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

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 6:00 pm on 27th October 2008.

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Photo of Paul Clark Paul Clark PPS (Rt Hon Ed Balls, Secretary of State), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport 6:00 pm, 27th October 2008

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but let me quote my right hon. Friend:

"I have, of course, listened very carefully to a lot of the points that have been made today and I would not in any sense wish to indicate that I would not take them away and consider them; that is the point of the Committee stage." ——[ Official Report, Local Transport Public Bill Committee, 29 April 2008; c. 220.]

The vast majority of hon. Members—certainly Labour Members and Liberal Democrat Members—believe that to be the point of a Committee stage and of having Ministers who listen to the arguments.

The hon. Member for Wimbledon also told us how hard pressed the bus companies are. There are undoubtedly problems, as there are for operators of any services in the current economic climate, but let us not run away with the idea that all is doom and gloom. The latest survey of company annual accounts and interim results for all the major bus companies, including First, Stagecoach, Arriva and Go-Ahead, clearly shows higher operating margins and profit levels this year than the same time last year. Those are facts and we should take them into account.

The hon. Member for Wimbledon made several points about quantifying the benefits to passengers. Let us not get the idea that local authorities are not adept at quantifying costs and benefits of all kinds for all schemes, including transport schemes. There is nothing novel about that, and local authorities are familiar with the Department's guidance on transport scheme appraisal. Clause 19 clearly sets out the criteria that must be fulfilled, and they are relevant to several points that were made in other interventions and contributions to the debate. They are that the proposed scheme

"will result in an increase in the use of bus services...will bring benefits to persons using local services in the area... will contribute to the implementation of the local transport policies of the authority or authorities...will contribute to the implementation of those policies in a way which is economic, efficient and effective".

The final criterion is the proportionality requirement:

"any adverse effects of the proposed scheme on operators will be proportionate to the improvement in the well-being of persons living or working in the area".

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