Clause 2 - Commencement and transitional provision

Travel Concessions (Eligibility) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:45 pm on 20 November 2001.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department of Transport, Local Government and Regions) (Transport)

The clause contains the commencement provisions. Subsection (1) allows the Secretary of State in England, or the National Assembly of Wales, to bring the provisions of the Act into force by order. Subsection (2) is necessary due to the different legislative situation in Greater London. The concessionary travel scheme operated jointly by the London boroughs granting free travel under the freedom pass is linked to the boroughs' financial year, commencing on 1 April. Clause 1(2)—the amendment to the Greater London Authority Act 1999—will be brought into force to take effect from the beginning of any financial year.

Subsection (3) is also necessary because of the legislative position in Greater London. The terms of the borough scheme must be agreed between the boroughs and Transport for London by 1 January in any given year if it is to become operative at the beginning of the following financial year. That allows the London boroughs to make advance arrangements for Transport for London under 240(1) and (2) of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 on the assumption that there is in force a requirement to grant travel concessions to men aged 60 and over, even before clause 1(2) comes into force.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Conservative, Cotswold

I am not sure what the Government's intentions are. Perhaps the Minister will clarify that, because he has touched on the point that I raised on Second Reading and in the Committee this morning about whether the Government expect to have the Bill on the statute book by 31 December 2001 so that Transport for London can start to operate a revised scheme at the beginning of the next financial year in April 2002. I would be grateful if the Minister were to clarify that matter because it is important for Londoners and for Transport for London, which has the unenviable task of trying to make the scheme work.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

I have a simple question, which hardly needs to be dignified with the title of a speech. The commencement of transitional provision will take effect from a date or dates to be nominated by the Government. What is the date on which the Government will determine whether additional resources have to be provided for the implementation of the Bill? Has the date already passed, or is it the date immediately preceding that on which the different elements of the Bill are to be implemented? A local authority or group of local authorities might implement a scheme that did not fulfil the requirements of the Bill, but was otherwise legal and in accordance with the authorities' discretionary powers, between now and the date given by the Minister for the commencement of the Bill's provisions. If certain authorities did so, would the Government accept the obligation—as stated earlier by the Minister—to compensate them for the cost of implementing the Bill on top of their scheme?

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department of Transport, Local Government and Regions) (Transport)

On the question of implementation, the arrangements for London are different because of the different provisions of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 compared with other local authority legislation. We would obviously aim for a common date for the implementation of the scheme. As we said, that would be in 2003 at the latest.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Conservative, Cotswold

That was precisely the point that I was trying to make. If it does not come into operation in 2002, Transport for London will have the unenviable task of having to decide whether to delay implementation until 2004 or to carry the burden itself between 2002 and 2003. Will the Minister clarify that point?

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department of Transport, Local Government and Regions) (Transport)

First, we shall be seeking a common date for implementation. Secondly, as we exhaustively set out in the debate on the previous clause, we shall ensure that compensatory arrangements are in place and that local authorities will be broadly compensated. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is assured.

The hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner) asked about the level of scheme. Negotiations will be taking place in 2002-03 for funding in 2002-03 and 2003-04. Inevitably, there will be discussions between the local authorities associations and the Department on the precise date for which schemes should be considered for incorporation, of which discussions with the Association of London Government are but one.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.