That is a fair point. It is not specifically to do with our proceedings; nevertheless it is an important point and will be drawn to the attention of the House authorities for early correction.
I welcome the Committee to the first sitting of our proceedings on the Local Transport Bill. Before we begin, I have a few announcements to make. Members of the Committee may, if they wish, remove their jackets during our proceedings. Will all hon. Members ensure that mobile phones and pagers are turned off or switched to silent mode during our sittings? There is a money resolution and a Ways and Means resolution in connection with the Bill, copies of which are available in the room. I remind members of the Committee that adequate notice should be given of amendments. As a general rule, I and my fellow Chairman, Ann Winterton, do not intend to call starred amendments, including any that might be reached during an afternoon sitting of the Committee. I ask the Committee first to consider the programme motion on the amendment paper for which debate is limited to half an hour. We shall then proceed to a motion to report written evidence, which I hope will be taken formally.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Ms Rosie Winterton):
I beg to move,
(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 10.30 a.m. on Tuesday 22nd April) meet—
(a) at 4.00 p.m. on Tuesday 22nd April;
(b) at 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. on Thursday 24th April;
(c) at 10.30 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. on Tuesday 29th April;
(d) at 10.30 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. on Tuesday 6th May;
(e) at 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. on Thursday 8th May;
(2) the proceedings shall be taken in the following order: Clauses 1 to 7; Schedule1; Clauses 8 to 41; Schedule 2; Clause 42; Schedule 3; Clauses 43 to 72; Schedule 4; Clauses 73 to 102; Schedule 5; Clauses 103 to 114; Schedule 6; Clauses 115 to 121; Schedule 7; Clauses 122 to 125; new Clauses; new Schedules; remaining proceedings on the Bill;
(3) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 4.00 p.m. on Thursday 8th May.
I am sure that I speak on behalf of all members of the Committee when I say how pleased we are to be sitting under your expert chairmanship, Mr. Taylor, and that of Lady Winterton. The programme motion sets out the times and dates for the Committee to discuss the Local Transport Bill. We propose to meet twice on Tuesdays and Thursdays over three weeks, but not on Thursday 1 May—it being local election day. That gives the Committee a total of 10 sittings spread over five days. I am sure that the usual channels have been in touch about the timings in relation to the Bill and that the programme motion will allow more than sufficient time for full and thorough consideration in Committee. I very much hope that we shall be able to achieve that because the Bill is extremely important.
The Bill is a direct response to points made by local authorities, transport users and operators about the different challenges and circumstances that they face. It follows on from the consultation document that was published in the summer of 2006, after which there was a review that resulted in “Putting Passengers First”, published in December 2006. Following that document, we published a draft Local Transport Bill.
Subsequently, there was public consultation and a thorough process of pre-legislative scrutiny by the Transport Select Committee. I pay particular tribute to the Chairman of the Committee, Gwyneth Dunwoody, who, as usual, did a very good job, supported by some members of this Committee, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley. The Bill was scrutinised in detail and we were therefore able to make some significant improvements before it was introduced to Parliament.
I also pay tribute to the local authorities, transport operators, transport user groups and many other organisations that made vital contributions to the development of the Bill. Many of those groups gave evidence to the Select Committee.
Following discussion in the other place, I believe the Bill now stands in extremely good shape. We made some amendments, particularly on competition law and on the issue of TUPE—the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 and 2006—following representations from trade unions. We believe that the changes proposed in the Bill will make a real difference to how public transport is delivered, particularly in regard to buses.
Buses lie at the heart of our public transport system but, frankly, for too long and in too many of our communities, bus patronage has been on a downward trend. Deregulation in the mid-1980s certainly failed to stem that decline. The Bill will give local authorities stronger powers to work with bus operators to deliver the high quality services that the travelling public need and deserve. It will give transport users a stronger voice, by enabling the creation of a statutory bus passenger champion. It will strengthen community transport and make possible more coherent, integrated delivery of transport in many areas of our country.
For that reason, I was surprised that the Opposition voted against the Bill on Second Reading; I am surprised that Conservative councillors throughout the country have not made representations, because the ones I meet believe strongly in the changes that we want to make through the Bill.