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Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, perhaps I may intervene on that point. I often take flights into Gatwick airport. Obviously one has to make arrangements with the airline because one has to be lifted on and off the plane. But the aircraft is often very late, and the process takes time. Any taxi might have to wait two or three hours. It would be important to have a fleet at the airport.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I understand the point that the noble Baroness makes. However, my experience of airline travel is that a reasonable timetable is kept to, except perhaps in the case of transatlantic flights where there are technical problems with the windage up high
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I suspect that I travel in aircraft rather more often than do some noble Lords who are having a little jest at my expense. They travel remarkably well to time, given all the factors that are involved in flying.
The key step forward in this Bill in relation to taxis is that we look to requiring that all taxis that ply for hire on the street should be wheelchair accessible. That is the measure in the Bill. That is different from the situation at an airport, where various facilities to help passengers will be available.
I suggest that the vital provision being made in this Bill isas I believe the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth) mentioned earlierthat disabled people should be able to hire a taxi on the street, making a journey decision as and when they wish, just as the rest of us do. I believe that airline travel is a little different. I at least plan my airline travel a short time in advance. That way I find that I get onto the aeroplane and have a seat waiting for me. We do want to continue
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I also plan somewhat in advance the transport that is to meet me at the other end. Clearly I live in a more planned environment than do some noble Lords. I do not want to continue with this discussion. This is Third Reading and we are beginning to behave as though it were Committee.
As I said on Report, we intend to continue to encourage the provision of appropriate facilities for disabled people in the places that this Bill does not reach. Overall, this amendment is likely to cause more problems than it solves and does not address the problem that arises at many airports in the country because of the needs and demands of different licensing authorities.
Lord Gladwin of Clee: My Lords, I am speechless! We have moved backwards. I really cannot understand the Minister's response. As I said in my remarks, one can well understand why the owner of a transport facility would want to reach a contract, an understanding, an agreement. It is in the interests of his passengers, for the reasons that the Minister gave this evening.
Why should a disabled person in a wheelchair be discriminated against? The pressure is for the owner of the facility and the provider of the services to come to the best economic agreement. The best agreement will be with drivers and owners of saloon cars. As the Minister told us earlier in the debate, a disabled person in a wheelchair who wants to go to Glasgow airport can get a cab to take him or her there. That is not the problem. The problem occurs when you arrive. I spoke to people at Glasgow airport a few days ago and was told: it would be much better if you would tell us in advance that you are coming; then we could ensure that a taxi was there. That is discriminatory. It must be. If the Government's position is that a person in a wheelchair can go out onto the street, hail a taxi and get a taxi, I see no reason why that should not be so on arriving at a railway station. On arriving at my railway station you cannot get a taxi with wheelchair access because there is none there. I asked this morning what would happen and was told that none is available.
The Minister's response is most unsatisfactory. My noble friend referred earlier to a hole in the Bill. I do not suggest that there is a hole, but this is surely a loophole. Let us forget about travelling by air. We shall face a situation at railway stations whereby people arrive on an adapted train in a wheelchair, go to the taxi rank outside the station and find no wheelchair accessible taxis. What do they do? They ask questions and the reply is: "We do not have one. We will ring somebody up and see whether we can get one for you". I am sorry, but the Minister's response is most unsatisfactory. I thought that we should get a little further. I have no choice but to divide the House.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
After Clause 32, insert the following new clause
Page 29, leave out line 10 and insert (", hearing dogs and other categories of dog;").
Page 29, line 18, leave out ("and").
Page 29, line 20, at end insert ("; and
"other categories of dog" means such other categories of dog as the Secretary of State may prescribe, trained to assist disabled persons who have disabilities of such kinds as he may prescribe.").
Page 29, line 30, after ("may") insert (", in particular,").
Page 29, line 32, leave out (", in particular,").