Select Committee on European Communities Eleventh Report



Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Baroness Hayman, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

  This proposal was sifted to Sub-Committee B and considered at their meeting this morning. In addition to your Explanatory Memorandum of 30 September, the Sub-Committee invited written evidence from the Disabled Persons' Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) and the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT). Copies of these submissions are included with this letter.

  The views of the witnesses can be briefly summarised as follows:

  The DPTAC believes that the Commission has made progress in regarding access for disabled people as an integral part of their design and construction requirements. They are concerned to ensure that the proposed Directive would not adversely affect the implementation of the transport provisions (part 5) of the Disabilities Discrimination Act 1995.

  The CPT raise concerns over the proposed Directive in several areas. First, they believe that the proposed Directive may have adverse safety implications arising from an increase in the number of standing passengers on buses and additional doors which would reduce control over disembarking. Secondly, the CPT argue that the proposed Directive would increase prices to passengers (on coaches) by reducing the seating capacity. They also believe that the proposed increase in design weight would increase fuel consumption by some 5-10 per cent.

  The CPT also shares the concern expressed in your Explanatory Memorandum that the safety provisions are neither adequate nor comprehensive. They believe that the Commission should produce comprehensive proposals dealing with all aspects of bus safety.

  More generally, the CPT are concerned that the proposed Directive does not recognise the diversity of bus types in Britain. They note that the UK operates types of buses not found in significant numbers elsewhere in Europe" and argue that this is because UK operators had tended to increase service frequencies and reduce vehicle sizes to better match supply to demand" (paragraph 11).

  The Committee endorses most of the concerns raised by the witnesses. In particular, the Committee supports the view of the CPT and the Government that the safety requirements are neither adequate nor comprehensive.

  We consider that the DPTAC are right to be concerned that the proposed Directive could adversely affect the implementation of the transport provisions of the Disabilities Discrimination Act 1995. The Committee would therefore appreciate clarification of any effect the proposed Directive would have on these provisions.

  Your Explanatory Memorandum states that this Directive would be optional unless a change is made to type approval procedures through amendment by Council of directive 70/156/EEC, to make whole vehicle type approval mandatory". The Committee would appreciate clarification of the optional" nature of the proposed Directive.

  The Committee looks forward to receiving clarification on these issues. In the meantime, this letter maintains the scrutiny reserve.

27 November 1997

Letter from Baroness Hayman, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 27 November concerning the proposed Directive mentioned above. As a result of the sift of the proposal carried out by the Sub Committee B, you have asked for clarification on two issues.

  You have asked for clarification about the effect the Directive will have on the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA). The purpose of the Directive is to harmonise the construction standards for the bodywork and interior of vehicles, and we will be obliged to accept those buses and coaches that meet the requirements of it. This will be the case even if they do not meet the requirements of regulations made under the DDA. This is why we are actively seeking to bring the requirements of the Directive up to a level such that they are equivalent to requirements made under DDA.

  You are also seeking clarification of the optional nature of the Directive. This is a single market measure which gives manufacturers a guarantee that if they meet the requirements of the Directive, they will be able to sell their product in any Member State without having to undergo additional checks. National requirements may be operated in parallel with the Directive and this may mean that local manufacturers have a competitive advantage if those standards are different to the Directive.

  There is a view that if such local variations are permitted complete harmonisation in a Single Market cannot be achieved until Whole Vehicle Type Approval is mandated. This extension of mandatory Whole Vehicle Type Approval would require modification of the framework Directive 70/156, to encompass all the separate Directives which are necessary in addition to this one to form a whole vehicle type approval.

  I hope that you find this information is useful to you and that it clarifies the position for your Committee. If you need any further assistance on this matter please do not hesitate to contact me again.

8 December 1997

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