Date Published: 4 August 2006
Severely disabled wheelchair users adversely affected by EU legislation
Severely disabled wheelchair users who rely on specially converted cars face their vital lifeline being jeopardised by new EU legislation.
The new Framework Directive is aimed at improving safety within the automotive manufacturing industry but it also encompasses the niche converters market.
The Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Converters' Association was furious when they were only consulted at a late stage by the Department for Transport during their negotiations with the EU.
At present each firm is allowed to modify 500 vehicles of each type annually but this is to be slashed to just 75 per type.
Framework Directive 70/156/EEC is due for a second reading later this year and North West Euro MP, John Whittaker, is spearheading a lobbying campaign to keep the existing quotas.
" This is another example of unintended consequences resulting from ill-thought out European legislation," said Dr Whittaker, the UK Independence Party's economic affairs spokesman.
_ Even if these specialist converted vehicles remain available, the new rules are bound to raise their cost.
_ It will also put some firms out business. The small businesses that the EU says it wants to encourage are the ones that always suffer most from daft EU rules,"
added Dr Whittaker.
Currently around 10,000 new vehicles are converted each year in the UK to enable severely disabled people to enter in their wheelchair and stay seated during the journey, usually as passengers, explained Linda Ling, WAVCA chair.
" We need limits far in excess of 75 for each product line to make it viable. The loss of this industry will mean not only the loss of our businesses and more than 1,000 jobs, it will also mean that those very severely disabled wheelchair users will lose products which are vital to their lives," she said.
Ms Ling has been told by the European Commission that no changes are possible prior to legislation and she believes that it will then be too late.
" I am delighted that Dr Whittaker has offered to help us fight this. There are 25 converters of wheelchair accessible vehicles in this country and they will not all survive if this goes through."
Philip Beacham, sales director for Versa based at Widnes Car Centre, said,
" We just stumbled across details of this proposal and it was a complete bombshell.
_ There is nothing wrong with the situation as it is at the moment and I cannot understand why they are going to do it when it won't make anything safer."
Source: UKIP - (Link no-longer live)