Clause 57 - Orders of the Greater London Authority changing what are strategic roads

Traffic Management Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 3rd February 2004.

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Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 5:15 pm, 3rd February 2004

I beg to move amendment No. 199, in

page 31, line 15, leave out subsection (6).

The reason for the amendment is simple. We believe in the widest possible democratic accountability. The effect of the amendment would be to remove subsection (6), which states:

''The functions of the Greater London Authority under this section are functions exercisable by the Mayor acting on its behalf.''

When we are framing law, we need to take account of all eventualities. Some of us take the view that the present Mayor of London is not as even handed or fair minded as we might hope when it comes to transport issues in London. Indeed, I think that, if he had his way, the Mayor would pave over the whole of the capital apart from rail lines and bus lanes. Therefore, we believe that the Greater London authority, rather than the Mayor acting alone, should be able to exercise the functions.

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

That is a misreading of the clause. It simply mentions the functions exercised by the Mayor acting on behalf of the GLA. That reflects the constitutional settlement that follows the Greater London Authority Act 1999, and is not germane to this or any other specific mayor. The Bill needs to reflect the law that exists. It the hon. Gentleman wants to amend the principles in the GLA Act in terms of the constitutional settlement therein, he is free to do so, but the Bill is not the appropriate mechanism.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. My conclusion is that the best way forward is to change the Mayor, which we shall seek

to do at the next mayoral election. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Perhaps the Minister will explain more about the Government's thinking on the clause. There is much concern among London boroughs that they could find roads that they regard as their local roads being taken away from them and transferred to the Mayor and Transport for London, without their consent. As somebody who served in local government when we had a Greater London council, I remember vividly the tension between the residents of Wandsworth and the GLC when the GLC tried to interfere with local highways.

We have a set of strategic roads, which were put together in the context of the establishment of the GLA, the detrunking of roads and the transfer from the Highways Agency to the GLA. We also have red routes, which are working effectively, although even they were a cause of tension between the traffic director and the boroughs. If the Government have it in mind to allow the Mayor to put in a bid to take over large areas of the highways that have traditionally been the responsibility of the elected borough, now is the time to be clear about that. We shall see what the reaction will be. London authorities are not alert to the danger posed, probably because the Government have not made a policy announcement. I hope that the Minister will make a short announcement about his intentions today.

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

The London boroughs are fully aware of our intentions, not least because they will have read the Bill with interest, but because I ensured, through the Association of London Government, that they knew exactly what would happen. In my capacity as the Minister for London transport, I have dealt extensively with the Association of London Government and Transport for London. I have about four or five meetings a month with TfL on various subjects, ranging from the tube to a particular roads group.

The Mayor is not, as the hon. Gentleman implied, involved in an elaborate land grab, roughly equivalent to Poland, when it comes to taking over control of roads. By common consent, there are significant highways in London that should be in the TfL network, purely so that it can achieve the network management duty that we will afford it if the Bill is enacted. That is not a case of taking control of roads in perpetuity or expanding the current TfL network. Roads of significant strategic concern will simply be added to the network so that TfL can carry out its statutory duty.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Will the Minister tell me why, under the clause, if the Mayor wants to nominate a road as being strategic, the council for the London borough in which the road is situated has to give consent? If, however, under subsection (4), the Mayor wants to reclassify a road as no longer strategic, he does not need consent.

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

First, we found it better to proceed by consensus, but there must be the backstop that the Secretary of State reserves the right to preserve the integrity of the strategic network. An authority may want to remove a road from the network when it should be left in. Ideally, with consent is the most appropriate way to proceed. I am sorry but I have forgotten the hon. Gentleman's second point.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I understand why it is better to proceed by consent, and I welcome the fact that the council for the London borough in which the road is situated will be approached and its consent sought. If the council withholds its consent, the matter will pass to the Minister who will decide who is being unreasonable. However, if the argument for consent is valid for subsection (3), why can the Mayor declassify a road under subsection (4) without any consent? Is that a defect in the clause?

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

I do not think so because there would be no dispute in a case of a road resorting back to the borough as the principal highway authority. The local authority would be more than happy to take over control of the road by agreement. It would not be done by diktat; there would need to be discussions in the first instance.

To return to the principal point, significant parts of Edgware road, a major thoroughfare for public transport and other traffic, are not in the strategic network. For the purpose of TfL's network management duty, they should be. The stretch from Paddington to the M25 is not in the curtilage of the strategic network and clearly should be.

That is literally from Paddington to the M25. It is not within the curtilage of the strategic network. Clearly it should be, as a major road.

The A40 from Kingsway out to Uxbridge road is not part of the network, and again is a major thoroughfare. If we are to afford TfL its network management duty for the overarching strategic network for which it has powers, we do need to look at other roads—there will not be that many—that enhance that network and allow it to carry out its role properly. It is about looking at what currently prevails, and saying that if it is right and proper that TfL, as one of the highway authorities in London, should have the network management duty as well, we must equip it with the necessary network for it to be able to keep traffic flowing around that entire network, as in clause 16.

It is a matter of public debate, and has been since the Greater London Authority Act 1999, but I would say that there is a wider network of roads that TfL would dearly love to include as its own, rather than their being managed at borough level. That has been resisted by the boroughs, and this is not a device to get that new network in through the back door. I emphasise that there is already provision under the Greater London Authority Act 1999 for the overall TfL network to be revisited, and for the purposes of this Bill there are elements that are simply not in TfL's network that must be included in it to enable it to achieve its network management duty. If we afford

TfL this statutory duty, we need to give it the ability to fulfil that duty to the broadest extent. It is an appropriate reflection of how the Traffic Management Bill will work, given the constitutional settlement in London. It should be endorsed by the Committee.

Clause 57 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 58 to 60 ordered to stand part of the Bill.