HC Deb 03 February 1998 vol 305 cc837-8
32. Ms Hewitt

What proposals he has to make buses accessible to disabled people. [24919]

Ms Glenda Jackson

We have recently published our proposals under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to require all buses and coaches to be accessible to disabled people, including wheelchair users. Copies of the consultation document setting out the proposals, including a timetable for implementation, have been widely distributed to disability organisations, local authorities and the bus and coach industry. Copies are also available from the Library.

Ms Hewitt

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, which will be warmly welcomed by organisations representing disabled people. Will she join me in congratulating Leicester City Buses, which has already introduced new vehicles—kneeling buses—which are easily accessible to people with disabilities and to people encumbered by small children and heavy shopping? Will she take every step to ensure that the timetable set out in the consultation document is adhered to?

Ms Jackson

I not only welcome but warmly welcome the initiative, as I do all such commitments by bus companies around the country. They have clearly understood that improving services to people with disabilities also provides infinitely better services to the whole community and will increase the number of bus passengers, which the Government strongly endorse.

Mr. Ian Bruce

I am sure that the hon. Lady has read many of the studies from around the world on examples of large amounts of money being concentrated on ways to get wheelchairs on and off public transport. Has it not been shown that very few people use such facilities? [HoN. MEMBERS: "Shameful."] The previous Government's investment in motability and ensuring that taxis were available for wheelchair users is probably a better use of money. I am sure that we all believe that we should try to help. those who are ambulant but have difficulty in getting up large steps. I hope that the Minister will take that into account, rather than trying to be politically correct. She must ensure that we invest our money correctly to provide the best form of transport to get wheelchair users to and from work and the shops.

Ms Jackson

I agree with some of my hon. Friends that that was a shameful question. The hon. Gentleman talks about "our" money. Wheelchair users and people with disabilities also pay taxes. It is absurd to suggest that adaptations to increase accessibility on public transport are rarely used. We have to have the accessible transport before we can make any such judgment.