New Clause 2

Local Transport Bill [ Lords ] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 8th May 2008.

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Bus partnership schemes

‘(1) The Transport Act 2000 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 109 (further provision about plans), insert—

(3)

“109A Bus partnership schemes

(1) In preparing their local transport plan, the authority may create a bus partnership scheme.

(2) A bus partnership scheme shall seek consensus on bus routes, frequencies, fares and other matters that shall be agreed, for the period of the local transport plan.

(3) In constructing a bus partnership scheme, the authority shall consult—

(a) all operators of registered services in the specified area;

(b) such organisations representative of passengers as it sees fit.

(4) In exercising their statutory functions under the Town and Country Planning Acts, the local planning authority shall have regard to the bus partnership scheme and guidance contained therein.

109B Bus partnership strategy

(1) Each local transport authority must prepare a document to be known as the bus partnership strategy containing their general policies as to how best to create bus partnership schemes.

(2) In preparing a bus partnership strategy, the authority shall consult—

(a) all operators of registered services in the specified area;

(b) such organisations representative of passengers as it sees fit.”.

(4) In section 162(1) (interpretation) before “community bus services” insert “Bus strategy” means “bus partnership strategy” and has the meaning given in section 109B.”.’.—[Stephen Hammond.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause is very familiar to those who have been following the passage of the Bill and the arguments surrounding it. As I have said consistently in Committee, it is my strong belief that we should do as much as we can to encourage partnership between the local authority and the operator. The Government recognise partnership as the fundamental driver to improvements of local bus services, because in “Putting Passengers First” they said that they regard it as a “key ingredient of success”. If that is true, it is difficult to understand why the Government have not done more in the initial phases to ensure that partnership is encouraged. We should do as much as we can to ensure that it is encouraged and that is exactly what my new clause does.

I acknowledge the work done by the Campaign for Better Transport in relation to the new clause. It has pointed out, quite rightly, that a new clause offering a way to combine partnership with long-term planning, in a manner that the Bill currently does not offer, would be beneficial.

The new clause would do nothing other than ensure that local authorities actively consider how best to utilise partnerships while developing long-term transport plans. It seems to me especially important that local authorities should do that, because previous and subsequent clauses do away with bus strategies.

The second part of the new clause is designed to encourage partnership still further. It would require that local authorities look at partnership and produce a “partnership strategy”, which would encourage local transport authorities and integrated transport authorities to think more clearly and see that partnership should be the first route they take. That would encourage them to consider how they might best arrange and implement partnership schemes.

The evidence shows quite clearly that effective partnership between local authorities and bus operators in any one area is the key to improving bus services in that area. We had a long debate previously in Committee about areas where partnership has worked and I will not return to that debate today. However, in my opinion the solution is to be found not down the regulation route but down the partnership route, so we must ensure that partnership is encouraged and improved, and I believe that the new clause will achieve that end.

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Conservative, Congleton

I understand that the hon. Gentleman is very keen that partnerships are able to work effectively. However, I must say that some of the proposals in the new clause are already provided for elsewhere in the Bill, in the revised provisions on quality partnership schemes and provisions, including a new competition test, relating to voluntary partnership agreements. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman’s new clause would add anything in particular to what local authorities will already be able to do under those provisions.

The approach that we propose elsewhere in the Bill, particularly in terms of quality partnerships schemes and voluntary partnerships agreements, would enable much of the spirit of the new clause to be achieved. Moreover, the new clause would provide far less flexibility about when partnerships can be delivered.

Having given those reassurances, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be persuaded to withdraw the new clause.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I have listened closely to the Minister, but I want to test the will of the Committee. I am not prepared to withdraw the motion.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Division number 22 Nimrod Review — Statement — New Clause 2

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.