Transport Bill

– in the House of Lords at 8:46 pm on 26th October 2000.

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Further consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

Clause 65 [Interpretation]:

[Amendments Nos. 71 and 72 not moved.]

Clause 66 [Air navigation: directions]:

Photo of Lord Brabazon of Tara Lord Brabazon of Tara Crossbench

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 73, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 80 and 81. My noble friend Lord Goschen will speak to Amendments Nos. 75 and 76. The Minister doubtless will be pleased to know that this is the final group of amendments in the first part of the Bill, dealing with air traffic control. We turn now to Chapter III, which deals with air navigation.

Amendment No. 73 seeks to leave out subsection (2) of Clause 66. The subsection deprives anyone injured by the CAA's failure to carry out any duty imposed on it by the Secretary of State of any right of action against the CAA. The amendment restores such a right of action.

It is a basic right that those injured by the failures of a public body should be compensated. If the Secretary of State considers the matter important enough to give a direction, then it is important enough for those injured by the CAA's failure to comply to have a remedy. It is difficult to see the difference between the words "failure to carry out a duty" and "an act or omission in the exercise of performing air navigation functions".

When we aired the amendment at the Committee stage, the Government claimed that the CAA may take a course of action in implementing a direction which is satisfactory to the Secretary of State but perceived by an individual or organisation as failing to meet the duty placed on the CAA by a direction. I regard that reply as rather weak. It is not a matter of whether an individual or organisation perceives a failure to perform a duty; it is a matter of whether the CAA has failed to perform that duty. If it has, it should be accountable for such failure, not only to the Secretary of State, but also to anyone who suffered as a result of such a failure.

Our second amendment, Amendment No. 80, seeks to leave out subsection (7) of Clause 75. That subsection enables the CAA to charge an operator for services it does not want and does not use, even if, indeed, its aircraft cannot use them. The amendment removes that power. At Committee stage the Government claimed that aircraft might benefit from the services provided, such as maintenance of minimum separation distances, even if they failed to contact air traffic control. In these circumstances they would be using the services and would be caught by the charging provisions. Where services are genuinely not used, there is no reason why the operator in question should be charged for them. We submit that that charge would be an abuse of the CAA's monopoly position.

Our final amendment, Amendment No. 81, seeks to remove paragraph (a) of Clause 83(2). The paragraph enables the Secretary of State to authorise detention of aircraft in respect of which default on payments occurs, even if the defaulter has sold the aircraft on. The amendment removes that power. The effect of the paragraph could be grossly unfair. How is the buyer of an aircraft to know whether there has been a default on payment in respect of that particular plane without some system of public registration of defaults relating to aircraft? Someone who buys an aircraft in good faith without notice of the default should not have to pay the previous defaulting owner's penalty. The CAA should take appropriate steps to secure payment by the defaulter.

In comparison with other amendments debated today these amendments may be considered to be trivial, but they are important and the points they raise need to be answered by the Government. I beg to move.

Photo of Viscount Goschen Viscount Goschen Conservative

My Lords, I have two amendments, Amendments Nos. 75 and 76, in this group. They are entirely unconnected with the other amendments in the group, but, in the spirit which I am sure the Minister will show towards my amendments, I am more than content for them to be contained in this somewhat diverse group.

The amendments seek to strengthen the Bill with regard to the fair treatment of air space users and to prevent any discrimination against what might be considered the little people of the industry--general aviation.

At the Committee stage of the Bill we discussed the same issues. The Minister was generous in his assurances that the Government valued general aviation and indeed wished to see its position protected within the Bill. I am an occasional private flyer so I have an interest to declare in this matter.

Amendment No. 76 has the effect of making clear that the CAA has a general duty towards not only the operators and owners of all classes of aircraft, but also towards all classes of air space user. This is an argument I had with the Minister at Committee stage. I got nowhere at all with him at that stage. He then was kind enough to write me a carefully considered letter, with which I did not agree, showing that he had listened even more carefully and we still had not got anywhere. I shall have a final attempt to explain to him and to see whether I can get him to agree that merely saying that one should take into account the requirements of all categories of all aircraft could leave some people out in the cold. The tone of the Minister's response at the time, and indeed of his letter, made it very clear that we actually had one and the same objective. So we are really talking about drafting at this stage.

Categories of aircraft vary from the very smallest--gliders through to small single or twin-engined aircraft--to the very largest commercial airliners. It must also be recognised that pilots vary in their qualifications, from student pilots at the bottom of the ladder up to the holders of air transport pilot's licences, such as my noble friend Lord Trefgarne, who is a very experienced aviator.

I am concerned that the Bill could have the effect of stating that the CAA must have a general duty towards all the groups who operate aircraft. However, some people might be left out. I shall give an example to try to focus the Minister's attention. If he can reassure me on this point, I shall be a much happier and less loquacious Peer of the Realm.

Let us consider the example of a private pilot who has no instrument rating. Airspace could be classified in such a way as to require all people who fly in that piece of airspace to have an instrument rating to fly under instrument flight rules. He can fly under instrument flight rules in any aeroplane, other than a permit-to-fly aeroplane, that is so equipped with all the necessary navigational equipment. Under those circumstances, it could be said that the CAA had taken on board its duty towards the owners and operators of all categories of aircraft. However, it would not have taken on its duty towards all types of airspace user because there could be, for example, student pilots who definitely would not have an IFR rating. I look forward to the Minister's response on that point.

Amendment No. 75 merely adds reinforcement to what is already in the Bill. The amendment makes it clear that access to airspace is a fundamental requirement for the general aviation community. Many aspects of the Bill have been welcomed by the GA community but there has been concern--rightful concern--that when the transfer is made to the new company the rights of the less powerful users of airspace and the more fragmented users of airspace, on whom we rely for new pilots coming up through the system to fulfil the requirements of our aviation industry, will not properly be looked after. Therefore, my amendment adds some words to make it clear that access to airspace is a very important issue.

I am sure the Minister's brief says that the words are otiose and that the point is already covered. If the Minister could be specific in his response and could underline that access to airspace is a fundamental requirement and one that is borne in mind by the drafting of the Bill, then again I should be much more satisfied.

My third and final point is simple. In Committee some of my noble friends and I raised the question of the Civil Aviation Authority's powers with regard to the new National Air Traffic Service PPP company in terms, first, of the design and allocation of airspace and, secondly, of giving the CAA the teeth it needs to ensure that those matters are enforced. Examples were quoted of some minor difficulties that have recently occurred under the existing system. This is a good moment to pay tribute to the work of the CAA and NATS for allocating airspace in an extremely fair manner. The CAA is a very efficient organisation and we hope that that will be carried forward.

In Committee the Minister referred to the duties that are given to the CAA under Clause 70 of the Bill. The Minister has amended the clause by adding an additional and welcome overarching or paramount, to use the noble Lord's least favourite word, safety requirement. The Minister also referred to the consultation being taken forward by the CAA. Can the noble Lord now tell us the results of that consultation? Can he assure the House that the CAA, through the amendment of the air navigation order, will now have the strong and proper powers it requires to direct the new NATS body to administer airspace in the way that the CAA thinks fit and appropriate, bearing in mind its general duty? If the noble Lord can reassure me on those points, we will have moved the argument on considerably and the Bill will be more equitable.

Photo of Lord Trefgarne Lord Trefgarne Conservative

My Lords, I very much sympathise with the views of my noble friend Lord Goschen in regard to this matter. As I said at an earlier stage when we were discussing these issues, I am president of the Popular Flying Association, which is far and away the largest recreational aviation organisation in this country. It has upwards of 10,000 members, many of whom own and operate their own small aircraft. But my views and the views of the PFA are not confined to that association. They are widely held, I believe, by other members of the general aviation fraternity, who feel profoundly threatened by some of the proposals that have come forward. They feel threatened not so much by the proposals themselves--we have no difficulty in principle with the privatisation of NATS--but by some of the things that have been said.

I believe that the Civil Aviation Authority will exercise its powers in a responsible and effective way, having due regard to the interests of general aviation. However, I am not so sure that those currently heading NATS are quite so enthusiastic. For example, I have been informed that the business development manager of NATS, Mr Peter Finch, was recently quoted as saying that he regarded those who represent general aviation interests as, "public enemy No. 1". Those were his words. Apparently, he felt that the need to look after the interests of general aviation would somehow inhibit the development of NATS in the direction he thought appropriate. If that is true, that was a disgraceful remark and I hope that the noble Lord can tell me, if he did make such a comment, that it was made without authority.

That leads to another matter of direct importance to general aviation; namely, the question of the operation of flights outside controlled airspace. We have heard--again from the aforementioned Mr Finch--that NATS would like to impose charges on general aviation aircraft flying outside controlled airspace. I hope that that is not the policy of NATS. If it is, I hope that the Civil Aviation Authority will see to it that such charges are not imposed.

From what I have said, noble Lords will appreciate that there are concerns that the CAA will find it difficult to defend the interests of general aviation against the battalions of NATS if these changes come into force. I therefore have great sympathy with the amendments proposed by my noble friend Lord Goschen. The plain fact is that general aviation has the same rights in airspace as does anyone else. General aviators pay their taxes and they, too, pay whatever charges are currently levied. For those reasons, they are just as entitled to use the airspace as all others.

However, we are sometimes told that commercial flights, however small or insignificant, should have priority. I have never understood why that should be the case because we all operate commercial flights--we all pay for our fuel, tyres and engines. The order of precedence that is sometimes established here is not appropriate.

I say again that it is important that the interests of general aviation should be properly reflected in the provisions of the Bill. I believe that the Civil Aviation Authority has every intention that that should be the case. I believe, too, that the Minister intends that that is what should happen. However, he will need to put that across to some of those working in NATS who seem not to take the same view. I hope that the Minister will be able to give me the assurances I seek as regards general aviation.

Photo of Lord Macdonald of Tradeston Lord Macdonald of Tradeston Minister of State, Department for Transport, Minister of State (Transport), Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Minister of State (Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions) 9:15 pm, 26th October 2000

My Lords, Amendment No. 73 seeks to remove Clause 66(2) which provides that, should the CAA fail to perform a duty placed on it by a direction issued under Clause 66(1), then it is not liable to suit. This reflects the current provision in Section 72(3) of the Civil Aviation Act 1982. Notwithstanding Clause 66(2), the CAA will still be liable, as is normal under the principles of common law, for its acts or omissions when carrying out activities in pursuance of its duties.

While a direction may place a duty on the CAA--Clause 103(1) requires that the CAA must give effect to that direction--it will remain with the CAA to decide how best to implement that duty. In such circumstances, it is not too hard to imagine a situation where the CAA could take a course of action which, while satisfactory to the Secretary of State, could be perceived by an individual or organisation as failing to meet that duty. Clearly it would be undesirable for the CAA to be at risk of legal action each time it took policy decisions in response to directions it has received from the Secretary of State. In any event, the directions which the Secretary of State will give to the CAA under Clause 66(1) will require extensive consultation and will provide for any conflicts to be resolved before decisions are finally made. Furthermore, it will of course continue to be possible for decisions of the CAA to be open to judicial review.

Amendments Nos. 75 and 76 tabled by the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, concern Clause 70, which sets out how the CAA must exercise its air navigation functions. In essence, they appear to seek to ensure that the CAA, when exercising its air navigation functions, must take account of general aviation interests alongside commercial, military and other interests. In Committee the noble Viscount raised similar concerns. I gave an assurance in that debate that that was exactly what the CAA would do. We believe that the terms used in Clause 70(1)(b) are wide enough. The noble Viscount's second amendment, Amendment No. 76, would result in a definition which would be too wide and would encompass people such as parachutists. We do not think that that would be appropriate.

However, we recognise that the CAA must have adequate powers to enforce its decisions relating to the use of airspace.

Photo of Viscount Goschen Viscount Goschen Conservative

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. Why should not parachutists have any representation with the CAA? If they are hurtling towards the ground at 120 miles an hour, they would like to know that there is no one directly underneath them.

Photo of Lord Macdonald of Tradeston Lord Macdonald of Tradeston Minister of State, Department for Transport, Minister of State (Transport), Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Minister of State (Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions)

My Lords, if one wishes to throw the issue open so widely, it would cause concerns that we need not address in this Bill. It has never seemed appropriate in the past to consider parachutists. I do not know whether it has suddenly come as an insight to the noble Viscount, but it is not an issue to which we have addressed much attention in the past, nor do I intend to do so today.

I can tell the House that the CAA consulted on this issue during the summer. The main proposal in the consultation paper was that the CAA should, after consultation with the Secretary of State, have a power of direction to provide air traffic services in respect of United Kingdom airspace in the interests of ensuring efficient use of airspace, or to ensure that air traffic services are provided to a standard considered appropriate by the CAA for the airspace classification. That consultation has now closed and we are considering responses.

In general, there has been a very positive response to the proposal. We must now seek to respond to the few criticisms made and make a final study of the fine print. I am happy to tell the House that we are strongly minded to pursue this proposal and to seek appropriate amendments to the Air Navigation Order 2000 very shortly.

Turning to deal with the question of student pilots, we have no reason to believe that the interests of owners and operators of aircraft in which student pilots fly--presumably under co-pilot direction--are excluded by Clause 70(1).

The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, suggested that the quotation to which he referred expressed the views of NATS. Let me make it clear that the quotation is not a sentiment I have heard expressed by anyone in NATS management. Of course NATS will ensure that fair and equitable access is given to all.

The operating licence which will be issued to NATS includes an explicit prohibition against discrimination in the supply of its services. Condition 2 requires the licensee not to give undue preference to, or discriminate against, any person or class of persons in supplying air traffic services. The licensee is permitted to take into account the need to maintain the most expeditious flow of air traffic as a whole--which mirrors the CAA's duty in Clause 70(1)(a)--but may only apply different or additional criteria with the approval of the CAA.

I was asked another question by the noble Viscount, who challenged me with a very specific example. I hope he will forgive me if I am forced to write to him yet again, I hope in more satisfactory terms than last time.

Amendment No. 80 seeks to remove Clause 75(7), which allows the CAA to specify, under Clause 73(1), for the purposes of charging, operators and owners of aircraft which do not or could not use the chargeable air traffic services concerned. This reflects the current provision in Section 73(3) of the Civil Aviation Act 1982, which is being repealed.

This provision seeks to cover the scenario where an aircraft fails to make contact with air traffic control but still enjoys the benefits of services provided in the interests of safety. An example of this is the maintenance of minimum separation distances from other aircraft. This provision also prevents less scrupulous operators from obtaining "free rides" which would result in very serious safety risks.

The fifth amendment in this group, Amendment No. 81, concerns the powers of the Secretary of State to make regulations regarding the detention and sale of aircraft. The amendment proposes that aircraft should only be allowed to be detained where the current operator of the aircraft was actually the defaulter in paying charges due under Section 73. That would be an unfortunate position to find ourselves in.

Principally for reasons of safety, air navigation services are not refused to any aircraft. But it is only right that those operators who make use of such services should also pay for them. It is a common practice in the aviation industry that aircraft are swiftly transferred between companies; and in many cases aircraft are leased. The threat of detention action is our most potent tool and without these powers large amounts of money would not be recovered, or at least would take many months or years to collect through court action. That might well mean that a way would need to be found to offset unpaid charges. It follows that in fairness to all users of air services we think it absolutely crucial to have the power to detain aircraft, even where the defaulter was the previous operator, as a last resort to reclaim the moneys payable in respect of services.

I hope that I have demonstrated why the House should not accept the amendments. I ask the noble Lord opposite to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Trefgarne Lord Trefgarne Conservative

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, would he please answer the question I raised in relation to flights outside controlled airspace? Will he confirm that neither the Civil Aviation Authority nor NATS has any plans to raise charges in respect of flights outside controlled airspace? If he cannot give me that assurance now, will he be good enough to write to me?

Photo of Lord Brabazon of Tara Lord Brabazon of Tara Crossbench

My Lords, we have had an interesting debate on this group of amendments--somewhat different and less weighty than some of our debates earlier today.

I listened carefully to the Minister's reply. I was particularly interested in his response to my Amendment No. 73. He referred to the liability under common law. I shall read his words with great care, as I shall his response to my other amendments, particularly Amendment No. 81.

I agree that we need the power to detain aircraft. When I occupied the position that the noble Lord presently occupies, I had a monthly note on my desk about whether we should detain aircraft from a certain country, which I shall not name. The Foreign Office took one view and the Department of Transport took another. My view prevailed. We never had to detain the aircraft because they arrived with a suitcase of dollar bills on the day before they were due to be detained. So the policy worked.

Turning to my noble friends' amendments, it is useful that in this House we have two great proponents of general aviation in the shape of my noble friends Lord Goschen and Lord Trefgarne. I was horrified to hear the alleged description of general aviation as "public enemy number one". As the grandson of the holder of pilot's licence No. 1 in this country, when I presume that all aviation was general aviation, I suppose I am therefore an hereditary public enemy. The Minister might well agree with that sentiment.

I leave it to my noble friend to decide what to do with his two amendments. In the meantime, I shall read the Minister's response with care. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 70 [General duty]:

Photo of Lord Macdonald of Tradeston Lord Macdonald of Tradeston Minister of State, Department for Transport, Minister of State (Transport), Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Minister of State (Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions)

moved Amendment No. 74:

Page 45, line 29, at beginning insert--

("(A1) The CAA must exercise its air navigation functions so as to maintain a high standard of safety in the provision of air traffic services; and that duty is to have priority over the application of subsections (1) and (2).").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 75 and 76 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Macdonald of Tradeston Lord Macdonald of Tradeston Minister of State, Department for Transport, Minister of State (Transport), Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Minister of State (Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions)

moved Amendments Nos. 77 to 79:

Page 46, leave out lines 4 to 6.

Page 46, line 8, leave out from ("must") to ("as") in line 10 and insert ("apply them in the manner it thinks is reasonable having regard to them").

Page 46, line 10, at end insert--

("(2A) The CAA must exercise its air navigation functions so as to impose on providers of air traffic services the minimum restrictions which are consistent with the exercise of those functions.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 75 [Specifications: supplementary]:

[Amendment No. 80 not moved.]

Clause 83 [Detention and sale]:

[Amendment No. 81 not moved.]

Clause 87 [CAA's 1973 Act functions]:

Photo of Lord Macdonald of Tradeston Lord Macdonald of Tradeston Minister of State, Department for Transport, Minister of State (Transport), Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Minister of State (Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions)

moved Amendments Nos. 82 to 86:

Page 55, line 23, at end insert--

("(1A) The CAA must exercise its 1973 Act functions so as to maintain a high standard of safety in the provision of air traffic services; and that duty is to have priority over the application of subsections (2) to (5).").

Page 55, leave out lines 40 to 42.

Page 55, line 43, leave out from beginning to ("interests") in line 1 on page 56 and insert ("The only interests to be considered under subsection (2)(a) are").

Page 56, line 8, leave out from beginning to ("as") in line 9 and insert ("apply them in the manner it thinks is reasonable having regard to them").

Page 56, line 9, at end insert--

("(5A) The CAA must exercise its 1973 Act functions so as to impose on suppliers of air traffic services the minimum restrictions which are consistent with the exercise of those functions.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 93 [Control in time of hostilities etc.]:

[Amendment No. 87 not moved.]

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative 9:30 pm, 26th October 2000

moved Amendment No. 88:

After Clause 94, insert the following new clause--

:TITLE3:DETERMINATION OF POSITION AND TIME WITHIN THE UNITED KINGDOM

(" .--(1) The Secretary of State shall take steps to ensure that within six years of the passing of this Act a person shall, on a commercial basis and in a rural or urban environment, be able to determine reliably--

(a) his position in the United Kingdom to within 10 metres, and

(b) the time to within ten nanoseconds.

(2) Nothing in this section shall require the Secretary of State to provide the services mentioned in subsection (1).").

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative

My Lords, noble Lords will be familiar with the US military operated global positioning by satellite system--generally known as GPS. It enables one to determine one's position, height and the time with remarkable accuracy and convenience. However, for a long time the accuracy of the system was artificially degraded by the US Government for security reasons. Hand-held equipment for this purpose is ubiquitous, small, lightweight and costs between £100 and £200. There are obvious military, civil and recreational applications. The clever electronic part of it is much cheaper and before long a vast range of equipment will have GPS embedded in it as standard and at minimal extra cost.

As the electronic world moves so fast, my understanding is that the original US GPS system is quickly becoming a legacy system. Apparently there may be difficulties in uprating it while still keeping all the millions of land-based receiver systems fully compatible. The proposed European Galileo civilian system will be much more accurate and meet the requirements of my amendment. Noble Lords will have noticed that my amendment refers to an accuracy of at least 10 metres in distance and "ten nanoseconds in time". I am sure that noble Lords are curious to know how long is a nanosecond: it is slightly less time than the Minister will take to decide to resist my amendment. I believe that it is one 100-millionth of a second.

But perhaps more importantly, I am told that the reliability of the new system is guaranteed even for safety-critical applications. This opens up numerous possibilities for such things as aircraft and ship navigation, air traffic control, railway signalling systems, intelligent motor car systems and automatic positioning when using a mobile phone for summoning emergency services, to name but a few. I believe that the US has already legislated for the automatic positioning and that we may follow suit. The Galileo system will also be much more effective in heavily built-up areas. Your Lordships may be curious as to why the ability to determine the time so unbelievably accurately is important outside of scientific circles. My understanding is that it is, among other things, important for electronic commerce, especially in banking in order to combat electronic fraud.

The amendment has been tabled for debate in this part of the Bill because I never gave timing much thought and those concerned, quite properly, placed it after Clause 94. But it is of much more general interest than just aviation. It is considered within the EU Commission to be a transport matter. As the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, has ministerial responsibility for this area, I thought that he would welcome the opportunity to update your Lordships. I hope that he will tell us about the time-scale involved--perhaps in nanoseconds--the UK cost and the overall cost of the project, as well as other points, including its overall desirability for a UK perspective.

We on these Benches have concerns regarding the cost and defence implications. I appreciate that this is a developing and complex project and that the Minister may not have fully developed his own position in this respect. That is not unusual. However, I believe that noble Lords will be interested in the factors affecting the Minister's decision-making process. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

My Lords, I wish briefly to express amazement about this amendment, which is both interesting and fascinating. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said that the system was useful for railway signalling. However, my understanding is that it is fine as long as the train is not in a tunnel but that when it goes into a tunnel problems may arise. If my noble friend the Minister cannot give me an answer to that question tonight, perhaps he could write to me later on the subject.

Photo of Lord Macdonald of Tradeston Lord Macdonald of Tradeston Minister of State, Department for Transport, Minister of State (Transport), Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Minister of State (Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions)

My Lords, this amendment appears to be aimed at securing the establishment of a commercial satellite based navigation and timing system. After considering the technical and financial practicalities of putting such a system in place, it is the Government's view that this objective within the time-scale envisaged would be difficult to achieve. The noble Earl referred to the US GPS (1) system, which is already operational. It provides timing and position fixing services free of charge. However, its accuracy, availability and coverage fall short of those envisaged in this amendment. I understand that GPS is to be upgraded to provide improved resilience and accuracy for tracking and timing--perhaps even to a degree that might make it indispensable to party Whips, let alone trains in tunnels! However, I assure the House that these improvements are unlikely to be operational before 2008.

There is already a European Community initiative to develop a European satellite navigation system called Galileo on lines similar to and compatible with GPS. This has only reached the project definition stage and it is not yet clear how this system will be developed, specified and funded, nor is the basis of its availability yet determined, still less when the system could be operational. Negotiations between Europe and the United States on co- operation in this area are still on going. As the noble Earl has said, these satellite systems are crucial for many aspects of modern life. The Government therefore pay close attention to these matters. He is right to draw our attention to them.

The United Kingdom is therefore closely involved in the development of Galileo and is pressing for clarity on all these points. I shall discuss these issues with my European colleagues at the December Transport Council. I shall also press for clarity on costs. The Commission's current estimate is that Galileo will cost some 3.2 billion euros. Many think that that is a conservative estimate.

We are also playing a full part in Europe's development of the European Geo-stationary Overlay Navigation Service (EGNOS). This is planned to provide augmentation to GPS over Europe by 2004 but would need a validation phase to certify its use for safety critical applications and time to develop potential commercial applications. We are also examining options for extending the signal from the General Lighthouse Authority's marine differential GPS service to cover the whole of the British Isles for land based transport and other applications. Against that background, I invite the noble Earl to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. The timescale I suggested was purely a guess for the purposes of drafting the amendment. The key point is that the new system should offer reliability and integrity. I again thank the Minister for his reply. He will not be surprised to hear me say that I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 107 [Local transport plans]:

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

moved Amendment No. 89:

Page 65, line 18, after ("area") insert ("with a view to enhancing the comfort and choice in the means of transport, and developing policies to reduce the need to travel or to transport freight where possible").

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, I suspect that the Government may be pleased to move away from the rather controversial matter of radar control of aircraft and into the more peaceful realms of integrated transport. If the policy of integrated transport is to be effective, Part II of the Bill and its impact on the little decisions which are taken locally is fundamental to the success of that whole concept.

Great national policies do not make an impact on integrated transport. It is decisions on traffic control, parking control, improved bus services, the relationship between bus services and train services and the need to move goods, services and people that make the concept of integrated transport meaningful and beneficial to people at large.

When we discussed this part of the Bill at an earlier stage the Government were generally resistant to the idea that we should put more description onto the face of the Bill. The Government said, perfectly reasonably--and I acknowledge the reasonableness of the argument--that it was prescriptive. I am quite prepared to admit that I am a great advocate of not trying to constrain what local authorities should do in this way. That argument would have validity if we did not have the Bill. The trouble is that it seeks to guide local authorities. If one seeks to undertake that guidance then one needs a certain amount of clarity about what is being done. Amendments Nos. 89 and 90 are specifically directed at that.

Amendment No. 89 simply requires that the planning process should also have in view,

"enhancing the comfort and choice in the means of transport, and developing policies to reduce the need to travel or to transport freight where possible".

Not least of the problems that we face in modern communities is that everything is now transported. When I was considering these two amendments I thought about the transport needs of new-born babies. That may sound a ridiculous concept, but let me take, for example, disposable nappies, which are voluminous and bulky and not easy to carry. Someone who wants to buy a month's supply of disposable nappies does not want to have to carry them home on a bus. That is not an easy thing to do. I have seven grandchildren so I do know what I am speaking about. I have never had the privilege of carrying their disposable nappies, but that is neither here nor there.

We need to recognise the changes which have taken place in society--particularly its shopping habits--when we consider all these issues together. It is all very well to remember that when we were young there were neighbourhood shops; if one did not have something, one could walk a couple of 100 yards or even half a mile down the road and get it. Those days have gone. Nowadays I go shopping with great regularity because it is educational at the very least. It is good for me although it may be soul-destroying. My wife believes that it improves my character or something of that sort.

It is remarkable when one sees ordinary people shopping with a supermarket trolley filled with goods. That sort of shopping is not capable of being carried by most systems of public transport because the trolley cannot be taken away by the shopper. For the vast bulk of the population today that is the way they shop and that is modern transportation. It is not 40-tonne trucks going down the high street, vexing though they may be. It is the little things which affect little people. We need to bear that in mind.

Amendment No. 90 adds three letters, the word "all" where we consider persons living, working or travelling through a district. It might be thought that that is tautologous and unnecessary. I suggest that it is helpful. If those responsible for transport planning do not consider the needs of all, it would be very easy for them to consider the needs of particular groups and, most importantly, those groups with whom they are directly concerned: their own community.

We had some debate on this issue in a different context. One can understand that the people of Portsmouth might have a view about transport which requires to go through the heart of their city in order to arrive at the Isle of Wight. I believe that the addition of the word "all" is important. It may call for the judgment of Solomon by local authorities. I think that they are capable of taking such a broad view.

I do not apologise for bringing forward the amendments. I hope that the Government will look with favour on one or other of the amendments, or will agree to consider them. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions 9:45 pm, 26th October 2000

My Lords, I join the noble Lord in welcoming a movement across to integrated transport and applaud his eloquence in describing it. The two clauses seemed relatively straightforward to me. I had not realised that we should engage in quite such a wide sweep of modern civilisation involving disposable nappies! I shall have to consult with my noble friend Lord Macdonald on whether we need an extra section on supermarket trolleys.

However, I confine myself to the words proposed by the noble Lord and ask him to consider whether the amendments are necessary. As drafted, the Bill already contains such requirements. The amendments seek to add to the definitions of either the policies to be developed in a local transport plan or what is meant by "transport facilities and services". At present, Clause 107(1)(a) places a requirement upon a local transport authority to,

"develop policies for the promotion of and encouragement of safe, integrated, efficient and economic transport facilities and services to, from and within their area".

Clause 107(2) then defines "transport facilities and services".

The wording of the Bill is deliberately broad to ensure that local authorities and others can face up to a wide range of circumstances in their areas. The danger in trying to be more specific about what can be a facility or service is that if it is defined in a list doubt is raised if other factors are excluded.

The definition is sufficiently broad to ensure that it covers issues such as freight, pedestrians, people from outside and inside the area and those who live, work and shop in the locality. I hate shopping, but it is undoubtedly an activity which determines many of our transport patterns; therefore we should cover that. However, the broad general approach in the Bill covers that. Were we to use the term "all" in Amendment No. 90, it would place local authorities in difficulty. On one single person's slightly anomalous requirements, the authority might be deemed to have failed even if it has fulfilled very well the requirements for 99 per cent of the population. So there is a difficulty in using his three letter word in that respect.

I hope that we can keep the provision broad and give local authorities the flexibility that the noble Lord usually seeks. I hope that he will not press the amendment.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, the Minister's reply is along the lines I expected. Our difficulty is that we can Box and Cox with these words and have these charming debates. However, underlying the debate are some important principles.

I shall consider again what the Minister has said. There is no absolute answer. One answer might have been to leave it to local authorities and not have the Bill. My bet is that they would have got on with the job quite happily without any legislation if they had been told to do so--but there you go; that is the difference between us. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 90 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

moved Amendment No. 91:

Page 65, line 23, at end insert (", and

(c) those required to minimise noise and damage to the environment;").

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, this amendment is more specific. It would require local authorities to consider measures needed to minimise noise and damage to the environment. The Minister may say that the requirement already exists under other legislation.

Some aspects of transport are destructive. One has only to consider the ambient noise level in London to realise that. When the Science and Technology Committee was examining the impact of vehicle exhausts on pollution, one of the papers that we considered, although it was a somewhat unrelated and tangential source of evidence, was written by a German doctor who claimed that 50 per cent of heart attacks were caused by noise. That was a published paper that has not been quarrelled with. If the claim has any validity, it is very serious.

Minimising transport noise is an important consideration. There are also the usual considerations of minimising damage to the environment and the problems of atmospheric pollution caused by exhaust emissions.

We come back to the point about reducing the need for transport. We need to produce an environment in which more people get back on to their feet and walk. About a quarter of all journeys are less than a mile and could easily be walked. We also need to get more people back on to bicycles, because another quarter of all journeys are less than four miles and could easily be cycled. Those are environmentally friendly means of transport. Whatever the Minister may say about the impact and requirements of other legislation, the Bill would be improved by such an explicit requirement. I do not apologise for returning to that worthwhile issue.

Amendment No. 92 is slightly different. It would require each local transport authority that was also a planning authority to review its unitary development plan or structure plan at the earliest possible stage with a view to ensuring that the objectives and policies of the two plans were consistent.

Good development planning or structure planning can diminish the need for transport. I have a long experience of planning in local government. The philosophy of incremental development rather than what I would call rational strategic development planning is too widespread. It is all too easy to build a little development here and a little development there rather than to sit down and consider what is required if one wants a community where transport needs can be reduced.

I do not apologise for bringing forward this amendment. It may be implicit in other legislation and the Minister may say, "Well, they will have to do that because ...". However, here we are dealing with an integrated transport philosophy and a Bill that is specifically directed to ensuring that small decisions in local places are taken with that in mind. It would help if such matters were explicit on the face of the Bill rather than implicit as a result of other legislation which exists elsewhere. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

My Lords, again, it is difficult to disagree with the noble Lord's analysis and we welcome his commitment to green transport policies. Of course, by the definitions that we have used elsewhere, integrated transport policies include walking and cycling. The problem with inserting environmental requirements at this point is that this clause seeks to define what is meant by "transport facilities and services". His wording, with references to noise and environmental damage, does not fit easily with that. Therefore, I do not believe that the amendment is appropriate here and the wider point is covered elsewhere.

Amendment No. 92 seeks to require authorities which are both local transport authorities and planning authorities to review their development plans in order to ensure consistency between both the LTP and the unitary development plans. Of course, that is necessary and there is nothing objectionable in it. However, the issue of consistency between the two planning regimes is best dealt with in guidance or under the powers in Clause 111. I believe that, because of the different scope and timing of such matters, that can be dealt with by more detailed guidance rather than on the face of the Bill. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will not pursue these two amendments.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, I was afraid that the Minister would mention the question of guidance. I was waiting for him to do so, but we shall come to that later. An awful question arises in the Bill as to when guidance is guidance and when it is something else. None the less, I shall consider with care what the Minister said. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 92 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Swinfen Lord Swinfen Conservative

moved Amendment No. 93:

After Clause 107, insert the following new clause--

:TITLE3:LOCAL TRANSPORT PLAN: ACCESSIBLE TRANSPORT FOR DISABLED PEOPLE

(" .--(1) In addition to containing the proposals and policies required by section 107 above, the local transport plan--

(a) shall contain the Authority's proposals for the provision of transport which is accessible to disabled people;

(b) shall specify a timetable for the implementation of the proposals contained in the transport strategy by virtue of paragraph (a) above.

(2) In preparing or revising the transport strategy the Authority shall consult--

(a) the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee; and

(b) such other persons or bodies which represent the interests of disabled people as it considers appropriate to consult.").

Photo of Lord Swinfen Lord Swinfen Conservative

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 93, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 94 and 95. I had originally asked for Amendment No. 118 to be grouped with Amendment No. 94. I must admit that I do not understand why nearly all my suggested groupings have been changed. There was a logic in the groupings that I had proposed. However, I shall do my best.

The purpose of Amendment No. 93 is to require that transport plans include provisions for disabled people. The plans should be drawn up in consultation with organisations of disabled people and include an action plan for improvements to accessibility. The Greater London Authority Act 1999 contains a provision in Section 142(2) and (4) to that effect. That forms the basis of the amendment. If it is in the Greater London Authority Act, why should it not be included in this Bill which, when an Act, will cover the whole country?

The purpose of Amendment No. 94 is to ensure that in statutory consultations over their local plans, local authorities include and make the consultations accessible to a range of disabled people--the blind, deaf and those with learning difficulties--for whom ordinary printed material will not be effective.

The purpose of Amendment No. 95 is to require local authorities to have a local walking strategy as part of their local transport plan in order to ensure proper improvements to the street environment.

I welcome the placing of local transport plans on a statutory footing and see the Government's transport strategy as a considerable opportunity for local public transport to be greatly enhanced to the benefit of disabled people. Those plans have a vital role to play in providing more coherent and comprehensive solutions and creating a safer street environment for everyone, particularly those with disabilities.

Each local transport authority must develop and implement policies for the promotion and encouragement of safe, integrated, efficient and economic transport facilities and services to, from and within their area. I note that the transport facilities and services include those required to meet the needs of persons living or working in the authority's area or visiting or travelling through that area.

I am pleased that Clause 111(2) requires authorities to have regard to the needs of those with mobility problems in preparing local transport plans. However, the disability movement's experience is that many well-intentioned proposals for making transport more accessible to disabled people failed because of a lack of consultation with disabled people themselves. Therefore, that provision should be on the face of the Bill.

In Clause 108(4), the authority must publish the plan, or the plan as altered, in such a manner as it sees fit and subsection (4)(c) provides that a copy, or any part of it, must be supplied to any person on request either free of charge or at a charge representing no more than the cost of providing a copy. But I should expect that the provision of information would be in the preferred format of the individual requesting it, thus ensuring that service providers meet their obligations under the DDA 1995.

The quality of a pedestrian environment seriously affects disabled people's independent mobility and the ability to reach bus services. Organisations of disabled people consider it vital that a walking strategy is required to ensure access within the pedestrian environment. The requirement of a local walking strategy would help to ensure the implementation of the Government's strategy to encourage walking, which is designed to address the decline of walking. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Darcy de Knayth Baroness Darcy de Knayth Crossbench 10:00 pm, 26th October 2000

My Lords, I support these amendments most warmly. The noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, has given an extremely comprehensive introduction. I am not sure that there is much that I can add.

I agree with the noble Lord when he says that the provisions need to be on the face of the Bill. There has been much experience of well-meaning local authorities simply not knowing what are the needs of people with disabilities. The reference to disabled people's needs should be spelt out on the face of the Bill. It is essential that local authorities should be required to consult the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, just as the mayor of the GLA must do.

As regards Amendment No. 94, I agree that it is important that the consultations should reach those with sensory impairments and learning difficulties and, indeed, the deaf-blind, although I am not sure how one does reach them with that sort of information. Perhaps someone may enlighten me or think of something in relation to that. They are the most excluded of all people and I feel that we should try to do something for them.

I support Amendment No. 95, the local walking strategy without which, as the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, said, disabled people will not be able to get to buses. It is also useful for mothers and children with prams.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I rise briefly to support the amendments. I am sure that the Minister may be thinking of replying by saying, "Don't worry; it's all covered." However, it is 10 or 12 years since I first heard discussion on these provisions. The fact that we are now returning to the issue means that the lobby groups outside think we need to remind people who make these decisions to bear disabled people in mind.

Unless we are told to consider these problems, we often do not realise that they exist. It is also the case that when we talk about the disabled, we receive the reply, "Oh, that's somebody in a wheelchair", or "That is somebody who is blind" and the problem is not taken further. We must try to reach a situation where people look across the whole spectrum of disability and ensure that all needs are addressed. Unless we have this type of legislation, and are permanently prompted, something will be missed and we will not move forward. That is one of the battles that is constantly being fought. That is why we shall keep returning to this issue until we have something conclusive in law which means that people must take such problems seriously.

I support the noble Lord when he says that Amendment No. 118 should be included in this grouping. It follows almost directly from Amendment No. 94. We need to reach those who have difficulty with print. That includes the visually impaired and those with literacy problems. We must try to help them overcome the barrier of the printed word, which excludes people from what is available to the rest of the community. The technology is now available. We may find it irritating on buses and trains to be told when we are stopping, but for those who cannot read the signs, it is necessary.

The amendments are necessary, not because they are not implied in law but because in practice these areas are simply missed.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

My Lords, I rise to support Amendment No. 95. A walking strategy is important, both for able bodied and disabled people. I do not know whether or not the wording is right. However, I continue to find that people who produce strategies and local authorities who mend pavements or roads travel only in cars. I have been soaked on pavements recently because the drains were blocked and cars were rushing past. Even in the local authority of Oxford where the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, sometimes has an involvement, five miles of road have been beautifully resurfaced but the road gullies are about two inches higher than the surrounding road just by the bus stop. As a result everybody who is waiting for a bus is soaked by the bus.

How on earth can one get local authorities, and the politicians who run them, to realise that walking needs to be enjoyable without having to wear oilskins and gumboots, while those in cars have air conditioning and heating? If the amendment contributes to that view being accepted, I support it.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I sometimes find the groupings illogical. However, we will probably have to deal with them as they are. I, too, am anxious to make clear through the Bill that the Government want disabled people to have the kind of transport facilities which are accessible to them so that they can play a full part in the life of the community. We have made clear, both in the White Papers and guidance that we have given through the local transport plans, that that is the objective. Current guidance is clear about precisely how local authorities should address the transport needs of the elderly, mobility impaired and so on. That specific criteria in relation to disability issues has been supported by our statutory advisers, DPTAC, to which the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen referred. Like DPTAC, we acknowledge that the emphasis in the guidance may need to be changed or strengthened over time. But guidance included under Clause 111 gives us the means to do so. Of course, we shall work with DPTAC in developing the guidance in relation to the transport needs of disabled people. Clause 111(2) makes clear that authorities, when developing their policies under Clause 107 and their bus strategy, must,

"have regard to the transport needs of persons who are elderly or have mobility problems".

Amendment No. 93, therefore, is not necessary. The requirements are already placed on the authorities and developed in that guidance, and we are developing the strategy very clearly in conjunction with the main national body which represents the needs of disabled people.

Amendment No. 94 seeks to amend the requirement upon a local transport authority that when requested to supply a copy of its local transport plan it must do so in the chosen format of the person making the request. Part III of the DDA places specific duties on those providing goods, facilities or services to the public. The Act makes it unlawful for service providers to discriminate against disabled people in defined circumstances. Those circumstances include where a service provider has failed to comply with a duty to make reasonable adjustments if the effect of that failure is to make it impossible for a disabled person to read, understand or receive the service.

So the position is already covered in the DDA. Since our discussion in Committee it has become more apparent that there is uncertainty about whether an LTP is covered by the requirements of the DDA. I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, on that point. Because that position is not straightforward, we consider that the best approach will be to issue guidance to local authorities in relation to alternative formats. I want to put on the record that that is our commitment. Of course, in drawing up that guidance we will be consulting DPTAC as our statutory advisers in this area. I believe that meets the objectives of Amendment No. 94.

Amendment No. 95 relates to a walking strategy. Again, integrated transport has already been defined as including the needs of pedestrians and specifically requires authorities to include facilities and services for pedestrians. So it is already clear, without spelling out the structure of a walking strategy as the amendment seeks to do, that walking is a major dimension of our transport strategy. As the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said in relation to an earlier amendment, a move to more appropriate modes definitely includes moves to modes which involve our own two feet. We are certainly keen that walking should be part of the structure. But that is already covered without it being specified in detail as Amendment No. 96 attempts to do.

I hope that, with those remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, will feel that we are committed to the same objectives as himself and that these amendments are not necessary in order to achieve them.

Photo of Lord Swinfen Lord Swinfen Conservative

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I am not sure that I heard him speak to Amendment No. 95. Does the requirement under the Disability Discrimination Act to make physical adjustments to premises, which I appreciate does not take effect until the year 2004, affect the physical adjustments to streets? Is that included under the Disability Discrimination Act?

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

My Lords, I shall need to take advice on that matter. The answer is that it probably is not, except in so far as the streets provide facilities to access premises. It may be therefore that the noble Lord has a point. With his leave, I shall write to him on that matter.

Photo of Lord Swinfen Lord Swinfen Conservative

My Lords, I should be delighted to receive another letter from the noble Lord and I thank him for his letter of 20th October. I appreciate that he took the trouble to write to me after the Recess.

I appreciate the support which I have received from around the Chamber. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, was right in saying that in bad weather one sees many pedestrians being splashed. The local authorities, when looking after their roads, could do something about that if they took the trouble and so could their contractors. Such incidents are not unusual; sometimes they occur accidentally but on other occasions they are due to nothing more than the drivers' lack of consideration. Inside their nice cosy cocoons, they are not prepared to realise that other people are freezing outside in the slush of January and February.

I have commented on Amendment No. 95 and I wonder whether Amendment No. 94 is properly covered by the Disability Discrimination Act. The Minister said that my Amendment No. 93 was not necessary and the issues would be covered by guidance. He also stated that in his letter to me. Most of us in the Chamber have children and grandchildren and we know that we give them guidance. The trouble is that they do not follow it--neither do local authorities! The law does not state that they must do so. If they have not followed the guidance and something goes wrong, they have a deeper hole to climb out of. I believe that the measure should be on the face of the Bill and if it were not so late at night I should be inclined to ask the opinion of the House. But it is late at night and due to that--and that alone--I beg leave to withdraw the amendment. I shall not move the next two amendments but reserve my right to return to them at Third Reading.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 108 [Further provision about plans]:

[Amendment No. 94 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 95 not moved.]

Clause 109 [Bus strategies]:

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

moved Amendment No. 96:

Page 66, line 29, after ("authority") insert ("or where appropriate, Passenger Transport Authority").

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, Amendment No. 96 has slipped through the net. I had not intended to move it as it is answered elsewhere in the Bill. However, Amendment No. 97 is important. Clause 109 is worded obscurely, to say the least. It provides that an authority should provide whatever bus services and facilities it, the authority, thinks it should provide. One must ask: to what end, for what benefit and for whose purpose that is directed? All that is completely avoided on the face of the Bill.

The Bill should not be about an authority providing bus services to suit itself. What are we talking about? And so I thought that a more appropriate purpose was required. We have therefore tabled the amendment, which proposes that authorities should

"develop bus services in their area on behalf of their communities and those wishing to travel in those communities having regard to the economic and social well-being in their area".

Even that is a dreadful generalisation but a least it is a purpose above and beyond that of their own requirements as authorities. I accept that an authority acts on behalf of its community and all those other matters. However, we are framing legislation which people are to follow. If we cannot come up with something better than Clause 109 as it is presently drafted, in that regard we fail in our duty. Certainly, the Government have failed in their drafting. I hope that the Minister will consider my amendment, however unpalatable it may be. I do not believe that the Bill as drafted is a suitable piece of legislation.

Amendment No. 98 which is also part of this group simply draws attention to a very simple problem. In developing a bus strategy the authority should have regard to the need for school transport. For those authorities which are involved in education school transport is a vexed issue. When I was involved in this matter at local government level I remember impassioned debates as to whether an education authority should be required to provide transport. If somebody did not provide transport, education could not be provided because children could not get to school. These may be basic statements of the facts of life. However, in this Bill transport authorities are specifically directed to consider what is involved in bus strategies and how they can help their communities. If school transport is not part of that I do not know what is. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

My Lords, we accept that school transport is important. However, Clause 109(3) already requires an authority to have regard to any measures that it is required, or proposes, to take to meet transport requirements in carrying out its functions as a local education authority. The issue of school transport is already covered.

I understand that the noble Lord does not intend to press Amendment No. 96. Therefore, in effect he spoke to Amendment No. 97. Whatever the noble Lord may see as the inadequacies of the present clause, I do not believe that his amendment does what he suggests. From the way that the noble Lord described the objective of his amendment, I would have thought that it was not desirable. It would substitute alternative wording for much of subsection (1), with the loss of important requirements on local authorities, particularly in paragraphs (a) to (c); for example, the need to consider the standard of bus services, any additional facilities and services connected with bus services, which would mean items such as bus stops, waiting facilities, interchanges and so on. The clause was drafted to reflect the fact that local authorities would have a wider range of bus functions as a result of the Bill. The noble Lord's amendment would delete some of those functions. I am not convinced that the present drafting is all that wrong, but in my view the amendment would make it worse. I hope that the noble Lord will not pursue his amendment.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

I have an awful feeling that the Minister and I have a simple difference of opinion over this matter. I do not regard Clause 109 as presently drafted as in the least satisfactory. The clause is convoluted and unclear and does not direct the attention of a transport authority to the need to serve its community. I accept that my amendment may delete certain parts of Clause 109, but that is a matter which I can address at Third Reading. I shall study the Minister's response. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 97 and 98 not moved.]

Clause 110 [Consultation and publicity about bus strategies]:

[Amendment No. 99 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Swinfen Lord Swinfen Conservative

moved Amendment No. 100:

Page 67, line 16, at end insert (", and representatives of potential users of such services").

Photo of Lord Swinfen Lord Swinfen Conservative

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 100, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 104, 108 and 121. I have already spoken to Amendment No. 118. I asked for Amendments Nos. 103 and 104 to be grouped together because that is the logical grouping. Therefore, I shall include Amendment No. 103 in my remarks.

At the moment, not all disabled people can use buses because many are still inaccessible to them. Amendment No. 100 requires local transport authorities to consult disabled people, whether or not they are currently able to use buses. As buses become accessible they will be able to use them. Therefore, why not consult them now and make certain that they will use them? It will reduce congestion if they no longer use their cars on the public highway. Part of the Government's agenda is to reduce congestion.

Amendment No. 103 seeks to allow quality partnerships to specify details of timing and frequency of services. Amendment No. 104 requires local transport authorities to consult organisations of disabled people, whether or not they are users of local services, before introducing quality partnerships. That is why I wanted the two amendments grouped together.

Amendment No. 108 requires local transport authorities to consult disabled people and their organisations, whether or not they are current service users, before introducing quality contracts. Amendment No. 121 requires local authorities to have regard to the needs of those with sensory impairments and learning difficulties in deciding the appropriate way to provide information.

The organisations for disabled people tell me that they have little faith in local democratic processes when it comes to safeguarding the interests of those with disabilities. Disabled people are in a minority. Their needs are not generally well known to the non-disabled majority. Consequently, the demands of the non-disabled majority generally overwhelm the needs of disabled people. Therefore, I should like local transport authorities to be specifically required to consult disabled people and their organisations, whether or not they are currently local transport users. One should bear in mind that transport suitable for people with disabilities is also suitable for the elderly, those whose health is deteriorating and also parents with small children and large quantities of shopping.

Noble Lords will frequently have seen young mothers with two or three small children struggling with numerous plastic bags, baskets and packages of one form or another. It is terribly difficult for them to get on to an old-fashioned bus. It is quite a hike up. Transport which is suitable for people with disabilities would be suitable for them as well.

I turn now to Amendments Nos. 103 and 104. Timing and frequency of local transport are key factors that often stop disabled people being able to go out independently. If an authority proposes to make a quality partnership scheme, it should give notice of the proposed scheme and, inter alia, consult such,

"organisations appearing to the authority to be representative of users of such services", as it thinks fit. That includes organisations of those with disabilities. The same applies to quality contracts.

Local transport authorities, either alone or jointly, are required to determine what bus information should be made available and how to arrange with operators for its provision. If such an agreement cannot be made, the local authority will provide the information and the bus company will be charged. Before making such a decision, the authority must consult such organisations as it thinks fit, particularly those who use local services. That should include disabled people and should be in an appropriate format that all disabled people can use. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Darcy de Knayth Baroness Darcy de Knayth Crossbench 10:30 pm, 26th October 2000

I support these amendments which the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, has covered comprehensively. This business of not consulting non-users seems curious to me. If the intention is to improve the bus service and make buses suitable for more people, those who for one reason or another do not use the services at that moment should be consulted. That is particularly important in the case of disabled people because those who use the services will inevitably be non-disabled people who will not understand what disabled people need.

A manufacturer who is selling a new product or a new version of an existing product does not survey only his satisfied customers; nor does a company seeking to expand its services to new customers ever only survey its existing customers. In Surrey recently there was a survey of bus services which had the aim of increasing the number of passengers carried. The survey was sent to non-users but became the subject of ridicule throughout the area because it did not ask why non-users failed to use any of the services. All the questions were directed at users and, what is worse, at users of the existing services. As a result, those conducting the survey did not discover either the need for a new service to a neighbouring town or the need to move several bus stops and adjust schedule timings to attract more passengers.

Experience has shown that local authorities need to be told exactly who to consult. They will not make progress if they are not told clearly to consult new users. Amendment No. 121 provides that the local authority must have regard to those with visual and hearing impairments and people with learning difficulties. I hope that the Minister can give a positive response to these amendments.

Photo of Lord Shutt of Greetland Lord Shutt of Greetland Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I was inclined to think that the groupings rather suited me. But perhaps they do not after all. I rise to speak to Amendments Nos. 106 and 179. However, as I want really to speak to Amendment No. 103, and Amendment No. 103 has now been referred to, perhaps it is right to speak to it at this stage.

Several amendments stand in my name which were previously in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, who cannot be with us today. There has been a kind of trans-Pennine transfer and I have taken the amendments on. It appears to me that Amendments Nos. 106 and 179 can be left alone if we look carefully at Amendment No. 103, which has been referred to, particularly with reference to disabled people. However, there is far more to this issue than just the needs of disabled people.

Clause 113 is about quality partnership schemes and about implementing the policies in bus strategies. It is about the authority providing particular facilities and the operators of local services providing local services of a certain standard. The clause refers to facilities, which will include bus shelters and so forth, and then states:

"The standard of services which may be specified ... do not include requirements as to frequency or timing of the services".

Little could be more fundamental to a bus service than when it operates and whether the service is frequent. For example, if an environmentally friendly bus with full facilities for the disabled turns up only once a day at three o'clock in the morning, I do not believe that that would bring quality to the service. Furthermore, I do not believe, if that is what is provided for in this clause, those who will be required to produce facilities to meet a certain standard will have the confidence to invest in bus shelters, bring in traffic regulation orders and so forth. They will not implement those measures unless they know, with some confidence, that a "quality of service" will be introduced.

Frequency and timing are imperative as regards bus services. For that reason, I believe that paragraph (b) should be deleted from this subsection. Indeed, most people who need to use buses would consider that frequency and timing are rather fundamental.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

My Lords, perhaps I may also speak briefly to Amendment No. 103, which has joined this grouping. The noble Lord is right: frequency and timing are absolutely essential. I believe that we argued this point at some length at an earlier stage in our deliberations.

The Transport and Environment Committee of the Scottish Parliament discussed exactly the same issue a few days ago, on 24th October. It is interesting to note that the Scottish Transport Minister has herself proposed an amendment to the Transport Bill (Scotland) which states that:

"Any specified standard-- may include

(i) requirements which the vehicles being used to provide a service shall meet; and,

(ii) requirements as to the minimum frequency of services".

I believe that we should welcome what is being done by our colleagues in Scotland. I hope that my noble friend will agree that, on this occasion, they appear to be taking the lead on us here in Westminster. Perhaps we should use their example as a precedent and accept that setting a minimum level of frequency would be useful in this subsection.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I should like to speak briefly on this point because my name has been added to amendments in this grouping. It is essential to consult those groups that will form part of the improved client base if there is to be any chance of meeting their needs.

It has been said before, but I cannot repeat it often enough, that when it comes to considering the needs of the disabled, all too often those groups are simply left out. I hope that the Minister will be able to give the House a further assurance that sufficiently wide consultation will take place. All too frequently such groups are either not consulted at all or not consulted widely enough.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

My Lords, I can assure all noble Lords who have spoken that it is our intention that consultation carried out under this Bill should be both effective and inclusive. We want in particular to take account of the needs of those who are disabled in various ways. We want to ensure that matters such as ticketing arrangements and accessibility are developed for the convenience of all users, not only the fit and able.

The question that arises from these amendments--or at least the amendments that were originally included in the grouping--is whether further provisions are required to deal with that. Amendments Nos. 100, 104, 108 and, indeed, Amendment No. 99, refer to potential users. I accept some of the points made in relation to the need for consultation to involve those who are not already users of a service, but exactly what are organisations representing potential users? I find it difficult to envisage the kind of organisations that might be included here, other than those representing disabled people--which is one specific area and which the general requirements on consultation contained in the Bill would require local authorities to consult in any case.

I suppose there are other potential users. For example, bus users may be members of motoring organisations or motor cycling organisations and so on. I am not entirely sure whether it is intended that such organisations should have a specific role, other than the one they have in relation to the integrated transport plan in general. References to "organisations of potential users" require definition before we can take such a change seriously.

Amendments Nos. 104 and 108 relate specifically to organisations representing disabled people. The Bill already acknowledges the needs of disabled people in Clause 111. It is an overarching duty on local transport authorities to have regard to the needs of disabled people, including within quality partnerships and ticketing schemes. They must be taken into account. The consultation requirements therefore follow that and it is not necessary to make an additional reference to them here.

The procedures are made abundantly clear in the guidance--I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, will come back with his general view of the guidance--and that will specifically gear local authorities into following them in detail. The guidance will state the minimum requirements for a local transport plan, which should show a clear commitment to meeting the needs of disabled people and evidence of consultation with organisations which represent them in the decision-making process. That is all spelt out clearly in the guidance in pursuit of the general requirement to meet the needs of disabled people.

Amendment No. 103 raises the wider issue of the nature of quality partnerships. It is an issue on which we had lengthy debates at earlier stages of the Bill. It concerns the inclusion of frequencies and timings within statutory schemes. Clarity is needed. First, we need to explain the legal principle involved here. A key feature of a quality partnership is that the local authority can set quality standards which are applicable to all-comers. Any bus operator who wishes to enjoy the benefits of the scheme must meet the standards imposed.

The legal requirements would mean that if we conceded this amendment we would blur the distinction between quality partnerships and quality contracts. Quality partnerships are about giving local authorities new powers, following consultation, to set these overall standards. Quality contracts concern giving local authorities the powers to prescribe the details of bus services in a given area, which includes a detailed timetable of frequencies and services. If we were to rewrite frequencies and services into the quality partnership part of the Bill we would blur that distinction.

It is, of course, always open for local authorities voluntarily to reach agreements with operators which specify frequencies and services, but to give that statutory backing without moving into the area of quality contracts would blur the distinction.

My noble friend Lord Berkeley referred to the position in Scotland. It may be that our colleagues in Scotland see these matters slightly differently. That is a matter for the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive. We wish to maintain a clear distinction between what are basically voluntary arrangements with bus operators and what is an imposition by local authorities where other methods have failed under the quality contract provisions. That kind of detailed intervention, with statutory backing, is appropriate in the quality contract scheme but not in the quality partnership area.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, is he saying that quality partnerships in Scotland are the same as quality contracts in England? That will be very confusing. If quality partnerships in Scotland--given the different Parliament, the different legal system and so on--require prescription of the minimum requirement for services, it is a bit odd to have the same title for something which is different here.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions 10:45 pm, 26th October 2000

My Lords, one of the consequences of devolution is that bits of policy operate differently in different parts of the United Kingdom. I personally regard that as relatively healthy. It may be that the Scots have a better prescription than we do; it may be that ours is better than theirs. Time will tell. All I am saying is that the UK Government, in legislating for the English provisions on this matter, want to maintain a clear distinction so far as statutory requirements are concerned between the voluntary partnerships and the quality contracts.

On a voluntary basis, anything can be included on an agreed basis between the operator and the local authority. That includes frequency and timing. But to give statutory backing takes us into a different field. We want to maintain that distinction, whatever the Parliament in Edinburgh wants to do.

Photo of Lord Swinfen Lord Swinfen Conservative

My Lords, I think the Minister should talk to his noble friend Lord Sainsbury whose firm has for generations attracted potential new customers to its stores. I am sure that he would receive a few clues on how public transport companies could encourage potential users and on how to advertise what is on offer.

The proposal that there should be a definition of potential users is interesting. However, I should have thought that anyone who is not a regular user of public transport is, ipso facto, a potential user. I should not have thought that there was a great deal of difficulty on that point.

I shall read carefully the Minister's response to Amendment No. 103 on the difference between quality partnerships and quality contracts. Like his noble friend Lord Berkeley, I am rather puzzled by his reply. To be honest, I do not think that it holds water.

While voluntary quality partnerships can be entered into, as I understand it no bus company would do so--because it would not be protected from being sued for anti-competitive practice. I understand that a bus company would potentially be abusing a dominant position if other bus companies did not have access to certain facilities which it had because of the voluntary quality partnership scheme. It would also be the bus company and not the local authority that would be sued.

As I said, I shall consider what the Minister has said on Amendment No. 103, which we have not actually come to. Technically speaking, it is not in this grouping. Does the noble Lord wish to intervene?

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

My Lords, I thought that the noble Lord made it clear that he wanted to transfer Amendment No. 103 into this grouping and indeed spoke to it at some length. I therefore replied at some length.

Photo of Lord Swinfen Lord Swinfen Conservative

My Lords, it was the noble Lord's noble friend who, I thought, was disagreeing with me. I am quite happy to have spoken to the amendment. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 100.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 111 [Plans and strategies: supplementary]:

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

moved Amendment No. 101:

Page 67, line 30, leave out subsection (1).

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, Clause 111 is important. It states that,

"In carrying out their functions under sections 107 to 110, a local transport authority must have regard to any guidance concerning ... the content of any local transport plans (and bus strategies)", and so on. I do not apologise to the House for returning to this matter--not so much for the content of the clause, but for what I see as the implications for our legislative process of what we are doing. I have in mind the document on guidance. I do not intend to talk about it in any particular detail. It was issued in March this year and is a revision of the guidance issued about nine months earlier.

In the olden days, guidance used to be issued under the authority of existing legislation. I believe that it was customary to say what that authority was, but I have found no reference to that in this guidance. I have no doubt that the Minister will take care of my ignorance in his response and tell me exactly how the guidance came into being. My concern is that what we are doing here is turning this document into legislation. I say that because a local authority "must have regard" to it. Of course, that is a common form of words and guidance is commonly used; indeed, it is an increasing trend. However, in this instance, we are changing the funding system for local authorities in relation to highways programming. We are changing it from transport policies and programmes that are produced annually to local transport plans that are quinquennial, with what I would call "rolling reviews".

When you go into the detail, you actually find that this is a bidding document; in other words, the content and quality of the document regarding the local transport plan will be used by the Government to assess whether or not this or that authority receives the funding for which it is applying. I then turn back in the document to Annex D and the 27 paragraphs that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, reminded me about in Committee, because I had not counted them properly. Those paragraphs are directed at defining the contents for the criteria for assessing the quality of local transport plans.

However, the situation is worse than that because there are 133 defined characteristics of a "good local transport plan". If you are bidding for funding from the Government, would you dare put in a plan that is not a good one? What are we about here? Indeed, the Minister has criticised me for trying to get a slightly greater degree of definition here and there on the face of this Bill. This is an amazing situation. But that is as may be.

We have this document being given the force of statute by Clause 111. I do not raise that issue in order to criticise; I raise it because the amendment that I have moved seeks to remove subsection (1) of Clause 111, not so much because I think that I will have any success with it but because I believe that this House--and, indeed, the whole parliamentary process--now needs to consider quite carefully what it is about when it allows this sort of procedure to continue. I do not believe that we can stop it, but I do believe that we need to be very wide awake as to what it is that we are agreeing to and how far we are eroding the system of parliamentary control with which we expect to run our country. I do not apologise for raising that matter in the House although I do not expect that the Minister will be able to give me a satisfactory answer.

Amendment No. 102 is grouped with Amendment No. 101. Here I am simply concerned with clarity and trying to simplify the wording of the Bill. I am sure that the Minister is relieved at that. It seems to me that subsection (2) of Clause 111 is somewhat obscurely worded. It refers to "policies under section 107(1)" in relation to a bus strategy. However, bus strategies are defined under Clause 109. It seems to me that subsection (2) needs to concentrate on the transport needs of elderly persons or those with mobility problems. Amendment No. 102 seeks to remove the extraneous words "under section 107(1)". I consider that would render the subsection much clearer. I believe that that was a worthwhile effort even though the Minister has on other occasions resisted my attempts to improve and simplify the wording of Bills. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

My Lords, As regards Amendment No. 102, I am always grateful to the noble Lord for attempting to edit the Bill. His amendment would certainly simplify it in seeking to delete three words but I am not entirely sure that it would clarify it. I understood the noble Lord's explanation of what he is trying to do but I am not sure that the amendment achieves that. However, we shall, as ever, consider the amendment but I do not think that it achieves what the noble Lord thinks it does.

As regards Amendment No. 101, I believe that the noble Lord knows perfectly well that the guidance he mentioned in relation to local transport plans is currently non-statutory. However, future versions of it will become the guidance mentioned in Clause 111. Amendment No. 101 would delete any requirement to have regard to that. I understand the noble Lord's desire to have near complete autonomy for local authorities but that measure goes a little far.

As regards transport objectives, any government must provide a comprehensive and consistent framework while avoiding being unreasonably restrictive in guidance. If we did not issue any guidance at all, we would have to put more measures on the face of the Bill which would reduce the flexibility that the noble Lord seeks. That is why we provide guidance. The requirement in subsection (1) of Clause 111 to have regard to guidance means that local authorities cannot disregard the guidance but does not require the guidance to be followed slavishly, as the noble Lord implied. There is plenty of scope for authorities to develop their own policies having regard to the guidance. The purpose of guidance is to provide a relatively light touch. The alternative of putting everything on the face of the Bill would make it inordinately longer, or even more inordinately long--as I am sure the noble Lord would say. I do not think that that would be appropriate. It certainly would not give local authorities the flexibility they need. I hope that the noble Lord will not press the amendment.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, the Minister has given me the reply that I expected. He will not be disappointed in that, even though he knows that I must be. I am not disappointed in what he said in relation to the purposes of the Bill. I was not criticising that. The point I raised concerned the wider issue in relation to the way in which we approach legislation, guidance and control.

In that regard the Minister avoided the issue that I attempted to raise. Therefore, I infer that I may not have raised it with sufficient clarity. It may be that it is an issue which needs consideration at a different time and in a different place. Would the Minister consider what I have said in relation to Amendment No. 102? I ask no more than that. He might find it helpful if he does. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 102 not moved.]

Clause 113 [Quality partnership schemes]:

[Amendment No. 103 not moved.]

Clause 114 [Notice and consultation requirements]:

[Amendment No. 104 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Burlison Lord Burlison Labour

My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.

Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at one minute past eleven o'clock.