Clause 73

Part of Local Transport Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:15 am on 8th May 2008.

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Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Shadow Secretary of State for Transport 9:15 am, 8th May 2008

There is no perfect answer to this, but that is roughly where I am.

The Minister talks about reserve powers whereby a scheme may be imposed, if necessary. It is probably necessary to have those powers for the reasons I have given, so it is important that we fully understand exactly when those powers will be exercised and what opportunities local councils and individuals will have to make their views known. I am uncomfortable with the idea that the views of local areas may be overridden for the greater good, particularly if there is no public referendum or other expression of support.

A referendum may seem over the top, but on the other hand town and parish councils, or town areas, are given the opportunity to have a referendum on all sorts of stuff. We had a referendum in Lewes about three or  four years ago on a not terribly important matter because the local authority powers allowed that to occur. Local referendums are already established as a concept and are exercised by communities up and down the country.

If we are to have a referendum, the question is whether it will work on the basis of a simple majority across the proposed ITA area, or whether there will be a referendum in each particular constituent authority, which will also provide a veto. If we have a referendum only on the whole area, that will be no different from having the constituent local authorities. On the other hand, if we have a referendum only in one area, we will have the same problem with the veto that I referred to a moment ago. There is no simple solution to the problem, but it is an important matter to get right from day one. Otherwise, there will be a danger of having complaints further down the line about lack of democracy.