Clause 86

Local Transport Bill [ Lords ] – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:10 pm on 8 May 2008.

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Incidental etc provision

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

This morning, when I moved amendment No. 275, part of the Minister’s answer to me was that clause 86 was the part of the Bill that dealt with section 15 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. As I pointed out, the trouble with that is that clause 86 is one of those very wide catch-all clauses.

Clause 86 deals with incidental, consequential, transitional or supplementary provisions and the ability of the Secretary of State to make those as he or she deems necessary. The explanatory notes cite two examples. First, to provide for

“the transfer of property and assets to an” integrated transport authority

“in consequence of an order...which has delegated certain functions to an ITA.”

So that is clear; it is a consequential provision. The second example cited is,

“in consequence of making an order, for instance to reflect the fact that a new ITA has been established.”

Again, that is clear; there is a need for a transitional provision. However, one might argue that though the consequential and transitional examples that have been given in the explanatory notes are fair, the purpose for which the provisions under the headings “incidental” or “supplementary” would be used is not clear.

I am perfectly aware of what consequential and transitional purposes may be, but I am far from clear as to exactly how the Secretary of State would want to use those provisions in an incidental or a supplementary manner, given that we have throughout the Bill given the Secretary of State extremely wide powers to do as she sees fit, and to include persons and local authorities and to undertake consultations as she sees appropriate. The Secretary of State has wide-ranging discretion already and I cannot see what these powers will be needed for. I am looking for specific examples of why the incidental or supplementary powers are needed. It is an extremely wide-ranging catch-all clause. It implies a potentially huge transfer of power. I am concerned about exactly what the limits to that power are and why the Minister or Secretary of State should need that wide-ranging power.

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

This goes back to the discussion that we had earlier about political balance. The idea of clause 86(1) and (4) is that they would enable a governance order made by the Secretary of State to apply relevant parts of existing legislation to ITAs, including, for example, a requirement for their membership to reflect the political balance of councils in their area. As the hon. Gentleman said earlier, that duty applies to passenger transport authorities under section 15 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. The clause is about giving the Secretary of State the power to put in an order the other parts of existing legislation.

I want to return to the point that the hon. Gentleman made about political balance, because I listened to what he said and I think that it may be possible for us make those issues clearer in the Bill. I would like to take that away and I may come back to that particular issue on Report.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful to the Minister for that reassurance. I am delighted that for the first time in a very long Committee she has accepted that there may be some merit in one of my amendments. As she heard this morning, it was a wide-ranging concern of the Committee. It will be extremely welcome to hear back from the Minister. I have listened to her explanation of incidental and supplemental. I think that that was where she was going this morning. I am glad that we will get what I was trying to do this morning in the Bill. I will reflect whether incidental and supplemental are really necessary. We may discuss that later.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 86 ordered to stand part of the Bill.