Clause 47

Part of Local Transport Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 6 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) 4:30, 6 May 2008

It might help if I put it in the context of what we are trying to achieve in clause 47, which will allow the Secretary of State to update the range of fees payable by the operators of local bus services. I stress that any new fees would be set out in regulations and subject to further consultation.

The regime covering the fees paid by the operators of local buses has remained unchanged for the past 20 years. Before an operator can start running a bus service, he must register the particulars of that service with the local traffic commissioner, and a fee is payable then. If he wants to vary the details of the scheme—for example, by introducing a new timetable or changing the number of services—a further fee is payable. However, he does not have to pay a fee if he cancels the service altogether, which carries a transaction charge, or if he simply leaves it as it is.

The clause will allow the Secretary of State to make regulations to provide for fees to be payable in additional situations. For example, a fee could be charged for the cancellation of a local service. What is known as a continuation fee could also be charged—perhaps an annual fee where registration particulars are unchanged. Holders of a bus operator’s licence already pay a fee in order for their licence to continue in force. A number of right hon. and hon. Members have pointed out that we need to ensure that the traffic commissioners are properly resourced. They are at the heart of ensuring that bus operators deliver good services and will play an important role in enforcing the new punctuality regime. I stress that no decision has been taken to increase the fees burden on operators at this stage, but it is important to think ahead. That is why we have taken the powers. I hope that the hon. Member for Wimbledon will understand why we have done so and withdraw his amendment. [Interruption.]

Stephen Hammond rose—