HL Deb 27 June 2000 vol 614 cc18-23GC

(" .—(1) No contravention by the Crown of a provision contained in or made under this Part shall make the Crown criminally liable; but the High Court or in Scotland the Court of Session may, on the application of a person appearing to the Court to have an interest, declare unlawful any act or omission of the Crown which constitutes such a contravention.

(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), the provisions contained in or made under section 3(1), 86(7) or 87(5) apply to persons in the public service of the Crown as they apply to other persons.

(3) However, section 3(1) does not apply if the services there mentioned are provided by or on behalf of the armed forces of the Crown; and the person to whom and aircraft for which the services are provided are immaterial.

(4) Nothing in section (Crown application) or this section affects Her Majesty in her private capacity; and this subsection must be construed as if section 38(3) of the Crown Proceedings Act 1947 (meaning of Her Majesty in her private capacity) were contained in this Act.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clauses 97 to 103 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

Before we agree that these clauses stand part, I should like to make the point that we have now departed from Part I of the Bill—we wave it some kind of farewell just for the moment—and remind the Committee of what my noble friend Lord Brabazon said, that this procedure would give us two bites of the cherry. I feel he underestimated the meal that is in front of us. I do not feel as though I have had one bite of the cherry, but that I have swallowed two or three bags without tasting any of them. I congratulate the Government on the speed with which they have carried this through. It impresses me greatly and I permit myself to wonder, rather timidly, what would have been the reaction of the government party had it still been in opposition and been confronted with such infernal proceedings—I chose the adjective intentionally—as we have been met with today. It is merely a sign of our innocence, which I hope will endure for ever, that we have been able to get on with this; and the Government ought to be very much obliged to us.

I should say in passing that when we reach the second part of the Bill, the ignorance which I have on the first part is slightly remedied. Many years ago when I was Minister of Transport, most of the time I was buried in that great heap called the Department of the Environment where nobody made any decisions at all, and nobody understood any issues when they reached a certain level. In those days, the government in their wisdom were totally convinced that air transport had nothing to do with transport at all, and therefore there was a Department of Civil Aviation, which was more or less entombed inside the DTI—a pretty unhappy fate for anybody—and so I had nothing to do with it.

However, I had some involvement in some of the other problems with which the later stages of the Bill are concerned, and I hope from time to time to make some contribution, but I doubt whether I shall feel capable of intervening in this present procedure, which is, I must say, marvellously speedy. Without embarrassing any of my colleagues on the Committee and any party, I wonder how many of us had any very clear understanding of the details of the contents of Part I of the Bill as it came before us originally, and how many have a good, clear understanding of everything that has happened in the past half-hour or so as the noble Lord, in the manner of a deft and extremely skilled conjurer, has altered the shape of the proposals which are before us. I do not wish to impede progress, at least at this stage, but I thought I should take the opportunity of making one or two comments particularly relative to my noble friend's choice of metaphor of bites of the cherry; we have had more than that.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, had answered the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, very fully, when he pointed out that this is a qualifying round and does not affect the actual tournament. We return on Thursday of next week to our full consideration of Part I, and indeed the rest of the Bill. Otherwise, the government amendments would have been dealt with together with opposition and other amendments. That would have confused the issue as to the Government's intentions. This Bill will be published tomorrow morning in the form of what I think is technically called a Keeling schedule. It shows the relevant clauses as amended by the amendments which are being put before the Committee. The Opposition have lost nothing by this procedure. It merely means that they have two opportunities to ask questions on government amendments.

Clauses 97 to 103 agreed to.

Clause 104 [Quality partnership schemes]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 56: Page 63. line 43, leave out from ("strategies-) to end of line 4 on page 64.

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 57 to 62. These amendments, taken together, ensure that local transport authorities can bring forward quality partnership schemes which are provided in the Bill, but which would now be able to include existing facilities. Mostly, they respond to representations we have received, in particular from local government. But we believe they will be widely welcomed.

As currently drafted the Bill provides for the making of a quality partnership scheme on the basis that the facilities to be provided by local authorities—for example bus lanes and so on—are not already in existence. Thus Subsections (3) and (4) of Clause 104, for example, refer to an obligation to "provide" facilities and of "facilities provided", and Clause 105(2) refers to "proposed facilities". The wording of Clauses 106(4) and 108(1) also presuppose that local authorities must be allowed time to provide those facilities in the future.

The real position, however, is that there are already a substantial number of voluntary quality partnership schemes, many established relatively recently, with purposes similar to the statutory schemes now envisaged under the Bill. The representations we have received suggested that there could be positive advantages if authorities were able to incorporate such existing facilities within a quality partnership scheme under the Bill. There would be advantages to authorities and operators alike. Authorities would be able to package up existing and new facilities in a quality partnership scheme, and demand the same standards of all operators using the facilities. And the operators, especially where they have invested recently on the strength of local authority provision, would benefit from protection from low quality competition.

The government amendments accordingly provide for quality partnership schemes to include existing facilities. In so doing, they strengthen the "partnership" concept already inherent in the Bill by providing that both facilities provided by the authority and standards to be met by operators must lead to improvements in the quality of bus services or help to reduce traffic congestion or pollution. That is the effect of Amendment No. 57.

It has always been the intention that statutory quality partnership schemes should represent a partnership, with both operators and authorities operating a quid pro quo. This amendment makes that even more explicit. It will apply to all quality partnership schemes whether or not they involve existing facilities.

The amendment also makes it clear that there must be genuine improvement. Authorities cannot, for example, bring forward quality partnership schemes which are primarily dependent on facilities which already exist, demanding major investment by the bus operators. There must be a reasonable element of additionality.

The other substantive amendment in this group is Amendment No. 60, which introduces a new clause empowering the appropriate national authority to make regulations in connection with quality partnership schemes involving "existing facilities". Those regulations are designed to ensure flexibility and to protect operators who are already using existing facilities. They might additionally be used to impose more onerous consultation or consent requirements; to limit the age of pre-existing facilities; to allow for particular facilities or classes of facility to be specified, or the circumstances in which they might be specified; and to allow appropriate modifications to be made in the quality partnership scheme procedures. That is Amendment No. 60, which is the substantive new clause.

The remaining amendments are purely consequential. These amendments will improve the Bill and allow the benefits of statutory quality partnerships to be extended to a wider range of circumstances. I beg to move.

Lord Swinfen

These provisions amend the detailed requirements for quality partnership schemes, to bring benefit to people using the services. In addition, reference is made to the need for consultation in the schemes.

There seem to be two drawbacks to the current wording. First, the benefits should be such as to be enjoyed by people not currently using the service— primarily because of one form of disability or another—but who would like to be able to use the service. Secondly, the requirements for consultation should also extend to people who are not using or cannot use the service at the time, as it would be desirable for quality partnership schemes to be used to widen the use of public transport, such as buses.

Lord Bradshaw

I welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, has said about this change, which is in response to representations received from local government. I hope that we might take it as a precedent and that many other representations that we shall make, which have come to us from local government, will receive equally favourable consideration.

I ask particularly that the existing quality partnership schemes, of which—as the Minister said—there are many, will under Clause 108 enjoy no lesser status or protection than the new quality partnership schemes, save that they may have to be improved. We want to believe that the existing schemes are not second class in the consideration of the Government or in the eyes of this Bill and the law, should this Bill become law.

Lord Whitty

In response to the first question, it is clear that the inclusion of existing facilities—and indeed, the whole question of quality partnerships—is based on the improvement of the service. This includes the extension of the service and therefore must include its extension for the use of those who cannot currently, for one reason or another, enjoy the service. That would clearly cover improvements made to ensure that disabled people or others, who previously had not been able to use the service, can now do so. As far as the consultation provisions on that are concerned, the general provisions on consultation will certainly allow consultation with the representatives of disabled people in the locality. Thus, that point is already covered. In relation to the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, we always take seriously representations from local authorities. However, I cannot give him the 100 per cent guarantee he seeks on that matter.

As regards existing quality partnerships, if they wish to move into the statutory quality partnership arena, they will have the same status as the new partnerships. There may be some quality partnerships that will not be statutorily based. It is hoped that they will have the same effect locally but there will not be the statutory backing for those particular arrangements between the operator and the authority.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

Will the Minister be kind enough to say how many authorities are involved? There seems to be a legion of them and here we are dealing particularly with the appropriate national authority. I have very little idea as to which is the appropriate national authority in that context.

Lord Whitty

When I use the term "authority" in this context, I refer to the local authority, in most contexts the local highways authority and, in certain circumstances, there may be lower level authorities which enter into such agreements. However, principally I am referring to the highways authority. I believe I am right in saying that there are about 100 such agreements either in existence or in the process of being agreed on a voluntary basis. We shall need to see how many of those will transfer to a statutory basis. But this provision will provide statutory backing for that kind of arrangement between the operator and the local highway authority.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendments No. 57 and 58: Page 64, line 10, at end insert— ("(3A) The authority or authorities must be satisfied that both the provision of those facilities and the provision of local services of that standard will—

  1. (a) improve the quality of local services provided in the whole or any part of their area, or combined area, by bringing benefits to persons using those services, or
  2. (b) reduce or limit traffic congestion, noise or air pollution.
(3B) A quality partnership scheme may not be made unless the authority or authorities have complied with the notice and consultation requirements imposed by section 105."). Page 64, line 45, leave out ("(2) and (3)") and insert ("(3) and (3B)").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 104, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 105 [Notice and consultation requirements]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 59: Page 65, line 13, leave out ("proposed").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 105, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 106 to 108 agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 60: After Clause 108, insert the following new clause—