Clause 58

Local Transport Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:00 pm on 6th May 2008.

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Powers of traffic commissioners where services not operated as registered

Photo of John Leech John Leech Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move amendment No. 260, in clause 58, page 51, line 25, leave out from ‘and’ to end of line 27 and insert ‘to the local traffic authority’.

The amendment would require that, where a bus service is not operating as registered and the traffic commissioner, after investigating, issues a report recommending remedial measures, a copy must be sent to the local traffic authority, regardless of whether the local traffic authority is expected to take remedial action. The Bill stipulates that a report must be sent to the local traffic authority only if it must implement any of the recommended remedial measures. The explanatory notes give an example where the local traffic authority might be expected to make changes to help with bus punctuality. There will be occasions on which the local traffic authority is not expected to take any remedial action, but we believe that it should be informed about what action bus operators are to take, regardless of whether it is expected to do anything.

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

Clause 58 is extremely important. In response to consultation and discussions on the Bill, many people told us that poor punctuality sometimes occurs when the local traffic authority is failing in its duties, perhaps because it is not taking appropriate action against parking or bus lane contraventions, or because poorly planned road works are disrupting bus routes. The clause will give traffic commissioners the power to hold traffic authorities to account where their actions are part of the problem.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Manchester, Blackley

If I remember rightly, about two and half years ago, in answer to a parliamentary question about responsibility for traffic delays and congestion, one of the Minister’s predecessors said that two thirds of the problems with late buses were caused by the bus operators themselves. Does she have an update on that figure? That is an important matter, because part of the large bus operators’ propaganda is that it is always the local authorities’ fault. In fact, it is usually their own fault for not having the right engineering facilities or drivers available.

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

I do not have an update on that figure, although I accept what my hon. Friend says. As I said, however, we cannot ignore some of the results of the consultation on the draft Bill, which showed that it is important to ensure that local authorities fulfil their side of the bargain.

Photo of John Leech John Leech Shadow Minister (Transport)

The point of the amendment is not to suggest that local authorities are never responsible, because they clearly cause some of the problems, whether to do with congestion or whatever. I agree with the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley: most of the time the operators are at fault. The amendment would ensure that local authorities are informed of what actions need to be taken, regardless of whether they have to take remedial action. That is not to suggest that they should absolve themselves of any responsibility.

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

I accept that point; I was simply explaining the background to clause 58 and why it is important. The approach taken in the clause is the right one. The traffic commissioner should send a copy of any report to the relevant operator and, if any of the remedial measures are for implementation by a local traffic authority, to that authority. However, the hon. Gentleman’s amendment would require a copy of every report to be sent to the local traffic authority regardless of whether any of the measures were for implementation by the authority.

I accept that the local authority might have an interest occasionally, and it would be possible for the local traffic commissioner to send a copy to the local authority if that were the case. However, I feel that the approach in the hon. Gentleman’s amendment would be too burdensome. We believe that it is better for the local traffic commissioner to have discretion over which authorities should receive particular reports, rather than to be prescriptive in the Bill. In view of that, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his amendment.

Photo of John Leech John Leech Shadow Minister (Transport)

I will withdraw my amendment, although we might want to revisit the issue on Report. However, I do not quite accept that it would be too burdensome to send the local transport authority a copy of the report that is sent to the operator. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 58 ordered to stand part of the Bill.