Part of Local Transport Bill [ Lords ] – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:30 pm on 8th May 2008.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport) 1:30 pm, 8th May 2008

I had tabled an amendment to the clause, but because of the bank holiday and my misunderstanding of the rules, it went in too late, so I want to test in the stand-part debate the issues I would have tested with the Minister in that amendment. They are similar to those raised in our earlier stand-part debate, and to what the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley has just been saying. I am looking for some clarification about the provisions of the clause, because they enable the Secretary of State to issue guidance about anything that could be done by a local authority under this chapter; local authorities must then have regard to such guidance.

We have already discussed the issue several times; the power is extremely wide. The chapter covers the change of names and areas; the power to establish; the need for review, which the Secretary of State already has powers to direct; the review of arrangements; which again the Secretary of State has powers to direct; the delegation of powers, which the Secretary of State can direct; the conferral of powers, where the Secretary of State can intercede; and the changing of boundaries and dissolution of areas, where again the Secretary of State can intervene. It seems to me that clause 89 allows the Secretary of State to issue guidance about anything.

The chapter already includes huge powers for the Secretary of State and it is, once again, a wide-ranging catch-all. In extremis, if the Secretary of State fails to gain the affirmative order that we were talking about in relation to the amendment to clause 87, she simply needs to issue guidance that must be taken regard of. The Secretary of State could issue guidance to an ITA, completely ignoring the local authority and the residents’ feelings, views or wishes, but, more important, she could completely ignore the affirmative order. As the Secretary of State already has huge, wide-ranging powers, can the Minister tell me why, on top of those powers, this provision is needed and can she give some specific examples of the issues it is intended to address?