Yes, my Lords.
Some may wonder whether the Secretary of State would designate every station that entered into such an exclusive contract. That is a fair question. I cannot bind every future Secretary of State, because every case needs to be examined on its merits, but I am sure that the various legislative requirements on the Secretary of State to take into account the interests of disabled people would result in Section 33 being used when accessibility was not provided under any contract that excluded other operators providing accessibility. The section imposes a legal requirement on taxis, so the Secretary of State has only limited room for manoeuvre on the requirements that he can frame under the regulations. Noble Lords can be reassured that the Secretary of State will operate in that direction.
The Government fully understand the concerns behind the amendment, but we feel that the combination of measures already provided in the Bill and the DDA meet the interests of disabled people and that in almost all circumstances they should enhance the availability of accessible vehicles. The ability to reach an exclusive contract means that the presence of an appropriate proportion of accessible vehicles can be ensured. The station authority cannot ensure that if taxis are generally plying for hire.
Access to public transport for the disabled is a key part of the philosophy of the Bill and the Disability Discrimination Act. We believe that we have come up with a combination of measures that will ensure the availability of such vehicles.