HC Deb 09 May 2000 vol 349 cc797-9 '.—(1) A local transport authority may, in connection with the exercise of any of its functions relating to public transport, require an operator of local services to provide it with any information relating to the matters specified in subsection (2) which is in his possession or control. (2) The matters referred to in subsection (1) are—?
  1. (a) the total number of journeys undertaken by passengers on the local services operated by the operator in the authority's area or any part of its area,
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  3. (b) the structure of fares for those journeys, and
  4. (c) the total distance covered by vehicles used by him in operating those local services.
(3) The operator may be required to provide the information in any form in which, having regard to the manner in which the information is kept, it is reasonable to expect him to provide it. (4) No information which—
  1. (a) has been provided under this section, or provided together with information so provided, and
  2. (b) relates to the affairs of an individual or to a particular business,
shall be disclosed during the lifetime of the individual or while the business continues to be carried on.
(5) But subsection (4) does not apply to a disclosure made—
  1. (a) with the consent of the individual or the person for the time being carrying on the business,
  2. (b) in connection with the investigation of crime or for the purposes of criminal proceedings,
  3. (c) for the purposes of civil proceedings brought by virtue of this Act or the Transport Act 1985, or
  4. (d) in order to comply with the order of a court or tribunal.
(6) A person who discloses information in contravention of subsection (4) is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.'.—[Mr. Hill.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Hill

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause was tabled in response to a matter that we discussed in Committee on 17 February on a Liberal Democrat amendment aimed at allowing access by local authorities to reasonable statistical information held by bus operators. We expressed sympathy with the aims of the amendment and undertook to introduce a suitably worded new clause, which I am happy to do.

The new clause should meet all the points raised in Committee. It will give a local transport authority, in the exercise of any of its public transport functions, power to require bus operators to supply information that they hold. The information may relate to passenger journeys, bus mileage and fare structures in respect of journeys throughout the area or part of the area. It may be requested in any form, subject to a test of reasonableness, and it may not be disclosed, other than with consent or in connection with civil or criminal proceedings, contravention being subject to a fine of up to level 5 on the standard scale.

I hope that the House will agree that the new clause is a welcome improvement to the Bill. It will ensure that authorities, in support of their functions relating to local transport plans and bus strategies, but also more generally—for example, in the context of reporting on bus services under the local government best value regime—have access to appropriate statistical information held by bus operators. It will also safeguard matters of commercial confidentiality.

Mr. Michael Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)

I do not think that any of us had expected to reach the new clause, but after the Minister has so generously responded to serious concerns raised by Liberal Democrats in Committee, it would be churlish of us not to acknowledge the major steps forward that he has taken. The habit of the Committee was for members to write home to their mother or wife on the occasion of such a minor triumph. We have had the pen ready and the postage stamp prepared, and we will send that letter off tonight.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour

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