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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendments Nos. 107 and 108:


Page 21, line 3, at beginning insert ("Taxi").
Page 21, line 33, after (""taxi"") insert ("means a vehicle licensed under—
(a) section 37 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847, or
(b) section 6 of the Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869,
but").

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to the amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 28 [New licences conditional on compliance with taxi accessibility regulations]:

[Amendment No. 109 not moved.]

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendments No. 110 to 112:


Page 21, line 35, leave out ("("a new licence")").
Page 21, line 37, after ("the") insert ("taxi").
Page 21, line 39, leave out from ("apply") to end of line 43 and insert ("if such a licence was in force with respect to the vehicle at any time during the period of 28 days immediately before the day on which the licence is granted.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to the amendments. I beg to move.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe): My Lords, I should point out that if Amendment No. 112 is agreed to Amendments Nos. 113 and 114 are pre-empted.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 113 to 115 not moved.]

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 116:


Page 21, line 44, leave out ("subsections (2) and (3)") and insert ("subsection (2)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 117 not moved.]

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 118:


Page 21, line 47, at end insert ("or localities").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 29 [Exemption from taxi accessibility regulations]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 119:


Page 22, line 34, after ("to") insert ("taxi").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 120 not moved.]

Clause 30 [Carrying of passengers in wheelchairs]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendments Nos. 121 to 123:


Page 23, line 2, at end insert ("and").
Page 23, line 3, leave out from ("concerned") to end of line 4.
Page 23, line 32, after second ("the") insert ("taxi").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 31 [Carrying of guide dogs and hearing dogs]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 124:


Page 24, line 7, after second ("a") insert ("disabled").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 32 [Forgery of exemption certificates]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 125:


Leave out Clause 32.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

20 Jul 1995 : Column 456

Clause 46 [PSV accessibility regulations]:

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 126:


Page 34, line 34, at end insert:
("( ) to be fully orientated whilst carried in the vehicle").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 126, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 127, 145 to 147 and 156. The amendments are designed to ensure that regulations published in respect of public transport take into account the need of visually impaired people. The current wording of the Bill and much of the debate in Committee centred on the physical accessibility of public transport. When undertaking research among blind and partially sighted people for a major RNIB report to be published this autumn, it was noted that one of the commonest complaints involved difficulties in using public transport and general mobility difficulties.

The fact that bus and train stops are often not announced makes it difficult for a blind or visually impaired person to get about easily. Many of the changes which would make all the difference to blind and partially sighted people are easy to implement and cost-effective. Some progress has already been undertaken to address those issues. For instance, a "talking" bus operates as a pilot project on Route 29 between Wood Green and Trafalgar Square in London. The Victoria and Central Underground lines provide audible announcements, as do most InterCity trains. Other countries have long-established provisions for audible announcements. They are provided on buses in Paris and, although I have not been there, I understand they are provided on all trains in Finland.

A lack of audible announcements is not only inconvenient but it can place blind and partially sighted people in danger. Getting off at the wrong railway station may lead to false assumptions about the station exits. Audible announcements are especially important on commuter or rural regional railway lines because there is less likely to be help available to blind and partially sighted people if they get off at the wrong station.

The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, which was established in 1985 to advise the Department of Transport, published guidelines in 1994 on improving access to local buses. Those guidelines made reference to good communications, internal lighting and the positioning, colouring and texture of handrails and stanchions. I believe that the wording included in the Bill should reflect the fact that access to public transport goes wider than wheelchair access alone.

Amendments Nos. 126, 127, 145 and 146 deal with audible announcements and good design practice. Amendment No. 147 addresses the importance of developing uniform standards where possible in relation to rail services. I recognise the need to include provisions allowing regulations to differentiate between class of vehicle and geographic area. However, I believe that the uniform provision of audible announcements is both achievable and necessary. I consider that many of the changes needed for visually impaired people can be incorporated either immediately or during major

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refurbishment of coaches, buses and trains. I do not seek to bring forward an amendment to that effect, but I am keen that that point should be made.

Amendment No. 156 ensures that all land-based public transport has a duty to carry guide dogs and hearing dogs. That principle has already been conceded in relation to taxis. Thankfully, there are fewer examples of buses and trains refusing to take guide dogs and hearing dogs compared with taxis. However, the RNIB has found at least one example of a bus which refused to take a guide dog. The general exemption of public transport from the provisions of Part III make it necessary to spell out that obligation.

It is important that the Bill is amended to ensure that wider access issues are covered. Having audible announcements and good design practice would also be of benefit to those with poor eyesight, over and above those registered blind and partially sighted. Incidentally, audible announcements will probably be of assistance to tourists.

Finally, in Amendment No. 126 the expression:


    "to be fully orientated whilst carried in the vehicle",

means that someone who is blind or partially sighted knows which way he is facing—forwards, sideways or backwards—and where is the exit so that he can alight unaided. I beg to move.

Lord Addington: My Lords, I support these amendments. The noble Lord has put his finger on a very grave weakness in much of the transport provision in this country. Also I should point out that audible announcements would not only be beneficial for the blind but also for many other groups—foreign tourists, people who fall asleep and people who do not know the line generally. This provision will not hurt the rest of the community. Other groups—for example, dyslexics and those with learning disabilities who have problems with reading—may also benefit from the proposal. I can see no reason why such an amendment should not be incorporated in the Bill either now or at some future date.

Lord Carter: My Lords, we were glad to add our name to the amendments because they are important and we hope that the Minister will be able to deal with the important points that have been raised. I should declare an interest in that a member of my family is blind, has a hearing loss and is a user of a guide dog.

As it stands, the Bill does not address adequately the concerns of those with sensory impairments. Any regulations should address the need for clear, audible announcements, good lighting and clear signs with colour contrast. Regulations will allow variations in accessibility standards for rail vehicles according to networks, the class of vehicle and geographical region. However, the Bill does not stress the need to maximise uniform standards where that is eminently achievable. It is an anomaly that the Bill prevents taxis from discriminating in the carriage of service animals used by disabled people without making a direct reference to the obligations on public transport in general.

I know from the experience of a member of my family that audible announcements and colour contrast for the visually handicapped are extremely important. Perhaps I may give a simple example of an

20 Jul 1995 : Column 458

Underground station. Unless you know where you are getting off, you are sure about that and you are on a station with an island platform, there is a very real problem. The person may not know whether he is going across the platform towards the rail or along the platform towards the exit. If a blind person gets off a bus at the wrong stop but thinks it is the right stop, he will be completely disoriented and may spend a long time trying to find his way.

British Rail is very good at providing assistance. One may ring ahead to say that a disabled person is on the train in a particular coach and assistance will be provided at the station where the person alights. That is good. Of course, it happens at mainline stations but it does not happen at unstaffed stations.

On the whole, the stated policy of British Rail is quite good as regards the marking of stations and colour contrast, and so on; but, in practice, it does not seem to follow its own policy. I believe that I am correct in saying that the magnificent new Liverpool Street station is largely grey. Those concerned missed the opportunity to put in some colour contrast around the station so that the visually handicapped could see where the edges of steps are, where the railings are, and the rest of it. I dread to think what will happen with Railtrack as regards the mix-up of responsibility between the operating companies and the owners of the stations.

The other problem is parking on pavements. In our family, we carry around stickers provided by the pedestrians association. When we see a car which is parked on a pavement we place a sticker upon it which says, "Pavements are for pedestrians, not for cars". When the association issued the stickers, it had to issue a warning to all those who use them to be careful not to stick them on car windows because, if that involved the paintwork, they could be charged with causing damage to the car.

In the case of guide dogs, I cannot imagine that any operator of a public service or a rail vehicle would prevent a guide dog owner from travelling with his dog or allow that person to be separated from his dog. It is not that long ago, I know, that some guide dog owners were asked to travel with their dog in the guard's van. However, I am sure—at least, I hope I am—that that no longer applies.

There is also a problem with the Underground as regards escalators. One must never take a guide dog on a moving escalator because of the danger that could be caused to the dog's paws if they become caught. That means that a blind person either has to find in every tube station, or know where there is, a solid staircase; or he has to ask for the escalator to be stopped so that he can use it. In fact, when I have been travelling with my daughter, who uses a guide-dog, I have picked up the dog to save time and carried it on the up escalator. It has caused some consternation to those on the downward escalator to see a gentleman holding a large labrador in his arms as he goes up the escalator.

If anyone did try to separate a guide dog owner from his or her dog, that person should perhaps receive the rejoinder that was given by a guide dog owner whom I know well. She was offered entry to a restaurant so long

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as her dog stayed outside. She asked politely, "How would you get on if you were asked to leave your eyes at the door?"

I hope that the Government can assure us that the purpose of such admirable amendments is already covered by the Bill. If not, the Government should either accept them, or, if they cannot do so, they should take them away for redrafting and bring back suitable amendments on Third Reading which would deal with what seems to be an anomaly in the legislation and is a very real problem.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Teviot: My Lords, noble Lords will be aware that I have my own group of amendments on public service vehicles and trains following those of my noble friend Lord Swinfen and the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis. I listened with interest to the debate and did not wish to comment, but we seem to be in the realms of personal experience. I listened intently to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Carter. I can recall well over 30 years ago, in an area that the noble Lord knows well, that I once took a blind gentleman from Preston Circus at Seven Dials in the rush hour. Well, I rather forgot, and the poor man had to cross the road at Seven Dials which is quite an undertaking. After that, I told all passengers when they asked for directions that I had a mind like a sieve and added, "Don't hesitate to ask me umpteen times; I shan't be the least offended, so go on doing it".

The audible announcements could be of help. I shall be interested to hear what my noble friend the Minister has to say on the matter. I should point out to your Lordships that there are dangers in allowing more than one dog on a vehicle at any one time. I witnessed an unfortunate incident in which one dog bit the other dog's owner. Perhaps my noble friend the Minister would like to comment on that and on whether it is wise to accept Amendment No. 156 on the face of the Bill. Although it appears immensely plausible, one can see the particular dangers at present when the weather is so hot and humid, which can affect a guide dog even more than a human being.


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