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Baroness Denton of Wakefield moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 2, line 3, after ("disabilities,") insert--
("( ) the needs of parents with young children travelling on public transport,").

The noble Baroness said: I propose this amendment because I feel that once again, rather like the reform of your Lordships' Chamber, the cart has got before the horse. The Bill asks for a reduction in road traffic without taking into account the provision of suitable alternatives. It does not co-ordinate with the policies of other departments and, in particular, I am concerned with the extra difficulties it will provide for parents--mainly women in this instance--moving about with children. I am also concerned to sustain the rural economy, to which many Members of the Committee referred.

The Government are aiming to get single parents back to work, yet there is no way, even in the public sector, that most childcare will take place in the workplace. I doubt that many Members of the Committee have recently tried taking three small, often reluctant, children on public transport in the middle of the rush hour. I believe that there are brilliant drivers and conductors who are extremely helpful, but it would also seem that there are other drivers who are on commission from osteopaths. Everything I say in relation to parents and children applies equally to the elderly.

That brings me to the main reason for tabling the amendment. Is it not highly dangerous to remove children from the security of seat belts and often well-constructed car seats in cars before the provision is in place to ensure that seat belts are available for them in other modes of transport? I ask, by putting the amendment where it is, that the Government should put that issue as one of their priorities because there is nothing more precious than a child's life.

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On Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, said:

    "The Bill is about trying to ensure that there is a clear approach to road transport in relation to an integrated transport strategy".--[Official Report, 5/6/98; col. 593.]

May I suggest that again this is putting the cart before the horse. Should it not refer to the "integrated people strategy"? Traffic and transport are for the people who use them. I have tried to make this simply a pragmatic amendment where people consider people and I hope it will be acceptable. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: This is the point that the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, raised in speaking to a previous amendment. This amendment would add the needs of parents with young children travelling on public transport to the list of needs which the Secretary of State shall have regard to in Clause 2 (4).

Of course, I understand the difficulties, having myself travelled on public transport with three boys under the age of five. As they grew older, at least one of them would be capable, on two-door buses, of attempting to get off at one door as I was getting off at the other with the youngest. I fully appreciate the problems and I do understand that this is a group of passengers with special needs. We share the concerns raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Denton. I would therefore like to take this opportunity of assuring the Committee that the Government will consider the impact on parents with young children travelling on public transport when considering how to comply with the requirements of the Bill. However, as I said on the previous group of amendments, we do not think it sensible to specify on the face of the Bill every factor that we may need to take into account. The list is extensive and it is neither sensible nor practicable to specify all factors. I hope that with my assurance that the Government will consider this group of passengers along with others and our reasons for not producing a long list, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Swinfen: I wish to make a very brief point that the Government may not have considered. It is, I understand, a legal requirement that, for their own safety, a baby or young child travelling in a private car must be in a properly constructed seat which is properly fastened into the vehicle. However, as far as I am aware, there is no such provision for public transport. Public transport can move just as violently as private transport. It is also likely to be involved in accidents. I do not expect the Minister to produce an off-the-cuff answer today, but it is a point that should be thought about not only by the Government but by the companies providing public transport.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am not in a position to comment in detail. In responding to the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, I would merely comment that neither is there a requirement for adults travelling on public transport, with the exception of aircraft, to have safety harnesses provided.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: I rise very briefly to support the amendment that my noble friend

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Lady Denton has made for all the reasons which she expressed so well. The problem with a Bill like this is that once a list is made, as in subsection (4), the temptation is to want to add to that list. I cannot for the life of me see why the two requirements listed in Clause 4 are any more or less important than the proposition put forward by my noble friend Lady Denton; or, indeed, for that matter, the proposition put forward by my noble friend Lord Attlee in Amendment No. 7 which refers to the needs of business, commerce and industry. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, when replying, could give some thought to that.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: Perhaps I could make a couple of comments based on practical experience. Having been involved in the work of a local authority which was committed to reducing road traffic and which made that commitment about seven years ago, perhaps I can explain that nowadays, when local transport planners are talking about who has particular problems, those with some sort of handicap or disability are obviously on the list; but equally obvious are those elderly persons who cannot, for example, lift their legs as high as other people, or as the noble Baroness, Lady Denton, put forward, parents with small children. I think there is a general group which you could call "mobility restricted" in some way (without meaning to be derogatory in any sense to any of the various people who make up that group) and whose needs are invariably considered when people are planning alternative transport.

The second point I would like to make is that there is an increasing number of buses, even on the streets of London--particularly in the suburbs--which are very accessible both for people with physical disabilities and for parents pushing children in buggies or prams.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Perhaps I could point out to the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, that the problems of many parents with young children, including mine, were not difficulty with mobility. They were all three far too mobile.

Viscount Simon: I can understand why the noble Baroness, Lady Denton, tabled this amendment. A lot of fulsome words go into the care of young children. However, the Japanese have it the other way round: they look after the elderly. Should we not consider the needs of the elderly on public transport being looked after by the very young, or, conversely, those of the middle-aged being looked after by the middle-aged? These are in fact examples of the wording in subsection (4)(a):

    "the mobility needs of persons with disabilities".

Lord Elis-Thomas: I am grateful for all the contributions made to this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, asked why there are specific categories referred to in Clause 4(2)(a) and (b). The reason is precisely to deal with one of the sub themes throughout this debate, certainly in Subsection (4)(b)--the need for adequate provision in rural areas; and, indeed, in non-rural districts where there are concerns about the possibility of replacement services in specific areas. We feel that that should be specified.

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Perhaps better wording would be "The needs of persons with mobility difficulties", or "over-mobility difficulties". Different forms of either "over" or "under" mobility are also specified because clearly they are a particular category of person. We are talking about particular places and particular persons in subsection (4)(a) and (b)--that is why those are there--whereas what we have had in other amendments from noble Lords, particularly the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, were more general and specific aspects which, of course, will be featured in the report to be produced by the Secretary of State as a result of this Bill. We have again had very specific assurances on this issue as regards Amendment No. 6.

I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Denton, for drawing attention to the needs of parents with young children generally, and particularly with regard to the school run. I find myself in complete agreement with her integrated people strategy. I wish all parties had one. I also agree with her that we are, regrettably, debating this Bill--and I must not sound too critical of the Government because they have been rather kind to this little Bill--almost in reverse order because we were hoping that the Transport White Paper would have been with us by now. I hope it is not available for the best of all possible reasons, as the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, hinted; in other words, that it may contain more consideration of the precise issues that will appear in the report as set out in this Bill.

The needs of parents and children when using public transport will be taken into account when the duties are carried out under Clause 2(1) and (2). I am grateful also to the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, for drawing attention to the safety issues. Again, I am not able to respond in specific detail but we shall certainly make sure that we find out the detail and that we respond to that point. The whole question of the safety of young persons and children on transport is a matter for transport undertakers as well as for government.

For all those reasons, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

1 p.m.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: I am grateful for the interest that has been shown in this amendment. I wish to express sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, in having to work so much in the dark at this stage in the strategy. Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, that if one moves about London in the traffic for any length of time one becomes very cynical about the relationship between planners and normal people's lives. In response to the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, perhaps I may add that I did mention the elderly, but I was particularly worried about moving children around.

I have been reassured that this matter has now been highlighted. Unfortunately, my memory is good enough to recall that when I was sitting on the government side of the House I used the listing argument too. We understand that, but it is very important that this matter should be considered. Having heard the replies, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 7 not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.

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