I take this opportunity, Miss Begg, to welcome you to the Chair.
The amendment seeks to clarify the sphere of responsibility covered by the Bill. By limiting the remit of the policies to transport facilities and services within Wales, we can avoid a great many of the problems and questions that now remain unanswered. We must consider the impact of the Wales transport strategy on services that run within Wales but that originate elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Why is the Assembly compelled to provide policies on running services from Wales to elsewhere and from elsewhere to Wales?
As it stands, the Bill confers on the Assembly an order that it “must” develop policies on transport “to, from and within” Wales. Does the Assembly necessarily want to develop policies on those services that operate only briefly within Wales and largely outside? Amending the clause would also help to answer the question whether, under current arrangements, transport services from England that operate only partly in Wales should be subject to control and regulation by the Assembly. That would also tackle the question of representation for those who live in England but who are subject to transport provisions ruled on by the Assembly.
If the Assembly is to control policy for transport services to and from Wales which can be used by people from all over the UK, what representation will those people have in the Assembly? The people in Wales are represented by Assembly Members, but there are no English Assembly Members. If control over transport from or to areas outside Wales is to be devolved, we must be sure to give a voice to those who have no direct representation in the Assembly. Though many questions remain over what impact the development of the Wales transport strategy will have on services that regularly cross the border, the amendment would at least give us a more definite remit from which to work.
We need more reassurance over the cross-border implications of the Bill before its proposals can be fully supported.
I find the amendment useful as a probing amendment, although for slightly different reasons to those expressed by the hon. Member for Leominster. It is evident that the break-up of the UK rail network has caused untold misery and suffering for many, including myself. It is also true that the more integrated the rail network is, the more likely it is to be effective. To that extent, it seems necessary to the Liberal Democrats that we should ensure consideration of the operation of transport facilities and rail services to, from and within Wales.
My question for the Minister is about the interrelation between the Welsh Assembly and other bodies responsible for providing those services. Does he have in mind a specific and particular mechanism to ensure that the interrelation runs smoothly, or does he intend the Assembly to negotiate the interrelations for itself?
There seems to be a fundamental unfairness about the idea of the Welsh Assembly having influence over transport services that are largely not even in Wales. If that unfairness were to be corrected, it would surely be right to allow English local authorities—if it is they that draw up the equivalent of the local transport plan—to have the same influence over transport facilities that are largely in Wales. The whole thing would become confusing, with bodies from outside a region having a large say over transport facilities largely within that region. The amendment is important for clarity.
The question for me is how the hon. Member for Leominster distinguishes services for the people of Wales? That is my starting point. I am talking about services for the people of Wales that start in Wales and end either in Wales or elsewhere. I can see no logical difference between one sort of service and another. The basis of the distinction is rather suspect.
The Bill says that the Assembly “must” develop policies for transport that is, effectively, outside Wales. That is the issue that the hon. Gentleman must understand. The clause says:
“The Assembly must ... develop policies for the promotion and encouragement of safe, integrated, sustainable, efficient and economic transport facilities and services to, from and within Wales”.
There is obviously no problem with “within Wales”, and the hon. Gentleman’s constituents will be aware of the advantages. However, I have with difficulties with “to” and “from”. I hope that that is helpful to him.
I am thankful, but the point remains. The starting point for the Assembly’s transport policies should be services for people in Wales and for people from Wales travelling elsewhere. That is entirely reasonable, so the obligation on the Assembly is also quite reasonable.
My other point concerns the north Wales-south Wales service, the major part of which runs through England. Were the amendment to be accepted, would that part be excluded? If so, the major rail routes from north to south in Wales would fall outside the influence of the Assembly.
When the Bill was originally put together, the intention was for the Strategic Rail Authority to have proper representation from Wales. However, the Government published their White Paper and changed that emphasis. It therefore falls to the Government to say how the hon. Gentleman’s constituents who take the Welsh-only part of that journey can have proper influence over it, as well as those who do not necessarily stay on the train until it reaches north Wales.
I am pleased that we have a measure of agreement that it is for the Government to answer that point, rather than the hon. Gentleman, the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire or me. Let us see what the Minister has to say. I am concerned that that the amendment would reduce the Assembly to having a minor, residual role.
Amendment No. 1 would prevent the Assembly from taking into account cross-border transport issues in its transport strategy. The transport network in Wales is part of the wider UK and European network, and cannot be considered in isolation. I am surprised by the amendment, as several hon. Members mentioned the need for the Assembly to treat the system in just that way on Second Reading. On that occasion it was said that it was vital that cross-border issues be taken into account fully when developing the strategy. The amendment runs counter to the need for a fully integrated transport system in Wales that the Bill is designed to facilitate and would have a significant impact across all modes of transport. For example, the Assembly could not consider the Swansea to London train service or the Holyhead to Euston service when deciding how to develop the valleys rail network.
The Minister has to answer why the Assembly “must”, not why it “should”. His point is that the amendment would prevent the Assembly, but in fact the wording in the Bill is prescriptive. If he is unhappy with the idea that the Assembly should concern itself only with the Welsh part of a journey, he should be thinking about a wording that he might prefer to use in an amendment, removing the idea that the Assembly “must” take the action in question, and replacing it with the idea that it is able to do so. Perhaps that will help the Minister.
The main purpose of the Bill is to give powers to the Assembly for developing a strategy and related matters. Perhaps I may pose a question to the hon. Gentleman: if his problem is with the word “must”, why did not he table an amendment to change that, rather than focusing on the “to” and “from” issue? That would have dealt with the matter better.
I agree with my hon. Friend on the strange wording of the amendment. The general transport duty—and I agree that it should be a duty on the Assembly—is a matter of developing
“policies for the promotion and encouragement” of the relevant transport facilities, not, as the hon. Member for Leominster said, providing them. It is critical that the Assembly should co-ordinate transport policies with cross-border issues. The Bill will fall flat if we deal only with intra-Wales issues.
I agree with my hon. Friend. For example, we have recently seen developments affecting rail links to Cardiff International airport. It would be difficult, if the wording were changed, to develop such services. We should not be able to encourage international air links from Cardiff International airport, or even rail links that started in England. The development of Welsh ports—another international factor—should be taken into account.
I assure the hon. Member for Leominster that nothing in the clause will give the Assembly any powers over English services. However, it will be required to consider cross-border issues in the development and implementation of transport policies.
Does not the problem that the hon. Member for Leominster is experiencing come from the fact that he does not consider the network as a network that serves the people of Wales as well as the people of England?
Yes. We must accept that the network—whether it is the rail, road or air network—does not start and stop at the Severn bridge or the border. It is an integrated network. It is necessary to be able to influence, consult and have discussions with the organisations responsible for those transport networks across the border and develop them accordingly.
As the Minister will have gleaned from my earlier comments, I agree with his analysis of what the Assembly needs to do. Does he expect the Assembly to generate a relationship with other authorities that are responsible for providing transport on a cross-border basis, or do the Westminster Government intend to provide that kind of guidance for the Assembly? I am hoping that the former rather than the latter is true, but it will be useful for those in the Assembly who read reports of our debates to know where the Minister anticipates the relationship between the relevant authorities will come from.
The Assembly will work with other organisations that span the border; I give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. Arriva trains, which have the Wales franchise, provide cross-border services. First Great Western is another good example; the Assembly would be in contact with those companies and with the rail regulator where necessary. It would be for the Assembly to make those approaches when it was developing the strategy. That is what these clauses are about—the development of the strategy.
Obviously, all parties with an interest in contributing to the network in Wales—including services that start and end outside Wales—will have a significant part to play. Therefore, the Assembly, through Andrew Davies and his Department, will, in developing the transport strategy for Wales, have a great deal of discussion with those organisations.
Before my hon. Friend finishes, and before the Committee decides on the amendment, it is worth noting that organisations with a specialist interest in transport strategy in Wales, including the public transport consortium, have expressed deep reservations about the effects of the amendment and the damage that it would do to the Bill. There are concerns outside the House among interested people.
I am grateful for that contribution. All of us will be aware of an e-mail that has been sent by Mr. John Pockett, the director of the Confederation of Passenger Transport Wales, who has expressed concern. I may refer in greater detail to that later.
I do not want to question Mr. Pockett’s knowledge of transport in Wales, but is it not right that his organisation is in receipt of public money and therefore cannot necessarily be viewed as being as impartial and objective as one might hope?
I should be careful in following the hon. Gentleman’s line. The organisation represents three quarters of the bus industry in Wales. It was a major contributor to the pre-legislative scrutiny and gave evidence to the Welsh Affairs Committee and to the Economic Development and Transport Committee inquiry. Clearly, it is an objective representative of the bus industry in Wales.
I was not going to quote from the e-mail, but the hon. Gentleman has prompted me to do so:
“A number of amendments have been tabled by ... the Conservative Spokesperson on Wales. CPTWales feels that these will have no benefit for the bus user in Wales or indeed for the industry as a whole.”
That is Mr. Pockett’s view of the amendments.
I apologise, because I obviously made my point in a complicated way. I did not address myself simply enough for the Minister to get my meaning. I asked simply whether Mr. Pockett’s organisation was in receipt of any public money. I apologise if my question was so obtuse that he was unable to understand it and therefore unable to give a simple yes or no answer. I am sure that he would want to do so now.
As the hon. Gentleman has some difficulty trusting outside organisations, would he trust the comments of his party’s Front-Bench spokesman on Second Reading? He said:
“We must be sure that the procedure for consultation with both English and Welsh local authorities is sufficient and accountable.”—[Official Report, 16 June 2005; Vol. 435, c. 421.]
I am always interested in the views of outside organisations, but I always ask myself about what agenda they could have and how objective they are. That is why I have asked the Minister on two occasions whether Mr. Pockett’s organisation is in receipt of public funding. I am still waiting for an answer. I do not know what it is about the question that is so hard to understand; I can assume only that I am not asking it clearly enough. Perhaps I could put it again, for the fourth or fifth time: is the organisation in receipt of any public funding? I look forward to receiving a reply. I want to finish, but I would be happy to get a reply from anyone, including the Liberal Democrats, since the Labour spokesman does not seem to know the answer.
I am new to such matters. Is the hon. Gentleman implying that if that organisation has access to public money, it might effectively be bribed by such money? Is he suggesting that the organisation’s point of view could be unreliable if it receives public money, and does he think that that applies to every organisation?
I just want to get all the facts on the table. It is a shame that the Minister does not appear to have those facts; you seem unable to answer a simple question. It is a perfectly reasonable question to ask, is it not? You read out an e-mail and gave a lot of credence—
Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that he is making a speech, but it should be about the Transport (Wales) Bill, so he should be careful, even if he is tempted by others to follow a route that is wide of the Bill. Also, any use of “you” means me, as the Chair, and all comments should be made through the Chair.
I apologise for that, Miss Begg. I am obviously not used to all the terminology that is used in this place, although it is great pleasure to be here. We are not on first-name terms here, as we are in the Welsh Assembly. I am not making any implications. An e-mail was read out by the Minister, and I merely wish to get some facts on the table about the objectivity of those who were responsible for writing that e-mail. It is disappointing that I have not been able to get those facts from the Minister.
May I take the Committee back to the amendment, which concerns the general transport duty? That is the opening line of the Bill and is quite clear. The Minister said that if we were not happy with the nature of the first clause, we should change the word “must”. The problem with that is that the Assembly must do all the things that hon. Members who have spoken want to achieve. We must not get confused about the nature of the amendment. What is clear is that the Assembly must develop policies for integrated transport, which we have discussed.
However, what is not so clear is how the Assembly will be able to deal with things that are a long way away from Wales geographically. It is a hell of a responsibility to give to the Welsh Assembly if the majority of any particular journey is not within the Assembly’s remit. The amendments seek to draw from the Government a possible different wording and a clarification of what the Assembly’s role really will be. That is the opening part of the Bill, and where we set down what we want the Assembly to do. I do not have a difficulty with the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth, who wants integrated rail and bus transport from Mr. Pocket. However, I suspect that that is not necessarily the best wording.
Is there not a further difficulty in that clause 1(1)(b) imposes an obligation on the Assembly to
“carry out its functions so as to implement those policies”?
Will it not be in some cases impossible for the Assembly to implement those policies if there were a duty in respect of services that might, as my hon. Friend rightly says, be a considerable distance outside Wales?
My hon. Friend has read the Bill accurately, because the implication is that if an aeroplane were to fly from Cardiff to almost anywhere in the world, that would be the Assembly’s responsibility. That is clearly not something that it could handle.
In a genuine attempt to clarify matters, clause 1 talks not about providing or controlling, but about the “promotion and encouragement” of transport. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that even within Wales, we are not asking the Assembly directly to use its levers of power to tell local authorities what to do, nor are we doing that in areas outside Wales’s borders? There are different ways in which the Assembly can ensure the aims of “promotion and encouragement” of safe, integrated transport and to carry out those functions without operating direct levers of control.
The hon. Gentleman should have read to the end of the sentence. Up to that point, I completely agree with him, until the clause reads
“economic transport facilities and services”.
It is about more than just the desire to deliver proper transport; it is the full deal. That is the problem. [Interruption.] If the Whip, the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Kevin Brennan), wants to speak, I shall give way.
We are getting a sense of the view held by the hon. Member for Leominster on this issue and, if he will forgive me for saying so, it sounds a bit paranoid. Surely all that the Bill says is that the Assembly must have due regard to the promotion and encouragement of safe transport, which affects people who want to travel in and out of Wales. How does he think that an organisation supplying transport can provide transport to and from Wales without regard to what happens when people go over the border? How does he think that the Assembly can have anything like a strategic approach if it does not think about what happens after people cross the border by land, sea or air?
The hon. Gentleman makes the same mistake. I accept that the Assembly’s role in integrated transport is fundamental, but the Bill gives it more than that. That is why I seek to draw the Bill back in. I am happy to accept that the amendments I table may sometimes not be the perfect way to deal with the issue, but this is an important opportunity for the Government to ensure that the Bill gives the Assembly realistic goals and realistic opportunities to deliver what we all want—I believe that someone quoted my Second Reading speech—which is an integrated transport policy. Obviously, the Assembly must be able to run the bits of any sort of journey that are within Wales, but once someone goes outside Wales, there is a difficulty in how the Assembly can deliver.
Will the hon. Gentleman answer a straight question? How would his amendment affect the north-south Wales vale routes.
My understanding is that the Assembly will take full responsibility for that journey. Let us say that the points broke somewhere in England. The Bill states that the Assembly “must develop policies” and
“carry out its functions so as to implement those policies”, so it could be asked to pick up the bill for a bit of track in England. Does the hon. Gentleman really think that the Bill is meant to do that?
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could answer a question about his amendment rather than the Bill; we are discussing the amendment, after all. What effect would it have on the north-south Wales rail link?
I have just explained that according to the Bill the Assembly would have to pick up the cost of repairing the points somewhere near Crewe. Under my amendment, however, the Assembly would not have responsibility outside Wales, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman would think was a constructive and positive step. [Interruption.] I can hear mumblings from Government Members; it is usually heckling from the hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane), but not this time.
If we are to make constructive progress, which I want to do, I am happy for the Government to consider my concerns about what the Assembly will do in respect of bits of a journey outside Wales. I fear that it does not have the facilities, the funding, the ability to obtain extra funding or the representation necessary to cover parts of what might be a rail or bus journey outside the Principality. That is why I moved the amendment and why we would restrict responsibilities for Assembly policy to within Wales. If that is wrong, I hope that the Minister will go away and come back to tell us how the Assembly will be able to pay for track repairs outside Wales, just as an example, and various other things. I see the Minister shaking his head; I look forward to hearing what he says.
The final point that the hon. Gentleman attempted to make sums up the problem in his head. He appears to believe that the Bill will give the Assembly powers to control the rail system—the rail network—in Wales. He asked whether the Assembly would be able to pick up the bill for repairing points on the north Wales line. The Assembly does not and never will pick up the bill for repairing points anywhere in Wales; that will remain the responsibility of Network Rail.
I return to the Bill, which states:
“The Assembly must ... develop policies”— that is the key word—
“for the promotion and encouragement of safe, integrated, sustainable, efficient and economic transport facilities and services to, from and within Wales”.
It is about the development of policies and ultimately of a strategy to serve the interests of transport in Wales. It is not about the Assembly taking powers from Network Rail, Arriva Trains or First Great Western or running systems like that. It is about developing integrated policies with those organisations, getting advice, support and encouragement from them and encouraging them to develop different routes so that we end up with an integrated transport system which, as the hon. Member for Caernarfon said, serves the best interest of the people of Wales.
There may well be severe problems developing policies within Wales. The Assembly is not a service provider. It is trying to develop, together with all the players in the transport field, an integrated transport strategy that improves services and addresses congestion, environmental and economic issues. The Bill does not mean that the Assembly is taking over Network Rail, as some of the statements made by the hon. Member for Leominster imply.
May we get away from the points in Crewe or wherever? Let us look at an Assembly policy that has been very useful for many people in Wales in facilitating transport by rail from north to south and within Wales. The freedom of Wales pass is promoted by the Assembly and operates within Wales and without Wales too. As some hon. Members will know, one can travel from Bangor to Cardiff on it. Indeed, the train is sometimes full of Assembly members when I travel on it. This is an Assembly policy. It is not about points, it is about enabling the people of Wales to use rail transport in a much more efficient and effective way. It is the freedom of Wales pass, not the non-freedom of Wales pass.
The Minister is being unusually cavalier. He should be quite careful. I tabled the amendment not for my own entertainment, but because I have genuine concerns about how the Welsh Assembly will deliver the integrated transport about which there is no argument outside Wales. He has failed, unfortunately, to put my mind at rest about the intention of the clause because he has not addressed the very serious fact that the Assembly must develop policies, and then carry out its functions so as to implement them. That sounds like trying to run integrated transport. That is an entirely laudable role for the Welsh Assembly. It is not a problem if it wants to run integrated transport services, but how will it do so outside Wales? The wording of the clause suggests that it will have responsibility for any journey that goes almost anywhere in the world, provided that it either starts or finishes in Wales.
Is the hon. Gentleman arguing, totally conversely to his usual point, for greater powers for the Assembly to control transport not only within its borders but outside? That seems to fly in the face of his position on devolution.
It would fly in the face of my position if that was what I said, but it is not. The hon. Gentleman has completely misunderstood me. Let me put his mind at rest. The point, which I shall reiterate for his benefit and that of the Committee, is that the Bill as currently worded would give a great deal of responsibility to the Assembly for journeys that start or finish in Wales. The problem is that the budget, the remit and the whole responsibility of the Welsh Assembly position it perfectly to look after journeys within Wales, but the minute one leaves Wales, that ability is diminished. The clause obliges the Assembly not only to develop policies, but to implement them. That could be severely damaging, and the Minister has not put my mind at rest about how the Assembly will tackle the problem.
May I make a final point? Again, I refer the hon. Gentleman to what the Bill actually says. Clause 1(1)(b) states that the Assembly must
“carry out its functions so as to implement those polices.”
Its functions do not include taking over Railtrack or doing anything outside the borders of Wales. The Bill places a duty on the Assembly to hold discussions with train and track operators whose systems link into and out of Wales. That is why we want the words “to, from and” to remain the Bill; if they do not, the Assembly will not be able to hold sensible discussions to develop an integrated transport system for Wales. The hon. Gentleman ought now to accept what I have said and withdraw the amendment.
I am grateful for the Minister’s slightly more gentle approach in that answer, and I understand what he is trying to achieve. This is not a wrecking amendment; it is meant to clarify the Bill’s purpose, as well as how the Bill will be applied to Wales and, more worryingly, to the bits of any journey that goes outside Wales.
The Minister quoted clause 1, but subsection (2) covers pretty much anybody who travels in or through Wales or who requires freight to be transported in or through Wales. When I read the Bill, as the Minister suggested I did, I saw that the Assembly must develop policies and then work to implement them, and they apply to pretty much anybody who is travelling
“to, from and within Wales”.
The “within Wales” bit is fine; the problem lies with the bit dealing with areas without Wales. My amendment might not be perfect, but the Government must ensure that if, as the Minister said, the Assembly wants to hold discussions, it can do so in a slightly more flexible way—perhaps without the financial or representational burdens that may well come with those discussions.