Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, perhaps I may say how important these amendments are and how glad I am to see them. I give an example. My daughter went to the help of a man who was trying to hire a taxi. She stopped a taxi and helped him in. He told her that he had been waiting two hours for a taxi to stop. I believe that the amendments are necessary.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Gladwin of Clee moved Amendment No. 40:

After Clause 31, insert the following new clause—

Admission of wheelchair accessible taxis to station etc

(" .—(1) The owner of a transport facility shall be under a duty

24 Oct 1995 : Column 1046

to admit regulated taxis to that transport facility for the purpose of taking up or setting down persons who have hired or may wish to hire such taxis.
(2) Subsection (1) shall only apply to the extent that a transport facility is suitable for use by motor vehicles and at such times as it is ordinarily open to persons travelling to or from it otherwise than by taxi.
(3) Subsection (1) does not apply to a transport facility which is situated in the area of a licensing authority in respect of which an exemption order made in accordance with section 30 is in force.
(4) Subsection (1) does not apply to a transport facility where, prior to the passing of this Act, the owner has entered into a contract or agreement granting another person the exclusive right to provide taxi or private hire car services at that transport facility.
(5) The Secretary of State may by order provide for subsection (4) to cease to have effect on such date as may be specified in the order.
(6) Separate orders may be made under subsection (5) with respect to different areas or localities or transport facilities.
(7) Where taxis are admitted to a transport facility in accordance with subsection (1) the owner may:
(a) charge such fees for their admission as may be authorised by the Secretary of State;
(b) designate places at that transport facility at which persons may be taken up by or set down from taxis; and
(c) impose such conditions for the maintenance of safety or the control of traffic at that transport facility as in all the circumstances are reasonable.
(8) Nothing in this section shall be taken to authorise a taxi to ply for hire outside of the area for which it is licensed.
(9) In this section—
"owner" means a person who—
(a) is the owner of, or who has any right over, or interest in, a transport facility, and
(b) whose consent is needed for taxis to be admitted to that transport facility;
"private hire car" means a vehicle used for the carriage of passengers for reward, whether or not licensed as such, other than a taxi or public service vehicle;
"public service vehicle" has the same meaning as in Part II of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981; and
"transport facility" means any land which forms part of any port, airport, railway station or bus station including the forecourt or roadways of or approaches to any such facility.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment seeks to close a loophole in the Bill which in my opinion and that of RADAR would allow discrimination against disabled passengers, in particular those in wheelchairs, when they arrive at airports, seaports, railway stations or bus stations and then require a taxi to complete their journey.

Noble Lords may recall that I raised this anxiety at Committee and Report stages of the Bill when I sought assurances from the Minister but, regrettably, without success. I therefore must apologise to the House for going back over old ground.

Briefly, the story starts with the Department of Transport's 1993 Green Paper on Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles when views were specifically invited on the desirability of requiring all vehicles plying for hire at airports and stations to be wheelchair accessible.

We then move to March 1994 and the House of Commons Transport Committee Report on Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles. In paragraph 148 the committee stated:

24 Oct 1995 : Column 1047

    "Land, including roads, at airports and stations is usually privately owned and can be controlled by the airport operator or station owner. This gives them the right to regulate the use of their premises by taxis and PHVs and, in some cases, to levy charges. Sometimes, ... the concession is granted to a single taxi or PHV company. While we note that the Government is 'not entirely convinced' of the merits of granting this type of concession, as opposed to allowing any locally licensed taxis to operate at such premises, there may on occasion be arguments for such an arrangement, for example in order to avoid congestion. Sole concessions should only be awarded after an open competition, which should give preference to companies which undertake to provide wheelchair-accessible vehicles".

However, the Government's response to this recommendation, published in February of this year, was that while they appreciated the sentiment behind the recommendation it would not seem appropriate to control the situation by regulation. The Secretary of State for Transport stated:

    "Hire vehicles at airports and stations (taxis and private hire vehicles) are there to make access to and from the station or airport attractive to passengers. It is therefore in the interest of the owning authority or company to ensure that appropriate facilities are provided".

That is quite right. Obviously the owner of a transport facility will wish to make it as attractive as possible to passengers. But what if he decides that it would be in the best interests of the majority of his passengers to enter into a contract with a private hire company to provide a taxi service from his station, airport or seaport? Those taxis would not be covered by this legislation.

Therefore a disabled passenger in a wheelchair, having travelled in an accessible train, bus, aeroplane or ship, arriving at the station or port, and wishing to complete his journey by taxi, will not have the same freedom to do so as an able-bodied passenger; and that is discrimination. It really is not good enough for the owner of a transport facility who has entered into an exclusive contract with a private hire company simply to exhibit a notice stating how an accessible taxi can be obtained—probably by telephoning some other taxi company in the next town—or to say to a disabled passenger in a wheelchair (and I know that it is said), "It's a pity you didn't warn us in advance because we could have had an accessible taxi waiting for you".

The amendment would not prevent the owners of transport facilities from entering into exclusive contracts with providers of taxi services. However, it would ensure that such services did not discriminate in any way against disabled passengers, in particular those in wheelchairs.

Subsection (1) of the new clause achieves that end. Subsection (2) limits the time that taxis were admitted to the facility to the times that it was normally open to the travelling public. Subsection (3) states that if the station or port is in a town which has an exemption order in force then the owner of the transport facility involved would not be required to provide accessible taxis. Subsection (4) allows current exclusive contracts to continue until their expiry date, but new ones would have to abide by the provisions of subsection (1). If there were any long-term contracts, subsection (5) allows the Secretary of State to set a date when they should come to an end. I hope that the remainder of the clause is self-explanatory and that the amendment is not

24 Oct 1995 : Column 1048

technically flawed. My final hope is that the Minister will recognise that the problem exists and will agree that the amendment is the way to solve it.

Perhaps I may remind the Minister that during the debate at Report stage on 20th July he stated in a slightly different context, in answer to a speech by the noble Lord, Lord Renton:

    "We want to make sure that disabled people can have exactly the same freedom to travel and to get a taxi as able-bodied people".—(Official Report, 20/7/95; col. 452.]

Without this new clause we shall not achieve that aim. I beg to move.

Lord Finsberg: My Lords, several years ago I was the adviser to the LTDA, the major taxi organisation in greater London. Whether I should still declare that interest, I do not know. However, the amendment moved by the noble Lord deserves careful consideration in particular from this side of the House. All my political life I have believed in choice and in not allowing monopolies to exist. Yet in many areas there is no choice of a taxi and there is a monopoly. I should need to be convinced by my noble friend that there is merit in rejecting the amendment.

It is almost certainly flawed. Over the years those of us who sought to move amendments have been told that they are technically incorrect. I always used to say, "Fine, let us accept a technically flawed amendment and then invite the Government to put it right through their highly skilled parliamentary draftsmen at a later stage". As the Bill has to go back with amendments to another place, that could be done. My noble friend may have answers that will convince me, but on the face of it I believe that a case has been made out for further consideration of the point.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page