Clause 157

Part of Equality Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:00 am on 2 July 2009.

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Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Conservative, Daventry 9:00, 2 July 2009

As the Committee may know—my hon. Friend does—I preceded him some time ago in holding Conservative Front-Bench responsibilities on disability. It is obviously an area of great importance in terms of services. The important thing is that there is adequate supply of vehicles to get people with disabilities to where they wish to go, which should be the main objective. I am not for a moment suggesting that that objective is not shared between us—it is. However, there is a long history in a range of subjects, from the conduct of further education colleges, for which I had some responsibility at one stage, through accessible taxis to a variety of other cases on which the House legislates and local authorities do as little as possible until the last possible moment and are then forced and dragged into doing better. Intervening legislation since the DDA was designed to sharpen up their act, and I supported that.

At the same time, in the real world no one wants to create a situation in which we run out of taxis or wheels—putting it more bluntly and less technically—to get people around. I realise that the Government have to balance that consideration. Will the Solicitor-General,  in responding to my hon. Friend’s specific questions, also say more about her general take on how that is to be done? In particular, how does the hackney carriage licence—I confess not to be an expert on how that is normally expressed—differ from the private hire licence? To what extent are private hire operators covered by other provisions in the Bill, and not, as it were, exempt? Will she explain how it should operate?