HC Deb 28 October 1996 vol 284 cc314-5
5. Mr. Martyn Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he has taken to secure the future of the London taxicard scheme; and what measures he will take to promote the adoption of similar schemes by local authorities elsewhere. [565]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. John Bowis)

I recognise the value of the London taxicard scheme and other such schemes. The establishment and management of such schemes are a matter, in London, for the London boroughs and, outside London, for other local authorities.

The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee—the Department's statutory adviser on disability issues—has produced guidelines for local authorities on the establishment of taxicard schemes. Copies have been distributed to licensing authorities throughout the country.

Mr. Jones

The Minister will be aware of how well received the taxicard scheme is in parts of London, where it is a great asset to disabled people. When is it likely to be extended to other major cities and even to towns in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Bowis

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman welcomes the successful London scheme, which carries some 60,000 trips a month. Other schemes are starting throughout the country. It is entirely a matter for the local authorities concerned whether they start schemes, but we are trying to encourage that by setting up the guidelines through the DPTAC. I hope that he will find that helpful in persuading perhaps Clwyd county council to consider starting such a scheme because I understand that, as yet, it is not moving in that direction.

Mr. Bendall

Is the Minister aware that the taxicard is being reviewed and that the review body is liable to recommend that more money be spent on policy, not on management? That is causing great concern to voluntary organisations in London and to the 50,000 users of the taxicard scheme. Is he also aware that this suggestion is being made by a Labour party member of my local authority?

Mr. Bowis

I am not aware of the last point, but I am certainly aware of the London Committee on Accessible Transport's review of the accessible transport unit and of the committee's view that the unit could be downsized. It is entirely a matter for the London boroughs what sort of review they have and what emerges from that review, but I have no reason to suppose at the moment that there is any threat to the service for disabled people in London.

Mr. Tom Clarke

Does the Minister agree that the Government's Disability Discrimination Act 1995 does not outlaw all discrimination on all forms of public transport? Does he accept that, because the Government have reneged on their funding promises, the London taxicard scheme is being presented with difficulties? How do the Government intend to respond to people's expectation from the Government that disabled people will be assured of access to mini-cabs and unregulated taxis? How do the Government intend to deal with people who use wheelchairs and people with guide dogs and hearing dogs? Surely this Minister, coming from London as he does, views this as a splendid opportunity to build best practice as a beacon for the rest of Britain.

Mr. Bowis

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's reference to my experience of London and of its transport needs, including the needs of disabled people in London. I know and recognise their needs and shall seek to further their interests. There are many ways in which that can be done. The taxicard scheme is part of that. The dial-a-ride scheme transports some 1 million people a year. The discrimination Act will not only bring in accessible taxis—as the hon. Gentleman knows, in London, that will be required by 1 January 2000—but is making great progress in terms of accessible buses and trains, and even in terms of access to the underground, so we have progress. I shall seek to ensure that that progress is furthered.

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