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Personal Oxygen (Public Transport)

Part of Petition — Mobile Telephone Mast (West Midlands) – in the House of Commons at 3:50 pm on 17th March 2010.

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Photo of Paul Clark Paul Clark Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport 3:50 pm, 17th March 2010

I congratulate my hon. Friend Nick Ainger on securing this debate; it is his second debate on this issue in the past nine months. I recognise his commitment, and also the hard work of the British Lung Foundation, the Pulmonary Hypertension Association, of which he is a trustee, the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. They are rightly determined to raise the issue on behalf of the travelling public, and in particular those who require this service so that they have the freedom to travel and are not constrained within the four walls of their home when the technological developments to which my hon. Friend has referred now allow a degree of portability and freedom that could only have been a pipe dream just a few years ago. I welcome this opportunity to respond to the points raised by my hon. Friend.

First, let me address aviation. I hope my hon. Friend will not be disappointed to learn that the position is still essentially the same as when we last debated this matter in June; the law is the same as it was nine months ago. My hon. Friend's remarks, and the names of the many international airlines he has read into the record, highlight the fact that this is an issue for the international community. It raises matters that need to be dealt with across the sector through the international law that the International Civil Aviation Organisation has put in place to support and help aviation consumers, and through the European Union for EU states. EU regulation 1107/2006 establishes the rights of those persons who are disabled or have reduced mobility for whatever reason. It is fully supported by the UK Government and has full applicability in UK law under our statutory instrument 2007/1895.

While it is true that this regulation does not impose specific duties on airlines to carry or provide oxygen within the cabin, in order to help the UK air transport industry comply with its obligations under the regulation, the Department for Transport has issued a code of practice, to which my hon. Friend referred: the "Access to Air Travel for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility" guidance. The latest edition of the code was published in July 2008 and it includes a section on oxygen. It advises that air carriers may approve the carriage of small gaseous oxygen or air cylinders which are required for medical use, but that carriers must also be able to ensure that they do not pose a risk to security. Indeed, advice given by TRANSEC, the body that provides the security advisers in the sector who monitor such matters, recognises that in all usual circumstances, they should not cause a problem.