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Lord Berkeley: Both the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, and the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, have mentioned the question of access to the London Underground for disabled persons. I am sure that the noble Baroness will agree that all new construction to the London Underground, such as the Jubilee Line and the Heathrow Express, is designed with disabled access in mind, with lifts as well as escalators. The problem is that if one gets on the Jubilee Line at one end, one cannot get off anywhere else.
Having said that, I do not believe that the problem centres around new construction, but rather converting the existing lines, which does not involve only escalators. When you get to the bottom of an escalator at many stations, you have to walk up or down a flight of steps. I do not believe that it is feasible, at a reasonable price, to convert every one of those stations to provide full disabled access. Therefore, some reasonable compromise has to be made to recognise that matter.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I intervene to say that I introduced the Jubilee Line Bill in this House. It was a very important part of that Bill, and the changeover to Waterloo Station, that lifts were installed. I completely appreciate the point. In relation to the very remote future, it should certainly be incorporated in any new station design.
So much for the drafting of the amendment. Amendment No. 287 provides a good way of dealing with it. Though I always have doubts about giving power to make regulations, I believe that in this case it might be better to give that power rather than to attempt to set out all the detail in the Bill. Some provision along the lines of Amendment No. 287 but inserted after Clause 133 might be the best way to deal with the matter. However, that is for the Government to consider and decide.
As regards the merit of the amendment, we have to do something. I referred recently to GLAD as the Greater London Association for the Disabled. That body has done a great deal. However, I must confess that I was not quite up-to-date. It is now called Greater London Action on Disability. That good work must be carried on. The Dial-a-Ride scheme was introduced as a result of its efforts.
We have to bear in mind that many of the disabled people to whom my noble friend Lord Swinfen referred--there are roughly a quarter of a million--live in their own homes, including, alas, tower blocks. Others live in nursing homes, old people's homes and various charitable institutions. Some of those places can provide some transport. But it is where the individual is at risk that something needs to be done. I hope that the Government will look sympathetically at both amendments. Both have great merit. Something must be done.
Baroness Darcy de Knayth: I support most warmly the two amendments and pay tribute to the work of GLAD. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, referred to it. Perhaps I should declare that I am a patron of GLAD.
I have added my name to both amendments because I believe that it is important to write into the Bill a duty for TfL to make provision for those who cannot make use of regular public transport even when it is physically accessible to them because they need door-to-door transport. The noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, signalled that I would mention this issue. Owing to a combination of circumstances, for the past two days I have had to travel by accessible taxi from Maidenhead to London and, I hope, back again. The seamless journey has worked wonderfully. I do not think that I would be here if I had had to get in and out of a taxi, a train and another taxi, owing to sheer exhaustion and the time taken. The seamless journey assists those who cannot make use of public transport.
The noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, referred to Taxicard. I stress that I do not live in London. I should not be eligible for the Taxicard scheme--in case any noble Lord is having a fit because of my travelling from Maidenhead and returning there.
I support Amendment No. 287 which reintroduces a clause removed in another place allowing the Secretary of State to make regulations ensuring provision of door-to-door transport for disabled people. We have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, that in some boroughs the system works brilliantly. However, it is patchy at present. There has been a recent decline in finance in some boroughs. It is desperately important to ensure that that does not happen. I think that Taxicard should be transferred to TfL as soon as possible. Until the journeys currently made possibly by Taxicard are part of an integrated London public transport strategy, the provision will continue to be uneven. Users in different boroughs will receive varying levels of provision. The funding and future of Taxicard services will be at risk and further Taxicard services will be lost. We must not let that happen. The single management and funding regime would provide a focus and platform for the development of the integrated transport service. I hope therefore that we shall hear an encouraging reply from the Minister on both amendments.
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I have added my name to Amendment No. 250. I support the ideas underlying both amendments. I wish to give emphasis to the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, about the seamless journey and the need to provide a Taxicard service across the whole of London and not just in some boroughs.
Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare: I support both amendments. I urge the Minister to consider in particular Taxicard which has 45,000 members. In Greenwich the service has stopped completely; in Lewisham, Redbridge and Enfield it is on the verge of stopping.
Lord Morris of Manchester: Like the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, I am a patron of Greater London Action on Disability and I pay tribute again today to its work in the service of disabled people. While I shall be speaking mainly to Amendment No. 250, I am grateful to both the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, and the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, for facilitating this debate.
The purpose of Amendment No. 250 is wholly unexceptionable. It is about ending a very hurtful form of discrimination against disabled and elderly people; namely, their exclusion from transport services of crucial importance to their quality of life. There are between 250,000 and 500,000 disabled and older Londoners who cannot use regular public transport even when it is physically accessible. There are over 200,000 Londoners who cannot walk 100 yards and whose nearest bus stop is more than 100 yards from their home. What use are mainstream bus services to them?
These Londoners need special transport provision such as Taxicard and Dial-a-Ride which now provide 1.5 million trips a year. But these are not provided as a statutory duty. They are partly funded by voluntary contributions from the London boroughs. To ensure the continuation and development of these special transport schemes, Parliament should place a clear duty on Transport for London to make provision for them. We must not leave all discretion to the mayor. The organisations of and for disabled and elderly people feel that the Government recognise their special needs but are content to leave it to others to decide how or whether they are met.
Action to meet their needs ought not to be decided by personal whim but by the political will of Parliament. I hope very much that my noble friend can offer a helpful reply to the amendments. I hope, too, that he is giving very careful consideration to the response of the Joint Committee on Mobility for Disabled People, of which I informed him by letter, to the debate on my amendments on charging. I repeat: these are important amendments. They deserve a positive reply.
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