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Lord Whitty: My Lords, we accept that school transport is important. However, Clause 109(3) already requires an authority to have regard to any measures that it is required, or proposes, to take to meet transport requirements in carrying out its functions as a local education authority. The issue of school transport is already covered.
I understand that the noble Lord does not intend to press Amendment No. 96. Therefore, in effect he spoke to Amendment No. 97. Whatever the noble Lord may see as the inadequacies of the present clause, I do not believe that his amendment does what he suggests. From the way that the noble Lord described the objective of his amendment, I would have thought that it was not desirable. It would substitute alternative wording for much of subsection (1), with the loss of important requirements on local authorities, particularly in paragraphs (a) to (c); for example, the need to consider the standard of bus services, any additional facilities and services connected with bus services, which would mean items such as bus stops, waiting facilities, interchanges and so on. The clause was drafted to reflect the fact that local authorities would have a wider range of bus functions as a result of the Bill. The noble Lord's amendment would delete some of those functions. I am not convinced that the present
Lord Dixon-Smith: I have an awful feeling that the Minister and I have a simple difference of opinion over this matter. I do not regard Clause 109 as presently drafted as in the least satisfactory. The clause is convoluted and unclear and does not direct the attention of a transport authority to the need to serve its community. I accept that my amendment may delete certain parts of Clause 109, but that is a matter which I can address at Third Reading. I shall study the Minister's response. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
At the moment, not all disabled people can use buses because many are still inaccessible to them. Amendment No. 100 requires local transport authorities to consult disabled people, whether or not they are currently able to use buses. As buses become accessible they will be able to use them. Therefore, why not consult them now and make certain that they will use them? It will reduce congestion if they no longer use their cars on the public highway. Part of the Government's agenda is to reduce congestion.
Amendment No. 103 seeks to allow quality partnerships to specify details of timing and frequency of services. Amendment No. 104 requires local transport authorities to consult organisations of disabled people, whether or not they are users of local services, before introducing quality partnerships. That is why I wanted the two amendments grouped together.
Amendment No. 108 requires local transport authorities to consult disabled people and their organisations, whether or not they are current service users, before introducing quality contracts. Amendment No. 121 requires local authorities to have regard to the needs of those with sensory impairments and learning difficulties in deciding the appropriate way to provide information.
The organisations for disabled people tell me that they have little faith in local democratic processes when it comes to safeguarding the interests of those with disabilities. Disabled people are in a minority. Their needs are not generally well known to the non-disabled
Noble Lords will frequently have seen young mothers with two or three small children struggling with numerous plastic bags, baskets and packages of one form or another. It is terribly difficult for them to get on to an old-fashioned bus. It is quite a hike up. Transport which is suitable for people with disabilities would be suitable for them as well.
I turn now to Amendments Nos. 103 and 104. Timing and frequency of local transport are key factors that often stop disabled people being able to go out independently. If an authority proposes to make a quality partnership scheme, it should give notice of the proposed scheme and, inter alia, consult such,
Local transport authorities, either alone or jointly, are required to determine what bus information should be made available and how to arrange with operators for its provision. If such an agreement cannot be made, the local authority will provide the information and the bus company will be charged. Before making such a decision, the authority must consult such organisations as it thinks fit, particularly those who use local services. That should include disabled people and should be in an appropriate format that all disabled people can use. I beg to move.
Baroness Darcy de Knayth: I support these amendments which the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, has covered comprehensively. This business of not consulting non-users seems curious to me. If the intention is to improve the bus service and make buses suitable for more people, those who for one reason or another do not use the services at that moment should be consulted. That is particularly important in the case of disabled people because those who use the services will inevitably be non-disabled people who will not understand what disabled people need.
A manufacturer who is selling a new product or a new version of an existing product does not survey only his satisfied customers; nor does a company seeking to expand its services to new customers ever only survey its existing customers. In Surrey recently there was a survey of bus services which had the aim of increasing the number of passengers carried. The survey was sent to non-users but became the subject of ridicule throughout the area because it did not ask why non-users failed to use any of the services. All the questions were directed at users and, what is worse, at users of the existing services.
Experience has shown that local authorities need to be told exactly who to consult. They will not make progress if they are not told clearly to consult new users. Amendment No. 121 provides that the local authority must have regard to those with visual and hearing impairments and people with learning difficulties. I hope that the Minister can give a positive response to these amendments.
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, I was inclined to think that the groupings rather suited me. But perhaps they do not after all. I rise to speak to Amendments Nos. 106 and 179. However, as I want really to speak to Amendment No. 103, and Amendment No. 103 has now been referred to, perhaps it is right to speak to it at this stage.
Several amendments stand in my name which were previously in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, who cannot be with us today. There has been a kind of trans-Pennine transfer and I have taken the amendments on. It appears to me that Amendments Nos. 106 and 179 can be left alone if we look carefully at Amendment No. 103, which has been referred to, particularly with reference to disabled people. However, there is far more to this issue than just the needs of disabled people.
Clause 113 is about quality partnership schemes and about implementing the policies in bus strategies. It is about the authority providing particular facilities and the operators of local services providing local services of a certain standard. The clause refers to facilities, which will include bus shelters and so forth, and then states:
Frequency and timing are imperative as regards bus services. For that reason, I believe that paragraph (b) should be deleted from this subsection. Indeed, most people who need to use buses would consider that frequency and timing are rather fundamental.
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