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‘(1) The Secretary of State may at any time—
(a) set a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy for England, or
(b) vary a Strategy which has already been set.
(2) A Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is to relate to such period as the Secretary of State considers appropriate; but a Strategy for a period of more than five years must be reviewed at least once every five years.
(3) A Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy must specify—
(a) objectives to be achieved during the period to which it relates, and
(b) the financial resources to be made available by the Secretary of State for the purpose of achieving those objectives.
(4) The objectives to be achieved may include—
(a) activities to be performed;
(b) results to be achieved;
(c) standards to be met.
(5) Before setting or varying a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy the Secretary of State must consult such persons as he or she considers appropriate.
(6) In considering whether to vary a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy the Secretary of State must have regard to the desirability of maintaining certainty and stability in respect of Cycling and Walking Investment Strategies.
(7) A Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy must be published in such manner as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
(8) Where a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy has been published the Secretary of State must from time to time lay before Parliament a report on progress towards meeting its objectives.
(9) If a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is not currently in place, the Secretary of State must—
(a) lay before Parliament a report explaining why a Strategy has not been set, and
(b) set a Strategy as soon as may be reasonably practicable.”.—(Mr Hayes.)
This amendment makes provision for the Secretary of State to set and vary Cycling and Walking Investment Strategies
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Government new clause 17—Route strategies.
Government new clause 18—Periodic reports by the Secretary of State.
New clause 5—Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy—
‘(1) The Secretary of State may at any time—
(a) set a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy; or
(b) vary a Strategy which has already been set.
(2) A Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is to relate to such period as the Secretary of State considers appropriate but must be reviewed as least every five years.
(3) A Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy must specify—
(a) the objectives to be achieved during the period to which it relates; and
(b) the financial resources to be provided by the Secretary of State for the purpose of achieving those objectives.
(4) The objectives to be achieved may include—
(a) activities to be performed;
(b) results to be achieved; and
(c) standards to be met.
(5) The Secretary of State must comply with the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy and shall be responsible for updating Parliament annually on his compliance with it.
(6) If a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is not currently in place, the Secretary of State must—
(a) lay before Parliament a report explaining why a Strategy has not been set; and
(b) set a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy as soon as may be reasonably practicable.
(7) Schedule (Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy: Procedure] (which contains provision about the procedure for setting or varying a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy) has effect.”
Amendment 4, page 1, line 4, leave out clauses 1 and 2.
Amendment 5, in clause 3, page 2, line 40, leave out “a strategic highways company” and insert “the Highways Agency”.
Amendment 6, page 3, line 4, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Amendment 43, page 3, line 7, at end insert—
“(c) the anticipated impact of the Roads Investment Strategy upon the condition and development of the local roads network;
(d) the anticipated impact of the Roads Investment Strategy upon the provision of local transport, including increasing walking and cycling;
(e) the anticipated impact of the Roads Investment Strategy on links with other nationally and regionally significant transport and infrastructure projects, including ports and airports, and;
(f) the anticipated impact of the Roads Investment Strategy on the growth plans of city regions and sub-regional bodies.”
Amendment 7, page 3, line 16, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Amendment 8, page 3, line 18, leave out “a strategic highways company” and insert “the Highways Agency”.
Amendment 10, in clause 4, page 3, line 27, leave out “A strategic highways company” and insert “The Highways Agency”.
Amendment 11, page 3, line 32, leave out “A strategic highways company” and insert “The Highways Agency”.
Amendment 70, page 3, line 34, leave out “the environment, and” and insert
“air quality and other aspects of the environment, and”.
The Amendment would add an explicit obligation on the Strategic Highways Company to address air quality, as recommended by the Sixth Report from the Environmental Audit Committee, Action on Air Quality, HC 212, paragraph 61.
Amendment 12, page 3, line 36, leave out clauses 5 to 7.
Amendment 13, in clause 8, page 5, line 34, leave out “a strategic highways company” and insert “the Highways Agency”.
Amendment 14, page 5, line 38, leave out “a strategic highways company’s” and insert “the Highways Agency’s”.
Amendment 15, page 5, line 42, leave out “a strategic highways company” and insert “the Highways Agency”.
Amendment 16, in clause 9, page 6, line 22, leave out “a strategic highways company” and insert “the Highways Agency”.
Amendment 17, page 6, line 26, leave out “a strategic highways company” and insert “the Highways Agency”.
Government amendment 112.
Amendment 18, page 6, line 29, leave out “a strategic highways company” and insert “the Highways Agency”.
Amendment 19, page 6, line 35, leave out “strategic highways company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Amendment 20, page 6, line 37, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Amendment 21, page 6, line 39, leave out “strategic highways company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Government amendments 113 and 114.
Amendment 22, in clause 10, page 7, line 2, leave out “a strategic highways company” and insert “the Highways Agency”.
Amendment 23, page 7, line 8, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Amendment 24, page 7, line 9, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Amendment 25, page 7, line 10, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Amendment 26, in clause 11, page 7, line 16, leave out “strategic highways company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Amendment 27, page 7, line 20, leave out “strategic highways company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Amendment 28, page 7, line 22, leave out “strategic highways company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Amendment 29, page 8, line 2, leave out clauses 13 and 14.
Amendment 30, in clause 15, page 9, line 32, leave out “strategic highways company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Amendment 31, page 10, line 10, leave out clause 16.
Government amendments 94 and 101.
New schedule 1—“Schedule
Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Strategy: Procedure
1 This Schedule specifies the procedure by which a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is set or varied.2 The proposals in a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy must include details of—
(a) the objectives to be achieved, including but not limited to—
(i) increasing the share of travel that is walked and cycled;
(ii) increasing the proportion of the population that regularly walks or cycles; and
(iii) improving actual and perceived safety of walking and cycling.
(b) the financial resources to be provided by the Secretary of State for the purpose of achieving those objectives; and
(c) the period to which the proposals relate.
3 Publication of the Cycling and Walking Strategy may be in such manner as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.4 The Secretary of State may only publish or vary a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy if the Secretary of State has consulted on the proposals with such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.5 In performing functions under this Schedule, the Secretary of State must have regard to the desirability of maintaining certainty and stability in respect of Cycling and Walking Investment Strategies.”
Amendment 32, page 60, line 2, leave out schedule 1.
Amendment 33, in schedule 2, page 87, line 11, leave out “a strategic highways company” and insert “the Highways Agency”.
Amendment 34, page 87, line 19, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Amendment 35, page 87, line 20, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Amendment 36, page 87, line 22, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Amendment 37, page 87, line 27, leave out “strategic highways company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Amendment 38, page 88, line 4, leave out “strategic highways company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Amendment 39, page 88, line 7, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Amendment 40, page 88, line 10, leave out “company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Amendment 41, page 88, line 22, leave out “strategic highways company” and insert “Highways Agency”.
Amendment 42, page 88, line 25, leave out schedule 3.
Amendment 127, in schedule 3, page 89, line 8, at end insert—
‘(2A) The transfer scheme may make consequential, supplementary, incidental or transitional provision and may, if the TUPE regulations do not apply in relation to the transfer, make provision which is the same or similar.”
Amendment 76, page 92, line 5, at end insert—
“(d) that person is protected by the conditions set out in the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006.”
Government amendment 115.
Amendment 77, page 92, line 5, at end insert—
‘(1A) The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 apply to the transfer of a relevant undertaking either.
(a) to a different company appointed as a highway authority under section 1 of this Act, or
(b) to any other equivalent public sector body established to undertake general duties of a strategic highways company.”
Government amendment 116.
I rise with some enthusiasm because, as the House knows, cycling has moved up a gear as a result of this Government. New clause 13 reflects the Government’s commitment to cycling and walking, and making these the natural choice for shorter journeys. The cycling fraternity has responded already. No less a personage than Chris Boardman described this proposal as representing
“a massive shift in thinking and, most importantly, commitment.”
He went on to say:
“It brings us one step closer to realising our vision for a cycling nation . . . Everyone who rides a bike should see this as the start of something really exciting.”
Government have to take difficult decisions, and not everything we do is universally popular, but when one gets such acclamation, one has to—I will not say milk it; that would be wrong—draw it to the attention of the House in a measured and humble way, which is what I intend to do in this short debate about cycling.
This is certainly an exciting move forward. Since 2010, the Government’s spending on cycling overall has more than doubled compared with the last four years of the previous Administration, with £374 million committed between 2011 and 2015. The Minister responsible for cycling—I do not count that among my encyclopaedic list of responsibilities—is the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend Mr Goodwill. He has been a champion of this and should be recognised for his efforts and dedication in listening to the issues raised by cycling groups and responding to them.
Let us look at some of the facts. Spending on cycling is currently about £6 per person each year across England and £10 per person in London and our eight cycling ambition cities. In November, we announced a further £140 million for the cycling ambition cities, and, through the road investment strategy, a further £100 between 2015 and 2021 for additional cycling provision on the strategic road network. As I am sure the House is aware, in October we published our draft cycling delivery plan—a 10-year strategy on how we plan to increase cycling and walking across England. This plan illustrates the Government’s long-term commitment to cycling and walking. It is in that spirit that we tabled the new clause, which places a duty on the Secretary of State to have just such an investment strategy.
Each of the strategies, which cover England only, will be set for a given period and must specify objectives to be achieved and the financial resources that will be made available for that purpose. Furthermore, the Secretary of State will be required to report to Parliament on progress on achieving those objectives and, where a strategy applies for a period longer than five years, to ensure that it is reviewed at least once every five years.
The Minister is making an important speech. He is setting out a very clear strategy, which is absolutely vital. Does he agree that it is not just the investment but the outcomes that will be so important for the nation, particularly in tackling the growing challenge of physical inactivity?
My hon. Friend is right; not for the first time, he highlights these matters. That is precisely why the reporting mechanisms implicit in the new clause are so significant. As he rightly says, it is not enough simply to put in the resources, although we are clearly doing that, as I have shown; it is also important that we measure the effect of those resources. As I said, the arrangements that we have set in motion ensure that these matters are reviewed regularly, and that when setting or varying the strategy we bear in mind the desirability of certainty and stability. We will consult on whether to make a variation once the strategy has been set. For those reasons, I hope that the whole House will join me in welcoming this exciting development.
On behalf of everyone else from the all-party cycling group, others who supported the new clause and all the organisations who have worked on this, I thank the Minister for the Government agreeing to do this, because it will make a big difference. Will he update us on what has happened to the draft strategy that came out last year? When should we expect a full-blown strategy to take effect?
The new clause, should it turn from a vision to a proposal to a law, will facilitate that strategy and escalate the process by which it is developed and delivered. Much of the work has been done, as the hon. Gentleman implied, but it has now been framed in the most appropriate place—that is, the Bill, which sets in motion a road investment strategy about which I shall wax lyrical in a moment. It would be ironic to have a road investment strategy without having a walking and cycling strategy alongside it. That case was made by cyclists here in the House and beyond, and it is a persuasive one. The hon. Gentleman can look forward to the achievement of his ambitions being carried out with alacrity.
New clause 5 and new schedule 1 on a cycling strategy are designed to achieve a very similar purpose to new clause 13. The Government’s new clause and amendments make the duty clearer. On that basis, I invite those who gave them life to recognise the progress that has been made and withdraw their amendments.
I turn to new clause 17 and the important issue of ensuring that the road investment strategy will take account of local issues. Opposition Members made that argument powerfully when we considered these matters in Committee, and the case was made both formally and in informal discussions across the House. The road investment strategy—as I need not remind you, Madam Deputy Speaker, because I know you are intimately familiar with it—is a series of documents that sets out a long-term commitment to road investment, backs that with funding, and determines by empirical means where that money will make the most difference. It was said that the strategy needed to marry with much of what is happening on local roads, which are the preserve of local highways authorities. It was argued that if there were a mismatch between that local activity, and the decision making that takes place in those authorities, and the judgments that are made as part of the bigger strategy, there could be problems of inconsistency, overlap or perhaps even contradiction between local and national ambitions.
It therefore seemed important that the Government look at the role of route strategies in those terms, and that is precisely what we intend to do. The road investment documents that were issued in December, to much stakeholder acclaim, clearly demonstrated how the investments that we have prioritised will support cities by helping to connect housing sites, enterprise zones and other industrial developments. Just as we have committed to supporting ports, airports and the construction of High Speed 2, the road investment strategy is designed to give a degree of certainty, to build confidence, and to facilitate investment accordingly. This is a significant change in public policy. We are moving from the piecemeal annualised funding of roads to a bigger vision supported by bigger policy assumptions.
I very much welcome this plan, because for too long we have had isolated, year-by-year approaches. This will make a real difference, particularly in the north, where we have, for example, the A69 dualling scheme. That was approved for a feasibility study by the Chancellor in the autumn statement, but now we can plan for a long-term future supported by both local enterprise partnerships. Is not this part of the way forward?
Yes, that is right. As I said, this is a significant change in terms of public policy assumptions. To be frank—this is not a criticism of a particular Government—post-war Governments have not always approached infrastructure as well as they might have done. There are all kinds of reasons for that, such as a nervousness about binding the hands of one’s successors or a reluctance to get these big decisions wrong. In democratic politics, there is a pressure towards delivering results in a five-year span—understandably, as we all have to be re-elected—and some of the decisions we are making in this strategy will have a payback over a much longer period than that. When building roads, rather like power stations and significant railway projects, the reward in terms of well-being and economic activity has a reverberating effect for many decades. As a result, Governments sometimes do not take these big but necessary decisions that serve the national interest.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. As he knows, I am a frequent visitor to his constituency for recreational purposes. I tend to holiday on the north-east coast in Bamburgh and other places. I know the road north of Newcastle extremely well, and I am aware of the difficulties in terms of safety and congestion, although we have addressed the issues around Newcastle itself. As he will also know, I have visited the area as a Minister to see first hand some of the challenges and what can be done to overcome them.
Will the route strategies include strategies on speed limits? If so, does my right hon. Friend intend to make greater use of variable speed limits, which have been quite successful?
Variable speed limits are part of the smart motorway schemes that we are doing immense work on. Indeed, I was speaking about them at lunchtime today. They reflect a greater understanding of and ability to alter the way in which people interface with roads through the provision of dynamic information, and allow us to make much better use of infrastructure once the investment has been made. The way in which people drive, what they drive and the way in which they interface with the information that is provided for them on the road will change considerably over our lifetimes and beyond. It is important that we do not allow any rigidity in public policy to inhibit the developments that will spring from such technological changes.
My right hon. Friend is right that variable speed limits are an important part of that future. He has been a great champion of them. Indeed, what greater champion of roads and motoring has there been than my right hon. Friend, who has shared many long evenings discussing just these kind of matters with me? I look forward to many more.
Through the route strategies, Highways England, the body that we are creating, will work closely with local authorities, LEPs and other bodies, including rail bodies, to develop the building blocks of future plans. It will ensure that local roads, local transport, our cities and other modes of transport are considered throughout the strategy development process. That is the point. It is a point that Richard Burden made in Committee. It was taken on board by the Government. People call me the people’s Minister, but I would rather be called the listening Minister, because I listen and respond to good argument, and I try to develop politics and policy accordingly.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, because he is clearly a well travelled Minister, just like the well travelled road. While he is in listening mode, I remind him that when he gave evidence before the Environmental Audit Committee on air quality, he said specifically that the remit of the new body he was creating would include environmental concerns. If he has read our report and listened to what we have said, he will know that we are calling for
“a legal duty to protect air quality” and the introduction of
“a specific clause to that effect in the Infrastructure Bill”.
Will he tell us how he has listened and brought that to fruition?
Let me say two things, the first of which is how much I enjoy giving evidence before the hon. Lady’s Committee. I have enjoyed many exchanges with her on policy matters over a considerable period. Secondly, I will ensure that environmental considerations are built into all the strategic thinking and the development of all these plans. Air quality should be regarded as a salient that is taken into account in the building blocks, as I have described them, that we put together between local roads and the national strategy.
Furthermore, the hon. Lady will be delighted to know—indeed, I hope that she will be in the audience—that I will be making a speech in the next few weeks on precisely these issues: the environmental aspects of the strategy and how we need to develop a new paradigm in respect of the environmental impact of infrastructure development. I can tell that the excitement is building in the House as a result of that. I can see that she is excited enough to intervene again.
Does what the Minister has just said amount to a legal duty? He has referred to the way in which some of the responsibilities for roads lie re with local authorities and some with the new agency. Without a legal duty, it is impossible to see how there can be certainty—rather than uncertainty—that everything possible will be done to reduce air quality problems.
Even my audacity does not allow me to make up legal duties on the hoof. I shall take away what the hon. Lady proposes and look at the legal ramifications. I am clear that air quality and the environment are an absolute salient in these matters. As I said, I will ensure that those considerations are built into the development of the strategies, but far be it from me to say what I cannot subsequently justify. I do not want to make up a legal duty as I go along, and I know that she would not expect me to do so.
Notwithstanding what I have said about the importance of route strategies, I understand that there are those who would like additional reassurance that they will happen. That is why I tabled new clause 17, which will insert a reference to route strategies in the Bill. The Secretary of State will require a strategic highways company to prepare and publish one or more strategies on the management and development of the highways to which it has been appointed, which will be known as route strategies. The strategies must be published, as must the Secretary of State’s directions to the company, so we have provided that the process will be transparent and comprehensible. The new clause, along with the provisions in the statutory directions and guidance, which we have updated, provides reassurance, while giving Highways England the flexibility to adapt the route strategy process to meet the needs of cities, the country as a whole and the Government of the day. It is clear that, as a result of new clause 17, amendment 43 is not needed, so I ask that it not be pressed.
The title of the new body that will oversee the work of Highways England was raised in Committee. It was argued that the Office of Rail Regulation was, nominally at least, an inappropriate description of a body that will oversee road investment, as well as the rail strategy. In giving the Office of Rail Regulation new responsibilities over the roads sector, we risk causing public confusion over its remit. I agreed in Committee to reflect further and to return with a view on how such an undesirable situation might be avoided.
Amendment 114 will alter the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 to allow the ORR to be renamed through secondary legislation. It does not rename the ORR, but creates a power for the Government to do so. I have discussed the matter with the ORR. It wants to discuss it in a consultation. As you can imagine, Madam Deputy Speaker, when that was said, I took a step back because consultations bring forth images of curious names being devised by all sorts of curious people. I therefore suggested that the ORR hold a short discussion with its stakeholders, who would want to have a say in any such changes. However, that should be a short and straightforward process, and not a great national conversation. We do not need one of those in respect of the renaming of the Office of Rail Regulation. As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield pointed out, it will not actually be a regulatory body in respect of roads, so we need to be careful about the name so that we do not cause the very confusion that we are trying to avoid or prevent.
My preference would be to call the organisation the office for rail and road. To give credit where credit is due, that was first suggested by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield. [Hon. Members: “Ah!”] I am an honest chap. I do not want to steal his thunder. It is a jolly good idea. It has a certain elegance, after all. Never underestimate the importance of style. Substance matters, but style matters too.
I urge Members to support Government amendments 115 and 116. I am determined that staff who transfer to the new organisation should not be disadvantaged in respect of terms and conditions. I have given assurances to the House that that is the case and intend, through the amendments, to reaffirm those protections and the stated commitment that the transfer of employees to Highways England will follow TUPE principles.
I am coming to that. In shorthand, let me assure the hon. Gentleman that I do not want staff to be disadvantaged in any way, as I said. We will honour TUPE principles in this transfer of staff.
Amendment 115 makes it clear that when existing Highways Agency staff transfer to the new company, their employment terms and conditions will not change. I recognise that the changes that are planned for the Highways Agency will cause anxiety for existing staff. The amendment confirms that the existing rights and liabilities of staff will not change following transfer to the new organisation.
I will make a little progress and then let the hon. Gentleman come back.
The Bill provides that a transferring employee can terminate their contract if there is a substantial detrimental change to it if they transfer. That reflects regulation 4(9) of TUPE. Government amendment 116 supplements that by providing that where the employee claims constructive dismissal in those circumstances, no damages are payable in respect of any unpaid wages that relate to a notice period he or she has not worked. I should stress that the amendment does not prevent employees from claiming for damages for constructive dismissal, but seeks to establish a common-sense position that damages cannot be claimed for a period of required notice that has not been worked. I should highlight that the amendment ensures that the provisions in the Bill properly reflect TUPE in that regard.
I should like to press the Minister to clarify Government amendment 116. From what he has said, it seems that the intention is to put the TUPE principles into the Bill. The amendment contains the words “constructive dismissal”. It seems to me—this is certainly the advice we have had—that that is inappropriate. Will he look again?
The hon. Gentleman, with the courtesy he personifies, raised that with me before we came to the House today. I have committed to take another look at that through the parliamentary draftsman. There is no intention to disadvantage staff in that regard. I give that absolute assurance, but I will double-check the language, because language in such things matters. He and I are in discussion and I have committed to write to him as soon as possible, and certainly before the matter is discussed further, to clarify the use of the language to which he has drawn the House’s attention.
Will the Minister clarify why he has used a formulation unused in any other legislation in the past? I have set out the various options in three amendments showing what the Government have used in past legislation to assure staff that they are transferring either under TUPE or under the Cabinet Office statement of practice, the TUPE-like agreement that the Cabinet Office agreed with the trade unions involved. Why are we not using the past formulations?
Originality and imagination are part of my style. I said style is as important as substance. The substance is in the Bill; the style is all my own. The important thing is that, having met staff representatives on
New clause 18 places a responsibility on the Government to report periodically to Parliament on the performance of Highways England. I have introduced this to reassure some who fear that Ministers will lose control of Highways England, and that they will have no accountability to Parliament if Highways England fails to deliver. It is absolutely right that the new body can get on and deliver the strategy that the Government devise, establish and agree, but let me be clear that should the implementation and delivery of the strategy require further involvement, direction or adjustment by Ministers, in concert with the House, the ability to make those changes must be established in the Bill. I am absolutely clear that Highways England must report to the House, and that Members on both sides of the House must have the chance to scrutinise its work. Ministers must have a role, indeed play a key role, in the delivery of the strategy.
It might be true to say that the greatest challenge we face is getting the delivery right. We have surmounted an important hurdle in developing a strategy founded on empiricism and backed with funding for the long term—more than £15 billion up to 2021—but it will happen only if we have in place the right resources, skills and partnerships, and the right range of other organisations, to make it happen. It would be inappropriate if Ministers and all hon. Members were not involved in that process. I expect directions to emanate from the Department for Transport periodically—it is not meant to be an exceptional power. I expect reports to be made to the House periodically. That, too, should not be a matter of exception. That was raised at length by the shadow Minister. The strong governance arrangements and framework we have put in place provide some of the measures he sought when he argued the case for greater accountability.
The use of directions in the licence will allow the Government to exert control over how the company exercises its statutory functions. In addition, as sole shareholder the Secretary of State can ensure that the company is properly led and governed. More detail is in the summary document published in December, but I will write again on some of those matters following today’s consideration.
Opposition Front Benchers and all Members of the House will be familiar with the new copy of the licence, which strengthens those provisions, and which was provided to hon. Members on
It is obvious from the amendments that were tabled that I need to explain why we need to change the status of the Highways Agency and create an arm’s length body, and I am happy to repeat an argument I made earlier. Let me start with the point of view that some suggest—they suggest that we should do nothing more than implement a road investment strategy without changing the structure necessary to deliver it. Of course, the Highways Agency would make every effort to do so efficiently, and of course we would have some success in delivering that strategy, but we need to understand that if we are to deliver the strategy, we need to make significant changes to the existing arrangements.
The relationship between the agency and the Government has on occasions failed to reflect the wider interests of the economy and the long-term interests of taxpayers and road users. The measure is about providing a clearer, more strategic role for the Government, and providing a stronger, more certain framework, through the licence and the road investment strategy and the framework document, for the organisation mission to deliver those important infrastructural changes to our nation. By the way, those changes are not just about economic well-being; they are also about societal and communal well-being.
The industry is keen to see change both in the way funding is committed and in the way the Highways Agency is constructed. In the call for evidence for the Bill, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association said:
“Even with an apparently committed five year programme, not transforming the Highways Agency into an arms-length body could still leave it a target, should future Governments decide cuts to spending…The supply chain…has confidence that the creation of a Government-owned company would significantly reduce the likelihood of this happening.”
The CBI said that business welcomes the Government’s important decision to reform the Highways Agency to a more independent body, giving it greater funding certainty through fixed five to six-year funding cycles.
The road investment strategy provides a logical and credible commitment between two separate parties—the focus of the company is on delivering its operational objectives, and the focus of the Government is on providing a long-term funding stream. I know that some fear we will lose control of the reins of the company. That is why I have gone as far as I have in the framework document, the licence and the Bill. We will also of course have the monitor—the new body that will oversee the operation of the new arrangements. That is all in line with the conclusions of the Public Administration Committee’s recent report on the relationship between Government and arm’s length bodies, which said:
“Relationships should be high trust and low cost, but too often are low trust and high cost.”
On that basis, I resist amendments 5 to 42 which would remove the relevant clauses or reinsert the words “Highways Agency”.
In conclusion, the Bill will transform the quality of our roads infrastructure, secure delivery, drive growth and provide the network operator with the stability needed to deliver a better service for those who rely on and use our roads, as well as generating £2.6 billion over 10 years in additional savings. These changes will provide certainty for the industry and help it to get ready for the significant increases in investment over the next few years, with the confidence to recruit and train skilled workers. That confidence will mean that suppliers can build capability for the future and sign longer-term contracts with a new company at reduced cost to the taxpayer.
In short, these changes will lead us towards the effective, long-term planning and development of the world-class national road infrastructure that road users deserve. In that spirit and with that confidence, bold, but humble—because, as I said, we must listen and learn through the process of scrutiny—I am proud to commend the Government’s new clauses and ask that the other amendments, which would create a very different model, be withdrawn.
Time is clearly short, so I will be as brief as I can be in having to cover a wide range of amendments and issues.
The Minister began by mentioning the walking and cycling issues covered by the amendments and new clauses. For too long, walking and cycling have been an afterthought in transport policy, given attention only when the end of the list is reached and the tick needs to be put in the box. There is now widespread consensus on the need for change. Getting more people walking and cycling will improve our nation’s health, tackle congestion and make our towns and cities better places to live.
We lag behind many other countries. Just 2% of overall journeys are made by bike and walking levels continue to decline. Some 64% of all journeys are made by car, but more than half of them are shorter than five miles, with a fifth being under a mile. We need to move walking and cycling to the mainstream of transport policy. We raised that point time after time in the other place and in Committee. In the other place, Labour secured an explicit consideration of pedestrian and cyclist safety in the Bill, and that is to be welcomed. In Committee, we pressed the Government to include a long-term strategy and funding for active travel, but sadly they voted against our plans. One always welcomes a sinner who repents, but if that was the Government’s intention all along, why did they oppose our amendments in Committee?
The Government’s change of course is a credit to the cross-party members of the all-party cycling group; to cycling groups such as British Cycling and the CTC; to transport campaigners such as Living Streets, Sustrans, the Campaign for Better Transport and the Campaign to Protect Rural England; and the Richmond group of health charities. They have all put the right kind of pressure on in the past two weeks to secure this change, which we welcome.
The new clauses and amendments tabled by the Minister are almost identical to those tabled earlier, with the exception that the original contained an explicit obligation on the Secretary of State to “comply” with the strategy. The absence of that word may not mean anything significant, but perhaps that could be clarified.
The Bill will turn the Highways Agency into a wholly owned Government company. We support road investment strategies to give the roads sector the same funding certainty as the railways, to enable efficiency savings to be delivered in the supply chain and to improve infrastructure planning. Most reviews of the Highways Agency—most recently the Cook review of 2011—have shown that the ending of stop-start Government funding could cut costs on the strategic road network, construction maintenance and management by 15% to 20%. We support that, but we will continue to ask the Government why we need a top-down reorganisation of the Highways Agency to deliver that strategy.
We have still not had the evidence for that. The only real evidence I have seen is an EC Harris paper in 2009, which found that motorway construction costs were higher per lane kilometre in the UK than in Holland, where the road operator is at arm’s length. If we look closely, however, we see that the additional costs in the UK were from CCTV, speed enforcement and vehicle recovery services, which are funded separately under the Dutch model. The additional costs also come from higher technical standards for pavements and structures, more complex ground conditions, design solutions and drainage provisions. Therefore, there is not the evidence to say that the Government need to have that top-down reorganisation. We are not convinced. We have debated this and scrutinised it in two Houses of Parliament, but there is no substantial evidence to prove that an institutional reorganisation, with estimated transitional costs of
£100 million, is needed. That is why we will be moving to delete the clauses from the Bill today, while maintaining a commitment to the road investment strategy.
The Minister touched on accountability. I welcome the changes and amendments he has made. There are still some pretty fundamental questions, however, about primary accountability and responsibility. We cannot allow the Secretary of State to become a third party commentator on the performance of a company and the state of the road network: he must be answerable for it. The Minister has said that he completely signs up to that and I believe that that is his intention, but if so why are we having to debate a structure that separates responsibility for the road network from ministerial responsibility? In the absence of any real evidence to prove that this is needed, is it any surprise that many people are worried that this could become—not now, but in the future—a way of creating an increasingly contracted out, carved out and removed from public control structure? That is causing concern from organisations as diverse as the Public and Commercial Services Union, Prospect and the Alliance of British Drivers, right the way through to members of the British Chambers of Commerce. Our amendment would keep the oversight mechanisms of a monitor and road user watchdog in place, even if we did not go ahead with the reform of the Highways Agency.
The Minister talked about route strategies. He was right to do so, as they have been a major part of the discussion in Committee and elsewhere. Our concern is that, while reform and investment in the strategic highway network is absolutely necessary, we have to remember that the changes and the whole Bill affect just 2% of roads. The Department for Transport’s own research shows that 90% of the public are satisfied with those roads. That is not to say that there should be any complacency, but it does not affect the 98% of local roads that people rely on every day. It is here that we see the pothole epidemic, and it is here that we see record public dissatisfaction and congestion levels estimated to rise by 61% by 2040, so it is crucial that strategic road plans support city, county and regional growth plans and help councils to improve road conditions and to tackle congestion. Strategic roads must be co-planned with local networks and other transport modes so that we can really improve people’s everyday journeys and reduce traffic congestion.
I am pleased that pressure from Labour and transport campaigners has secured a greater priority for local roads and joined-up transport thinking in the Bill, and I thank the Minister for the movements he has made, but we need to go further. We need to get our entire transport system working as a connected whole. That is why we want Network Rail and the new company to sit down and map and plan road and rail routes together, and not only to take reasonable account of each other’s views. We want to ensure that local authorities and devolved bodies are represented at board level in the company, too. There are long-running difficulties in joining up local and strategic roads to get the network moving as one. We do not agree that “considering” local views and allowing local authorities to align their plans with a company is enough.
For that reason, our amendment 43 sets out some safeguards to ensure that the road investment strategy is a genuine co-product of plans with other transport networks, devolved growth plans and local transport provision, including walking and cycling, and to ensure that the road investment strategy is developed in consideration of the condition of local roads, a third of which, we know, are in urgent need of attention. Under the Government’s plans, £1.4 million per mile will be spent on the maintenance of strategic roads, but only £31,700 per mile is allocated to local roads. I hope that hon. Members will seriously consider the safeguards that we have argued for and which have been supported by the Local Government Association and others today.
Throughout this debate, it has been clear that infrastructure must be planned to meet clear economic, social and environmental objectives, but we have seen from previous debates on energy and planning that the Bill has often fallen far short of doing that. Along with groups such as the Campaign for Better Transport and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, therefore, we have pressed for obligations to ensure that strategic roads investment improves our environment. That means action to meet legally binding climate change targets by 2050. Worryingly, the Department’s forecast predicts that although road traffic emissions will flatten they will then start to increase in the 2030s. We need urgent action, therefore, to tackle air pollution, which is estimated to be killing up to 29,000 people prematurely each year, and vehicle emissions, such as particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen, which are major sources of the problem.
The road investment strategy states that the new company should make progress towards reducing the negative impacts on air quality, but in the light of the Government’s record on air quality that is not very reassuring—a point to which my hon. Friend Joan Walley alluded earlier. The UK is not compliant with EU limits on air pollution now. In November, the European Court of Justice said that urgent action was needed, but under this Government’s plan we will not be compliant until 2030, and that simply is not good enough. That is why we are asking for much greater action than is in the Bill; why we have committed to a national framework of low-emission zones to help local authorities tackle the problem; and why we are pleased to support amendment 70, which my hon. Friend tabled, and which would add an explicit obligation on the new company to address air quality issues.
I wish to say a word about transfers—I know that my hon. Friend John McDonnell will want to say something about this as well. I welcome the Minister’s assurances in Committee that the terms and conditions of employees transferring will not diminish—I believe he meant it, and it was good he met the trade unions—but, as my hon. Friend said, one issue remains: if the TUPE regulations, or the mechanisms used to apply them in other reorganisations, are to apply, why has that not been enshrined in the Bill? As the Bill continues its passage, I hope that those issues will be addressed further, and I welcome the Minister’s clarification today that he will come back to us on the question of constructive dismissal, on which the Bill does not currently make sense.
The road reforms could have done so much more to fix Britain’s roads. A constituent of mine wrote to me last week:
“I have major concerns about the ill thought out proposals which will do nothing to assist the UK economically and will be of great concern to road users.”
I think a lot of people would agree with that. We need to ensure that infrastructure decisions are based on national independent evidence-based assessments, which could be done if we set up the national infrastructure commission; we need to facilitate more efficient joint road and rail planning, which could have been done had our amendments been accepted; and we need to join up local and strategic roads to get the whole network moving. Unfortunately, the Bill is a wasted opportunity. Its centrepiece, before all the others things were added, was another top-down reorganisation that cannot deliver the changes our road network needs.
Order. I remind hon. Members that the debate ends in 16 minutes, because the knife will fall at 9 o’clock, so it would be helpful if each Member spoke briefly to enable everyone to make their points. We will start voting at 9 o’clock.
It has been a long struggle for many of us, and I congratulate hon. Members of all parties on instituting, bringing forward and finally getting Government agreement on the cycling strategy, which I shall briefly address.
We have spoken in various debates over many years to get where we are, but as with all the best cycling strategies, if we stick at it and power on through, the destination is always worth the journey. I congratulate the various cycling groups behind the campaign. Speaking as someone who cycles to work here in Westminster and at home in the great county of Northumberland, I say that whether it be off road in Kielder or taking the highways and the byways, this is without a shadow of a doubt one of our finest assets.
This decision by the Government, and the reaching of cross-party agreement on it, will definitely be welcomed in Northumberland. There is a tremendous desire there for a cycling strategy. We have looked enviously at the city of Newcastle, which has enjoyed £6 million to £7 million of cycling investment. That is wonderful for Newcastle, but has been somewhat to the disadvantage of us in Northumberland. While we now have an integrated strategy, I genuinely feel that there is an opportunity for our constituents to get the cycling strategy that they so enthusiastically require.
Locals have already prepared strategies for Hexham, Prudhoe and other towns in Tynedale and Castle Morpeth. I am pleased to say that Northumberland county council has at last got into gear, and it needs to pitch to the Government for the funding; otherwise the cycling groups in my area will definitely be disappointed and potentially left behind. That is not something that anybody wants.
Let me finish by saying that I do not believe we can improve tourism without a cycling strategy; I do not think we can improve our health, the obesity problem and pollution without a cycling strategy; I do not believe we can improve the cost of living that is an issue for so many people without a cycling strategy; and I certainly think we could do great things to improve the quality of life if we had such a strategy.
Everyone is aware that the Environmental Audit Committee has now drawn up three reports on air quality. We came up with a series of recommendations, clearly showing that there is no one single solution to the problem of improving air quality and that we need a raft of measures. Cycling and walking are certainly part of that, and I am very pleased with the progress that has been made. It is imperative for the Minister to do exactly what he said he would do, and give further serious consideration to the amendments tabled, following the Environmental Audit Committee discussions, about how placing a legal duty on the new Highways Agency is critical if we are to deal with the public health issues.
I see Dr Wollaston, who chairs the Health Select Committee, in her place. The whole House is aware that we have something in the order of 29,000 premature deaths a year. We know that air pollution is an invisible killer. It is vital that when the new agency comes to do its work, it does not just look at the environmental appraisal, but ensure that it has real teeth. We need real ways to plan roads and provide green walls to help reduce pollution, and to look at layout and public transport integration. The whole integrated approach to public transport needs to be taken on board. Without the legal commitment, which I hope will come forward in the other place, we cannot begin to tackle the problem of our being in breach of EU regulations. We must deal urgently with that.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend Richard Burden for saying that he would support amendment 70. At this stage, it is incumbent on us to see what progress can be made by the Government in the other place.
I warmly welcome the cycling and walking strategy. It is not just a cycling and walking strategy; it is a cycling and walking investment strategy. As the Minister knows, good cycling infrastructure does not happen without that vital investment. I am particularly pleased to see the words “certainty” and “stability” in new clause 13. That is what it is all about, and it is how Holland achieved its objectives. It makes it appropriate for the Minister to be the Member for South Holland and the Deepings. Holland achieved its goals by having £24 a head of stable, long-term investment. If we can get that level of investment—£10 to £20 a head has been called for in the all-party cycling group—we can do the same. I pay tribute to all my colleagues in the all-party cycling group for the work they did, and I commend the cycling report. I warmly welcome the opportunity of discussing the issue with the Minister responsible for cycling, Mr Goodwill, who is in his place.
I think that we can expect an increase in the number of cycling journeys from 2% in 2011 to 10% within a decade, which will have enormous benefits for health. I hope there will be investment in not just infrastructure but training, and that cycle to work schemes will, in some form, be extended to young people. I warmly thank the Secretary of State for tabling the new clause, and look forward to seeing the health and well-being of the nation improve as a result.
On Second Reading I echoed the fear that had been expressed by Highways Agency staff that this was the first stage of a privatisation process.
Since then, the Minister has written to various Members saying that the Bill will not privatise the agency or any part of it. It is true that the Bill contains no such provision, but the staff nevertheless feel that they are being packaged up into an organisation and that the second stage will be privatisation, along with tolling.
The Minister has also given an assurance that the roads investment strategy budget will no longer be annualised, but the chief executive has made clear to staff that the revenue budget for the maintenance of the new company will be annualised. Staff fear cuts and the prospect of being transferred to a company that will be privatised in due course.
It is crucial for committed, dedicated professionals who, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend Richard Burden, have done everything asked of them by this and the last Government over the years to be secure in the knowledge that they will have a job following the transfer. Both Governments have normally provided that assurance by including a reference to TUPE in legislation. In some instances, however, that may not be appropriate.
TUPE usually obtains when a group of staff have been transferred from the public sector to the private sector. When the transfer is between Government agencies, or from the Government to an agency, a formal agreement called COSOP operates. It was initiated by the last Government, and has been confirmed by this one, and it is negotiated and signed off by the Cabinet Office. My amendment 127 provides that
“if the TUPE regulations do not apply in relation to the transfer” the transfer scheme may
“make provision which is the same or similar.”
There is real anxiety about the fact that the form of words used by the Government does not include such a provision, and hence does not abide by the agreement reached by them and by the last Government with the trade unions.
Amendment 115 refers to
“all the rights and liabilities relating to the person’s contract of employment.”
The transfer of undertakings extends beyond the basic contract of employment to a range of other assurances that should be given to staff on transfer. That is why people are worried, and I feel that we will lose some very dedicated professional staff as a result of the lack of commitment that is being given to the staff who have served us so well. I urge the Minister to reconsider, and to translate into the Bill a form of words that has been used in every other Bill, relating either to TUPE or to similar arrangements. If he does not do so, the staff will remain anxious and concerned.
It is a pleasure to have an opportunity to speak at the end of the debate, and to see the new clause make progress.
As I think the House knows by now, the case for cycling and walking is incredibly strong. It is a great way to travel. It is environmentally friendly, healthy, reliable, cheap and fun. It cuts congestion, so that everyone else benefits as well. It boosts the economy, it saves money and it saves lives. Public Health England recently said that one in six deaths was due to physical inactivity. What we do to promote physical activity helps people to improve their health.
The all-party parliamentary cycling group set some targets during the Get Britain Cycling inquiry. If we achieved those targets, about 80,000 disability-adjusted life years would be saved each year by 2025. That is a huge number. When mental as well as physical health is taken into account, the financial savings would amount to between £2 billion and £6 billion, and the national health service would save £17 billion a year if we could reach the Dutch and Danish levels. That is worth investing in. That will save money as well as lives.
The case is strong, and that is why in our report we called for spending of up to £10—heading towards £20—per person per year, and that report was supported by all the cycling organisations, of course, and by Living Streets, a pedestrian group, but also by organisations such as the Automobile Association. All forms of transport want to see this happen, and business does, too. The director general of the CBI has called for a major effort to expand the dedicated cycle network, and it is very good that the Government have agreed and are doing the right thing by supporting this amendment. I thank the Minister with responsibility for cycling, Mr Goodwill, in particular. I remember when Dr Wollaston and I tried to talk to him, and I am glad he has managed to deliver on what he knows is the right thing.
This amendment has been backed not only by the cycling organisations, but by health organisations—all of them, ranging from the British Heart Foundation to Age UK, to Macmillan, and to Rethink Mental Illness. This is clearly a popular thing to do, therefore.
This Government have made progress on the policy on cycling and walking. We have seen more money go in to this policy than ever before, and I welcome that. The £241 million from the Deputy Prime Minister is the largest single investment in cycling, but it goes nowhere near far enough. To get the benefits I spoke about, we must have the money going in. This strategy says there has to be some, but it does not say how much. My party is committed to the £10 per person per year that was agreed by this House and the cross-party group. It would also be something we would enshrine as part of our green transport Act.
I would love to see the other parties join in. I know that Back Benchers on both sides of the House are supportive, but I also know that the Front Benches on both sides are against this—or at least they have been so far. At the beginning of this year we saw an awful spat with the Conservatives putting out something saying that Labour is going to spend £63 million on cycling, as though that was too much. Unfortunately, we saw Labour respond by saying that that was nonsense and that Labour was not committed to spending any money on cycling. I hope both Front Benches will fix that, because I know their Back Benchers would like to see that happen. I know the shadow Minister was taken to task by Mr Bradshaw for not committing any money to cycling. I hope both sides and all parties will join us in committing to cycling and walking, because it is not enough to have a strategy; we have to put the resources in and we have to make sure they are available. We can do that and we should do it, and it is something this House has voted for. I hope it will become a reality in the next few months and after the general election as well.
I will address matters in reverse order to add excitement. On cycling and spending, I said at the outset, but repeat for the sake of clarity, that this Government have committed to spend £374 million between 2011 and 2015. We have more than doubled spending on cycling compared with the last four years of the previous Government. As I said, about £6 per person each year across England and £10 per person in London is being spent as part of cycle city ambition. Of course we understand that the strategies have to be funded and that money matters, and the Government put their money where their mouth is.
On the circumstances of staff, let me be absolutely crystal clear once again that it is not our intention to disadvantage staff. Far from it. I want to ensure that they are treated properly and fairly in their terms and conditions and all that that means. There is no hidden agenda, despite what John McDonnell says; there is nothing under the bed that he should fear. The plan is to be absolutely straightforward, transparent and fair to all those staff transferring from the existing organisation to the new one. I have already said I will come back to the shadow Minister on the particular point he raised in his intervention.
Finally, we do believe a new body is necessary. This new strategy requires a structural change in the way the strategy is delivered. This is a complex argument, but I will try to make it as cogently as I can in less than a minute. It is probably true to say that the existing Highways Agency is too close to Government and too far away from Government. The new arrangements, with the framework, the licence and the statutory requirements to be put in place under this Bill, mean that this new body will be close to Government but far enough away to deliver the Government’s objectives. That is our proposal. I think it has force. It has been widely welcomed and I hope the Opposition will come to the view that most others have: that this is an idea whose time has come.
Debate interrupted (Programme Order, this day).
Question agreed to.
New clause 13 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
The Deputy Speaker then put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (