Bus Services Bill [HL] - Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 4th July 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Scott of Needham Market Baroness Scott of Needham Market Liberal Democrat 6:30 pm, 4th July 2016

My Lords, I have four minor amendments in this group and wish to say a word or two about each of them. My Amendment 45 would include the Competition and Markets Authority in the list of consultees. This goes back to a point I made on Second Reading and in the private meeting organised with the Minister from another place.

In the days when I had much more to do with transport, the Competition and Markets Authority writ large across the operation of the bus industry, to the extent that, when I tried to deal with buses in Suffolk, I could not get two operators to sit in the same room with me because they had been told by their lawyers that that could be regarded as collusion and therefore anti-competitive. As noble Lords can imagine, that made trying to run a coherent bus network in Suffolk very difficult. We have dealt with that very effectively now—because we have very few buses. We need to really think about the point at which the Competition and Markets Authority is involved with this. The last thing we want is a very lengthy and expensive process of tendering, consultation and agreement, only to find at that point that the authority has a problem with it.

Amendment 49 tidies up the question of modification. At the moment, it is not at all clear what a modification means. You would not need to re-consult for a relatively minor one, but it is possible to imagine fairly major modifications to a franchising scheme where re-consulting would be a good idea. Amendment 52 comes back to the question of oversight. The Bill mentions “a summary of” the consultations. Given the questions about oversight and robustness, it is really important that we have all the information required. It is not going to be favoured reading among large sectors of the general public, but it is important that those involved in oversight have full information. The same goes for Amendment 53, which is about publishing all the responses so that everyone can see what everyone else has said. That is an important part of good governance and robust oversight.