Local Transport Bill [HL]

– in the House of Lords at 3:27 pm on 16th January 2008.

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Report received.

Clause 3 [The senior traffic commissioner]:

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip 3:36 pm, 16th January 2008

moved Amendment No. 1:

Clause 3, page 5, line 26, at end insert—

"( ) such organisations representative of the interests of local government, of London government, of Integrated Transport Authorities and of Passenger Transport Executives as the senior traffic commissioner thinks fit;"

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, Clause 3 inserts new Section 4C into the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981, allowing the new statutory senior traffic commissioner, as would be appointed under new Section 4A of that Act, to issue directions and general guidance to the other traffic commissioners on the exercise of their functions.

New Section 4C(4) of the 1981 Act imposes a statutory obligation on the senior traffic commissioner to consult a range of bodies—including the Secretary of State, Scottish and Welsh Ministers—before issuing directions and guidance under new Section 4C(1). New Section 4C(4)(e) obliges the senior traffic commissioner to consult such organisations representative of the passenger vehicles and haulage operators as he thinks fit. This provides some discretion as to which particular organisations should be consulted on a case-by-case basis.

During Grand Committee debate on 6 December, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, tabled an amendment to include representatives of local transport authorities among the named bodies that the senior traffic commissioner must consult as he sees fit under new Section 4C(4)(e). The Government agreed to consider this amendment.

While we believe that consulting such bodies is already possible under the existing wording at the very end of subsection (4), we accept there may be value to including representatives of local transport authorities among the list of named bodies. In particular, it would provide further useful clarification on the general purpose of consultation under this section and require the senior traffic commissioner to consider on a case-by-case basis which particular organisations it might be appropriate to consult. However, in tabling this amendment, we believe it is important that we should not suggest consultation with a particular level of local government. The senior traffic commissioner will continue to exercise discretion in individual cases.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for his helpful amendment. It has usefully made us think again about this matter, and I hope it deals satisfactorily with the points that he and other noble Lords raised in Committee. For those reasons, I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Transport

My Lords, for once, I welcome a government amendment. While the Minister did not prescribe what level of local government is to be consulted, one assumes that the traffic commissioners would consult the relevant level. This is a welcome addition to the consultation processes in the Bill.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Labour

My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend for this amendment and for giving consideration to the point raised in an amendment I moved in Committee. The amendment he has tabled addresses the issue.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 9 [Local transport plans]:

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative

moved Amendment No. 2:

Clause 9, page 11, line 4, at end insert—

"( ) The plan must include details of actions that the local transport authority intend to take regarding the erection and display of mobile roadside advertisements in their area."

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative

My Lords, during the passage of the Road Safety Bill, noble Lords raised the issue of rural roadside adverts. These are positioned alongside motorways, trunk roads and roads on the primary network. They are aimed at motorists driving at high speed; we are not talking about urban roads with low speed limits and a large volume of adverts aimed at slow-moving or stationary motorists.

The road safety risk caused by completely unnecessary distractions is obvious to anyone interested in road safety. The first noble Lord to raise this issue was, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, and I am pleased to see him in his place. Since we last debated this issue there has been a large and obvious increase in the number, the size and the sophistication of these adverts. There is also evidence of larger commercial organisations coming into the market. That is inevitable, given the clearly ineffective enforcement action by central government. In other words, it is not being effective at getting the local authorities to deal with the problem. It would be highly undesirable for farmers to get used to this income stream, because it will have to be turned off at some point—better sooner rather than later.

These adverts are regulated by the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations (SI 2007/783). I hope the Minister can reassure the House that not only are the regulations comprehensive and detailed—they are, but I could not understand them when I read them—but also that they provide local authorities with all the powers that they need. I hope we do not need more regulations, with all their attendant pitfalls. For instance, we would not want to arrive at the next general election to find that we had accidentally banned all political roadside adverts, which are not a problem because they are erected for short periods, they only set the mood music, they do not require the recording of any details by drivers and of course they are not for commercial purposes.

Central government needs to ensure that the current legislation is used, and to informally tell the advertising industry to knock it off. If the Government do not succeed in reducing the number and the size of these adverts, it is almost inevitable that a very serious accident will occur when one driver is distracted and drives at speed into a stationary object or another vehicle. If the moving vehicle is a truck and the stationary vehicle is a school minibus, I dread to think what the coroner's report would say and I would certainly not want to be the Minister explaining to Parliament why nothing had been done to avoid such a clear and present danger.

Is the Minister satisfied that the regulations, which were laid only last year, are effective? If he is, why do we still have the problem? What is he doing about it—or does he believe that the problem is not one for central government? I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport 3:45 pm, 16th January 2008

My Lords, I rise very briefly to support what has been said by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. These advertisements are growing in number, and on trunk roads they are positioned around roundabouts. They are a distraction and enforcement action certainly needs to be taken, whether by central government or local government. I am concerned that many local councils have cut back on their enforcement staff. In the district council where I live, the local authority itself has erected advertisements at roundabouts, which is a disgraceful flouting of the law and one that I regret very much.

Photo of Lord Harrison Lord Harrison Labour

My Lords, I rise to support this amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. He kindly reminded the House that we have previously contested the issue within this Chamber. I had the pleasure of leading a debate specifically on the flourishing of motorway advertisements. I wish to repeat briefly some of those arguments. First, I believe that motorway adverts are unsightly; indeed, the CPRE has waged a recent campaign to that effect. Secondly, they almost undoubtedly break planning law. Thirdly, and this is the point that was highlighted by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, there is increasing evidence that, one day, we could be confronted by an accident wholly attributable to someone trying to write down a telephone number, or take other information, from one of these motorway adverts.

If you are a passenger in a car, just look at some of these adverts. They are grossly and poorly designed to give information to anyone passing them at speed. For a driver, they are a distraction too far. Since our debates on the issue in this House, Dr Mark Young and Janina Mahfoud from the Ergonomics Research Group of the School of Engineering and Design at Brunel University in March 2007 completed a study entitled Driven to Distraction: The Effects of Roadside Advertising on Driver Attention. The report found that roadside advertising had a detrimental effect on drivers' performance and attention, making them more likely to crash. I encourage my noble friend to ask the civil servants to read that, with a view to stoking up the action that the Government have already taken on this issue—and I think they are with us on this issue—to ensure that we can eliminate this possibility before we suddenly find it returning to Parliament as a matter of urgency.

At the moment, the duty lies upon local councils to enforce the law. I suggest, as I have in the past, that most local councils have no interest whatever in monitoring infringement of the law, as it stands, on a motorway that passes through their county or district. My own suggestion, for what it is worth, is that the Highways Agency, whose agents pass up and down the motorways every day, might more properly be given the duty of observing and pursuing those who are breaking the law.

So I support the amendment, but hope that the Government will think again about what more can be done. I acknowledge what has been done so far, but it would be a terrible day if we had to take urgent action in this House because of this increased diversion for those trying to drive safely on the motorways.

Photo of Lord Snape Lord Snape Labour

My Lords, I have listened with interest to the debate so far on the amendment. I am fascinated that the Conservative Party, which traditionally bemoans the fact that there is too much legislation, regularly proposes amendments that would bring more legislation before your Lordships' House and the other place.

I am a bit concerned. My questions are for the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, about the exemptions he sees for political parties. He does not apparently feel that motorists, who, I agree, could well be distracted by some of these advertisements, as indicated by my noble friend, should be exempt, but, for some reason, under his proposals political parties will be. How many political advertisements has he seen in farmers' fields for parties other than his own? I hate to inject a political note into your Lordships' debate on the amendment, but when many farmers, particularly the bigger ones, seem to delight in putting Conservative posters in their field, why is that not distracting? He said, "Well, you do not have to write down the telephone number". That is understandable for the advertisements to which I have referred.

However, there may well be an instance where a picture of the Leader of the Opposition perhaps, who I suppose is a reasonably handsome fellow—certainly the Conservative Party believes that to be the case—may distract a female motorist. She may look and say, "Isn't he nice looking?", just when the whole lane of the motorway in front of her stops dead. Is not that an ever-present danger, or does the noble Earl feel that perhaps the Leader of his party is not as handsome as some of the propaganda alleges?

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I bring us back to the subject at hand, but I must say that I was very grateful to my noble friend Lord Snape for that intervention. I used to be very distracted by Tory Party posters that appeared in farmers' fields around my village. In fact I found them quite offensive, so I suppose they could have driven me to distraction and off the road—but that was another time.

Going back to the amendment, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for his explanation. When I first looked at it I thought that this was a bit out of scope. The Bill is about local transportation; the amendment is, in essence, about roadside advertising, and it seems a little out of place. But the debate is not entirely out of place as these are important issues and relate to the sensible movement of people around communities—and one should always take issues of road safety seriously.

Not all advertising is a danger to road traffic, but it is important that we ensure that drivers are able to concentrate properly on what they should be doing—driving in a safe and legal fashion on our road, and particularly on our motorways.

The Government agree that very large roadside advertising can be excessively and dangerously distracting to drivers. On the other hand, small advertisements or those some distance away from the road obviously cannot be read at speed. The Department for Transport and the Highways Agency are already conducting research to determine where the balance lies in terms of road safety, and they are very aware of the research of Young and Mahfoud at Brunel University, to which my noble friend Lord Harrison referred, which is obviously very important.

We also know that unlawful advertisements can appear suddenly and without warning and then disappear just as quickly, but there are increasingly fewer of them. A publicity campaign in the summer of 2005 made it clear that placing advertisements on trailers in fields does not avoid planning law and that planning authorities can promptly enforce this law and deter further offences.

Furthermore, the Department for Communities and Local Government recently published for local planning authorities its new advice on advertising, which allows for refusal of planning permission on grounds of road safety, so it explicitly deals with the issue. It also contains specific advice on handling unlawful advertisements and includes new powers to charge advertisers for the cost of removal on top of any fines. A form of cost recovery is built in, so I do not necessarily accept the argument that it is not in the local authority's interest to enforce because it can recover the cost of enforcement, which is important.

I agree that the signs are unsightly and I can see the potential dangers to which they give rise. I congratulate noble Lords who have highlighted the issue. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said that this was a matter of central government enforcement. He then went on to tell us that he did not believe that local authorities would or did enforce it. That is not the case. We are there to make sure that local government does its job. Not only are the Government aware of the issue of mobile roadside advertisements but we have taken measures to combat the problem. We believe that it is a matter for local enforcement. I take the point that there needs to be an interface between the Highways Authority and enforcement. The Highways Authority is aware of that responsibility. I will undertake to go back to the department and remind it of the need to impress on the Highways Agency the value of joint working with local authorities on the matter.

We do not believe that specifying in the Bill the need for local transport authority action would be practical or appropriate. After all, the local transport authority, say a county council, is in many cases not responsible for planning, which lies with the district councils in that county. Even for unitary authorities, which have responsibility both for transport and planning, there are many road safety and other transport issues that require action from local transport authorities. These will be addressed in future guidance on local transport plans, rather than in legislation—the issue of mobile roadside advertisements will therefore be considered for inclusion in such guidance.

The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, is right to seek assurance that action is taken against dangerous mobile roadside advertisements. I assure him that the Government are aware of this issue and have been taking the appropriate measures. Valuable debates and points have been made in your Lordships' House. I know that colleagues in the DCLG and the ODPM have dealt with the matters as well. We should ensure that the Local Government Association works with its district council authority members to ensure that their powers are being properly exercised and that enforcement action is taken where appropriate, because I see the potential for a menace to road safety.

I am grateful to the noble Earl for raising the issue, which has given rise to a useful short debate. It reminds us all of the importance of enforcement and of road safety issues, but it would not be appropriate to put it as a power for local transport authorities when the power is already there at a local authority level to take the sort of action that we need to see taken in cases of abuse.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate, particularly the noble Lords, Lord Harrison and Lord Bradshaw. The noble Lords, Lord Harrison and mentioned the Highways Agency. I understand that the Highways Agency contacts local authorities to have the adverts moved, but only in the worst cases and only on Highways Agency roads, not local authority roads. The noble Lord, Lord Snape, amused us by picking up on the political point, but my point is that we must avoid the need to legislate in haste; a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Harrison. We need to use the legislation that we already have—again that returns to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Snape, because I was careful not to suggest a shedload of new regulation. We need to use effectively what we have.

The Minister suggested that my amendment was out of place. I will raise the issue at every opportunity I can within the rules. I will do that while the problem is apparent and growing worse, which it is.

I will read carefully what the Minister said, but while the problem is getting worse I will return to it during the passage of future Bills when I see a suitable opportunity. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Transport 4:00 pm, 16th January 2008

moved Amendment No. 2A:

Clause 9, page 11, line 16, at end insert—

"(c) plans and strategies published by any relevant rail infrastructure manager,"

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Transport

My Lords, in moving the amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 2B. We have decided to come back with this amendment to emphasise our view that transport should be integrated if it is to be effective. These amendments seek to make it a requirement for a local authority to consult rail plans and strategies when producing their local transport plans. It is intriguing that at some points the Bill provides a near-exhaustive list of consultation requirements, yet sometimes it is argued that this matter would better be left for guidance. I cannot see why a requirement to consult organisations such as Network Rail should be opposed. Having this requirement in the Bill would be consistent with the tone of this clause. Due consideration needs to be given to rail capacity to ensure that authorities are well informed when devising their policies and plans and know that this is a clear expectation in the route to integrated transport.

I mentioned previously that route utilisation strategies are central to the forward planning activity of the rail industry. They set out the current capacity, passenger and freight demand, operational performance and cost predictions. If transport is to be effectively considered as a whole, there is surely an argument to have a sound link between rail policies and plans produced by local transport authorities. During Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, implied that the Government did not want to take the decision to add a long list of consultation requirements in the Bill for fear that they would become increasingly out of date. I cannot see how that argument holds for something like rail, even though the names may change, which seems fairly permanent. We need a firm relationship between road and rail. Accepting the amendment would also provide some encouragement that the Government took the same positive view of integrated transport. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

My Lords, I rise briefly to support the amendment. As the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, said, we discussed this in Committee and, like him, I was surprised that the amendment was rejected by the Government. "Integrated transport" may not be the wording that we use these days, but clearly any planning that involves road and rail should be done together and the amendment would fit in well. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, mentioned the railways route utilisation strategies, the forecasts that go with them and the Government's plan and high-level output statements for the railways. They are totally dependent on where passengers and, to some extent, freight go at either end of a journey. If the rail services are to be cut back or increased, local and regional transport plans should reflect that, and vice versa. This is before we start looking at the possible changes to transport demand when the price of oil rockets, but I shall not go into that now. I hope that my noble friend will consider this issue seriously, because this is such a simple group of amendments that would emphasise the importance of considering land-based transport in the round.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport

I shall wait to hear what the Minister has to say, because he will probably tell us that the guidance will mean that such consultation will happen. In any case, an integrated transport authority would not be doing its job if it failed to consult the rail manager.

More important is the basis on which alternative road and rail schemes are considered. There is a tremendous misbalance between the benefits accruing to railway schemes and those accruing to roads. That has its roots in the methodology that the department use to appraise various schemes. A very pessimistic view is taken of the benefits of rail schemes and a very optimistic view of those applying to road schemes.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, for bringing back what one might term a repeat amendment. I certainly agree that consultation on local transport plans with interested and affected parties, and consideration of their plans and strategies, is vital in securing transport policies and projects that best service local people. We are grateful to Network Rail, the Campaign for Better Transport, and others, for their proposals for railways and local transport plans; we work closely with them at all times. I also know from our discussions on this in Committee that the noble Lord is keen to see better integration between road and rail, as are the Government. As he acknowledged then, the integration of local railways with other local transportation services already forms a key component of many plans. The Government seek to continue to encourage and deepen that understanding and integrated way of working. I believe that the term integration is appropriate—I do not entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, when he seems to assume that integration is not something we favour; we clearly do.

It is right that organisations such as Network Rail should be consulted on local transport plans—we think that is essential. Indeed, we think such groups are already likely to be covered in any event by the duty placed on local transport authorities to consult,

"such other persons as the authority considers appropriate".

I ought to reiterate the position that my noble friend Lady Crawley set out in Committee. The Government still consider that it is more appropriate for local authorities to decide which individual organisations to consult, taking account of local circumstances. Similarly, local transport authorities must take into account a wide range of plans and strategies when developing and implementing their local transport plans—including those of Network Rail, but also other relevant local, regional and national strategies. It is for local transport authorities to decide which of these are most relevant. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, is often seen to berate the Government—quite rightly, perhaps—for not being sufficiently localist in their approach to things and not leaving sufficient scope for local determination. This is one of those occasions where it is right that the local transport plans should be locally determined. Further, the question of who works within that and who is consulted should be locally determined because the local authorities are closer to those circumstances and it is right that they should make that decision.

To aid them—and this picks up on a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw—the Government intend to publish guidance that would include, among other things, suggestions as to the kinds of bodies that it would be appropriate for a local authority to consult, and the kinds of plans and strategies that should be considered within that. It is preferable to use this approach to the inclusion of, say, Network Rail, rather than developing a long list in the Bill. The guidance has greater flexibility; over time it could become somewhat outdated and outmoded, so we think that this is a more sensible way of dealing with it.

The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, is right to say that Network Rail is an essential consultee; we do not disagree with that—we see great value in it. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, made a different point about evaluating road versus rail schemes. I understand his point, which he has made on a number of occasions, and I do not entirely disagree with it, but it is at an angle somewhat to this debate, which is essentially about methods of consultation and where the balance should lie in legislating, or providing guidance, as to who should be consulted on particular aspects of local transportation planning.

The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, makes a good point, but we think that that is best dealt with in guidance rather than in the Bill, because that provides greater flexibility and more local control.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Transport

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his answer. I said in my introduction that there are a lot of long lists of consultees in other parts of the Bill and I believe that it would have added to the Bill if we had put Network Rail in this part. As he said, I believe in localism and in local people taking decisions. However, this is not a political point. These days, all political parties want to see integrated transport and the best use made of rail and road, and it is important to show that in the legislation to indicate that we really mean business in trying for integrated transport systems. Therefore, I am rather disappointed that the Minister did not accept the offer to add to our enthusiasm for integrated transport by putting Network Rail into the Bill. However, I see the point that he is making and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 2B not moved.]

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Transport

moved Amendment No. 2C:

Clause 9, page 11, line 34, at end insert—

"(2C) (a) In preparing their local transport plan, the authority may create a bus partnership scheme.

(b) A bus partnership scheme shall agree guidelines and seek consensus on bus routes, frequencies, fares and other matters that shall be agreed, for the period of the local transport plan.(c) In constructing a bus partnership scheme, the authority shall consult all operators of registered services in the specified area.(d) In exercising their statutory functions under the Town and Country Planning Acts, the local planning authority shall have regard to the bus partnership scheme and guidance contained therein."

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Transport

My Lords, we have retabled this amendment as we feel that the Minister's response to it in Committee was somewhat unsatisfactory. The amendment would allow and encourage local authorities to produce a bus partnership scheme as part of their local transport plan if they felt that it would be of benefit. The authorities would engage in dialogue and seek consensus on matters relating to bus transport.

On the previous occasion, the Minister implied that nothing would be gained from the amendment, as he felt that provision was already contained in the Bill for much of what we mentioned. My opinion remains that the partnership approach should be encouraged as much as possible to allow authorities fully to realise the benefits of the quality partnership scheme over quality contracts.

We have already had much discussion on the nature and appropriateness of admissible objections to setting fares, frequencies and timings. It is my view that much of this lengthy process could be avoided through effective discussion in the period prior to decision-making. In that way, a true partnership approach would be fostered.

One of the Minister's objections to the amendment was that local transport plans could be prepared at stages that did not coincide with the introduction of a quality partnership. Of course, we would not seek to make the production of a bus partnership scheme obligatory. The requirement to produce a local transport plan at intervals has already been corrected in the Bill, with flexibility introduced as a result, and we welcome that. Therefore, I argue that his objection is unfounded.

The Bill contains a range of tools that local authorities can choose according to their circumstances, and I feel that getting operators around a table to discuss bus needs could prove a useful exercise in most cases. Furthermore, I do not believe that accepting the amendment would mean that freight and road safety partnerships would necessarily have to be produced, as the Minister contended last time. There is a strong case for fostering a partnership approach from the outset between authorities and bus operators, and I feel that the amendment would encourage that. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his exposition of the purpose of the amendment. As he highlighted, it was also tabled in Grand Committee. The Bill already includes, at Clauses 12 to 17, provisions for quality bus partnership schemes. The Transport Act 2000 and the amendments made by the Bill include provision requiring consultation on these quality partnership schemes. Their coverage already includes routes, frequencies and fares. Therefore, some of what the amendment proposes has already been provided for elsewhere.

Local planning authorities already have an administrative duty to have regard to all such schemes where they are relevant to their functions. A specific duty for local planning authorities to have regard to bus partnership schemes would create a precedent for having a similar express duty related to many other issues. Other transport schemes which might carry similar weight with local planning authorities include freight quality and road safety partnerships. There will also be similar examples in other sectors.

The quality bus partnership schemes created under the Transport Act 2000 and Clauses 12 to 17 of the Bill can be made when local transport plans are being prepared or at any other stage in their lifecycle. However, bus partnership schemes, as proposed in the amendment, would be restricted to being created merely during the preparation of a local transport plan. I cannot see the benefit of that.

I argue that the approach that we propose elsewhere in the Bill will enable much of what is in the amendment to be achieved. Secondly, the proposal could simply clutter up the process and create unnecessary confusion. I do not see a great benefit in it. The Bill will also provide far more flexibility about when it can be achieved. I hope the noble Lord will find some reassurance in those words. I do not see the need for this and I worry that it could offer itself as a weaker distraction to the overall thrust of the legislation. I am sure that is not what the noble Lord is seeking. For those reasons I cannot accept the amendment.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Transport

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that answer. The amendment is tabled to try and make quality partnerships work better. Perhaps we have not always got the wording right but we prefer quality partnerships over quality contracts. The intention behind this amendment was to try and make them more effective. As the Minister and everyone else knows, I am involved every single day of my life in local government and we sit round the table trying to sort things out and get some agreement with outside partners more often now than ever before. This amendment was intended to try and make things work rather better with bus operators. I do not think the Minister has quite acknowledged that. It is time we had a bit of exercise so I would like to test the feeling of the House on this issue.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2C) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 100; Not-Contents, 171.

Division number 1 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Local Transport Bill [HL]

Aye: 98 Members of the House of Lords

No: 169 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip 4:27 pm, 16th January 2008

moved Amendment No. 3:

After Clause 10, insert the following new Clause—

"Duty to have regard to transport needs of disabled persons

(1) Section 112 of the TA 2000 (plans and strategies: supplementary) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (2) (duty to have regard to needs of certain persons in developing transport policies)—

(a) after "developing" insert "and implementing";(b) after "needs of" insert "disabled persons (within the meaning of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) and of"."

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, Section 112 of the Transport Act 2000 places a duty on local transport authorities, when developing their local transport policies, to have regard to the needs of persons who are elderly or who have mobility problems. Amendment No. 3 would extend this duty to apply it to disabled persons as defined in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. In previous debates, the noble Lord, Lord Low of Dalston, called on the Government to consider whether anything more could be done to disability-proof this legislation. The amendment seeks to achieve with some precision that objective by extending the general duty set out in the 2000 Act to all disabled persons within the meaning of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. It would apply the duty to the implementation as well as the development of local transport policies, thus bringing the two elements, of which the implementation side is the most important, together.

I hope that this captures the spirit of what the noble Lord, Lord Low, was seeking when we debated this in Grand Committee, and I certainly pay tribute to him for reminding us of the importance of adopting this step so that we can put beyond doubt that there is this vital obligation. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 as amended in 2005 already places a duty on local authorities in the carrying out of functions, but we believe that there are benefits in extending the specific duty in relation to the development of local transport policies so as to ensure that local authorities take into account the needs of all disabled persons when developing and implementing those policies.

We ought to acknowledge the valuable work done by local authorities with transport undertakers and the progress that has undoubtedly been made in recent years. However, it is only by bringing into play legislation that works in the way in which this is intended to work that such great strides have been made. We think that this provision will underline the value of disability-proofing, and for those reasons I am delighted to bring forward our amendment. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Low of Dalston Lord Low of Dalston Crossbench 4:30 pm, 16th January 2008

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for having taken on board so fully the point that I made in Committee. I was indeed concerned that the Government should take some steps to disability-proof the Bill, as I put it. I am grateful for the extent to which the Minister took me at my word by moving this amendment.

In Committee, I was concerned that operators would be able to use admissible objections to veto requirements in quality partnership schemes covering frequency, timing and maximum fares. The Minister said that he had not anticipated that the admissible objections process would be used or abused in that way, but he undertook to look at the matter further. The result of those considerations is the amendment that he has just put before us, which is indeed very welcome.

The Minister may see why it was relevant to reiterate that point on admissible objections, which he might think was more properly the subject of our next debate, when I ask this question: does Amendment No. 3 mean that a local authority, when it is modifying a quality partnership scheme in response to an admissible objection, will have to have regard to the needs of disabled persons? If the Minister could reassure us on that point, I feel sure that it will facilitate considerably our discussion of the next amendment.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I am sure that that is the case, and I am happy to give that reassurance to the noble Lord. It would be most appropriate that a local authority took those things into consideration, because the value of this is all in the development of policy. It is important to give proper consideration to people with a whole range of disabilities at the policy development stage.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 12 [Quality partnership schemes]:

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Labour

moved Amendment No. 4:

Clause 12, page 14, leave out lines 9 to 13

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Labour

My Lords, the purpose of this amendment and its group is to remove the operator veto from statutory quality partnerships. I will refer later to a particular comment that was made in Committee.

Under a statutory quality partnership arrangement, local transport authorities put in place improved infrastructure such as bus priority measures. Operators that wish to use that improved infrastructure must meet specified vehicle quality standards. The Bill addresses some weaknesses in the existing legislation, and allows a statutory quality partnership to specify frequencies, timings and maximum fares. However, the Bill also gives relevant operators a potential veto on these provisions where they have admissible objections. The definitions of "relevant" and "admissible objections" are set out in the December 2007 draft guidance and are very widely drawn. The operator veto on frequencies, timings and fares was not a feature of the draft Local Transport Bill; it has been put in following lobbying from operators. The draft guidance makes it clear that a wide range of operators will have a broad scope to veto key provisions of statutory quality partnership deals, which will reduce the ability of local transport authorities to negotiate soundly based deals with operators and will reduce the attractiveness of statutory quality partnerships as a policy tool.

As I have said, the original draft Bill allowed statutory quality partnerships to specify frequencies and timings, and there were references in relation to fares, but without an operator veto. That was quite widely welcomed because if a local accountable transport authority is investing significantly in new facilities and in line with its wider transport strategy, then it should, having undertaken the consultation requirements set out in the legislation, be able to specify standards on issues such as frequencies and timings. With the right of veto over fares, timings and frequencies, the bargaining position of the operator vis-à-vis the local transport authority is strengthened further from the present situation where it already has, and will continue to have, the significant power to deregister services at any time on giving the appropriate period of notice.

All parties now put emphasis on reviving the democratic process—on delegating decision-making down the line, and enabling as many as possible of the decisions affecting local areas and local communities to be made by those affected and their elected representatives. That was the thinking behind giving, for example, the Mayor of London and the GLA the powers they have in relation to transport. No doubt it was also behind the Government's thinking as reflected by the draft Bill, which, as I say, did not provide for the veto powers over local transport authority decisions on statutory quality partnerships that are now provided for in this Bill.

My objection over what has happened is not to the bus operators exercising their right to lobby in their own interests, but to the Government having backed down—in this instance on their basic principles over where decision-making power should preferably lie—at the first sound of gunfire without being able or willing to give any detailed, credible reason for their major change of tack, which will reduce the prospects of statutory quality partnerships being made.

Presumably the original proposal in the draft Bill was not put in by the Government without considerable thought and without them carefully weighing up the pros and cons. Therefore, one would have thought that significant new evidence, information or arguments of which the Government had not previously been aware would have had to have been advanced for the Government to make such a fundamental change in their approach. If that was the case, the Government have not yet said in any detail what the new evidence, information or arguments have been which have overridden the compelling case in favour of the Government's original stance.

In Committee, the Minister described the circumstances in which a local transport authority might attempt to pursue a statutory quality partnership which set out unreasonable requirements in relation to maximum fares, frequencies and timings as "highly unlikely". This must indeed be the case, because it would not be in the interests of a local transport authority to promote a statutory quality partnership which was manifestly unreasonable or unworkable. Operators would not sign up to such a partnership, thus rendering the whole exercise pointless from the local transport authority perspective. There must be a feeling that the Government's change from the draft Bill is to address an issue which in my noble friend's view, on behalf of the Government, is "highly unlikely".

The draft guidance, to which I have already referred, provides that an admissible objection can be that,

"the likely demand for the services would not be sufficient to enable operators to provide services, to the standard specified, on a commercial basis".

During Committee, the Minister said:

"We do not believe that the fact that there had been a reduction in the bus operator's takings would be an admissible objection".—[Official Report, 6/12/07; col. GC 88.]

There seems a potential conflict between my noble friend's statement in Committee and the wording of the draft guidance.

Even were that potential guidance resolved, the local transport authorities—the promoters of the statutory quality partnership—would still not be party to the appeals process. Thus a non-elected body, the local traffic commissioner, would be able to veto key elements of a statutory quality partnership. He would be able to do this on the basis of a broadly based right of objection from commercial operators, without any reference to the locally accountable transport authority, including any liability by the local transport authority to challenge financial information from operators provided to the appeals body in support of their case. With the threat of such a veto over which the LTA has no influence, the attraction of the statutory quality partnership option to local transport authorities is reduced.

In addition, by extending the right to object beyond those operators directly affected by the statutory quality partnership, there is the risk of an operator who does not operate the statutory quality partnership services being able to object and to veto a quality partnership that the LTA and incumbent operator have developed and accepted. If a local transport authority is to pursue, for example, a bus priority scheme, which can often be pretty controversial locally, a guarantee of regular clock-face frequency and caps on fares for those services which will use the bus priority lane are helpful incentives from the local transport authority perspective.

As we know, there has only been one statutory quality partnership scheme under the 2000 Act. That is one reason why we have this Bill today. What is needed is a radical overhaul of the arrangement, and not the measures proposed in this Bill. The Government have agreed that it is "highly unlikely" that a local transport authority would promote an unreasonable statutory quality partnership, and bus operators are under no obligation to operate within a statutory quality partnership in the first place if they consider it unreasonable. There is then no need for the admissible objection veto on the specification of maximum fares, frequencies and timings, which could add many months of unnecessary and costly delay.

This amendment would remove that veto, restore the position to the Government's own thinking in the draft Bill, and mean that the public sector—including local transport authorities, which provide a significant part of bus-operator income through concessionary fares, tendered services and fuel rebate—would be able to have a real influence over the level and frequency of services that its money is supporting. I beg to move.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative

My Lords, I support these amendments, which seek to remove the admissible objections operator veto from quality partnerships. We have had much discussion on this point and it seems that the Bill would be improved were these words removed. The Government published, immediately prior to the first Committee session, draft guidance on what an admissible objection might constitute. The provision in the guidance that allows operators to make an objection based on operators being unable to provide services to the standards specified on a commercial basis has raised several questions already.

We agree that local transport authorities are unlikely to devise a quality partnership with unreasonable requirements, as operators would not sign up—a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. Our earlier amendment on the idea of producing a bus partnership scheme as part of the local transport plan would assist in ensuring that any reasonable terms were amended at an earlier stage. Allowing the reasonable objection provision to remain in the Bill would undermine the principle of encouraging local authorities to take up quality partnerships.

Photo of Lord Snape Lord Snape Labour

My Lords, I listened carefully to the debate on the amendment, which originates from the Passenger Transport Executive Group; this debate pretty much follows our debate in Committee. I am astonished that the Conservative Front Bench support this amendment. After all, the original legislation was the 1986 Act, which was introduced by the Conservative Government. They had quite a number of years following 1986 when, if they had wanted what the amendment seeks, they could have had it. I realise that there is not a great deal of support behind what the noble Earl has just said, but the fact that the Conservative Party feels that the legislation needs changing in this way is significant and a little unexpected.

Before I discuss the amendment further, I declare my interest as a consultant to FirstGroup PLC and a former chair of the National Express Group's major bus subsidiary. Some of the fears of the PTEs, as expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, are unfounded. If we are to discuss partnerships, bus operators, who have a considerable investment in these matters, are surely entitled to have their voice heard. Partnership must be just that; it cannot be an ultimatum laid down by one side in the supposed partnership. To suggest that operators should not have the right to make admissible objections to a statutory quality partnership is unfair. It allows one side in a debate to make a final decision and to have, as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, put it, "the right of veto" over the views of the other side in a supposed partnership.

The Minister said consistently throughout Committee that operators must be able to protect their legitimate interests. I suggest that, without an admissible objection power, such ability would be put at serious risk. Let us switch the argument around. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, could give us a guarantee that local transport authorities and PTEs will not seek to impose unreasonable terms on fares, frequencies and timings. These are the three matters about which they are most exercised and are subject of later amendments. I repeat that if one side of a supposed partnership wishes to insist that its view should prevail regardless of the other, we should be given proper reasons. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said that local authorities are democratically elected. I accept that point, but I hope that he in turn would accept that partnerships, statutory or otherwise, have worked well in various parts of the country where proper goodwill has been behind them.

The Minister will be aware that, as recently as Monday this week, his right honourable friend the Transport Minister was in Birmingham. Her visit was noted in an article in the Birmingham Post, under the headline "Bus firm tries to lure passengers with luxury fleet", a copy of which I have in front of me. Describing an example of a partnership that will work well under the existing legislation, it states:

"A fleet of luxury buses complete with air-conditioning, leather seats and tinted windows designed to get people back on public transport has been launched in Birmingham. The 18 vehicles, dubbed the 'most luxurious buses ever seen in the West Midlands', will be cleaned several times a day to ensure they remain in mint condition and include digital CCTV security".

This is not an investment lightly made by the company which I used to chair—although I had no input into that decision. The article continues:

"The £1.4 million investment by bus operator Travel West Midlands aims to turn round a negative image held by many of bus travel... Geoff Inskip, chief executive of Centro, which is responsible for promoting public transport in the region, said: 'What I would say to people is those who can get on the 997, 993 and 934"— they are the three routes to which the article refers—

"give them a try and let us have your feed back... We believe the high standards of service can persuade them"— that is, would-be passengers—

"to take the bus on a regular basis, helping to reduce congestion and carbon emissions".

I have one more brief extract from this article to illustrate how well the existing legislation can work. Referring to TWM and the Passenger Transport Authority, Mr Phil Tonks of Bus Users UK said:

"They are taking away the stereotype most people have of buses as dirty, smelly and never on time. This kind of thing will make a difference but we need the city council to invest in the idea of more bus priority".

My noble friend Lord Rosser advocates on behalf of the Passenger Transport Executive Group a world in which, to hear him, elected members at the local level are passionately concerned to bring better public transport to their area. I do not wish to repeat too many times in your Lordships' House that that is not the case in many parts of the country—I notice the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, nodding in agreement—and certainly not in Birmingham. The Conservative-Liberal alliance there shows no signs of wishing to give buses the priority that those of us who speak regularly on these matters wish to see.

I hope that the Minister will resist the amendment. I hope that he will bear in mind that he himself has said, as have his colleagues in the department, that the operators must be able to protect their legitimate interests. They will not be able to do so if this amendment is accepted, and from that point of view I hope that it will be resisted.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport 4:45 pm, 16th January 2008

My Lords, I agree with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Snape, has said. The big enemy of bus operation in the country is road congestion. Many local authorities are not, for various reasons, addressing road congestion and seek to put all the blame for bad services on the bus operators. There are some bad bus operators and they have poor standards. Where there is a real attempt to clear congestion, generally the bus operators respond with considerable extra investment and training.

My second point is rather procedural. I raised this at Second Reading. The Minister said then:

"The intention is not to make it difficult to establish a quality partnership scheme; the intention is to ensure that local authorities cannot impose requirements on bus operators that are unrealistic or unreasonable in relation to frequencies, timings or ... fares".—[Hansard, 20/11/07; col. 799.]

I was also given the assurance, although it is not recorded here, that the Traffic Commissioner would not sit by himself. He would have two people with him, one whose qualifications were in transport planning, while the other would be qualified in economics. I am sure that no bus operator will get by these people unless they have a good case. However, in any court of law both sides must have the opportunity to put their case. Therefore, I am sorry but I will not support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

My Lords, I will not delay the House too much, but there was a reception in the House of Commons last night, hosted by Centro, I think, and I discussed the amendments with some of the people who promote and lead Centro. I asked them whether they thought the amendments were a good idea and they all said yes. That is not to say that they liked the new buses described by my noble friend Lord Snape. There are an awful lot of other buses in the Birmingham area besides those on the three routes. It seems reasonable that the local authorities, who, as both noble Lords have said, are required to invest in bus lanes and shelters and so on, should have a role too. I think that the amendment is important and I support it. I would still like to hear from the Minister why policy has changed since the draft Bill was published.

Photo of Lord Low of Dalston Lord Low of Dalston Crossbench

My Lords, as I have already said this afternoon, I am grateful to the Minister for broadening the duty that already exists to have regard to the transport needs of elderly people and people with mobility disabilities so that local transport authorities will now have to have regard to the transport needs of all disabled persons. The Minister has assured us of this. This means that even when permissible objections are raised by transport operators, the local transport authority will have to have regard to the needs of disabled people before taking them on board. The Bill is disability-proofed so far as the impact of admissible objections is concerned.

However, there are a couple of other points that I would like to raise about the way the ability to raise admissible objections might work. I would be grateful to hear the Minister's comment on these. I raise these points with some diffidence because, unlike other noble Lords who have spoken, I am by no means an expert on the way local transport services work.

First, in the draft guidance, the department suggests that one of the things that might make an objection admissible would be if the likely demand for services would not be sufficient to enable operators to provide the services on a commercial basis. Other noble Lords have referred to that element in the guidance. Can the Minister clarify whether that condition would be met if just one operator could not provide the specified services profitably or whether the test would be that no relevant operator could provide the services profitably? Admissible objections should not be used to prop up uncompetitive businesses. A quality partnership scheme should not be thwarted just because one operator would not be able to operate the services profitably.

Secondly, there is nothing about quality partnership schemes which can force an operator to run unprofitable services. If they cannot run the services profitably, they just will not use the facilities afforded by the quality partnership scheme: that is the veto they already have. Presumably this is why the Minister said in Committee that it was highly unlikely that an authority would promote such a scheme. In fact, authorities will probably go to considerable lengths to ensure that operators wish to take part in their scheme, including informal discussions and so on. Admissible objections may risk giving operators the whip hand over authorities by forcing them to modify already carefully considered schemes—perhaps to the detriment of passengers.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to this discussion. The dichotomy of views expressed has made it very interesting. I am impressed by the persistence of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in moving these amendments and I welcome the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Snape, with his breath of realism on how the bus industry works. Those are the extents of the input into this discussion.

As often happens with these sorts of issues, a balance must be struck between the legitimate and understandable expectations of local transport authorities and the public on whose behalf they are acting and the legitimate interests of operators who are trying to run a business and make a fair profit. The balance needs to be struck in the spirit of partnership to produce schemes in which both authorities and operators can feel fully committed. If the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, detected a change of direction by the Government, it was in an attempt to secure that balance and try to preserve and underline the value of local partnership to deliver good quality local bus services.

It may interest noble Lords to learn that the Department for Transport has had representations, not just from the bus industry but from local authorities, passenger transport executives and others, about the whole issue of admissible objections. The bus industry is still concerned that the provisions will not give their members sufficient protection. If we are being criticised from both sides in equal measure, it is probably right to conclude that we have got the balance in this argument in the right place.

As I said in Committee, if we had no provision of this kind, operators would have little protection against a local authority imposing conditions on their operation that might be quite impossible for them to meet on a commercial basis, which could have the perverse effect that they would simply withdraw from the scheme altogether and leave the yawning gap in service provision that the noble Lord, Lord Low of Dalston, is rightly concerned about. That is in no one's interest, and any sensible local authority would conduct a great deal of preliminary discussion and undertake negotiations with operators before initiating the public consultation process. However, operators are more inclined to participate if they at least have the comfort that, if really impossible terms are imposed on them, they can make an admissible objection to the particular provision they find hard to sustain and completely commercially untenable.

The crucial thing to bear in mind is that the precise terms of who is a relevant operator and what is an admissible objection will be defined in regulations—in the provisions that would be deleted by the third amendment in this group. I understand that this is frustrating, because your Lordships would probably like more certainty about how the provision would operate, but at the same time it should be reassuring that we have some flexibility. We shall need to consult fully on the regulations, and it will be easier to put things right if we get some of the detail wrong, rather than if we were to set out all these issues in primary legislation.

In an ideal world, it would be best if we had draft regulations ready so that people could see the quality of the drafting and make some comment on them. We have made good progress on the Bill, however, and we have not had time to perfect those draft regulations. I suspect that colleagues in another place will have that opportunity. However, we have given an indication of our intentions in the draft guidance, subject, no doubt, to more detailed consultation. I paraphrased those proposals in Committee, but perhaps I should also have read out the text in the draft guidance document immediately preceding them. I shall now do so because it helps to illuminate some of our discussions:

"The Local Transport Bill allows for these two terms"— that is, "admissible objection" and "relevant operator"—

"to be defined, and for other relevant provisions to be made, in regulations. We will be working closely with interested parties, including through the Bus Partnership Forum, as we develop these regulations. Our aim in this is to prevent ill-conceived, vexatious or frivolous objections, while protecting the legitimate interests of operators involved in the provision of local services in the area affected. Box 1 below is an example of a possible way of meeting those objectives. We are willing to consider alternative ways of doing so".

I remind your Lordships of the contents of "Box 1", mentioned in the above quotation. For an objection to be admissible, first, it should be made in writing within a specified time by an operator of services directly affected by the proposals; secondly, it should be made on the grounds either that it would not be reasonably practicable for operators to meet the standards of service specified at the time that they would come into effect, or that the likely demand for the services would not be sufficient to enable operators to provide services on a commercial basis to the standard specified; and, thirdly, the traffic commissioner must certify that the evidence submitted by the relevant operator is sufficient to substantiate the objection.

I stress again that these are not tablets of stone, and that the guidance itself is still a draft, which will be further refined in light of the comments we receive. That shows that we are committed, first, to consultation; secondly, to getting these matters right; and, thirdly, to striking a balance at all times. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, described our current position as an operator veto. I do not recognise that in the terms in which the noble Lord made the point, though I understand why he set it in that way. The draft Bill would have required operator agreement to requirements on fares. The admissible objections proposal provides a better balance between local transport authorities with a desire to include such requirements in the scheme, and the commercial interests of operators. That is probably the most constructive way of dealing with the issue.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, also made the point that a wide variety of operators can veto for a wide variety of reasons. We do not agree with that. The basis that we have proposed in the draft guidance is rather narrower than that. For that reason, I drew particular attention to the second of those boxed bullet points about the grounds on which admissible objections can be made.

The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, made a point about traffic commissioners and the fact that they would be accompanied by others when considering admissible objections. The noble Lord might have been confusing two issues: that of the approvals board and that of traffic commissioners plus two others. That, of course, works for quality contract schemes, not quality partnerships. Another issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, was that of traffic commissioners considering admissible objections. In drafting the regulations, we will need to consider whether the traffic commissioners should make decisions alone. We will consult on that before making regulations. No doubt noble Lords will express a view on that, as they have throughout the passage of this Bill.

I turn, finally, to a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Low of Dalston, relating to draft guidance and the possible problem of insufficient demand being used as an admissible objection. The noble Lord asked if the test would also cover the issue of the single or any operator. The test we propose in the guidance is whether the bus industry as a whole can viably run the schemes. That is an important point, but we will need to consult on the detail. I made a note of the noble Lord's second point, but I would like to reflect on it further before making observations on it. I will have to write to the noble Lord. It raises an interesting issue.

For all those reasons, I cannot agree to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. We have tried to strike a balance here. We have published guidance, which seeks to underline that balance, and we recognise the importance of considering commercial interests. There is great value for local transport authorities in expressing their realistic, and quite legitimate, expectations in terms of defining quality services in the context of this particular aspect of public transport provision.

Photo of Lord Smith of Leigh Lord Smith of Leigh Labour 5:00 pm, 16th January 2008

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, would he consider this? One of the concerns that local authorities have, expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, is that at the end of the process by which they are trying to get a voluntary agreement on partnership, bus operators may come to the traffic commissioner with a load of objections that they think legitimate, and which may or may not be so. Perhaps we could confirm in the draft guidance that any objections need to be raised with the relevant local transport authority prior to them being raised with the traffic commissioner. The local authority may have tried to reach agreement, and may have thought that agreement had been reached, but the bus operator may then have come up with a load of objections.

My noble friend Lord Snape said that local authorities cannot expect bus operators not to operate in a commercial world. But what we do not want is for these objections to come in at the end and extend the process. They should be there, upfront, and really the concern of the operator should be that local authorities have not listened properly.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, one of the things that I learnt from my time in local government was that there is great value in getting points in early so that local authorities can take them on board and respond—that there is interaction. So there is no great difficulty with what the noble Lord is suggesting. It would make a lot of sense. Hopefully some of those issues can be resolved because at the end of it, we want to provide decent quality services. The local authority wants that. It is not in the operators' interest to fail to provide decent quality services. In fact, my noble friend Lord Snape gave a very good example of where important investment comes in. Bus operators can see that there is a market to be tapped, and that it has a commercial benefit for them. Yes, of course we would want to see that take place.

Photo of Lord Snape Lord Snape Labour

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, perhaps I may take the matter a little further. While agreeing wholeheartedly with what my noble friend Lord Smith has just said, that objections should not be last-minute ones, there is always the problem that the passenger transport authorities are not themselves responsible for the highway works on which many of these voluntary agreements depend.

Again on Birmingham, and without making political points about it, let us imagine a situation where, although both sides have ironed out the objections as outlined desirable by my noble friend, one of the highway authorities says, "We are not prepared to implement that agreement and we have the final say"—exactly what takes place in Birmingham. That would be—I hope my noble friend would agree—where a last-minute objection would be very relevant. Can the Minister offer us any comfort about this disagreement, which one can envisage taking place in other parts of the country, given changes of political control over the years, and say whether something can be done to ensure that agreements between passenger transport authorities and bus operators are not negated by the action of highways authorities on a change of political control?

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I think we get into a difficulty here. From the centre as a Minister, it is hard to try to legislate for every situation. I sympathise with the point my noble friend makes. It is clearly in the interests of operators, I would have thought—particularly where there is a commitment to ensure that timetables are kept to and that we have good frequency, punctuality levels and so on—that there is close co-operation with the Highways Authority. If the Highways Authority takes the view that bus priority and bus lanes are going to improve the quality of punctuality, that has great value, and one would hope that establishing bus lanes and so on would survive the rigours of a change of political control. All we can do from the centre is to try to encourage that process and to hope that quality partnerships further underline its importance. That is something we can try to encourage in guidance and best practice. I not think we can go much further than that.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Labour

My Lords, I am not sure that I have had answers to many of the questions I asked. In particular, what was the new information that came to light in the original Bill; and does my noble friend still agree he said that it was highly unlikely that any local authority would put forward a scheme that was manifestly unreasonable? If there was no involvement of the bus operators there would not be a scheme. The local authority would not sit back and envisage a situation where they had to explain to its electorate why there were no bus services.

A point has been made about congestion. I am sure that is an issue; I would not dispute that for a moment. Equally, there are cases where bus operators have been fined because their services have been running too early, which probably has not been due to congestion. That indicates that we should be doing everything we can to promote statutory quality partnerships.

Obviously there is a difference of view between us as to whether the Government's approach or that of my amendment is the best way around the matter. I understand the position. The Government have already changed their position between the draft Bill and the current Bill. Obviously, looked at realistically, there must be—and it is not my noble friend, it is the Government—a difficulty from their point of view of simply changing back again. I understand the difficulties that they are under and I hope that in the light of all that my noble friend has had to say about regulations, wording, consultations and discussions, the Government may use this opportunity to make the position more acceptable than it is today under the present Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 [Notice and consultation requirements]:

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 5:15 pm, 16th January 2008

moved Amendment No. 5:

Clause 13, page 14, line 24, at end insert—

"( ) In subsection (4) (meaning of "relevant local authorities" for purposes of consultation) for paragraph (b) substitute—

"(b) district councils in England,"."

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the amendment picks up a point that was touched on in Committee, although not directly addressed. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, moved amendments aiming to ensure that neighbouring authorities would always be consulted about a quality partnership scheme or a quality contract scheme that might affect them. I advised the Committee that the amendments were unnecessary because the existing provisions in the Transport Act 2000 would ensure that any relevant authority whose area was affected would be consulted. I stand by that advice.

However, having looked again at the existing consultation provisions, we noticed that the requirements that apply where an authority proposes to make a quality partnership scheme are not quite the same as those for quality contract schemes. For quality contract schemes, any district council can be a relevant local authority, one that must be consulted if its area is affected, but for quality partnership schemes only metropolitan district councils are relevant local authorities. There does not seem to be any reason for this slight inconsistency. It appears that a non-metropolitan district council could have just as legitimate an interest in a proposed quality partnership scheme as in a proposed quality contract scheme and should have the same consultation rights.

The possible subject matter of a quality partnership scheme would be greatly expanded if the Bill was enacted. There will still be fundamental differences between the two types of scheme, but we do not see the case for any distinction as to who at district level should be consulted on them. This is a modest and uncontroversial amendment. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Transport

My Lords, although they have not gone the whole way, I thank the Government for this amendment. It makes total sense and should involve the non-metropolitan districts. I am grateful for the Government's amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 17 [Regulations about schemes which specify frequencies, timings or fares]:

[Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 not moved.]

Clause 18 [Quality contracts schemes]:

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Labour

moved Amendment No. 8:

Clause 18, page 17, line 23, leave out "proposed"

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Labour

My Lords, these amendments seek to simplify the procedure for the adoption of a quality contract scheme by removing the involvement of the approvals board to which reference has already been made, and the transport tribunal but instead allowing for a quality contract to be determined by local transport authorities. Quality contracts are in effect the franchising of a network of services, similar to the way in which the majority of public transport in Britain is provided, such as bus services in London and the national rail network.

The Government have pledged on a number of occasions to make quality contracts a more realistic option as is the case at present under the Transport Act 2000. That requires a local transport authority to demonstrate to the Secretary of State that a quality contract scheme is the "only practicable way" to achieve its bus strategy. I suspect that my noble friend would be happy to agree that that wording helped to ensure that no quality contracts have been proposed since the Act was passed.

The Bill proposes a different but difficult and convoluted process whereby a Local Transport Authority proposal for a quality contract scheme is determined by an approvals board, which would be chaired by a traffic commissioner. That decision can then be appealed to the transport tribunal. If neither the approvals board nor the transport tribunals decision went their way, whoever felt aggrieved would, I presume, be free to approve the decision to the Court of Appeal. The operators certainly would and in certain circumstances the local transport authority would as well. The net effect of that process would be to increase the already significant risks and uncertainties that the local transport authorities would face in a transition from the current unregulated situation to a regulated market. It would also prolong the timescale for introducing a quality contract and potentially give the approvals board and the transport tribunal a veto on the wider transport strategy of a city or region, and this Bill places a duty on the relevant transport authorities to prepare and implement that. It has been pointed out already in Committee that there is a contrast with the road-user charging proposals in the Bill, whereby a decision on such schemes is devolved to local authorities with no tiered process of external adjudication by unelected bodies.

We know that the traffic commissioners and the transport tribunal have considerable expertise in areas such as vehicle safety and operational issues, but they do not have expertise, remit or accountability to determine whether a region's transport strategy should go ahead or not—and I do not think that my noble friend is suggesting that. In Committee, my noble friend on behalf of the Government argued that the process set out in the Bill would not interfere with democratic accountability, because the approvals board would deal with how policy might be carried out rather than the policy itself; but a franchising system is the only guaranteed way to achieve the policy objective of a fully integrated public transport service. I believe that the Mayor of London has maintained on a number of occasions that he would not have been able to carry out the transport policies on which he considers he was elected without the powers to specify and regulate bus services.

Also in Committee, the Government argued, rightly, that the legislation should be fully compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights and suggested that independent adjudication of a quality contract application would ensure that compliance. I have to say that counsel's advice to the Passenger Transport Executive Group is that the ability to judicially review a local transport authority-determined quality contract scheme makes a locally determined quality contract process equally and fully ECHR-compliant. On that there may be a difference between the view of the Government and passenger transport executives, but, no doubt, my noble friend will comment on that when he replies.

My noble friend also argued that if the Transport Tribunal were to be removed from the process, there would be a likelihood of judicial review from operators and that although any Transport Tribunal decision could be appealed against at the Court of Appeal, it could be done only on points of law. The Government have argued on a number of occasions that the process set out in the Bill provides greater protection for local transport authorities from court action by operators than does local determination of quality contracts. However, the view of the local transport authority that the legal risks of a locally determined process are different, but no worse, than that of the process set out in the Bill and that the risks certainly do not outweigh the disadvantages of the delay, unaccountability and risk inherent in the determination of quality contract schemes by two layers of outside bodies. That is because the process set out in the Bill does not prevent operators going to the courts, because they will be able to go to the Court of Appeal to challenge the decision of the transport tribunal. Such a challenge could consider all matters other than questions of fact or of standing.

The grounds for judicial review of local transport authority quality contract scheme determination under the amendment would not differ to any appreciable degree from those that the Court of Appeal could consider in a challenge to the transport tribunal decision under the process set out in the Bill. Judicial review applies to many local authority decisions—housing, planning and transport in particular. For example, the determination of a local transport plan is subject to judicial review, as is the implementation of a quality partnership scheme or road-user charging scheme. Surely, there is no reason why a quality contract scheme should be an exception to that general rule, because judicial review would provide ample scope for operators to challenge the making of a quality contract scheme on the basis, for example, that consultation was inadequate, that the scale of the contract scheme area was far larger than necessary to achieve the authority's aims, that the aim of the quality contract scheme was not permitted by legislation or, more generally, that on the evidence available no reasonable local transport authority could have taken the decision to approve the scheme.

Without local determination, the concern that would be felt by many is that this new process could mean that the Bill repeats the mistake of the Transport Act 2000, with the franchising legislation being similarly underutilised against a backdrop of continuing decline in fare-paying bus usage. That would be a further wasted opportunity and let us remember that passengers would be the ultimate losers. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Snape Lord Snape Labour

My Lords, I thought that the noble Lord leading for the Liberal Democrats was about to intervene, so I was doing him the courtesy of waiting for him to do so, but as he has not I shall say a few words on the amendment, which is the culmination of seven long and expensive years on behalf of the Passenger Transport Executive Group. It has consulted everybody and spent lots of money; restaurateurs the length and breadth of the country have benefited from the campaign they have waged in order to get their toys back in the box—in other words, to get their hands back on the controls on bus services.

I listened with interest to the noble Lord who moved the amendment. I read it along with him because, for some reason, the Passenger Transport Executive Group did not send me the brief that he has just used. I found it anyway and I was interested to see that the arguments are still just the same. He used the phrase,

"the mistake of the Transport Act 2000".

I said in Committee on the 2000 Act in another place that it was no mistake that quality contracts were seen as the last resort and that every other avenue had to be explored before quality contracts, which have always been resisted by the bus industry, were implemented. I am not authorised to speak for the whole industry but, certainly in the areas that I know, the bus industry is convinced that those who operate the services have the expertise to do so rather than having to be told which services to operate and how much to charge, which would be the effect of the Government accepting the amendment. In other words, although the Passenger Transport Executive Group says—not in this briefing, but it has said it on other occasions—that it does not seek a return to the situation prior to the 1986 Act, it seeks the effect without the cause. It wants to lay down services, fares and standards without the responsibility of ownership which, I suppose one could argue, would give it even greater advantages than it had prior to the passage of the 1986 Act.

The PTEG always used the argument that, since the implementation of the 1986 Act, there had been a steady decline in bus usage. To a certain extent that is true in certain parts of the country. Let us wind the clock back a bit further to before 1986. There has been a steady decline in bus use throughout the United Kingdom since the 1960s. The reason for that is obvious—the all pervasive spread of the private car has meant that many people who formerly travelled by bus now prefer to drive themselves to and from work or any leisure activity.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

My Lords, do the statistics that my noble friend has just cited apply to London, where the bus services are effectively franchised? Or has bus use gone up in London, and is there a connection between the two?

Photo of Lord Snape Lord Snape Labour

My Lords, there are two separate answers to that. Of course, bus usage has gone up in London because there are a lot more buses in London than in most other parts of the country. In seeking to make this point, my noble friend will agree that the subsidies for buses in London are approximately—I do not have the exact figures in front of me—six times those in the rest of the country put together. It would be surprising and a bit difficult for Mr Ken Livingstone to fight the mayoral battle if, with all that money thrown at those extra buses, he had to report that the use of bus services had declined in this city.

My noble friend makes a valid point, but he must take on board that, in the biggest ever survey of bus passengers carried out last year by the department, outside London, no less than 83 per cent of bus passengers were reasonably satisfied with the bus service provision. I remind him that this is in a deregulated world. In London, this Valhalla of bus services which is always prayed in aid by those who want to turn the clock back, only 78 per cent of bus passengers were satisfied with their bus services.

Neither of those facts is particularly conclusive and I am sure that they will not convince my noble friend, but they indicate that in London there is a considerable way to go before bus passengers are as convinced of the wondrous nature of what they have in this city as is my noble friend—and, no doubt, the Mayor of London. Perhaps we can agree to disagree and leave it at that. However, I hope that my noble friend will agree that, for various reasons, the number of bus-passenger carryings has declined right across the country, except in London. The other point is that London has the congestion charge, which very few other cities have or propose to have. If there were a deterrent to motorists, it would be possible to argue anywhere in the country that the result would be a greater number of bus-passenger carryings.

I return specifically to the amendment. This is another case, perhaps with a bit more legitimacy so far as concerns quality contracts, of local authorities seeking to be judge and jury. They do not wish anyone else to be involved. To paraphrase what my noble friend Lord Rosser said, they are democratically elected, so they should be able to lay down the law on quality contracts. Not surprisingly, the bus industry takes a different view and does not like the idea of local authorities telling it what to do with its assets.

I understand, although I do not think that it is in the Minister's brief, that the PTEs have already taken counsel's advice on whether simply allowing the operators to appeal to the courts, rather than allowing an initial process via the approvals board and the Transport Tribunal, would still protect bus operators' rights under the European convention, and they have been advised that it would. I can well believe that that is exactly the view that the PTEG has sought. After all, it is not its money, so there is no problem in appealing to counsel about any aspect of the implementation of future laws. I do not think that that is a particularly satisfactory way to conduct bus business in future. In my view, if bus operators disagree with the provisions of a statutory quality contract, it is not sensible to say that the only alternative for them is to go to court. It might well enrich the lawyers—I am aware that in your Lordships' House the legal profession does not go unrepresented—but I do not think that it is necessarily a sensible way to run bus services, and there must be a better alternative.

The alternative that the Government have come up with—that there should be a Transport Tribunal and that the traffic commissioners should be involved—is a very sensible compromise. It cannot be acceptable for a PTA or a local transport authority under the Bill to be judge and jury over sensitive and controversial matters, such as quality contracts, involving the commercial interests of bus operators. Again, it may not seem usual for the commercial interests of bus operators to be put forward from these Benches but I think that it is perfectly legitimate for me to do so. These days, bus services are run on a commercial basis, although some of my colleagues may not agree with that. Indeed, given the earlier comments of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, some in the Conservative Party—although precious few of them are present during this debate—may not agree with it, but that is a fact of life. I think that those commercial responsibilities should be recognised under this legislation. Surely the involvement of the traffic commissioners and the approvals board would make the whole issue more balanced than would be the case if either side in these disputes immediately ran off to engage in expensive court proceedings. That would be the effect of the amendment if Her Majesty's Government were unwise enough to accept it.

The local transport authority example referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser—that other local authority decisions are capable of being challenged in the courts—is right but not particularly relevant. After all, few other local authority decisions would impact as directly on the business as this piece of legislation. This amendment would undermine, if not destroy, the profitability of many bus operators up and down the country, and they are understandably exercised about that. I repeat that it is not satisfactory for the PTEG and anyone who uses its brief to say, "Just go to court". It is not sensible, it is too time-consuming and it is extremely expensive. I am not in favour of relaxing the very relevant controls on quality contracts that were included in the Transport Act 2000. This amendment would weaken those provisions.

We have reached this stage after eight years because many passenger transport executives have declined to co-operate with private bus operators. It has not all been one-sided. I have some bitter experience myself. I am glad to say that the situation in the West Midlands has changed considerably thanks to a change at the top as far as the chief executive is concerned. As I indicated on an earlier group of amendments, there is proper co-operation in the West Midlands. I am afraid there rarely was in my time and not—in case the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, thinks so—because of the personality of the person chairing the bus company at that time. I went continuously to the passenger transport executive and said, "Tell me what we are doing wrong". He used to make speeches at fringe meetings at all the political party conferences saying, "They are making all this money and yet they do not co-operate with us", and I would go to him and say, "Just sit round a table and tell us what you want us to do". He never could, of course, because he and many of his colleagues in the PTEG thought that if they protested loudly and long enough over a number of years and entertained various Members of your Lordships' House as well as Members of the other place at expensive restaurants the length and breadth of the country, eventually their voice would be heard. I urge the Minister to resist their voice. This amendment would quickly destroy a remarkably successful bus industry, from the point of view of the number of passengers carried. The stabilisation of those figures and their improvement in many parts of the country where the co-operation that I have outlined takes place would be directly threatened if he were unwise enough to accept it. After seven years, the PTEG ought to start barking up another tree. It has spent enough public money barking up this one.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport 5:30 pm, 16th January 2008

My Lords, I follow that highly entertaining intervention with an apology to the House. I was confused about the approvals board and I accept that I was wrong. The quality partnership and the quality contract are two separate things. What underlines what the noble Lord, Lord Snape, has said is that we are talking about a partnership and I feel that many of the protagonists on the group to which he referred do not wholly agree it is a partnership. There are bad and difficult people on the bus side, but I assure you that there are very difficult people on the other side too. It is very difficult to get people to come to an agreement, yet that is what a partnership means.

Lastly, let me turn to something the Minister said earlier that I have been thinking about. In this legislation, does the Integrated Transport Authority assume the highway powers so that it can give direction as to how the congestion to which the noble Lord, Lord Snape, has referred can be tackled? The issue of one or two districts standing outside is bound to lead to disputes, and that is an issue which we should be quite clear on before this Bill leaves the House.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, this issue was debated very fully in Grand Committee; it was evident then, as it is today, that it gives rise to some very strong feelings from both the local authorities and operators, but from totally different directions and perspectives. The passion is understandable but let me bring us back to what we are trying to achieve here. Again it is a question of securing a reasonable balance and what lawyers call a proportionate way of dealing with things.

The support for an approvals board from operators is at least as strong as the opposition to it from local authorities. The arguments do not really seem to have moved on greatly since the idea was first floated. There seems to be no way in which we could satisfy both arguments, and there is no evident compromise available to us, so I cannot do much more than reiterate the points that I made in the previous debate.

We decided on an approvals board to try to get that reasonable balance between the legitimate interests of local authorities on the one hand and the reasonable expectations of the bus operators on the other. The Transport Act 2000, which a number of noble Lords have mentioned, requires schemes to be approved by the Secretary of State or by Welsh Ministers in Wales. We had particular reasons in England for concluding that this was not the best way of doing things. I will not go into those reasons again, but we concluded that operators would be vulnerable if local authorities could make schemes without any independent assessment. That was not acceptable.

A local transport authority that promotes a scheme can never be a disinterested party. It must actively support that scheme and rightly be convinced that it is in the interests of the local community. That is only fair and proper. However, how can operators be sure that their interests are to be properly protected by such a local authority? They could have a great deal to lose, and they have a right to be properly heard. They may not welcome the idea of a quality contracts scheme in any circumstances, but they would welcome it a great deal less if they felt that the local authority had made a poor case and gained public support without a proper analysis of the problems and some of the solutions. They could well persuade a court of law that the authority had damaged their interests with no tangible or evident public benefit.

I am aware that some local transport authorities say that they are prepared to risk judicial review and believe that they could fend off any challenge, but there are wider public issues at stake, including whether a court of law is the right forum in which to debate what are really issues of transportation planning and transport economics. The Approvals Board, with the transport tribunal providing the appeal mechanism, would be much more appropriate fora in which to resolve these matters.

In Committee, I gave some indication of the role that the Approvals Board should play. It would not be part of its role to say whether a local transport policy with a quality contracts scheme that it aims to implement is good or bad—that is clearly a matter for local decision by the electorate—but it is legitimate for the board to satisfy itself that the policy is at least internally consistent, that the effect of the scheme will be to support the policy, and that the assessment of the costs and benefits of the scheme are based on sound transport economics. All these matters can be best addressed by a panel of experts of the sort that we have in mind for approvals boards. It is not simply a matter of whether the authority has gone through all the procedures, consulted all the right people and taken note of their views. That is part of the story, but not the whole of it.

One might argue that an elected authority, because it is democratically accountable, has the right to take a risky decision that may turn out to be fundamentally bad, so long as it does so in good faith and in the procedurally proper way. That, however, will be small comfort to an operator whose directors may not have a vote in the local authority area if that operator loses its business as a result of a bad decision. It would be of even less comfort to passengers hoping for improved bus services. I recognise that strong passions have been aroused in this debate, but I am not in the end persuaded to move on the matter.

The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, asked about integrated transport authorities and their ability to take on highway powers. They could do that, but it will be for local authority areas to consider when they review governance arrangements and submit their proposals. It could work in that way; we see no particular problem with it. The noble Lord made the point on previous occasions that there would be some benefit in that. As I said earlier, getting things such as bus lanes and bus priority systems right would no doubt be a bonus, and being able to bring discussions with the highways authorities more directly into play would seem to be quite a sensible way ahead.

With that slight digression, while I cannot accept the amendment, I hope that my noble friend will be happy to withdraw it. We have sought throughout to strike a reasonable balance and find a way forward that, while it may not please everybody, at least finds a sensible route through this particular dilemma.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Labour 5:45 pm, 16th January 2008

My Lords, I am not entirely surprised by my noble friend's response because I am well aware of the hostility among bus operators to quality contracts. I have had letters from them which indicate hostility to the very idea of them. My noble friend said that he does not think that the amendment would be appropriate and that these matters would end up in the courts. He may be being unduly optimistic if he believes that the procedures outlined in this Bill will not end up as matters in the courts because it is clear that bus operators faced with decisions they do not like from the Approvals Board and the transport tribunal will pursue these issues as far as they can, including through the courts, to get a decision that they have more sympathy with.

I appreciate the comment made by my noble friend Lord Berkeley vis-à-vis the situation in London, which is a similar arrangement to that being suggested in the amendment. Issues about levels of subsidy in London—the amount that local authorities may or may not wish to put into bus services—are in fact political decisions that have to be made by politicians; they are not decisions that should be made by bus operators.

I have listened carefully to what my noble friend has said, and I do not profess to be shocked or surprised by his words. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 9 to 16 not moved.]

Clause 19 [Notice and consultation requirements]:

[Amendments Nos. 17 to 23 not moved.]

Clause 20 [Approval of proposed scheme]:

[Amendment No. 24 not moved.]

Clause 21 [Approvals boards for England]:

[Amendment No. 25 not moved.]

Clause 22 [Practice and procedure of approvals boards for England]:

[Amendment No. 26 not moved.]

Clause 23 [Inquiries by approvals boards for England.]

[Amendment No. 27 not moved.]

Clause 24 [Appeals relating to applications for approval: areas in England]:

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Transport

moved Amendment No. 27A:

Clause 24, page 23, line 23, leave out "who was consulted by the authority or authorities"

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Transport

My Lords, this amendment was considered in Committee, but the response given by the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, was somewhat unsatisfactory. We have had a great deal of discussion and received a lot of information on the timeframe and process of implementing a quality contract. Our view remains that the partnership approach is ultimately preferable and, as I said before, gives more flexibility to all parties in the arrangements.

Of course, when pursuing a quality contract scheme, we have been reassured by the Minister that authorities would be expected to consult widely. One of the amendments we tabled in Committee concerned the need to consult neighbouring authorities; we have also discussed that today, and I am somewhat reassured by the Minister's response. Therefore the list of consultation requirements set out in Section 125 of the Transport Act 2000 remains unmodified. However, our view remains that consultation should be paramount when setting up something as contentious as a quality contract scheme. It should be the case at all stages of the elaborate process. I am concerned that the right of appeal is reserved only to those persons originally consulted at the consultation stage of the proposal. If a group was not thought appropriate to consult in the first instance, it would never get an opportunity to voice its objections. I suppose that there might be recourse to judicial review, but as several noble Lords have said, it would be most unsatisfactory.

In her response to the amendment in Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, seemed to focus solely on the question of consulting neighbouring authorities. It is true that we used that as an example to illustrate that an authority could be neglected during consultation and thus lose its right to appeal, but the implications of restricting appeals could be greater than that. There is a lot in the Transport Act consultation requirements that hinges on what an authority "thinks fit", and one can imagine that this could be manipulated.

The noble Baroness also mentioned that accepting the amendment may risk allowing the appeals process to get out of control and that that should be reason enough to withdraw it. However, I suggest that if people are appealing in such numbers, there is probably something fundamentally wrong. My view remains that quality contracts will provide nothing more over quality partnerships than a great deal of controversy. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for returning to this amendment, despite the assurances given by my noble friend Lady Crawley on neighbouring authorities. I had thought that we had perhaps persuaded the noble Lord at that stage that the amendment was not required.

Our view is that it is important to avoid being overly prescriptive, particularly with regard to local authorities. After all, they consult all the time on lots of issues, and will have their particular ways of handling consultation. The Transport Act 2000, which in this respect would not be amended by this Bill, sets out those people or organisations that must be consulted—including other local authorities that might be affected by the scheme at county or district level. It also includes a category called,

"such other persons as the authority or authorities think fit", giving the scheme authority a very wide discretion.

The local authority will thus have to use its judgment on how widely or narrowly to consult beyond those that they are statutorily obliged to consult. They have to use that judgment reasonably, but not deliberately or inadvertently exclude anyone with a legitimate interest in being consulted. If they consult everyone, on the other hand—and get a large postbag as a result—they may find it difficult to give due weight to all responses, and if large numbers of the public appeal against decisions, that process could also become rather unmanageable and hold up schemes for a very long time.

It would certainly be strange if consultations were narrow but appeal rights were widened by these amendments to include absolutely everyone, whether or not they had a legitimate concern or interest in the scheme. If it is the noble Lord's intention to encourage wider consultation, I conclude that this is not the right way. I remain unconvinced that we need to amend the appeal provisions at all; they should work serviceably as set out in the Bill. For those reasons, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Transport

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his answer, which is obviously similar to the one that I had in Committee. There is a theme running through the whole Bill about consultation and so on. We have had several discussions around it today. Perhaps, after today's debate, we decide whether we need to pursue that further at Third Reading. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 28 not moved.]

Clause 25 [Making of scheme]:

[Amendments Nos. 29 and 30 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Labour

moved Amendment No. 31:

Clause 25, page 25, line 18, leave out subsection (6) and insert—

"( ) In subsection (2), for paragraph (c) (maximum period for which scheme to remain in operation) substitute—

"(c) that the scheme is to remain in operation until such time as the authority or authorities that made the scheme determine that it should not remain in operation."."

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Labour

My Lords, according to my papers I may speak to Amendments Nos. 32 and 37 together with this one. The purpose of Amendment No. 31 is to seek to put local transport authorities on a similar footing to Transport for London for the franchising of bus service networks. In London, when a bus franchise ends Transport for London simply tenders for the new contract; it does not have to undergo a process of demonstrating a case for bus franchising, neither it is subject to an outside body determining whether the policy of franchising bus networks should continue.

In Committee, the Government argued that a long or unlimited quality contract scheme would be against the public interest if that contract was not achieving its set aims, or was not proving a success. Presumably, the judgment on whether a local transport policy succeeds should be locally determined by locally accountable transport authorities. Indeed, it is difficult to see why a local transport authority would continue with such a scheme if it deemed it a failure. There seems to be a difference between the approach in London and that suggested by the Bill for the rest of the country. I therefore hope that my noble friend will reflect further on this.

Also within this group is Amendment No. 32. The Bill seeks to raise the maximum length of a quality contract from five to 10 years; Amendment No. 32 seeks to remove the absolute restriction on the length of such a contract and to allow it to be governed by general legal principles. Under EU law such a contract, while generally be limited to 10 years in duration, may, if the operator makes a significant investment in the service provided under the contract, be extended by up to 50 per cent. One of the principles underlying the amendment is that operators may be more willing to invest in assets such as garages, vehicles, staff development and matters of that kind under a longer-term contract than they would under a short-term contract.

I appreciate that in Committee the Government argued that a bus contract, in any case, would be unlikely to qualify for a 50 per cent extension under EU law because the degree of investment in any bus contract would be limited given the nature of bus services. It was argued that that was unlike the situation in the railway industry where there might be considerable investment. However, I would have thought it would have been possible—I hope my noble friend will reflect further on this—for a major long-term quality contract franchise to include, for example, provision for new depots, offices and vehicles; that you could have a quality contract which provided for, or was based on, considerable investment by the bus operator in matters of that kind, which one might expect the bus operator to fund. The considerable investment that this implies may qualify under European law as a significant investment by the private sector but may only be commercially viable for the operator over a period longer than 10 years. The purpose of the amendment is to provide for that period of extension to be possible.

Once again, for the reasons I have mentioned, I hope my noble friend will be prepared to reflect further on this issue. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I do not want simply to repeat what I said before but I have not heard anything new in the argumentation put forward by my noble friend Lord Rosser. There are essentially two issues here: first, the length of schemes; and, secondly, the length of individual contracts. I shall deal with them in reverse order.

I take the point that in some restricted circumstances European Community law would allow contracts to be let for up to 15 years, although in most cases 10 years would still be the maximum. We could, therefore, set no limit in our own legislation and simply rely on the Community regulation to set the limit. However, we must not overlook the fact that the recently adopted regulation does not come into force until December 2009.

The real question is whether it would be the right policy to do so. I have little doubt that my noble friend could cite precedents where contracts have been let for longer periods than 15 years for the provision of infrastructure—light rail would be one example—where considerable investment is needed to get the project off the ground. But one advantage of buses over light rail is that most of the infrastructure is there already in the form of public highway; any improvements that may be desirable are not particularly expensive, relatively speaking, or necessarily difficult to provide. This also means that a bus network can be provided on a more flexible basis and can more easily be varied in line with changing journey patterns, demographic changes, growths in new communities and so on. So there is a real danger that a 15-year contract could create a real disincentive to responding flexibly to change in demand and could undo many of the advantages inherent in buses over tracked systems of public transportation.

A 15-year contract would also place a great deal of power into the hands of the contracted operator. The longer the period of the contract, the more difficult it would be to promote genuine competition for a successor, particularly if contracts are let over a wide area to a single operator. Even 10 years carries that risk and should be regarded as a maximum rather than the norm. It should require the operator to do something more than simply provide a basic level of service over that time.

Nor am I certain whether the difference between 10 and 15 years would be sufficient to persuade an operator to invest in capital projects such as bus stations. Many PFI contracts have been for much longer periods than that, though 15 years would still be the limit for bus services under community legislation. In any case, I can see no reason why a contract to build and manage a bus station should not be left as a separate measure, unrelated to contracts to operate bus services. That contract would then not be subject to the time restrictions in this Bill or the community regulation.

If we were to accept that there could be contracts for up to 15 years, we would have to extend the duration of the quality contracts schemes themselves, either to 15 years or, as in my noble friend's amendment, for as long as the transport authority wishes, which in practical terms might as well mean for ever. Again, I am not attracted to that for the same reason; it could create the rigidity and inertia that many of us believe were in the pre-1985 set up.

The Transport Act 2000 has rightly required local transport authorities to make long-term plans for the public transport in their areas, and that was a necessary and long overdue reform. Yet it also obliged them to review these plans at five-year intervals. There may be a stage at which the only way of getting a decent bus service in an area is to go for the quality contract option. The Bill will make this option more realistic than it is at present, but that does not mean it is the right option for eternity. Since this option places a lot of power in the hands of the local transport authority, there will be understandable pressure to keep it in place long after it has served its purpose.

We think it is in the public interest that these schemes should be subject to a formal review process at least once in 10 years, and measures in this Bill will enable a local transport authority to provide for a scheme to continue in force beyond 10 years without having to start again at the beginning where it has been successful. Without a process for review after 10 years, there is a danger that they will simply carry on, for better or worse, because there is insufficient motivation to suggest otherwise.

I am not persuaded by these amendments and hope my noble friend can feel his way to withdraw them. My noble friend asked me to reflect more on the Transport for London position, where there is no 10-year limit. The situation is different in London; its services were never deregulated in the same way as services outside the capital. They have been shaped and configured in a different way, subject to different pressures and demands, as well as pressures for innovation.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Labour 6:00 pm, 16th January 2008

My Lords, I am not able to fully agree with my noble friend. Nor am I entirely sure about his last point and the validity of it as an argument for distinguishing between what happens in London and in the areas outside London when renewing, as opposed to setting up, a franchise. I did not follow the logic of that, but beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 25 agreed to.

Clause 28 [Extension of maximum period of quality contracts]:

[Amendment No. 32 not moved.]

Clause 28 agreed to.

Clause 29 [Continuation of scheme for further period]:

[Amendments Nos. 33 to 37 not moved.]

Clause 29 agreed to.

Clause 30 [Approval of continuation of scheme]:

[Amendment No. 38 not moved.]

Clause 30 agreed to.

Clause 31 [Appeals relating to exempt proposals for continuation of scheme]:

[Amendment No. 39 not moved.]

Clause 31 agreed to.

Clause 32 [Appeals relating to continuation of scheme]:

[Amendments Nos. 39A and 40 not moved.]

Clause 32 agreed to.

Clause 33 [Variation or revocation of scheme]:

[Amendment No. 41 not moved.]

Clause 33 agreed to.

Clause 34 [Appeals relating to exempt variations of scheme]:

[Amendment No. 42 not moved.]

Clause 34 agreed to.

Clause 38 [Quality contracts: application of TUPE]:

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 43:

Clause 38, page 34, leave out lines 4 to 13 and insert—

"(1) Subsection (2) applies to a situation in which—

(a) on the coming into force of a quality contract, local services cease to be provided by a person (the "former operator") in the area to which the relevant quality contracts scheme, or (in the case of a scheme which provides for different provisions to come into operation on different dates) the relevant provision of the scheme, relates, in accordance with section 129(1)(b), and(b) at the same time, a person (the "new operator") begins to provide local services in that area under that quality contract.

(2) Any such situation is to be treated as a relevant transfer for the purposes of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 ("TUPE") (whether or not TUPE would apply apart from this subsection).

(3) For the purposes of TUPE, the organised grouping of employees that is subject to the relevant transfer consists of those employees of the former operator whose employment is principally connected with the provision of the local services referred to in subsection (1)(a).

(4) The Secretary of State may make regulations supplementing the provision made by this section.

(5) The provision that may be made by regulations under subsection (4) includes—

(a) provision for determining, for the purposes of subsection (3), whether a person's employment is principally connected with the provision of any particular local services (including provision for or in connection with the appointment of a person to make such determination);(b) provision for determining, in the case of any particular organised grouping of employees, the particular new operator who is to be the transferee for the purposes of TUPE (including provision for or in connection with the appointment of a person to make such determination); (c) provision requiring any person operating local services in the area to which a quality contracts scheme relates to provide the authority or authorities who made the scheme with such information as may be prescribed, at such time as may be prescribed, about such of that person's employees as would fall within subsection (3) if the person ceased to provide those services in the circumstances described in subsection (1)(a);(d) provision requiring the authority or authorities who made a quality contracts scheme to provide all persons operating local services in the area to which the scheme relates with such information as may be prescribed, at such time as may be prescribed, so as to enable such persons to comply with any requirement imposed by virtue of paragraph (c) of this subsection.".

( ) In section 26(1) of the TA 1985 (conditions attached to PSV operator's licence) after paragraph (b) insert—

"(bza) the operator has failed to comply with a requirement imposed by virtue of section 134B(5)(c) of the Transport Act 2000; or".

( ) In section 155(1) of the TA 2000 (penalties) for the "or" at the end of paragraph (b) substitute—

"(ba) failed to comply with a requirement imposed by virtue of section 134B(5)(c) of this Act, or"."

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, in Committee, my noble friend Lord Rosser moved an elaborate and extensive amendment to Clause 38 which gave rise to considerable debate with useful contributions from the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and the noble Lord, Lord Snape. Amendment No. 43 will, I hope, address a number of the concerns expressed in that discussion.

In my response at the time to my noble friend, I explained how a transfer from a deregulated bus network to a regulated one under quality contracts would differ from the standard form of transfer of undertaking for which the TUPE regulations were designed. The process could be complex because in most cases we would not be starting with either a service directly provided by a public authority or a service provided under contract to a public authority. I fully accepted that the clause in the Bill did not deal with all possible circumstances and agreed carefully to consider the points made by noble Lords.

No doubt it will be recalled that the existing Clause 38 would provide TUPE protection only to employees who were taken on by a new employer who had won a quality contract. It would not provide for all those employed in providing the existing services to transfer to the new operator. The amended clause would create an obligation so that when an existing local service is discontinued because of a quality contract coming into force, all employees engaged in providing that service would be eligible for transfer to the new operator of that contract on TUPE terms. That change was advocated by nearly all who contributed to the Grand Committee debate.

Another criticism of the existing clause was that it left unclear many details of precisely which employees would qualify for TUPE terms, particularly where there was not a straightforward correspondence between the existing service and the new service. The amended clause contains provisions to address that issue as well, by means of a power to make regulations to prescribe the process to determine who comprises the existing workforce and those who would be assignable to a new contract. It is proposed that the incumbent operator would be required to provide information to the local transport authority about their current workforce which could be used as a basis for tendering. The successful tenderer would be obliged to employ those workers, provided that they were willing to make the transfer, before looking further afield for employees.

This model depends on a degree of co-operation from the existing operators. First, they will have to supply employment details, suitably anonymised. Provision is made for sanctions if they fail to do so. Secondly, the TUPE provisions will apply only if the relevant services are continued in operation until the transfer date. Noble Lords will be aware that this has difficulties, but it should be borne in mind that an existing operator who will lose its services and employees unless it bids for and wins a contract to keep them going has a strong incentive to play by the rules. An operator that is able to transfer staff on TUPE terms will avoid the redundancy procedures and payments that would otherwise be necessary. We believe that on balance it is worth the risk of some employees potentially losing out in order to create a strong incentive for continuity of service to be maintained. Ultimately, we cannot force operators, in a still deregulated market, to continue providing services that may not be commercially viable.

I am aware that this amendment does not address all the points made in Committee. It would be virtually impossible to please everyone and set up a system that would deal with every contingency. I believe this is a great step forward and evidence that we have been listening hard to representations on this subject, not only from Members of this House but from elsewhere such as within industry at large. There have been a lot of discussions. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Labour

My Lords, I welcome the fact that the Government are seeking to ensure that TUPE protection applies. I share the view expressed by my noble friend that the amendment represents considerable progress. It is, as he said, a complex issue and it is important for all those concerned to get it right. I hope that the Government will continue, if necessary, to work constructively with those directly affected by the employment issues referred to in the amendment as the Bill progresses through Parliament. I am sure that people will want to raise further issues on this matter.

I trust I am not being unrealistic in hoping that, as the Bill progresses through Parliament, the Government will still feel able to introduce amendments to ensure pension protection. Whether TUPE regulations would apply in the period between the award of a quality contract to its becoming operational—that is at least six months; it could be longer—in circumstances where an operator deregistered a service and the quality contract operator then took it over is one of the issues that may need to be explored further. I welcome the amendment and the genuine efforts of the Government to deal with what could be a very difficult problem.

Photo of Lord Snape Lord Snape Labour

My Lords, the amendment illustrates the great problems that arise from the implementation of the quality contract provisions of the Bill. It is significant that the main trade union in the bus industry—it was the Transport and General Workers' Union; it is now part of the new union called Unite—has not been active in writing to noble Lords about quality contracts. At least, it has not written to me. However, I understand that it is in favour of such a provision. On reflection, I think that it has consulted some of its members locally and decided that it is not quite as much in favour of them as it first appeared to be.

The only representation on this amendment that I have received from the trade union movement is from the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, which organises bus workers in various parts of the country, which is a legacy of certain railway companies operating their own buses prior to nationalisation. The letter was signed by the general secretary, Bob Crow—he signed it "Robert Crow", which I found impressive; he had obviously decided at least to take his name upmarket, if not some of his attitudes. He said that he was very much in favour of franchising and, a little like PTEG, said that we ought to make sure that it came into being, rather than it being semi-blocked by a difficult government Bill. He went on to say:

"However"— there is always a "however"—

"in these circumstances, we are very concerned about future pension provision".

I forbore to write back: "Well, the problem with franchising is that, all too often, franchises go to the lowest bidder and pensions are not immediately uppermost in their mind when making their bids". He might have thought of that before he wrote the letter, but I do not suppose that there will be much future in pointing out that to him.

However, we are talking not just about pensions—the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, referred to that. PTEG has belatedly realised that it is not simply a matter, as it is with railway franchising, of ringing the paint producers and having a new livery on the trains; it is a matter also of certain employment aspects of franchising, which is what quality contracts mean, albeit under a different name. I, too, would welcome, therefore, further thoughts from the Minister as the Bill proceeds to another place—I am sure that he will provide them—about proper pension provision for those who are involuntarily transferred from one company to another should the Government, or the traffic commissioners and those who advise them, be unwise enough to accept the nonsense of quality contracts.

However, more matters than just pensions are involved here. I try not to repeat matters that were debated in Committee, unlike the Passenger Transport Executive Group, which appears happy to take advantage of your Lordships' rules that there are no rules really, that we make them up as we go along, and that it is up to individual Members of your Lordships' House to abide by those unwritten rules. Perhaps the Procedure Committee could look at whether it an abuse of those unwritten rules for any organisation to brief Members, to see that amendments are worded exactly as they were in Committee and to provide exactly the same brief. My opinion is that it is, but I have not been here long enough to try to rewrite the rules of your Lordships' House. There are certain other matters aside from pensions that the Minister ought to consider.

For example, many employees of the major bus companies are part of their own sharesave schemes. I know that FirstGroup and National Express have among their shareholders a considerable number of employees. When I was at National Express, all its employees were shareholders. The bus section of National Express was originally an employee-owned company. They came with their own shares, which were converted into National Express shares. Under the existing tax regulations, those shares are subject to taper relief. I am aware that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced the abolition of taper relief and a flat rate of tax of 18 per cent. I am not sure that the announcement will survive the furore that followed it, but if it does not, what will happen to those employees? After all, under the rules of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, they get tax relief for shares only in the company for which they work. If under the daft provisions of quality contracts, and through wishes not of their own but those of the Passenger Transport Executive Group, they are transferred, will there be any income tax relief for them? If their transfer is against their will, it will certainly be as a result of this legislation. What representations does the Minister envisage making to the Chancellor of the Exchequer about future tax provision for those who have calculated their worth and benefits under the existing sharesave schemes and who find themselves not working for the company which originally issued those shares and, because of that, subject to a different income tax regime? These are all legitimate concerns. PTEG has largely glossed over them, because it is not interested in them; its only concern is to get its hands back on its buses. However, they are relevant concerns, and are perhaps among the reasons why the trade unions have been less than vociferous in supporting this aspect of the Bill. What provision does the Minister envisage making to protect those employees and their legitimate savings from the ravages of the taxman?

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in particular for his support for our amendments. I am pleased that they were welcomed. I am sure that he and the noble Lord, Lord Snape, are right to say that, as the Bill progresses through both Houses, further concerns will be raised. The noble Lord, Lord Snape, raised proper concerns which I am unable to address today, but I shall certainly read in Hansard what he said and reflect on his points.

Pensions are an important issue. We are committed to continuing discussions on them because we are sensitive to them. People quite properly want to ensure that they have a reasonable pension deal and that it is properly preserved. We accept that there have to be more discussions on that. I am content that noble Lords are generally supportive of the amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 40 [Competition scrutiny of functions and agreements relating to buses]:

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 44:

Clause 40, page 34, leave out lines 38 to 42 and insert—

"( ) voluntary partnership agreements and certain other agreements, decisions and practices relating to bus services."

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 45 to 63. The Bill provides for a new competition test that would apply to voluntary partnership agreements between local transport authorities and bus operators and to certain other supporting agreements. The test would apply in place of the provisions of Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Competition Act 1998. The new test is designed to encourage these agreements by providing greater clarity to bus operators and a more proportionate enforcement regime.

In debating this issue in Grand Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, tabled an amendment that would have broadened the scope of the test to cover any agreement involving bus operators, even without any local authority involvement. There are certainly circumstances where such agreements may be in the public interest and, in those circumstances, we would wish to encourage them. For example, two operators might wish to co-ordinate their timetables on a particular route to provide a regular service frequency throughout the day, which makes evident good sense. However, in seeking to create a more flexible framework for beneficial agreements of this kind, we need also to ensure we do not create a safe harbour for agreements that are not in the interests of passengers. Agreements that are inconsistent with the policies of a local transport authority would be one example, or agreements that seek to fix fares higher than they need to be.

The amendments are designed to get this balance right. They would allow any agreement between bus operators to fall within the scope of the new competition test so long as the agreement has been endorsed and certified by the local transport authority and did not involve price fixing. By being subject to the new competition testing, Part 2 of Schedule 10 to the Transport Act 2000, agreements meeting this condition would not be at risk of financial penalty from the OFT. I know that that has been a concern. I consider that the amendments address the concerns raised by noble Lords in earlier debates while ensuring we do not create a safe harbour for agreements that undermine and do not provide direct benefits to passengers. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport

My Lords, I welcome the amendments as they will encourage bus operators to co-operate in a way that many of them are inhibited from doing now because of their fears of the draconian penalties under the Competition Act 1998. The Government will need to make it very plain to people that conversations between bus operators which are in the public interest are to be encouraged, not simply permitted. I understand that any local authority may give this certification so that it would not be open to a local authority which was being difficult to withhold its signature and override the wishes of other local authorities and the bus operator concerned.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 45:

Clause 40, page 35, line 33, leave out "17(9)(a) and (b)(ii)" and insert "17(5)(b) and (8)"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Competition test: amendments of Schedule 10 to the Transport Act 2000]:

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendments Nos. 46 to 63:

Schedule 2, page 93, line 14, leave out from beginning to end of line 6 on page 94 and insert—

"(4) In this Part of this Schedule—

(a) a "qualifying agreement" is an agreement between bus undertakings only;(b) a "qualifying decision" is so much of any decision by an association of undertakings as relates to the operation of local services;(c) a "qualifying practice" is a concerted practice by bus undertakings only.

(5) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (4)—

(a) a bus undertaking is an undertaking which is the operator of a local service;(b) the involvement of a local authority which is not a bus undertaking is to be disregarded;(c) a quality partnership scheme or voluntary partnership agreement is not to be regarded as a qualifying agreement, qualifying decision or qualifying practice.

(6) In sub-paragraph (5)(b) "local authority" means—

(a) a local transport authority;(b) a district council in England.

(7) A provision of this Part of this Schedule which is expressed to apply to, or in relation to, a qualifying agreement is to be read as applying equally to, or in relation to, a qualifying decision or a qualifying practice (but with any necessary modifications).

(8) A reference to the area of an authority—

(a) in relation to a VMA or VBA, is a reference to the area of a local transport authority who are a party to the agreement;(b) in relation to a qualifying agreement, is a reference to the area of a local transport authority in whose area the agreement is, or is to be, implemented.

(9) The "bus improvement objectives" are—

(a) securing improvements in the quality of vehicles or facilities used for or in connection with the provision of local services,(b) securing other improvements in local services of benefit to users of local services, and(c) reducing or limiting traffic congestion, noise or air pollution."

Schedule 2, page 94, line 10, leave out "supporting" and insert "qualifying"

Schedule 2, page 94, line 15, leave out "supporting" and insert "qualifying"

Schedule 2, page 94, line 19, after "certified" insert "that they have considered all the terms and effects (or likely effects) of the agreement and"

Schedule 2, page 94, line 22, leave out "supporting"

Schedule 2, page 94, leave out lines 28 and 29 and insert "the bus improvement objectives."

Schedule 2, page 94, line 33, leave out "supporting" and insert "qualifying"

Schedule 2, page 94, line 35, leave out "supporting" and insert "qualifying"

Schedule 2, page 94, leave out lines 37 to 42 and insert—

"( ) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (3) the object or effect of a qualifying agreement may be considered either on its own or together with one or more VMAs, VBAs or other qualifying agreements."

Schedule 2, page 94, line 43, leave out "or VBA, or a supporting agreement," and insert ", VBA or qualifying agreement"

Schedule 2, page 95, leave out lines 1 to 14 and insert—

"( ) Where the standard of services specified in a VMA or VBA includes any requirement as to maximum fares (see section 153(3)), any provision of that agreement relating to the setting, review or revision of the maximum fare is not to be regarded as constituting a price-fixing agreement for the purposes of sub-paragraph (1)."

Schedule 2, page 95, line 16, leave out "or VBA, and any supporting agreement," and insert ", VBA or qualifying agreement"

Schedule 2, page 95, line 27, leave out "or VBA" and insert ", VBA or qualifying agreement"

Schedule 2, page 95, leave out line 30 and insert "bus improvement objectives,"

Schedule 2, page 95, line 37, leave out from beginning to end of line 19 on page 96

Schedule 2, page 96, line 21, leave out "or VBA, or a supporting agreement," and insert ", VBA or qualifying agreement"

Schedule 2, page 96, line 23, leave out "or (2)"

Schedule 2, page 96, line 29, leave out "or VBA, or a supporting agreement," and insert ", VBA or qualifying agreement"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Photo of Lord Low of Dalston Lord Low of Dalston Crossbench

moved Amendment No. 64:

After Clause 47, insert the following new Clause—

"Wheelchair accessible taxis and private hire vehicles providing a local service

The duties imposed by section 36 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 shall apply from 1st August 2008 for all licensed taxis and licensed hire cars which—

(a) provide a local service as defined by section 2 of the TA 1985, and(b) are deemed or registered by the relevant local licensing authority to be a wheelchair accessible taxi."

Photo of Lord Low of Dalston Lord Low of Dalston Crossbench

My Lords, this amendment was tabled by my noble friend Lady Chapman who unfortunately has had to leave the House for a hospital appointment. I am moving the amendment at her request and with her permission. It gives me great pleasure to do so, because it seeks to bring into force Section 36 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Those of your Lordships who can count will appreciate that disabled people have not seen the benefit of this provision for the past 13 years. Section 37, which is comparable, gives a similar protection to disabled people who are guide dog users. It seems quite inequitable that Section 37 can be brought into force without the comparable protection for wheelchair users that Section 36 would provide.

I strongly support this amendment, which is why I have no difficulty in moving it on the behalf of my noble friend. She wanted me to thank noble Lords on all sides of the House for their warm expressions of support for her amendment. She also asked me particularly to thank the Minister for the time and courtesy he has extended to her in the discussions they have had about the implementation of Section 36 of the Disability Discrimination Act.

The Minister will recall that my noble friend asked a question on 18 December about when this provision was to be brought into force. The Minister indicated that the Government planned to bring it into force at a reasonably early date. However, my noble friend has tabled the amendment to concentrate minds and ensure that at least we make a start.

I hope that the Minister will appreciate that the scope of this amendment is very limited—it has to be to bring it within the scope of the Bill. It would, from August 2008, place the duties imposed by the, as yet unactivated, Section 36 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 on any taxi that is deemed or registered by the relevant local licensing authority to be a wheelchair-accessible taxi and where it is providing a local service as defined by Section 2 of the Transport Act 1985. We very much welcome the provisions in the Bill which permit the use of taxis to provide local transport services. However, this means that the scope of the amendment has to be limited to taxis that are providing a local transport service. It would not apply to a wheelchair-accessible taxi that could be hailed; for example, on a street corner.

My noble friend has been assured by the National Association of Licensing and Enforcement Officers—NALEO—which represents local government officers who enforce and oversee Britain's taxi licensing regime, that her amendment is practical and workable. It issued a statement on 14 January which said that the,

"amendment is, in our view, a proportionate and logical step in the improvement of local services. NALEO has no doubt that every licensing authority in England and Wales can identify all wheelchair accessible vehicles licensed by their authorities either instantly or at very short notice. Therefore the existing local authority licensing and enforcement framework would be capable of supporting this amendment at little or negligible cost".

This statement additionally says that NALEO also believes that while the Government's proposed amendment on Report to impose a duty on local transport authorities to have regard to the transport needs of disabled persons is to be welcomed, my noble friend's amendment is necessary to reinforce that with requirements on taxi drivers not to discriminate against wheelchair users when they are driving a taxi that is providing a local service. This amendment seeks to achieve this through the unambiguous and enforceable duties on taxi drivers contained in Section 36 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

An estimated 1.2 million wheelchair users in England alone could benefit from the incremental advance this amendment seeks. They have already waited 13 years for Section 36 of the 1995 Act to be brought into force. It is time at least to make a start. In the summer of 2007 the Public Carriage Office of Transport for London was unable to pursue a court case against the driver of a wheelchair-accessible taxi who had refused to take my noble friend's fare because it discovered that Section 36 was not in force. This amendment, if accepted, would mean that such a prosecution would in future at least be able to be brought where a taxi was providing a local service. Up until now successive Transport Ministers have considered that rural and other areas are not ready to comply with the protections that the section would afford to wheelchair users using taxis. In urban areas far more taxis are wheelchair-accessible; for example, in London every taxi has to be wheelchair-accessible to obtain a licence. But, as I have said, my noble friend has been assured by the National Association of Licensing and Enforcement Officers that her amendment would be practicable and workable in rural areas no less than in urban areas.

If the scope of the Bill were wider, my noble friend Lady Chapman would have amended it to bring the section into more general force, where local authorities have certified a taxi to be wheelchair accessible, so that unlike this amendment, it would apply to taxis being hailed on a street corner, not just those providing a local service. That will have to wait for another day.

Looking around Britain's high streets, it is hard to believe that—as estimated by the NHS—there are over 1 million wheelchair users in the country. More wheelchair users might get about and participate more in the economic life of this country if the Government were to accept this amendment and the door it will open for progressing wider implementation of Section 36.

With the numbers of potential beneficiaries from this amendment and the considerable numbers of wheelchair-accessible taxis now available in Britain, we believe that passing this amendment would be bound to have more than a symbolic significance. If the Government can give an assurance on this matter or offer to meet the purpose of the amendment in some way—for example, on the commencement date—then we would be prepared to consider withdrawing it. My noble friend Lady Chapman wanted me to remind your Lordships that 1 million of our fellow citizens are weary of being left out in the rain by successive governments as well as by many wheelchair-accessible taxis. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde Labour

My Lords, I am pleased to give my wholehearted support to this amendment. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Low, for moving it so fully. He has covered all the relevant points.

Like many other Members of this House, I was absolutely shocked to know that this section of an Act affecting people with disabilities, passed nearly 13 years ago, has not been enacted. The noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, is very grateful to the Minister for the time he has given to her in discussions on this matter. We cannot forget that the Bill gives the opportunity to ensure that Section 36 of the Act is brought in.

I have heard stories of people trying to get taxis. The noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, told me how nine taxis one after the other just passed her. One had the audacity to wave to her as he went past. Nobody can condone that. That was not the situation that was ever intended when the Bill was brought in all those years ago. I am pleased to support the amendment. It is proportionate. It is supported by the local licensing authorities as a proportionate and logical measure. I suspect that the Minister is sympathetic to it and I hope that he can give a positive response—or some indication of when the Government will introduce this provision in the Act. Most of us are now saying that enough is enough—13 years is long enough for any part of the Act to be enacted. We would welcome it being done as soon as possible. This is a proportionate measure. The noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, has been extremely responsible in the way that she has put it forward. I support the amendment.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Transport

My Lords, my name is also on this amendment and I give it my wholehearted support. The noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, has been tireless in her work on this matter and we all want to commend her for that. I hope that we will support her today. As the noble Lord, Lord Low, has said, this does not cause any problems to local authorities. It relates to those taxis that are able to take wheelchair passengers. As both my colleagues have just said, this is 13 years too long. I support the amendment.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport

My Lords, the amendment is supported here. I am particularly interested in the Minister's reply on its workability. Can this work or are we talking about something like the Dangerous Dogs Act which was passed with everybody's good wishes but proved to have legislative holes in it? We are looking forward to something that will work.

Photo of Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior Conservative

My Lords, speaking as a recent user of these facilities, I can say that the majority of people driving taxi cabs have a lot of good will. Unfortunately, there is a small proportion of people who see wheelchair users and pass by looking on the other side. One of the difficulties will be convincing people that they should stop and take on board wheelchair users who require a taxi. I am not sure how that can be done. A number of taxi drivers have told me that they cannot take me because they have a bad back. The number of bad backs among London taxi drivers seems to be increasing as the years go by. I support the amendment and trust that the Government will find some way to ensure that it is enforced—though not in a rigorous police manner—to get over the message that people in wheelchairs need to be helped and transported.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I am extraordinarily grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, for the way in which she has brought the amendment forward. I enjoyed a very robust discussion with her on this issue and she told me in no uncertain terms that she wanted to make sure that something got done. I was impressed by that and genuinely moved by her determination on this matter, as we all should be. Like everybody else in your Lordships' House, I was fairly horrified by some of the stories which surrounded the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, asking her question on 18 December. I had hoped that we had moved on from those days and that we were now in an era in which drivers were much more responsible regarding people with disabilities and their access to taxi services.

Members of your Lordships' House who were here on that occasion will also recall that I made the point that, as the noble Lord has just said, most taxi drivers are happy and content to co-operate and want to be helpful and provide a service. However, sadly, a minority do not do taxi services any favours in their treatment of people with different measures of disability. We need a power like this. It is not hard to persuade me or others that we need to move in that direction. Like other noble Lords, I greatly regret that it has taken as long as it has to get to this point. I am not going to offer up lame excuses because that is not what the House requires. It requires to know that this issue is being dealt with in an entirely proper way.

I have had some discussion with my right honourable friend Rosie Winterton on this matter. She assures me that we are very close to the point where proposals will be brought forward. She is obviously a person of great integrity on these matters and shares with me a passion to ensure that we get things right. I cannot offer a precise timetable for that—to do so would be disingenuous. We intend to make an announcement very shortly. Before we make that announcement, I want to ensure that the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, and—if he is prepared to give up some of his valuable time—the noble Lord, Lord Low, have a meeting with Rosie Winterton to have further discussion on this issue. There are some practical problems associated with this amendment so I hope it will be withdrawn today.

I will go through one of the issues concerned. Even if we were minded to consider the amendment today, there are one or two practical difficulties. The duties imposed by Section 36, for instance, are linked to Section 32, covering the taxi accessibility regulations that have not been commenced. Section 32 provides for the making of regulations in which technical requirements will be set out and under which it will be mandatory for any taxis governed by the regulations to comply with such requirements—not unreasonable in themselves. We would need to ensure, however, that the Section 36 duties were quite freestanding. Furthermore, the power to make regulations under Section 32 applies only to taxis and not to private hire vehicles, so further amendments to Section 36 would be required so as to apply the duties to the drivers of private hire vehicles. The amendment does not quite work as it is, which is one of the areas of concern to Ministers. We do not want to put something in place that is not workable.

While I cannot promise to bring something back at a later stage of the legislation, I can say that we are close to an announcement, prior to which perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, and the noble Lord, Lord Low, could agree to hold further discussions with my right honourable friend Rosie Winterton. We are all committed to delivering more accessible taxis and making it easier for disabled passengers to use public transport. That is a common and shared objective. The implementation of that is very important, and I know from my discussions with Rosie Winterton that there has to be a further period of consultation—not a long period, but certainly to meet the usual three-month obligation. We have to ensure that we can achieve what is set out, and we want to carry out some further work.

We are reviewing the uncommenced sections, and an announcement is to be made shortly. We want to evaluate all the options. Certainly we need to have some discussions, not just with the National Association of Enforcement Officers—which, I am glad to say, shares our enthusiasm, and I welcome that—but also with the Local Government Association and others who have an interest in this matter. We want to reflect carefully on DPTAC, because it has important comments to make on these issues too.

Having said that, and I make these comments in a positive light and with the intention of ensuring that we get matters right, I hope noble Lords will not press the amendment, which is defective in some respects, but will enable us to continue our beneficial discussions so that we can progress and ensure that the objective we all seek can be achieved.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Transport

My Lords, what does the Minister think might be achieved between now and Third Reading, which is in about two weeks' time?

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, it is a matter of diaries. It is my hope that we can have some useful discussions with the moving spirits behind the amendment so we can make some progress in that regard. I asked whether it would be possible to give a date for an announcement, but the answer has come back that that would be unwise; we do not want to commit ourselves to something that we do not then deliver. However, the term "very shortly", to my way of thinking, means exactly that. I do not want this thing to drag on any longer because that would not be in anyone's best interests.

Photo of Lord Low of Dalston Lord Low of Dalston Crossbench

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his full and considerate reply. I do not doubt for a moment his good will and sincerity, and I take his reply as positive. I detect in it a determination on the part of the Minister and the Government to find a resolution to this matter, as he said, "very shortly". At the same time, I need to make it clear that the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, was very anxious to get a resolution today and to test the opinion of the House. She thought, as do I, that "very shortly"—and there are obviously varying opinions about how long that is—must mean some time before August, which is the date specified in the amendment. As I said in moving the amendment, if Section 37 can be brought in, we find it difficult to see why Section 36 cannot.

I have listened to the Minister's careful exposition. He has indicated that there are certain difficulties in the way of implementing the provision in this way and further work is necessary to get it right, and he has offered to meet us to discuss it. In those circumstances, it would be churlish not to respond positively to those indications and offers and to press the amendment. On the basis that we are happy to meet the Minister and his colleague Rosie Winterton to discuss the matter further, with a view to getting a positive resolution to this matter quickly, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 55 [Powers of traffic commissioners where services not operated as registered]:

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 6:45 pm, 16th January 2008

moved Amendment No. 65:

Clause 55, page 48, line 3, at end insert—

"( ) must, if the implementation of any of the measures in the report would affect the operation of bus services in an integrated transport area, send a copy of the report to the Integrated Transport Authority for that area;"

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 65 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 66. The two amendments pick up an amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Rosser in Committee. They concern the punctuality reports that traffic commissioners may prepare under the new Section 27A of the Transport Act 1985 that would be inserted by Clause 55 of the Bill.

I am grateful to my noble friend for drawing our attention to the point. In the clause as drafted, traffic commissioners are required to send copies of a punctuality report recommending remedial measures to the operator and, where recommendations about such measures are for implementation by a local traffic authority, to that authority. However, there is no statutory requirement to send copies to the integrated transport authority, which may also have a strong interest in the remedial measures; for example, because the implementation of those measures might affect the operation of buses in their area. In the metropolitan areas, the integrated transport authority, rather than the local traffic authority, is responsible for developing and implementing local transport policies, and that authority would have an interest in ensuring that such recommendations were implemented effectively.

The amendments will remedy the situation and create parity between the two tiers of authority in metropolitan areas. Outside the metropolitan areas, the issue does not arise because the same local authority is responsible for both transport and traffic.

The first amendment will affect subsection (6) of the inserted section. It would make it obligatory for the traffic commissioner to send a copy of a report to an integrated transport authority where any remedial measures proposed would affect the operation of services in their area.

The second amendment will affect subsection (7) of the inserted section and will add integrated transport authorities to the list of further persons to whom the traffic commissioner may send a copy of the report but is not obliged to. This would cover cases falling outside the scope of the first amendment; for example, because the report did not propose any remedial measures, or none within the authority's own area, but could still be relevant to its transport planning role. There is a similar mention in subsection (7) of local traffic authorities, so once again the amendment would put both types of authority on the same footing. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport

My Lords, we must not assume that making a report to the Integrated Transport Authorities is simply a way of chastising bus users. If the problems are about congestion, the matter is referred to that authority so that it can take some action. It is an area where some authorities, as the noble Lord, Lord Snape, has said, have been very dilatory in the past, while they concentrated on such issues as he described, rather than putting their own house in order.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Labour

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for bringing forward this amendment in response to the amendment I moved in Committee, and on which my noble friend said that she would reflect. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 66:

Clause 55, page 48, line 9, after "authority" insert "or Integrated Transport Authority"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 58 [Revival of certain powers of PTEs]:

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Labour

moved Amendment No. 67:

Clause 58, page 51, line 7, after "subsidies," insert "or where the vehicles concerned are let to a person who operates a vehicle or vehicles under a permit granted under section 19 of the Transport Act 1985,"

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Labour

My Lords, the Bill proposes reinstating the PTE power to own vehicles and provide them to operators. The purpose of this amendment is to enhance that power to formally allow PTEs to provide vehicles to community transport operators. Unless I am very much mistaken, in Committee the Government did not specifically engage with what was intended as the main point of this amendment, which was to allow PTEs to provide vehicles not only for commercial operators, but for community transport schemes. Obviously, there are financial issues involved in such schemes and for those who run and organise them. This amendment would regulate the status of such support by the local transport authority. It would also be in line with one of the wider aims of the legislation, which is to support and promote the community transport sector.

This group of amendments includes Amendment No. 70. If that amendment had been agreed in Committee, which it was not, it would give the PTE, as the operator of last resort, powers if a quality contract was terminated or services under that contract ceased. In Committee, the Government agreed to look at the operator of last resort powers again. The Minister has since indicated that the Government have decided not to move from the Bill as it stands on this particular issue. As far as the reasons that have been given are concerned, reference has been made to the position of an operator who, in effect, goes out of business, and to the powers of either an administrator or a receiver, among others, to address the situation that might arise. Within London, for example, these powers exist. Once again, there appears to be a discrepancy between what the Government view as appropriate in London, and what they view as appropriate outside.

It is not only a question of companies that might become insolvent. There are, presumably, issues of franchise default or termination—although they will be very few and far between, and nobody would suggest otherwise—where the operator of last resort powers might, in some circumstances, be needed. I know that there is an argument about whether transport authorities are in a position to own their own fleet of vehicles, depots, and so on, but presumably they might be able to rent or lease vehicles. They might be in a situation where there has been a default or termination over a number of services in an area, rather than a situation where the local transport authority wishes to step in and provide vehicles for all services. There might be a need on certain routes. It might be part of a package of measures, involving other operators, put forward by the PTE to cover services. The local transport authority itself might need to be the operator of last resort.

I have read the Government's views on this in light of the representations we made in Committee, and have made some further points, which I hope my noble friend will be prepared to reflect further on. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Snape Lord Snape Labour

My Lords, listening to my noble friend I am struck by the fact that he has told us continuously, on behalf of the Passenger Transport Executive Group, that quality contracts were the way forward. Somehow, bus services the length and breadth of the country would be transformed, if only quality contracts could be implemented. The great failing of the 2000 Act was not to implement quality contracts. Now, of course, comes a safety net: this wonderful system that PTEG would inflict upon operators nationally has to be provided with a fail-safe mechanism. I understand why.

If we are to have franchising of bus services, it is obviously conceivable that the lowest bidder will be awarded the franchise. Again, experience leads me to believe that, all too often, the lowest bidder is not the best long-term choice. I understand why the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has to erect this safety net on behalf of PTEG, but surely there is a better way of doing it. If the quality contract goes ahead and the chosen operator fails, there is nothing—under the legislation as I understand it—to stop another operator being installed on a pro tem basis until the contract can be re-let. My noble friend will correct me if I am wrong. I wonder whether, when the noble Lord winds up the debate on this amendment, he will tell us, or give us an estimate of, how much money will be needed to acquire a bus fleet and rent premises. This is no cheap matter, but it was somewhat glibly skated over. Buses can be leased but, again, this is not necessarily cheap, unless one wishes to lease those glorified bread vans that disfigured our roads for some years after the 1986 Act, but which have thankfully now been swept away. I wonder if PTEG has thought about the financial implications of becoming the operator of last resort.

I put one more point to the noble Lord, which he could, perhaps, reflect on in winding up, provided he has been adequately briefed. Could there be a temptation to choose the weakest operator, in the knowledge that there may be an opportunity to become the operator of last resort and, indeed, move into the bus business? This is a not inconsiderable temptation, as I know from some of my conversations with the Passenger Transport Executive. I do not mind it wanting to become the operator of last resort, although I do not think that it does that very well. Again, talking about the bus industry of the past, I cannot remember this wonderful system that local authorities ran so well. As a regular user of buses in my youth, if I wanted to get home after 11 pm, it had to be either by taxi or Shanks's pony, because the local authority was never keen to provide a late-night bus service.

We have moved on from those days. If we are to have local authorities running bus services, albeit as the operator of last resort, it is incumbent on the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, to tell us whether provision needs to be made within the financial parameters of the constituent local authority's NEPT area, and, if so, how much money we are talking about and how many staff. How does one acquire the expertise to be a PSV operator? It does not come easily or cheaply, and rightly so. We are anxious, as a nation, to prevent what I might term fly-by-night operators entering the bus business.

I do not suggest for a moment that local authorities would come under that category. However, before anyone on their behalf puts forward such an amendment, they should tell your Lordships how much money is involved and why the obvious alternative, that of installing another operator until the quality contract can be re-let, cannot be considered. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will resist this amendment as ably as he did in Committee.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip 7:00 pm, 16th January 2008

My Lords, we have not had a full discussion on these points, and I did promise in Committee to look at them again. There are two separate issues: the leasing of vehicles to community transport groups and whether the PTE should have the power to operate the vehicles as a "last resort". I shall deal with these in reverse order. I apologise for not dealing as properly as I should have with the first of the two issues, which is why I shall spend a little more time on it towards the end.

We said that we would reflect on the issue of operating powers for PTEs, even in the narrow terms set out in Amendment No.70. Indeed, the more we think about it, the less convinced we tended to be. In Committee, noble Lords referred to the comparable case of rail franchises, and my noble friend Lord Berkeley mentioned that the Strategic Rail Authority had kept a team of qualified people at the ready in case it was necessary to step in to prevent a service being disrupted by the failure of a contractor. No doubt that piece of information was provided to support the need for such a measure, but in fact it also brought home to us just what an enormous commitment it would be for a PTE to profess to be the "operator of last resort" and to have the necessary legal powers.

For the powers to be of any use it would have to be possible for the PTE to exercise them at a moment's notice, otherwise they might as well let an emergency contract. My noble friend Lord Snape has made quite a lot of that argument. I agree with him: it would be very difficult to acquire that level of expertise in that sort of timeframe. The practicalities of it are that they would need a public service vehicle operator's licence, the necessary financial standing and a professionally competent transport manager available at any time the emergency might arise. They would also need the vehicles and drivers. Arguably those of the failed company would be available, but they would not necessarily fall into the PTE's lap.

What is more likely to happen, particularly if we are talking about a company of any size, is that receivers or administrators would be called in and would continue to run the company's affairs as best they could until a buyer was found. In particular, they would be likely to want to keep services going as these would bring in revenue to abate any unfortunate losses. Maintaining contractual obligations would take precedence over discretionary activities, so services outside quality contracts schemes may be more at risk.

That might not happen in the case of small operators, particularly sole traders, but they would generally be managing small contracts, and I think that one could fairly argue that it should be easier to replace them on the open market. I am told that where, for example, a contractor defaults on a schools contract, there is little difficulty in finding another operator to step in, even at very short notice. Local transport authorities with a quality contracts scheme have powers to let emergency contracts under Section 131 of the Transport Act 2000 until a new permanent contractor is found.

The PTEs, I understand, are more worried about what would happen if a big contractor should fail and, for any reason, the administrators were unable to keep the company trading, or chose not to do so. In that case it is hard to see how a PTE could step in more effectively than another operator, or several other operators, each taking a slice. The PTE would need a very large operator's licence, say for as many as 200 or 300 vehicles, and a means of getting hold of those vehicles and the people to drive them. One assumes that they would not have them on permanent standby. I find it surprising that this argument has been put forward as robustly as it has. I do not think it is a practical proposition; I am not sure that PTEs would welcome these powers in the long run; and I think it would be onerous to require them to set up a permanent shadow organisation which had little to do for most of the time.

Finally, I doubt whether it would provide what we could reasonably envisage as good value for money.

I have rather more sympathy for the other proposition contained in the group of amendments. This is a separate issue. Again I reiterate my apology to my noble friend that in Committee we were so exercised about the "operator of last resort" issue that we rather overlooked this one. I am sorry about that because it is clear that there may be some merit in this amendment which was not fully exposed in that debate.

I fully understand that one practical way in which a PTE could help the community transport sector, particularly dial-a-ride services for older or disabled people, is by purchasing suitable vehicles and leasing them, perhaps for a nominal fee. This may be a more cost-effective way of supporting these services than other forms of grant aid—and it appears that, unlike local authorities, they may be prevented from doing so because of the effect of the disapplication of the leasing power in Section 10 of the Transport Act 1968.

I am not certain whether the amendment would entirely achieve what my noble friend is arguing for. It would seem to extend only to services aimed at elderly or disabled people. That is because it would be caught by the words "public passenger transport services" which appear at the end of the paragraph in Clause 58. Services provided under Section 19 permits—the permits used by community transport bodies—are not included in that term unless they are,

"provided wholly or mainly to meet the needs of members of the public who are elderly or disabled".

I am not sure whether my noble friend intended the leasing power to be restricted in that way. I suspect that he did not. I also suspect that the PTEs may want the power to extend more widely, even if their main concern is to support services for older or disabled people.

My commitment today is simply this: we can see merit in the amendments. We are happy to take away this issue and see whether we can move in the direction indicated in my noble friend's amendment and better perfect it to fit the purpose which I think he probably intended for it. I hope on those terms that the noble Lord will be able to withdraw this amendment and to not pursue the others in the group.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Labour

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his response, in particular to Amendment No. 67. We await what emerges further on that.

On the issue of the operator of last resort I do not think that my noble friend responded to the point that there are those powers within London. Any local transport authority would have to decide about the costs involved in deciding whether to exercise those powers of operator of last resort. Obviously, the costs involved would depend on the extent to which it was going to decide to act as an operator of last resort in the exceptional circumstances in which that normally arises. In the light of the Minister's response, that option is not going to be available to the transport authority to consider even if it wished to do so. I note my noble friend's response with regret on Amendment No. 70, but I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 67.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 68 to 70 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Labour

moved Amendment No. 71:

After Clause 58, insert the following new Clause—

"Extension of grant-making powers

(1) Section 106 of the TA 1985 (grants for transport facilities and services) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1), paragraph (a), after "who are disabled" insert ", elderly, persons who are in full-time education, or unemployed".

(3) In subsection (2) after "providing public passenger transport services" insert "or such services that facilitate travel by those members of the public referred to in subsection (1) paragraph (a) above".

(4) In subsection (2), paragraph (b), after "public passenger transport services" insert "or such services that facilitate travel by those members of the public referred to in subsection (1) paragraph (a) above".

(5) Omit subsection (3)."

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Labour

My Lords, the general thrust of the amendment was discussed in Committee. Among the concerns raised by the Government was the scope of that amendment. I hope that the Government feel that their concerns about that have been addressed. The amendment would extend the existing powers of PTAs, PTEs and various councils to make grants for transport facilities and services for disabled people to include other groups, specifically older people, persons in full- or part-time education and the unemployed. Under the Transport Act 1985 it is the only specific grant-making power available to PTEs and other local transport authorities. Under the relevant section of that Act, local transport authorities can make capital grants to provide, maintain or improve facilities wholly or mainly for facilitating travel by members of the public who are disabled. They can also make revenue grants to community transport operators to support the provision of bus services for both the disabled and the elderly.

The amendment, which I hope will find better favour with my noble friend, would extend the permissible categories for capital grants to include older people, people in full- or part-time education and the unemployed, and for revenue grants it would allow the same category extension for grants by local transport authorities to community transport operators. In effect, the amendment, if it were adopted, would allow local transport authorities to support a much wider range of initiatives and projects with a social-inclusion focus. That in turn would contribute to wider government goals for tackling social exclusion. It might, for example, allow grants to be made for vehicle acquisition for yellow school bus schemes or for community transport providers. It would also allow for both capital and revenue support to be provided for community transport schemes serving socially excluded communities, rather than just for community transport schemes serving the elderly and the disabled. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport

My Lords, when the Minister replies, I would like him to reflect as to whether the amendment will undermine certain commercially provided services. Local authorities have, since the Transport Act 1985, given considerable assistance to disabled people who are suffering from illness and it is within the scope of their powers to help people in full-time education. I would like to know if that is additional to what is available now or whether it is another attempt by certain people to get in on providing services that are available in the market.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, as the noble Lord has explained, this is a slightly narrower version of an amendment that was examined in Committee. I appreciate that in the new amendment he is seeking to define more precisely the broadening and grant-making powers of the PTAs and other local transport authorities that he proposed previously. I recognise that he has identified services for older persons, those in full-time education and the unemployed as the new focus of his amendment.

Taking the point that the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw made, in so doing the amendment runs the risk that it might—as he seemed to suggest—adversely impact on the funding allocated for expenditure on transport for disabled persons. That is one of the reasons why I am less than happy with it. In general terms, it is hard not to sympathise with the proposition and the suggestion that there should be some flexibility. I understand the spirit within which the amendment has been moved and the desire to do all that we can to promote social inclusion. Having said all that, I am not sure that a convincing case has yet been made for the substantial changes in Section 106 which even the latest modified amendment brings forth. We should proceed with some caution in the area. I am not aware that local transport authorities in general have identified that the current scope of Section 106 is providing a serious block on what they wish to achieve. I have not had that said to me and I do not know that the evidence exists to make that case. That is not to say that we might not be willing to look carefully at any specific examples that might be brought to us.

I know that in replying to the previous debate the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, drew attention to concerns that broadening the scope of Section 106(1) of the 1985 Act, which is specifically directed at the moment to grants for facilitating travel by members of the public who are disabled, risked, when money is tight—my earlier point—that a much lower priority would be given to the needs of those who are disabled. In view of our earlier discussions I am sure that noble Lords would regret that unfortunate consequence.

I also suggest that the amendment, even in its narrower form, risks confusion and overlap with the existing powers available to both local transport authorities and education authorities. It is not clear, for example, that services used by unemployed persons are really a discrete category or that special vehicles, equipment or, for that matter, facilities are required to enable them to use such services. Do unemployed people—or, for that matter, those in full-time education—not just want to make use of good-quality local transport services like the rest of us? I am also concerned that the extension of the power to make capital grants in the amendment raises issues that need some further examination, not least, as was said in one of the earlier debates, in relation to the position under EU state aid rules.

We have to be careful. Those reservations draw me to the conclusion that this is not a particularly attractive or helpful amendment. I appreciate the thinking behind it, but it could have some unintended and unfortunate consequences.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Labour 7:15 pm, 16th January 2008

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his response. In the light of the points that he has made and his view of the amendment's consequences, there will be need for further reflection. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 65 [The Public Transport Users' Committee for England]:

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 72:

Clause 65, page 53, line 28, leave out "section 125B" and insert "sections 125B and 125C"

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 73 to 76. In Committee, amendments were tabled with the objective of obliging certain persons, such as bus operators, local authorities and traffic commissioners, to have regard to representations made by the Public Transport Users Committee. The aim was to strengthen the powers of the committee to ensure that certain parties would take proper notice of it. While we considered that the amendments as drafted were overly restrictive—not least because they would not have applied if the Secretary of State opted to give additional functions to the Rail Passengers' Council—we agreed to consider the concept and examine whether it would be appropriate to legislate.

We have done that and agree that there would be merit in strengthening the remit of the passenger representative body by placing, in certain circumstances, an obligation on certain persons or bodies to respond to the representations or recommendations of the committee. The powers we already propose to take through this Bill would enable the Secretary of State to confer powers on the passenger representative body to make recommendations or representations to certain people or bodies, such as bus operators, local authorities, and traffic commissioners. The government amendment would enable the Secretary of State, subject to approval by resolution in both Houses of Parliament, to make an order to confer functions on those people or bodies to place them under an obligation to respond in a particular way.

What we have in mind is that if the passenger representative body makes representations to a bus operator about the way in which services are operated in a particular area, that operator would be under an obligation to consider those representations, and perhaps to send a written response to the user committee. The amendment as drafted would enable this to be done if we were to either set up a public transport users committee or add additional functions to Passenger Focus, the rail watchdog.

One further change that I would like to mention specifically is our proposal in respect of the functions to be conferred on the Public Transport Users' Committee under new Section 125B of the Transport Act 1985. These are to make recommendations to the Secretary of State either on any matters relating to public passenger transport services as the committee considers appropriate, or in response to a particular request by the Secretary of State. We believe that it would be appropriate to widen the power to enable the committee to make representations, as well as recommendations, to the Secretary of State on appropriate matters. We have tabled an amendment to include that point.

I hope that the House will agree that these are sensible steps to ensure that any new statutory watchdog has sufficient influence. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendments Nos. 73 to 75:

Clause 65, page 54, line 37, after "recommendations" insert "or representations"

Clause 65, page 55, line 38, at end insert—

"125C Power to confer functions in relation to the Committee

(1) This section applies where an order under section 125B(3) confers on the Committee power to make recommendations or representations to a body or person.

(2) The Secretary of State may by order confer on the body or person functions in respect of such recommendations or representations.

(3) An order under this section may confer a function on a body or person only if the new function relates to—

(a) public passenger transport services, so far as operating in England; or(b) public passenger transport facilities in England.

(4) The provision that may be made in an order under this section includes provision amending, repealing or revoking any provision of an enactment (whenever passed or made) conferring functions on the body or person.

(5) In this section "public passenger transport facilities" has the same meaning as in section 125B.

(6) No order shall be made under this section unless a draft of the order has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament."."

Clause 65, page 55, line 40, after "125B" insert ", 125C"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 66 [Power to confer non-rail functions on the Rail Passengers' Council]:

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 76:

Clause 66, page 56, line 23, at end insert—

"(4A) In a case where an order under this section confers on the Rail Passengers' Council power to make recommendations or representations to a body or person, the provision which may be included by virtue of subsection (3) in the order also includes provision conferring on the body or person functions in respect of such recommendations or representations.

(4B) An order under this section may confer a function on a body or person by virtue of subsection (4A) only if the new function relates to local services or domestic coach services, so far as operating in England."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 77:

After Clause 66, insert the following new Clause—

"Power to require display of certain information

(1) The appropriate national authority may make regulations requiring prescribed persons, or persons of a prescribed description, to display, in such place or places and in such manner as may be prescribed, information falling within subsection (2).

(2) The information referred to in subsection (1) is prescribed information, or information of a prescribed description, relating to persons or bodies with functions relating to public passenger transport services.

(3) Regulations under this section may provide that a traffic commissioner may impose a financial penalty on any operator of a public service vehicle who, without reasonable excuse, fails to comply with a requirement imposed on the operator by regulations under this section.

(4) Regulations made by virtue of subsection (3) may—

(a) specify the maximum penalty that may be imposed by virtue of that subsection;(b) require a traffic commissioner who has imposed a penalty by virtue of that subsection to give notice in writing to such persons as may be prescribed.

(5) A penalty imposed by virtue of subsection (3) is—

(a) payable to the appropriate national authority that made the regulations, and(b) recoverable as a civil debt.

(6) An operator on whom a penalty is imposed by virtue of subsection (3) may appeal to the Transport Tribunal against the imposition of the penalty.

As respects appeals to the Transport Tribunal, see Schedule 4 to the TA 1985.

(7) The power to make regulations under this section is exercisable by statutory instrument.

(8) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(9) In this section—

"the appropriate national authority" means—

(a) in relation to public passenger transport services operating wholly or partly in England, the Secretary of State;(b) in relation to public passenger transport services operating wholly or partly in Wales, the Welsh Ministers;

"prescribed" means prescribed in regulations;

"public passenger transport services" has the meaning given by section 63(10)(a) of the TA 1985;

"public service vehicle" and "traffic commissioner" have the same meaning as in the PPVA 1981."

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 78. In Committee, the noble Lords, Lord Low and Lord Berkeley, tabled amendments which would have placed an obligation on passenger transport operators to display information about public transport users committees. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Low, focused on the need for the presentation and location of such notices to take the needs of disabled people into account. At the time that we debated these amendments I explained that, although we agreed with the principle and intention behind them we wanted to consider them further, and I promised to come back at this stage with a suggestion on how to achieve his objective.

We agree that it might be appropriate to require such information to be visible, so that, for example, passengers know who they can contact if they have a complaint about the service that they have received, or where to take that complaint further if they feel it has not been properly addressed. As noble Lords are aware, we are consulting on a new bus passenger champion. In drafting this clause, we have been mindful that the legislation should not be tied to any of the options, as it would be redundant if that option were taken out. Furthermore, this objective has merits in itself aside from the statutory passenger representative body that may be set up, so we want to ensure that the powers can be used even if it is decided that no such body is needed. Therefore, this amendment has been drawn up with sufficient flexibility to accommodate a range of different outcomes to the consultation. It would provide for the detail of the information requirements to be prescribed in secondary legislation, and that will give the right flexibility.

This provision would also extend to Wales, although it would be for Welsh Ministers to make the regulations to apply there. We have defined the power to make regulations in such a way as to provide that, for services which operate between England and Wales, there could be a requirement to display information relevant to passengers in whichever area they travel. The power would also enable the regulations to empower a traffic commissioner to impose a financial penalty on any operator who without reasonable excuse failed to comply with the requirement. Such an operator would have a right of appeal to the Transport Tribunal against a decision to impose a penalty.

The second new clause in this group of amendments is supplementary and would clarify the powers of the Transport Tribunal in relation to appeals under the main clause. It would also clarify those powers in the case of appeals against sanctions imposed by the traffic commissioners under Section 155 of the Transport Act 2000, as proposed to be amended by Clause 56 of this Bill.

I apologise for the slightly technical long-windedness of that explanation, but we have probably met the aspirations of noble Lords and I look forward to their welcome for the amendments. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Snape Lord Snape Labour

My Lords, this is neither technical nor whatever other word my noble friend used. I shall press him on bus users' representation. He will be aware that the present system involving Bus Users UK is favourably regarded by people in the industry. I understand that the Government are looking at whether that organisation or another should adequately represent bus users. The trouble with Bus Users UK is that it is funded by the bus industry, and some critics say that its voice is muted because of that. I am in no way authorised to say this, but I will say it anyway, given my connections with the bus industry: that industry would be quite relieved if someone else funded it, but no one else does, so it remains the responsibility of the bus industry.

I realise that future bus users' representation does not technically come under the terms of the amendment, but my noble friend mentioned it. While I am a great admirer of Mr Phil Tonks and his colleagues based in the Midlands—they can fairly be described as critical friends of the bus industry—can the Minister give us some idea of the Government's future thinking and share and endorse my view that UK bus users are adequately represented? If the Minister could say whether the Government could come forward with a suggestion for alternative funding, I am sure that he would be widely acclaimed—if not by Her Majesty's Treasury.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport

My Lords, I support what the noble Lord, Lord Snape, said. I am a former chairman of a bus users' body and am aware that Bus Users UK does a lot of work. The bus industry provides some of the funding, but a small amount of extra funding would provide a very effective means of representing bus users. I trust that the Government will thoroughly consider that before, by regulation, they move to a more expensive and more sophisticated system

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for responding to our points made in Committee. I still think that there is merit in having a joint users' council for the rail and bus industries. He did not explain how it could be funded and how it could work—which is just as well, because Clause 77 is not the easiest clause to understand. At least there is a website which combines rail and bus travel information, and that is now very helpful for passengers, following some initial problems. I look forward to following this matter closely, as it develops.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I am grateful for the comments made. I heard the plea of my noble friend Lord Snape on behalf of the bus industry for it to be relieved of funding consultative and complaint organisations. I am sure that that will focus minds back in the Department for Transport. He always raises interesting issues. We are consulting on various options, but it would not be the best use of the House's time if I ran through all of them. We will certainly consider what he and other noble Lords said on the issue. Funding is for another day. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said that more money might make the system better; maybe, but I do not know. I am not sure that the system is wonderfully effective; we want to improve it and ensure a better and more representative focus on the issues of concern. I hope that we can achieve that outcome following further reflection. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Berkeley for his kind comments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 78:

After Clause 66, insert the following new Clause—

"Appeals to the Transport Tribunal

(1) In Schedule 4 to the TA 1985 (constitution, powers and proceedings of the Transport Tribunal) paragraph 9 (powers of tribunal on appeal from determination of traffic commissioner) is amended as follows.

(2) In sub-paragraph (1), for the words from "under" to "1999" substitute "under any of the enactments specified in sub-paragraph (1A) below".

(3) After sub-paragraph (1) insert—

"(1A) The enactments are— the 1981 Act;this Act;the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995;the Road Transport (Passenger Vehicles Cabotage) Regulations 1999;section 155 of the Transport Act 2000;section (Power to require display of certain information) of the Local Transport Act 2008."."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 67 [Change of name of passenger transport areas and PTAs]:

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 79:

Clause 67, page 57, line 6, leave out "9(1)(a)" insert "9(1)(a)(i)"

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

I shall try to be brief, and in moving the amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 80 to 108 and Amendments Nos. 122 to 125.

The Bill places an overarching duty on what have previously been known as passenger transport authorities to develop policies for transport in their area and to produce a local transport plan. In other words, they will be responsible for transport strategy covering not only public transport, but all transport within their locality. They will have additional statutory powers as set out in Part 5. In recognition of this new, wider, set of responsibilities, we believe it would be sensible to rename PTAs as Integrated Transport Authorities—ITAs. At the same time, we would rename the area that an ITA covers—previously known as a passenger transport area—as an "integrated transport area".

I am sure that it will come as no surprise to the House that there are many references to PTAs and passenger transport areas in current legislation, going back, as far as we can understand it, to the Transport Act 1968. Clause 67 provides that such references should now be read as if they refer to Integrated Transport Authorities and areas as regards England and Wales.

I am told that it is good legislative practice to make the necessary changes, where possible, by way of textual amendment, in order to aid accessibility of the legislation in future. We believe that this is particularly important now that legislation is so often accessed through electronic means.

Schedule 4 currently lists existing references to PTAs and passenger transport areas where these occur in various statutes coming forward from 1968 and relating to transport matters. We have now had an opportunity to identify more such references, and these amendments expand Schedule 4 to provide a comprehensive list of textual amendments to PTAs and passenger transport areas in all public Acts of Parliament.

There is one proviso to this. While the new references to ITAs and ITA areas would apply to England and Wales, it is still necessary to retain existing references to PTAs in relevant legislation. This is simply because one PTA was set up in Scotland—in Strathclyde—which is not affected by this Bill. As a devolved matter, any legislative changes in Scotland to the Strathclyde PTA would be a matter for the Scottish Parliament. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendments Nos. 80 and 81:

Clause 67, page 57, line 12, after "area" insert "in England or Wales"

Clause 67, page 57, line 17, after "Authority" insert "for an area in England or Wales"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 4 [Change of name of PTAs: consequential amendments]:

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendments Nos. 82 to 108:

Schedule 4, page 103, line 35, leave out "Part 2 of"

Schedule 4, page 103, line 36, leave out "Part 2 of the TA 1968 (Passenger Transport Areas)" and insert "The TA 1968"

Schedule 4, page 104, line 1, leave out sub-paragraphs (2) to (7) and insert—

"( ) In subsection (1)(a)—

(a) after "the following areas" insert "shall be designated as follows";(b) in sub-paragraph (i) for "the metropolitan counties" substitute "each of the metropolitan counties shall be an integrated transport area";(c) the words "shall be a passenger transport area" become part of sub-paragraph (ii).

( ) In subsection (1)(b) for the words from the beginning to the end of sub-paragraph (i) substitute—

"(b) any reference to "the Authority" is a reference to—(i) in relation to an integrated transport area in England and Wales, the Integrated Transport Authority established for the metropolitan county which is coterminous with or includes that integrated transport area; and".

( ) In subsection (1)(c) for the words preceding sub-paragraph (i) substitute—

"(c) any reference to "the Executive" is a reference to—".

( ) In subsection (2) after "The Executive for" insert "an integrated transport area or".

( ) In subsection (3) after "the Executive for any" insert "integrated transport area or".

( ) In subsection (4) for "the Passenger Transport Authority" substitute "the Authority"."

Schedule 4, page 104, line 25, leave out "Integrated Transport Areas and Authorities and Passenger Transport Executives" and insert "Areas, Authorities and Executives"

Schedule 4, page 104, line 29, leave out sub-paragraph (2) and insert—

"(2) Before "passenger transport area" (in each place) insert "integrated transport area or"."

Schedule 4, page 104, line 32, leave out "Integrated Transport Authorities and Passenger Transport Executives" and insert "Authorities and Executives"

Schedule 4, page 104, line 35, leave out from "(5)," to end of line 36 and insert "before "a passenger transport area" insert "an integrated transport area or""

Schedule 4, page 104, line 37, leave out from "Executive)" to end of line 38 and insert "after "the Executive for" insert "an integrated transport area or""

Schedule 4, page 104, line 39, leave out from "Executive)" to end of line 40 and insert "after "The Executive for" insert "an integrated transport area or""

Schedule 4, page 104, line 41, leave out from "(6)," to end of line 42 and insert "before "a passenger transport area" insert "an integrated transport area or""

Schedule 4, page 104, leave out line 44 and insert "after "The Authority for any" insert "integrated transport area or""

Schedule 4, page 105, line 2, leave out from "services)" to end of line 3 and insert "after "the Executive for" insert "an integrated transport area or""

Schedule 4, page 105, line 5, leave out from "(3)," to end of line 6 and insert "before "a passenger transport area" insert "an integrated transport area or""

Schedule 4, page 105, line 7, leave out paragraphs 11 and 12 and insert—

"10A In consequence of the amendments made by this Part—

(a) the heading to Part 2 of that Act becomes "Integrated Transport Areas and Passenger Transport Areas";(b) in the italic cross-headings preceding sections 9 and 20, before "Passenger Transport Areas" there is inserted "Integrated Transport Areas or".

10B (1) Section 56 (assistance towards capital expenditure on public transport facilities) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (4)(a) after "general policies formulated by" insert "an Integrated Transport Authority or".

(3) For subsection (6)(bb) substitute—

"(bb) an Integrated Transport Authority for an integrated transport area in England;".

10C In section 134(1) (duty to act in certain cases as body engaged in commercial enterprise) after "any area which is" insert "an integrated transport area or".

10D (1) Section 137 (machinery for negotiation and consultation with staff) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1)(c) after "any area which is" insert "an integrated transport area or".

(3) In subsection (3)(b)—

(a) after "such an Executive," insert "to the Integrated Transport Authority for the integrated transport area in question or, in Scotland,";(b) for "relevant Passenger Transport Authority" substitute "relevant Authority".

(4) In subsection (4) for "relevant Passenger Transport Authority" (in both places) substitute "relevant Authority".

10E In section 141(1) (application of Town and Country Planning Acts) after "any area which is" insert "an integrated transport area or".

10F In section 160(5) (stamp duty) after "any area which is" insert "an integrated transport area or".

10G (1) Schedule 5 (Passenger Transport Authorities and Executives) is amended as follows.

(2) In Part 2 (the Executive), in paragraph 2 after "the Authority for" (in both places) insert "the integrated transport area or, as the case may be,".

(3) In Part 3 (matters which may be dealt with by order under section 9), in paragraph 11 after "the Executive for" insert "an integrated transport area or".

(4) The heading to the Schedule becomes "Passenger Transport Executives".

Part 1AAmendments of the Transport Act 1985

11A The TA 1985 is amended as follows.

11B In consequence of the amendments made by this Part—

(a) the italic cross-heading preceding section 57 becomes "Integrated Transport Areas and Passenger Transport Areas";(b) the heading to section 57 becomes "Areas, Authorities and Executives".

11C (1) In section 63(9)(b) (functions of local councils with respect to passenger transport) after "the Passenger Transport Executive for any" insert "integrated transport area or".

(2) In consequence of the amendments made by this Part, in the heading to section 63 after "other than" there is inserted "integrated transport areas and".

11D In section 64(1) (consultation with respect to policies as to services) after "with every" insert "Integrated Transport Authority,".

11E (1) Section 72 (the public transport companies and their controlling authorities) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1)(a)—

(a) before "passenger transport area" (in each place) insert "integrated transport area or";(b) before "Passenger Transport Authority" (in each place) insert "Integrated Transport Authority or".

(3) In subsection (1)(b) after "section 61 of this Act" insert "by the Integrated Transport Authority for any integrated transport area or".

(4) In subsection (3)(a) after "(as the case may be)" insert "the Integrated Transport Authority or".

(5) In subsection (5)—

(a) after "in relation to" insert "an Integrated Transport Authority or";(b) after "that Executive or the" insert "Integrated Transport Authority or".

11F In section 73(5) (control over constitution and activities of public transport companies) after "whose controlling authority are" insert "the Integrated Transport Authority for any integrated transport area or".

11G In section 74(2) (disabilities of directors of public transport companies)—

(a) for "a Passenger Transport Authority for a passenger transport area" substitute "an Integrated Transport Authority for an integrated transport area";(b) for "that Passenger Transport Authority" substitute "that Integrated Transport Authority".

11H (1) Section 75 (powers of investment and disposal in relation to public transport companies) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1) after "a Passenger Transport Executive," insert "an Integrated Transport Authority,".

(3) In subsection (4), at the beginning insert "An Integrated Transport Authority,".

11I (1) Section 79 (financial backing for public transport companies) is amended as follows.

(2) In each of subsections (1), (4), (6) and (10), at the beginning insert "An Integrated Transport Authority,".

(3) In subsection (8) after "Subject to subsection (9) below," insert "an Integrated Transport Authority,".

11J (1) In section 80 (duty not to inhibit competition) at the beginning insert "An Integrated Transport Authority or".

(2) In consequence of the amendments made by this Part, in the heading to section 80 after "Duty of" there is inserted "Integrated Transport Authority or".

11K (1) Section 81 (provision, maintenance and operation of bus stations) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsections (1) and (3) after "Passenger Transport Executive for any" insert "integrated transport area or".

11L In section 84(1)(a) (compensation for loss of employment, etc, on disposal of interest) after "any interests held by" insert "an Integrated Transport Authority,".

11M (1) Section 85 (incorporation of Passenger Transport Executives into Authorities) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1)—

(a) after "the Passenger Transport Executive for any" insert "integrated transport area or";(b) after "specified in the order to" insert "the Integrated Transport Authority or, as the case may be,".

(3) In subsection (3)—

(a) for "and Authorities" substitute ", Integrated Transport Authorities and Passenger Transport Authorities";(b) after "in relation to the" insert "integrated transport area or".

11N In section 86(1) (amendments consequential on orders under section 85) after "in relation to" insert "integrated transport areas or".

11O (1) Section 93 (travel concession schemes) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (8)(b)(i) for "a metropolitan county passenger transport authority" substitute "an Integrated Transport Authority for an integrated transport area".

(3) In subsection (9)(b) for "a Passenger Transport Authority for a passenger transport area" substitute "an Integrated Transport Authority for an integrated transport area".

(4) In subsection (10) after "Where" insert "an Integrated Transport Authority or".

11P In section 95(4) (publicity requirements for schemes) after "under section 93 of this Act are" insert "an Integrated Transport Authority or".

11Q In section 96(3) (right of service operators to participate in concession schemes) after "with the consent of" insert "the Integrated Transport Authority or, as the case may be,".

11R In section 97(10) (compulsory participation in concession schemes) after "the consent of" insert "the Integrated Transport Authority or, as the case may be,".

11S (1) Section 104 (travel concessions on services provided by PTEs) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsections (1) and (2) for "Passenger Transport Authority" (in each place) substitute "Authority".

(3) In subsections (2) and (3) before "a passenger transport area" insert "an integrated transport area or".

(4) After subsection (3) insert—

"(4) In this section "Authority", in relation to an area, means the Integrated Transport Authority or, as the case may be, the Passenger Transport Authority for that area.".

11T In section 106(4)(a) after "any" insert "Integrated Transport Authority,".

11U In section 130(3) (capital gains tax) after "from a Passenger Transport Executive to" insert "an Integrated Transport Authority or".

11V In consequence of the amendments made by this Part, in the heading to section 133 for "Passenger Transport Authorities and Executives" there is substituted "Authorities and Executives".

11W In section 137(5) (interpretation of references to Authorities, etc)—

(a) for "Passenger Transport Authorities and Executives" (in both places) substitute "Integrated Transport Authorities, Passenger Transport Authorities and Passenger Transport Executives";(b) before "passenger transport areas" (in both places) insert "integrated transport areas and".Part 1BAmendments of the Transport Act 2000

12A The TA 2000 is amended as follows.

12B In section 108(4) (meaning of "local transport authority" for purposes of Part 2 of that Act) for paragraph (c) substitute—

"(c) an Integrated Transport Authority for an integrated transport area in England, or".

12C (1) Section 124 (quality contracts schemes) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1A)—

(a) for "A Passenger Transport Authority" substitute "An Integrated Transport Authority";(b) for "a Passenger Transport Authority" substitute "an Integrated Transport Authority";(c) for "the Passenger Transport Authority" substitute "the Integrated Transport Authority".

(3) In subsection (1B)—

(a) for "Passenger Transport Authority" substitute "Integrated Transport Authority";(b) for "Passenger Transport Authorities" substitute "Integrated Transport Authorities".

(4) In subsection (11)—

(a) for "Passenger Transport Authority" substitute "Integrated Transport Authority";(b) for "a Passenger Transport Authority" substitute "an Integrated Transport Authority";(c) for "Passenger Transport Authorities" substitute "Integrated Transport Authorities".

12D In section 146 (mandatory concessions: supplementary), in paragraph (c) of the definition of "travel concession authority", for "a passenger transport area" substitute "an integrated transport area".

12E (1) In section 157(1) (grants) for "the Passenger Transport Authority for a passenger transport area" substitute "the Integrated Transport Authority for an integrated transport area".

(2) In consequence of the amendments made by this Part, the heading to section 157 becomes "Grants to Integrated Transport Authorities".

12F (1) Section 162 (interpretation of Part 2) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (4)—

(a) for "a Passenger Transport Authority" substitute "an Integrated Transport Authority";(b) for "passenger transport area" (in both places) substitute "integrated transport area";(c) for "Passenger Transport Authorities" substitute "Integrated Transport Authorities".

(3) In subsection (5)—

(a) for "Passenger Transport Authorities and Executives" (in both places) substitute "Integrated Transport Authorities and Passenger Transport Executives";(b) for "passenger transport areas" (in both places) substitute "integrated transport areas"."

Schedule 4, page 105, leave out lines 21 to 29

Schedule 4, page 105, line 34, at end insert—

"( ) In section 236B(1) (power to revoke byelaws) for paragraph (d) substitute—

"(d) an Integrated Transport Authority for an integrated transport area in England."."

Schedule 4, page 105, line 37, at end insert—

"Race Relations Act 1976 (c. 74)

(1) The Race Relations Act 1976 is amended as follows.

(2) In Schedule 1A (bodies and other persons subject to general statutory duty), in paragraph 38, after "A Passenger Transport Executive for" insert "an integrated transport area or".

Schedule 4, page 106, line 5, at end insert—

"Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (c. 27)

(1) The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 is amended as follows.

(2) In Part 5 of Schedule 9 (consultation with traffic commissioners about certain orders), in paragraph 31(b)—

(a) after "an area which is" insert "an integrated transport area or";(b) for "that passenger transport area" substitute "that area"."

Schedule 4, page 106, line 18, leave out "integrated transport"

Schedule 4, page 106, line 27, at end insert—

"( ) In consequence of the amendments made by this Part, the heading to section 28 becomes "Integrated Transport Authorities"."

Schedule 4, page 106, line 30, at end insert—

"( ) In section 40(3) (certain references in the Civil Aviation Act 1982 to include references to passenger transport authorities) for "a metropolitan county passenger transport authority" substitute "an Integrated Transport Authority for an integrated transport area in England"."

Schedule 4, page 106, leave out lines 34 to 39

Schedule 4, page 107, line 16, leave out from "Executive," to end of line 17 and insert "after "an Executive for" insert "an integrated transport area or"."

Schedule 4, page 107, line 41, at end insert—

"( ) In section 136(5)(a) (grants and subsidies) after "areas other than" insert "integrated transport areas and"."

Schedule 4, page 108, line 4, at end insert—

"Value Added Tax Act 1994 (c. 23)

(1) The Value Added Tax Act 1994 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 33(3) (bodies entitled to refunds in certain cases) for paragraph (d) substitute—

"(d) an Integrated Transport Authority, Passenger Transport Authority or Passenger Transport Executive for the purposes of Part 2 of the Transport Act 1968;".Education Act 1996 (c. 56)

(1) The Education Act 1996 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 509AB(7) (consultation regarding transport policy statements) for "Passenger Transport Authority" substitute "Integrated Transport Authority".

Audit Commission Act 1998 (c. 18)

(1) The Audit Commission Act 1998 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 30(3) (meaning of "relevant authority" in relation to Passenger Transport Executives) for "Passenger Transport Authority" substitute "Integrated Transport Authority"."

Schedule 4, page 108, line 20, at end insert—

"Freedom of Information Act 2000 (c. 36)

(1) The Freedom of Information Act 2000 is amended as follows.

(2) In Schedule 1 (public authorities) for paragraph 28 substitute—

"28 A Passenger Transport Executive for an integrated transport area for the purposes of Part 2 of the Transport Act 1968."."

Schedule 4, page 108, line 26, at end insert—

"Railways Act 2005 (c. 14)

(1) The Railways Act 2005 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 13 (railway functions of Passenger Transport Executives)—

(a) in subsection (2) for "passenger transport area" substitute "integrated transport area";(b) in subsections (3), (4), (5), (7), (8) and (9) for "a passenger transport area" substitute "an integrated transport area".

(3) In section 33(2) (persons on whom closure requirements may be imposed) for paragraph (d) substitute—

"(d) an Integrated Transport Authority or a Passenger Transport Authority;".

(4) In section 58(3) (references in Act to Passenger Transport Authority )—

(a) after "a reference to" insert "an Integrated Transport Authority or";(b) after "or to" insert "an integrated transport area or".Concessionary Bus Travel Act 2007 (c. 13)

(1) The Concessionary Bus Travel Act 2007 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 9 (variation of reimbursement and other administrative arrangements), in subsections (6)(b) and (7)(b) for "Passenger Transport Authority" substitute "Integrated Transport Authority".

Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 (c. 28)

(1) The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 104 (application of Chapter 1 of Part 5: partner authorities) for subsection (2)(i) substitute—

"(i) an Integrated Transport Authority for an integrated transport area in England;"."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Photo of Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Government Whip

My Lords, I beg to move that consideration on Report be now adjourned. In moving the Motion, I suggest that Report stage begin again not before 8.32 pm.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.