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Dial-A-Ride Services

Volume 86: debated on Monday 11 November 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport what arrangements are being made to ensure the continuation of dial-a-ride services for the disabled in London following the abolition of the Greater London council.

We have secured powers in the Transport Act 1985 to enable London Regional Transport to make grants for the provision of dial-a-ride services. A specific allocation of £5 million will be made for this purpose within my right hon. Friend's overall grant to London Regional Transport.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, which provides a necessary reassurance after our many anxieties. As background to these anxieties, which are felt all over London, including Harrow, can she say, on the scale of bad politics, that which she regrets the most—the Government's unwise decision to abolish the GLC, which we set up in the first place, or Dave Wetzel's irresponsible use of these anxieties to create scare stories?

I do not agree with my hon. Friend's first proposition. The second obviously stands. There was no doubt whatever in my mind that it was right to provide for the most severely disabled people by continuing dial-a-ride services, and I am delighted that they will have the professional backing of London Regional Transport to help them become even more efficient.

Is the Minister aware that she has effectively frozen the level of funding at a point which means that dial-a-ride will be unable to expand after the abolition of the GLC, and that this cannot be good for disabled people in London? I have a letter here from the Prime Minister in which she says that she will ensure, through the Department of Transport, that both dial-a-ride and the taxicard service will be preserved. Will the Minister give an assurance from the Dispatch Box now that the GLC's taxicard service for people with those disabilities will also be retained after the abolition of the GLC?

I can assure the House that the £5 million put forward for the dial-a-ride service is sufficient to maintain the service in 1986–87, and with this the London borough's working party has agreed fully. It will be up to dial-a-ride, with the help of LRT, to achieve the better efficiency that will allow expansion of the system.

The taxicard service has been costing ratepayers around £5 million. It is a service where the boroughs, following the GLC, have power to grant-aid the service of concessionary fares. It is in the Transport Act 1985. It will be up to boroughs, which are now discussing it, to do so. All councils are being sounded out and will report back to their co-ordinating committee on 27 November. It is, however, blatantly unfair of the GLC to come up at this stage with proposals that will double the cost to the London ratepayers of a scheme which would not be right and one which would not help all those people whom we wish to help. I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that this high-cost scheme, which his GLC is setting up, is meant to provoke anxiety and to be an embarrassment to the boroughs. I hope that everyone recognises it for what it is worth.