Clause 66

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

If enacted, clause 66 will remove two forms of central Government control over bus companies that are owned wholly or partly by local authorities. If those companies include elected members on their boards, which I believe they all do, they must be unpaid, non-executive directors. Current legislation, which goes back to 1985, requires those elected members to obtain a dispensation from the Secretary of State or Welsh Ministers before speaking  or voting on matters affecting their company. That was intended to prevent possible conflicts of interest between their roles as councillors and as directors.

Of course that is still important, but local government has changed. Under more recent local government legislation, the conduct regime for councillors allows such dispensations to be granted by local standards committees. The role of the Secretary of State or Welsh Ministers is no longer needed, and the clause will fulfil a long-standing commitment to remove it. That is fully supported by the Department for Communities and Local Government and by Welsh Ministers.

The amendment would retain the dispensation provisions in the 1985 Act, meaning that councillors would effectively need two sets of dispensation, one from their local standards committee and one from central Government. The Bill provides an opportunity to get rid of an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy, and I am afraid that the amendment would deprive us of that opportunity. I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw it.