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Lord Whitty: I am not sure. Hire companies are in an entirely different position and the same provisions do not apply in relation to hired vehicles as apply in other circumstances. It is possible to envisage circumstances where it might be more appropriate to address this to the owner rather than the keeper, if we move to that kind of regime. At present, it is the registered keeper who picks up, for example, most driving offences if the driver is not identified. In that context, we may want to change the keeper liability to an owner liability.
But that is all very much in the future. The immediate position and the regulations we are likely to introduce at the moment will relate to driver liability for moving offences, as they do more generally.
The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, referred to the proceeds and the profit. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, indicated, it is not sensible to refer to profit in this area; it is not a profit-making activity.
Lord Whitty: What we used to call the "social surplus"! In those circumstances, the regulations would clearly specify that it could go to the administration of this scheme, as Members of the Committee have said. There will be a cost to local authorities for the introduction of this scheme. It will be some time before those costs are retrieved and the administration will need to be costed. I suspect that the regulations may well provide for its use on other transport activities. However that is a matter for regulations and not a matter for the amendment which
Lord Bradshaw: Before the Minister sits down, I must say that I am very disappointed by that reply. Experience of bus lane cameras has existed in London for a very long time, and I cannot believe that the enforcement problems in other large cities are in any way different from those experienced in London. We must not miss this extremely important opportunity to equip the Government so that they can move forward at the appropriate time. I am not saying that the Government should move forward on everything at the same time, but they should be equipped so to do.
Perhaps I may ask one question, to which the answer may not yet be available, although it is very closely associated with this issue. In the consultation on the bus industry which was published about a year ago, the issue of 24-hour bus stop clearways was raised. I wonder whether at Committee stage we might return to the subject of whether the Government have now reached a conclusion as to whether this is something which should be introduced at the same time. As the Committee will know, low-floor buses, or buses equipped for the disabled, are of no use whatever unless the bus can reliably pull into the kerb.
Lord Whitty: I take that point. It is clearly one of the reasons that we wish to keep clear bus stops as well as the bus lanes. No doubt we shall return in Committee to both matters raised by the noble Lord. As regards consultation, we shall be dealing with that very shortly.
Earl Attlee: I understand the need and the effectiveness of these amendments. But can the Minister say what, fundamentally, in terms of effectiveness, is the difference between a fine imposed by the court and a civil penalty?
Lord Whitty: I would probably require legal advice to answer that question in legal terms. But in terms of the effectiveness of administration, then clearly a civil penalty can be more effective than going through the court procedures. Therefore, there would be a civil rather than a criminal penalty. I hope that clarifies the issue sufficiently for the noble Earl.
The noble Lord said: This amendment deals with concessionary fares. I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 69 to 76, 81, 82 and 85, and 137. This group of amendments is about concessionary fares. It deals with
The statutory minimum entitles eligible people to a concessionary bus fare scheme which is at least as generous as half fares, with a free bus pass within their district or council or passenger transport authority area. In the Bill as it stands, that entitlement is provided only for elderly people. These amendments extend the entitlement to people with disabilities. In providing this entitlement we deliberately adopted a comprehensive definition of eligibility, extending it to all groups of disabled people who are potentially eligible under the present legislation. I am sure that noble Lords will see that as the correct approach. Thus the entitlement will cover people who are blind or partially sighted; people who are deaf or without speech; people whose ability to walk is seriously impaired, people who are without the use of both arms; people who have a learning disability; or people who would not qualify for a driving licence on grounds of physical fitness.
This new, wide eligibility will apply to all local authorities in England and Wales. That will include London. I should say that the eligibility criteria for concessionary fares for disabled people, which is already covered by the London scheme, have hitherto been more narrowly drawn in London than that. We felt it only right to bring the two into line by extending the London criteria and the amendments do that. In London there is a statutory reserve scheme and it will apply to that. That scheme will only be triggered if the London boroughs fail to agree on a London-wide scheme and the reserve scheme will be extended in scope as a result of these amendments.
We have calculated that for England 1.5 million people will benefit from these amendments. We estimate that the cost to local government would be £8 million and that amount will be added to the Revenue Support Grant for the year in which it comes into effect, which we intend to be 2001/02.
I acknowledge that some local authorities already provide concessionary fares which are more generous than the statutory minimum and, of course, such schemes can continue. It does not alter the position with regard to more generous arrangements. However, other local authorities do not currently provide schemes which meet the statutory minimum, or they provide no scheme at all, at least for some groups of disabled people. It is in those cases that people with disabilities will see a real benefit from these new provisions, and it is in that spirit of social inclusiveness that I beg to move these amendments.
Baroness Hanham: On Second Reading I raised the issue of the cost of this scheme and the Local Government Association remains concerned that it will not be fully funded. I seek the Minister's assurance that there will be money to fund that, although I accept that at the moment it is difficult to give an accurate global figure. Perhaps in retrospect it may be possible to fund that.
Lord Addington: I have a brief point to make about the definition. It seems to be very full and wide-ranging, but has this definition been looked at by the Disability Rights Commission and will it be used as a model for other legislation?
Lord Islwyn: I support the categories which the Minister has mentioned but I have been concerned about the times of implementation of the scheme as laid down in Clauses 133 to 139. I understand that pensioners' organisations in particular are concerned about this issue.
The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Skelmersdale): I had better interrupt the proceedings as there is a Division in the Chamber. We shall return to this matter in 10 minutes.
[The Sitting was suspended for a Division in the House from 5.34 p.m. to 5.44 p.m.]
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