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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, will the Minister also state how the law applies to proxy voting?

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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, if the people involved do not have a vote, they cannot have a proxy vote. I am a little puzzled. Perhaps I missed the point.

8.15 p.m.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, with the leave of the House, the point I sought to establish was that if someone could not vote because he was detained—in other words, he simply was not allowed to leave—obviously there is a possibility of a postal vote, as the Minister rightly said. As he also rightly said, there is the possibility of collusive fraud. We all know that the alternative would be for that vote to be vested in a member of the detained person's family. That is proxy voting. It would seem to overcome some of the suggestions that the noble Lord made and to a degree might meet the provisions in the noble Lord's amendment. The detained person could make his intentions clear.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, if my recollection serves me well, the conditions on proxy voting would then have to be considered. I do not think that one can have a proxy vote if one is at a known address and can vote by post. I believe that there has to be some other reason for needing a proxy vote.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I have one.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am surprised that the noble Baroness has a proxy vote. I have a postal vote but I would not consider that I was eligible for a proxy vote. Of course, we do not have a vote; I presume we refer to a local election. I have just remembered that.

However, the noble Baroness makes a point about the use of proxy voting. Obviously, I am prepared to consider the matter. I had not realised that the rules on proxy voting were quite so broadly drawn (I shall not use the word lax) that people who were simply away from home in the same country could have a proxy vote. Until now, I had always thought such a vote was for people who were totally unable to vote by post or at the polling station.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, the position has changed.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am assured that the position has changed. I accept that. To return to the point, that may be another aspect that we shall have to consider.

I was about to say that the new clause, which expands Section 5(2) of the 1983 Act, would allow detained patients to register at what would be their home address if they were not detained. But the amendment also seeks to annul Section 7 of the Act, the effect of which would be to allow detained patients to use the hospital at which they are detained as an address for registration purposes. This would create the situation whereby a detained patient had the right to register in either of two places, or perhaps in both. What would be the criteria used to make the decision?

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The amendment also seeks to annul Section 7 of the 1983 Act, thereby allowing voluntary mental patients to use the hospital in which they are living as an address for registration purposes, and no longer to have to make a patient's declaration as to their address outside the hospital. The Government do not believe that it would be right to accept those changes.

As regards the first effect of the amendment, that of allowing voluntary patients to use the hospital as their registration address—the noble Lord, Lord Rix, referred to the point; he did not think that the situation applied any longer—the Government believe that this would have a distorting effect on the electorate in a number of areas in which psychiatric hospitals are still located. The Government acknowledge that care in the community means that there are now far fewer such hospitals than was the case 10 years ago, when a similar amendment was put down during the passage of the Representation of the People Act 1985. But there are still a number of areas where distortion of the local electorate is possible.

The Government do not accept that the need for voluntary mental patients to make a declaration as to an address outside the hospital in which they are staying is discriminatory, or that it creates a major disincentive to registration to vote. Similar declarations are required from other groups of electors whose actual residence is different from where they are to be registered. Overseas electors—they have to declare their last registered address in England—and service electors make such declarations, and the arrangements appear to work satisfactorily.

The Government also believe that the declaration has some utility in that the ability to make such a declaration provides some measure of the mental patient's capacity to vote.

The noble Lord, Lord Rix, indicated that he is aware of the difficulties. While I cannot accept his amendment, I suggest again that, having put some of the problems on the record, MIND and MENCAP may continue to discuss the matters with the Home Office to see whether there are some practical solutions to some of the cases.

I was interested that the noble Lord expressed a little reservation about whether this was the correct House in which to discuss these matters. I do not have any objection to our discussing them, but as we are all denied the vote in parliamentary elections, I believe that a decision on the issue ought to be left to another place. With my experience of having been a Member of another place in a previous existence, perhaps I am a little more conscious of their special position on these matters.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, the other place could not take a decision on the matter on this Bill unless we made a decision and asked it to overturn it.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I appreciate that point. When I considered the issue, I wondered whether someone would pull me up in just the way that my noble friend has done. However, I still believe that, while it is perfectly proper for us to debate

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the matter, if anything is to be done it ought to start in the other place. After all, it is their electorate and that is it.

On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rix, will now withdraw his amendment. I hope that discussions will continue to see whether we can do something for those in this group who would be capable of voting but are currently prevented from doing so.

Lord Rix: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his thoughtful comments and for his recognition of the delicacy of the subject. I, too, was warned by my noble friend Lord Allen of Abbeydale that the other Chamber could well be the appropriate place for the matter to be discussed. I am not quite sure under what procedure that would take place.

However, as has been suggested, I hope that our advisers from both MENCAP and MIND can get together with the advisers from the noble Lord's department and the Home Office during the Summer Recess, and perhaps come to some meaningful conclusion. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 27 [Taxi accessibility regulations]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 105:

Page 20, line 39, leave out ("("accessibility") and insert ("("taxi accessibility").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 105 I wish to speak at the same time to a fairly long list of amendments: Amendments Nos. 107, 108, 110 to 112, 116, 118, 119, 121 to 125, 128 to 130, 132, 136 to 144, 148 to 151, 152, 157, 167 and 170.

Noble Lords will see that many of the amendments to which I am speaking are simply matters of good housekeeping. We propose to move Clauses 46 to 55 into Part V and to rename the part "Public Transport". That will make for a much tidier Bill and Amendment No. 157 deals with that simple provision.

The clauses dealing with PSVs and rail vehicles use the terms "PSV accessibility regulations" and "rail vehicle accessibility regulations", but on taxis, Clause 27 is currently drafted in terms of "accessibility regulations". For consistency we feel that this should be changed to "taxi accessibility regulations" and Amendments Nos. 105, 107, 111, 119 and 123 cover that point. Additionally, Amendment No. 108 provides further clarification of the definition of a "taxi".

Amendments Nos. 110, 116 and 118 which deal with Clause 28, seek to clarify these provisions. There is only one substantive change to the effect of the clause; it is Amendment No. 112. Where a person already has a taxi which is not wheelchair accessible (for example, a saloon car), we do not want him to have to replace it prematurely. So Clause 28 as now drafted allows the local authority to relicense such a vehicle which is currently used as a taxi, provided that the new licence comes into force immediately on the expiry of the old. But we recognise that there can be practical problems when a taxi is presented for relicensing, which usually involves an MOT or similar test. Remedial work may need to be done and parts may need to be obtained

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before the vehicle is acceptable as a taxi. So Amendment No. 112 allows a 28-day period of grace between the expiry of the old taxi licence and the commencement of the new. Of course, the vehicle cannot be used as a taxi while it is unlicensed. Amendment No. 124 is simply to clarify that the person to accompany the hirer is a disabled person. Amendment No. 125 removes Clause 32. By virtue of Amendment No. 138 the forgery provisions will be swept up in Clause 50 with those relating to PSVs.

Amendment No. 167 to Clause 59 will enable regulations to be made for different areas and localities. We are therefore proposing Amendments Nos. 128 and 129 which remove similar provisions in the existing Clause 46. Amendment No. 148 to Clause 53 proposes the same approach for rail vehicles. Amendments Nos. 130 and 132 remove the requirement for the Secretary of State to consult before making a special authorisation order and imposes a requirement to consult DPTAC and other representative organisations before he makes any regulations relating to accessibility certificates or approval certificates.

Amendments Nos. 136 and 137 are proposed to make clearer that the words "as he thinks fit" apply to the examining of the vehicle rather than to the issuing of a certificate. Amendments Nos. 139, 140, 141, 142 and 143 are consequential on Amendment No. 138 which, in sweeping up the provision of Clauses 30 and 31 in the proposed amendments to Clause 50, establishes a new term "relevant document" to describe the certificates and notices which might be falsified.

Amendment No. 144 requires the Secretary of State to consult representative organisations before making fees regulations. Amendment No. 170 ensures that the regulation-making provisions for taxis, rail vehicles and PSVs do not restrict the general regulation-making powers under Clause 59.

The amendments to Clause 60, are consequential amendments dealing with interpretation of the terms which are introduced in the transport clauses. In providing for this in Clause 60, Amendment No. 122 is required to remove a duplicate provision in Clause 30.

During the Committee stage, I emphasised that the regulations which would be made under these transport provisions would apply only to new vehicles. This point was recognised in the amendment which was tabled by the Opposition in the other place. On rail vehicles, though, I indicated that we would be coming forward with an amendment to make this position absolutely clear.

I must make clear that this does not, in any way, represent a diminution of the Government's commitment to achieving access to rail vehicles. Indeed, the passenger trains which have been brought into service in recent years provide a good and improving standard of accessibility; and that has been achieved without any legislative requirement to do so. Amendment No. 151 provides for this concept of "new" vehicles to be made explicit on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

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