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Lord Renton: The amendment has interesting implications. For some people who need to travel rather long distances to work--it might include work for the authority or the mayor--charging more the greater the distance travelled would seem to be rather a handicap. On the other hand, there could be an advantage in charging people more for short distances in order to discourage them from using private transport. Shorter distances might well be more suited to the use of public transport. I wonder whether the Minister has in mind the possible effects of the reference to "different distances travelled".

Lord Whitty: The point of road user charging is to discourage, constrain or redistribute the amount of road traffic. In the immediate circumstance is it unlikely that that is achievable, except by what is effectively an access charge: more or less a flat rate would be charged for access to parts of London.

It is now not beyond the wit of technology to charge electronically on the basis of distance travelled. Such systems now exist in some parts of the world. That would reduce the temptation to use the car, for example, for long or medium distance commuting. It would also discourage the use of the car when public transport arrangements for cross-city journeys were available.

I take the noble Lord's point that some of the journeys that he would particularly wish to divert onto public transport are relatively short. It may well be that the mayor will decide that a combination of an access charge and a road user charge--a road mileage related charge--is the most sensible way of discouraging short

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use by fixing a higher threshold and combining that with a discouragement from driving into central London every day from, for example, Croydon.

However, those are all matters for the mayor. The only point of the clause is to recognise that at some point, when the legislation is likely still to be in place, it will be technically possible for the mayor to devise schemes which are based on mileage as well as those based on access. In the long term, that may well be the way in which the mayor would wish to go. I hope that clarifies the matter for the noble Lord, Lord Renton.

Lord Renton: I thank the noble Lord for his explanation. It looks as though the amendment will give a wide discretion to the mayor because it will be he who decides the policy.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 306 and 307 not moved.]

Baroness Darcy de Knayth moved Amendment No. 308:


Page 252, line 6, at end insert--
("( ) A charging scheme shall include an exemption scheme for disabled people and transport services for disabled people drawn up in consultation with organisations of disabled people.").

The noble Baroness said: I wish to move Amendment No. 308 and speak to Amendment No. 323 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, and myself. It is grouped with Amendments Nos. 308A and 323A in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Thomas and Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Tope. They all seek to achieve the same objective by various means. They all aim to create a scheme for exempting certain classes of disabled people from road user charging and workplace parking licensing schemes.

Amendments Nos. 308A and 323A mention consultation with groups representing disabled people. It is important that the consultation should be with organisations of disabled people where over 50 per cent of the members have direct experience of disability.

I shall not rehearse the arguments about disabled people not being able to exercise choice over using public transport or the need for an overall scheme. We have been through it all before. The amendments are similar to Amendments Nos. 298 and 314 which were spoken to earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester. They called for an overall national scheme, one that is the same throughout the country, I hope including Scotland and Wales. Amendments Nos. 308 and 323 and the one by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, relate only to London. The amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Morris, are therefore definitely better. He regrets that he cannot be here, but the Committee will acknowledge that he has done sterling work already on the amendments.

I look forward to the Minister's reply, perhaps even more optimistically than usual in view of the early arrival of his letter to the noble Lord, Lord Morris, which was flagged earlier. I shall move Amendment No 308, although I prefer Amendment No. 298,

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because I wish to give the opportunity to the Minister to tell us a little more about the amendments. I beg to move.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I support the amendments. I accept the gentle reproof administered by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, on the advantage of the phrase "groups of" disabled people rather than "groups representing" disabled people. However, we have the same aim and, like the noble Baroness, I look forward to hearing the Minister's response.

Lord Renton: I support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy. The alternative put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and others has roughly the same effect. As for the alternatives, one must bear in mind that disabled people have a wide range of disabilities. Some disabled people might be able to use public transport but others are so severely disabled that they could not even drive a specially adapted vehicle. Special arrangements have to be made for them.

When we come to consider Amendment No. 323, it is important to bear in mind that transport services may need to be arranged for groups of very severely disabled people, not necessarily individuals, because they cannot propel themselves. We must generalise on this matter. I am sure that the Government will be sufficiently broad-minded and imaginative to realise that it is important to give adequate power to the mayor and authority to provide exemptions under the first group of amendments and a special licensing scheme under Schedule 19. I hope that the Government will give a helpful, favourable and sympathetic reply to this amendment.

Lord Whitty: I hope that I can be at least slightly sympathetic. This matter relates to the exchange of correspondence between me and my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester, who is no longer in his place, about the timing of the Government's proposals on the application of any national exemptions to the GLA. The Government's view is that in general terms it should be the responsibility of the mayor to decide what exemptions from road user and workplace parking charges should apply across London, but that if there are any national exemptions they should apply also to London.

Currently, we are analysing a very large number of responses to the paper, Breaking the Logjam. A good number of those bring forward the likelihood of national exemptions. Without pre-empting full consideration of that area of consultation, it is clear that a strong case is made for national exemptions for disabled persons. Exactly how that operates, in what context and in respect of whom will be a matter for national exemptions. It is not our intention to rush the process of specifying those exemptions because a further period of discussion will be required, but I am sure the Committee will agree that it is essential to ensure that any exemption from charges for disabled persons is clearly defined, practical to implement, equitable and not open to abuse. All of those angles must be covered.

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Nevertheless, the undertaking that I have given to my noble friend Lord Morris, which I give again formally to the Committee, is that we shall endeavour to agree the structure of any national exemptions from local authority road user and workplace charges in time for it to be included in the latter stages of the Bill in this House. In any case, even if we missed that timetable the national exemptions would be clear by the time the mayor came to propose any scheme within London. I hope that we can put it into the Bill. I hope the noble Baroness agrees that I should take away these amendments and feed them into that consideration. As to the substance of the case she makes, the Government are strongly sympathetic and believe that the results of their consideration will be positive.

Lord Renton: Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps he can amplify his observation about national exemptions being considered at a later stage of the Bill. As I understand it, all that we shall know about the national exemptions is what the Government intend to propose to Parliament. However, they will not be part of the law, whereas in this Bill we shall be making the law. It is very important to ensure that the exemptions are available within the Greater London Authority. It would be terrible if in the long run it turned out that the national exemptions did not sufficiently help disabled people in London.

Lord Whitty: I think that the noble Lord is seeking an understanding that we might legislate in this Bill first. It is the case that if we are clear about what we want to do with the national exemptions in time for the latter stages of this Bill, we would wish to incorporate them. It is possible that subsequently, during the passage of the Bill, Parliament will be persuaded to alter those national exemptions and we would therefore need to provide that they would be altered in London as well. All those contingencies must be covered in the way in which we deal with the issue.


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