New Clause 23 - Badges for display on motor vehicles used by disabled persons: enforcement

Traffic Management Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:30 pm on 10th February 2004.

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'(1) Section 21 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 (c.44) (badges for display on motor vehicles used by disabled persons) is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (4BB) there shall be inserted—

''(4BC) Where there is displayed on any motor vehicle a badge which appears to a constable, traffic worden or parking attendant to purport to be, of a form prescribed under subsection (1) above, he may require—

(a) any person who appears to the constable, traffic warden or parking attendant to be, or to have been, using the vehicle; or

(b) any person in the vehicle (other than a person such as is mentioned in paragraph (a) above),

to produce the badge for examination.

(4BD) A person who without reasonable excuse fails to produce a badge when required to do so under subsection (4BC) above shall be guilty of an offence.''

(3) In subsection (4C), after ''(4BB)'' there shall be inserted ''or (4BC)''.'.—[Brian White.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Mr Brian White Mr Brian White Labour, North East Milton Keynes

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I spoke only briefly to my previous amendments. Perhaps the Committee will forgive me if I take longer on the new clause.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) made a powerful speech on Second Reading on the subject covered by the new clause and he received reassurances from Ministers. The purpose of the new clause is to implement the Government's pledge, given in December 2002, to amend legislation on the blue badge scheme at the earliest opportunity. I tabled two amendments on the subject: one on blue badges for children, which was not accepted, and one on the enforcement of blue badges. Those who are still alert

at this late stage in our proceedings may see the word ''worden'' in the new clause and think that I have invented a new beast to patrol our streets, but I assure the Committee that ''worden'' should be ''warden''.

The only form of transport for many disabled people is the private car, in particular vehicles that have been adapted for their use. However, the ease with which they can reach their destination is always tempered by where they can park. The blue badge scheme—the national arrangement for parking concessions for the disabled—applies to a range of disabilities. About 1.8 million people hold blue badges and they are concerned about the lack of enforcement.

The scheme is administered by local authorities, but the biggest frustration faced by disabled drivers is the constant abuse of parking bays. The Disability Rights Commission's campaign ''Open 4 All'' said that 40 per cent. of disabled people cited the use of disabled parking spaces by non-disabled drivers as a major barrier to their gaining access to goods and services. Other concerns were expressed—of people using the badge when the badge holder is not present; of theft, vandalism and fraud; of people covering up the details on the badge; and of badge holders thinking that they are entitled to park anywhere.

Penalties exist, but enforcement is weakened because the police, traffic wardens and local authority parking officials do not have the power to examine the reverse of the badges. In 1999, the three-year review found that a general lack of enforcement had allowed abuse of the scheme to grow, which has devalued it. The purpose of the new clause is to allow the inspection of the reverse of the badge.

The Government accepted that recommendation and said that they would introduce something at the earliest opportunity. I spoke to the Minister with responsibility for disabled people. She supports my idea, as does the Minister who will respond to the debate. To a bear of little brain like me, it is a traffic management matter. As this is a traffic management Bill and the earliest opportunity to implement the idea, I ask the Minister to accept this small but essential change.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I put my name to the new clause to put on record the Opposition's support for it. I hope that the Minister can perhaps surprise the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East, and certainly please us, by accepting it. Otherwise, it makes a bit of a mockery of having reviews. There is always a limited window of opportunity for legislating afterwards. This is such a window of opportunity. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on having framed his new clause so that it is properly in scope with the rest of the Bill. That cannot be said of all the new clauses. The Government have a wonderful opportunity to please the entire Committee.

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East on introducing new clause 23, which, as he says, seeks to improve the regime for the benefit not only of disabled people, but the general public. Sadly, as the review showed, there is still abuse both by people using

badges that they should not have and by people ignorant enough to park in disabled bays. We recognise that more needs to be done to improve the enforcement regime.

We said that we were more than happy to accept the review committee's 47 recommendations, including this one, so I am hugely sympathetic to the aims of the new clause. It is broadly in line with the provisions in Scotland. We would, however, as all Governments do, want to consider it in detail to ensure that it makes the right provision for England and Wales. My hon. Friend is entirely right: opportunities to legislate in this regard come along all too infrequently. We must ensure that when we do it, we do it in the best way possible.

To that end I propose to take the new clause away to consider it in that context. I assure my hon. Friend that I will come back to the issue at a later stage in the Bill's progress with something that reflects the sentiment of the new clause, but which gets what we all want in the Bill so that the enforcement provision is strengthened. It is sorely needed.

Photo of Mr Brian White Mr Brian White Labour, North East Milton Keynes

I am sure the Minister will want to ensure that the new clause has the support of the disability rights campaigning groups, and I will discuss his comments with them. We will make representations to him to ensure that they have some input so that his new clause meets their needs. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.