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Lord Islwyn: Does not the Minister appreciate that the provision will divide the country? People in Wales could say, "Well, they've got it at 9 o'clock in London. Why can't we have it at 9 o'clock?" I am disappointed with the Government's attitude. I shall take every opportunity to raise the issue again. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 169 not moved.]

Clause 145 agreed to.

Clause 146 [Variation of mandatory concessions]:

10.30 p.m.

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 169A:

("( ) applies to disabled people whose disabilities prevent their making use of ordinary public passenger transport services,
( ) applies to services operated under sections 19 or 22 of the Transport Act 1985 that are fully accessible to people who travel in their wheelchairs,").

The noble Lord said: Any elderly person of pensionable age residing in a travel concession authority's area who travels on an eligible service on a journey between places in that area and beginning at a relevant time is entitled to be provided with a half-price travel concession by the operator of the service. I welcome that. I also welcome the amendment made in the Grand Committee to extend the statutory minimum concessionary travel scheme to disabled people.

That is fine for fit people of pensionable age who can jump on and off buses, but it will not help disabled people of pensionable age whose disabilities prevent

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them from using public transport. To travel anywhere beyond the confines of their home, many of them have to resort to door-to-door services such as taxis and Dial-a-Ride. Regrettably, the current provisions inequitably leave out those whose disabilities prevent them from using buses and whose age may have made them ineligible for the higher rate mobility component of the disability living allowance.

Like their more athletic colleagues, those disabled people should enjoy a statutory minimum fare concession scheme on transport services set up specifically to meet their needs. The amendment is a question of fairness. The Government pride themselves on being fair, so I hope that they will agree to it. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: The amendment refers to transport facilities covered by Sections 19 and 22 of the Transport Act 1985. However, the Bill treats those two categories of service differently. The statutory minimum concession applies to all services that qualify for the fuel duty rebate. That includes the bulk of services under Section 22, because they are counted as local services and details of their routes are registered with the traffic commissioner. There are a few that are not eligible for fuel duty rebate, but the majority of Section 22 services are eligible for the concessionary fare.

Section 19 services are not eligible for the fuel duty rebate, so they will not initially be eligible for the concessionary fare scheme. However, the order-making power in Clause 146 will enable the Secretary of State to extend that concession to other categories of public passenger transport, including Section 19 services. We shall consider that further, but we do not need an amendment to the Bill to enable the Secretary of State to extend the concession.

Lord Swinfen: I thank the Minister for that answer. I shall read carefully what he has said. I may come back to the issue at a later stage, but in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 146 agreed to.

Clauses 147 to 149 agreed to.

Clause 150 [Concessions in Greater London]:

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 171:

    Page 92, line 7, at end insert--

("( ) who are specified companions of eligible persons who, in the opinion of the authority responsible for the administration of the scheme, require the assistance of a companion to be able to travel on public transport, or
( ) who are persons who have used in-patient mental health services and require continuing support."").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 172 and 173. The purpose of these three amendment is to require London councils to draw up criteria as to what is a disability or injury which seriously impairs a person's ability to walk, in consultation with organisations of

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disabled people and having regard to any guidance issued by a joint authority drawn up to run the London concessionary fares scheme.

The amendment also extends the powers given to local authorities outside London under the Transport Act 1985 to issue concessionary fare permits for London. Finally, the amendment provides for disabled people to use accessible door-to-door transport where they are unable to access mainstream door-to-door transport.

During the passage of the Greater London Act 1999, the Greater London Action on Disability identified the problem of a wide variation in the eligibility criteria for the Freedom Pass; in other words, concessionary fares in London. Some boroughs were also adopting the poor, if not illegal, practice of making disabled people choose between the Freedom Pass and the Orange Badge.

Greater London Action on Disability therefore promoted amendments to the Greater London Authority Bill which required each London borough, in conjunction with organisations of disabled people, to draw up criteria of what constitutes a disability or impairment which seriously impairs a person's ability to walk. In drawing up such criteria, the boroughs would have to have regard to any guidance issued by the TfL or any other joint authority responsible for the scheme. Both the TfL and the London borough criteria would have to be publicly available.

Earlier this year, the London Borough of Merton proposed that current legislation did not allow it to offer the Freedom Pass to people with learning difficulties. Fortunately, that problem has now been overcome but it has highlighted the need to update the legislation. Outside London, the Government widened the groups that local authorities had the discretion to offer concessionary fares to by introducing regulations. The criteria, which I describe in my own, not the legal, language, were: persons who have mental or severe mental handicap; persons who have been denied driving licences on medical grounds; persons who are deaf and dumb; persons who are without the use of both arms; specified companions of those who are so severely disabled that they need the assistance of the companion in order to travel on public transport; and finally, persons who, in the opinion of the authority, would be likely to be refused a driving licence on medical grounds if they applied for one.

The Transport Bill before us could be used to resolve the difficulties. The Bill has a very wide Long Title which specifically covers concessionary fares in London. Therefore, there are unlikely to be difficulties because of the scope of the Bill.

I suggest that the groups eligible for concessionary fares under the discretionary criteria be widened to make sure that there are no disputes over the powers of local authorities. The legislation currently applying outside London, preferably with appropriate improvements in language, would form a basis for that. Also, I should like to have the requirement introduced to produce publicly available local eligibility criteria in consultation with organisations of disabled people.

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Those disabled people who are unable to use mainstream public transport because of their impairment need to be able to use door-to-door transport. I beg to move.

Lord Addington: I support these amendments and look forward to hearing the Minister's answer.

Lord Whitty: The whole purpose of this part of the Bill relating to London is to ensure that the provisions in London are equivalent to those that we seek to introduce in the rest of the country. Many of the points raised by the noble Lord are met in the Bill.

Amendments Nos. 171 and 172 reflect the position in London to which we have already referred in a previous group of amendments. Amendment No. 171 relates to the definition of who is covered. I dealt with that when I said I would look at the matter further. In relation to Amendment No. 172, we have just dealt with the equivalent situation in the rest of the country as regards Sections 19 and 22 of the Transport Act 1985.

The new material is contained in Amendment No. 173, which seeks to put on the face of the Bill the definition of those who would be entitled to the concession. That includes a definition of "disabled person" as someone whose ability to walk is seriously impaired by disability or injury. The amendment would require local authorities to establish, and to review with organisations of disabled people, criteria as to what constitutes such an impairment.

It is certainly open to local authorities to review the position. In many circumstances, I would expect that they would do so. I am not clear that it is right to place them under a duty to do so. Nor does it seem right, on the face of the Bill, to concentrate on the definition of one category of disability rather than another.

I believe I understand the intentions of the noble Lord but it is not advisable to specify it in this form, related to one of the criteria. The definitions used in Clause 150(4) are essentially only those that already exist in legislation--both primary and secondary legislation--relating to concessionary fares. If the noble Lord feels that there is a particular problem that I have failed to pick up, perhaps he will write to me or I can meet him and we can discuss the matter between now and Report stage. At the moment I am not prepared to accept his amendment.

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