Stamford and Bourne MP speaks in support of taxi bill to make private hire vehicles accessible to all
While much of the nation’s focus this week has centred around the Chancellor’s Spring Statement, I wanted to highlight that work done in Parliament goes far beyond the big-ticket events which grab headlines each month, writes Stamford and Bourne MP Gareth Davies (Con).
Last week, I was delighted to lend my support to two new laws proposed by MPs from both sides of the House of Commons which will have a huge effect on the lives of disabled people across the country.
I first spoke in support of the Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles Bill which aims to reduce discrimination against disabled people and address the barriers they face in accessing taxi services.
This is a crucial piece of legislation as there are 14 million people in this country living with a disability - some 22 per cent of our population in total - who are twice as likely to use a taxi as a non-disabled person. Fantastic work has been done in recent years to ensure that 99 per cent of buses are now suitably accessible for the disabled and the protections this law will provide will ensure a level playing field for all taxi users too. I was pleased to use this opportunity to highlight the good work already done in this area by local taxi firms and the efforts of the Grantham Disabled Children’s Society.
We heard many unfortunate stories of discrimination including the refusal of service, overcharging and failure to help wheelchair users board and travel in vehicles in comfort and safety. This law will create a new duty to ensure that drivers do not refuse to transport disabled people, with no extra charge alongside a requirement for local licencing authorities to publish a list of wheelchair accessible taxis, making travel a more straightforward and comfortable experience for all.
We next welcomed the British Sign Language Bill, proposed by Labour MP Rosie Cooper, which will establish BSL - used by over 120,000 people - as one of the official languages of the UK. I had never fully appreciated the heritage and diversity of sign language until hearing the stories of my colleagues with deaf family members who grew up in ‘bilingual’ households, helping parents and siblings on a daily basis.
On a recent visit to Elsea Park Primary School in Bourne, I visited a class practicing some sign language and I hope that when they are a little older, they will be able to sit a BSL GCSE which the Government is working to introduce.
These laws, underpinned by the National Disability Strategy, which was launched last year, are central to meeting our commitment to increase opportunity and improve the experiences disabled people have going about daily life.
In a political environment that is so often marked by derision and disagreement it is a privilege to be present for rare moments of consensus, when all sides lend their voice to a worthy cause.