HC Deb 25 June 1984 vol 62 cc715-7

Lords amendment: No. 3, in page 7, line 28, at end insert— ( ) Any statement prepared under this section shall deal with the financial prospects of London Regional Transport and any subsidiaries of theirs for the period to which the statement relates, having regard to any financial objectives determined for them by the Secretary of State under section 16 of this Act which, at the time when the statement is prepared, apply in relation to that period or any part of it.

Mr. Ridley

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take the following Lords amendments: No. 4, in Page 7, line 35, at end insert— and shall have regard to any considerations to which the Secretary of State may from time to time draw their attention (including, in particular, considerations of national or regional transport policy) and to the development plan for any district which appears to London Regional Transport to be affected by any policies, proposals or plans which they propose to set out in the statement. No. 5, in page 8, line 25, at end insert— and the reference in that subsection to the development plan for any district shall be construed in accordance with section 20 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971.

Mr. Ridley

We accepted in Committee in another place that the strategy documents under clause 7 which LRT will be required to publish should contain some financial information. They would be of limited use if they did not do so. It seemed sensible to make the position clear in the Bill, and that is the purpose of Lords amendment No. 3.

Lords amendments Nos. 4 and 5 meet an undertaking which I gave in Committee to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). I was unable to deliver on Report because of some legal difficulties, which have now been overcome. The effect is that LRT will have to have regard to any consideration which the Secretary of State—not necessarily me—may draw to its attention in preparing its strategy statement. The considerations may include issues which come within national or regional transport policy and any development plans for any area which appear to be affected by the matters dealt with in the statement. Lords amendment No. 4 draws on the requirements in the 1969 Act which currently apply to the GLC in preparing transport plans.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I am grateful to the Secretary of State. Liberals have always believed that in planning transport it is necessary to take into account whatever other plans exist for the time being. I know that there are proposals in the pipeline to change the nature of the planning system in London, but for the time being there is a development plan and other policy statements. We welcome the amendment as another sign of better integration, a plea which the right hon. Gentleman must by now be dreaming about, having heard the phrase so often.

5.45 pm
Mr. Spearing

Whatever our views about the Bill, it must be recognised that most of the amendments are improvements. I commend the Secretary of State and his colleagues for accepting the amendment from another place. The few brief remarks which I intend to make may help them to carry out a task which they may not realise is coming to them. The amendments refer to a "regional transport policy" and transport policy is extremely important for London. At present it is the responsibility of the Greater London council, especially the strategic plan for London.

If the GLC disappears—I hope that it will not—and the strategic responsibility goes with it, who will be responsible other than Her Majesty's Government for a regional transport policy for London? Presumably the responsibility will devolve upon the 24 or the 24-plus and the policy will be determined within Marsham street. As London will not have an elected body dealing with strategic planning, with which transport is closely associated, the Secretary of State will find himself handling policy matters which until now have not been his responsibility. He will become accountable to hon. Members for those matters.

One example is the docklands light railway. Magically, it has the assent and support of the London Docklands Development Corporation, the London borough of Newham, the GLC and the Secretary of State for Transport. It is under the aegis of GLC planning and the subject of London Transport Bills that are considered in this place. It is a good example of agreed planning which is going ahead. It has not been a major responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman's Department.

The Secretary of State will have to consider the construction of new railway lines in London. We read recently of the resuscitation of the Snow hill tunnel. The tunnel has been with us for a long time and it should have been reconnected, as should the Willesden-Clapham junction passenger service. These matters will come within the right hon. Gentleman's responsibilities. Even more important than that, he will find that he will be approached on the economy of regional centres, especially on retail trade and employment. Until now it has been the responsibility of the GLC to determine what places should be encouraged and supported in the furtherance of important functions such as trade and employment. The right hon. Gentleman will be lobbied by many interests. I am not saying that he is not already, but I suspect that the lobbying will become more intense.

It has been said that the travelcard should be extended to embrace British Rail. The GLC would implement that policy if the Secretary of State allowed it to do so. An all-London travelcard would be a tremendous boon and it would not be against British Rail's financial interests. Everyone knows that British Rail runs surburban services, empty or full. For a good part of each day there is capacity for additional passengers without incurring an extra outlay. If London had the integrated services that a proper regional transport policy would provide, we should have a system approaching those that are to be found, so I am told, in New York and Paris.

Relatively cheap public transport provides accessibility to services within the central areas of a city, including the central business community. It would provide accessibility to the west end, Westminster, the City and the Festival hall. It would offer accessibility to all the functions that were available in pre-1918 London, as it were. Such travel would be easy, cheap and reasonably efficient. That is what everybody in London wants to see, irrespective of party.

I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the forward-looking formulation of a London Regional Transport policy, which is the duty placed upon LRT and himself, should be of that sort. The facilities exist and they are publicly owned. The extension of the travelcard to London's railways would be a boon to everybody, irrespective of party and individual attitudes to the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 4 and 5 agreed to.

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