Clause 78

Local Transport Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 8th May 2008.

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Constitutional Arrangements

Amendment proposed: No. 238, in clause 78, page 68, line 29, after ‘member’, insert

‘, but which arrangements must provide that members of the ITA who are not elected members of the ITA’s constituent councils may not have a vote’.—[Norman Baker.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 9.

Division number 17 Nimrod Review — Statement — Clause 78

Aye: 6 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Manchester, Blackley

I beg to move amendment No. 82, in clause 78, page 68, line 38, leave out ‘subsection (3)’ and insert ‘subsections (3) and (8)’.

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Conservative, Congleton

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 83, in clause 78, page 69, line 22, at end add—

‘(8) An order under this section may be made only if each of the constituent councils has consented to the constitutional arrangements provision, for which is to be made in the order.’.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Manchester, Blackley

These amendments are less fundamental than the debate we had previously about the constitution and construction of ITAs and how they related to the democratic process. These provisions are about the mechanism of appointments and their purpose is to elicit the Government’s thinking about whether the power to appoint should be only with the ITA. If there are external nominations, the control of both the appointment and the voting rights should remain only with the ITA. The amendments are of lower importance than those in the previous debate but I would be interested in the Government’s thinking on the issues.

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Conservative, Congleton

We return to the theme we were discussing earlier about the Bill allowing flexibility as to what arrangements can be put in place in particular areas. Of course it is desirable that authorities should be able to reach complete agreement among themselves about what the new constitutional arrangements should be, and that the proposals they put forward reflect that. We have to accept, however, that sometimes it may not be possible.

I hope I can reassure my hon. Friend by saying that there are safeguards to protect the interests of individual authorities. The Secretary of State will want to take into account the views of affected authorities in deciding whether to make the necessary secondary legislation to implement the proposals for change that areas bring forward. Indeed, the Bill requires her to consult them on any draft order that she introduces. She would also have to be satisfied that the order is likely to improve the exercise of statutory transport functions or the effectiveness and efficiency of transport within the area concerned. Moreover, in making an order, the Secretary of State must have regard to the need to reflect the identities and interests of local communities. We are trying to strike a balance between flexibility and ensuring there are safeguards for individual local authorities.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Manchester, Blackley

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move amendment No. 289, in clause 78, page 69, line 2, after ‘of’, insert ‘the executive of’.

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Conservative, Congleton

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 290, in clause 78, page 69, line 2, leave out from ‘ITA’ to end of line 3.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

Clause 78 provides that the Secretary of State may by order make provisions about the constitutional arrangements of ITAs, and we have been exploring some of those aspects. It also allows her to make provisions regarding executive arrangements and their functions. With the amendments, I seek some clarity about the role of the executive and the orders the Secretary of State might anticipate making in relation to the executive. Passenger transport areas already have passenger transport executives, which have their own set of statutory powers in part II of the Transport Act 1968. However, it would be possible, as I understand it, to set up a different executive body reporting to the ITA through secondary legislation if the area proposed to do so.

The executive arrangements mentioned in the clause do not have a specified form. Section 11 of the Local Government Act 2000 sets out certain specific forms for such arrangements, but section 11(5) also allows the Secretary of State to specify other forms. It will, therefore, be for each integrated transport authority to make its own proposals about what form executive arrangements should take in its area.

Subsection (5) defines what is meant by executive arrangements in the context of the orders that can be made, but the definition includes

“the functions of the ITA...which may be discharged by a committee of the ITA or by a body other than the ITA”.

I am testing that definition. I am unsure how executive arrangements can include functions that fall outside the remit of the executive body. What functions does the Minister think will be delegated, and in what manner? The amendments are intended to probe and gain clarity about the executive arrangements.

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Conservative, Congleton

In essence, when the Bill refers to an executive body, it refers to the passenger transport executive for the area in question. At present, each PTA area has a passenger transport executive and a passenger transport authority. The PTE is the body that delivers the transport policies of the PTA. However, when the Bill refers to an executive of an ITA rather than an executive body, it refers to something different.

The hon. Gentleman was quite right to refer to the 2000 Act, as amended by the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, under which local councils were generally required to establish executives with responsibility for certain of their functions. In other words, a council with 30 councillors, for example, could have an executive of perhaps half a dozen councillors responsible for day-to-day decision making. At the moment, it is not possible for a PTA to adopt similar arrangements, although it is possible that an area might  see benefits in establishing an executive along similar lines. That is why the Bill refers to an executive and executive arrangements. Clause 78(5) goes no further than the equivalent provision made in relation to local councils in the 2000 Act. I hope that is helpful in clarifying what the Bill means by “executive”.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

That is helpful. I thank the Minister, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 78 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 79 ordered to stand part of the Bill.