HL Deb 07 October 1968 vol 296 cc815-22

4.3 p.m.

Report stage resumed.

LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 14: Page 14, line 11, leave out from ("provision") to ("to") in line 20 and insert ("of a properly integrated and efficient system of public passenger transport to meet the needs of that area with due regard to the town planning and traffic and parking policies of the councils of constituent areas and")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the effect of this Amendment is to state more explicitly the general duty of Passenger Transport Authorities and their Executives, and their relationship with the planning and traffic management responsibilities of councils of constituent areas.

In the debate at the Committee stage, on Opposition Amendment No. 36, my noble friend Lord Stonham undertook to see whether the drafting of this provision could be improved. A similar point had previously been made in Commons Standing Committee F, on February 1, 1968, and also during the Report stage on May 28 in another place.

None of these opposition Amendments was acceptable. In general, they would have had the effect of tying the Authorities and Executives too closely to the planning traffic and parking policies of the local councils and leaving insufficient operational flexibility to overcome possible difficulties. The Amendment now moved makes it clear beyond doubt that it is the Authority's and Executive's duty to secure or promote the provision of a properly integrated and efficient system of public transport to meet the needs of their Area. Secondly, it provides that they must have due regard for local policies and planning in relation to land use, traffic and parking, but without limiting their ability to deal with difficulties sensibly.

I think it is true to say that at the last stage in this House noble Lords opposite were somewhat suspicious of the words "due regard" and it was implied that they might be interpreted as meaning "not too much regard". But as my noble friend Lord Stonham explained, there are difficulties about being too positive about this. He said: There are so many local authorities each with their own (possibly conflicting) planning, traffic and parking policies many of them are in process of revising their plans and the whole basis of planning itself is under revision. So it is difficult to foresee a definite requirement which could not have undesirable consequences."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24/6/68, col. 1238.]

The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, also wondered whether it was really necessary to tell the Authority and Executive to have due degard to economy and safety of operation, and sought to know what the Government intended by these words. His Amendment would have deleted the word "economy" from the duty. I would point out that this duty is common form for public authorities engaged in transport—for example, in the duty imposed on the London Transport Board by Section 7(1) of the Transport Act 1962. Deliberately to omit it from the general duties of Passenger Transport Authorities and Executives could, perhaps, be held to imply that these matters are of less importance in the case of these bodies than in the case of other public transport authorities, and we certainly do not want to give any impression that that is so. Consequently the words should remain in the Bill.

During the course of its passage through Parliament a great deal of thought has been given to this particular matter, and this Amendment has finally been evolved in an endeavour to meet the criticisms that have been made and to set out clearly what the duty and responsibility of these new bodies is to be, without unduly circumscribing the latitude they will need in order to do their jobs effectively. It is hoped that the revised wording will commend itself to the House.


My Lords, there is some ambiguity in the noble Lord's drafting. I wonder if he could clear it up. Does "having due regard to" mean having due regard to the town planning and traffic and parking policies of the councils of the constituent areas, quite regardless of whether they may happen to fit in with the planning of the overall body? Is this overall body in any way to dictate the traffic and parking policies of the councils of the constituent areas or is it to adapt its system to decisions already made at lower level in traffic and parking? To my mind the noble Lord's drafting is somewhat ambiguous.


My Lords, I should like simply to thank the noble Lord and the Government for the efforts made to improve the drafting of this clause and to say that in this case I think that the Government have succeeded commendably well. I think the drafting now put forward is very much cleaner and is in line with the main purpose of subsection (1). This is as it should be; and, subject to the doubts of my noble friend, we are quite happy with this Amendment.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say which interpretation is correct?


My Lords, the P.T.A. cannot dictate the planning and parking policies of the local council, but the words "due regard to" are used exactly in the way in which I stated. If we take out the words "with due regard" and insert something more specific, it could have the consequence which I have stated: that the P.T.A. would be attempting to reconcile the possibly irreconcilably different attitudes of different authorities. These authorities are perfectly free to have their own planning and parking policies, and nothing in this subsection interferes with it.


So really, my Lords, the more correct words to use would be, "in the light of" instead of, "with regard to".


My Lords, I am afraid it is a bit late in the day now to try to do that.

Schedule 5 [Passenger Transport Authorities and Executives]:

4.11 p.m.


My Lords. Amendments 14A, 14B, and 14C all hang together. They are purely drafting Amendments. The original words under paragraph 1(a) of this Schedule could be slightly misleading if they were read hurriedly, because although there is only one paragraph 1(a), there is more than one paragraph 1; and it was felt that it would be preferable to do it in this way so that even those who read hurriedly would not be under a misapprehension. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 217, line 45, after ("this") insert ("Part of this").—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Amendment agrees to.

LORD HUGHES: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 14B.

Amendment moved— Page 218, line 2, leave out ("paragraph 1(a) of this Schedule") and insert ("the said paragraph 1(a)").—(Lord Hughes.)

LORD HUGHES: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 14C.

Amendment moved— Page 218, line 13, leave out ("paragraph 1(a) of this Schedule") and insert ("the sait paragraph 1(a)").—(Lord Hughes.)

LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 14D: Page 218, line 18, leave out from ("after") to ("has") in line 21 and insert ("the coming into force of the order under section 9(1) of this Act providing for the establishment of the Authority, or after a vacancy has arisen among the members of the Authority which falls to be filled by an appointment made under the said paragraph 1(a), the initial appointment of any member of the Authority falling to be made as aforesaid, or, as the case may be, an appointment to fill that vacancy,")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the effect of this Amendment is to clear up a possible confusion in the meaning of paragraph 5 of Schedule 5, Part I. This paragraph permits the Minister to make the appointment himself where a local council, or group of local councils, who were to appoint a member to the failed to make their appointment three months after the appointment had fallen to be made. Hitherto, this has been taken to mean that the three months should count from the first day on which it would have been possible for the council or councils to have made the appointment; in other words, as soon as the designation order which would specify the appointments the councils are to make has come into effect. However, my Lords, closer consideration of the wording has suggested that it could be read as if the three months would start only from the last day on which the appointment could be made, that is, upon the expiry of the period of grace allowed for the appointment.

It is obviously very necessary that the local councils who will be making these appointments should be in no doubt whatsoever as to the precise point in time at which it would be open to the Minister to intervene if they have not made the appointments which they are required to do. The Amendment therefore makes clear that the three months' period is to commence from the coming into force of the designation order or, in the case of an appointment which falls to be made because a vacancy has arisen (for example, through the death or voluntary retirement of a member) as soon as the vacancy has arisen. I beg to move.


My Lords, Amendment No. 14E is simply a drafting Amendment to correct an error. The Bill as it stands is one "x" short. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 218, line 46, leave out ("(xix)") and insert ("(xxix)").—(Lord Might's.)

LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 14F:

Page 220, line 20, at end insert— ("Provision for the person or persons by whom a member of the Authority is appointed to appoint also a deputy to act in that member's place at any meeting of the Authority from which that member is absent, and for applying in relation to any such deputy, with or without modifications, any provision with respect to members of the Authority made by this Act or by the order. Provision, as respects any period before the Authority appoint or are provided with their own officers and servants, for the discharge of functions of officers or servants of the Authority (including the convening of the first meeting of the Authority) by such officers or servants of such of the councils of constituent areas as may be determined in accordance with the order.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is really two Amendments in one. The purpose of the first of the new paragraphs is to enable the Minister in the designation order to provide for the local councils who are appointing members to the P.T.A. also to appoint deputies who would stand in if the members cannot attend a particular meeting. This provision has been suggested by the local authority associations and by many individual councils. There are some disadvantages in having deputies, but nevertheless it seems a sensible provision where local authorities are appointing, or having a share in the appointment of, only one member who might not always be able to attend the meetings of the Authority.

The second new paragraph is to enable the necessary procedure to be undertaken before the Authority is established and has been able to appoint its own secretary. Someone will have to receive the nominations of the appointing councils and to convene the first meeting of the Authority. With the Bill as it stands there is no power to appoint anybody to do this, and so the new paragraph is to enable the Minister to appoint in the designation order officers or servants of one or other of the councils of the constituent areas to carry out these functions. I beg to move.


My Lords, I am not rising to oppose the Amendment but to make a very brief comment on the first paragraph. The noble Lord will recollect the debates that we had during the Committee stage on the setting up and the constitution of the P.T.A.s, and especially the point made by speakers from the Front Bench opposite that it was not possible to make the Authority large enough to be representative of all local authorities in the area. Reluctantly we have accepted that, but this Amendment, which will allow a deputy to attend instead of the member of the Authority, will give us the worst of all worlds.

We have been told that the Authority is to be a relatively small body. Ministers have told us that they wish it to be an effective body with power which it can exercise over the Executive in the interests of the people in the area. Your Lordships will know as well as I do that if you allow deputies to come on to an Authority of that kind, they cannot possibly play a part in the team. They cannot do more than just fill up a space in one of the chairs and report back what has happened. The only hope is to get an Authority of this kind made up from men and women drawn from a number of different sources, working together as a team and attending meetings regularly, so that they may learn about the business and feel a sense of collective responsibility. This proposed machinery is the highway to taking the "guts" out of this Authority and putting the Executive, the permanent officials, in charge of the running of these very important transport functions.

It is the noble Lord's Bill, and if he wants to put this in I would not suggest to noble Lords on this side of the House that they should oppose it. But I express the strongest regret that he should wish to put it in, because I feel that this is the wrong way to set up a very important Authority with very big responsibilities. Men and women ought not to join an Authority of this kind unless they are able to give of their time and attention and really do the job. I think it most regrettable to start with this kind of arrangement which obviously provides that and one can go, or not go, to meetings as the like that deputies make come in and out so that, progressively, the effective strength of the Authority will be weakened.


My Lords, all I would say is that I have had experience of being a deputy to the standing member of a body of this kind. Whether the arrangement works or not must depend on the way in which the deputy elects to carry out his duties. The sensible deputy makes arrangements to see that all the papers are sent to him and therefore he keeps in fairly full touch with what is being done. Inevitably he must omit something, because he gets only a record of what is taking place and does not hear all the discussion. But only this afternoon we were told once again that the Government ought to accept that there are times when the man on the spot knows better than the man in the centre, and this is a case where the Government, though with some reluctance, have put down this Amendment because the local authorities and local authority associations have asked for it. We are accepting, as we have often done, the point of view that where there is no conflict of principle, it is wise to accept what the local authorities say. It may be that there are defects. I willingly admit, but the Government are prepared to accede to the view of the many local authorities who have asked for this. I am glad to hear from the noble Lord that while he thinks the defects are greater than the advantages, he does not seek to oppose the Amendment.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for drawing attention to the oversight in the next Amendment as printed on the Marshalled List, and I beg to move it in an amended form, leaving out "shall" in the second line of Paragraph 2(2) and inserting "may".

Amendment moved— Page 220, line 20, at end insert—

Forward to