§ 11. Mr. Duncan-Smith
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what measures his Department will take to facilitate travel by the disabled in London.
§ Mr. Norris
My Department's disability unit works closely with the unit for disabled passengers at London Transport in promoting accessible transport services. Dial-a-ride services in London are funded by my Department and administered on our behalf by London Transport. We shall be announcing shortly the funding levels for 1993–94. In addition, there is a requirement for all London taxis to be wheelchair accessible by 1 January 2000.
§ Mr. Duncan-Smith
My constituents will be grateful for, and reassured by, my hon. Friend's answer. As we so often hear Opposition Members knocking London's record, will my hon. Friend draw a comparison with cities comparable with London and our record in the matter? So that we can see what the Opposition did when they were in power, will he also draw a comparison with what the Greater London council did under Labour control?
§ Mr. Norris
I think that it is fair to say that while we can and will do more, London offers on balance the best transport service for disabled people of any major city in the world. To emphasise that point, it is partly because by increasing our funding by a further £1.5 million this year we have achieved a real increase of more than 60 per cent. compared with the last year in which the service was funded by the GLC.
§ Ms. Walley
Is the Minister aware that today is International Women's Day and that many women, especially disabled women, all over the country do not have access to public transport? During the six months of the United Kindom's presidency, why did the Government not take further the European directive on the mobility of disabled workers?
Will the Minister give an assurance that, whatever his proposals for the future of black cabs and private hire vehicles in London, there will be no threat whatever that access to disabled people will be lost? He should bear in mind that there is a real chance that black cabs could well be put out of business if he does not deal with the whole issue properly?
§ Mr. Norris
The hon. Lady will appreciate that women, especially disabled women, are uppermost in the Department's mind when it considers what steps to take to provide disabled access to transport. As I said, those steps are more advanced in London in terms of buses, access to rail systems and especially taxis and other forms of personal transport than in any other major city in the world.
I merely reiterate that the Department requires all London taxis to be fully accessible to the disabled by the year 2000. The hon. Lady should know that some 7,000 taxis are available for disabled people to hire from the 656 street. I am committed to the proposition that we should continue with that policy and have all London taxis accessible to the disabled by the year 2000.