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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 92:


After Clause 22, insert the following new clause:

("Further and higher education of disabled persons: Scotland

.—(1) The Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992 shall be amended as follows.
(2) In section 37 (establishment of Scottish Higher Education Funding Council) after subsection (4) insert—
"(4A) In exercising their functions, the Council shall have regard to the requirements of disabled persons.
(4B) In subsection (4A) above, "disabled persons" means persons who are disabled persons for the purpose of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995."
(3) In section 40 (administration of funds by the Council), after subsection (4) insert—
"(5) Without prejudice to the power to impose conditions given by subsection (3) above, the conditions subject to which the Council makes grants, loans or other payments under this section to the governing body of an institution within the higher education sector shall require the governing body to publish disability statements at such intervals as may be specified.
(6) For the purposes of subsection (5) above—
"disability statement" means a statement containing information of a specified description about the provision of facilities for education and research made by the institution in respect of persons who are disabled persons for the purpose of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995; and
"specified" means specified in the conditions subject to which grants, loans or other payments are made by the Council under this section."").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 93:


After Clause 22, insert the following new clause:

("Part IIIB
Taxis
Accessibility regulations

.—(1) The Secretary of State may make regulations ("accessibility regulations") for the purpose of securing that it is possible—
(a) for disabled persons—
(i) to get into and out of taxis in safety;
(ii) to be carried in taxis in safety and in reasonable comfort; and
(b) for disabled persons in wheelchairs—
(i) to be conveyed in safety into and out of taxis while remaining in their wheelchairs; and
(ii) to be carried in taxis in safety and in reasonable comfort while remaining in their wheelchairs.
(2) Accessibility regulations may, in particular—
(a) require any regulated taxi to conform with provisions of the regulations as to—
(i) the size of any door opening which is for the use of passengers;
(ii) the floor area of the passenger compartment;
(iii) the amount of headroom in the passenger compartment;
(iv) the fitting of restraining devices designed to ensure the stability of a wheelchair while the taxi is moving;
(b) require the driver of any regulated taxi which is plying for hire, or which has been hired, to comply with provisions of the regulations as to the carrying of ramps or other devices designed to facilitate the loading and unloading of wheelchairs;

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(c) require the driver of any regulated taxi in which a disabled person who is in a wheelchair is being carried (while remaining in his wheelchair) to comply with provisions of the regulations as to the position in which the wheelchair is to be secured.
(3) The driver of a regulated taxi which is plying for hire, or which has been hired, is guilty of an offence if—
(a) he fails to comply with any requirement imposed on him by the regulations; or
(b) the taxi fails to conform with any provision of the regulations with which it is required to conform.
(4) A person who is guilty of such an offence is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.
(5) In this section—
"passenger compartment" has such meaning as may be prescribed;
"regulated taxi" means any taxi to which the regulations are expressed to apply;
"taxi" does not include a taxi which is drawn by a horse or other animal.").

The noble Lord said: I am now where I thought that I was a moment ago. In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to the other amendments in this group (Amendments Nos. 94 to 99, 143, 144 and 147). These amendments deal with taxis. I know that this is a subject of some concern to this Committee. A number of powerful points were made on this subject during the course of the Second Reading debate.

Over the past decade taxis have increasingly provided an invaluable form of transport to disabled people. But one can only provide quality and freedom of opportunity to disabled people in this field if all vehicles are indeed accessible. Some areas have tried to achieve accessibility through the introduction of a mixed fleet. But that is simply not sustainable in the reality of taxi licensing and operations. We have evidence from areas like Stockton on Tees, where such a system was tried and failed.

It is therefore the Government's clear intention, as part of the package of measures covering all forms of domestic, land-based public transport, to bring before this Chamber, in the course of our deliberations on this Bill, provisions to require that, from days to be determined, taxis newly licensed must, as a condition of licence, be accessible to all disabled people, including those who use wheelchairs.

Let me make it absolutely clear that we are not talking about a universal requirement for the current purpose-built taxi design. I make no apology for stressing the point because I feel that it has been widely misunderstood and misinterpreted by sections of the trade. It is vital to the proposals that I now want to put before the Committee that that point is understood.

Amendment No. 93 is the first of a number of new clauses which set out the powers we propose to take to ensure both that the vehicles themselves are accessible and that the drivers of those vehicles play their part in offering a service to disabled passengers.

Amendment No. 93 is proposed so that the Secretary of State can make regulations defining standards of access which new taxis will be required to meet and so that taxi drivers can be required to carry disabled passengers in a safe and appropriate manner. Full accessibility is an important concept. There has been

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criticism of the current models of wheelchair-accessible taxi that, while they can satisfactorily accommodate the vast majority of wheelchair users, they are difficult—or indeed impossible—for many elderly and disabled people; for example, those with arthritis who are not wheelchair users.

This point is fundamental to the proposals I am now putting before the Committee. The regulations which will follow from this enabling power will focus clearly on the needs of all disabled people and will be drawn up in close consultation with the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee. We will be defining design parameters based on research and experience to provide optimum levels of accessibility. We will expect a range of manufacturers to address the market that will be created.

The second part of this clause is simply to ensure that, once accessible vehicles are widely available, taxi drivers recognise that it is a fundamental part of their duties to carry disabled passengers using the relevant equipment in the correct and safe way. While most taxi drivers are only too willing to provide a service for disabled passengers, I am sorry to say that it is not unusual to hear reports of drivers who have refused to pick up a passenger in a wheelchair on the pretext, for example, that they are not carrying the ramps.

The purpose of the new clause in Amendment No. 94 is to ensure an orderly transition to the new requirements without damaging the viability of the taxi trade. That, of course, is the last thing we want to do. Subsection (1) provides that a licensing authority may, after a certain date, only license taxis which comply with the construction requirements that will be set out in the regulations.

We are also mindful of the need to protect the interests of the cab trade, much of which comprises small businesses. While it is reasonable to expect new taxis to be fully accessible, it would, I believe, be unreasonable to require someone who had recently purchased and licensed a new non-accessible vehicle to dispose of it prematurely. Subsections (2) and (3) therefore provide that, where a non-accessible vehicle is already licensed as a taxi, it may be re-licensed as such. That does not mean that we should allow non-accessible vehicles to go on indefinitely. Subsection (4) provides for the Secretary of State to set an end date beyond which no non-accessible vehicle can be re-licensed. That date will only be set after full consultation with the trade.

The Committee will be aware that there are a number of cities and towns which have already set dates by which all taxis must be accessible—London, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Manchester. It is important, both to protect the investment already made by the trade in those areas and to safeguard the interests of disabled people, that there is no slippage from those dates. Subsection (5) provides for dates earlier than those set in regulations to be applied by orders made by the Secretary of State.

Turning to Amendment No. 95, it is in no one's interests—least of all disabled people—to see the trade reduced or destroyed. The Government believe that the effect of this Bill will in fact be to open up significant additional new markets to the trade. We have

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nonetheless listened carefully to the trade and taken full note of its anxieties. We therefore intend to make regulations that will enable the Secretary of State to grant an order exempting an authority from the requirements that I have outlined, provided a number of clear criteria are met. Those are, first, that because of the specific circumstances of an area it would be inappropriate to impose the requirements and that to do so would result in an unacceptable reduction in the number of taxis in an area. The legislation will put the onus on any authority wishing to apply for such an exemption to carry out appropriate consultation with all sections of the local community (including, as a matter of course, disabled people and the taxi trade), to publish and make known their proposals and to consider representations made before making their application. Once the application has been made, the Secretary of State must consult his statutory advisers, the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee. He may then grant or refuse the exemption on the basis of the application, subject to such terms and conditions as he thinks fit.

This clause is a recognition of the enormously wide variations in types of area and of taxi use in this country, from a densely populated urban area with a substantial transitory as well as resident population to a very rural area where the taxi driver may in many cases be part-time.

The strong presumption must be that, whatever the area, there will be now, or may be in the future, disabled people whose mobility would be enhanced by the availability of accessible vehicles. We must recognise and allow for the possibility, however, that the requirements set out in these clauses could jeopardise the viability of the trade in a particular area to the point at which there ceased to be taxi provision for anyone. That is not our intention.

In Amendment No. 96, it is one thing to provide for taxis to be designed or adapted to be able to carry a passenger in a wheelchair but we need also to ensure that the drivers of those vehicles are then required to convey those passengers. The new clause, Amendment No. 96, sets out the duties which will apply to drivers of regulated taxis when they are hired by a disabled person. These duties not only extend to the carriage of disabled persons, but also to the manner in which those persons should be carried. Any driver who fails to comply with these duties will be guilty of an offence.

For those drivers who are concerned that all of this will be a burden on taxi drivers, let me assure them that there is protection. For example, we are not proposing that the driver should be required to carry someone who is disabled in circumstances when he would not legally be required to carry any other passenger.

We have also made provision for a licensing authority to exempt a taxi driver from these duties on either medical grounds or on the ground that his physical condition makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for him to comply with these duties. This provision is particularly important in ensuring that we do not discriminate against any disabled driver who wants to work as a taxi driver and who otherwise fulfils the

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criteria for that type of employment. We do not, of course, want this exemption provision to be abused and so we have provided a number of safeguards to that end.

In Amendment No. 97 we are concerned not only with the needs of wheelchair users but, just as importantly, with the needs of other disabled people, including those with sensory impairments. There have been reports from across the country that blind and partially sighted people have been refused access to taxis because they are accompanied by a guide dog. The same discrimination is faced by people who use hearing dogs. Refusal may be justified where the driver has a medical condition which is aggravated by dogs—for example, some form of asthma—but for the most part there can be no justification for a taxi driver refusing to carry someone with a guide or hearing dog in circumstances when he would otherwise take other passengers.

This clause deals with such practice by imposing duties on taxi drivers to convey a disabled person accompanied by a guide dog or hearing dog. It will affect all taxi drivers, not only those who drive regulated taxis. Drivers will have a duty to carry the passenger's guide dog or hearing dog and to allow it to remain with the passenger. The driver will not be allowed to make an additional charge for carrying the dog in his taxi. Where a driver fails to comply he will be guilty of an offence. There will be provision for licensing authorities to exempt taxi drivers on medical grounds—for example, they may be allergic to dogs—and to issue them with exemption certificates.

On Amendment No. 98, I have already mentioned that under Clauses 22G and 22H it will be possible for licensing authorities to issue exemption certificates to drivers and exemption notices for display in the taxis concerned to the effect that the named driver is exempt from the duties imposed by those clauses. The purpose of the new clause is to safeguard against the possibility of forgery and the fraudulent use of these certificates and notices.

In Amendment No. 99 we have the legislative provision governing taxis in Scotland which is to be contained in the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982—an Act which I remember well in its passage through another place. The framework of the Act is such that this one short clause will enable the taxi provisions in the Bill in respect of England and Wales to be introduced for disabled people in Scotland by means of regulations.

Amendments Nos. 143 and 147 are simply provided to cover the definitions of the additional terms "accessibility regulations", "licensing authority" and "taxi" introduced under the principal amendments, Amendments Nos. 93 to 98.

I hope that I have explained, if at a little length, the purpose of the amendments and new clauses that I am introducing which arise as a result of undertakings given in another place. I beg to move.


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