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Lord Avebury: My Lords, can the Minister deal with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Higgins? The Minister said that the new IT system would come into operation at the end of 2001 and new cases would be dealt with under that system at that time. That is a very short interval for a major computer system. As the noble Lord said, the record of the department has not been magnificent. Can the Minister say to what extent the timing of the introduction of the scheme is robust in terms of the non-delivery of the computer system? This has arisen in many other sectors of government. What are the fall-back plans if the noble Baroness introduces the new casework system at the end of 2001 and the computer system is not operational?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I entirely take the noble Lord's point. The most worrying aspect may very well be the slowness of any new computer system. We cannot afford to bring on the new case-load, let alone the existing one, until we have a secure IT system. As this year progresses I shall be able to share with your Lordships the information that is available. Our realistic expectation is that the IT system will be in place so that we can take on new cases towards the end

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of 2001. But noble Lords are right to be pessimistic. Our experience and that of the previous administration of IT systems has not always been a happy one.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, the Minister said that the comments of my noble friend Lady Anelay were lengthy and not wholly relevant. I suggest that when she reads Hansard she will find that a number of the points are relevant, particularly those related to penalties. The Minister said that all along she had consulted the Magistrates' Association. Has she also been in touch with the courts in Scotland to which this White Paper applies? If not, will she ensure that she does so soon? I am not sure how it is to be done, because as from today the courts are devolved to Scotland's Parliament. However, I am sure that the Government have worked out a way. It is important that any scheme that emerges in the form of legislation fits well with the Scottish system.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, not only have we had replies from 1,500 individuals; we have also discussed these proposals round the table with about 40 organisations, including the Law Society, the Magistrates' Association, family court judges, solicitors, the Family Law Bar Association and so on. They spoke regularly about both the Scottish and English experience. Representations have also been made to us by Scottish organisations. If the noble Baroness believes that we have overlooked any points I shall be very happy to take her advice, but in our consultations we have cast the net as wide as we can possibly conceive.

Lord Milverton: My Lords, does the Minister accept that many noble Lords hope that the attempt to make the CSA more effective will succeed and that the many children who need help receive it? Does the Minister agree that those who lie or who are deceitful, and fathers who deliberately evade their responsibilities, should realise that if they persist they must take the consequences?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I agree with the sentiments of the noble Lord and others. This matter will be judged by whether the poorest children, particularly the 1 million who should receive maintenance at the moment but who do not, are given that support. If so, all of us can help to trampoline those children out of a life of rather deep poverty.

Greater London Authority Bill

4.55 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Whitty.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

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[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne) in the Chair.]

Clause 133 [Transport for London]:

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 250:

Page 72, line 4, at end insert--
("( ) Transport for London shall secure the provision of transport services that enable disabled people to have access to the same level of services as all passengers.")

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 250 I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 287 in the name of my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that Transport for London secures the provision of special transportation services, such as Taxicard and Dial-a-Ride in order not to discriminate against older and disabled people who cannot use regular buses. The Committee will be aware that all buses in London will be physically accessible by 2017, but there will still be an enormous need for other types of transport provision for those who cannot use mainstream buses. I am advised that there are between 250,000 and 500,000 disabled and older Londoners who cannot use regular public transport, even when it is made physically accessible.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act, Transport for London will be obliged to ensure that all its buses are accessible, but it says nothing about provision for those who cannot use physically accessible buses. These Londoners need special transport provision such as Taxicard and Dial-a-Ride which now provide in the region of 1.5 million trips a year. These are not provided as a duty and are partly funded by voluntary contributions from the London boroughs. I am aware that the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, who has recently tried out the Taxicard service, may have something to say about this.

If special transport services are not continued and developed, thousands of older and disabled Londoners will be left marooned in their homes. It will also mean that members of their families will have to take extra time off work to look after them, to do their shopping and to run any necessary errands, which is not to the economic advantage of the country. The amendment is also designed to ensure the continuation and development of these special transport schemes. We should place a duty on Transport for London and make provision for it. If the Government are committed, as they have said it is, to ending social exclusion and integrating all older and disabled people, will they also give a commitment to the continuation and expansion of these vital transport schemes?

I realise that there may be a drafting error in this amendment. As drafted, it may mean that the Underground services have to be accessible to everyone, even people in wheelchairs. That, of course, is impractical and is not the intention of the amendment.

With regard to my noble friend's Amendment No. 287, to which I have put my name and which I strongly support, the noble Baroness will speak on it, but it is designed to reintroduce original Clause 169 of the Bill, which was removed in the other place. It will

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allow the Secretary of State to make regulations ensuring the provision of door-to-door transport for disabled people. I beg to move.

5 p.m.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I rise to support Amendment No. 250 and to speak to Amendment No. 287, which is in my name. My noble friend Lord Swinfen has covered most of the important points. I have put down Amendment No. 287 because it does not insist on any particular scheme. The wording of Amendment No. 287 is:

    "may by regulations make provision for and in connection with the provision of transport facilities and services provided for the purpose of meeting the needs of disabled persons resident in Greater London". That is not prescriptive in terms of how he must do it or whether he must do it. However, at least it places a responsibility upon the Secretary of State to ensure that disabled people in London are carefully considered and catered for in all forms of transport need.

My noble friend Lord Swinfen has mentioned the Taxicard scheme. I believe that it is an extremely valuable scheme. It works very well in central London. The reason for that is that central London boroughs have quite a high parking revenue and they are allowed to apply that to the Taxicard scheme. It is a greater problem in other boroughs. In fact, five boroughs have either greatly reduced the budget for it or reduced the number of journeys that people can take, which has more or less the same effect. No doubt those boroughs have found that their budgetary pressure has demanded that. If it became a part of the Transport for London issue, I am not sure where the money would come from to introduce throughout the whole of London a scheme as good as that in the boroughs in which it is working very well at present. However, one must accept the principle that it is desirable to see a gradual expansion of this scheme throughout London. Above all, we do not want to see an erosion of the present scheme, which has served so many people so well.

My noble friend mentioned that perhaps there may be a danger of implicating the Tube system. I took up this issue. It transpired that one of the real problems is that you cannot necessarily replace an escalator with a lift. An escalator can go down sideways underground and is not owned by the London Transport Authority, whereas a lift has to go down vertically and, for that reason, cannot necessarily be used.

I have for many years campaigned for a case of wheel accessible transport in London, not just for wheelchair users but also for travellers carrying heavy shopping and accompanying small children. For example, if the escalators at Heathrow are out of order, there is no way in which travellers can gain access to the Underground, which I believe is quite appalling. I asked the people at Heathrow, "What happens if you are disabled and you cannot walk down this escalator?" The reply was, "I suppose someone would have to carry you down. There is no other way". On the other hand, the access in the newer terminals, where they have been able to incorporate walking areas for passengers, is so much better. The disabled, of course, are greatly

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disadvantaged by a lack of access to the Underground. I believe that the Underground answer is a long way off. The bus answer may come much sooner. The taxi answer covers a different need; that is, the need of those who cannot manage on either the Tube or the bus.

I shall refer later to the issue of concessionary fares. I mention it in passing. Many people who are not yet disabled, but who have incipient disability, benefit greatly from the fact that they can use the buses and the Tube. Keeping those people mobile is really a very important way of dealing with their conditions and ensuring that much can be done for them.

With regard to the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, and perhaps the other one too, I believe that there is a need to define "disabled persons". This is referred to in another part of the Bill. I know that it includes people with mental disabilities, a point on which the noble Lord, Lord Rix, has spoken. It refers to "disabled persons". I believe that it would be more helpful if it said "as defined in the Disability Discrimination Act". I find it extraordinary that at the time when we brought in the Disability Discrimination Act, we removed the term "registered disabled", which was very clearly identifiable for people. However, we apparently decided at that time that this term should no longer be used. I believe that it is important to identify in any clause of the Bill exactly who we wish to identify, so that there can be no confusion about that.

I will not continue for much longer. This is an issue in which many people are interested. I hope that the Minister will take our worries very seriously and look again at these amendments.

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