Clause 9

Concessionary Bus Travel Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 5th June 2007.

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Variation of reimbursement and other administrative arrangements

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

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I rise to make some brief comments and to seek the Minister’s reassurance because, on the face of it, the clause gives me and my colleagues some concern.

The thrust of the Bill is to extend concessionary free travel on eligible services to eligible people. Until now, the mechanisms of application to verify service provision, of operator reimbursement, and of travel concession authority reimbursement have been via local government. However, subsection (1) allows the Secretary of State to alter that mechanism by order, and to impose a central system in relation to reimbursement and/or other administrative functions of the English travel concession authorities under sections 145 to 150 of the Transport Act 2000. The Secretary of State could therefore take such powers and, in effect, underfund the scheme, which would impose greater burdens on local government grants. Additionally, the Secretary of State could take such powers and, by not using the mechanisms of local government, render the whole scheme opaque, withno right of appeal for operators or for local government.

Although the clause provides a mechanism to appeal to the Secretary of State in the event that such powers are taken, the Secretary of State is not actually under an obligation to take the powers. Will the Minister therefore clarify under what circumstances the Secretary of State might wish to take such powers, thereby altering the thrust of the Bill? Will she reassure us that the relevant order would be dealt with by means of the affirmative regulatory impact procedure, and that there would therefore be an obligation to prior consultation? Will she also assure us that, notwithstanding the making of the order by affirmative procedure, there would also be a vote in the House? Will she further confirm the exact nature of the parliamentary scrutiny that is intended by the clause drafting, and, finally, will she explain the circumstances in which the clause would apply?

Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

I assure the hon. Member for Wimbledon that if we were to centralise arrangements by secondary legislation, it would be consulted on and it would require an affirmative resolution. I hope that I have reassured him of the scrutiny that would be involved.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I wish to clarify that that procedure would require a debate on the Floor of the House and a vote thereon.

Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

The normal parliamentary arrangements would apply.

Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.