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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 3, 9 and 11. When I, as a wheelchair user, became a Member of this wonderful place I accepted the fact that some taxi drivers would not take me. During my second year an incident outside this House, when a taxi driver would not take me, caused much consternation among my fellow Peers in the taxi queue. I realised at that point that no wheelchair user should have to accept that and began reporting every incident to the Public Carriage Office. Much to my embarrassment, during my first year of doing so I complained 17 times. It had no other complaints.
Perhaps I am paranoid, but I doubt that I was the only wheelchair user in London to be refused by a taxi driver. During July 2007 one incident was so bad that the Public Carriage Office decided to take the driver to court as he was in breach of Section 36 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. It was at that point that I and many others became aware that Section 36 had not been enforced. That is where the campaign began. I have to say that once that injustice had been brought to the Houses attention it was gratifying to see how quickly and widely people have worked to begin to correct the situation and protect the 1.2 million wheelchair users in this country.
Since my appearance on BBC breakfast TV I have had many letters from fellow wheelchair users describing many humiliating experiences and encouraging me to ensure that Section 36 is brought in with as wide a scope as possible. I accept that the scope of the
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I would like to thank the Minister, the Minister from another place, the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, my noble friend Lord Low, noble Lords from all sides of the House, the Bill team, the Bill council, the Convenor of the Cross Benches plus her researcher Julian Dee, and Will Moy, PA to my noble friend Lord Low. My thanks also need to go to the National Association of Licensing and Enforcement Officers and the Public Carriage Office for its support and information. I beg to move.
Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I support Amendment No. 2 and thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, for all the work that has gone in. I thank the Government for supporting this series of amendments, which we also support.
The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, we also support the amendments and accept that they are a partial answer to what the noble Baroness hopes to bring into force. It demonstrates the value of negotiations off the Floor of the House between stages of scrutiny. I suspect that the House looks forward to the next transport Bill, which may be an occasion for further discussion on the matter.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman. I am happy to support the amendment. It has been a good example of government and Cross-Bench co-operation. I congratulate her on having effectively brought the matter to the attention of our House. I pay particular tribute to her, because she is a feisty lady and does a great job campaigning. I do not wish to embarrass her, but she brilliantly demonstrated to us all the problems that some people with particular disabilities experience when making use of taxi services. I am one of those who think that the taxi trade misses a trick when it ignores the opportunity of picking up someone with a particular disability and does not ensure that they can make proper use of taxis.
No one is perfect, but I am proud to say that my city has gone a long way to try to address some of those problems. It has a flexible and accessible fleet. Most of its drivers are responsible, helpful and courteous in the way in which they deal with a range of sometimes difficult customers. More particularly, they do a good service in helping those with particular disabilities.
I made it clear on Report that the Government are committed to delivering more accessible taxis and making it easier for disabled passengers to use public transport generally. The intended effect of the noble Baronesss amendment tabled on Report was to apply the duties in Section 36 of the Disability Discrimination Act to the operators of taxis and private hire vehicles used to provide local bus services, which are generally known as taxibuses, and to have effect from 1 August this year. A wider provision which would have commenced Section 36 of the DDA, thereby applying these duties to the drivers of all wheelchair-accessible taxis, was considered to be outside the scope of the Bill. The noble Baroness was very ingenious.
On Report I highlighted the practical difficulties with the amendment, but, as has been made plain, I was more than happy to facilitate a meeting between the noble Baroness and my right honourable friend the Minister of State, Rosie Winterton. There was a clear consensus in the House that this issue needed to be resolved. In view of that consensus, we were more than happy to assist the noble Baroness in preparing these amendments.
The noble Baroness has explained that the amendment would apply the duties in Section 36 to the holder of taxibus licences who was providing local bus services using a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. The amendment provides for these provisions to come into force two months after the Bill receives Royal Assent. This ensures that they will take effect as soon as is practicable.
We are continuing to review the remaining uncommenced sections of the DDA relating to taxis, in which the noble Baroness is very interested. As I explained in December last year in response to her, we are re-evaluating all the options, regulatory and non-regulatory, in light of our better regulation agenda. We will be announcing our proposals shortly.
In that spirit, and in the spirit of excellent co-operation in the House, and with a strong desire on our part to ensure that we make taxi services as accessible as humanly possible, I warmly support the amendment, which I believe takes us a valuable step forward in our wish to improve access to public transport for disabled people. I wish this good luck.
(4) Any person who is aggrieved by the decision of a licensing authority to include a vehicle on a list maintained under section 36A may appeal to a magistrates court or, in Scotland, the sheriff court before the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the date of the inclusion.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Rosser moved an amendment similar to this on Report. He persuaded me that it would be a useful addition to the Bill, for which I am grateful. The amendment would widen the scope of the leasing power which would be partially restored to passenger transport executives through Clause 59. At present, the clause would only provide power to lease vehicles to operators which are providing bus services under contract to the PTEeither a normal subsidy contract or a quality contract where there is a quality contract scheme in force. These would normally be commercial operators, although they could, of course, include holders of Section 22 permits, who have a right to tender for local bus service contracts.
If the amendment is accepted, it would also allow PTEs to lease vehicles to the holders of Section 19 permits and would not be conditional on a contract to run a service. Section 19 permits are issued to bodies concerned with education, religion, social welfare, recreation or other activities of benefit to the community. However, their most important function is to enable bodies to provide specialised transport such as Dial-a-Ride services for older and disabled people. A condition of the permits use is that the services are not operated with a view to profit or, incidentally, to an activity which is carried on with a view to profit. The permit authorises only specified classes of passenger to be carried, which can of course be as broad as those with disabilities and their carers, or as narrow as members of a particular club.
Many of the groups that provide transport under Section 19 permits receive funding from local authorities or other public bodies in various forms. One practical way of helping them is to purchase suitable vehicles for them to lease. PTEs are currently prevented from doing so because of the removal of power originally in the Transport Act 1968. The amendment rectifies that.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for what he has said, and for bringing forward the amendment, which certainly meets the amendment that I moved on Report. I very much hope that his amendment will have the support of your Lordships House.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 6 and 12. We had representations in Grand Committee on this issue, and the Government moved an amendment on Report to allow the Secretary of State and Welsh Ministers to require prescribed parties to display prescribed information in prescribed places. These provisions now form Clause 68, allowing
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The third amendment provides for Clause 68 to be brought into force in Wales by Welsh Ministers rather than by the Secretary of State. The amendments provide for an approach which is consistent with the Welsh devolution arrangements and with that taken elsewhere in the Bill. I beg to move.
Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, in welcoming this group of amendments I declare an interest as the Assembly Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd. I am particularly grateful that the Government, in contradistinction to the Official Opposition as we may see later, are pursuing the agreed objectives of devolution and, indeed, ensuring that the activity of Welsh Ministers is properly scrutinised in the National Assembly. This has become an important issue and was addressed yesterday when the first measure on the NHS Redress Act was referred to. The question of regulation-making powers by Welsh Ministers and their ability to be subject to proper scrutiny, through negative resolution procedures and by committee in the Assembly, was highlighted as important. I am grateful to the Government for clarifying this matter.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have pursued this point throughout the Bill, always in hope that the Secretary of State would tidy up Clause 113. By that I mean it to say exactly what he said to me in a private meeting in the office of the Leader of the House not very long ago. In that meeting with a number of Peers, he made it very clear what he wanted this part of the Bill for, which was to help to pay for the M4 and the bypass around it. At that time he said absolutely clearly what the purpose of the clause was. The officials were there, and I said, Peter, why dont you put that in the Bill?, to which I did not get an answer. I am still hoping that this will be put in the Bill before it reaches another place. I am delighted that Paul Murphy is now the Secretary of State for Wales. I have known him as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and as chairman of the British-Irish
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Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, I am of course deeply disappointed. I had thought that the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, following his recent educational trip to Cardiff, would have heard of the statement so clearly made on the Welsh media by my colleague in Plaid Cymru the Deputy First Minister and the Minister for Transport. He indicated absolutely clearly, not at any secret meeting, but publicly on the BBC on The Politics Show, that it would be the intention of Welsh Ministers to use any powers derived in measure-making form from the framework powers in the Bill precisely to construct new roads. I would have thought that that would have been a very satisfactory response to the official opposition spokesman in this House.
I will just pursue, without repeating myself, the constitutional point that I made a number of times earlier. The noble Lord must understand that the derogation of powers by the framework powers in Westminster Bills will continue to be the road to devolution alongside the Order in Council procedure with the proposed orders. I think that he is setting himself against the position taken during the debates on the devolution Bill on the constitution of Wales, the Government of Wales Act 2006. He prays in aid Paul Murphy. I join him in warmly welcoming Paul Murphy. The return of Murphy as Secretary of State for Wales reminds me of the first sentence of that famous novel by Samuel Beckett:
I say that not to indicate any literary prowess on my part, but just to say how delightful it is to see Paul Murphy returning to that post. He will, I am sure, understand the constitutional situation that has developed since he was there before, and the law-making powers that the Assembly now has, derived by two routes. I hope that he will have an early discussion with the noble Lord, so that the noble Lord too will be enlightened about the many roads of devolution.
Lord Brougham and Vaux: My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord but he should take a step backwards to the next Bench, where he will be in order to speak. He is not allowed to speak from the Bishops Benches.
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