Today, the Minister has already given us on several occasions some insight into how she sees the relationship between the Secretary of State and the senior traffic commissioner and other traffic commissioners evolving as a consequence of a number of changes in the Bill. I am probing and exploring that theme further, because the clause, labelled “Consequential amendments”, entitles the Secretary of State to use secondary legislation to make further provisions in existing legislation on the functions and duties of traffic commissioners.
I accept that secondary legislation may well be necessary at some stage and that the Government may wish to retain that flexibility, but I am interested in and am looking for some reassurance from the Minister about the wording of subsection 2(a). The power of the Secretary of State to make consequential amendments
“includes...the power to make different provision for different cases or for different areas”.
We are almost back in the realms to which my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire was taking us. What exactly does she mean? What is the provision for the traffic commissioner to make different provisions for different cases? Is it that some areas are going to need more resources, so that is the flexibility talked about? Or is it that, in some cases, the Secretary of State might direct a traffic commissioner in something? I fear that if we are not entirely clear about the exact meaning, it may mean that the Secretary of State has the power to intervene in certain cases.
I am assuming that what the Government intends by “different areas” is what the Minister was talking about this morning—the flexibility to move traffic commissioners around England and Wales, or to develop particular specialisations. Again, could the Minister clarify exactly what are the circumstances envisaged in which the Secretary of State would need those powers? What exactly do “different cases” and “different areas” mean?
Clause 6 empowers the Secretary of State to make any necessary consequential changes to other legislation through secondary legislation, to give full effect to the provisions in clauses 2 to 5 of the Bill. We have done that because there are a number of references in other legislation. To choose the Transport Act 2000, for example, there may be references to work that a traffic commissioner can do. The legislation might, for example, say that in order to get a particular licence or to operate in a certain way individuals should apply to the traffic commissioner in their area. What we are trying to do in the clause is to fit in with the idea that there might be functions that could be done more effectively at national level, say in an office of the traffic commissioner. If there were applications that could be made to such an office, it would be necessary to remove the function from the traffic commissioner in each region. For us to try to go through every piece of existing legislation and make the changes in the Bill would be time-consuming, and we might miss something out. Through secondary legislation, we have the ability to make any changes that would allow such activities to happen.
We think that there are more than 80 references to traffic areas in primary and secondary legislation, and more than 600 references to traffic commissioners. In order properly to implement the provisions in clauses 2 to 5, in some cases it will be necessary to make consequential amendments to many of those references.
The amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Wimbledon, which I take to be a probing amendment, would prevent those consequential amendments from making such changes. The problem is that it would reduce flexibility when implementing the proposals contained in the Bill.
It may help the Committee if I make it clear that all orders under that power would be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, and that any order under clause 6 will apply in Scotland only in relation to reserved, not devolved, matters. I hope that is helpful in explaining why clause 6 is in the Bill and why we are asking the Committee not to accept the amendment, as it would reverse what we are trying to do.
I have listened carefully to the Minister, and I understand the need for secondary legislation to be available so that the Government can amend previous pieces of legislation. I understand the concept of consequential legislation and accept that we need a catch-all early in the clause. I still struggle to see why what the Minister wants is not dealt with by clause 6(1), and why there are different cases and areas. I probably need to read the provision more carefully as I am not entirely convinced that it is absolutely necessary; such provisions are already elsewhere in clause 6. None the less, with your permission, Lady Winterton, I will reserve the right to write to the Minister about that and to seek an absolute definition of the wording. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.