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Lord Dixon-Smith : I am grateful to the Minister, who has once again given a helpful reply. He will be aware that I know from too much past experience that

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the funding of large-scale highway improvements often runs for 20 to 25 years, and sometimes even longer. So this is a very important consideration. As I said, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his response, which I shall study in Hansard with care. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 12 agreed to.

Clauses 191 and 192 agreed to.

Clause 193 [Information]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 266:

    Page 115, line 21, after ("subsection") insert ("(1), (2) or").

The noble Lord said: If I have interpreted it correctly, the Bill as drafted provides that information that has been obtained from another authority--or, indeed, the Government--in the course of performing functions is only protected from disclosure by the contractor to whom it has been disclosed by the charging or licensing authority in order to set up the scheme and enable it to work. We believe that there is a gap in that provision because there is always a problem with what one might call "commercially protected legislation". Its inadvertent release can have unforeseen and sometimes very damaging consequences for the business that willingly supplied such information in order to help matters move forward.

The purpose of this amendment is to expand the protection that presently exists against its release by a contractor to cover the Government, the local transport authority or anyone else who has the information and who might inadvertently release it. That is not an unreasonable request. Amendments Nos. 267, 273 and 274 are also included in this group. They are all more or less identical and bring us back to what the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, would call the common law provision. However, I do not apologise for advancing it. If information is released inadvertently and proves to be damaging, these amendments provide that compensation will be available to the person or business so damaged.

These are old-fashioned principles with which none of us has any difficulty and which I believe we all accept. I thought that we should table such amendments in order to be absolutely certain that in passing this legislation the situation is adequately protected. If it is not, the possibility of obtaining information which may well be essential to the creation of some of these schemes will be endangered. I know that the Minister would not wish such a situation to arise; indeed, I can see the look in his eyes. I beg to move.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Once again, I am pleased to be in agreement with the noble Lord and his intentions, although I hope to persuade him that his concerns are already met. We envisage that the disclosure of information by public bodies may be essential for the fair and effective enforcement of a charging or licensing scheme; for example, the name

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and address of the registered keeper of a vehicle may need to be passed on to a charging authority by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.

If the charging or licensing authority contracts with a private company to carry out the enforcement of a scheme, the authority will need to be able to pass on such information to its contractor. Subsection (4) of Clause 193 makes clear the caveat that any information passed on in this way under subsection (3) may only be used for, or in connection with, the charging or licensing scheme.

Amendment No. 266 would extend the caveat in subsection (4) to subsections (1) and (2) also. However, the wording of those two subsections already makes clear that disclosure of information by public bodies or internally within a charging authority may only take place for, or in connection with, a charging or licensing scheme. I can therefore assure the noble Lord that his concern is already specifically catered for.

I also agree that where information is wrongly disclosed people should be able to claim compensation for any damage caused. However, this is already catered for under the common law through our existing judicial system to which anyone who feels that they have been caused damage in this way could resort. Proceedings under common law provide appropriate remedies for claimants against persons who have wrongly disclosed information.

I believe therefore that it is not necessary to add this safeguard to the primary legislation through these amendments. I hope that with that reassurance the noble Lord will agree to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful for the Minister's helpful reply. I do not think that there is a great deal between us. I shall need to study carefully the Minister's comments. In these amendments, as in earlier amendments, one is dealing with a common law situation. However, resorting to the law can be expensive. That is an unfortunate fact of life. It may be necessary to resort to the law to decide what compensation should be paid. Once again we are creating a situation where the lawyers may have a ball. However, I am grateful for the Minister's helpful reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 267 not moved.]

Clause 193 agreed to.

Clauses 194 to 198 agreed to.

Schedule 13 [Amendments of Schedules 23 and 24 to Greater London Authority Act]:

[Amendments Nos. 268 to 274 not moved.]

Schedule 13 agreed to.

Clause 201 [Membership and chairing]:

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 275:

    Page 119, line 14, at end insert (" , and

(c) at least one person representative of disabled people").

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The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 275, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 284, which stands in my name and with which it is grouped. Amendment No. 276 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, is also in the same group.

The purpose of Amendment No. 275 is to require that at least one authority member represents the needs of disabled people. Amendment No. 284 requires that disabled people be consulted by the authority in drawing up its strategies.

With such an important and new authoritative body as the Strategic Rail Authority promises to be, it is essential that it reflects the interests of all existing and potential passengers. Few would disagree that it must therefore cover the needs of those with disabilities. It is therefore excellent that included in the functions of the authority is the task of having regard to the needs of disabled people, as mentioned in Clause 206(3).

It might, however, be argued that, by chance, someone with a particular interest in disability will be among those appointed to the authority and that this particular function can be informed and overseen by that person. This may be the case but the idea has three serious drawbacks. First, I argue that the interests and needs of people with disabilities are complex and are not always well understood by those with only a casual knowledge of disability. For that reason we need an expert in the authority to whom everyone--other members of the authority and the public at large--can refer.

Secondly, where meeting the needs of disabled people is left to chance, where no one has a specific responsibility to attend to those needs, it is often the sad case that those needs are overlooked. Correcting the omission later, which the Disability Discrimination Act will in due course require, will then involve a higher cost than would otherwise have been the case.

Thirdly, in so many organisations we frequently see progress for disabled people made by a particular individual and that progress stop--or even go into reverse--when the individual moves on to another appointment. Such stop/go progress can only be avoided by appointing a specific individual to the authority with the responsibility of having regard to the interests of people with disabilities. Such an appointment has the overwhelming benefit of institutionalising those interests.

I would also argue that the number of disabled people is such--some estimates suggest that 6 million people in this country have impaired mobility--that this important function needs to be the specific responsibility of a particular member of the authority. If that were to be the case, as the amendment proposes, we would ensure that the functions spelt out in Clause 206(3) are effectively, efficiently and economically performed. I beg to move.

10 p.m.

Lord Berkeley: In speaking to my Amendment No. 276 I shall refer briefly to Amendments Nos. 275 and 284, to which the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, has

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spoken. I believe that my noble friend has already beaten us to it because on 13th April he appointed seven members to the board of the Strategic Rail Authority, one of whom has great experience of dealing with travel for the disabled and one of whom "will represent passenger interests". This is greatly welcome. My amendment and the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, seek to put this on a statutory footing. I certainly welcome what my noble friend has done and I hope that it is bearing fruit.

In the interests of equity--and here I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group and, to repeat what I have said previously in Committee, an adviser to Adtran; perhaps I should add that my wife works for the Strategic Rail Authority which, I think, technically is the British Railways Board--it would be reasonable to seek one person to be appointed to the Strategic Rail Authority who has experience of the needs of rail freight. In my view, if it is good for passengers, it is good for freight.

It is very important that there should be someone on the authority who has experience of working in a local transport authority. We are aiming to produce a Bill for integrated transport policies and, as the Committee discussed several days ago, local transport plans are very important. I think they have some way to go before they reach a standard which will be uniformly acceptable and it would be very useful to have someone on the board with experience of local transport planning, local government transport policy development and so on.

I do not feel strongly about whether my noble friend considers it appropriate to place this requirement on the face of the Bill. But if has he appointed someone to represent the interests of rail passengers and someone to represent the interests of the disabled, it would be equitable if he appointed someone to represent the interests of rail freight and another person from a local transport authority.

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