Clause 21

Local Transport Bill [ Lords ] – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:00 pm on 29th April 2008.

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Approval of proposed scheme

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move amendment No. 58, in clause 21, page 19, line 36, leave out from ‘England’ to end of line 39 and insert

‘and Wales, an approvals board for England and Wales.’.

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 59, in clause 22, page 20, line 3, after ‘England’, insert ‘and Wales’.

No. 60, in clause 22, page 20, line 4, leave out ‘for England’.

No. 63, in clause 23, page 21, line 3, after ‘England’, insert ‘Wales’.

No. 64, in clause 23, page 21, line 6, leave out ‘for England’.

No. 67, in clause 23, page 21, line 21, leave out ‘for England’.

No. 68, in clause 23, page 21, line 23, leave out ‘for England’.

No. 69, in clause 23, page 21, line 26, leave out ‘for England’.

No. 71, in clause 24, page 22, line 13, after ‘England’, insert ‘and Wales’.

No. 72, in clause 24, page 22, line 16, leave out ‘for England’.

No. 77, in clause 25, page 23, line 26, after ‘England’, insert ‘and Wales’.

No. 78, in clause 25, page 23, line 28, after ‘England’, insert ‘or Wales’.

No. 79, in clause 25, page 23, line 30, leave out ‘for England’.

No. 198, in clause 25, page 24, line 14, leave out ‘for England’.

No. 199, in clause 25, page 24, line 21, leave out ‘for England’.

No. 200, in clause 25, page 24, line 26, leave out ‘for England’.

No. 201, in clause 25, page 24, line 37, leave out ‘for England’.

No. 202, in clause 26, page 25, line 5, after ‘England’, insert ‘and Wales’.

No. 203, in clause 26, page 25, line 9, after ‘England’, insert ‘and Wales’.

No. 204, in clause 26, page 25, line 11, leave out ‘for England’.

No. 220, in clause 33, page 31, line 29, after ‘England’, insert ‘and Wales’.

No. 221, in clause 33, page 31, line 31, leave out ‘for England’.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

The good news is that although there are 13 amendments in the group, 12 are consequential, so I shall not delay the Committee for long. Today and previously, we have had extensive discussions about the approvals board. I expected much discussion to take place when we debated clauses 21 and 22, but a lot of it happened this morning.

If the Minister regards the board as so important, why does it apply to England only? Why will quality contracts in England be passed on to an approvals board when those in Wales will be examined by Welsh Ministers? Is it entirely because of the status of devolved legislation, or is there some other explanation? The Minister and the Government have reassured us that the process of appeal through an approvals board will limit judicial review, so it has the chance to become an effective and independent body. It will be well suited to decide the suitability of quality contracts, and I am not sure that the Committee would wish to deny such a body to Wales, unless there was good reason to do so.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Minister of State (Regional Affairs) (Yorkshire and the Humber), Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I certainly take on board what the hon. Gentleman has said about this being a probing amendment. It would extend the approvals board model to Wales and take away the existing role of Welsh Ministers. The Government consulted the Welsh Assembly Government on how the provisions will apply in Wales, and the Bill is consistent with their preferences, which is to say that the existing approval role will be retained by Welsh Ministers for schemes in Wales, and there will not be a move to independent approval.

In both cases, the approval process will be at arm’s length from the local authority or authorities that will approve schemes—that is a key feature of both models. However, in England, the Government see the value of having an approval process at arm’s length from the Secretary of State. As we have discussed, under the current arrangements, the Secretary of State has a quasi-judicial approval role at the end of the local authority process of scheme development. That makes it more difficult for Ministers or officials to engage with local authorities as they develop proposals for quality contracts schemes. We believe that we will work together more effectively if the Secretary of State is removed from the quasi-judicial approval process.

Obviously, Welsh Ministers take a different view, and many comments have been made on the reasons for that. There are those who have said that in Wales there is perhaps not quite the extensive demand for quality contracts schemes as there has been in England. However, it is important that it is up to the Welsh Assembly Government to ask for the process to be different if they so wish. With that explanation, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not press the amendment to a Division.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am completely satisfied with that explanation. The Minister has obviously consulted Welsh Ministers and this is what they prefer, so far be it from me to interfere with their wishes. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 21 ordered to stand part of the Bill.