Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Disabled Persons) Bill Debate

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Department: Department for Transport

Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Disabled Persons) Bill

Gagan Mohindra Excerpts
2nd reading
Friday 14th January 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Disabled Persons) Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Gagan Mohindra Portrait Mr Gagan Mohindra (South West Hertfordshire) (Con)
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I thank my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kenilworth and Southam (Jeremy Wright) for securing this important debate. I think this debate ties in nicely with the one we had earlier about careers advice and improving the prospects of all of our population to make sure that they make the best use of their full potential.

As my good friend, my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson), has said, the statistics show that disabled people are twice as likely to make journeys by taxis and private hire vehicles as non-disabled people, so it is really important to ensure that disabled people do not experience discrimination when booking, taking or paying for journeys. If anything we should proactively ensure—and I think the Bill does this—that there are no barriers to entry so that those who are less able can make the best and the most of our society.

As the House will know, my constituency of South West Hertfordshire is a lovely rural constituency, and we are therefore reliant on private hire vehicles or personal transport. While we have some great transport links north to south via both train and tube, our connectivity via buses—this is one of my local campaign items—does need improving. I look forward to working with the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton), whom I welcome to her place, in ensuring that South West Hertfordshire levels up, like the rest of the country, so that people can do the right thing by not necessarily jumping in their private car but using public transport where appropriate to help improve the environment.

On this point, I commend the excellent work of my own local cab company, John’s Taxis, which I use frequently to commute in to the Chamber. I know from first-hand experience how customer-focused it is ensuring that all of its consumers do use and are able to use its vehicles so that they can get around. Reference was made earlier to the importance of this particular sector during the global pandemic, and while most people had to isolate, just the ability to get out and about when needed was quite critical in some instances, and it is definitely worth applauding the efforts of those in this sector.

Right hon. and hon. Members will be aware that there are already legal rights in place preventing drivers from denying lifts to wheelchair users and assistance dog owners. The Bill is correct in drawing attention to the need to make sure that the same rights are extended to people with walking frames or sensory, communication and cognitive impairments, who often face being overcharged for their journeys, denied vital assistance or actually denied carriage altogether. I am aware that my Government are looking to create an inclusive transport network by 2030, and I think the Bill works hand in glove in ensuring that.

Finally, I want to make sure that we commit all drivers to accept passengers with disabilities, refrain from charging them extra and provide them with appropriate assistance. By doing this, we will create a fairer society and one that empowers everyone, regardless of their ability.

Katherine Fletcher Portrait Katherine Fletcher (South Ribble) (Con)
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My congratulations to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kenilworth and Southam (Jeremy Wright) on the Bill, of which I am hugely supportive.

Listening to my hon. Friend talking about society and playing together in a fairer society, it struck me that some of the taxi firms in my constituency of South Ribble are really only still here thanks to the Government’s support during the pandemic. We valued them and invested in them to make sure that they came out on the other side of the global health crisis, and this Bill sits within that same bucket, with us all working together to look after the most vulnerable in society. Does he agree?

Gagan Mohindra Portrait Mr Mohindra
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I absolutely agree with what my hon. Friend has said. This House has rightly applauded those who have stepped up to the plate in the last two years during this global pandemic, and I would suggest that the majority of those in this particular sector have done so. Their ability to adapt their vehicles to ensure that consumers had the confidence to use them as methods of transport was really important. I know from my own experience how busy my local taxi company is.The fact that the drivers are on first-name terms with most of their customers shows that, in their own small way, they are part of the community that they are helping with their ability to transport people around.

Simon Baynes Portrait Simon Baynes
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I want to go back to my hon. Friend’s comment about the importance of taxi and private hire vehicles in his area, given the rurality of his constituency. This point has perhaps not been drawn out enough in the discussion. Can he say a bit more about the importance of this Bill and of taxis and private hire vehicles in the rural areas of his constituency?

Gagan Mohindra Portrait Mr Mohindra
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I am always happy to share the joys of my constituency with the House, and I thank my hon. Friend for giving me the ability to do so.

My constituency is approximately 80% green belt. I have some very large and beautiful villages and small towns. People who live in those urban conurbations have some wonderful shops, restaurants and local community spaces to visit, but there are those who live a little further out, or who have difficulty moving—whether that is to do with walking unaided or requiring the use of buses or public hire vehicles. I do not represent a flat constituency. Personally, I live fairly high up on a small hill. It is nice and easy on the way down to the restaurants and to the high street, but I do struggle on the way back. Even at my youthful age, my old knee starts to creak occasionally. I have not yet called on my local taxi company to get me home. That has not been required yet. I can foresee that, sometime in the future, I will need to do so.

I am not blessed locally with the exhaustive public transport network that one sees in London, where there are regular buses, both at peak and off-peak times. I am not able to get a bus to my local train station and from the station to home in the evenings, but I am able to in the mornings. That is something that we need to think about as a society. It may not be commercially viable for bus companies to offer services at peak or off-peak times, but the community will adapt and use them. I know that this is a conversation that the Department of Transport and the Minister will engage with to make sure that we are incentivising people to do the right thing. I know from my personal experience of being in this place that the Government are very much motivated to create the framework so that doing the right thing brings rewards, rather being a barrier from the rhetoric to legislation.

Going back to the Bill, I applaud my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kenilworth and Southam for his common-sense approach. This place benefits from the evolution of laws. I know that this particular Bill will be an addition to what is already on the statute book. I am sure that we will revisit this particular topic to ensure that all people in society, whether able-bodied or not, are able to do what each and every other person can do. I look forward to further discussions in this debate.