Commons Gate

The Blue Badge (Disabled Parking) Reform Strategy (HC 475-i)

Transport Committee 2 Apr 2008

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Evidence given by
2.45 Rob Smith CB - Independent Consultant; Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) - Grahame Lawson, DPTAC Member; Mobilise - Douglas Campbell, Chairman
3.30 Disability Alliance - Paddy Cullen, Tribunal Support Unit Officer; Help the Aged - Dr Alan Burnett, Senior Policy Officer; Citizens Advice - Vicky Pearlman, Social Policy Officer; The Technical Advisers Group (TAG) - Martin Low, Director of Transportation, Westminster City Council
4.15 Minister and Officials - Rt Hon Rosie Winterton MP, Minister of State for Transport; Miranda Carter, Head of Accessibility and Equalities Unit, DfT; Sam Waugh, Head of Personal Mobility Policy, DfT : uploaded on 7 April 2008

Q38 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): Mr Lawson, you said it had been calculated in Edinburgh that a Blue Badge is worth about £3,000 a year. Can you explain how you figure that out?

Mr Lawson: The figure arrives out of the revenue, what it would cost you to park all day every day because the cars we are talking about are often there every day of the week for a whole year.

Q39 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): That leads me on to another point. Just because an individual is disabled does not mean to say they are poor.

Mr Lawson: No.

Q40 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): We link the free parking with the Blue Badge. Has anybody ever looked at decoupling this?

Mr Lawson: In DPTAC we have certainly considered that. We are aware that households where one or more member of the household is disabled tend to have lower incomes but, as you say, they are not all by any means on lower incomes, some people do have substantial incomes. It is an issue where we are open to suggestions in terms of that. We do not necessarily believe that the concession has to be free. This is one of the areas where if you had a smart card it would be possible to adjust the nature of the concession and the amount of concession you got. I am not necessarily advocating that, I am just saying it is a possibility.

Q41 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): I am not going to advocate it either because I have got to stand for election, but it is worth talking about! The second point is the issue of temporary Blue Badges. I am dealing with a constituent who has had a very serious orthopaedic operation and the doctor says within 18 months she will be fine, she has applied for the Badge and been turned down on the grounds that they do not issue temporary ones. Is there an appeal that she can make?

Mr Lawson: Yes, I think there is. The ministers themselves have extended that because one of the extensions earlier this year was to children with hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a condition that affects only very young children, in fact very often under the age of 12 months. The condition itself is eminently treatable and normally you are not in a cast for any longer than six months, yet they are eligible for a Blue Badge. The precedent is there.

Q42 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): So the logic is anybody who is going to be unable to walk, for example, for a prolonged period would be able to get a temporary Badge?

Mr Lawson: The proposals in the consultation are to allow a short-term one. We have no difficulty with that so long as the administration and enforcement is up to the task because we would be talking about an increase in the number of Badges and we want to make sure that any Badge that is issued for a short period is returned as soon as the need for it has ended.

Q43 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): My final question is on the design of the Badges. I have had quite a lot of constituents who have received parking tickets because they put the Badges the wrong way. It does seem rather pedantic. Can we improve the design of the Badges because they are not foolproof.?

Mr Lawson: The nature of the Badge has already changed. The new Badges that are issued will tell you which side is up. That is a very simple thing which was something that was not understood.

Q44 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): If someone puts it the wrong way round they can get a ticket, can they not?

Mr Lawson: It is still possible. That is an area where if we had a smart card that could be read by a machine irrespective of its location, whether it was displayed even, that would get over that problem. We would know whether there was a valid Badge within the car if we had a smart Badge that could be read from outside. When I say "read" I mean by a machine, a handheld device of some sort.


Clive Efford: So how easy is it to obtain a Blue Badge fraudulently? We have had it suggested that people are attempting to get them because they are of increasingly high value, particularly around London, so how easy is it to get one fraudulently?

Q70 Chairman: We are not assuming, Dr Burnett, that you are making a bomb out of this as a subsidiary business but if you could give us a guess.

Dr Burnett: I cannot estimate that. I think more people do not qualify that are probably eligible than do that should not, if you can get my drift. We have made a case, and I think my colleague on my left would agree, that those on the Attendance Allowance should automatically qualify, and I tried to do some figures on that because you asked about impacts. It is 20% of 5.5 people, about 1 million people get this benefit, and in a place like Bradford that is 11,000 people. That is a substantial number of people and of course we do not know what proportion of those are getting the Blue Badge at the moment. That is a group that I think are deserving ---

Q71 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): Sorry, people decide not to apply so that is probably a reason why they have not got it, because they do not want one?

Dr Burnett: As long as they know the system.


Q83 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): Can I ask a question of Mr Low. I am very interested in this White Badge that some of the London boroughs have. Would the Westminster badge be fine to use in Carlisle in my constituency? Would your people be able to park in my constituency?

Mr Low: No, the local white badge is a badge that is just applying in Westminster.

Q84 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): But my constituents visiting to spend money in Westminster cannot use the Blue Badge, is that right?

Mr Low: No, they can use all of the 600 Blue Badge bays, they can use all of the 11,000 paid parking bays where we give then one hour's free parking.

Q85 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): What can they not use and why should they be discriminated against?

Mr Low: The only thing that they cannot use are the dedicated White Badge-holder bays.

Q86 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): How many spaces have you got for them?

Mr Low: There are 4,000 White Badge-holders in the City of Westminster.

Q87 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): So you give 600 to anyone else but 4,000 to your own people?

Mr Low: No, there are 4,000 local badges issued but there are not bays for every resident, so there are only 200 bays for the White Badge-holder in Westminster and that is for people who are severely disabled and need to have a space directly outside their home or place of work or place of study.

Q88 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): Therefore would you recommend that that part of your scheme be brought in throughout the country?

Mr Low: I think having some local schemes is necessary because of the increasing demand on kerbside space, which has been acute since day one of the scheme. It is the only reason the central London scheme is exempt because the parking conditions in central London have been so appalling for so long, but, yes, in other parts of the country where the demand for kerbside space is as acute as it is in the City of Westminster and the four other central London boroughs, that may be wholly appropriate. I think the important point is that any Blue Badge-holder when they get their badge gets a leaflet and that leaflet makes it crystal clear that when you come into central London there are Blue Badge bays but they are a local scheme and you cannot park on the yellow lines. It is very clear-cut and every Blue Badge-holder who gets a new Badge knows from day one,

Q89 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): You think that the good people of Carlisle will go through this leaflet to find the section and remember if they ever come to Westminster they cannot park? Do you not think that is asking a lot of them?

Mr Low: I think it is important that we make sure we make good provision and because we have 600 Blue Badge-holder parking bays in Westminster alone, at many of the points of destination that your constituents might be coming to, such as national museums, national hospitals and that type of location, they will be treated no differently because the provision you have in your local constituency appears outside the hospital or outside the museum in the City of Westminster and they can use that bay using their badge.


Q113 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): On the national variations you seem to be implying that you would like to go towards a national scheme; does that mean that you would be looking at, for want of a better word, getting rid of the rogue authorities in central London who seem to be running their own schemes?

Ms Winterton: Again, we have asked the question about the central London concession; my instinct is that we should perhaps recognise that there are some very particular difficulties in central London. There have been certain points made about perhaps extending the central London differences to the whole of the congestion area, but I suspect that there are very particular circumstances with those four boroughs.


Q157 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): The Government have actually passed a law on littering and I have a constituent who was fined for dropping litter in a supermarket car park, so we can actually pass laws that will affect even private property like supermarkets. Why are you not willing to do this on this occasion?

Ms Winterton: I was going to say - but obviously I am wrong - that the point that Mr Efford had made was because the outlet would be on a public highway and therefore the dropping of litter would actually have affected other people and so it is absolutely right to say that you should employ somebody to collect it, because these are very often the cases where people have got a fast food outlet, they go outside, they do not put any dustbins out, they do not have people collecting the litter that they in a sense have created. What we are doing at the moment is we are working with supermarkets ---

Q158 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): Sorry, Minister, what I am saying is the law that we passed, that you voted on and I voted on, says that a local authority employee can go into a supermarket car park and fine an individual for dropping litter in that supermarket. Why will you not do it with disabled parking?

Ms Winterton: What I am saying is that, again, in a sense, if you were to look at the practicality of this - I am not saying that it is something that we should not consider in the consultation, I am just trying to go through the arguments.

Q159 Chairman: Minister, perhaps it would be easiest, since it is obviously something that you had not expected, if you could do us a short note on it.

Ms Winterton: Yes. It is not that it is something that I had not expected, what I am trying to get over is whether we would consider it right - and it will be interesting to see what the Committee says ---

Q160 Chairman: It would be interesting to have your views on that.

Ms Winterton: Yes, but if I could just say in terms of the litter that the idea behind fining people for dropping litter is that actually it ends up again on the public highway.

Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): Because it is antisocial, just like parking in a disabled parking bay.

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

The full transcript may be read here.

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On behalf of Eric Martlew, 3 Chatsworth Square Carlisle Cumbria CA1 1HB