HC Deb 08 July 1991 vol 194 cc695-7

Lords amendment: No. 19, in page 41, line 22, after "Commissioners;" insert— ( ) the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee;

Mr. Chope

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 20, 22 to 27, 29, 31, 33, 34, 37 to 39 and 77.

Mr. Chope

The Government have a long-standing commitment to promoting the improvement of transport facilities and opportunities for people with disabilities. When the subject has been raised during the passage of the Bill, we have said that, given those commitments, the needs of people with disabilities will be dealt with in the Secretary of State's traffic management and parking guidance and will therefore be taken into account when part II of the Bill is implemented. That is now incorporated in the Bill in specific amendments which are comprehensive and consistent with other parts of the Bill.

Ms. Ruddock

For the record, we support the amendments that are being introduced at this stage. In Committee and at all stages, the Opposition have pressed for people with disabilities and for the organisations that represent them to be properly consulted. We regret that our other amendments dealing with organisations which represent persons who use any road to which the order relates—by which we meant organisations representing pedestrians, cyclists, or, indeed, the general public—did not find favour with the Government, although they were pressed in another place. The Government have chosen to single out people with disabilities, and we appreciate that positive discrimination, although other groups of road users should properly have been represented. However, we support the giving of a statutory right to disabled organisations to be consulted.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Clearly, I am pleased that the Government have accepted amendments that allow for groups representing people with disabilities to be consulted on a mandatory basis on the introduction of red routes. However, I echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) said. We pressed in Committee for other groups to be consulted and I should have thought that they also have an important role to play.

Thus far, the experience of the introduction of traffic management schemes through red routes in London has been an unhappy one for many people with disabilities. On the opening day of the red route through Islington, the police attempted to take away the car of a disabled person. The stopping restrictions in operation along that route mean that many people with disabilities cannot get into shops which might have specific disabled access, because the stopping places are in the wrong place. If the Department of Transport had had the foresight to consult the Islington Disablement Association and other such groups at the time of the introduction of the route, much heartache would have been saved and many problems avoided. However, the Department's approach was arrogant—it decided what it was going to do and then waited to see what the effect would be. The effect has been greater speed and a higher volume of traffic and people with disabilities are now unable to go into shops that they should be able to use. Many small shops and businesses along the route are going out of business.

People with disabilities are one group that has been affected, but the removal of the right of people with disabilities to stop along much of the red route means that they try to park in side streets. However, the heavy emphasis placed on policing the red routes has meant that traffic wardens have been taken away from policing the side routes, so specifically designated disabled persons' parking bays on side routes adjoining Upper street, Holloway road and Archway road are often now congested by the vehicles of other people who park illegally. As all the emphasis is on getting traffic along the route, the real purpose of parking restrictions and facilities that benefit people with disabilities is lost.

What form does the Minister expect the consultation to take? How will organisations in specific localities be consulted about the possible introduction of a red route or about the parking facilities in neighbouring streets? To judge from our experience, there will be a lot of trouble for people with disabilities in other parts of London as the schemes are introduced.

6.15 pm
Mr. Chope

It was hoping for too much to expect the hon. Gentleman to be persuaded even at this stage of the success of the red route pilot scheme. I introduced new evidence which shows that as a result of the operation of the pilot scheme, there has been a significant reduction in road casualties during the two months that have so far been monitored. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will welcome that. In addition, more traffic is able to use that route with greater reliability and, as a result, less traffic uses unsuitable residential roads.

In Committee, we debated at considerable length the allegations and counter-allegations about the facts relating to individual disabled people on the route. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that many amendments have been made to the route as a result of consultation before and after the initiation of the scheme and that all road users are the beneficiaries of the red route.

Mr. Corbyn

One cannot say that all road users are the beneficiaries of that route. Only last week, I met a group of young mothers of small children who frequently have to cross that road, and they are alarmed at the speed of the traffic along it because of what I suppose can be called the effective policing which ensures a greater movement of traffic. The principle behind the opposition in the locality to the red route has been that emphasis is placed on getting more traffic more quickly through a densely built-up urban area. We believe that the Department of Transport should place the emphasis on getting more people to use buses and trains and on persuading fewer people to use cars, which congest central London, docklands or the City.

I hope that the Minister will not ignore the fact that the facilities for people with disabilities have often been impaired because of the way in which the policing is carried out. How does the Minister propose to consult local groups that represent people with disabilities before the introduction of such routes elsewhere?

Mr. Chope

In the first instance, the consultation will be with the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee and with any other groups which are recognised to represent the needs of disabled people. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would agree with that.

Many people use buses and as a result of the effectiveness of the red route the time taken for bus journeys has declined, which makes the bus a more attractive option. The evidence that I have given to the House about the reduction in the number of road casualties counters the hon. Gentleman's allegation—or his implication—that pedestrians on the route are at greater risk than before.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords amendment agreed to.

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