HC Deb 08 November 1999 vol 337 cc767-8

Lords amendment: No. 337, in page 104, line 21, after (" 233") insert ("or 324")

Mr. Hill

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 339, 561, 708 to 711, 713, 716 and 719.

Mr. Hill

The Government understand that the London concessionary fares scheme is much valued by elderly and disabled Londoners. That is why we are firmly committed to ensuring that users of the scheme can continue to enjoy its travel benefits. The Bill makes provision for those travel concessions to continue on services that will transfer from the control of London Transport to Transport for London.

We have given careful consideration to a number of proposals for improvements to the scheme. As a result, we have amended the Bill to update the scheme and to help maintain its stability. For the statutory reserve scheme, the start and finish times will be brought into line with those currently in the voluntary scheme, and arrangements for determining the costs of the reserve scheme will be clarified. We have also given the boroughs powers to set up a statutory joint committee dealing with concessionary fares, which will have the option of taking decisions on the basis of qualified majority voting.

The amendments will bring up to date the concessionary fares provisions first enacted in 1984. They will increase the stability of the scheme by making it easier for the boroughs to reach agreement every year. They will also provide further reassurance to users that concessions will continue to be provided. These amendments have the support of the Association of London Government and users' groups, and were welcomed in the other place.

On penalty fares, the Government have noted the views of Members of both Houses—expressed both during the passage of this Bill and when writing on behalf of constituents—about the operation of London Transport's penalty fares scheme. We are, of course, also aware of the considerable public interest in the subject.

Lords amendment No. 719 requires the Secretary of State to make regulations to establish an independent penalty fares appeal body, if he is requested to do so by the mayor. We think it likely that, once the mayor has taken stock of the penalty fares procedures, he or she will make such a request. We should not, however, wish to prejudge the mayor's consideration of the issue, particularly in the light of the reforms that London Transport has established after its review of tube penalty fares. We think that the mayor will want to see how those reforms bed down before deciding to invoke the powers in the amendment.

The amendment also gives a general indication of the ground that the regulations may cover. If the mayor were to request the Secretary of State to make such regulations, we would expect there to be close consultation between the mayor, the Secretary of State and other interested parties before the regulations were drawn up.

Mr. Burstow

I should like to speak briefly to the amendments dealing with the concessionary fares issue, which concerned hon. Members greatly in our earlier consideration of the Bill. I also want to express our appreciation of the fact that the Government have at last listened to the representations made not only by hon. Members both here and in the other place, but by the many thousands of people across London who asked the Government to think again about the way in which the Bill would have put at risk the future of the London concessionary fares scheme.

I know from my own constituency case load that some of my constituents, particularly those involved in a seniors' forum in my constituency, were most anxious that the provisions should be included in the Bill. I know that they are pleased to note that the scheme is secure, and look forward to seeing it continue well into the future.

Mr. Hill

I express my gratitude for the hon. Gentleman's warm words. We regard inclusion of the provisions as an example of consensual government that should be a model for the way in which the Greater London Authority conducts its business.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 338 and 339 agreed to.

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