Clause 12

Part of – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 24th April 2008.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Manchester, Blackley 9:45 am, 24th April 2008

The clause takes away the rights of local authorities in an integrated transport authority to be involved in or consulted on the drawing up and development of transport policies by the ITA. The purpose of these three probing amendments is to ask why.

I am grateful to the Clerk for helping me to draw up amendment No. 6—it is immediately incomprehensible to anyone who reads it—which, in effect, would reassert the status quo in involving metropolitan district councils in drawing up transport plans. Amendment No. 7 would put a duty on the ITA to consult local authorities—a similar point was discussed by the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington—and amendment No. 8 would give a power of veto if a majority of the local authorities in an ITA area do not agree with the policies that have been developed after consultation by the ITA.

To explain further we have to go back to the core of the Bill, which puts right some of the failings of the deregulation of bus services introduced by the Conservative Government—I assume that we will come to that topic this afternoon—and brings back, after the abolition of metropolitan councils in the mid-1980s, an authority that will have both highways and transport powers so that integrated transport policies can be developed.

What is unusual about the Government’s proposals, which I will probe in these amendments and later ones, is that they allow the powers of highways authorities to be transferred to the integrated transport authority with the purpose of promoting better transport policies. That is fine, but there is a real difference between the authorities.

The highways authorities in the six metropolitan areas are directly elected, so someone who has a concern about traffic management arrangements in their area—there are many concerns in most metropolitan areas about shopping, waiting and car parking—can go to their local councillor. They can say that something is wrong and they want it changed, or that they do or do not want double yellow lines or a bus lane and so on, and their local councillor can then go to the council and pursue the matter. Transferring powers to an integrated transport authority composed of indirectly elected councillors and perhaps seconded people will remove immediate local democratic input.

The purpose of the amendment is to ask why that is proposed. If that right is to be taken away, should we not have some safeguards to ensure that directly elected people have a right of veto? In the case of Manchester, six local authorities would be required to say that a scheme was mad, so it would not be a trivial matter.