Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, perhaps I may say to my noble friend Lord Teviot that the case that he cited would certainly be a much better story if it had been "man bites dog". I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Swinfen for explaining what he was seeking to achieve by way of amendments. When I first saw the amendment which talks about being "fully orientated", I actually thought that it had something to do with the proverbial Glasgow man on a bus telling the world that he belonged to Glasgow on a Saturday night. However, my noble friend has now explained to me what his amendment actually means. Indeed, I had a rather interesting discussion about the various new techniques which are available for helping people—not in this case wheelchair users who, in a way, have tended to dominate our debate, but other people who are equally disabled when it comes to mobility.

First, I would like to make it absolutely clear that we intend the regulations made under the new clauses covering PSVs and rail vehicles to deal not only with

20 Jul 1995 : Column 460

the needs of wheelchair users but to make provision for the needs of other disabled people, including those who are blind, partially sighted, deaf or hard of hearing. There are provisions which we would propose to include in regulations which would help to ensure that visually impaired people could move about inside vehicles confidently. For example, the use of colour contrast on handrails and seating and improved lighting levels. We will also, through codes of practice, give guidance on how drivers and other transport staff can assist visually impaired people, for example, by giving them clear instructions about where the nearest suitable seat is located. That point in particular is already included in the Department of Transport's video, "Make it work", which provides disability awareness training for bus drivers, and it is also included in the new customer care training package which was launched recently by Bus and Coach Training Ltd.

As regards Amendments Nos. 127 and 146, I would point out that the list of items to be provided in accessibility regulations is not exhaustive. I accept that they may appear to be oriented towards the needs of wheelchair users, but my noble friend and other noble Lords who have taken part can be assured that we intend to build on the work which has already been done, in particular by the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, in ensuring that the regulations make provision for sensory impaired people and ambulant disabled people, as well as those who use wheelchairs.

In relation to Amendments Nos. 126, 145 and 147 we would envisage that the codes of practice which will be issued to rail operators will deal with the issue of audible announcements. Indeed, the rail regulator's code of practice, Meeting the needs of disabled passengers, already covers this issue. As train development improves, the number of signs for disabled people in train carriages will increase and become more widespread around the country. We hope that announcements, too, will become clearer. I hope that that is the case whether one can hear in whole or in part. That would be a good thing. These issues will be covered.

I now turn to Amendment No. 156. The Public Vehicles (Conduct of Drivers, Inspectors, Conductors and Passengers) Regulations 1990 already make certain provision for guide dogs on PSVs. However, as currently drafted, they do not cover hearing dogs and there are no similar legislative provisions covering rail vehicles. London Underground's conditions of carriage allow for any dog to be carried free of charge provided it is kept under control, which, of course, in the case of guide dogs should present no difficulties at all. But I accept that this is an issue which merits further consideration.

I hope that on the basis of the explanations I have given about our intentions, my noble friend will agree to withdraw these amendments. I shall take away, if I may, Amendment No. 156 to consider it in more detail. If we are persuaded that something more needs to be done, we shall bring forward appropriate amendments at a later stage.

Lord Carter: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, and with the leave of the House, I hope I may make one point. As he says, Clause 46(2) is all about wheelchairs. It seems a shame that the Bill would appear

20 Jul 1995 : Column 461

to deal only with wheelchairs and everything else will be left to regulation. Will the Government consider whether they should at Third Reading introduce an amendment which would make it clear that adaptations to public service vehicles will not be just for wheelchair users? It is a common mistake to think just of that aspect when one is considering the matter. As we all know, there are many forms of disability. I believe that it would be helpful if the Government spelt out on the face of the Bill the sort of adaptations that they would expect rather than just those which appear to apply only in regard to wheelchairs, leaving everything else to regulation.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I shall consider what the noble Lord has said. I am sure he appreciates that in many ways the wheelchair problem, if I can call it that, is sometimes the more difficult one to resolve. I certainly hope that I have given enough clear assurance that we are dealing with accessibility for all disabled people and not just for wheelchair users. However, I shall consider the point that he has just made.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his extremely encouraging reply. I am delighted to hear that he will look seriously at all of the amendments, but in particular will bring Amendment No. 156 back himself, even though it may be redrafted at Third Reading.

He mentioned clear announcements. Like him, I suffer from unclear announcements on railway stations and other places, very often not because of the equipment but because the person who makes the announcements has not been taught how to use it properly. With those remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 127 not moved.]

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendments Nos. 128 to 130:

Page 35, leave out line 23.
Page 35, line 24, leave out subsection (7).
Page 35, line 26, leave out ("or order").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to Amendments Nos. 128 to 130. I beg to move them en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Teviot moved Amendment No. 131:

Page 35, line 27, after ("section") insert ("13, 14, 15, 16,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 131 and speak also to Amendments Nos. 132A, 133, 135, 151A, 153, 153A, 153B, 154, 155A and 174B. As usual, I have pleasure in declaring an interest. For many years I have been involved in the bus and coach industry.

This important Bill rightly makes provision for greater access to employment, goods and services for the disabled. My particular concern is about access to transport services. Much has been achieved but more remains to be done. I should like to pay tribute to the excellent services provided by community transport organisations and services such as Dial-A-Ride. The bus and coach industry has already embraced on a voluntary

20 Jul 1995 : Column 462

basis the need to improve accessibility of vehicles. All new vehicles, and the majority of those in service, now incorporate features recommended by the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee.

The noble Lord, Lord Carter, has taken us down memory lane. I very much take his point about people in wheelchairs. Years ago, as a conductor, I found that those who suffered the tortures of the damned were those who suffered from arthritis. They had great difficulty in boarding buses, sitting down, standing, getting off and having to orientate themselves in order to proceed further. That may be an area that DPTAC can look at. That body is probably already doing so, but what I say is completely off the cuff.

The recent voluntary introduction of low-floor buses has been welcomed, and trials are helping to get the new designs suitable for all terrain. The Confederation of Passenger Transport has welcomed the dialogue with the Department of Transport about how best to move towards greater accessibility. Clearly, in a Bill of this nature it is not possible to make provision for all eventualities. Some of the detail must be a matter for regulation at a later date. That is why I welcome the obligation upon future Ministers to consult before making regulations on certain types of transport.

Amendment No. 131 seeks to add to those parts of the Bill on which the Secretary of State is required to consult. It is recognised that Clauses 13 to 16 do not at present apply to any means of transport. However, there is nothing in the Bill to prevent a reversal of that situation at a future date.

Amendment No. 132A recognises that it may not be appropriate to consult in all circumstances. Amendment No. 133 proposes two new subsections of Clause 46 which seeks to exclude heritage vehicles and vehicles in current use. A definition of heritage vehicles is included in a consequential amendment to Clause 60: Amendment No. 174B. It is also recognised that these regulations apply only to new vehicles. However, heritage enterprises often build replica vehicles, i.e. those that conform in appearance and character to earlier vehicles, when existing vehicles wear out. It is clearly important to ensure that those vehicles are brought within the exclusion.

Amendment No. 135 seeks to provide an additional option for the issue of an accessibility certificate. It links that new procedure with the issue of a certificate of initial fitness which all public service vehicles are required to possess.

Amendments. Nos. 151A, 153, 153A, 153B and 154 seek a requirement to consult before laying regulations or orders concerning rail and tramway vehicles. Additionally, it seeks to ensure that the Secretary of State shall have regard to the following: the time, the cost and the practicability of designing, testing, manufacturing and introducing rail vehicles with provision for wheelchair accommodation.

Finally, Amendment No. 155A deals with the exemption for road vehicles from accessibility regulations. It makes provision for the Secretary of State to provide a blanket exemption order. I beg to move.

20 Jul 1995 : Column 463

9.45 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I should state at the outset that we do not consider the provisions of Part III of the Bill to be appropriate for dealing with access to existing public transport. We made that clear in the early stages of the Bill. It is why transport vehicles are excluded from Part III and why we introduced provisions dealing with transport vehicles as free-standing amendments. In relation to those transport clauses we have ensured that consultation with interested parties is a key requirement. We believe that that should go far enough in providing reassurance for the transport industries and disability interests.

I also have to point out the DPTAC has a statutory duty in relation to transport issues, but it does not have expertise in other areas, for example, education or access to shops and public buildings. Amendment No. 131 is therefore misconceived in that it would require consultation on issues outside the committee's field of expertise. I have taken every opportunity to stress that we intend the accessibility regulations to apply only to new vehicles.

There are several other reasons, too, why I consider the first part of Amendment No. 133 unnecessary. First, it seeks to exclude heritage vehicles from Part III of the Bill, which deals with the general right of access to goods and services. But public transport vehicles generally are already excluded from that part of the Bill, and that general exemption also applies to heritage vehicles. Similarly, since the amendment would specifically exclude heritage vehicles from the scope of Clause 47, I can see no justification for then exempting them from the provisions of Clause 49. As drafted, that clause allows for special authorisations to be made for vehicles which would otherwise have to comply with the accessibility regulations. That in itself will allow us to deal with vehicles which might otherwise have to comply with the accessibility regulations. That in itself will allow us to deal with vehicles which might otherwise unreasonably be caught by the provisions.

I should like to take this opportunity to reassure my noble friend that we have no intention of undermining the tradition of heritage vehicles in this country. We are sure that the provisions in the Bill will give us the flexibility to ensure that we achieve that.

Turning to the second part of the amendment, which proposes to exclude "vehicles in current use", once again we have said as clearly as we can that the provisions will only apply to "new" vehicles. That was the concept first discussed in the other place and it is one to which we are totally committed. But even if there was a need to clarify this in the Bill—and I do not believe that there is—this particular amendment would not achieve it. The term "in current use" is not defined and as such would be open to the widest interpretation. Clearly, I could not accept that.

We intend that the system for issuing accessibility certificates is as simple and straightforward as possible. We do not want to add to bureaucracy or impose additional burdens on the industry. We have always envisaged that an accessibility certificate would be issued at the same time as a certificate of initial fitness. We have made that clear to industry.

20 Jul 1995 : Column 464

Amendments Nos. 153 and 153A seek to make similar provisions for rail vehicles as Amendments Nos. 131 and 132A do for PSVs. I would extend the same arguments against this amendment.

It is clear that my noble friend, through a number of his amendments, is trying to ensure that consultation is an integral part in the preparation of regulations and orders under the provisions of this Bill. He need have no concerns about that as I can assure the House that full consultation, where appropriate, will be carried out.

In any event, Amendment No. 151A has no effect. There is no order-making power in Clause 53, and, even if we were to accept Amendment No. 153, there are no order-making powers in Part III on which the amendment could bite. The order-making power in Clause 54 is already subject to a consultation requirement.

I can see no justification for Amendment No. 154. We are making it clear in the Bill that accessibility regulations will apply only to new rail vehicles. We are committed to ensuring that heritage vehicles are not caught by the provisions of the accessibility regulations. The very fact that we are taking powers only for new vehicles will mean that there is no prospect of them being affected in the immediate future. In the longer term we would be able to realise our intention to exempt either by expressly excluding heritage vehicles from the scope of the regulations or by granting exemptions.

Turning to Amendment No. 153B, which seeks to establish a list of matters which should be considered as part of the regulation-making process, I would point out that these are issues which would as a matter of course be addressed. There is no need to make special provision for them, which only burdens the Bill to no additional advantage. Indeed, no Secretary of State acting properly could fail to take the matters listed in my noble friend's amendments into account.

Regulations under Clause 54 could lay down publication requirements. We believe that that approach is right. Applications will need to be considered on their merits and evaluated in the light of local conditions. That will not be achieved if we widen the provisions to include group applications, and I do not consider that to be a desirable way to approach the matter.

I hope that, with the reassurances that I have given and what I have said today about the whole issue of PSV vehicles, my noble friend will be able to withdraw his amendments.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page