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Bus Services Bill [HL] - Report (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 24th October 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Brinton Baroness Brinton Party Chair, Liberal Democrats 5:30 pm, 24th October 2016

My Lords, I support all the other amendments in the group but I will focus in particular in Amendment 99, which is in my name. On the train this morning I was describing why we need the amendments in this group to a young man called Chris—I see him regularly although we are not quite regular commuters together. To his utter astonishment, he learned that the provision for disabled people on buses and trains is completely different. As a user of both buses and trains, he had no idea about that and was quite shocked. That is why disability charities across the board are supportive of the amendments in this group.

Amendment 67, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, is particularly important because it strikes at the heart of the principle, which is what we need to establish. Many of the other amendments tackle specific regulations, and they are important too, but I hope that the Minister will take to heart the noble Baroness’s speech and will be able to take this further in due course.

I echo the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, on Amendment 98 about the synchronicity of the Statement we have just heard on the most recent Council debate about Brexit and the great repeal Bill. The Leader of the House talked about that Bill and yet here we are, facing an amendment which the Government argue will come into force in March 2018. However, Amendment 98 would strengthen the provisions introduced by EU Regulation 181/2011 by requiring new drivers and terminal staff to complete training within one month of starting work and to undertake refresher training. If noble Lords have ever had cause to require the assistance of staff on buses or trains, it is instantly obvious whether they have been trained. For example, they may try to grab electric wheelchairs if they do not know that that is more dangerous to them than it is helpful to the person in the wheelchair.

Amendment 99 is in a slightly different form to the amendment I laid down before. I am grateful for the Minister’s comments that we are awaiting the result of the FirstGroup Plc v Paulley judgment from the Supreme Court following its hearing in June. It is worth saying that we need to amend the conduct regulations and to do so in time. Following the comments the Minister made at Second Reading, the issue is of such importance that we should not wait for the Supreme Court judgment. It is particularly important for those of us who have disabilities to live independent lives, so we hope that Parliament will take the opportunity to address the issue, regardless of the outcome of the case.

We believe, as does the Equality and Human Rights Commission, that the Government should commit to amending the conduct regulation no later than six months after the Bus Services Bill receives Royal Assent. Of course, the Government should consult passenger groups, disability stakeholder groups and relevant authorities when considering how to clarify conduct regulations and accompanying guidance. Given the support there has been for these proposals universally and throughout the House, I accept that I cannot change the Government’s mind on waiting on the court case, but I hope that we can persuade them to move swiftly as soon as we have a result. If the result is not as those of us who laid this amendment and others in the past would wish, we will be back with future ones pretty sharpish.