With this it will be convenient to take new clause 18—Consultation—
'Prior to the issuing of intervention notices or orders, the Secretary of State shall consult with such organisations as he considers appropriate over the content and timing of such orders and notices and over the criteria against which the performance of a local authority may be assessed.'.
Why will the Minister not produce his performance indicators sooner than the time that he told us, the end of the year? He must recognise that the performance of many highway and traffic authorities is far below the standard that we would wish; surely something can be done sooner than the end of the year to chivvy that along. I do not want to go back over the debate about a particular local authority, namely Northamptonshire, but I ask the Minister whether he is content to allow that authority to carry on as it is until the performance indicators are produced. If the Government are serious about reducing congestion and improving traffic flows, they should introduce their performance indicators sooner than the end of the year.
We are not publishing that approach until the end of the year at the latest because we want the current performance criteria to be as robust as possible. That involves a great deal of input not only from the Committee, but more importantly from a range of stakeholders, not least the Local Government Association and other local government organisations. We regard that input as vital given that they will be the recipients of any measures that follow failure of such performance criteria.
It is touching that the hon. Gentleman has such an almost childlike, magical view of legislation, as though there will be no network or traffic management until the Bill is passed, but the world is not like that. A number of things are going on in local government and in Government to improve matters, not least, as I have alluded to before, work on local transport plans. Those plans are being assessed against performance, and this year, thanks to the £1.9 billion of funding that I announced just before Christmas, significantly more elements of performance measurement, reward for good performance and improvement are being dealt with.
A host of other interventions—some public, some private—are going on as we speak in highway authorities throughout the country. It is right to discuss the broad criteria in greater detail in order to come up with criteria for performance assessment that local government agrees to from the beginning, rather than simply imposing them from the centre, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman would like.
As I will be party to those matters as they unfold, I shall undertake to meet PACT and any other group to hear their views, above and beyond how we have heard their views thus far through people putting their views to us in debate or by means of amendments, in order to take those matters further. I would not just do that in the context of the network management duty or other elements of the Bill, but in the context of my role as the local transport Minister. I would be more than happy to do that. That is not a universal invitation to every single organisation that might have the word transport in its name, or in brackets after its name, but I will happily talk to serious organisations with serious considerations, such as PACT, in relation to the Bill, or their wider concerns.
Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 4