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Lord Swinfen: Perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord to ask a question about the cost. Will a cost be imposed on disabled people who require special formats over and above the costs incurred by those who do not require those arrangements? The noble Lord may need to write to me.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I may have to write to the noble Lord, but I can assure him that provision will be made in accordance with the Disability Discrimination Act on which the noble Lord is a much greater expert than I. My understanding is that the intention of the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act is that no extra costs should be incurred by disabled people for any additional services

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they need and with which they would be provided under the Act. If I am wrong about that, I shall of course write to the noble Lord.

Fundamentally, for the reason that the amendment would duplicate the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, will not press it.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate. Of course I accept the chastisement administered by my noble friend Lord Peyton of Yeovil, who is in his place on the Bench behind me. He is perhaps appropriately placed to do so by reminding me--although I needed no reminder--that all too often local authority plans are blown away in the winds of time.

I cannot do anything about the Bill and the provisions that cover planning, but if it should blow away the plans made by local authorities in five years it is even more likely to blow away in the winds of time the plans of the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston. We may have a little difficulty in this area.

I am grateful for the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on the question of planning. The noble Baroness pointed out that local government is moving more and more towards a system of rolling planning. The procedures in the Bill will therefore prove to be somewhat rigid.

I should like to welcome back, with a little surprise, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, to the Government Front Bench. I was not aware that he would be addressing us on this Bill. I am delighted to hear that his voice is now fully recovered. It is a pleasure to see him at the Dispatch Box.

I should tell the noble Lord that I would not plead in support of my case today's article in The Times from a planning point of view. My ability to plan ahead when I put down the amendment had absolutely nothing to do with that article. Although possibly able to foresee what might happen in the coming day or so, I certainly could not have foreseen the fortunate coincidence of the article appearing today.

The noble Lord spoke of costed and affordable objectives, and five-year local programmes with certainty of funding. However, he said also that the first year's allocation will be made available as the plans are set up. After that, allocations will be on an annual basis. I wonder what that means? I accept that the Government do their best to look ahead five years in their financial planning--

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I believe that the words I used were that the first year's allocation would be a firm allocation and that the following years' allocations would be indicative.

Lord Dixon-Smith: Indicative allocations are just that; namely, should the Treasury change its mind, indicative allocations become a different figure. That is the bitter experience over many years of everyone who has ever been involved in local government.

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We have had an interesting debate. It has revealed a number of strengths and weaknesses in the Government's position in this area. I shall study carefully what has been said, but in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 118 not moved.]

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 119:

    Page 66, line 14, at end insert--

("( ) In preparing and altering their plan, each local transport authority must ask people living or working in their area about their transport needs.").

The noble Baroness said: The amendment seeks to add a new paragraph to Clause 108(4) requiring a local authority to consult on the making of its transport plan. I suspect that Amendment No. 123, which is grouped with my amendment, seeks to do the same but by slightly different and perhaps more economical means. However, I shall leave the noble Lord concerned to explain that amendment.

It is a curious fact that although, under Clause 110, consultation is required when a local authority formulates its bus strategy, no such requirement is imposed on the making of the local transport plan. The amendment attempts to correct that. I am sure that the noble Lord will tell the Committee that a great deal of consultation is already written into the guidance on this matter. However, I wish to point out that the requirement has not been written on the face of the Bill, and perhaps to a certain extent this is therefore a probing amendment.

However, the amendment is different from amendments we are tabling in a similar vein--calling for consultation--in other parts of the Bill because it addresses the issue of consulting with local people about their transport needs. When an authority is constructing its transport plan--I speak as one who has chaired the construction of a five-year review of such a plan--it is most useful to know about the needs of local people. The authority does not need to be told what is already being provided, but it needs to gather information on what people would like to see being done or what they feel they need. Various ways can be employed to accomplish such consultation. Polling is one method, but many others can be used. Indeed, I hope that my noble friend Baroness Scott of Needham Market--I am glad to have said her name correctly; for the first five years after I came to this House, people got my name wrong--will tell us more about those methods of consultation.

The objective of the new paragraph is quite clear. I beg to move.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: I am most excited about the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness. It conjures up a splendid picture of those working in local government preparing a draft of a transport plan and, in so doing, talking to local people. The noble Baroness is to be warmly congratulated on breaking

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such novel ground. I take great pleasure in saluting her for that. I hope that she will continue with such noble work for a long time to come.

However, I cannot resist the temptation provided by the amendment to refer to possible answers that officials might receive when talking to ordinary people about their journeys and the dispatch of their goods. Ordinary people embark on journeys, hoping to arrive at their destinations with reasonable expedition. They dispatch goods in the hope that they, too, might reach their destinations. However, what usually happens? Along the way, those people meet with interminable delays caused by the slowness of road repairs in their own areas. I wonder whether ordinary people might not in fact be shocked into silence when such questions are put to them by their own local authorities. If they answer at all, their authorities will be told to get on with their work and thus not impede people's journeys as much as they do so frequently at the moment. They may say that they are altogether fed up with the experience of roads being dug up frequently and over long periods by utility companies, which ought long ago to have learnt better and which would do well to study just the rudiments of good manners and consideration for other people.

I have long been envious. One of the great fashions of our time is the frequent leaking of letters. Never in my life had I been the recipient of a leaked letter until the other day, when someone kindly sent me a copy of a letter written by a representative of the utilities to the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald. I have no idea what the noble Lord's department will do with it. It expressed the hope that he or one of his minions--the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, perhaps--would take no notice of "this awful Bill" that I have launched. I have done so because the patience of ordinary people has become exhausted as a result of the dilatory tactics of utilities and highway authorities: with repairs being slowly undertaken and holes frequently left unattended over long periods of time, then forgotten about and not even filled in. I had a case the other day when those at Transco were reminded of the existence of a hole. "Oh, we haven't got one", they said. But eventually, after searching through their archaeological records, they were able to detect that they did, after all, have a hole! They said, "We're so sorry; we'd forgotten about it. We'll go and fill it in"--and surprise, surprise, they did. I merely want to place on record my deep gratification at receiving a letter for my study which was not intended for me at all. I very much hope that when Members of the Committee receive a copy of the letter they will take no notice of it and will burn it. I hope that not only will they bless my Bill during its remaining stages here, but that they will also see that it receives the blessing of another place.

5 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: There is no difficulty in finding out what people want and need and in trusting them to be able to tell the difference between the two. Over a period of time, local neighbourhood associations have grown up all over the country which

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are absolutely capable of obtaining local responses in a way that would not have been the case 20 or 30 years ago. I suspect that much of this is due to the rise of community politics as sponsored by the Liberal Democrat Party. It is certainly helped by Liberal- run councils, such as that in Richmond-upon-Thames, which treat as a serious business finding out what people want and need.

I have put my name to this amendment and to half a dozen others like it throughout the Bill. I shall not weary Members of the Committee or extend the Committee's work by rising to speak to every one of them. I merely register my belief, and that of my party, that consultation on local needs is vital.

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