Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Addington: My Lords, I rise briefly to support the amendments. I am sure that the Minister may be thinking of replying by saying, "Don't worry; it's all covered." However, it is 10 or 12 years since I first heard discussion on these provisions. The fact that we are now returning to the issue means that the lobby groups outside think we need to remind people who make these decisions to bear disabled people in mind.

Unless we are told to consider these problems, we often do not realise that they exist. It is also the case that when we talk about the disabled, we receive the reply, "Oh, that's somebody in a wheelchair", or "That is somebody who is blind" and the problem is not taken further. We must try to reach a situation where people look across the whole spectrum of disability and ensure that all needs are addressed. Unless we have this type of legislation, and are permanently prompted, something will be missed and we will not move forward. That is one of the battles that is constantly being fought. That is why we shall keep returning to this issue until we have something conclusive in law which means that people must take such problems seriously.

I support the noble Lord when he says that Amendment No. 118 should be included in this grouping. It follows almost directly from Amendment

26 Oct 2000 : Column 592

No. 94. We need to reach those who have difficulty with print. That includes the visually impaired and those with literacy problems. We must try to help them overcome the barrier of the printed word, which excludes people from what is available to the rest of the community. The technology is now available. We may find it irritating on buses and trains to be told when we are stopping, but for those who cannot read the signs, it is necessary.

The amendments are necessary, not because they are not implied in law but because in practice these areas are simply missed.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I rise to support Amendment No. 95. A walking strategy is important, both for able bodied and disabled people. I do not know whether or not the wording is right. However, I continue to find that people who produce strategies and local authorities who mend pavements or roads travel only in cars. I have been soaked on pavements recently because the drains were blocked and cars were rushing past. Even in the local authority of Oxford where the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, sometimes has an involvement, five miles of road have been beautifully resurfaced but the road gullies are about two inches higher than the surrounding road just by the bus stop. As a result everybody who is waiting for a bus is soaked by the bus.

How on earth can one get local authorities, and the politicians who run them, to realise that walking needs to be enjoyable without having to wear oilskins and gumboots, while those in cars have air conditioning and heating? If the amendment contributes to that view being accepted, I support it.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, like other noble Lords, I sometimes find the groupings illogical. However, we will probably have to deal with them as they are. I, too, am anxious to make clear through the Bill that the Government want disabled people to have the kind of transport facilities which are accessible to them so that they can play a full part in the life of the community. We have made clear, both in the White Papers and guidance that we have given through the local transport plans, that that is the objective. Current guidance is clear about precisely how local authorities should address the transport needs of the elderly, mobility impaired and so on. That specific criteria in relation to disability issues has been supported by our statutory advisers, DPTAC, to which the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen referred. Like DPTAC, we acknowledge that the emphasis in the guidance may need to be changed or strengthened over time. But guidance included under Clause 111 gives us the means to do so. Of course, we shall work with DPTAC in developing the guidance in relation to the transport needs of disabled people. Clause 111(2) makes clear that authorities, when developing their policies under Clause 107 and their bus strategy, must,

    "have regard to the transport needs of persons who are elderly or have mobility problems".

Amendment No. 93, therefore, is not necessary. The requirements are already placed on the authorities and developed in that guidance, and we are developing the

26 Oct 2000 : Column 593

strategy very clearly in conjunction with the main national body which represents the needs of disabled people.

Amendment No. 94 seeks to amend the requirement upon a local transport authority that when requested to supply a copy of its local transport plan it must do so in the chosen format of the person making the request. Part III of the DDA places specific duties on those providing goods, facilities or services to the public. The Act makes it unlawful for service providers to discriminate against disabled people in defined circumstances. Those circumstances include where a service provider has failed to comply with a duty to make reasonable adjustments if the effect of that failure is to make it impossible for a disabled person to read, understand or receive the service.

So the position is already covered in the DDA. Since our discussion in Committee it has become more apparent that there is uncertainty about whether an LTP is covered by the requirements of the DDA. I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, on that point. Because that position is not straightforward, we consider that the best approach will be to issue guidance to local authorities in relation to alternative formats. I want to put on the record that that is our commitment. Of course, in drawing up that guidance we will be consulting DPTAC as our statutory advisers in this area. I believe that meets the objectives of Amendment No. 94.

Amendment No. 95 relates to a walking strategy. Again, integrated transport has already been defined as including the needs of pedestrians and specifically requires authorities to include facilities and services for pedestrians. So it is already clear, without spelling out the structure of a walking strategy as the amendment seeks to do, that walking is a major dimension of our transport strategy. As the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said in relation to an earlier amendment, a move to more appropriate modes definitely includes moves to modes which involve our own two feet. We are certainly keen that walking should be part of the structure. But that is already covered without it being specified in detail as Amendment No. 96 attempts to do.

I hope that, with those remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, will feel that we are committed to the same objectives as himself and that these amendments are not necessary in order to achieve them.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I am not sure that I heard him speak to Amendment No. 95. Does the requirement under the Disability Discrimination Act to make physical adjustments to premises, which I appreciate does not take effect until the year 2004, affect the physical adjustments to streets? Is that included under the Disability Discrimination Act?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I shall need to take advice on that matter. The answer is that it probably is not, except

26 Oct 2000 : Column 594

in so far as the streets provide facilities to access premises. It may be therefore that the noble Lord has a point. With his leave, I shall write to him on that matter.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I should be delighted to receive another letter from the noble Lord and I thank him for his letter of 20th October. I appreciate that he took the trouble to write to me after the Recess.

I appreciate the support which I have received from around the Chamber. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, was right in saying that in bad weather one sees many pedestrians being splashed. The local authorities, when looking after their roads, could do something about that if they took the trouble and so could their contractors. Such incidents are not unusual; sometimes they occur accidentally but on other occasions they are due to nothing more than the drivers' lack of consideration. Inside their nice cosy cocoons, they are not prepared to realise that other people are freezing outside in the slush of January and February.

I have commented on Amendment No. 95 and I wonder whether Amendment No. 94 is properly covered by the Disability Discrimination Act. The Minister said that my Amendment No. 93 was not necessary and the issues would be covered by guidance. He also stated that in his letter to me. Most of us in the Chamber have children and grandchildren and we know that we give them guidance. The trouble is that they do not follow it--neither do local authorities! The law does not state that they must do so. If they have not followed the guidance and something goes wrong, they have a deeper hole to climb out of. I believe that the measure should be on the face of the Bill and if it were not so late at night I should be inclined to ask the opinion of the House. But it is late at night and due to that--and that alone--I beg leave to withdraw the amendment. I shall not move the next two amendments but reserve my right to return to them at Third Reading.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 108 [Further provision about plans]:

[Amendment No. 94 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 95 not moved.]

Clause 109 [Bus strategies]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 96:

    Page 66, line 29, after ("authority") insert ("or where appropriate, Passenger Transport Authority").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 96 has slipped through the net. I had not intended to move it as it is answered elsewhere in the Bill. However, Amendment No. 97 is important. Clause 109 is worded obscurely, to say the least. It provides that an authority should provide whatever bus services and facilities it, the authority, thinks it should provide. One must ask: to what end, for what benefit and for whose purpose that is directed? All that is completely avoided on the face of the Bill.

The Bill should not be about an authority providing bus services to suit itself. What are we talking about?

26 Oct 2000 : Column 595

And so I thought that a more appropriate purpose was required. We have therefore tabled the amendment, which proposes that authorities should

    "develop bus services in their area on behalf of their communities and those wishing to travel in those communities having regard to the economic and social well-being in their area".

Even that is a dreadful generalisation but a least it is a purpose above and beyond that of their own requirements as authorities. I accept that an authority acts on behalf of its community and all those other matters. However, we are framing legislation which people are to follow. If we cannot come up with something better than Clause 109 as it is presently drafted, in that regard we fail in our duty. Certainly, the Government have failed in their drafting. I hope that the Minister will consider my amendment, however unpalatable it may be. I do not believe that the Bill as drafted is a suitable piece of legislation.

Amendment No. 98 which is also part of this group simply draws attention to a very simple problem. In developing a bus strategy the authority should have regard to the need for school transport. For those authorities which are involved in education school transport is a vexed issue. When I was involved in this matter at local government level I remember impassioned debates as to whether an education authority should be required to provide transport. If somebody did not provide transport, education could not be provided because children could not get to school. These may be basic statements of the facts of life. However, in this Bill transport authorities are specifically directed to consider what is involved in bus strategies and how they can help their communities. If school transport is not part of that I do not know what is. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page