are moving.
(3) Any person who—
(a) contravenes or fails to comply with any provision of the PSV accessibility regulations,
(b) uses on a road a regulated public service vehicle which does not conform with any provision of the regulations with which it is required to conform, or
(c) causes or permits to be used on a road such a regulated public service vehicle,
is guilty of an offence.
(4) A person who is guilty of such an offence is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.
(5) In this section—
"public service vehicle" means a vehicle which is—
(a) adapted to carry more than eight passengers; and
(b) a public service vehicle for the purposes of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981;
"regulated public service vehicle" means any public service vehicle to which the PSV accessibility regulations are expressed to apply.
(6) Different provision may be made in regulations under this section—
(a) as respects different classes or descriptions of vehicle;
(b) as respects the same class or description of vehicle in different circumstances;
(c) as respects different localities.
(7) Nothing in subsection (6) affects the powers conferred by section 37.
(8) Before making any regulations or order under this section or section (Accessibility certificates) or (Special authorisations) the Secretary of State shall consult the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee and such other representative organisations as he thinks fit.").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 139B to 139K and Amendments Nos. 142A, 146A, 146B and 147A. I shall not read out the new clauses which I intend to insert in the Bill but I shall obviously have to explain in a little detail exactly what these clauses add up to. They add up to a very significant change in the field of transport.

27 Jun 1995 : Column 715

We have already had an opportunity to discuss the Government's proposals to ensure that in future, taxis are accessible to disabled people. I was grateful for the support from all sides of the Committee on that subject, although that was at an even later hour than we are now. This evening, I wish to present to the Committee our proposals for dealing with access to buses, coaches and rail services. Those proposals complete the package of measures covering all forms of domestic land-based transport which my honourable friend the Minister for Disabled People undertook to bring forward at an early stage in the passage of this Bill.

Many Members of the Committee will already be aware of the excellent progress in improving access to public transport which has been made over the past decade. The Department of Transport has for many years worked closely with the transport industries to promote and encourage the introduction of better designs and operating practices to meet the needs of disabled people. I could give the Committee examples but I am sure that all Members of the Committee interested in this sphere know about the examples and the progress which has been made. Therefore, I shall move on to look at the new proposals.

In no sense are the legislative proposals that we are bringing forward intended to force co-operation on an unreceptive and recalcitrant industry but rather to indicate that we see the introduction of legislation in this area as continuing the process of shaping a transport network that is fully accessible. It has long been—and will continue to be—a collaborative and co-operative venture between the Department of Transport, the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee and all sides of the industry.

Perhaps I may also make clear from the outset that any regulations made under these provisions will apply only to new vehicles. I want to make that point very clearly to industry. There is simply no question of them being applied retrospectively. Such an approach at the very least would be technically very difficult and costly and at worst could render some transport services commercially unviable. Working on the basis of new vehicles, we can achieve access solutions which are effective and sustainable and which serve the interests of all parties involved.

I make no apology for the rather technical nature of the clauses before us on this subject. Our intention has been to ensure that we provide a legislative framework that will be compatible with existing transport requirements and that will allow the Secretary of State for Transport the flexibility which is vital if we are to ensure that we do not introduce requirements that are unworkable technically or that are simply not viable in an operational or economic sense. It is absolutely essential that we do not place burdens on either the manufacturing or operating industries that could jeopardise their future. We have learnt from the experience of the United States that a blanket requirement for accessible transport without regard for technical and economic realities, can lead all too quickly to loss of services altogether. If services are withdrawn, that is not a victory for disabled people. It is simply a loss to the travelling public as a whole.

27 Jun 1995 : Column 716

The first set of transport clauses before the Committee deal with access to PSVs—bus and coach vehicles adapted to carry more than eight passengers and used on public service.

The new clause proposed by way of Amendment No. 139A gives the Secretary of State powers to make regulations covering access to PSVs for disabled people, including those who use wheelchairs. The purpose of the regulations will be to enable disabled people to get on and off buses and coaches in safety, without unreasonable difficulty and to be able to be carried in such vehicles in safety and in reasonable comfort.

We have provided in subsection (2) a list of requirements which might be included in any regulations. That list is not exhaustive but simply highlights some of the key issues which would need to be covered. Before making any regulations under the clause, the Secretary of State will be required to consult the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee and any other organisation that he considers appropriate.

I should also say at this point that a full compliance cost assessment will be produced for any regulations we make under those provisions, as well as those covering access to taxis and rail services.

To ensure that we have the flexibility to deal with the widest range of circumstances, subsection (6) provides for different provisions to be made for different classes or descriptions of vehicle, for the same class operating in different circumstances, and for different locations. That flexibility is essential to allow different access solutions, which in the case of full-size single deck buses might be low floors and in the case of coaches might be lifts, to permit different time-scales, and to allow regional and local variation. That will enable us to make regulations making different requirements for different types of vehicle over different time-scales which will ensure a smooth transition towards accessibility.

The Department of Transport has already embarked on a detailed and extensive process of consultation with trade associations and with individual companies. We are well aware that viable access solutions are not yet available for all vehicle types and we recognise that there may be a role for some research input from the Department of Transport to develop and evaluate possible options before regulations can be made.

Finally, as with the taxi provisions, and those relating to rail vehicles which I will come on to later, the new clause creates new offences to deal with non-compliance with the accessibility regulations.

Amendment No. 139B provides for "accessibility certificates" to be issued by vehicle examiners as a parallel to the existing initial roadworthiness certification procedure for public service vehicles. Regulations will deal with the detail of the application procedure for both types of certificate, the inspection system for vehicle examiners to follow and for the issue of duplicate certificates.

In the absence of such a certificate, or of the alternative "approval certificate" which would be issued for vehicles produced in large numbers, a PSV to which

27 Jun 1995 : Column 717

the regulations apply will not be permitted to be used on a road. Failure to comply will give rise to an offence with a penalty set at level 4.

Amendment No. 139C introduces a new clause which provides for a type of approval approach to the certification of PSVs built in larger volumes, allowing an initial "type vehicle" to be approved, with subsequent vehicles of the same type being issued with approval certificates. That avoids the need for each vehicle of the same type to be individually inspected.

Amendment No. 139D allows special operating authorisation for vehicles which do not conform to accessibility regulations or for which a certificate has not been granted. It provides flexibility to cater for circumstances in which an individual vehicle or class of vehicle cannot reasonably be expected to meet the full requirements of the accessibility regulations.

Amendment No. 139E creates offences and sets penalties for forgery or misuse of accessibility certificates.

Amendment No. 139F provides for an appeals system against refusal to issue an accessibility certificate or an approval certificate. It also makes provision for a review system for cases where the type approval is refused.

Amendment No. 139G gives the Secretary of State power to require fees to be paid on applications for certificates, type approvals and appeals. There is precedent here in relation to existing procedures for vehicle certification arrangements.

I now turn to the rail services which provide a key link in the transport chain. We believe that disabled people should also have that transport option available to them. We have, of course, already made provision in the Railways Act to ensure that operators have a duty to have regard to the needs of disabled passengers. We believe that the legislative framework could be further strengthened. I wish, therefore, to speak to the new clauses in Amendments Nos. 139H, 139J, 139K, and Amendment No. 146B, which deal with the access to rail services, including light rapid transit and tram systems.

The Government propose to use these regulation-making powers only in respect of new railway rolling stock. There is no intention to require modifications to any existing rolling stock. The clause on this issue tabled by the Opposition in another place would have made that limitation clear on the face of the Bill. On reflection, we believe that that would be sensible and I shall be bringing forward a further amendment at Report stage which will limit the use of these regulations to new rail vehicles.

Amendment No. 139H is proposed so that the Secretary of State can make regulations defining standards of access for rail vehicles to enable disabled people, including those in wheelchairs, to be able to get on and off them in safety and without unreasonable difficulty. The regulations would also be able to ensure that disabled people are carried in such vehicles in safety and reasonable comfort. Before making any regulations under this provision, the Secretary of State

27 Jun 1995 : Column 718

will be required to consult the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee and any other organisation he considers appropriate.

We have to recognise that the design and use of rail vehicles will vary according to a range of factors, including the systems on which they operate and the use to which the vehicles are put. We have proposed that this clause should allow for different provisions to be made in the regulations for different classes or descriptions of rail vehicles, for the same vehicles used in different circumstances and for different localities or on different networks.

That flexibility is essential for a number of reasons. For example, we will want to ensure that accessibility regulations do not undermine the historic character of heritage railways, and that could be achieved through this provision. Equally, it will allow us to look at different parts of, and different vehicles on, the London Underground to ensure that the access requirements are reasonable and practicable for such an old and largely inaccessible system. We need to be able to look at the circumstances of each system to tailor the requirements to the needs of both the industry and disabled consumers.

This clause also provides for the creation of an offence should an operator use a vehicle on public service which does not comply with requirements.

Amendment No. 139J provides powers for the Secretary of State to make exemption orders for vehicles which would otherwise have to comply with any accessibility regulations. I can assure the Committee that this is not a let out. Its purpose is simply to allow for flexibility in the legislation to provide powers to make exemptions where particular circumstances might warrant it. Again, we see a role for the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee in advising the Secretary of State on any applications, and we have provided for him to be able to make an exemption order, refuse to make one, or to make it with such conditions as he considers appropriate. We do not envisage that this power will be widely used.

Amendment No. 139K relates to both the "PSV accessibility regulations" and the "rail vehicle accessibility regulations", making provision for cases where offences are committed by corporate bodies, or in Scotland by partnerships or unincorporated bodies.

Amendment No. 142A relates back to the provisions for PSVs and has the effect of disapplying the general requirement under the Bill that orders be made by statutory instrument in the case of special authorisations which apply only to a specified vehicle or to vehicles operated by a specified person.

We believe that these amendments will deliver improved standards of accessibility for disabled people to future public transport vehicles. It will not be achieved overnight, but these clauses will provide the necessary framework for effective and sustainable transport services which meet the needs of disabled people without creating unreasonable burdens on transport providers.

27 Jun 1995 : Column 719

Amendments Nos. 146A, 146B and 147A simply cover the definitions of the new terms which have been introduced in the previous clauses. They are self explanatory.

I apologise if I have gone on a little. I have tried to go over the amendments as fast as I can, but I believe that it is important that what we aim to do in these important new clauses that I have brought to the Committee is clearly on the record. Equally, I believe that, despite the lateness of the hour, these changes to public transport on roads and rail are of great significance to disabled people. Over the years, as new vehicles come on the roads and the railways, the accessibility for disabled people will increase and one of the great problems facing disabled people—that of getting around—will largely be overcome. Even though I have detained the Committee for a little while, I believe that, to achieve that, it was worth it. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page