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Lord Ashley of Stoke: I thank my noble friend for that perceptive response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 27 not moved.]

Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Rail vehicles: application of accessibility regulations]:

Lord Higgins moved Amendment No. 28:

The noble Lord said: We come to a series of amendments on the section that is concerned with important transport issues. I wish to make two preliminary points. First, a number of these amendments are probing amendments. However, one or two anguished phone calls were made to us during the Recess from people who did not fully understand that if one said that one wanted to leave something out, one did not mean that one wanted to leave it out! Consequently, I stress that a number of them are probing amendments, although some of them are not.
 
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The second general point that I ought to make is that the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee on this Bill makes something of an onslaught on Clause 6(3). That has been backed up by no less than the chairman of the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee, who also finds a number of these provisions somewhat doubtful or, indeed, objectionable. Perhaps the most appropriate spot to deal with that would be during discussion of Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Carter.

Lord Carter: I believe there is a letter in circulation which states that the Government are accepting the recommendation of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. I have not seen the letter, but I hear that it is around. If that is the case, that would be extremely good news.

Lord Higgins: No doubt that will emerge in due course. The point I—

Lord Davies of Oldham: I had not realised that one of the roles of my noble friend Lord Carter was to pre-empt the ministerial response. However, I can confirm that what he has just said is accurate and that will therefore help us with subsequent developments on this part of the Bill.

Lord Skelmersdale: Before we go any further, may I point out that my noble friend has not yet finished moving his amendment and that our deliberations would proceed more quickly if we allowed him to do so?

Lord Higgins: I was merely making the point that for the avoidance of doubt—as I think is the normal legal jargon—it would be appropriate to deal with those issues when we discuss the relevant amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Carter, rather than when discussing the amendment that I shall now finish moving.

Amendment No. 28 concerns a somewhat different point. It is concerned with the definition of a "railway". One would have thought that a railway scarcely needed to be defined. However, Clause 6(1) amends the definition of "rail vehicle" that appeared in the 1995 Act. As I understand it, what now appears as an alternative to the wording in the 1995 Act effectively duplicates or replicates Section 46(6)(a) of the 1995 Act, but it does not do so as far as the following section in that definitional part of the 1995 Act is concerned. Consequently, the part of the definition which stated,

will no longer appear in the legislation if we go along with the clause as drafted. Therefore, my question is a rather simple one: why do the Government want to remove that? Obviously, the 1995 Act already referred to vehicles that were somewhat old. They are even older now, so I am not clear why the Government are making this change.

More generally, I am not absolutely clear just how wide this definition now is. It is obviously very important that it should cover all rail vehicles. Am I
 
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right in thinking that it includes Tube trains, which presumably are rail vehicles? Does it include something which will be familiar to all those who have attended party conferences in Blackpool; namely, Blackpool trams? Has there been consultation on that? I hope that the Minister can clarify precisely what the intention is with regard to this definitional problem. I beg to move.

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: I should like to ask the Minister what is a prescribed system in this case. I think that I know what a railway is and what a tramway is, but if he could help me as regards what a prescribed system is, I would be very grateful.

Lord Davies of Oldham: First of all, I owe the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, an apology for intervening in his speech before he had finished moving the amendment. I was following the very bad example of my former Chief Whip. This is not the first time that I have been led astray in that way. However, I apologise for that.

The noble Lord is right that the matter of the orders and how we deal with the statutory instrument issues can be discussed on a later amendment. However, I wanted to indicate that I believe we have a positive response regarding the committee's deliberations that will help subsequent discussions on later amendments.

I am not surprised that the noble Lord was slightly discomforted over the Christmas Recess because, subtle as he is in tabling amendments which exclude things that were never intended to be excluded, he may be just a little too subtle for people outside Parliament. Not surprisingly, they were struck with horror at the impact that the amendment would have upon our proposals, should it be carried. The provision in the Bill would enable us to deliver two of the key recommendations of the Disability Rights Task Force which were fully supported by the Joint Scrutiny Committee and command extensive support right across the disability organisations.

Subsection (1) to Clause 6 may appear to be a minor tinkering with the definition of a "rail vehicle", but the implications are profound. By replacing the definition of a "rail vehicle" in Section 46(6) of the Disability Discrimination Act with one which does not limit it to vehicles brought into use after a specified date, this subsection would allow us not only to make regulations to set an "end date" for compliance with rail vehicle accessibility regulations, but also to apply those regulations to rail vehicles when they are refurbished.

On both those counts, we have been pressed extensively to make progress, and we need to change the definition to be able to effect the outcome. If we did accept the amendment, it would be lawful for all rail vehicles brought into use before 1999 to remain non-compliant, which is exactly the opposite of the objective which I know we all share.

It will be possible for the Government to set an end date by which time such vehicles must comply with rail vehicle accessibility regulations. Our proposals will bring obvious benefits to disabled passengers by
 
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ensuring that refurbishments to vehicles are completed in accordance with the standards of the rail vehicle accessibility regulations.

During the pre-legislative scrutiny on the Bill, we made it clear that having carried out initial consultation, we would consult during the passage of the Bill on draft regulations that would set out our final proposals. We realised that that was unlikely to happen during the early stages of the Bill's progress. When we decided to announce the key elements of our proposals before Second Reading so that the House could be clear about how we intended to use the regulation-making power, we said that the end date that we propose is 2020. I recognise that there is a very strong campaign for the date of 2017—and, of course, the Joint Committee also emphasised that date.

Lord Higgins: That is a matter for the next amendment, which I also have not moved yet.

Lord Davies of Oldham: Perhaps I am pre-empting the noble Lord a little, but I wanted to put the matter in the context of the recognition that, with regard to this amendment, it is important that we do not circumscribe the Government's ability to change definitions in the DDA, in order that we have flexibility to make progress on this and other areas of debate, which the noble Lord will come to in his subsequent amendments, when I give him the opportunity, as I shall by sitting down.

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: Before the Minister sits down, can I ask him what the prescribed systems are?

Lord Davies of Oldham: Yes, I can be positive about the fact that we are talking about all rail systems—light rail systems and, indeed, the Tube, as well as the more conventional rail cars. The issue, therefore, is that we are covering all rail systems.


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