New clause 23 - Railways in London: information

Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 11th March 2003.

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'(1) The enactments listed in subsection (2) shall not prevent or restrict the provision of information to the Public Private Partnership Agreement Arbiter appointed under section 225(1) of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 (c.29).

(2) Those enactments are—

(a) section 133 of the Fair Trading Act 1973 (c.41),

(b) section 174 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 (c.39),

(c) section 10 of the Estate Agents Act 1979 (c.38),

(d) section 19 of the Competition Act 1980 (c.21),

(e) section 101 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 (c.12),

(f) section 74 of the Airports Act 1986 (c.31),

(g) section 38 of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 (c.43),

(h) section 206 of the Water Industry Act 1991 (c.56),

(i) section 204 of the Water Resources Act 1991 (c.57),

(j) section 145 of the Railways Act 1993 (c.43),

(k) section 55 of the Competition Act 1998 (c.41),

(l) section 105 of the Utilities Act 2000 (c.27), and

(m) section 237 of the Enterprise Act 2002 (c.40).'.—[Mr. Spellar.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The clause is fairly straightforward. It will allow the London Underground public-private partnership arbiter to receive information from bodies, such as statutory regulators, to help him meet his statutory duties. At present, section 235 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 allows the arbiter to share information that he has gathered with bodies such as the statutory regulators, and to assist them to meet their statutory duties, but interestingly enough it does not give him reciprocal rights to any information that they have gathered. Both the arbiter and the Government believe that that oversight is likely to weaken the effectiveness of the arbiter's office.

The officer of the arbiter is vital to the integrity of London Underground PPP arrangements, which we discussed at some length earlier this morning. For that office to be effective, the arbiter must have access to good-quality, specific information about relevant businesses. It is usual legislative practice that a new statutory authority, such as the regulator, may both release specific information to other authorities and receive relevant information from them. The new clause will put the PPP arbiter on a par with other regulators in that respect.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am most grateful for that information. The fact that the new clause has been drafted is an admission by the Government that there may be circumstances in which the arbiter and official regulator will be called on to act. Will the right hon. Gentleman explain the circumstances in which the arbiter has a role to play?

I am not familiar with all the regulations and Acts listed in the new clause, so perhaps he would be good enough to share with the Committee what information it is envisaged would be passed to the arbiter, as set out in the enactments. I imagine that most of the information would relate to companies and that it would be of a commercial and sensitive nature. Presumably, the confidentiality and sensitivity of that information would be guaranteed. It would be helpful if we understood precisely the circumstances under which the arbiter would act. What would be the consequences if the Committee were not minded to approve new clause 23? What is the role of the arbiter vis-à-vis the Office of the Rail Regulator? How would they work together?

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The hon. Lady invites me to speculate on the possibility of the Committee's not voting in favour of the clause. I am reminded of Damon Runyon's dictum that in life the race may not always go to the swiftest, nor victory to the strongest—but that is the way to bet.

The hon. Lady asked about different kinds of information. The Greater London Authority Act 1999 allows the arbiter to release information about specific individuals and their businesses to regulators of other industries to help them fulfil their statutory functions. Unfortunately, it does not allow him to receive such information from them. That relates to costs. For the arbiter to make comparisons with costs in other industries is a crucial part of his role in seeking to

deal with disputes between the parties to the agreement.

The PPP contracts allow for seven-and-a-half-year periodic reviews, under which the arbiter would judge the appropriate price for any adjustments to the contract. The clause would enable him to make the appropriate judgment.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.