Clause 54

Part of Local Transport Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 6th May 2008.

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Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Minister of State (Regional Affairs) (Yorkshire and the Humber), Minister of State (Department for Transport) 4:45 pm, 6th May 2008

The measure is extremely popular and it has been widely welcomed by the community transport sector for two reasons: it will allow community bus services to use larger buses and remove the restriction that prevents drivers of those services from being paid. That welcome from the community transport sector is one reason why I was surprised that Opposition Front Benchers voted against the Bill on Second Reading. We will all have received representations from our constituents who have tried to run those excellent services but have been constrained in how they can do so.

The clause relates to the section 22 permits that are available to the operators of community bus services. The services we discussed before were the section 19 aspect of community service. Section 22 permits allow a non-profit-making voluntary body that is concerned with the social and welfare needs of a community to provide local bus services for the general public. Unlike section 19 permits, they can be issued only by the traffic commissioners, who must be satisfied that the body using the permit has adequate maintenance arrangements.

As I said, operators who provide services under the permits are restricted to using vehicles that can carry between nine and 16 passengers. The clause will enable buses with more than 16 passenger seats to be used to provide community transport services under section 22 permits.

Also under current legislation, drivers of such services cannot be paid, as I said. However, many people, particularly from the community transport sector, told the Government that that places an unnecessary restriction on the provision of the services, because it is often not possible for community groups to find enough volunteer drivers to run them. The clause will remove that restriction.