HC Deb 08 November 1999 vol 337 cc725-6

Lords amendment: No. 170, in page 67, line 35, after ("problems,") insert— ("(aa) shall specify a timetable for the implementation of the proposals contained in the transport strategy by virtue of paragraph (a) above,")

Mr. Hill

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendment No. 171.

Mr. Hill

The amendments followed discussion in this House and another place about the provisions in the Bill in respect of transport for those with mobility problems.

My ministerial colleagues and I have received correspondence from people outside the House expressing concern that the Bill is not inclusive enough of the needs and views of users of accessible transport services. We considered the arguments carefully, both before and during the passage of the Bill. We recognised at an early stage that the special needs of those with mobility problems deserved particular attention. That is why, on introducing the Bill to Parliament, we included a specific provision requiring the mayor to include in his or her transport strategy proposals for the provision of transport accessible to those with mobility problems.

Although we believe that the existing Bill's provisions fully meet concerns over consultation with organisations representing elderly and disabled people, I recognise that there is still concern. We accept that there are advantages in giving a clear signal about the importance that we attach to those issues. Indeed, when we come to discuss the exemptions from congestion charging later in the debate we shall discuss other improvements that we have been able to make.

Amendment No. 171 requires the mayor, when preparing the transport strategy to consult groups representing persons with mobility problems. Amendment No. 170 requires that the mayor set out in the transport strategy a timetable for the implementation of his or her proposals for the provision of transport accessible to persons with mobility problems.

I should stress that the amendments are targeted specifically at the transport strategy, in recognition of the particular impact that the strategy will have on those with mobility problems. The amendments do not affect the provisions covering the mayor's other strategies. Taken together, they will ensure that transport for those with mobility problems will be a key element of the mayor's transport strategy.

We are committed to comprehensive, enforceable civil rights for disabled people. Accessible public transport within the framework of an integrated transport policy must be fundamental in delivering that commitment. The long-term goal must be to ensure that accessible transport is regarded as part of the mainstream transport infrastructure, not as an add-on. There are wider benefits in delivering accessible transport; for example, low-floor buses are easier for the whole travelling public, not just elderly and disabled people.

When I speak of accessible transport, I am not just referring to public transport. We must not forget that many Londoners with mobility problems rely on dedicated door-to-door transport services. The London White Paper set out our commitments in that area. Responsibility for the dedicated door-to-door services currently provided by the dial-a-ride and taxicard schemes will transfer to the new authority. The mayor's duty to include in the transport strategy proposals for accessible transport encompasses proposals for door-to-door services as well as public transport. The amendments further strengthen the provisions in the Bill for accessible transport for those with mobility problems.

Mr. Simon Hughes

We agree that amendment No. 170 adds something of value to the Bill. If one is to have a strategy that requires one to make transport accessible to disabled people, it is sensible to ensure that there is a timetable for doing so; otherwise, it will be based just on hope and aspiration. Those of us who regularly confront the issue of disabled people's frustration with public transport—which, as the Minister said, is linked to the private system—know that a strategy with no timetable would be of little worth.

5.15 pm

Is it the Minister's understanding that the provisions of Lords amendment No. 171 include river transport? If we are serious about integrating river transport, and if this is to be a transport strategy for London, we ought to consider how disabled people can also have access to river transport. It is no good our trying to promote it if, for many of our citizens, it remains as inaccessible as before.

I hope that I can have a positive answer to my question about Lords amendment No. 171, in return for my positive approbation for Lords amendment No. 170.

Mr. Hill

In response to the typically constructive and positive approach adopted by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), I am delighted to affirm that river services form part of the transport strategy for people with mobility problems, and that that is an entirely proper subject for the mayor and the Assembly to consider in devising a transport strategy for London.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 171 agreed to.

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