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Lord Peyton of Yeovil: I have some sympathy--at least, I think that I do--with the noble Lord when he says that there is already sufficient provision elsewhere in the law to cover the needs of disabled people. However, if one accepts that, surely the noble Lord must accept that there is some onus on the department and on the Government to explain why the law is not better enforced. If the young, fit and able start to clamber about on buses, they are quite likely to suffer a mishap; and for the old and the disabled, buses present considerable difficulties.
This world is crammed full, like cans of sardines, with good intentions but, too often, they get absolutely nowhere. I hope that the noble Lord will stir up his department and the new authorities not merely into making plans--anyone can make plans--but into ensuring that those plans contain the appropriate provisions and are enforced. It is no good simply saying, "We have already done that", because it is not working.
Lord Whitty: I largely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, said with regard to the disabled. I am not saying that we do not need any provisions for the disabled in the Bill; we have such provisions. There is a clear requirement on local authorities in drawing up their plans to have regard to the needs of the disabled. As regards existing legislation, the Disability Discrimination Act was enacted fairly recently and is being phased in. Therefore, its full effects have not yet been felt. However, it has resulted in changes to facilities such as vehicles, bus stops and access to the Underground, and to information to accommodate the disabled. Those provisions already exist. We want local authorities to introduce those changes more rapidly, if possible, to the benefit of the disabled. However, as I say, we do not need more powers or more prescription on the face of the Bill.
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I am rather intrigued by the wording in this Bill and by that in the Greater London Authority Act. I take on board what the noble Lord said earlier, but I think that I am right in saying that the requirement on the mayor to provide transport which is accessible to persons with mobility problems was included in the GLA Act as a result of pressure that was brought to bear in Parliament. Rather than endlessly arguing about this matter and then pressing it to a Division, it may be less time consuming to admit now that the needs of people with mobility problems may be mentioned in guidance but that they are not included on the face of the Bill. We may have to return constantly to these important matters because of that omission. I believe that if we included the words "accessible transport", we may be able to satisfy the legitimate demands and worries of people with mobility problems. A measure that is included on the face of the Bill is permanent as opposed to impermanent or temporary.
Lord Howie of Troon: I have a second-class mind on a good day! Also, I do not see terribly well. I see the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, relatively clearly, but I see my old friend Lord Peyton less clearly. I see the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, in a blur, although he looks well! However, I say seriously that when I travel as a passenger on motorways, map reading for my "chauffeuse", Lady Howie, I find it extremely difficult to read road signs. The other day on the way to Oxford we passed Junction 8A as it was not marked on my map and I could not see the sign. We had to take the long way round which created a certain amount of domestic disharmony! However, we got over that.
I also find that, at my age and with my sight, going down stairs is difficult, especially in such places as Westminster Underground station. I realise that that is a fact of life and that I am obliged to cope with that within my limited ability. I do not expect the relevant body to make road signs all over the country large enough for me to be able to see them, although that would be a great help and would certainly please my wife; nor do I expect steps everywhere to be constructed so as to enable me to use them without difficulty. The problems of those who are more seriously disabled should of course be taken into account, but there is little point in asking for the moon. Even if the moon is made of green cheese, we cannot possibly get it.
Lord Swinfen: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Howie, for his compliment. I also wear glasses; I need bifocals when I am working in the Chamber so that I can read my notes and see the reaction of Ministers on the Front Bench on the other side of the Chamber.
In his original response the Minister mentioned guidance. The Bill was considered in another place for a long time before it even reached this House. Will the noble Lord be kind enough to send me a copy of the
This has been a useful debate. I need to read carefully what the Minister said in his response. I am not sure at the moment whether he has been able to satisfy me; I think there should be something on the face of the Bill. However, I shall read very carefully what he said and I shall check up on the other pieces of legislation that he mentioned to make certain that I and my advisers are satisfied. Therefore, for the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
I noticed that the Deputy Prime Minister had asked the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, in his capacity as Minister of Transport, to produce a 10-year plan for modernising and developing the transport system. That is a very laudable objective and it seemed to me that there was merit in the period of 10 years. Indeed, if one reads today's edition of The Times--and, I suspect, other newspapers, but I have not had time to read them all today--one sees a great announcement about a 10-year investment plan. Since we do not know what will be the final outcome of the Government's spending review, I hope that there was a clear agreement between the DETR and the Treasury before that announcement appeared in the press. All too often in the past we have seen announcements of this kind confounded by subsequent experience.
The Times reports what appears to be a huge 10-year investment programme--indeed, it is--but then one finds that the Government hope to get half of it from the private sector, which reduces it by a half; one then divides the sum by 10 and it comes back down to rather more than we are spending now but about what the previous government were spending on average year on year. So it is perhaps not quite the wonderful thing it is made out to be.
To come back to the point of the amendment, subsection (1) of Clause 108 imposes a duty to review transport plans--something we all find unexceptionable--and subsection (2) sets out the replacement time-scale, which is five years. One could perhaps accept a prejudice on the part of governments that they are infinitely wise and competent and can plan for 10 years with reasonable confidence and certainty as to what will happen over that time--except, of course, if we stop to think about it, we can have considerable confidence only that what we now think will happen over the next 10 years will be blown by the winds of time and the out-turn will be different.
The Government may feel, of course, that that can be taken into the planning. They may also feel that local authorities, being lesser mortals, can plan for only five years. I find that slightly hurtful to local authorities. There was a time when even local authorities were honoured with a 10-year planning time-scale. When the social services departments were originally set up, local authorities were invited to establish 10-year development plans for them. We know in the light of bitter experience that all too often those plans were blown adrift. It might be more honest of the Government to make the task of the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, easier by inviting him to consider plans for a five-year period. They would then have a much greater degree of certainty. In any event, it seems to me that there should be a congruence between the two parts of the planning system.
When I tabled the amendment I had another, rather sneaky, thought in the back of my mind--that is, that the Government have said that a 10-year period is the time-scale during which the hypothecation of revenues from charging for congestion or levying for licences would last. This 10-year period is being constantly mentioned and it seems to me that it could be appropriately applied to local transport plans as well. I think I have advocated sufficient reasons why we should agree to the amendment. I beg to move.
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