New Clause 9 — Power of authorities to provide services in exceptional circumstances

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 27th October 2008.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport) 4:15 pm, 27th October 2008

The hon. Gentleman and I share one ambition—that the next general election should be fairly soon. Even if it were 18 months away, I would advise that quality contracts should not be entered into.

I accept that new clause 9 is necessary, but it would be much improved by the amendments that I have outlined. We will test the will of the House at the appropriate time, particularly on amendment (b), which would give a clear statement and clear guidance on this point.

I turn to Government new clauses 13 and 14 and my amendments thereto. The Minister took some time to talk about scrutiny boards. This is undoubtedly the most controversial element of the Bill, and it makes what we have seen today all the more astounding. We spent many sittings of the Public Bill Committee discussing the proposed approvals boards for quality contracts schemes. The then Minister, Ms Winterton, went to great lengths to spell out the benefits of approvals boards, telling us that

"if an appeals process is in place, it is much more difficult to get leave to go to judicial review." ——[ Official Report, Local Transport Public Bill Committee, 29 April 2008; c. 160.]

We were told that approvals boards were more flexible, would help to introduce quality contracts, and aided local autonomy. Since then, operators, local authorities and other stakeholders have formed their response to the Bill around the concept of approvals boards, yet at the very last minute the new Minister has introduced a whole new approvals process. I cannot be alone in being surprised and dismayed by this last-minute change of heart. Over the past 12 months, I have had countless meetings with various stakeholders to discuss the merits and demerits of approvals boards.

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