To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have held with central London boroughs about disseminating best practice in the provision of parking spaces, specifically for disabled people who live and work in central London.
My Lords, no such discussions have taken place. It is the role of local authorities to manage their networks efficiently and determine their own policies for balancing the specific needs of their particular communities. However, local authorities are required to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations under Section 149(1) of the Equality Act 2010.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his Answer. Exactly a month ago, I mentioned the problems I was having with parking in Lambeth, as recorded at column 446 of Hansard for 27 March. Since then the car that was being left in the disabled bay near where I live, sometimes for three weeks in a row and always with a blue badge on display, has been moved. So clearly someone at Lambeth Council is reading Lords Hansard because the young man I saw, who walked away from the car in question without any apparent disability, had clearly been tipped off by someone in the council not to park in the disabled bay. Blue badge misuse is a serious offence, yet Lambeth Council says that in this case there is no evidence—even though I have been advised that the blue badge in question was issued by Lambeth Council not to a young man but to a 59 year-old woman. On behalf of all those disabled people who genuinely rely on their blue badge and do not have the privilege of standing up and asking a Question in your Lordships’ House, will the Minister urge all local authorities to prioritise tackling blue badge fraud, including when it involves their own staff?
I thank my noble friend. First, I am sure all your Lordships are very pleased to learn that Camden Council is following our proceedings very closely.
I apologise—Lambeth. I am sure Camden is as well. The issue which the noble Lord raised specifically about Lambeth is an important and serious one. Abuse of the blue badge scheme is taken very seriously, and although enforcement is a matter for local authorities, as noble Lords may well be aware, it is a criminal offence to misuse a blue badge when parking, and offenders may be prosecuted and fined up to £1,000. I would also say to my noble friend that in 2013, the Department for Transport introduced new legislation to enable on-street civil enforcement officers to seize badges that are being misused. Previously, only the police could do this. On the point he makes about sharing good practice, I understand that there are a series of roadshows, in which the department is involved with local authorities, intended precisely to share best practice and to end this abuse.
My Lords, the powers of local authorities were clarified just a few years ago, as the noble Lord mentioned, in a Bill that I had the honour of taking through your Lordships’ House. Is that bearing fruit? Does the noble Lord have any figures to say whether it has produced more prosecutions of fraudulent blue badge holders?
The noble Baroness is right to raise this. The number of prosecutions is still low compared to the reports that are received, partly because of the need to produce evidence. I was involved in local government for 10 years and had responsibility at a local level for this. Part of it is education: a lot of people sometimes park inadvertently and think it is okay for a few minutes. The other, more serious, issue is the blatant abuse of parking places by fraudulent blue badge holders, an area where there also needs to be greater education. The roadshows, which are sharing best practice, will help to address the issue of enforcement more effectively.
Can my noble friend advise the House how often checks are made of the abuse of blue badges?
As my noble friend will know, blue badges and disabled parking bays are assessed as part of any traffic enforcement that takes place in a local authority. To my knowledge, no specific initiatives are undertaken to check on this, but general enforcement of traffic management rules at a local level is conducted regularly as part of traffic enforcement in each local area.
My Lords, the Minister referred to the responsibility of local authorities to enforce the blue badge scheme. Is there not a difficulty when blue badges issued by one local authority are used incorrectly in another local authority? Do we not have to have better enforcement procedures to make sure that blue badges are not abused?
I agree with the noble Lord, who raises a vital point. That is why looking at how we work across the board and sharing good practice will address some of the issues. Again, I stress the point that part of this is about education, information and dissemination, but those involved in traffic enforcement should know what the specific rules are in order to ensure that effective enforcement can be carried out.
My Lords, could I invite the Minister to extend his comments to another aspect that affects people with disabilities of all kinds, which is parking on or obstructing pavements? This has become an increasing problem for people with mobility problems of one kind or another. When looking at this problem, could the Minister also bear in mind the need to keep pavements clear for people?
Again, the noble Lord raises an important point. Outside London, and indeed in certain boroughs of London, pavement parking is permitted. It causes a big issue in terms of access—and not just, dare I say it, for the disabled. I still have reasonably young children, one still in a pushchair, and this is a problem for young families attempting to get through. The noble Lord makes a very valid suggestion and we will certainly ensure that it is part of the discussion.