§ 11. Mr. Corbett
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what guidelines and advice he has issued to (a) manufacturers and (b) purchasers of buses about access for disabled people since the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
§ Sir George Young
The Department of Transport has set up working groups with both manufacturers and operators of buses to discuss the regulations that will be drawn up under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Also, we shall shortly be publishing the first in a series of information bulletins which will report the progress that we are making in implementing the transport provisions of the Act. Bulletins will be circulated widely to manufacturers and operators, as well as to local authorities and disability organisations. When regulations are made under part V of the Act, we will issue separate detailed guidance to all those affected.
§ Mr. Corbett
I am grateful for that answer. Does the Secretary of State recall that, during the passage of the Disability Discrimination Bill and the two similar Back-Bench measures, there was substantial demand from people with disabilities for buses to be made much more accessible to them, as well as for the spin-off benefits for young parents with push chairs, people with heavy luggage, and so on. In passing, does the Secretary of State agree that the bus industry often gives the impression of turning passengers away, rather than trying to attract them? Can he assure the House that he will keep up the pressure on that issue, given that, when measures to help people with disabilities have passed through the House before, the provisions have often been left on the shelf to gather dust?
§ Sir George Young
Yes, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that that is a subject to which I attach high priority. He is right to point out that it is not merely the disabled who will benefit from the particular features on the buses. They will help many other people, including women or men with young children, and the elderly. He will be pleased to know that 90 per cent. of new buses now have at least some of the features that were recommended by the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee—DIPTAC—and which make it easy for ambulant disabled and elderly people to use the buses. I hope to see further progress.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the smooth driving of buses is of the utmost importance for disabled people, and will he emphasise that to all involved in driving buses?
§ Mr. Tom Clarke
Does the Secretary of State accept that the enthusiasm he expresses does not seem to be shared by the Government? It took us several months to persuade the Government to include access for disabled persons to buses in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Will the Secretary of State tell us why he cannot present a timetable today, and why he is not using parts V and III of the Act so that disabled people can gain access to buses, trains, bus stations and rail stations? 647 Will he accept that, on the evidence, one of the obvious reasons for the Government's stalling is the chaos caused by bus deregulation and the equal chaos caused by the Government's determination to privatise rail transport?
§ Sir George Young
The hon. Member will know that transport infrastructure is covered by part III of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. We have introduced implementation dates for those parts of the transport industry for which the technology exists to achieve accessibility. For example, for rail rolling stock, the implementation date is 31 December 1998. For other transport modes, there are a wide variety of possible solutions, some of which will be available earlier than others. I will bring forward implementation dates as soon as we and the industry are satisfied that they are achievable and sustainable.