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Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, I too support these amendments. There are more and more disabled people because we are becoming an elderly population. Disability comes with old age as well as to young people. There is great concern about parts of the City of London and London being closed to traffic. People cannot drive up to various theatres in London now which is causing considerable concern to disabled people, to those who help them and to taxi drivers. I hope that these amendments will be accepted.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister a question. I also hope that these amendments will be accepted. Like the noble Baroness, I shall not take up your Lordships' time by reiterating the reasons for supporting them. If the Minister is minded not to accept them, can he tell me whether the term “efficient" in Clause 126(1) requires the kind of consideration to which the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, referred to be taken into account by the mayor? It may be that my question would be better directed during the debate on a later group of amendments which includes the Minister's own amendment. It would be helpful to know how the Government interpret the term “efficient" in the context of the issues to which noble Lords have referred.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I support this group of amendments. As I understand it, it is government policy to encourage the disabled to work and not rely solely on benefit. It would be a great disincentive to work if those who require their own private transport because of their disabilities have to pay additionally for the use of the roads and a parking place at their

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place of work. If the Government do not accept these amendments it will be a considerable discouragement to the disabled who wish to work. It should be borne in mind that once they are working they will no longer be such a burden on the state but in fact will be supporting it in the taxes that they pay on their earnings.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, as usual, the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, and other noble Lords have made a powerful case. It is clear that some disabled people will have no alternative but to use specialised vehicles. They will not be deterred from using their cars because of the charges. Therefore, there is little point in raising them against such people. However, if this amendment is agreed to, the Secretary of State will have to be careful concerning those whom he exempts from charges. We do not want a free-for-all.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester for raising these issues and for referring in a positive way to the discussions that we have had. Many noble Lords will recognise that the Government accept almost everything that has been said in the debate so far. We wish to provide an accessible form of transport for the disabled and the elderly.

Following the meeting to which my noble friend referred, we undertook to table amendments relating to a number of matters. We shall come to some of them later. They deal with the requirement on the mayor for consultation with disabled groups and on the timetable for providing such accessible transport.

As regards the specific issue of exemption from road user charging, substantive parts of my noble friend's amendments come later on in the chapter dealing with road user charging. I gave an undertaking during Committee stage and subsequently to endeavour to agree the structure of any national exemptions to road user charging for local authorities in time for them to be included in this Bill. However, that has not been possible because of the need to give wider consideration to the national picture. I am sure that noble Lords will agree with me that it is essential that any exemptions are clearly defined, equitable, practical to implement and not open to abuse, as the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said.

However, given that we do not as yet have a national structure, I am pleased to be able to inform the House today that the Government have tabled amendments which I believe will be taken on Thursday as regards the road user and congestion charging section of the Bill. They deal specifically with the points that my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, raised. The amendments will make it clear that the Secretary of State can specify an exemption from charges for disabled persons. They will ensure that a national exemption will be the same in and outside London, which I believe was the main point that my noble friend and others were concerned about. Therefore, regulations will be made under that provision which

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arises from our new amendments. We shall prepare them once the structure for the national concessionary arrangements has been finalised. That will be before any charging scheme is introduced in London. It is still possible for the mayor to grant exemptions in London that do not apply nationally, but the national exemptions will provide the minimum, which I am sure will meet most of the requirements raised during this debate.

Debating the amendments at the start of Part IV of the Bill has enabled me to outline the changes which the Government propose later on in the Bill. However, that has slightly pre-empted the other amendments tabled for today and probably Thursday, depending on the progress of the Bill. In substantive terms, it is better to bring in those amendments at that point rather than now. I believe that my noble friend viewed this amendment as a paving amendment and for raising these matters at the beginning of the transport section of the Bill. We have had the opportunity to deal with that. However, I suggest that we deal with the substantive points either in terms of my noble friend's other amendments or, preferably from my point of view, in the terms that the Government have now tabled which noble Lords will not yet have had time to consider.

I reply briefly to the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. The word “efficient" in Clause 126(1) is a wide term which encompasses efficient and effective policies in all areas. In Clause 127 the mayor is specifically required to pay particular attention to the concerns of those with mobility problems. Taken together they meet the requirements that she was seeking. Therefore, I hope that noble Lords will recognise that the more logical way to proceed is to look at the new amendments and deal with them when we reach the road user charging part of the Bill. I hope my noble friend will accept that. I thank him very much.

I also wish to put on record my thanks to those who came to see me two or three weeks ago concerning this issue. I believe that we have made progress. I hope that noble Lords agree that the Bill is better for that. There is now a clear duty on the mayor and TfL to provide accessible transport for the disabled citizens of our capital.

Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, at our meeting last week at the DETR my noble friend explained why timing makes it impossible to legislate now for national exemptions. We fully understood his difficulty in that regard. Moreover, I know that he will move as quickly as he can. I am most grateful to him for his response to the amendments and agree entirely with him that it will be best for definitive decisions to be taken later on the government amendments that he has now announced that he will be tabling.

I shall not be pressing Amendments Nos. 342A, 496 or 511 because we have received a far better response to the amendments than most people ever expected. Clearly their purpose is endorsed by the Minister and I believe that what we sought to achieve by the

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amendments will be met. Again, I thank my noble friend very much for all his help and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 342B:

Page 70, line 7, after (“safe,") insert (“accessible,").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the Minister has referred to the slight discomfort we feel because of the way the amendments follow each other; they have not all been taken in one group.

Perhaps I may explain the purpose of the two small amendments to Clause 126. Amendment No. 342B inserts the words “accessible" into the existing list of required criteria for the services and facilities which they mayor's transport strategy will be expected to provide under subsection (1) of the clause. The services and facilities would need to be safe, accessible, integrated, efficient and economic. Amendment No. 343A would amend subsection (3)(a) so that the services and facilities would need to include those required to meet the needs of all persons living or working in, or visiting, Greater London.

The amendments are an attempt to respond to the concerns expressed on all sides of the House that the transport strategy should make proper provisions for the needs of people with disabilities. In Committee a number of amendments were tabled to cover various aspects concerning people with mobility problems. The Government expressed sympathy and reassurance that those needs were not likely to be ignored. But Ministers resisted an approach which would result in numerous references throughout the Bill to the needs of people with mobility problems.

The amendments attempt to place on the face of the Bill a requirement to consider the needs of people with mobility needs. I hope for a positive response from the Minister if not to the wording of these modest amendments at least to the idea underlying them. I beg to move.

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