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Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Lord has succeeded in satisfying my noble friend but he tells me that my amendment is unnecessary. He will appreciate that I am constantly trying to press forward improvements for disabled people and I hope that the Government will keep under review the progress which bus companies are making as regards the accessibility of buses. If the Government feel the progress can be improved perhaps they will alter regulations so that accessibility is improved as quickly as possible. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 181 not moved.]

Clause 154 [Penalties]:

[Amendments Nos. 182 to 186 not moved.]

Schedule 11 [Minor and consequential amendments about local transport]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendments Nos. 187 to 190:

"(d) persons who are blind;
(e) persons who are partially sighted;").

    Page 219, line 32, leave out ("seriously impairs") and insert ("has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on").

    Page 219, line 33, leave out from ("who") to end of line 34 and insert ("do not have arms or have long-term loss of the use of both arms;").

    Page 219, line 41, at end insert ("otherwise than on the ground of persistent misuse of drugs or alcohol;

(eg) any person travelling as the companion of a person who--
(i) is eligible to receive travel concessions by virtue of any other paragraph of this subsection; and
(ii) requires the assistance of a companion in order to travel on journeys on public passenger transport services;".").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 163 [Local charging schemes]:

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 191:

    Page 99, line 26, at end insert--

("(3) Before making a local charging scheme a charging authority which is a metropolitan district council must consult the Passenger Transport Authority for the passenger transport area in which the district is included.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we have tabled four simple amendments in this group to ensure that when a metropolitan district council charging authority makes a local charging scheme or a licensing scheme, including joint schemes, it must consult the passenger transport authority for that area. I beg to move.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, the noble Baroness and I are running down parallel lines. Amendments

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Nos. 193, 194 and 195 relate to consultation on congestion charging schemes. When such a scheme is introduced, we believe that there must be consultation. The Bill says that there may be consultation. We have dealt with the theme of "may" and "shall" on many occasions and I do not apologise for bringing it back.

Amendment No. 195 would ensure that any "other persons" who were consulted were interested persons. There is no point in consulting those who are not. It seems odd that an authority could fulfil its legal obligation by consulting someone with no relevance to the issue, even though such consultation would serve no practical purpose.

Amendments No. 200 and 201 repeat those provisions in relation to London. Amendments Nos. 223, 224 and 225 repeat them in relation to workplace parking licensing schemes. Consultation is a significant issue. The provisions should be explicit and not quasi-voluntary because of the use of the word "may". "Shall" is more appropriate in the circumstances.

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, Amendment No. 196 relates to road user charging and Amendment No. 219 relates to the workplace parking levy. Employers and their workforce representatives should be involved in the consultation at company and workplace level before the introduction in a particular area of a road user charge or a workplace parking levy. I am a particularly strong supporter of those important initiatives and the amendments have not been tabled to subtract from them.

People rely tremendously on the motor car to get to work. Many noble Lords may be surprised that the Labour Force Survey shows that nationally 70 per cent of people go to work by car. That hides the fact that the figure is higher outside London. In London, where journeys to work are very different, the figures are 13 per cent in central London and 43 per cent for the London area as a whole. That has implications when we consider what changes of behaviour are realistic. We must avoid people in most parts of the country being astonished by what we are saying.

I do not want to make a long speech, but I want to emphasise that we are in favour of the proposed measures and we want to make them more successful, as they are an essential component of the strategy for sustainable development. There is still a good deal of listening as well as educating to be done if we are to get these ideas off the ground successfully.

I do not know whether my noble friend the Minister has a ballpark figure in mind for the revenue to be recycled by these provisions, but the aim seems to be to take money from the pocket of Peter to pay for improved public provisions for Peter and for Paul. I am sure that my noble friend will correct me if he thinks that I have missed the point. Some of us are unsure how the case will come across to those who are directly affected if there has been no prior discussion in their workplace about the extra charges.

The TUC and CBI both argue along similar lines on the issue. We must avoid the idea that the charges exist simply to push up the cost of living. We already know

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that, remarkably, transport has moved to top spot in the categories of expenditure governing the retail prices index--above housing, food and many other items that we traditionally thought were at the heart of people's standard of living.

I make no apology for reminding the House that I made a broader proposal in Committee in July. The dramatic events of September reinforced the conclusions that we need people to be fully involved in dialogue about the purposes being sought before the arrangements come into force. The consultation procedures of local authorities are the operational mechanism. It is highly desirable that primary legislation should spell out that employers and workplace representatives at each workplace in the local authority area should be involved in consultation.

The Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions has talked for some time about "green transport plans" as an umbrella process into which the proposals could fit, but the new initiatives in the Bill require a more focused commitment.

I doubt whether it will be equitable to give exemptions to employers below a certain size or those with a limited number of parking places. I remember meeting the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, to talk about the problems of small firms when she was Prime Minister and I was wearing my TUC hat. To illustrate the fallacy of a proposal then on the table, John Monks suggested, tongue in cheek, that the Government should exempt small firms from the speed limit. "Take a note of that", said the Prime Minister to the civil servant at the meeting.

Innumerable issues will arise, from the staggering of hours of work to the staggering of deliveries. National reporting and monitoring arrangements would be helpful to gauge how the issues are emerging in practice, as opposed to in theory.

My noble friend the Minister may prefer to say that the issue will be addressed in regulations along the broad lines of the amendment. That would be a second best solution, because there would be uncertainty at the time when local authorities were developing their plans. However, if that is the Minister's answer, we need to know when the regulations are likely to be made, on the assumption of the Bill receiving Royal Assent in the next month; how they will relate to local authorities whose schemes are well advanced by then; and whether they will make provision for worker consultation.

5.30 p.m.

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen: My Lords, I, too, wish to support Amendments Nos. 196 and 219 as well as to express my support for road user charging and the workplace parking levy. First, however, I apologise to noble Lords for my hoarse voice.

Whenever the words "tax", "charge" or "levy" are used, they create immediate suspicion, swiftly followed by protective opposition. That is why the involvement of others is so important in discussions. It is vital that both employers and employees understand

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fully what lies behind any proposals relating to charges or levies. Views must be heard at the beginning of the process when local authorities introduce schemes in their areas.

I wish to concentrate on the effect of the proposals set out in Clauses 169 and 184 on a particular group of workers; namely, women workers. I shall turn first to Clause 169 covering road user charging schemes. These will apply to the registered keeper of a vehicle, who will be responsible for paying the charges. This will therefore impact directly on women workers who rely on their cars to get to and from work and to carry out their family duties, which still lie heavily on women's shoulders.

Women workers rely on their cars, at least equally and if not more, than their male colleagues. Women tend to need to dash from work to collect their children from school or from their leisure activities. It is usually women who need to dash from work to the shops and/or to make sure that an elderly or disabled relative has his or her needs catered for. Women use cars for these undertakings because, in this hectic world, cars are often quicker and more readily available than public transport. However, we hope that in the future that situation will be different.

Most women would say that they wish to support actions that are environmentally friendly. Many polls show that the greening of the environment is very high on women's agendas. Women workers are practical people; they have to be, juggling as they do the demands of work, family and the wider obligations of society. Women certainly understand the reasons for the need to reduce congestion on the roads. That is why it is particularly important for their views to be heard at the earliest possible opportunity in discussions on matters which so directly affect them. Hence I declare my support for this amendment.

I turn now to Clause 184 covering workplace parking levies. The same reasoning as regards women workers applies here. However, unlike Clause 169, under the provisions of this clause, the levy would not apply directly to the user of the vehicle, but would be directed at the occupier of premises where parking is to take place. In this context that would usually be the employer.

This in itself will raise questions in the minds of employees. For example, will any costs incurred by employers be passed directly or indirectly to the workforce? Women tend to earn less than their male colleagues. Will this be recognised in any discussions on the levy?

Already some exemptions have been made in connection with these charges. Certain workers--for example NHS hospital employees, who work unsocial hours and thus at times when transport provision is poor--are to be exempted. In today's changing world of work, an increasing number of women work unsocial hours and thus at times when transport provision may not be adequate. The employees of call centres, who tend in the main to be women, come to mind. Will exemptions also be made for such workers?

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Again, the necessity for the views of women workers to be taken into consideration at an early stage in the consultation will enable any proposals by local authorities to have a smoother passage into fruition. This amendment would help that process.

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