Section 1 — Joint transport strategies

Transport (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 10:15 am on 20 December 2000.

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Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party 10:15, 20 December 2000

As I said on 4 October during the stage 2 debate in the Transport and the Environment Committee, the purpose of inserting

"the environmental, social and economic impact of the strategy" is to ensure that local transport authorities in particular are absolutely clear about what will be acceptable as the minimum core content of any joint transport strategy. Members will see that amendment 1 is starred on the marshalled list, which indicates that it has been altered—to include "and any other". The introduction of those words to make the amendment generally acceptable is the result of the minister's very constructive approach. The minister has dealt constructively with many of the amendments that have been proposed.

The words "such matters to include" were chosen to ensure that other important relevant issues are not excluded. It would have been wrong to construct an amendment that would prevent a joint transport strategy from considering other relevant issues. Equally, I believe that it would be wrong for a transport bill not to state what is expected as a minimum core in any joint transport strategy.

As well as dealing properly with technical aspects of what any joint strategy should contain, a transport bill should surely direct transport authorities to consider, as a minimum, the environmental, social and economic impact of what they are attempting to achieve. Those key factors are the backbone of any issues that are related to sustainability and what a joint transport strategy should attempt to achieve. It would have been remarkable if the first transport bill passed in the Parliament did not have at its heart a fundamental statement that the central purpose of any joint transport strategy should be underpinned by sustainability. That is the primary purpose of the amendment.

Amendment 1 is designed also to produce a secondary advantage. It would make abundantly clear to any future reader the minimum matters that any joint strategy might be expected to explore and discuss. Any individual, community or organisation with an interest would be provided with a clear view of what they can legitimately expect to find in a strategy. That can only be good for accountability, transparency and understanding a transport authority's objectives. Indeed, at stage 2 the minister agreed with the spirit of what my amendment attempted to do. I was delighted to receive the minister's suggestion of the extra words, which will enable amendment 1 to be passed.

I move amendment 1.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

This is a very straightforward issue. We debated a similar amendment at stage 2. Although I was happy then to acknowledge the central importance of environmental, social and economic considerations, I was concerned that the amendment that was proposed at that stage would have been unduly prescriptive. I certainly do not want to be unreasonable. I agree with the objectives of amendment 1 and am pleased that Bruce Crawford has agreed to a minor drafting change to the amendment that was originally lodged. There is now no disagreement between us on the substance of the amendment and I am happy to support it.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Amendment 6, in the name of Bruce Crawford, is grouped with amendments 7 and 8.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

If amendment 6 were passed, it would no longer be for a public body to decide whether it should consult; it would be required to consult. The majority of public bodies would consult and would not need to be told to do so, but consultation on any order should be a prerequisite. Amendment 6 would enable those who can legitimately expect to be consulted to say to public bodies, "Hey, hold on a minute, public body. I have something important to say and I expect you to listen to me." For that reason, "may" should be replaced by "shall".

I cannot imagine circumstances in which a public body might decide not to consult. Nor can I imagine that a public body might take an affirmative decision not to consult. Can the minister give an example of circumstances in which a transport authority may decide not to consult when it introduces an order? Consultation invariably leads to positive outcomes when the public body listens and is prepared to move its position. I cannot think of any good reason for a public body not to consult on an order.

I move amendment 6.

Photo of Fiona McLeod Fiona McLeod Scottish National Party

Amendments 6 and 7 are intended to ensure that the principle of consultation is enshrined at the beginning of the bill and applies throughout it. Amendment 7 moves us on from consultation of those whom bodies think appropriate, to consultation of those "who have an interest". It is important to accept that we do not always know who has an interest and who is the appropriate body to consult, so the requirement should be to consult all those who have an interest.

I was pleased that at stage 2 the minister accepted many of the arguments on consultation. If we want the public to use public transport, we have to listen to their views. That means that we have to listen to all the views—of users and of potential users of public transport. We have to listen to potential users to understand why they are not using public transport.

The Subordinate Legislation Committee's report raised the concern about the fact that there are times when consultation under the bill will be statutory and times when it will be inferred and accepted. The committee had a long debate with civil servants about the concept in law of statutory consultation versus reasonableness. It is important to ensure that people are consulted at the heart of the bill's provisions on transport strategies. After all, the Parliament's watchwords are openness, accessibility and accountability and if consultation is included at the beginning of the bill, it will flow through the rest of it.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

During stage 2, Bruce Crawford, Fiona McLeod and I engaged in long-running debates on the consultative provisions in the bill. Both Bruce Crawford and Fiona McLeod sought absolute assurances that X would consult on this or that issue, or that X would always consult Y, but we cannot cater for every conceivable circumstance—that would lead to legislative madness.

It is impossible to guarantee in primary legislation that absolutely everyone who has any interest will be consulted in every conceivable circumstance. That is why in this bill, as in others, the primary powers are crafted in general terms and the details will be set out in guidance and regulations.

Consultation goes to the heart of the new transport policies that the Executive is pursuing. We cannot hope to achieve our aspirations for transport across Scotland without the widest possible support from those who will be affected by them, whether they are motorists, public transport users, young people, elderly people or people with disabilities.

We must consider each proposal to enshrine consultation in the primary legislation in its own terms. During stage 2, Bruce Crawford made the point that natural justice suggests that ministers should consult relevant bodies before introducing an enforcement direction under section 2. I do not accept that consultation is required where there has been a failure to prepare or submit a strategy, as failure to do either would be a clear breach of the duty to prepare a joint strategy under section 1.

However, I accept that it would be appropriate for the Executive to consult the public body and, by extension, any other appropriate persons, should the Executive propose to issue a direction on the ground of "other exceptional circumstances" as set out in section 2(1)(b). Amendment 8 would require the Executive to consult in such circumstances.

By contrast, amendments 6 and 7 merely tinker with the bill, and to questionable effect. Amendment 6 requires public bodies to consult, but amendment 7 requires them to consult only such "individuals and agencies" as the public bodies "consider to be representative". The use of "consider" in amendment 7 might undermine a requirement.

Amendment 7 would allow public bodies to consult those who are

"representative of those who have an interest in the proposed strategy" rather than appropriate persons. That is more, rather than less, restrictive. With the best will in the world, I cannot see what value amendment 6 or amendment 7 would add to the bill. I ask Parliament to reject both and to support amendment 8.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

I asked the minister to detail the circumstances in which a public body might not have consulted on a proposed strategy the persons whom it considered to be appropriate to consult. I have heard nothing from her, at any stage, about any situation in which she thinks it appropriate for a public body not to consult.

Had the minister spoken about circumstances in which it might have been appropriate to say, "No, here is a good reason for us not to consult," I might have been more relaxed about the "may" remaining in section 1(3), but I have not heard her say that. I therefore ask Parliament to support amendment 6.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The question is, that amendment 6 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

There will be a division. As this is the first division in this group, I will allow two minutes for the vote.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The result of the division is: For 19, Against 66, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 6 disagreed to.

Amendment 7 moved—[Fiona McLeod].

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The question is, that amendment 7 be agreed to. Are members agreed?

Members:

No.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The result of the division is: For 18, Against 66, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 7 disagreed to.