§ 3.6 p.m.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [London Regional Transport]:
Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 2, line 3, at end insert ("provided that such day is not before 31st March 1986.").
§ The noble Lord said: This is the first of a large number of amendments which your Lordships will have seen on the Marshalled List. All these are directed to making the London Regional Transport Bill more accountable, more democratic, more efficient and more workable.
§ Amendment No. 1 deals with the appointed day: that is the day when the London Transport Executive's powers under the 1969 Act to run London's Transport cease to have effect. It is also the day when the GLC shall cease to have overall control of transport services in London. The date of 31st March has been put in the amendment as that is the end of the financial year of the local authority. I hope that there will be no argument about the GLC being mentioned, because the Bill to abolish has not even been printed yet and even the paving Bill has not yet passed through the other House, let alone through your Lordships' House.
Serious differences in the duties to be given to London Regional Transport under the Bill, compared with those of London Transport and of the GLC under the 1969 Act, are apparent. I will not deal with these at this stage because these matters will be dealt with in later amendments, but it makes the question of the appointed day of considerable importance, because from the appointed day the GLC will no longer determine the nature of transport services. Following the line of speeches made by the Secretary of State there could be fundamental changes. As was pointed out by many noble Lords at Second Reading, considerable powers are in the sole hands of the Secretary of State. In fact, the next clause of the Bill refers to London Regional Transport carrying out its duties,
in accordance with principles from time to time approved by the Secretary of State".
§ With the protected expenditure level at a lower figure than the present subsidy, this will reduce the finances available and with the absence of GLC policies there could be changes in the provision of services.
§ We spent a great deal of time discussing the 1983 Transport Act, which is applicable only to the GLC and to the six metropolitan counties. The Government considered the provisions of that Act of the utmost importance, and we spent hours and hours discussing them. If the appointed day is to be an early day there will be no chance to see how the proposals and the provisions in that Act will work out. In accordance with the provisions of that Act the GLC gave guidance to London Transport on a three-year plan; the Secretary of State gave his advice on the protected expenditure level; London Transport produced its three-year plan for 1984–85 to 1986–87 and this was considered by the GLC in the late summer last year. That three-year plan is only now coming into operation. If the appointed day is early there will be no opportunity to see how this works out. The GLC has taken policy decisions and has determined the budget for 1984–85. Therefore the appointed day should, in the view of this amendment, not interfere with that at all.
§ However the Secretary of State has said that the appointed day and the date of the passing of the Act will be measured in days rather than in weeks and that it will come into force as soon as possible after Royal Assent. The only explanation that the Secretary of State gives for this is the uncertainty and doubt in the minds of the management. The Secretary of State and this Bill before us are the objects of that uncertainty. What we say is that the management of LT and the plan that has been approved for the current year and for the next three years should be given a chance to work out.
§ The Secretary of State has also said that it is absolutely essential that there be an early appointed day to effect savings. It must be mentioned that all the savings suggested by London Transport, with the exception of the £6 million for one-person operated bus extensions, were accepted by the GLC. In 1983, bus unit costs per passenger mile fell by 8 per cent. and rail unit costs fell by 6 per cent. The 1984 budget suggests further improvements during the current year of 7 per cent. in savings of costs. Further, if there are to be any surpluses—and I understand that there were £36 million last year due to the very considerable success of the travel cards—from the appointed day they will not be available to the GLC. Further, as from the appointed day, there will be no correlation between the transport services of London Regional Transport and all the strategic planning responsibilities of the GLC.
§ Therefore, it is clear that the moving of this amendment is not academic, it is not a delaying tactic; it is in the interests of commonsense transition, in the interests of efficient management as well as in the interests of transport users. The Notes on Clauses point out that on the appointed day the powers of the GLC to make grants to the executive and British Rail shall cease. What will be the position of grants to 1142 British Rail once the appointed day is determined and takes effect? The Secretary of State will make grants to London Regional Transport up to the protected expenditure level. At the moment the GLC make considerable grants to British Rail for improvement of British Rail stations. What we are saying is that there is a plan for the current year, a plan worked out in accordance with the Government's own 1983 Act for the next three years. The appointed day, therefore, should not be before 31st March 1986. I beg to move.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
I share with the noble Lord, Lord Underbill, his early remarks with regard to the general content and the size of this Bill and also, if I observed any anxiety at all in his voice, I share that anxiety over the number of amendments that are going to be placed before the Committee over the next day or two. I recall very well, and ask the Committee to recall the lengthy discussions that we had in 1983 but I have to repeat at the outset what my noble friend Lord Trefgarne had to say at Second Reading: that we have to be quite clear in our minds that this Bill is not dependent upon any other Bill which may be laid before Parliament. That there may be references to other Bills to be put before your Lordships in due course is almost inevitable, but this Bill stands on its own merits.
It is aimed at securing the provisions of public transport in London in the most cost-effective way, having regard to the transport needs of Greater London. This is really quite a separate issue from the future organisation of local government generally within London. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, went to some lengths to describe various aspects of the Bill. I can only say at this stage that in our view this amendment seeks only to delay the appointed day for bringing in the provisions of the Bill until March 1986, or indeed later. I am quite sure that the noble Lord does not really expect the Government to accept that there should be such a delay. I repeat that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State made it quite clear during the Committee stage of the Bill in another place that the date of Royal Assent and the appointed day will be separated by as short a period as possible. At that time he indicated that such a period would be measured perhaps more in terms of days than of weeks.
Whatever the noble Lord opposite may say, we wish to proceed quickly because we do not want there to be a long period of uncertainty and doubt in the minds of London Transport management or of Londoners themselves. At the moment London Transport are in an invidious position. They are having to consider the provisions of this Bill while at the same time being pulled in a different direction by the Greater London Council. We have to end this uncertainty as soon as possible so that LT—or, as it will be with the passing of this Bill, London Regional Transport—know exactly where they stand. We want them to be free to start achieving the improvements in efficiency and in economy which they are anxious to achieve, but—and I do not wish to start on too contrary a note with the noble Lord, Lord Underhill—we believe that their anxiety to do this is being frustrated by the GLC. The amendment would simply prolong that uncertainty.
1143 The noble Lord spoke about giving the three-year plan a chance to work out. It really is not a question of whether or not a certain plan is or is not valid. The issues here are much more fundamental than that. We are talking about a total change of control at the earliest possible practicable time. There is no reason why much of London Transport's three-year plan should not continue to be relevant in the new circumstances. We need to move London's transport to the new area of control so that they can best get on with the job of running a transport organisation with-out so many of the constraints that have befallen them in the last 10 years or so.
§ Lord Underhill
The Minister's reply is not altogether unexpected—in the same way as he thought that I did not expect the Government to accept the amendment. I agree that I would have been very surprised if they had done so. The Government have made up their minds on this issue and I hope that the short debate that we have had will indicate the necessity of ensuring that this Bill is put into the best possible shape before it leaves this House. It is a question of good management. It is a question of effective transition from one form to another, and that takes time. It should be handled carefully and not rushed into. The Minister said that the whole point of the operation is a change of control at the earliest practicable date. It is that which worries many of us. What is going to be the effect on transport services in London? The more time that we would have had to carry out the planning to ensure that this Bill is introduced effectively, the more desirable it would have been. In the circumstances, I beg leave to with-draw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ 3.19 p.m.
§ Schedule 1 [Constitution and proceedings of London Regional Transport]:
Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 63, line 12, after ("Corporation") insert ("and the local authorities of Greater London").
§ The noble Lord said: It might be for the convenience of the Committee that, in moving this Amendment, I speak to Amendment No. 3.
§ Amendment No. 3: Page 63, line 12, after ("Corporation") insert ("of whom not less than two-thirds in proportion to the total number shall be appointed from persons nominated by the Greater London Council and, bodies appearing to the Secretary of State to represent local authorities in Greater London.").
§ The purpose of these amendments is to try to ensure that the London Regional Transport Executive will be representative of the London boroughs or will have some representation from the London boroughs; that it will not be purely an organisation as referred to by the Minister in his earlier reply to my noble friend Lord Underhill—a businesslike body that would reorganise and run London's transport, the suggestion being that there is no business body or no corporate business identity in the present running of London Transport, about which many of the people who have been responsible at a professional level would probably be rather concerned.1144
It is nevertheless vitally important that any body that is going to organise and run transport for the people of London or in the London area should have some people who are knowledgeable and understanding of the needs and requirements of those who are likely to be using this transport service. I can think of no group of people who are likely to be more able to serve that purpose than a selection of elected members either from the GLC or from the boroughs in the London area. The figure in Amendment No. 3 was put in for a reason, which may be obvious to the Minister. The amendment suggests that of those nominated to the corporation by the Minister,
not less than two-thirds in proportion to the total number shall be appointed … by the Greater London Council and bodies appearing to the Secretary of State to represent local authorities in Greater London".
That would mean, in the case of a committee of 12 or a corporation of 12, something like eight members. I accept that that is perhaps a high figure and therefore I would be quite happy if the Minister were content to accept the amendment provisionally with a view to coming back and suggesting some other figure. The "two-thirds" was inserted because this is the amount that London ratepayers will be paying towards the upkeep of London Transport—the deficit between the fare box and running costs. Local authorities will be expected to pay up to two thirds of the deficit—if deficit is the correct word, and that is a big discussion in itself—but the remainder would be paid by the Secretary of State.
§ It is important that transport users, in whatever numbers are ultimately decided, should be represented on the corporation. The figure of two-thirds has been suggested but we would be quite happy to look at any other figure the Minister cares to put forward if he accepts the amendment. These people know the needs of the residents of London not only in a small central part of London but in the wider London context. They know the needs of the residents and the needs of the commercial interests. They are continually aware of the views of the people in the area. They meet them on a much more regular basis than purely management people are likely to do. It is also important of course and only right that, if they are going to be taxed up to the extent of two-thirds of the difference between the fare box and the running costs, there should be some representation as well.
§ I hope the Minister will see that a really big principle is involved in this, that it is not just sufficient for the Secretary of State to appoint the chairman and then all other members of the committee only by consultation with the chairman. We believe not only should the consultation be much wider but that the Secretary of State should actually accept names from those people who are elected to the local authorities—not just the GLC but to the local authorities in the areas served by London Transport.
§ Lord Tordoff
Without going back to Second Reading speeches again, your Lordships will not be surprised to hear me say that we regard this amendment as a second best. What we would have greatly preferred is a proper elected body looking after the whole of London Transport in a wider area than is intended in the Bill. We are not going to get that but I hope that we can make some progress on these two 1145 amendments. This touches on the whole question of consultation, to which we shall be coming back time and time again in this Committee stage of the Bill. We support this and there is one particular point I should like to make.
It seems to me possible that, under the terms of the Bill as it is now drafted, all the people who are members of the corporation could be appointed from outside London. In other words, one could have a governing body entirely peopled by members who have no direct day-to-day interest in London Transport. That particularly needs to be dealt with. As the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, has said, there are clearly problems about the numbers referred to in Amendment No. 3, but one hopes that the Government can come some way towards making suggestions, perhaps at a later stage of the Bill, about how they could be overcome. In general, although the amendment is second best, it has our support.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
I very much hope that the Minister will show sympathy to what is sought to be achieved by these amendments. Those of us who live in the Greater London area and who have perhaps been very close to the local government scene and are certainly avid readers of the local newspapers do not need to be reminded that the quality of transport provided has a major impact on the lives of millions of people. It is absolutely certain, because the way democracy works, that local councils will be very well aware—not only Members of Parliament but councillors—of the aggravations that exist almost constantly in respect of the quality of service provided by London Transport. Not with just the present body but with any body there are bound to be a lot of aggravation and matters to raise. If the Minister intends to make the new relationship meaningful, he must acknowledge that local councils, as they are at present constituted, will be able to make an input.
I am glad that in an earlier debate the Minister said, in effect, that this Bill has nothing to do with any other Bill and that we are looking at this Bill strictly on its merits and not trying to anticipate or take account of what may happen elsewhere. If in fact we are simply saying to ourselves, "How can we people the new authority with men and women who have some experience, men and women who have some knowledge, and men and women who are responsive to the needs of the travelling public in London?", I would have thought that the Minister was well advised if he said that the people who serve on local councils, who live in the area and use the transport, are likely to be able not only to provide him with some very good ammunition but also to provide him with some very good men and women with a background of use of London Transport.
I very much take to heart the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, that one needs to have the confidence of Londoners that the new body knows what it is all about. That we shall get people serving on the corporation who may not live in the area is an appalling prospect, and I am not anticipating that for a moment. One needs to have some confidence among the millions of the travelling public that the men and 1146 women who will take the decisions are knowledgeable of the problems. And who better to tell the Minister who those people are—certainly not to appoint them but to advise the Minister on the kind of people who have the confidence of local people—than the local councils which have been democratically elected? I very much hope that the Minister will at least say something sympathetic about what is behind these amendments before the debate is concluded.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
I am somewhat puzzled by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. I agree that we need people to be aware of what is going on in areas and to be local users, but I understood that under the Bill the London Regional Passengers' Committee would be representative of the consumer interest and would be the very people to provide this degree of information that is required by the board. The most important thing, whoever is appointed to the board—I think it would happen automatically that a great number of people from London would be appointed—is their administrative ability and their ability to run the transport service as an efficient industry in the interests of all those using it. But the viewpoint of the person getting on and off the bus or Tube each day would surely be expressed through the London Regional Passengers' Committee, and for that reason I do not support this amendment.
We have been along this road before. In 1945, 1946 and 1947 we spent hours arguing as to who should constitute the boards of the nationalised industries. There were people who were meant to represent almost every conceivable interest, and, quite frankly, I do not know that the result has been particularly happy. I do not think anybody could say that British Rail, and so on, really reflect the views of consumers at all. I welcome the much more dictatorial approach of my noble friend Lord Lucas here—
It is, and I welcome it. If the Minister is responsible for appointing all these people it means that he is ultimately responsible when the No. 11 bus does not come on time, and people will be able to have a Question asked in Parliament about it. Instead of having to write to some amorphous body known as the consumers' council, you will be able to go direct to the Minister. I think this is going to be much more effective from the public's point of view than the proposal put forward from the opposite Benches.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
May I deal first with the remark of my noble friend Lord Hawke? I hope he does not think—and, indeed, I hope that noble Lords opposite do not think—that, having got through only the first amendment, I have been dictatorial. I hope that will not appear to be the case as we go through the other 180-odd amendments in front of us. May I say, too, that the Bill is not meant to be a matter of dictation in any way at all.
Perhaps I may remind the Committee of what we are talking about. I hope I do not over-simplify it when I remind the Committee that in our earlier discussions we said (and it was widely agreed) that London was a 1147 unique city. There is nowhere else quite like it in Europe or, indeed, in the western world. We therefore have to consider a transport system for London, but not only for Londoners. It is, of course, for Londoners; it is for those people who come from the outer areas to work in London; and it is for those who come to visit London as a world centre. So throughout this Bill we are talking of a much wider issue than just Londoners.
I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton: yes, of course I accept the purport of these amendments. I can understand quite well when the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, says that perhaps he has the figures wrong. He read out the numbers of the present board and suggested that perhaps two-thirds was not the right proportion; but I have to say that we do not feel we can accept an amendment along these lines. I will try to deal as briefly as I can with the pertinent reasons.
London Regional Transport will be a nationalised industry; my right honourable friend made no secret of that in another place. It certainly is not going to be, as certain Members in the other place and as certain of your Lordships may have wished, an elected metropolitan transport authority; nor, indeed, will it be a replacement for the GLC transport committee. The board to run LRT will be a board of individuals appointed by the Secretary of State in accordance with the requirements of paragraph 4 of Schedule 1, which says:The chairman and other members of the Corporation shall be appointed by the Secretary of State from among persons who appear to him to have had wide experience of, and shown capability in, transport, industrial, commercial or financial matters, administration, applied science, or the organisation of workers".If we accept that, it means that we cannot qualify it by remarks such as "who live in the area". Again, let me remind your Lordships that my noble friend Lord Trefgarne said on Second Reading on 1st May that London Transport was a big business, with an annual turnover of £850 million and employing about 57,000 staff. In fact, there are only about 24 companies in the United Kingdom which are as large as that.
It would really be inappropriate for the Secretary of State to have to consult local authorities before making an appointment; and to require him to appoint at least two-thirds in this way, as the amendment says, or some other proportion, as the noble Lord opposite said, would be a quite unreason-able constraint. When we talk about local authorities knowing the needs of the people I think the body that is appointed to look after the spread of interests of Londoners and London passengers is one we shall be turning to later; that is, the London Regional Passengers' Committee, to which my noble friend Lady Gardner referred. They would be the people, surely. The Secretary of State is responsible in Parliament for other aspects, and I think that is how it should be; because the board of LRT is answerable to him and the Secretary of State is answerable to Parliament at almost any time.
I understand exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, meant with regard to consultation. He asked—I think it was the noble Lord Lord Tordoff, but it may have been the noble Lord, Lord Graham—how we could have people from outside London dealing with London transport matters. But that could be 1148 done quite easily. After all, we do not have the villagers of Little Moreton-in-the-Marsh (and if there is such a place I do not mean that specifically) or, indeed, the inhabitants of the City of Southampton or Romsey where I live, represented on the board of Marks and Spencer's because there may be a store and a service provided there. We do not think that there is necessarily any specific reason for the local interest. That there will be local interest I have little doubt in my own mind; but if we are to have consultation it really has to be meaningful. That is a nice word; but I mean that we must have the right sort of people in the right circumstances at the right time.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
Would the Minister care to say something about the division of responsibility and authority between the main board and the passengers' consultative committee? The Minister has quite fairly said that the consultation needs to be meaningful, and I wonder just how much power the passengers' consultative committee will in fact have.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
Would the noble Lord not agree that when we come to talk about the powers of the London Regional Passengers' Committee that might be the right time to discuss their powers and obligations? What I have said is that that is the body which will be dealing directly with the complaints or the credits from the users as regards the service provided by LRT. How LRT arrange their affairs with regard to matters with which we shall be dealing as we go through the Bill, such as contracts with outside agencies, surely is a matter for the board. I would not have thought that the board (again, I think it was my noble friend who mentioned this) would have anything to do with whether or not the No. 11 bus runs on time. Surely that would be a matter for the passengers' committee. In any event the Bill provides for consultation with local authorities; for instance in their capacity as highway and traffic management authorities, to which we shall come in Clause 43.
Again when we talk about planning under Clause 7—which we shall do—there is an opportunity there for local authorities to consult the LRT. I do not believe, under the set-up envisaged in the Bill, that local authorities necessarily have an extra special or a particular role in relation to the Secretary of State's appointments, and we should prefer, for the reasons which I have put forward and because of the quote which I have given, that they should be for him and him alone. For that reason, I regret that we are not able to accept the amendment.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone
As possibly the only Member of your Lordships' Committee who has for some time appointed the present board of London Transport, perhaps, in the light of my experience, I may speak in support of the noble Lord the Minister. When I came to appoint the board of London Transport, I had very much in my mind that those who were appointed should show a capability in transport, industrial, commercial, financial or administrative matters. I am not sure about applied science or the organisation of workers. That was very 1149 much in my mind when we made those appointments. In fact, if I remember rightly, on the financial side I appointed a Liberal, because I regarded him as the best person for that job. I considered that politics did not necessarily enter into it; it was the efficiency of the concern which mattered most.
But the control of London Transport under the GLC, which I reluctantly accepted, could not get off the ground very easily because of the desire of members of the council to dabble in day-to-day matters. If you are going to appoint to the body members of borough councils, you will fall back into exactly the same trap. Every councillor loves to play trains or to move the buses around in his area. What is needed is policy and financial control, and that is best done by those people who have greater experience of it. Therefore, on those grounds I fully support what the Minister has said and we should stick to exactly what is stated in the Bill.
§ Lord Alport
May I ask my noble friend this question before we leave this point? I understand from what he has said that anybody who has a complaint against the new London Regional Transport organisation will send it to the consumer representation. My noble friend said that local authorities are not represented on companies such as Marks and Spencer, but the fact of the matter is that if you have a complaint about what you buy from that very distinguished store, you do not write to a consumers' committee; you write straight to the management.
In those circumstances, from the experience of other consumer councils, of which there are very many and of which most have proved ineffective in carrying out their responsibilities, is my noble friend quite sure that it will be effective in this case for those of us who have complaints about the future running of transport in London to write to a consumer council rather than to the Secretary of State, as suggested by my noble friend, or, alternatively, should we write to the management where the real power to put right something that is wrong rests?
§ Lord Tordoff
If I may follow the point of the noble Lord, Lord Alport, I would say that the consumer at Marks and Spencer has another alternative, which is to take his business elsewhere. In the case of London Transport, short of climbing into his car and increasing the traffic congestion, he does not have that opportunity, and that seems to me to be a further distinction. Perhaps I may make a more general point arising out of the debate.
The difficulty at this early stage of the Committee is that we are alluding to many matters which come later in the Bill, with regard to the definition of need of London Transport and the whole question of consumer councils, which many of us feel are inadequate as they are in the Bill, and to which we shall come in due course. But that illustrates the underlying worry that there is that the new London Transport authority will be unresponsive to the needs of Londoners as a whole and that is why people are seeking to put in additional representation at this stage. In the end, it may not be the best way to do it, but this is the clause that we are dealing with at the 1150 moment and it is the attempt to point to the need for the new organisation to be responsive to customers and to the general needs of London as a whole that makes noble Lords put down amendments of this kind.
§ Lord Underhill
Following on the point that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, has made, it is important that we should spend some time on this, because the set-up and the membership of the LRT will have to guide us and guide the whole organisation in the course that it may be taking. I must remind the Committee that we are debating two separate amendments; one is not dependent upon the other, and each stands in its own right. As regards the second amendment, on representation, it must be remembered that under the Government's proposals on streamlining the cities it is proposed that there shall be joint area boards, which will be the PTAs in the six metropolitan counties, and that they will comprise representatives of the district authorities within each county. London, apparently, is to be treated separately. The Minister's justification for that is that London is so important. It is so important that the GLC is to be abolished; so the arguments do not fit in at all.
The first amendment, on which I should like to have the Minister's quite definite opinion, asks not for control over the person to be appointed, but for consultation about the person to be appointed. I would remind the Committee that on Second Reading I mentioned a letter from the National Consumer Council, which urged that London Transport should still be in the hands of local authorities. I reminded the Committee of the letter that I received from my own Epping Forest District Council, expressing their viewpoint and that of Essex Council Council. They are both Conservative-controlled bodies who were insisting that there must be representation from those bodies or, failing that, adequate consultation.
Under the Bill, the only person to be consulted about appointments is the chairman. All we are asking in the first amendment is that the local authorities of Greater London should be consulted about the appointments, in order that they can express some view about them. Let us not overlook the fact that there is no right to have any local government representative on the board. There is no direct accountability to any local authority and, although there is provision for consultation, there is no consultation at all about the person to be appointed.
In Committee in the other place, the Minister of State Mrs. Chalker said—and I quote from col. 129 of the Official Report—I do not believe that the necessary expertise exists within many local authorities to make these judgments.I hope that this Committee will give its reply to that insulting comment about local authorities. It is typical of the kind of attitude towards local government that the Government display in Bill after Bill. In fact, the Committee in the other place was so impressed by the arguments that at least one Conservative Member said that the Secretary of State should listen to the arguments, not only about representation, but also about consultation. Furthermore, there was a majority of only one in turning down the amendment in the 1151 other place and I am hoping that this Committee may improve upon that. I ask your Lordships to remember that the first amendment asks for consultation. Are we to take it that the Minister, on behalf of the Government, rejects completely even consultation with local authorities in Greater London?
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
The Minister must appreciate, from the broad interest in the purpose of these two amendments, how important Members of the Committee feel it is that consideration should at least be given to the idea of consultation. Turning to the composition of the corporation, there are a number of misconceptions. As my noble friend Lord Underhill said, there is no requirement that the members of the corporation should be elected. They ought to be nominated by the Greater London Council or by the local authorities of Greater London in order to give the Minister a wider choice. The Minister's list of Treasury appointees is a little tattered in terms of choice. The word "dictatorial" has been used. I would never suggest that this is a proper way in which to describe the noble Lord the Minister. However, Secretaries of State change. During the past few years, Secretaries of State for Transport have changed very frequently. Governments also change. Therefore it is possible that a new Secretary of State in a new Government would find that he was dealing only with people who had been selected by the previous Secretary of State, after consultation with the chairman, not with those who had greater understanding of the difficulties experienced by those who use the service.
The important point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, was that if the No. 11 bus is late everybody knows that the matter can be taken up with the consultative council. But we are considering whether the No. 11 bus is to be part of the plan, not whether it is a little late. There should therefore be some relationship between the elected local authorities and the experts who are appointed to run the system. I would not be so parochial as to say that only Londoners can do the job. It is possible for me to reach the centre of London from Glasgow in a shorter space of time than it takes a great many people who do not live very far from the geographical centre of London. It would be reasonable for the GLC or a local authority in Greater London to appoint a professor of transport or an economist who lived in some other part of the country to the corporation if his ideas were right for the organisation of transport in London.
I would far rather that the organisation of transport in London should be in the hands of those who understand its problems because transport difficulties had been put to them by their electors. The elected bodies should be able to say that a certain person appears to have a solution, that he should have a say and that he should be nominated. The amendments give to the Secretary of State a wider choice. It should be possible for representatives to be nominated by these elected bodies. But more important than that—I come back to the point made by my noble friend Lord Underhill—Amendment No. 2 is surely the least that the Minister can accept.The Secretary of State may, after consultation with the chairman of the Corporation and the local authorities of Greater London.1152 If the Minister does not accept it, I hope that the Committee will agree to its insertion in the Division Lobbies.
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
May I, without troubling the Committee too much, briefly intervene? My excuse for doing so is that I was once involved in transport. This was before the days when Ministers of Transport achieved the dignity of being known as Secretaries of State. At one time I found myself cluttered up with the title "Minister for Transport Industries", a title which ranks—for cacophony at least—high in the list of Whitehall's crimes.
There are three reasons why I applaud my noble friend's rejection of these amendments. First, I believe that large bodies tend to do a great deal of talking. They are not particularly good at running businesses. My study of the Bill, which I admit is not so exhaustive as it might have been, reveals that the Secretary of State can appoint a body to run London Transport of no fewer than four nor more than 11 members. I can understand that during the holidays they might want to play cricket, so 11 might be a convenient number; but the wide range of choice which the Secretary of State is reserving to himself in the Bill seems to me to argue that he has not given the matter a great deal of thought. I personally would settle for the smallest number possible—five or six—and hope that four or five of them did not do too much talking. A very large body, representing everybody, would be very tiresome and unhelpful.
My second reason for having some misgivings is the hoary old matter called "consultation". I remember this from my own past. For quite good reasons consultation is a process dear to the hearts of those who sit on Opposition Benches. They just do not like governments. They believe that they would do very much better in their place—a very arguable proposi-tion. In the past I have taken part in debates which suggested that governments should be obliged to consult almost endless bodies; and I supported such proposals. If you put down the names of sufficient people you make reasonably certain that you reach something like perpetual motion, because you never get to the end of the circle—or if you do you have to start all over again. I believe that this argument, so well put forward by noble Lords opposite, ought not to be treated with the same respect as they themselves are entitled to expect.
My third reason for opposing it is that it is not all that easy to find suitable people to serve on these bodies. I have heard that a list is kept in the Treasury. We all know that the Treasury has extremely limited contacts with the outside world and that the ordinary Trappist monk moves very freely in society compared with some Treasury officials. While I am on this track, I am bound to say that I find it extremely difficult to avoid expressing interest in the way in which very senior Treasury officials, upon leaving that institution which I shall not attempt to describe, can nowadays expect to experience much the same conversion, only later in life, as happened to St. Paul on his way to Damascus. They view things differently, having experienced a blinding light.
To return to the amendments, I do not believe that it is easy to find people to serve on these boards and 1153 that Ministers rightly have to accept responsibility for the appointments which they make. I do not believe that they should be fettered in their choice, because their responsibilities then become diffused and less direct.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
As a number of noble Lords have raised certain points since I first replied, it might be helpful to the Committee if I commented on one or two of those points. I totally underline what my noble friend Lord Plummer had to say and, indeed, most of what my noble friend Lord Peyton had to say. My noble friend Lord Alport asked me a particular question relative to Marks and Spencer. He asked to whom one should write; should one write to the manager? Since there are 84 London MPs, I have little doubt that—whatever party those London Members may belong to—they will go to great lengths to ensure that their constituents are adequately served. Secondly, I say to my noble friend that there is adequate opportunity to complain to the Secretary of State—again, through the normal parliamentary procedures. I have been at the receiving end of some of that in regard to some transport issues.
The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, spoke about future plans. He will forgive me if I say that we should discuss future plans when we reach Clause 7, because that is when we could have some very useful discussion. Finally, I may remind the Committee that the size of the board proposed for London Regional Transport in the Bill is in fact one more than the number of the present and existing board. It is interesting to note that, at present, the GLC are not required to consult with anybody at all when making appointments to the London Transport Executive Board. I listened very carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, had to say in winding up his side's arguments on this issue, but I fail to be persuaded of the lightness of those arguments. I invite the Committee to reject the amendments.
§ 4.1 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 78; Not-Contents, 106.1154
|DIVISION NO. 1|
|Amherst, E.||Ezra, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Fisher of Rednal, B.|
|Aylestone, L.||Fitt, L.|
|Banks, L.||Gaitskell, B.|
|Beswick, L.||Gallacher, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Graham of Edmonton, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||Gregson, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Grey, E.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Hale, L.|
|Collison, L.||Hampton, L.|
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Hatch of Lusby, L.|
|Darling of Hillsborough, L.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.|
|David, B. [Teller.]||Hughes, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Hunt, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Hutchinson of Lullington, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Hylton, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Jeger, B.|
|Ennals, L.||John-Mackie, L.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Kilmarnock, L.|
|Leatherland, L.||Seear, B.|
|Listowel, E.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Longford, E.||Soper, L.|
|Lovell-Davis, L.||Stallard, L.|
|McIntosh of Haringey, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|McNair, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Mais, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Mishcon, L.||Stone, L.|
|Molloy, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Mulley, L.||Strauss, L.|
|Northfield, L.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Oram, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Paget of Northampton, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Peart, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Phillips, B.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Pitt of Hampstead, L.||Willis, L.|
|Plant, L.||Wilson of Langside, L.|
|Ponsonby of Shulbrede,||Winchilsea and Nottingham,|
|Rea, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Lane-Fox, B.|
|Allerton, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Long, V.|
|Avon, E.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Bellwin, L.||McFadzean, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Bessborough, E.||Marley, L.|
|Blake, L.||Masham of Ilton, B.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, L.||Maude of Stratford-upon-|
|Cairns, E.||Avon, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Merrivale, L.|
|Cockfield, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Milverton, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Molson, L.|
|Cox, B.||Mottistone, L.|
|Crawford and Balcarres, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Nelson of Stafford, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Northchurch, B.|
|De Freyne, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Orkney, E.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Digby, L.||Pender, L.|
|Dilhorne, V.||Peyton of Yeovil, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Platt of Writtle, B.|
|Eccles, V.||Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.|
|Effingham, E.||Porritt, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Portland, D.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Elton, L.||Reilly, L.|
|Erroll of Hale, L.||Romney, E.|
|Faithfull, B.||Rugby, L.|
|Fanshawe of Richmond, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Fortescue, E.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Seebohm, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Sharpies, B.|
|Gibson-Watt, L.||Shaughnessy, L.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Gormanston, V.||Somers, L.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Spens, L.|
|Gridley, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal,|
|Hailsham of Saint||L.|
|Marylebone, L.||Strathspey, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Swinton, E. [Teller.]|
|Hawke, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Hemphill, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Henderson of Brompton, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Home of the Hirsel, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Hood, V.||Trumpington, B.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Kilmany, L.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Kinloss, Ly.||Whitelaw, V.|
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 3 not moved.]1155
§ House resumed.