“Any existing traffic commissioner for a traffic area in England and Wales—
(a) on the relevant commencement, becomes... a traffic commissioner for England and Wales”.
In the explanatory notes it says that traffic commissioners already in post will remain in post on their existing terms and conditions of employment except that they will be subject to revised conditions of dismissal. That is not quite right, is it? Traffic commissioners who were previously attached to traffic areas, on commencement of becoming traffic commissioners for England and Wales, have revised responsibilities.
I would like to know what the Government have anticipated they might do in circumstances where traffic commissioners who were carrying out the functions once attached to those old areas but then potentially look to become a traffic commissioner for the whole of England and Wales, with new, upgraded responsibilities, are not competent to carry out those responsibilities. How will the Government deal with that? I can not see a transitional arrangement anywhere which states what will happens if a traffic commissioner currently in post is not competent to take on the new role. There is quite a big jump, for example, in some of the competencies that we are demanding of traffic commissioners in their new roles, as set out by the Bill.
I would like to be given some reassurance as to what happens to existing traffic commissioners who potentially do not have the skill set and the competency, which is desired from the new definition of a traffic commissioner.
I have another point, which I think I know the answer to, although the danger is that if one thinks knows the answer to something sometimes one does not. I will therefore ask the question in order to clarify the matter because after all, that is what the Minister is paid for.
As I understand it, apart from the changes to the reasons for dismissal, the terms of employment are being carried over for those currently employed. The Minister spoke at the beginning of our deliberations today about possibly varying the number of areas for traffic commissioners. If, in the due course of time, she decided that one particular traffic commissioner ought to be made redundant, would it mean for the purpose of calculating redundancy pay, that his or her whole length of service would count? Or would it be that because of this particular clause they would be deemed only to have just started their work as a traffic commissioner?
What we are talking in clause 5 are the transitional provisions to go to the new system. The one that particularly comes to mind would be the fact that the senior traffic commissioner would remain in post for 12 months, until a decision is made about who a new traffic commissioner would be and how long that term of contract would be.
With regard to any redundancies that may arise, I would be almost certain that there would be a continuous period of employment. I do not think we would be saying that this is an entirely new position. The employment conditions will remain the same but it is about the exercise of their powers which they will be able to exercise throughout England and Wales, as opposed to just in their particular area as it is at the moment.
As I have indicated before, we expect that most will continue to work in their existing areas but the senior traffic commissioner will have the power to deploy elsewhere. In those circumstances we do not believe that it will look radically different and I would venture to suggest that we do not envisage that the existing traffic commissioners are suddenly going to become hopelessly incompetent. It is more likely that in the future there may be a desire, because of the pooled approach, to recruit other people with particular specialisms—but that is for the future. What we are doing in the Bill is allowing greater flexibility for the traffic commissioners’ work, without in any way trying to undermine the job that they do at the moment.