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House of Lords Hansard
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Transport: Women’s Safety
25 November 2014
Volume 757

Question

Asked by

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are currently taking to improve women’s safety on transport.

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My Lords, we work on a number of fronts to improve safety and security for all passengers and staff. In particular, the Government are supporting a British Transport Police-led academic literature and tactical review on reducing sexual offending and improving perceptions of safety on transport. This research will be delivered for February 2015 and will support an international expert session to debate the findings.

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I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Is she aware of a study recently done in the UK and Canada that found that,

“women passengers generally prefer staffing to technological solutions and are very skeptical of the tendency of”—

transport operators—

“to replace staff from trains or buses with automated machines”.

Will she encourage operators to have more staff and fewer machines and CCTV and to recruit more women to the front line, which women also prefer in many instances?

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My Lords, I completely agree with recruiting women to the front line. It is also important to have a staff presence where that is feasible. I am very encouraged, for example, by Transport for London’s commitment to take staff out of the ticket offices and put them out on the platforms and places where the passengers are. However, if we were to man every station at all hours at all times, we would unfortunately have to close stations because of the inherent cost.

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Does the Minister share my concerns about the cycle rickshaws or pedicabs that operate in parts of central London? Unlicensed, the drivers are not required to be trained or insured; nor do they undergo CRB checks. Do the Government intend to take up the recommendation of the Law Commission and create local authority licensing for them?

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My noble friend is absolutely right: the Law Commission has provided some instructive direction on this. We received the Law Commission’s report in May. We will be following up on that and providing our response shortly. As she knows, the situation on licensing is somewhat different in London from elsewhere.

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My Lords, why are the Government pressing ahead with Clause 12 of the Deregulation Bill? It supposedly frees us from red tape but actually reduces the safety checks on minicabs. Will the Minister review the Government’s approach—there is still time in the legislation—in the light of the recent case reported by the Daily Mail this weekend of a young woman who was taken from Leeds to Bradford where she was attacked and raped? Will the Minister accept that this is not just a triviality about red tape; it is about reducing the chances of gang rape? The criminals involved got sentences totalling 68 years.

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My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Davies, knows, even under the deregulated mechanisms, whenever a taxi or private car licence is issued there will be a CRB check every three years. I have also written to all the authorities to remind them that they should be working with their local police so that wherever there is an accusation or a crime they are immediately informed and can take appropriate action—and I do not just mean in a taxi cab, but where someone is accused.

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My Lords, I first declare an interest in the register that my wife is a Deputy Mayor of London and a member of the GLA. Will the Minister encourage the London Tube unions to allow Tube drivers who are not needed to drive the new automatic trains to walk along the carriages in the evening to improve the safety of women passengers rather than sitting in their cabins with nothing to do except open the doors?

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My Lords, I hope that all staff are totally aware of the priority that we must give safety for passengers. In any situation where it is safe, I would encourage staff to use an opportunity to make sure that safety is enhanced.

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My Lords, would the Minister care to expand a little on her reply to my noble friend Lord Davies about the deregulation proposals? How can people be assured of safety without reference to anyone? Someone who has a minicab licence in place A can go to place B. It is not a safety or security issue. Will she please get the Government to reconsider their policy on this? I declare an interest in that the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, and I were involved in getting licensing for minicabs, and this—to mix a metaphor—drives a coach and horses through that.

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My Lords, the licensing of minicabs absolutely remains in place. It means that an operator can call a cab not just from within their own fleet but from a neighbouring area. That also has to be a licensed cab driver. The operator remains responsible for the journey.