HC Deb 11 June 1980 vol 986 cc540-2
9. Mr. McKelvey

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will introduce legislation to amend the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 so as to require effective provision to be made for the disabled on transport undertakings.

Mr. Fairgrieve

The Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 covers the whole of Britain and there is at present no intention of introducing amending legislation.

Mr. McKelvey

I am dismayed at that reply. Is the Minister aware that recently in Glasgow the completed underground system went into operation without any facilities for the disabled? The Glasgow passenger transport executive completed the plans without any consultation with those representing the disabled. Does the Minister agree that, unless we have some legislation with teeth, the Government will be thought of as purveyors of platitudes about the disabled, rather than as a Government prepared to do something positive on their behalf?

Mr. Fairgrieve

As the hon. Member knows, the refurbishing of the Glasgow Underground began in 1975, and from the beginning the transport executive had discussions with the Disablement Income Group and representatives from Access. The problem is that the Glasgow Underground has smaller coaches than the London Underground or British Rail. There is no problem for anyone who can walk, but if there were an emergency people in wheelchairs would have to be taken out through 20in wide front doors on to the track. It is not possible to put wheelchairs into these Underground carriages, and therefore there was no need to install lifts at the five stations concerned.

Mr. McQuarrie

I must support the comments made by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. McKelvey). It is dreadful that disabled people are unable to have these facilities. Will my hon. Friend reconsider his reply and give further consideration to this matter with a view to future projects being put forward?

Mr. Fairgrieve

The Government must deal with facts, and we take an extreme interest in this matter. This year my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State attended the annual general meeting of the Disablement Income Group, at which he spoke. Only recently I saw the newly-formed Scottish Access Committee. Wherever possible, the Government intend to ensure that the disabled are properly looked after.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Which political party was in control when the essential decisions about the Glasgow Underground were made? [An HON. MEMBER : "Roy Jenkins."]

Mr. Fairgrieve

I think that it was the Labour Party.

Mr. Allan Stewart

Does my hon. Friend agree that, although there may have been initial discussions with the representatives of the disabled about the Glasgow Underground, there was subsequently a regrettable breakdown in consultations between those representatives and the people responsible for the Underground?

Mr. Fairgrieve

My hon. Friend is right. I do not think that anyone would deny the facts of the situation. There is no way in which the disabled in wheelchairs could be catered for on this Underground. However, the PTE has recently apologised for its oversight in not informing the disabled representatives of the necessary change in decision.