Transport Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 9th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions 5:45 pm, 9th November 2000

My Lords, we shall discuss that option with the SRA. That is one means of exerting SRA and regulator leverage on the issue. I shall certainly take that option seriously in those discussions. There may also be other options, but we shall look at that one seriously.

I have probably said enough about Amendment No. 14 for it to be clear that we share the motives of those who support it, but we do not believe that its full implications have been understood. I accept that the existing provisions are somewhat complex, but the amendment does not take them fully into account.

I have some sympathy with the objectives of Amendment No. 26 on training, which was spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. My department and DPTAC have issued advice to the licensing authorities and the trade on the issue. To answer my noble friend Lord Berkeley, the consultation on the regulations under the DDA will take some time, but we shall engage on it soon. When we introduce them, we shall also issue guidance on meeting the new duties. That will include references to training, subject to consultation with the trade. Training is obviously an ongoing process. We hope that all those who operate in the area have a commitment to training to meet the requirements of the DDA and other interests of the disabled traveller. I hope that that process meets with the noble Lord's approval and that he will not pursue the amendment in its present form.

The noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, referred to Amendment No. 3 as a paving amendment. I believe that, on its own, the amendment would have some attraction for us. Nevertheless, without the linkage to Amendment No. 14, it contains problems.

I make two points. First, the wording in the Bill is deliberately wide-ranging--over-arching is a word that I have often used--when it applies to our responsibilities to disabled travellers. The wording applies to all transport policy. Therefore, it would apply to transfer between modes, access to stations, as is covered here, and transport interchange facilities. Indeed, the matters which are the subject of this amendment are already referred to elsewhere in the Bill.

Of course, the noble Lord may argue that a few extra words in relation to interchanges would do no harm. However, this wide-ranging approach is quite deliberate. The problem with making specific references to particular points is that it is implied that if a matter is not mentioned at various points within the Bill, it is not relevant. We hope to avoid such an implication. We believe that the broader, over-arching provisions within the Bill in relation to the obligations to disabled passengers should be the vehicle by which we meet the obligations that the noble Lord's amendment seeks to address. Therefore, there could be a downside to accepting Amendment No. 3 as it stands.

As the noble Lord linked the amendment as a package deal with Amendment No. 14, my slight temptation to accept the amendment is probably not appropriate. I should have to oppose that amendment as well. However, the main amendment in this group is clearly Amendment No. 14. I hope that noble Lords will accept both the Government's good will in this matter and the rather complex arguments that I have perforce been required to make in order to explain why I do not believe it appropriate. I hope that the noble Lord will not pursue these amendments.