§ Mr. Alfred Morris
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he has completed his review of the operation of the orange badge scheme; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
Yes. The review raised many complex issues. We are grateful to all those who commented, and in particular for the report from the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC). A copy of its report has been placed in the Library.
The rate at which badges are issued has increased rapidly since 1986. Between March 1986 and March 1988, the number of badges rose from about 800,000 to about 1 million. The scheme is losing the respect of the general public, who see apparently able-bodied people using cars bearing badges. Without changes the scheme will become unworkable.
The parking concessions provided by the scheme are essential to those with the greatest mobility problems. We propose to accept the DPTAC's main recommendation —that eligibility for badges should be more closely related to eligibility for mobility allowance. This will concentrate badges on those severely disabled people who need them most.480W
We intend to hold further discussions with organisations representing people with disabilities, the British Medical Association and local authority associations to establish ways in which the new eligibility criteria can be introduced and to explore the implications for the financing of the scheme.
Badges will continue to be issued automatically to people receiving mobility allowance, or using a vehicle supplied by a Government Department or getting a grant towards their own vehicle and to registered blind people.
We propose to introduce a redesigned passport-type badge which will be more robust and will incorporate space for a photograph of the holder. The new badge will be designed to reduce abuse of the scheme and to make it clear that it is for the personal use of the badge holder. We shall be consulting on the design and wording of the new badge.
The DPTAC proposed that the two-hour limit on parking on yellow lines should be removed completely or, at the very least, extended to four hours. Such an extension could lead to problems of traffic management and increase congestion, given the number of badges currently on issue. We propose to discuss with local authority associations and the police extending the limit to three hours and providing more designated spaces for parking by people with mobility handicaps.
I have today written to the four central London authorities asking them to explore with the DPTAC the scope for introducing some elements of the scheme in those parts of central London where it does not at present apply. This could do much to give disabled people greater mobility in central London.
We propose further measures to simplify the operation of the scheme. In particular, these would:
- (a) make recipients of war pensioners' mobility supplement automatically eligible for badges.
- (b) permit the issue of badges for the same period as mobility allowance and war pensioners' mobility supplement. for those in receipt of those allowances, up to a maximum of five years. Other badges would continue to be reviewed at three-yearly intervals.
- (c) allow local authorities to introduce four-hour time limits in on-street parking bays reserved for disabled people, where local authorities wish to encourage the use of such bays by shoppers rather than for all-day parking.
- (d) encourage local authorities to warn badgeholders who are misusing badges prior to considering withdrawing the badge, and to issue renewal reminders. Many authorities do this already.
Further possible changes to the scheme were aired in the discussion paper, or suggested in response to it. We believe that other aspects of the scheme should continue as they are. In particular, we consider that registered blind people should continue to qualify automatically for badges and that otherwise eligibility should be restricted to those with the most severe mobility problems. We must protect the value of the orange badge if it is to be of real help to those who need it most.
Validity of orange badges which are already issued will not be affected by the proposals. Badge holders will be assessed under new criteria only when their current badges have expired and following introduction of the new criteria. Badges are reviewed every three years.
The Department has produced a leaflet in the traffic topics series explaining in more detail the proposals and the background to them. Copies have been placed in the Library.