New Clause 10

Local Transport Bill [ Lords ] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 8th May 2008.

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Power to require bus operators to make available information for inspection

‘(1) The appropriate national authority may make regulations requiring bus operators places in such manner as may be prescribed, to make information falling within subsection (2) available for inspection by the appropriate traffic commissioner.

(2) The information referred to in subsection (1) is such information as is available on the actual historical real time movements of buses operated by them for such periods of time as the regulations may stipulate.

(3) Regulations under this section may provide that a traffic commissioner may impose a financial penalty on any bus operator who, without reasonable excuse, fails to comply with a requirement imposed on them by regulations under this section.

(4) Regulations made by virtue of subsection (3) may—

(a) specify the maximum penalty that may be imposed by virtue of that subsection;

(b) require a traffic commissioner who has imposed a penalty by virtue of that subsection to give notice in writing to such persons as may be prescribed.

(5) A penalty imposed by virtue of subsection (3) is—

(a) payable to the appropriate national authority that made the regulations, and

(b) recoverable as a civil debt.

(6) An operator on whom a penalty is imposed by virtue of subsection (3) may appeal to the Transport Tribunal against the imposition of the penalty.

(7) The power to make regulations under this section is exercisable by statutory instrument.

(8) A statutory instrument containing regulations made under this section by the Secretary of State is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(9) A statutory instrument containing regulations made under this section by the Welsh Ministers is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of the National Assembly of Wales.

(10) In this section—

“the appropriate national authority” means—

(a) in relation to public passenger transport services operating wholly or partly in England, the Secretary of State;

(b) in relation to public passenger transport services operating wholly or partly in Wales, the Welsh Ministers;

“prescribed” means prescribed in regulations;

“public passenger transport services” has the meaning given by section 63(10)(a) of the TA 1985;

“public service vehicle” and “traffic commissioner” have the same meaning as in the PPVA 1981.’.—[Graham Stringer.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Manchester, Blackley

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

We had a full debate on this issue earlier in our discussions. It was proposed to oblige bus operators to inform the authorities of where their buses were at a particular time, and where they had been, so that it could be checked whether they were complying with their commitments to run buses on particular routes and so that their punctuality could be checked. A lot of the weight of my right hon. Friend the Minister’s argument against that was that it would be inappropriate to include global positioning system technology in legislation as a way of doing that, although it is the most obvious way at the moment. In future, technological innovations that have not yet been thought of may be better.

If my right hon. Friend reads the new clause, she will see that, with the help of officials, I have foreseen that argument. There is no mention of GPS, so I ask her to reconsider. The basic point of the new clause is that bus companies should be held to account for their punctuality and reliability on their route, and that services should be able to be checked both while they are happening and historically. That must be a sensible basis for legislation.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Minister of State (Regional Affairs) (Yorkshire and the Humber), Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I hope that I can reassure my hon. Friend that we either already have, or are taking, all the powers that the new clause is intended to effect. The Transport Act 1985 already allows the Secretary of State to make regulations to require operators to provide certain data to traffic commissioners. The new powers in the Bill will enable traffic commissioners, first, to hold local authorities to account if they are having an impact on bus punctuality and, secondly, to impose sanctions on operators who fail to meet statutory requirements to provide bus punctuality data.

Those new powers will form part of the new bus punctuality regime, which we are working on with bus operators and local authorities through the Bus Partnership Forum. We believe that they will make a real difference.

I hope that those are sufficient reassurances to persuade my hon. Friend to withdraw the new clause.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Manchester, Blackley

I shall withdraw the new clause, but I would be grateful if my right hon. Friend wrote to me so that I could better understand how the reliability of the data can be checked. This is not just about the records of the bus companies, which may well have been fiddled for all sorts of reasons. Buses may not have travelled along the routes that they said they had done and manually recorded arrival times can be fiddled.

The point of having something like GPS is that it can be checked independently, which means that the evidence is more reliable. I would be grateful if my right hon. Friend wrote to me to reassure me further on that point. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.