Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, noble Lords are aware that Schedule 12 of this Bill mirrors the provisions in the Greater London Authority Act 1999, which provides for the full hypothecation of new charges for improving local transport for at least 10 years. We recognise that this is a crucial factor in the success and acceptability of each and every scheme. Schedule 12 provides that these ground-breaking hypothecation arrangements will be reviewed in 10 years' time. Regulations will then be made to set out the future arrangements for the use of revenues from charging and licensing schemes.

30 Oct 2000 : Column 727

I am firmly of the view that this approach is a more sensible route to follow than that down which the noble Lord wants to lead us. I can assure him that the review will be wide ranging and will look at all the options. I would add also that the regulations that will be made will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure of the other place.

It may be that the review recommends that 100 per cent hypothecation of charging revenues for transport spending should continue for all schemes for a further period. Alternatively, it may suggest that some of the revenues should be used for other purposes, particularly as substantial transport improvements will have been put in place during the original period of hypothecation. But clearly I cannot pre-empt the outcome of the review.

I hope that the noble Lord will agree with me that the best place to consider his proposal will be in the review of the use of charging revenues that will take place in 10 years' time, when I trust that he will be present to dispute the matter, if necessary. In the mean time, I hope that he will agree to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply, which ran along predictable lines. Ten years hence, of course, a review will be a review. Who will undertake that review at that time is an interesting point. It may or may not be the Minister. The reality is that, whatever the political tides of change might be, the Minister would be appalled at the thought of doing that job in 10 years' time.

So I doubt that it will be the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, undertaking the review. If it were him, I pay him the compliment of saying that I would have considerable confidence in the way he would do it. Unfortunately, I have spent a long time dealing with governments and I have little confidence in what is going on.

The Minister is saying that the Government might follow the principles I am advocating, or they might not; that they might keep the money being used for transport, or they might not. I am innately suspicious of the Treasury. In my experience it likes to get its hands on moneys if it can. I can well envisage that, at the time the review is undertaken, other pressures will exist. There may be a strong argument from the Treasury that hypothecation for 10 years is a good thing. It may say, "Look at all the good that has been done", but that it should now end because it can use the money better nationally. I can also envisage the argument that local authorities are not very good managers and that we should look at how well the Treasury does things; and so on.

I do not like where we are on this matter, but I shall consider the Minister's reply with care. With the charitable hope that he will not have to do this job for another 10 years--with, of course, the best of political intentions in saying so--I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

30 Oct 2000 : Column 728

[Amendments Nos. 229 to 234 not moved.]

Clause 193 [Information]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 235:

    Page 115, line 13, after ("(1)") insert ("or (2)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, information obtained by an authority, including the Government, in the course of performing its functions is only protected from disclosure by a contractor to whom it has been disclosed by the licensing or charging authority. But protection from disclosure should extend to disclosure by the authority itself. In other words, if a contractor to whom information is disclosed releases it and it does damage, he can be sued. If the authority inadvertently releases the information to him, there is no claim. We do not feel that that is satisfactory and believe that it should be corrected.

Amendment No. 236, which follows on from that, says,

    "If information is disclosed or used in contravention of subsection (4), the charging authority or licensing authority in question shall be liable to compensate the person who provided such information for any loss suffered as a result of the disclosure".

All those schemes will be dealing with matters of considerable commercial worth. It is important therefore that when such matters are being discussed by authorities, the information should not be released in such a way that it can do damage to the person who gave the authority that information. The two amendments run together and sustain what we believe to be a worthwhile principle. I beg to move.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, as we debate the final group of amendments to Part III, I am once again pleased to be in agreement with the noble Lord on his intentions, though 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 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.

Amendment No. 235 is in fact unnecessary. Clause 193(3)(b) already deals with the noble Lord's concern and refers to the disclosure of information obtained under subsection (2). I can therefore assure the noble Lord that his concern is already specifically catered for.

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

30 Oct 2000 : Column 729

I do not believe therefore that it is necessary to add this safeguard to this primary legislation and I hope that, with those reassurances, the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. Once again we have the question of the cost of going to law. I accept that there has to be a burden of proof. But if a difficulty arises and one is required to have recourse to law, yet there is no automatic provision for compensation--assuming an appropriate element of proof is provided--people can be put to considerable expense. Whatever the justice of the case, it remains a sad fact that in this modern era justice tends to flow with those who can afford it, and some people cannot or will not. I shall study carefully what the Minister said. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 236 not moved.]

7 p.m.

Clause 201 [Membership and chairing]:

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 237:

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

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

The noble Lord said: My Lords, rather oddly we now turn to railways on a day when hardly any of them appears to be working. However, I hope that by the time proceedings on the Bill are completed the railways of this country will be up and running and we shall have helped them to work a little better.

In moving Amendment No. 237 I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 238, 249 and 286. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara will speak to his Amendment No. 260 which is part of this group. The purpose of Amendment No. 237 is to require that at least one member of the Strategic Rail Authority represents the needs of disabled people. My second amendment requires that disabled people are consulted by the authority in drawing up strategies. Organisations of disabled people believe that at least one authority member, perhaps nominated from the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, should represent the interests of disabled rail users, and that the needs of disabled people when travelling are specific and should be included in strategic planning decisions. The Bill requires the authority to consult before it develops any strategies, and I believe that that needs to include disabled people and their organisations.

Amendment No. 249 is designed to require that all rail services secured by the authority should comply with the rail regulator's code of practice entitled Meeting the Needs of Disabled People. The code of practice is the result of a lengthy period of consultation which involves both the industry and disability movement. It introduces a number of useful steps to improve access to rail services for disabled people, including the application of the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations to rail vehicles which are

30 Oct 2000 : Column 730

refurbished. The code can also be revised to reflect new developments without requiring the introduction of new primary or secondary legislation.

The final amendment in this group, Amendment No. 286, requires that any substitute road services should carry guide and other assistance dogs. I understand that, as the law now stands, a taxi or private hire vehicle driver can refuse to carry an assistance dog. Such a refusal will often lead to an assistance dog owner being stranded without transport or put in a position which jeopardises his or her personal safety. The refusal to carry an assistance dog is a refusal to carry an assistance dog user. In the case of taxis, Section 37 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 will place duties on taxi drivers to carry assistance dogs at no extra charge to the owners.

On 17th July the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, announced that consultation would start that week on the final implementation of Section 37 of the Disability Discrimination Act some time next year. However, private hire vehicles are outside the scope of the DDA. The Disability Rights Task Force recommended that this should be an issue to be considered by the Government in extending the DDA in any future equality legislation. The Joint Committee on Mobility of Blind and Partially Sighted People has produced a policy statement which highlights the fact that local authorities in their capacity as licensing authorities can already impose conditions on private hire vehicle licences which require the carriage of assistance dogs.

I understand that there is a power available to licensing authorities outside London under Section 51(2) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 which enables them to attach such conditions as they consider reasonably necessary to the grant of a private hire driver's licence. However, with exclusive contracts to rail stations and substitute rail services it is essential that assistance dog owners are not left stranded. Therefore, there is an urgent need for a requirement to place conditions on the grant of powers which ensure that exclusive contracts and substitute vehicle services provide for the carriage of assistance dogs by private hire vehicles at no extra charge to the owners. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page