Transport Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 9th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat 5:15 pm, 9th November 2000

My Lords, I rise to support both amendments. I think the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, was slightly underplaying his amendment, because it is actually a good one, but the substantive amendment does guarantee an important link between the train stations and other forms of transport. It is one link in a chain--I realise it is a cliche--and if you break one of those links, the whole thing fails: end of story. It does not really matter how good the train is if you cannot get from the station to your destination. Certain minicabs may well be able to accommodate certain people, but it cannot be guaranteed.

Also, as the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen pointed out, if you are in a wheelchair you may just about be able to get into certain types of cab. The same argument applies if you happen to have a bad leg or have a pram with you, but let us leave that aside for the moment. You may just about be able to get into a certain type of cab if you are prepared to go through the indignity of being bundled into the back and having the wheelchair pushed around, and so on. As to trying to go to court over it, I suggest that that might be something of a nightmare. Do we have to feed the lawyers any more?

Let us consider the position of the licensed taxi operators. They have acquired expensive vehicles, which are accessible. They are required to make sure that you can actually get into the cab. That is part of the deal imposed on them. In many parts of the country they originally operated from saloon cars. A little fairness here is justifiable, I think.

My Amendment No. 26 comes towards the end of the group and suggests that the operators of licensed taxis should have sufficient training to enable them to help people in and out of their special vehicles. It was inspired by conversations with several taxi drivers who simply did not know what to do or how to give appropriate help. When a new taxi is acquired, I suggest that a few hours' training, as a condition of the licence to operate, would enable a driver to give appropriate help. I suggest that this amendment is a very useful add-on to the main amendment, Amendment No. 14; but it is consequential.

Amendment No. 14 would guarantee that such a link between stations would apply to everybody and not just to a few. I would suggest that arguments to the contrary are undoubtedly inspired by a degree of commercial greed, or potential greed. I commend the amendments to the House.