HL Deb 17 May 1984 vol 451 cc1512-70

3.29 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]

Clause 12 [Government funding of services under control of London Regional Transport]:

Lord Pitt of Hampstead moved Amendment No. 81: Page 10, line 30, at end insert— ("( ) The Secretary of State shall make such grants to London Regional Transport as may be required to maintain the system of free travel permits in operation prior to the appointed day for pensioners and disabled persons resident in Greater London for travel throughout the services operated by London Regional Transport.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this amendment. In moving it, I must begin by declaring a personal interest, since I am an old age pensioner and I have a London travel permit. What is more, I was at County Hall when the GLC established the overall London concessionary fares. I was at that time vice-chairman of their Policy and Resources Committee, and my noble friend Baroness Denington was chairman of the Transport Committee.

On fares we started very carefully: free fares were available on the buses only, and they were not available during peak hours. Then subsequently the facility was extended to the Underground and afterwards the peak hour restrictions were removed. Then negotiations were undertaken with British Rail so that the travel permit could entitle an elderly person in London to have the facilities of concessionary fares on British Rail by producing their London travel permit. These are facilities available at the moment to people in London who have that travel permit.

This amendment is really in two parts. The first is to have it placed in the statute that these facilities shall remain as they are and are not in fact eroded. The Government's recommended scheme is already an indication as to the necessity for having such a condition in the statute, because in fact the Government's recommended scheme replaces the restriction on peak hour travel which was removed because, for one thing, it was found to be unnecessary and, for another, it was found to be a handicap in that the old people tended to try to get on the bus before four o'clock. They clashed with the children and we had the congestion then rather than otherwise.

It was also a fact that the restriction was very inconvenient for many of these elderly people. I know that from my own experience as a general practitioner. I have had patients asking me to see them early in order that they could get away in time to catch a bus before four o'clock so as to take advantage of their travel permit. Therefore the peak hour restriction is a handicap so far as elderly people are concerned. It is also a handicap where workers are concerned. I have seen on many occasions a conflict between conductors and elderly passengers about the time at which the passengers entered the bus. When there was a four o'clock restriction they had to be there by 3.59 and the conductor would be looking at his watch. The person would say, "I was here before four o'clock", but the bus conductor would say, "No, it was after four o'clock, and you have to pay." I have seen these things happen. Therefore there are real handicaps to elderly people through peak hour restrictions.

This amendment asks that the present facilities should be maintained: that is, they can use the bus and the Tube from nine o'clock and at weekends, and they can use their permit to buy a ticket at half-fare on British Rail. The latter is more important than the Government seem to realise because in southern London there are not so many Tube stations—they are north of the river—and the people in the south tend to have to use the buses or British Rail; and so to take away the facility of being able to use their permit for British Rail concessionary fares is an added hardship. It means that they have to spend £12 a year to buy a British Rail travel card. So this amendment asks, first, that these concessions should be retained; and to make sure that they are retained it should be stated in the statute that it should be the duty of London Regional Transport to maintain them.

The second part deals with how this is to be paid for. At the moment it is paid for by the GLC. One could argue, quite rightly, that it can still be paid for by the GLC; but there are proposals for abolishing the GLC, and at that stage difficulties could arise. Obviously the boroughs will have to pay, and I gather the suggestion is that each borough should pay for the number of people in its own area who are going to use a travel permit. My suggestion is that the concession should be funded. There is no problem: the Secretary of State is taking powers under Clause 12 to make grants to London Transport, and the suggestion is that one of the grants should be for the purpose of funding these concessionary fares. It does not mean that the taxpayers will be paying for the old people of London to travel, because again, under Clause 13, the Secretary of State is taking power to levy a rate to meet two-thirds of the expenditure of the grants that are being made to London Transport. That being so, in effect it will be the London ratepayers who pay the bulk of the cost of these concessionary fares if it is funded in the way I have suggested. It seems to me that, to make sure that these concessionary fares remain and that they are properly funded, this amendment is of the utmost importance, and I beg to move.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I am slightly puzzled by this amendment, as I cannot really see why the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, thinks that the Government should fund this directly. In the early stages of the concessionary fares in London they were funded by the local boroughs, and I wonder whether the GLC abolition changes the situation. If all these powers revert to the local boroughs, I should have thought this would again become a local borough function, as it was before.

I would also query the accuracy of his statement about the peak hour restrictions having been removed. Only some peak hour restrictions have been removed and, as the noble Lord probably knows, the buses are on an experimental three-month period of a half-hour earlier travel. So that is not yet a fixed thing and it may not prove to be a success to allow people to travel that bit earlier. I am sure that your Lordships already know all about the "twirlies" on the buses. I was quite fascinated to hear that phrase. When the conductor on the bus goes up to those people who have got on a little bit ahead of time they say, "Oh, am I tw'early?" And these people have acquired the name for themselves of being "twirlies". These are the people who always hop on the bus a little before time.

I would support the noble Lord on the situation about four o'clock in the afternoon, because in my constituency, where buses are few and far between, if one bus was taken out of service people were liable to find themselves, through no fault of their own, getting on after four o'clock because the bus service had failed, they then having had to wait for a succeeding bus. So I think he has a good point there. On the other hand, I consider that the local authorities would be more appropriate than the Government to fund the scheme, and I cannot support the amendment in its present form.

The Earl of Avon

The Committee are indeed lucky to have the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, with his great knowledge, to lead us into this amendment. I am very grateful to him for explaining it so fully. How fortunate we are that we do not have to finish before four o'clock on this particular occasion!

The intention of this amendment is two-fold. It would place on the Secretary of State, as opposed to local authorities, responsibility for funding the provision of travel concessions by LRT for pensioners and disabled people living in London. It would also require that the scheme for which the Secretary of State would provide grant would be that which is in operation immediately prior to the appointed day.

It will come as no surprise that the Government do not find this amendment very attractive. It is a fundamental aspect of the Government's policy—and one which has been supported by successive Governments, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, would confirm—that local authorities should have discretion over the provision of concessionary travel schemes. The Bill follows this approach absolutely. Clause 49 in effect re-enacts existing provisions under which the local authorities have the powers to arrange their own voluntary concessionary fares schemes with the public transport operators in London. But the Government have recognised the value which pensioners and disabled people in London place on the present arrangements for a uniform scheme in London. They also recognise the unique circumstances of London and the fact that pensioners are rightly concened that, after the abolition of the GLC, it might be more difficult to secure a uniform voluntary scheme from the 33 London boroughs. The Government have therefore provided in the Bill for a statutory reserve scheme to come into operation if, at any time after the formation of LRT, there is no uniform voluntary scheme in place.

The other part of the noble Lord's amendment would provide a statutory requirement that the existing concessionary fares scheme, organised by the GLC, should remain in existence for all time. Even if we were legislating for a statutory concessionary fares scheme, rather than for a reserve fall-back scheme, the Government could not support this part of the amendment. In a way, the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, in his introduction, showed the need for flexibility, and my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes again hinted at this. To have a statutory scheme put in at one stage would not allow us the flexibility which I think we should like to see.

I should like to stress to the Committee that it would be wrong to force the local authorities in London to finance this scheme. Financing concessionary travel at peak periods of the day costs some £10 million in London. We believe that the right approach is to provide, in these reserve powers, for a reasonably uniform scheme, but at the same time to allow the individual local authorities that flexibility which I have just been talking about, so that if they wish they can top-up the scheme by buying additional benefits from LRT or from British Rail.

Perhaps I may just point out what the statutory reserve scheme provides for in Clauses 50 to 52. The way it will work is that it comes into operation if there is no uniform scheme agreed by the local authorities by the appointed day, or at any time thereafter. It provides that those eligible will be the elderly, disabled people and blind people. Elderly and disabled people may travel at all times at week-ends and bank holidays and at off-peak times, subject to change by LRT after consultation with local authorities. Blind people will be able to travel at any time. LRT will make concessions available to all London authorities and recoup the cost from those authorities. Authorities will be under a duty to issue a permit to any eligible person under terms and conditions which will be subject to the Secretary of State's approval. I am sure that the Committee will have considered very carefully what the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, said, as well as what my noble friend Lady Gardner said. But I very much hope that your Lordships will see the reasoning behind what the Government plan to do and will follow what we believe to be the right way forward.

Lord Somers

In view of the uncertainty that is in many people's minds at the moment, I wonder whether the noble Earl is in any position to say whether, if the GLC were to be abolished, it would be replaced by some overall organisation which would cover the whole of Greater London. That is something which many people feel would be necessary, and the noble Earl might possibly relieve their anxiety.

The Earl of Avon

I hoped I had covered that point, in that the 33 boroughs will be taking on responsibility if the GLC is abolished. That is the reason why we have Clauses 50 to 52. If there is any difficulty about these boroughs getting together to provide a scheme, there is a statutory right for us to do so.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

I have listened to both the Minister and the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner. We established the present scheme because of the unsatisfactory nature of the borough's schemes. There were different schemes in different boroughs. Some people had free travel, some people paid half fare, some people had their travel permit without paying anything and some people had to buy it from the borough. We had to fight the Government at the time, in order to get the power to set up that scheme.

I am not suggesting that we will necessarily go back to that. However, I am suggesting that if there is no overall authority for London, and if it is a question of the boroughs having to make their individual contributions, it may be that the elderly of London will have difficulty in some places, though not so much in others. Therefore, I would much rather have a unified scheme.

The reason for suggesting that it should be through a grant from the Secretary of State is that that seemed straight forward. As I said earlier, the Secretary of State will levy a rate on the people of London and there is no reason why that should not be part of that rate. I recognise that the Government are hesitant about doing that, but they will be doing that for the rest of the service, so I do not see why they cannot also do it for the concessionary fares. The noble Baroness corrected me quite properly, because I was thinking only of the evening peak hours. I do not think that the mornings—whether it is 9 a.m. or 9.30 a.m.—matter very much. But the evening peak hours are very difficult for many elderly people and it is that problem which I particularly want to remove.

I did not go into the details of the Government's scheme, because I have amendments down later to correct it. But the reason for this amendment is that the Government's scheme falls short of what is required. In a sense, I agree with the Minister that the wording of my amendment is not as good as it should be. It was not intended that progress should not be made in this field. I should have made it clear that the concessions will be at least as good as those that exist at the moment. Something like that may well be required if I come back again with the amendment.

But having had the debate, and since I hope that we shall debate the details of Amendments Nos. 50 to 52 and, perhaps, endeavour to correct what I regard as the shortcomings which exist there, my immediate reaction is to withdraw the amendment, but giving notice that I may bring it or a similar amendment back at Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 [Government funding of services under control of London Regional Transport]:

3.48 p.m.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 82: Page 11, line 16, after ("London") insert ("after consultation with them")

The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak also to Amendment No. 83.

Amendment No. 83: Page 11, line 19, at end insert— ("( ) Before making a levy under subsection (1) in respect of any year, the Secretary of State shall consult persons or bodies appearing to him to be representative of industrial and commercial ratepayers in Greater London.") Clause 13 relates to the contribution, to which my noble friend referred, which will be paid by London ratepayers towards the cost of grants to be made to LRT by the Secretary of State, and it is laid down in the Bill that these shall not exceed two-thirds of the cost. Subsection (1) of the clause empowers the Secretary of State to make a levy on the rating authorities for the purpose of collecting the contributions. But, surprisingly, there is no requirement at all in this clause for the Secretary of State to consult with the local authorities concerned before he makes the levy, and this is what the amendment seeks to correct.

In Committee in another place the Minister of State dismissed this proposal by saying that ratepayers will be protected as the levy will be the subject of an annual order to be approved by Parliament. But that has nothing at all to do with prior consultation. What we are talking about is consultation before he makes the levy, not discussions in Parliament when the order is made. There are various points which the local rating authorities will undoubtedly wish to put to the Minister before he finally decides on the amount of the levy. I need hardly remind the Committee that the local authorities represent the ratepayers who will have to meet two-thirds of the cost. In addition, they represent those who will be using the services and facilities of LRT. Your Lordships should remember that local authorities have no representation on LRT. There is no channel for automatic input from the local authorities to LRT.

May I also stress that the requirement to make a levy of this kind on local authorities is a completely new concept. There should be the fullest consultation before this decision is taken. That appears to be common sense. Noble Lords will recall that in the Rates Bill there is a provision that because the local authorities will determine both the total expenditure and the rate there must be consultation with the industrial and commercial interests. We are not questioning that provision.

This leads me to Amendment No. 83 which, in addition to the proposal in Amendment No. 82 that there should be consultation with the local authorities concerned, suggests that before the Secretary of State makes the order for the levy he should consult the persons or bodies which appear to him to represent the industrial and commercial interests. When this matter was before another place, the Minister of State advised the Committee that since the Rates Bill requires that there should be consultation with industry and commerce, that consultation is sufficient for this purpose. To suggest that such consultation will be sufficient also for the levy to be raised in order to meet the costs of LRT is stretching very far indeed the consultation required under the Rates Bill. As these are such commonsense proposals, we hope that the Minister will find it possible to agree to this common sense move on democracy and consultation. I beg to move.

Lord Trefgarne

These amendments, as the noble Lord has said, would oblige the Secretary of State to consult the rating authorities and representatives of industrial and commercial ratepayers in Greater London before making a levy on the rating authorities in London. At first sight, I must confess that these amendments look quite reasonable. The decisions of the Secretary of State, on the level of his grants to LRT under Clause 12 and on the levy under this clause, will affect both the ordinary ratepayer, of whom the local authorities are in some sense the representatives, and the industrial and commercial ratepayers as well. So it may appear reasonable that decisions affecting them should be preceded by some consultation with them. But if one really examines this proposition, I believe one can see that it would be both faulty in principle and unduly burdensome in practice.

To deal first with the principle, at present precepting bodies like the GLC do not consult rating authorities about their proposed precepts, although under a provision in the Rates Bill, currently before your Lordships, local authorities will have to consult representatives of industrial and commercial ratepayers before setting their rates and precepts. This requirement of the Rates Bill is of course part of the Government's strategy to bring local authority expenditure as a whole under better control by increasing the accountability of authorities to their ratepayers. The LRT Bill, on the other hand, makes statutory provision by a different means to ensure the Secretary of State's accountability for the level of support provided to LRT and to ensure that those affected are consulted on LRT's policies. The financial implications on ratepayers of the Government's decisions are acknowledged in this Bill in the special system that has been devised to lay an annual levy order before Parliament and to have it considered and debated there.

As far as local accountability is concerned, the arrangements made under the Bill go far beyond the opportunities for debate in Parliament on the levy order. That debate—although it will no doubt embrace many other things—will focus on the way in which the order apportions finance for the subsidy to LRT between ratepayers and taxpayers. But the day-to-day accountability of LRT will be exercised both within its planning process and within the contact it will have regularly with the local authorities, the passengers' committee, in what I hope will be a continuous dialogue about plans and performance. It is this which will ultimately determine the size of the subsidy levels, as opposed to the proportion of that subsidy to be borne by the ratepayer.

So I do not think that, in terms of principle, statutory consultation with the rating authorities would be appropriate. In addition to this, there would be severe practical difficulties in arranging any meaningful consultations on the ratepayers' levy order as such. Because of the nature of LRT's annual planning timetable, it will not be possible to settle the grant totals and to prepare the levy order until late in each year. The order itself will have to be laid early in the new year in order to fit into the rating timetable. It would be an impossible additional imposition on LRT, at one of the busiest times of their planning year, to ask them to participate in the widespread consultation that is implied in this amendment.

In the light of the difficulties to which I have referred, I hope that the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

I can never understand why the Government are so reluctant to have proper consultation with local authorities. A power is being taken to levy a rate on the people of London. If the Greater London Council is abolished, 33 local authorities in London will have to be consulted. I cannot believe that it is so difficult for the Minister to have proper consultation with them in order that they may point out to him what the effect of the levy could be in terms of other services. The boroughs have to spend money on roads as well as transport. If a penny is spent on "X" it is not available to be spent on "Y". In effect, therefore, the Secretary of State should be willing to sit down and discuss with the local authorities whether or not the levy he is going to demand will be a burden and whether or not it will cause the local authorities to carry out another service in not quite so efficient a way as they would otherwise perform it. This kind of discussion ought to take place so that an agreed levy can be achieved. I cannot understand why the Government should be reluctant to have such consultation.

Lord Trefgarne

I am not for a moment resisting the idea of appropriate and proper consultation, but in this case the levy, as the noble Lord refers to it, will be a precept upon the ratepayers. The boroughs will be acting as a collecting agency. There will be no question of the boroughs having to distinguish between one service and another with regard to their revenue when they are considering how to collect these moneys, because the amount that they will have to collect will be set by the order to which I have referred, which will be considered and approved by the other place. There are 84 London Members of Parliament in the other place who will doubtless make their views known on behalf of their constituents. They will say what they think of the proposals that are made. It is necessary to remember that the boroughs will be acting as a collecting agency and that this will not therefore be a precept on the boroughs but on the ratepayers.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

It is no use the Minister saying that it will not affect the revenue of local authorities. It must. If an additional 2p rate is levied, one has to decide whether, in order to accommodate that additional 2p rate, it will be necessary to reduce services, because one has to keep in mind the ratepayers.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My noble friend's response to the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, seems to me to be conclusive as regards Amendment No. 82. However, my noble friend did not deal with—nor does his argument, I believe, apply to—Amendment No. 83, consultation with industry and commerce. For my part, I wholly accept his argument that precepting authorities do not find themselves normally bound to consult the authorities upon whom they precept. But the position of industry and commerce is somewhat different.

I have no great affection for compulsory consultation, because if bodies are simply compelled by statute to consult, it tends to become a sort of ritual without any real substance. What I should like to hear from my noble friend is an answer to the following question. If those who speak for commerce and industry, or part of them, in London—and commerce and industry, as large ratepayers, are very much involved in this matter—wish to make representations to the Secretary of State as to the level of the levy, will my noble friend reassure me that the Secretary of State will always be ready and willing to hear them? A practical approach of that kind—an ordinary approach to Ministers, made either by organised bodies direct, or by them with the aid of their representatives in another place—is generally a much more effective method. If my noble friend can give some such an assurance this afternoon, it might help to reassure those who are very concerned about the very heavy burden of rates on industry and commerce in London.

Lord Trefgarne

Yes, indeed; I hasten to reassure my noble friend that my right honourable friend will be very willing to listen to the representations made to him on this matter by the representatives of commerce and industry, particularly, I imagine, through the voice of the CBI. No one knows better than I that the CBI has excellent lines of communication with Members of your Lordships' House and, no doubt, with honourable and right honourable Members of another place. I am quite sure that those views, too, will be represented in another place when consideration of the order comes before it.

Lord Underhill

Having listened to the Minister's last reply, I find myself a little confused in regard to the previous replies he has given. He said that the order is purely automatic, and yet he quite readily accepts that there might be advantage in representations being made by industry and commerce to talk about it. That is what we are asking to be done in the case of local authorities. I want to see carried the second amendment, which states that there shall be consultations with representatives of industry and commerce, but it would be wrong to agree to that and yet not agree to the first amendment, which seeks consultation also with local authorities. The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, said that, at first sight, these amendments looked reasonable. From where I am sitting they still look reasonble and I hope that the Committee will give support to them.

It must not be overlooked that the GLC, which previously precepted, and which still does so at the moment, since it has not yet been abolished, is an elected local authority. This is one of our complaints about the LRT: that there is no automatic representation on it from local authorities, no automatic channels of input for local authority views. It has been suggested that one of the handicaps if we were to carry this amendment would be the practical difficulties of LRT arranging a consultation at that time. But we have a body of up to 11 persons with great managerial competence. Surely it will not be beyond their wit to find some way of calling the bodies together nationally. Nationally, consultations are made involving the central committee on local government matters to deal with issues such as the rate support grant. On the first day of the Committee stage of this Bill the Government time and time again resisted consultation with local authorities. This is one case where we ought to have consultation, and I hope that the Committee will go into the Division Lobbies in support of it.

4.4 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 82) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 87; Not-Contents, 119.

Airedale, L. Kagan, L.
Attlee, E. Kilmarnock, L.
Aylestone, L. Kirkhill, L.
Banks, L. Leatherland, L.
Beswick, L. Listowel, E.
Birk, B. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Longford, E.
Bottomley, L. McCluskey, L.
Briginshaw, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Brockway, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. McNair, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Mais, L.
Collison, L. Mishcon, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Molloy, L.
Darling of Hillsborough, L. Mulley, L.
David, B. [Teller.] Nicol, B.
Dean of Beswick, L. Oram, L.
Denington, B. Parry, L.
Diamond, L. Phillips, B.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Plant, L.
Ennals, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. [Teller.]
Ezra, L. Sainsbury, L.
Falkland, V. Sefton of Garston, L.
Fitt, L. Stallard, L.
Gaitskell, B. Stedman, B.
Gallacher, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Gladwyn, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Grimond, L. Stone, L.
Hale, L. Strabolgi, L.
Hampton, L. Strauss, L.
Hanworth, V. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Tordoff, L.
Hooson, L. Underhill, L.
Hughes, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Hunt, L. Whaddon, L.
Jacobson, L. White, B.
Jacques, L. Wilson of Langside, L.
Jeger, B. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Winstanley, L.
John-Mackie, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Ailesbury, M. Dacre of Glanton, L.
Ailsa, M. Daventry, V.
Aldenham, L. Davidson, V.
Alexander of Tunis, E. De Freyne, L.
Alport, L. Denham, L. [Teller.]
Ampthill, L. Dormer, L.
Auckland, L. Dundee, E.
Avon, E. Ebbisham, L.
Bauer, L. Eccles, V.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Effingham, E.
Bellwin, L. Elles, B.
Beloff, L. Elliot of Harwood, B.
Belstead, L. Elton, L.
Bessborough, E. Faithfull, B.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Fanshawe of Richmond, L.
Caithness, E. Fisher, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Gainford, L.
Cathcart, E. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Cockfield, L. Gisborough, L.
Coleraine, L. Glenarthur, L.
Cottesloe, L. Gormanston, V.
Craigavon, V. Gray of Contin, L.
Craigton, L. Gridley, L.
Haig, E. Moyola, L.
Hailsham of Saint Munster, E.
Marylebone, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Hankey, L. Newall, L.
Hanson, L. Northchurch, B.
Hardinge of Penshurst, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. O'Brien of Lothbury, L.
Hayter, L. Orkney, E.
Henley, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Hives, L. Pender, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Porritt, L.
Hunter of Newington, L. Portland, D.
Hylton-Foster, B. Quinton, L.
Killearn, L. Rankeillour, L.
Kinnaird, L. Renton, L.
Lane-Fox, B. Renwick, L.
Lawrence, L. Rodney, L.
Lloyd of Hampstead, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Long, V. St. Davids, V.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Saint Oswald, L.
McAlpine of Moffat, L. Sandford, L.
McFadzean, L. Selkirk, E.
Macleod of Borve, B. Sempill, Ly.
Mancroft, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Mar and Kellie, E. Strathspey, L.
Margadale, L. Suffield, L.
Marley, L. Swansea, L.
Marsh, L. Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L. Taylor of Hadfield, L.
Terrington, L.
Merrivale, L. Teviot, L.
Mersey, V. Trefgarne, L.
Middleton, L. Trumpington, B.
Milverton, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Molson, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Montgomery of Alamein, V. Whitelaw, V.
Mottistone, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.12 p.m.

Lord Underhill had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 83:

[Printed earlier: col. 1516.]

The noble Lord said: I am tempted to move this amendment because I think that what it proposes is the right principle. However, since it would be wrong to have this consultation and yet not have consultation with the local authorities, I shall not move the amendment.

[Amendment No. 83 not moved.]

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 84: Page 12, line 2, leave out ("two-thirds") and insert ("55 per cent.").

The noble Lord said: It may be for the conveinence of the Committee if I speak also to Amendment No. 85. Amendment No. 85: Page 12, line 13, after ("such") insert ("lower").

We are still dealing with the contribution to be made by the local authorities. As noble Lords will already have heard, the Bill provides that this is a maximum of two-thirds of the cost of LRT. Amendment No. 84 proposes that this be reduced to 55 per cent. This is not just a figure plucked out of the air. It so happens that for the current year the transport supplementary grant fixed by the Government, which is payable above the threshold, has been reduced from 70 per cent. to 55 per cent. This seemed to be an appropriate figure which we should ask the local authorities to pay towards the cost of LRT.

I shall not go into all the figures because, having read the debates in another place, including the Government's reply giving all the figures, and contributions from the Front Bench here and from other noble Lords, I am certain that it would confuse people so much that they would not understand exactly what were the final points. However, when I say that TSG is reduced from 70 per cent. to 55 per cent., that is a straightforward, commonsense figure which I, and, I am certain, other noble Lords, too, can understand. As we have already heard, the local authorities have no say in how this contribution is to be spent and the Government have just resisted this basic consultation. The reduction to 55 per cent. seems fair.

Amendment No. 85 refers to subsection (8). This empowers the Secretary of State, by order, to substitute the maximum of two-thirds with any other maximum proportion "as he thinks fit". The wording of the subsection is such that it cannot possibly be a lower maximum that the Secretary of State may wish to fix because the present wording of subsection (6) refers to, "a maximum of two-thirds"; that is, any figure up to two-thirds. The purpose of subsection (8) is to make it possible to increase the proportion above two-thirds—anything from 66 per cent. up to 100 per cent., if the Secretary of State should think fit.

I am certain that the Committee will agree that anything of that nature must not be allowed without primary legislation. An affirmative order before Parliament which merely asks for an increase would not be sufficient.

On Report in another place the Secretary of State, when referring to these powers, said: I can think of no circumstances in which it will be used."—[Official Report,Commons, 9/4/84; col. 34.]. But then the Secretary of State went on to argue that there is really no difference between an affirmative order and an urgent one-clause Bill to increase the contribution. The Secretary of State has overlooked one point. An order cannot be amended. It is either accepted or rejected. The argument behind Amendment No. 85 is, yes, give the Secretary of State the power to amend the contribution, but only if he wishes to lower the maximum to below two-thirds, and he should not be give the power to increase the contribution above two-thirds. That should require primary legislation. I beg to move.

Lord Trefgarne

The Government's starting point is that a ratepayer contribution is necessary to ensure that London's ratepayers should not be uniquely favoured, compared with the rest of the country. Ratepayers elsewhere in the country will continue to support public transport in their areas and there is no good reason to treat Greater London differently. There has been a great deal of discussion, before the Bill reached this House, about the present level of support provided by London ratepayers to London Transport.

The maximum ratepayer contribution of 55 per cent., suggested in Amendment No. 84, stems from some GLC figurework. By "creative" accounting they reduced the revenue grant payable for 1983–84 from the £235 million in their original grant determination to £158 million, leaving, incidentally, a £25 million deficit carried over from the previous financial year unfinanced. The calculation also ignores the fact that a proportion of the Government's transport supplementary grant is in respect of expenditure by the boroughs and not the GLC as such. In our view, making neutral assumptions about transport supplementary grant (that is, allocating it pro rata to accepted expenditure) the 1983–84 ratepayer contribution was about 70 per cent. of the total subsidy to London Transport. This is higher than elsewhere, both because Greater London's per capita rateable resources are greater than elsewhere and because the GLC's overall budget is too high to receive block grant—and the 1984–85 contribution looks like being even higher.

The Bill lays down that the maximum ratepayer contribution is to be two-thirds of the total subsidy. This is lower than the present level, in recognition of the fact that the present contribution has been adversely affected by the GLC's high spending policies, which have denied the GLC any rate support grant. But to reduce it to a figure as low as 55 per cent. at once would give quite unwarranted benefits to Greater London ratepayers at the expense of the national taxpayer, as it will not be possible to put matters right overnight. The opportunities for reducing the ratepayer contribution below two-thirds will depend on the speed with which LRT bring costs under control. All going well, I see no reason why both the absolute and the proportionate level of ratepayer contribution should not fall.

Perhaps I may just touch on some of the reasons for the discrepancy between the department's and the GLC's calculations. At least three of them are as follows: different assumptions have been used for financing capital expenditure; the GLC has ignored the allocation of transport supplementary grant to boroughs' expenditure; and the GLC apparently thinks that comparison should assume that it gets some block grant. But even on the GLC's assumptions, the ratepayer contribution for 1984–85 comes out at 75 per cent.—a good deal more than the proportion of two-thirds in the Bill.

I hope that in the light of those considerations the noble Lord will see fit not to press his amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The noble Lord the Minister in replying to my noble friend said that he could see no good reason to treat Greater London ratepayers differently from ratepayers in other parts of the country. I wish he would apply that principle to the rights of Greater London ratepayers to have a say in the running of their transport systems, which is what ratepayers in other parts of the country have. I sometimes get the impression that Governments of this party have not trusted the people of London since the Gordon Riots of the 1780s, and that they fear that any power which is given to the people of London to make decisions about their own services—and this applies not only to this Bill but also to forthcoming legislation about the abolition of the Greater London Council—will lead to the mobs stampeding down Whitehall and threatening the Government's personal safety. Let me assure the Government that the ratepayers of London are as conscious of the financial constraints which local government ought to have and of their own responsibility as ratepayers as are ratepayers in any other part of the country. I do not think that the people of London take kindly to the way in which they are being singled out for taxation without representation.

The Minister made a number of financial points in reply to my noble friend, claiming that his figure of two-thirds was more accurate than the figure of 55 per cent. I certainly do not have the expertise to challenge what he said, but I have some questions to ask him about the calculations he is putting before the Committee. Is it, or is it not, a fact that under the financial arrangements proposed in the Bill the levy on ratepayers will be higher than it is under present arrangements? That could be answered either in absolute or in proportionate terms. Is it a fact that the amount to be levied from London ratepayers could be affected by the treatment of capital expenditure? I understand it is to be on a pay-as-you-go basis rather than being amortised. There is nothing wrong with a pay-as-you-go basis, but it is important to know what the effect is for the ratepayers. If there is to be a difference in the treatment of capital, what effect will that have on the outstanding GLC capital debt for transport purposes, which, as I understand it, amounts to some £400 million? The Minister has entered on these calculations. I think it is necessary that he should give the Committee, as far as is possible, the complete picture of what the obligations of London ratepayers will be.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

It was reassuring to hear the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, expressing sympathy for the London ratepayer. When one remembers that he led his party to victory at County Hall at the last election, and when one recalls what were the consequences for the London ratepayer, this is indeed a Daniel come to judgment.

I really want to deal with only one point of his, and that is the point that he sought to make that the London ratepayer should have control of the London transport system. I have a little qualification for saying something about this, because it so happens that when, some 30 years ago, I was Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, London Transport was handled by a body not dissimilar to that which will be set up under this Bill—a body ranking as a nationalised industry responsible directly to the Minister of Transport. I can say from recollection that that system worked admirably and imposed an infinitely smaller burden on the Londoner than has been the case since London Transport has been controlled by the Greater London Council—or rather has not been controlled by the Greater London Council, but has had the Greater London Council responsible for subsidising it and for making some very odd appointments to its board.

The reason why it is not possible to treat transport in London as a local authority activity to the extent that it is possible in the other metropolitan areas is, of course, that transport in London is used by a very large number of people who do not live in London and who are not London ratepayers. Commuters come into the capital every working day from Newbury, Brighton, Colchester, Swindon and, indeed, I understand, Rugby. During the day they use the system of transport in central London, going about their business, to a very considerable extent. Therefore there is a substantial overlap between the Londoner and the London ratepayer and the users of the London transport system, very many of whom—perhaps my noble friend has the figures—do not reside in the Greater London area. I think it is partly for that reason, and partly of course from the playing of politics at County Hall, that London Transport has been got into the mess in which it finds itself. I look forward to seeing it being restored to the efficient system that it was when it was handled by, hopefully, an efficient Minister of Transport.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I knew that I could bring the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, to his feet. If ever there was a Daniel come to judgment, I would have thought it was the noble Lord's conversion to "Morrisonian" nationalisation. As far as his point about commuters is concerned, I take it that he is not actually suggesting that the rights of commuters will be increased by this legislation. Certainly I can find nothing which gives that assurance.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

If the noble Lord wants an answer to that self-evident question, that is not the point I was making at all. The point I was making was that London Transport was of concern to a very large number of people who are not London ratepayers, or, more significantly, London voters, and therefore there is a bigger national interest than in the case of any other local authority area that that transport is not mishandled by people who are not answerable to a great many of those who suffer from that mishandling.

Lord Trefgarne

However one makes the calculations—and I am inspired by the example of my noble friend the Chief Whip at Question Time—the fact remains that the ratepayer contribution is higher under the present arrangements than it will be when the arrangements in this Bill come into force. As I say, it looks on present calculations as if next year (1984–85) the ratepayer contribution will be of the order of 75 per cent., but, of course, the Bill now before us provides for a lower percentage than that. I think I am content to rest upon that basic assumption.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, asked about the capital position. I can say that the figures I have given take that into account. I recognise that there are some difficulties in these calculations. There are certainly considerable differences between ourselves and the GLC on this matter, but I believe that the essence of the figures I have put to your Lordships is the right one. I hope, as I say, that your Lordships will see fit to resist these amendments.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, did not intend it, but his argument is in support of this amendment. If it is a larger number of the people in this country who are concerned and need London Transport, and need it to be efficient, then more should be paid towards it than suggested by the Government. The Government have suggested that London ratepayers should pay 75 per cent. This amendment suggests that they should pay 55 per cent. and that the rest of the country, who are so concerned and interested, should pay the other 45 per cent. That seems very reasonable.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

Would the noble Lord allow me to point out the fallacy of that argument? The Bill proposes to reduce the proportion paid for by the London ratepayer substantially below the proportion which has been exacted from him by the noble Lord's friends at County Hall.

Lord Tordoff

This may apply to the first amendment but surely not to the second amendment. I thought the purpose of the second amendment was to put a top limit on and stop the wording of this clause, the word "maximum", being raised above the limit which is contained in the earlier clause. As I heard what the noble Lord, Lord Underbill, said, it was his purpose to stop that figure being raised to 75 or even 100 per cent. It may be that there would be some semantic argument in the use of the word "proportion". It seems to me it might be possible to raise it to 120 per cent. or even 200 per cent. if there is no limit put on as in the second amendment.

Lord Underhill

I will not be tempted into going into a Second Reading debate with the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. We have had all these principles brought out. He talks about playing politics at County Hall. That is what the present Government are doing in Parliament—playing politics with London's transport and with a whole set-up of abolition proposals for Greater London. I think the point that is being made is that if London's transport is so different because it has got national and tourist implications, as the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, has just said, that is a case for supporting my first amendment.

I am not going to get involved in all the finance. I have got reams of papers here on accountancy figures. There are so few people in the Chamber who would really understand those figures that I think it would be better to deal with the major principles.

The noble Lord referred to the loss of fares income which brought rate penalties because of the general financial position of the GLC. I hope noble Lords have seen today's Standard, which says: London Transport pulls in the dodgers—and a £36 million profit". The writer goes on to say: Cheaper bus and Tube fares and more reliable service attracted more passengers than for many years. A crackdown on fare dodgers played a major part towards the best figures for five years". The Government are bringing in proposals to take LRT away from a body which has brought those results.

As it would require a very careful analysis of the figures, I will not press Amendment No. 84. But I should like the Minister to deal with Amendment No. 85 because, as the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, has just reminded us, the Minister has not said a word as to why Amendment No. 85 should not be agreed to. All No. 85 says is: let us leave all the arguments on one side. The Minister can go up to a maximum levy to bring in two-thirds of the cost from the ratepayers. We are saying he must not have power by order to increase that, but he may, if he wishes, by order decrease it. There has not been a word from the Minister as to whether that is a common sense position.

If the Government have in mind the possibility at some time, that it is not sufficient just to listen to the Secretary of State's words that I have quoted, then it is doubtful whether they will ever use this. Once it is in the Bill it can be used, and the thoughts that there could be a greater contribution above two-thirds demanded from the ratepayers is a point upon which we ought to hear the Minister's comments. Will he please say why the Government resist Amendment No. 85? Or does his silence on that mean that the Government will accept Amendment No. 85?

Lord Trefgarne

I am afraid I have to take a similar line with respect to No. 85 as I do with Amendment No. 84. I do not think it would enhance this Bill at all. We certainly want to keep the option open for my right honourable friend, but, as he has made clear in the other place, he hopes very much indeed that he will not have to use it.

Lord Underhill

I think I will read carefully what the Minister has said. I am dissatisfied with his reply on this. No real argument has been put forward, but I will not press the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 85 not moved.]

Clause 15 [Financial duty]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 86: Page 14, line 14, after ("Transport") insert (", the Greater London Council and the London borough councils")

The noble Lord said: It has been suggested that when moving Amendment No. 86 it would be convenient for the Committee also to take Amendment No. 88. Amendment No. 88: Page 15, line 4, after ("Transport,") insert ("the Greater London Council and the London borough councils") The purpose of Clause 15(7) is to give the Minister powers to control the finance, to give financial duties to London Regional Transport. The purpose of the subsection with which the Amendment No. 86 deals is to enable London Regional Transport to establish a reserve if so directed by the Secretary of State, the reserve being for a particular purpose. I would mention that Amendment No. 88 would give to the Secretary of State a power to take from London Regional Transport any excess revenue in any particular accounting year.

The amendments are exactly similar. They are suggesting as well as that, The Secretary of State may from time to time, after consultation with London Regional Transport", there should be inserted the words, the Greater London Council and the London borough councils". Here again, the purpose is to ensure that the Secretary of State consults with local authorities over the use of the London Regional Transport reserves and any excess revenue. As has been stated many times during Second Reading and the Committee stage on this Bill, local authorities will be paying most, the largest proportion of their grants, to the London Regional Transport. Therefore local authorities should be consulted over what is really the use of their money and not a much smaller proportion of the Secretary of State's or national money.

Under the present Bill, as it stands just now, local authorities would have absolutely no control over the amount levied on them by the Secretary of State. As was said by my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey, it could actually be an indirect tax on Londoners such as we have seen, or as many people believe is exactly what is happening. Because the Government are able to set the prices on electricity and gas and other nationalised industries many people believe that their charges are really an indirect tax.

The importance of representation has been stressed very many times during the debate. It has been said that there are 84 London Members of Parliament. I do not know how often London Transport will be given an opportunity to participate in a debate on a positive order in the other place or in this House, or in both Houses. At Question Time, it is most unlikely that the odd London Member will be able to offer more than a few words in questioning the Minister of Transport on a particular London matter. It would be a very particular matter, perhaps every three or four weeks.

I think it is something upon which, if we do not get some sort of consultation with the London boroughs and whatever replaces, if it does, the GLC, it will be very interesting, in a matter of a few years, to look back and see just how much and how often London Transport has been discussed in the other place. There are 84 MPs who could do it, but I doubt whether there will be time for any Government to give such proper consideration as could be given by those who are on the ground in the London boroughs and in the GLC, who know what is happening and will be the people who, in large measure, will be contributing their money towards meeting any deficit between the fare box and the cost.

Therefore again, and I think even more importantly on this point, because of the way the clause is worded, because of the very great powers that are given to the Secretary of State with very little control over him at all, except the control of Parliament—and I believe that will be rather sketchy because of the nature of things—we think it is vitally important that there should be some recourse for ratepayers in the boroughs in London to be able to have a say and be consulted. We are asking for no more than that there should be consultation with the Secretary of State before he decides on these two very important points. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Renton)

I must apologise to your Lordships. Before calling Amendment No. 86, I should have put the Question that Clause 13 and Clause 14 stand part. Unless there is any objection, I propose to put them together.

Clauses 13 and 14 agreed to.

Lord Trefgarne

The noble Lord has presented the power to require LRT to place a surplus in reserve or to pay it over to the Exchequer as a form of taxation without representation—hence, I fancy, his amendment requiring consultation with ratepayers' representatives beforehand. I have to say that only the most machiavellian of minds would envisage that LRT, a heavily loss-making body, would be required to generate a surplus to be paid into reserve solely for the purposes of collecting a ratepayer contribution on the extra grant that we would have to pay LRT to create the surplus in the first place. Such tortuous thought processes would breach all the normal rules laid down by Parliament for public accountability, especially the rule that grant should not be paid in advance of need.

In fact, the purpose of this clause is simply to allow for the possibility of removing from LRT any windfall gains not required for the purposes of running the buses and Tubes. Such gains might arise for example from the unexpected sale of non-operational land. Removing such a surplus would not even be automatic; it would depend on the circumstances. There is nothing sinister, nothing hidden, in this clause, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport categorically reassured Members in another place. Its purpose is limited, and has nothing to do with taxation. I am happy to repeat my right honourable friend's assurances on that point. If this clause is not about taxation, then the point of an amendment dealing with representation falls, and I hope your Lordships will reject it.

Lord Underhill

Can the noble Lord the Minister answer one point? At present, if there is a surplus of revenue over charges, which, I understand, the Standard is now saying is £36 million, that surplus revenue can be used to improve matters next year. Under the Bill, what will happen to a surplus in any one year?

Lord Trefgarne

I imagine that in the circumstances that the noble Lord describes—I have not had an opportunity to look at the report or to consider the recent matters to which he has referred—they would be carried forward to next year to cover the capital expenditure that would by then be envisaged. The noble Lord says that a surplus has been generated this year. As I say, I have not seen the figures, but I doubt very much whether that surplus takes into account all the various capital charges that should properly be charged to revenue account.

Lord Underhill

I am sorry to labour the point. But subsection (7) of Clause 15, which we are discussing, states: If in respect of any accounting year there is an excess of the revenues of London Regional Transport over the total charges properly chargeable by them to revenue account, the Secretary of State may, with the approval of the Treasury, require that excess, so far as it appears to him, after consultation with London Regional Transport, to be surplus to the requirements of London Regional Transport, to be paid over to the Secretary of State". The next subsection states: Any sums received by the Secretary of State under subsection (7) above shall be paid into the Consolidated Fund". That is not the answer that we have just had from the Minister.

Lord Trefgarne

I wish to be clear about this. The figure that the noble Lord was talking about was the figure that I think he said had recently been announced by London Transport in respect of the current year. As I say, I have not seen that report. I think that he said that it appeared only today in the newspaper. I very much doubt whether that operating surplus to which the noble Lord referred takes into account all the items that are properly chargeable to revenue account. If it did, that would be creating a quite new situation in London Transport and not one, I think, that has yet arrived.

Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone

I am interested that the Labour Party are raising these objections. They are really saying that if we make a profit it should go back into the undertaking. I seem to remember that on a previous occasion, when London Transport was taken over by the Greater London Council and we ran the undertaking at a surplus for two years, we were castigated because we actually made a surplus. We were said to be depriving the people of London of lower fares because we were making a surplus. That surplus, I may say, was only about £200,000 on a turnover of, say, £250 million. But, nevertheless, that was the argument. Now we are told that if we have a surplus it is wicked for it to go back into the kitty, and that something must be done about it. I find the argument wholly fallacious.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I fear that the noble Lord, Lord Plummer, has not read the Bill, or was not listening to his noble friend's answer. The question is not whether the surplus should be returned to the ratepayers or go into the kitty of London Regional Transport, but whether it should be swept into the purse of the Treasury and therefore into the Consolidated Fund. That is what we are objecting to.

Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone

I should perhaps have made myself clear. When I say "kitty", the Government are providing the bulk of the money, and that is the kitty in my opinion.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Again, the noble Lord, Lord Plummer, cannot have been listening to the discussion on the previous amendment. The Government are not providing the bulk of the money. The provision is that the ratepayers should provide two-thirds of the money, and there is a provision, which the Government refused to withdraw, that that proportion could be even higher.

Lord Trefgarne

If my noble friend Lord Plummer was not in his place during our earlier discussion, I fear that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was not listening to the reply that I have just now given, either. The fact is that the power that the noble Lord seeks to take away by the amendment is one that will be used only exceptionally, as I have said, and only in the circumstances of a windfall to London Regional Transport, such as—I think that this was suggested in the other place—the discovery of oil in Osterley or lead somewhere else. I do not think that those eventualities are particularly likely. It is therefore equally unlikely that my right honourable friend will want to use this power. But it is right that the power should remain in his hands, if he needs it.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

The purpose of the amendment that I moved was not to do many of the things suggested by the Minister, although he gave a very comprehensive reply. The whole purpose of the amendment was to ensure that before the Secretary of State made any decision about what should happen to any excess, he should not only consult London Regional Transport but also the boroughs which would be paying the bulk of the figure. Again, we are back to the argument that we have been having all along, from the beginning of this Bill, both here and in another place. All the changes in the revenue from London Transport are being decided solely by the Secretary of State, without any consultation with the people who are represented or those who use London Transport, whatever their political complexion. However. I do not believe that at this late point in the discussion the noble Lord the Minister is likely to accept the amendment. I therefore beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Renton)

If Amendment No. 87 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 88.

4.49 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 87. Page 15, line 1, leave out from ("account") to end of subsection (7) and insert ("any such said surplus shall be taken to a reserve to be applied in the following year.").

The noble Lord said: I should like, with leave, to speak also to Amendment No. 89. Amendment No. 89: Page 15, line 7, leave out subsection (8). I have been listening extremely carefully to the words of the noble Lord the Minister. I have taken account of his assurances that powers to apply any surpluses to the Treasury and thence to the Consolidated Fund would be used only in the most exceptional circumstances. I have to say that the assurances given today do not go as far as those of his right honourable friend the Secretary of State on 9th April, when he said, at column 37: I point out that surpluses in future years will be carried forward by the Government, thereby reducing the ratepayers' contribution for that year". As I understand it, there was no qualification in that statement, no talk about windfalls, no suggestion by the Government that exceptions would be made for oil found in Osterley or any other place.

The point about London Transport's finances which may not be fully realised by those unlike the noble Lord, Lord Plummer, who have not been closely involved in them, is that they are extremely sensitive to changes in fares, to price changes. If I say that to delay a price increase of 20 per cent. by one day makes a difference of £1½ million I think the noble Lord, Lord Plummer, will recognise that kind of figure. It will be obvious that the timing and the percentage of any fares change can make enormous differences to the outcome for London Transport in any one financial year; and the skill of any transport operator, not just London Transport, to get those figures right in any one year cannot be expected to be as precise as some people running other businesses would wish.

Therefore the likelihood is that surpluses will have nothing to do with windfall sales of non-operational land but will arise through misjudgments of the effect of fare changes. Indeed, the excerpt from today's Standard which my noble friend Lord Underhill read out is evidence of that. A well-judged, well-thought-out, bold fare reduction last year, with the introduction of the travel card, has been extremely successful—more successful than the Greater London Council thought and more successful than the London Transport Executive themselves thought. The result has been a substantial surplus—as I understand it, a surplus of £36 million, which is not a small amount of money by governmental standards.

Under the Bill as drafted that surplus, which is the result not of levying grants in advance, as the Minister suggested, but of good commercial judgment proving more successful than had been expected, can be taken by the Treasury and put into the Consolidated Fund. To me that seems entirely unreasonable, entirely at variance with the financial obligations on ratepayers which are imposed in this Bill, without representation. It is taxation without representation, whatever the Minister may say. In this Bill Londoners are being treated like Bostonians. It seems that at every stage of the financial process the Government are seeking to take away money from Londoners as well as their right and responsibility to control their own destinies. I beg to move the amendment.

Lord Trefgarne

I should like to reassure your Lordships that I understand your Lordships' concern that surpluses made by LRT should be retained by the business for the following year, so reducing the grant they need and the size of the ratepayer contribution to be collected. In practice, this is what will usually happen. Such surpluses will normally arise because LRT have conducted their business more efficiently or because subsidy has been over-estimated, and it is right that the ratepayer should benefit from that. I am happy to underline that point.

However, as I said just now, there may be occasions—doubtless infrequent—where LRT make a surplus because of some windfall sale of assets that have nothing to do with their public transport activities. For example, as I said earlier, they might sell off non-operational land that they do not need; there may be mineral rights that become valuable. Depending on the circumstances, it might be right for such gains to accrue to the benefit of the nation as a whole, through the payment of the surplus into the Exchequer, rather than to the London ratepayer alone. But such surpluses are likely to be exceptional. Meanwhile, I fear that the noble Lord's amendments prevent a flexible approach to suit the circumstances.

Incidentally, I think my right honourable friend qualified the assurance he gave in the other place. If the noble Lord cares to study his words more fully I think he will discover that. For example, he referred to oil in Osterley, as I myself did just now. I should like to add one other point. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, referred to the £36 million by which London Transport beat their budget in 1983–84. The noble Lord should be aware that the GLC did not leave the money with London Transport but instead reduced their grant. In the light of these considerations I hope the noble Lord will not wish to press his amendments.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am grateful to the Minister for what he said. It would be fair to say that in 95 per cent. of the cases which he and I think are likely the Government would adopt the same policy as we would wish them to adopt. Unfortunately the legislation does not say that. The Bill as drafted gives the possibility for the Government—perhaps another Government, perhaps a less well-intentioned Government, if one could imagine such a thing—to sweep the money into the coffers of the Treasury. I share the often-expressed scepticism of such ex-Ministers as the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, about what happens to money which is taken from other pockets and put into the pockets of the Treasury.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

Will the noble Lord allow me? Speaking as an ex-Treasury Minister, which apparently was regarded yesterday as a term of abuse, I can think of no better repository for public funds than Her Majesty's devoted and efficient Treasury.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I beg the noble Lord's pardon. I must have been thinking of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. If we could find a definition of this windfall profit I think it would be possible to find an amendment which met the Minister's objections and which did restrict the ability of the Government to take the money into the Treasury. In the hope that it is possible for me to suggest something of that sort at Report stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 88 and 89 not moved.]

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Control by Secretary of State of financial objectives]:

[Amendments Nos. 90 and 91 not moved.]

Clause 16 agreed to.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

I propose to put together Clauses 17 to 22 inclusive, unless there is any objection.

Clauses 17 to 22 agreed to.

Clause 23 [Accounts]:

4.59 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 92: Page 20, line 24, leave out from ("with") to second("with") in line 26 and insert ("normal accounting practices").

The noble Lord said: In moving this Amendment I propose to speak to Amendments Nos. 93, 94, 95, 96 and 97. Amendment No. 93; Page 20, line 31, at end insert ("subject to their accounts being no less informative than they would be if the Companies Acts applied to London Regional Transport or than in the former accounts of the Executive.").

Amendment No. 94; Page 20, line 35, at end insert ("In auditing any accounts the auditor shall by examination of the accounts or otherwise satisfy himself—

  1. (a) that the accounts are prepared in accordance with subsection (4) above and comply with the requirements of all other statutory provisions applicable to the accounts;
  2. (b)that proper practices have been observed in the compilation of the accounts; and
  3. (c) that London Regional Transport has made proper arrangements for securing economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources.").

Amendment No. 95; Page 20, line 35, at end insert—

("(5A) Without prejudice to the provisions of subsections (1) to (4) above, the appointed auditor or auditors appointed under subsection (5) above shall each year conduct an extended audit of London Regional Transport dealing with such matters as the Secretary of State shall from time to time determine but including—

  1. (i) compliance with their statutory duties under this Act and directions made by the Secretary of State;
  2. (ii) effectiveness of internal management and financial controls;
  3. (iii) methods of appraising capital investment, including priority assessment;
  4. (iv) control of contracts and tendering procedures;
  5. (v) periodic monitoring of expenditure;
  6. (vi) unit costs and other efficiency and productivity measures;
  7. (vii) forward financial and service planning;
  8. (viii) revenue and cash flow control;
  9. (ix) manpower control and planning;
  10. (x) internal audit arrangements;
  11. (xi) control of debtors, creditors, stocks, investments and borrowing.").

Amendment No. 96: Page 21, line 14, at end insert ("(and a copy of the report of the extended audit carried out under subsection (5A) above)").

Amendment No. 97: Page 21, line 19, at end insert—

("(9) At each audit by an auditor under this Part of this Act any persons interested may inspect the accounts to be audited and all books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts relating to them and make copies of all or any part of the accounts and those other documents subject only to protecting the commercial interests of London Regional Transport.

(10) At the request of a local government elector in Greater London, the auditor shall give the elector, or any representative of his, an opportunity to question the auditor about the accounts.

(11) Subject to subsection (12) below, any local government elector in the Greater London area, or any representative of his, may attend before the auditor and make objections on any matter relating to the activities of London Regional Transport which come within the auditor's remit to report.

(12) No objection may be made under subsection (11) above by or on behalf of a local government elector unless the auditor has previously received written notice of the proposed objection and of the grounds on which it is to be made.").

The purpose of all these amendments is to secure for London Regional Transport something very much more modest than democratic accountability. At least there should be a minimum level of accounting responsibility which is available in a comprehensible, standardised and public way to the ratepayers and taxpayers who inevitably will be making up any deficit of London Transport's operating and capital costs.

The clause as drafted at present is extremely vague and allows for the possibility of variation at will by the Secretary of State. The proposal in subsection (4) is that the accounts shall be produced: in accordance with … any requirements imposed by directions given by the Secretary of State, with the approval of the Treasury and after consultation with London Regional Transport". In other words, there is no prohibition on the Secretary of State changing, from year to year, the form in which he decides that the accounts should be produced. There is no prohibition on the Secretary of State interfering in an arbitrary way—I am sure that most Secretaries of State would not do so, but one can imagine Secretaries of State who would do so—with the accounts and financial arrangements of London Transport.

The purpose of the amendments is that the accounting practices should be as straightforward as possible and that they should be seen as fair and acceptable to all. Amendment No. 92 replaces the words that I have just read out by the words "normal accounting practices". Amendment No. 93 provides that the accounts should at least be as informative as they would have been if the Companies Acts had been applied to them. I am sure that that is something which will not meet with any resistance on the Government Benches. Even if I say that the accounts of the LTE, under the control of the GLC, meet the Companies Acts requirements, I do not think that it will deflect noble Lords on the opposite Benches from giving their support for the provisions of the Companies Acts.

Amendment No. 94 provides for the kind of certification by auditors which is provided for in the Government's own Local Government Finance Act 1982. That, again, I should have thought, would be readily acceptable to the Government. Amendments Nos. 95 and 96 both conform with the requirements of the Local Government Finance Act and also reflect the fact that London Regional Transport will be excluded from investigation by the Comptroller and Auditor General under the National Audit Act 1983.Of course there has been the possibility of investigation in the past through local government inspection. If London Regional Transport is taken away from all possibilities of external audit, then surely there ought to be provision in this legislation which secures the same ends.

Amendment No. 97 provides for the rights of inspection which occur also in the Local Government Finance Act, and, therefore, that amendment also ought to be acceptable to the Government. Indeed, the Minister of State said on 28th February that she would look into the question of rights of inspection as provided for under the Local Government Finance Act. I would be interested to know whether the Minister can say any more to us today about the results of her investigation.

I do not think that these amendments need be thought of in any way as party political amendments. They are not amendments which in any way take away from the rights or responsibilities of London Regional Transport or the rights and responsibilities of Government in appointing its directors or, indeed, in controlling its policies. What the amendments are providing is that those who are paying the bill shall have the right to see, as in all other comparable organisations, that the books are kept in a clear and comparable way and that they are available to members of the public. I beg to move.

Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone

We are talking about "normal accounting practices", and a great deal of play has been made of a statement in tonight's edition of the Standard saying that a profit of £36 million was made. I have now at last got an extract and I presume it to be from the statement by the Chairman of London Transport in the annual report. I am afraid that it does not refer to the matter in quite the same terms as those in which it was put to us from the other Benches. It says that London Transport shows a surplus after grants of nearly £36 million. That poses the question as to whether or not the grants were too high. I think that there is a great deal of difficulty as regards accounting practices in the statement that there has been a £36 million profit. I hope that we shall not hear any more about this profit. It seems to me that it will rapidly disappear under accounting practices.

Lord Trefgarne

I must say that I sympathise with the general thrust of Amendment No. 92. It describes in layman's language exactly what the Government seek to achieve; that is to say, the application, so far as possible, of normal commercial accounting practices to nationalised industry accounts. Regrettably, we cannot achieve that through the wording of Amendment No. 92. "Normal accounting practices" would mean, in effect, the application of the Companies Acts to LRT's accounts. But because LRT are not a company but a statutory corporation they are not bound by the Companies Act. Their absence of a normal capital structure is also a major obstacle to the application of the Companies Acts as they stand.

We overcome this difficulty, as with other nationalised industries, by providing for a formal accounting direction from the Secretary of State. A parallel power for the GLC to issue directions to London Transport exists in the 1969 Act for the same reason. This provides us with the flexibility to take account of the particular characteristics of the industry, such as the absence of a normal capital structure to which I have just referred. The direction will, as with the present GLC accounting direction, need to cover such matters as the application of current cost accounting and the principles of asset valuation. But these are technical matters relating to a technically necessary clause. I hope that I have said enough to convince the noble Lord that there is no point of disagreement of principle between him and me on this amendment. It is simply a question of getting the mechanics right.

I turn now to the other amendments to which the noble Lord spoke. Before turning to their substance, it may help your Lordships if I describe briefly the arrangements for auditing LRT's accounts in the future. The basic arrangements are set out in the earlier sections of this clause. Each year, LRTs auditors will carry out an audit of LRT's books. This will follow normal up-to-date accounting practices. The auditors will look at samples of LRT's records, check the accuracy of their documents, and, very importantly, investigate LRT's cost and cash control systems, particularly with the question of value for money in mind. I should like to emphasise these procedures to your Lordships. Modern accountancy is much more than just a matter of totting up columns of figures, and goes a long way to cover the type of points that the noble Lord has in mind.

Attention has also been drawn to the need to ensure that LRT makes available as much information as possible, so that Parliament may carry out as effective a scrutiny of LRT as did the GLC. The Government have a lot of sympathy with that point of view. It is in Ministers' own interests, since they are directly accountable to Parliament for LRT's grant, that they are fully informed about LRT's management practices.

I have to say, though, that we do not wish to be bound by the precise terms of the special efficiency audit described in these lengthy amendments. They follow closely those drawn up by the GLC. So, while we support the idea of greater amounts of information being available, we must reserve the right to choose to investigate different matters from those selected by the GLC, to choose different auditors, and to choose a different schedule for investigations if the annual cycle specified by the GLC means expensive and time-consuming analysis of issues such as investment appraisal techniques which will probably remain unchanged from year to year. In broad terms, there should be no reduction in the amount of information available, but it may well be different from what is available now and, we intend, more apt.

The noble Lord referred to an undertaking given by my honourable friend the Minister of State in the other place. Perhaps I can ascertain the status of her inquiries into that matter and write to the noble Lord.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Again, I am grateful to the Minister for those replies, which indicate a degree of sympathy and indicate that the Government's objections to the amendments which I have moved may be less serious than appear from the text of the Bill as it is before the Committee. If it is the case that the words "normal accounting practices" would impose undesirable restrictions on the accounts—in other words, that they should be accounts under the Companies Acts, and that this would cause difficulties where the treatment of capital is not the same as it is in a company (and I quite accept and understand that under Clause 1(3) of the Bill London Regional Transport will be a body corporate and not a company)—I accept that the phrase would be dangerous and I shall seek leave to withdraw Amendment No. 92.

However, the noble Lord was also good enough to speak to the subsequent amendments, and from what he said I could see no objection to the phrase in Amendment No. 93: no less informative than they would be if the Companies Acts applied to London Regional Transport". If the Government really mean that the accounts will be no less informative, what conceivable objection can there be to writing this undamaging phrase into the Bill? If there are to be minor disagreements on the wording of the lengthy amendments, as the Minister described them—Amendments Nos. 94, 95 and 97—let us hear what they are, because the wording is taken as much from the Local Government Finance Act 1982 as it is from the GLC's instructions to London Transport. Let us have those minor disagreements sorted out; let us alter our amendments accordingly, and let us have this explicit protection for the ratepayers and the taxpayers written into the legislation. I wonder whether the Minister has anything further to say before I beg leave to withdraw the amendment?

Lord Trefgarne

Perhaps I may just respond to one point made by the noble Lord. I am not quite sure whether the words that he proposes in Amendment No. 93, that the accounts should be "no less informative" than those required by the Companies Acts, are an appropriate form of words to include in an amendment which finds its way into a piece of legislation. I believe that it would be very difficult to find a legally acceptable interpretation of the words "no less informative". Clearly, there are pieces of information required by the Companies Acts, which companies include in their annual accounts and which auditors look at, which would be wholly inappropriate for a nationalised industry corporation, such as we are now creating through the medium of this legislation.

Therefore, I do not think that we could help the noble Lord over that amendment. But he and I are not very far apart on this matter. It is simply a question of how we achieve these laudable aims. On reflection, I hope he will agree that the arrangements which are in the Bill and the additional assurances that I have been able to give him will, indeed, meet the anxieties that he has expressed.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I shall read very carefully what the Minister has said. I must confess that I did not hear very much in the way of additional assurances, but on the basis that he and I agree that there are no substantial differences between us, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 93 to 97 not moved.]

Clause 23 agreed to.

Clause 24 [Exclusion of National Audit Act 1983]:

5.16 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 98: Page 21, line 20, leave out ("not")

The noble Lord said: After the previous discussions, it may seem rather obtuse of me to move this amendment, but I am concerned about information and would be very pleased if the Minister could give a description as to exactly where the exclusion of the National Audit Act 1983 applies and where it is better to use the system of accountancy that he has suggested, rather than to leave the matter with the Comptroller and Auditor General. I assure the noble Lord that I seek purely for information. I beg to move.

Lord Trefgarne

It may help your Lordships if, very briefly, I explain how the Government's policy of seeking greater accountability in all fields of public expenditure squares with the removal of LRT from the aegis of the Comptroller and Auditor General. There are three reasons for this. First, it is the Secretary of State—not LRT themselves—who is accountable to Parliament for LRT's finances. Comptroller and Auditor General investigation would blur this clear line of accountability. Secondly, scrutiny would inevitably draw Ministers into day-to-day management issues relating to LRT, in response to questions about LRT's detailed application of public funds.

Thirdly, while the Comptroller and Auditor General is rightly concerned with the propriety of public expenditure, I can see circumstances, as with other nationalised industries, where LRT's expenditure will have been incurred for commercial reasons. I am not at all sure that the Comptroller and Auditor General is the right body to look at this, or that the reason for such commercial expenditure should always be made public. Like other enterprises, LRT have their own commercial secrets and it is not right to force them to reveal these publicly, for to do so would inhibit their willingness to take legitimate commercial risks.

These are, of course, rather technical points, but I should like to emphasise to your Lordships that all nationalised industries are excluded from C and AG scrutiny on precisely the grounds that I have just described. There is no good reason to single out LRT as an exception to these general rules.

But the exclusion of LRT from the C and AG's purview does not mean a loss of accountability. Not only will LRT continue to be subject to scrutiny by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission—and in this context, I should like to remind your Lordships of their recent report on London Transport's bus maintenance systems—but the Bill introduces new opportunities for the exercise of parliamentary accountability. For example, LRT's accounts will be audited by an auditor appointed by the Secretary of State; and both their accounts and their annual report will be laid before Parliament. London Regional Transport will also be subject, through the Secretary of State, to investigation by parliamentary Select Committees. The annual debate on the ratepayer levy will be another opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny. And the conditions which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State can attach to the grant paid under Clause 12, and the financial targets that he can set, will provide further opportunities to ensure value for money in LRT policies. These grant conditions and financial targets will, of course, themselves be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

This is a formidable body of new measures for securing greater accountability. They arise because LRT are to be a nationalised industry. But the corollary to that nationalised industry status is that LRT are excluded from C and AG investigation. I hope that your Lordships will agree with me that in exchanging the C and AG for these new forms of accountability there should be no loss of parliamentary control, and that the noble Lord will agree not to press his amendment.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am most grateful for that explanation. It is an explanation that I want to consider with great care, but I am grateful for the care that the Minister has taken in giving it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 99 not moved.]

Clause 24 agreed to.

Clauses 25 and 26 agreed to.

Clause 27 [Supplementary provisions with respect to transfer schemes]:

[Amendment No. 100 not moved.]

Clause 27 agreed to.

Clause 28 [Provision of extra transport services and facilities]:

5.21 p.m.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 101: Page 24, line 33, at end insert— ("( ) the Greater London Council;").

The noble Lord said: It will be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 103 and 104: Amendment No. 103: Page 24, line 43, at end insert— ("( ) The councils of any county or any district in whose area there are public passenger transport services servicing destinations within Greater London shall enter into agreements of the kind to which subsection (1) relates on terms which provide for the financing of such services by the same councils."). Amendment No. 104: Page 25, line 1, after ("borough,") insert ("the Greater London Council").

Clause 28 deals with arrangements so that local authorities in Greater London and the district councils outside may secure additional transport services and facilities, in other words buying in additional services. It empowers LRT to make agreements with the authorities listed in the Bill for the provision of services which otherwise would not be available.

At the Committee stage in the other place the Bill was amended to include the council of any district, but this power is not extended to the GLC and the point of Amendments Nos. 101 and 104 is to ensure that the GLC should have this same power. It will be appreciated that the GLC will continue in being for some time after the Bill becomes law; it may continue for a long time after the Bill becomes law. Apart from giving it parity with the other local authorities, the GLC will remain the local traffic and planning authority for London. Moreover, noble Lords will have noticed that in many other parts of the Bill the GLC is included as the relevant authority. As there was originally an oversight, when the Bill was first brought to another place, that the district councils were not mentioned either, we have considered that it must be an oversight on this occasion that the GLC is not mentioned.

Amendment No. 103 is a little wider than that point, but it deals with the question of councils buying in extra services. The non-metropolitan counties outside Greater London—I live in one—under the Transport Act 1978 already have power to enter into agreements with transport undertakings which operate services in their areas. I understand that that position is unaffected by the provisions of the Bill.

As I have mentioned already, Clause 28 enables local authorities in Greater London, not the GLC, and the district councils outside Greater London, to enter into arrangements with LRT for services which LRT could otherwise provide. The amendment refers to: public passenger transport services servicing destinations within Greater London"— although they are just outside. I live in that sort of area. The Central London line, which is outside Greater London, services destinations in Central London. Buses similarly come through my district council and service destinations in Greater London. It would appear that without this amendment the choice would lie between ratepayers in the GLC area subsidising services outside Greater London (which some people may think to be unfair) or the service closing down outside the GLC area. This amendment is to cover that point. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

As the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has reminded the Committee, this group of amendments deals essentially with two points. The first relates to the powers of the Greater London Council to provide financial support for public passenger transport services and facilities. Amendments Nos. 101 and 104 would add the GLC to the list of local authorities set out in Clause 28 who will have powers to give financial support for services and facilities provided by LRT.

I was under the impression—perhaps the noble Lord would correct me if I am wrong—that we were also to discuss in this group Amendment No. 192 to the schedule.

Lord Underhill

I beg your Lordships' pardon. Amendment No. 192 is consequential.

Amendment No. 192: Page 103, leave out lines 26 to 28.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

Indeed, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that confirmation. Amendment No. 192 is consequential and it reinstates the GLC's powers to give capital grants for the provision, improvement or development of public passenger transport services and facilities generally. The Bill proposes to repeal these powers, which derive from Section 56 of the Transport Act 1968.

I should explain that the Bill, in repealing Part I of the 1969 Act, will effectively remove from the GLC its public transport functions. In this respect there was no oversight. In particular, of course, the GLC will no longer control London Transport. We do not believe that it would be sensible or appropriate for it to have residual public transport functions, which is what these amendments would achieve. That is why we are repealing the powers in the 1968 Act to grant-aid capital expenditure on public transport; and also why we have not included these in Clause 28.

I should also emphasise that Clause 28 is in any event concerned only with extra services and facilities, which local authorities (as defined in that clause to which the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, drew attention) may wish to have provided in order to meet special local needs. In that respect it is appropriate for London boroughs to be given the powers. Clause 53 also provides an equivalent power in respect of services and facilities provided by British Rail. It would be unnecessary in addition to give the powers to the GLC, even if we thought it was otherwise desirable.

Amendment No. 103 is, I believe, misconceived. The nature of Clause 28 is, as I say, concerned with additional services and facilities, what one might call the marginal services which are not general throughout the area. It provides for voluntary agreements between London Regional Transport and the local authorities for the provision of those special services and facilities which would not be normally available. It would enable a local authority, for instance, to pay for a late night service or a more frequent service on a particular local route than would normally be justified by the level of patronage. It will not be a question of LRT seeking additional funding from the local authorities for services which LRT would normally have been expected to provide themselves. It is therefore quite inappropriate for such agreements to be made compulsory, as the amendment proposes.

The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, was kind enough to say, when we were discussing the earlier parts of the Bill on Monday, that he had received the Notes on Clauses. He will know from reading those notes that the county councils around Greater London already have similar powers to those in Clause 28 by virtue of the Transport Act 1978. Here we are not particularly breaking new ground.

Clause 28 will provide a useful if modest additional power for local authorities to secure the provision of additional services or facilities to meet local circumstances. But for the reasons which I have described (I regret at some length) we do not think it would be appropriate for the GLC to be included. I hope on the basis of that rather full explanation that the noble Lord will agree to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Underhill

I am grateful to the Minister for explaining the position in some detail. I note what he says about Amendment No. 103 being misconceived and that my amendment uses the word "shall" which will make the matter compulsory. He also said that it is not breaking any new ground. I will look carefully at what he has said on Amendment No. 103 and see whether or not there is any cause for us to come back at Report stage. On the other amendments, the emphasis was laid on the fact that the Bill completely removes powers of transport from the GLC. Speaking at this Dispatch Box immediately following the noble Lord the Minister, it is difficult to think of a case; but there is always the exception. We are giving in the Bill, under Clause 28, powers to the London boroughs to buy extra services under Clause 28.

It is the London boroughs who get the powers. I must ask, why not the GLC? Is there a logical answer? Or is it because there is this political objection to the whole question of the GLC having anything to do with transport and therefore we do not give them even the most minor powers. It is for that reason that we wanted to put in "the Greater London Council". As I have mentioned, the name of the GLC is included in many other parts of the Bill. Therefore, in other clauses of the Bill, the GLC is considered to be a competent body to consider, at least, certain matters affecting transport. We wished to have the GLC considered on that ground apart from the fact that it still remains a local traffic and planning authority. I will read carefully what the Minister has said. It may be that we will want to come back on this. If it is merely a question of a critical viewpoint about the GLC, then we shall definitely come back at Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 102:

[Printed earlier col. 1157.]

The noble Earl said: The noble Lord the Minister in speaking to the previous amendment told us about Clause 28. I shall not therefore bore your Lordships with repeating the words except to add that, during the Committee stage, we had a discussion on some of the special services available for disabled people: for example, the ten London boroughs who operate Dial-a-Ride services. These services are financed by the GLC. The object of this amendment is to make it clear that Clause 28 refers to such services for the disabled. It is true that in Clause 34(3)(b) and referring to the London Regional Transport annual report, it says that it must, include a statement of any action taken during that year by London Regional Transport and any subsidiaries of theirs in relation to. or for the purpose of securing, provision for disabled persons". But all it has to do is to report on any action taken. But it does not have to take any action. Therefore by accepting this amendment we hope that it will be clear that the new organisation has not to say merely: "We have not done anything about the disabled", but have actually to do something. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

I am grateful to the noble Earl for moving this amendment. As he rightly said, we have already talked on the general theme and, I too will avoid that particular point. The amendment seeks to make clear that public transport services for the disabled can be provided under the new powers in Clause 28 which concern the purchase of additional services from LRT by the local authorities. My first inclination was to accept this amendment. However, I am advised that the amendment is technically unnecessary because the clause as it stands already covers implicitly special services for disabled people.

I know that that probably would not satisfy the movers of the amendment; but perhaps I might go on to say that the amendment would actually cast doubt on the scope of references to public transport elsewhere in the Bill and that we wish the definition throughout to embrace the possibility of special services for disabled people wherever it appears in the Bill. We are, as you know, hoping to bring forward our own amendment on Report in lieu of Amendment No. 9. I believe that that will help to clarify the situation and I should be grateful if the noble Lord would withdraw this amendment until we have done so.

Earl Attlee

I thank the noble Earl for what he has said, and in view of this I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 103 and 104 not moved.]

Clause 28 agreed to.

Clause 29 [Annual business plans]:

5.35 p.m.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 105: Page 25, line 8, leave out from ("proposals") to end of line 16 and insert ("for the next three years (hereinafter referred to in this section as "the relevant period") with respect to—

  1. (a) the general level of transport services and fcilities to be provided by them or, by agreement with them, by other persons;
  2. 1545
  3. (b) the general level and structure of the fares to be charged for those services, and the general level of charges to be made for those facilities, so far as they are to be charged, made or otherwise determined by the Executive; and
  4. (c) the extent to which the plan is in compliance with the statements prepared and published under section 7(1) of this Act.
(2) The proposals shall be such as to enable the Executive to discharge their duty under section 2 above in the relevant period; and the plan shall contain particulars of the Executive's financial position and their financial prospects for that period together with an estimate of what would be their annual revenue and expenditure if the proposals were implemented.").

The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee if, in moving Amendment No. 105, I speak to Amendments Nos. 106, 107 and 108.

Amendment No. 106: Page 25, line 19, leave out from ("plan") to end of line 20.

Amendment No. 107: Page 25, line 20, at end insert—

("( ) The plan shall be accompanied by estimates of—

  1. (a) the cost to the Executive of providing, or arranging the provisions of, the services and facilities described in the proposals;
  2. (b) the level of demand for those services and facilities; and
  3. (c) the benefits to potential users of those services and facilities.

( ) Where the Secretary of State gives London Regional Transport any guidance under subsection (3) above he shall cause any such advice to be published in such a manner as appears to him to be appropriate for informing persons appearing to him to be likely to be concerned.").

Amendment No. 108: After Clause 29, insert the following new Clause—

("Supplementary provision as to plans.

  1. .—(1) London Regional Transport shall, on preparation of a plan under section 29(1) above, consult with the local authorities concerned and with persons or bodies appearing to them to be representative of industrial and commercial ratepayers in Greater London on the contents of that plan for a period of not less than three months.
  2. (2) The Secretary of State shall in each year approve with or without modification the plan submitted to them in that year under section 29 above and, in the light of the provisions of the plan as so approved, determine the amount of the grants under section 12 of this Act. if any, to be made by them to London Regional Transport in the first year of the relevant period.
  3. (3) For the purposes of this section the Secretary of State may require the Executive to supply him with—
    1. (a) alternative proposals based on different levels of services, facilities, fares or other charges, or on the assumption that the Secretary of State will in the relevant period make revenue grants of such amounts as the Secretary of State may specify;
    2. (b) estimates of the extent to which particular benefits, specified by the Secretary of State, would accrue to the public at large, or to any section of the public so specified, as a result of the making of any such grants as are mentioned in subsection (2) above; and
    3. (c) such other information as the Secretary of State may specify including information as to the cost of providing, or arranging the provision by other provisions by other persons of, services and facilities additional to those proposed in the plan.
  4. (4) In determining whether to approve a plan in a form which would involve the making by the Secretary of State of revenue grants in the relevant period the Secretary of State shall have particular regard to—
    1. (a) the matters referred to in paragraphs (a) to (c) of section 29(4) above;
    2. (b) the response of the local authorities to consultation carried out under subsection (1) above;
    3. (c) the need to maintain a proper balance between the interests of ratepayers providing funds under section 13 of this Act and the interests of transport users.
  5. (5) Where a plan is approved by the Secretary of State under subsection (2) above the Secretary of State shall inform London Regional Transport in writing—
    1. (a) of his approval and of any modifications made by him to the plan; and
    2. (b) the grants he intends to make under section 13 of this Act for the following year.
  6. (6) For the purposes of subsection (1) above, the local authorities concerned are—
    1. (a) the Greater London Council;
    2. (b) the councils of the London boroughs;
    3. (c) the Common Council; and
    4. (d) the council of any county or district any part of whose area appears to London Regional Transport to be affected to a significant degree by the plans mentioned in that subsection.").

May I make an apology and explanation right at the outset? Amendment No. 108, which starts: After Clause 29 … Insert the following new Clause

should read: Insert the following new Clause in place of the existing Clause 30". Noble Lords will have read the proposed Amendment No. 108 and we see that quite a few of the points there are taken word for word from the existing Clause 30.

This is a very important set of amendments, and it follows the discussion that we had very late on Monday night (which those noble Lords who stayed up will remember) on the statement to be prepared under Clause 7. In the Committee stage in the other place it was seen that the statement under Clause 7 would be in the nature of a strategy statement rather than a regular business plan. That was mentioned by the noble Lord the Minister in this House. The Government agreed at that stage to bring forward an amendment on Report to provide for an annual business plan to supplement the strategic statement. That is what Clause 29 (as set out in the Bill) is. It was brought forward at a subsequent stage in the other place. In explaining this provision for an annual report—not in the original Bill—the Minister of State argued: There is no time for a useful or meaningful process of consultation with the public on the annual business cycle".

The Minister went on to explain this cycle on 5th April, at col. 1138, and I will not read it. There he set out the whole of the cycle of preparation for this annual business report.

The Minister claimed that it is an extensive and thorough programme of consultation. But when I read it, I see that "consultation" is mentioned only once—and that is with the LRT on the strategy statement. The main criticisms of the provisions in the Bill are: one, it is extremely vague as to the content of the annual business plan and does not even give the period which the plan will cover; two, there is no link in the clause with either LRT strategy statements or their annual budgets; three, there is no provision for any consultation. Clause 30 just refers to informing the local authorities and the passengers' committee—and "informing" is different from consultation. Four, the role that the Secretary of State will have in the prepara-tion in the plan will not be clear, LRT must have regard to his guidance in the preparation of the plan but there is no requirement for him to publish his guidance; the Secretary of State does not approve the plan but clearly a critical factor in any such plan would be the intentions of the Secretary of State with regard to grant. The Secretary of State therefore has the power significantly to influence the plan without his role in doing this being made clear publicly.

Lastly, there is no requirement of LRT in the preparation of the plan to have regard to the interests of the ratepayers. I could go into some detail as to the advantages and points in the amendment. For brevity, I confine myself to these points. The amendments would be consistent with the planning processes envisaged under the 1983 Transport Act and we have mentioned those planning requirements under the 1983 Act time and time again. The difference is that the Secretary of State replaces the role of the GLC under the 1983 Act.

The amendment would allow a statutory minimum of three months' consultation with the boroughs and industry and commerce. It would establish a clear distinction between the role of the Secretary of State and that of LRT in the preparation of the plan. It would establish a proper framework for the approval of grants under Clause 12. It would set out clearly the contents of the plan, with a link to statements prepared under Clause 7, which was discussed on Monday night. In regard to the amendment moved previously, the Government were somewhat unconvincing in the other place. We believe that these amendments are practical and reasonable.

Frankly, I do not expect the Government to say, "Yes, we will accept the whole of these long amendments". But they cover very important points. At least we should like the Government to say that we have covered some very important points which deal with the annual business plans. We should also like them to say that at least they will look at the amendments very carefully and see how many parts of them are constructive and can be brought forward at the next stage.

Lord Tordoff

I should like to do two things. First of all, I want to support the amendments which the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has brought forward. I think we talked quite a lot about the planning process the other night, and I do not propose again to refer to the arguments we had at that time, but there is another matter on which I should like guidance. I was told, when there was a change in the status of Amendment No. 108, that in fact it was going to be moved as Amendment No. 116A and taken after No. 116 in our list. I should like guidance on that. Having said that, I give my full support to these amendments.

Lord Underhill

I was not told anything about the latter point. On my list it was proposed that Amendments Nos. 105 to 108 inclusive be taken, and it was I who drew attention to the fact that I was really replacing Clause 30 and not introducing a new clause. But if the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, was given that information, it never reached me.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I am sorry that I cannot help the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. I hope we are not going to get in a mix-up over this; I suspect that we shall not as we move along. Let me say straight away to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill and, indeed, to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, that this is a very important clause and I recognise immediately the points which the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has made. Basically, I think his amendments seek to follow the wording of certainly part of the Transport Act 1983 which dealt with the annual plan.

In the interests of brevity I do not wish to repeat what I said on Second Reading about the number of accounting points, the plans and so on, under which LRT will have to operate; nor do I wish to repeat the fairly full discussions we had on Clause 7 on Monday of this week. But I should like to give as full an answer as I can to the points which have so far been raised. The short answer to this is that we are dealing in this Bill with a totally different legislative framework. It is just not a case, as the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, suggested, of the Secretary of State for Transport replacing the Greater London Council. Frankly, if we recall the main purpose of the 1983 Act. we will know that it was to provide a system under which some control could be exercised by the Secretary of State over the level of subsidies made by the GLC and the Metropolitan Counties to both London Transport and the PTEs. There were three main parties to the arrangements in that Act: first, the Secretary of State; then the local authorities; and then the transport executives. In fact, if we look carefully at the noble Lord's amendments, we can see that the attempt to superimpose the requirements of the earlier Act on this Bill really does not work in the context of a nationalised industry which in itself is directly-accountable to the Secretary of State.

As I said in the debates on Clause 7, another important requirement of the 1983 Act was to ensure that the Secretary of State would be able to assess the needs for subsidy of London Transport and the PTEs on a common basis because he was, under that Act, required to set protected expenditure limits in respect of all the executives. In order to do this it was necessary for the Act to provide that the information was available in a common format. That is one of the main reasons why the 1983 Act sets out the requirements regarding the contents of the plan in such detail. Such requirements are simply not necessary in the Bill before us.

Again, we have to remind ourselves that we are now talking of a nationalised industry, and the reason I say that the requirements are not suitable is simply this: the requirements of the annual business plans in Clause 29 are far from being the only requirements which LRT will face in respect of its planning regime. As a nationalised industry it will be required to prepare and submit to the Government all the normal planning documents associated with a nationalised industry's investment and financing revenue. This in itself will include the corporate plan. The corporate plans of nationalised industries are not public documents—nor is it appropriate that they should be—but it will be these kinds of documents, such as the annual grant claim from LRT, which will be the main evidence before the Secretary of State when he comes to set the annual level of subsidy.

That does not mean to say that I would argue that the normal planning arrangements between a nationalised industry and the Government will be sufficient in the case of LRT, because throughout our discussions on this Bill we have said that LRT is really a different kind of company in the functions it has to perform. Nevertheless, it is a nationalised industry in the narrower term.

The Bill in fact provides for far more than just a nationalised industry. Unlike legislation relating to any other nationalised industry, the Bill lays down in two separate clauses, (Clauses 7 and 29) statutory requirements for the production of strategy statements and annual business plans. If one takes together all the requirements which I outlined earlier relating to planning and consultation, it becomes quite evident that the amendments tabled to this clause, even if they were technically correct, would, in fact, be superfluous.

For example, the amendments require the annual plan to give an account of benefits expected to potential users of LRT services. We used a similar formula in the 1983 Act, but I think I have described why we put it in that Act. It implied that the use of some kind of cost benefit technique in evaluating levels of subsidies was necessary. Of course, I would not argue that such techniques would not be appro-priate for LRT; they may very well be. London Transport themselves have developed the use of these techniques quite substantially, but they are of far more use in comparing the effects of subsidy across two or more different operators than in shedding light on the absolute value of subsidy.

There is also the need to make sure that any information statutorily required of London Regional Transport should be capable of being applied to the London services of British Rail. In that respect the development of cross-benefit techniques is very much less advanced. For those reasons I do not think it would be right to require an account of that to be included within LRT.

I have taken some time—and for that I apologise to the Committee—to outline exactly why we do not think these amendments would help the purport of the Bill, and I would ask the noble Lord, having heard these arguments, to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Underhill

My immediate reaction is one of disappointment, because the more one hears Ministers talking about the effect of transferring London Transport to LRT as a nationalised industry, the more one has fears about accountability and fears that all the information which people need in order to criticise London Transport will not be available.

Let us just see what we are suggesting. It is said that the requirements are not necessary. Clause 29 states that the annual business plan will be, a plan containing their proposals with respect to the conduct of their undertaking". In Amendment No. 105 we suggest that the plan ought to include, the general level of transport services and facilities to be provided by them or, by agreement with them … the general level and structure of the fares to be charged … and the general level of charges to be made for those facilities… and… the extent to which the plan is in compliance with the statements prepared and published under section 7(1) of this Act". We believe that the plan should be accompanied by estimates for the cost of arranging the provision of services or facilities, the level of demand for those services and facilities and the benefits to the potential users of those services. Those are exactly what the 1983 Act demanded of London Transport. In other words, those items that we demanded in Parliament in the 1983 Act we are not going to ask, request or instruct to be placed in the plan for LRT. We are removing far more accountability than many noble Lords may have imagined.

When we come to the existing Clause 30, we see that it refers to information and publicity with respect to plans as to services and fares. Information will be obtained from the GLC—this is what the Bill says—together with, … the councils of the London boroughs … the Common Council; and … the council of any county or district any part of whose area appears to London Regional Transport to be affected". They will get information on the general level of the transport services and the general level and structure of the plan. In the amendment which is proposed to take the place of Clause 30 we put down slightly more extensively the type of information required. I cannot see why the Government cannot at least say to us: "There is some common sense in this; we do not believe that Clauses 29 and 30 are completely satisfactory in the light of the arguments and we will have a look at it." However, the Government are being adamant. They say they are thoroughly satisfied with Clause 29, even though it does not cover some of the points covered in the 1983 Act which it was intended that the GLC should carry out.

I repeat what has been said by a number of people, including myself, on a number of earlier occasions. We spent hours and hours arguing over the 1983 Act as to why we should do it in the way that we did. There were brilliant planning procedures. All this is tossed away—tossed away on the excuse that it is a nationalised industry. My belief in nationalisation is such that I think that all possible information should be available.

I do not have any intention of asking the Committee to divide on these amendments. They were brought forward in order to show the differences between the Government's proposals and what we believe is a proper planning arrangement. I shall read very carefully what the Minister has said, but I have not the slightest doubt that we shall later bring forward something which will improve the Government's plans under Clauses 29 and 30.

5.56 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I did not know—not that it was very important at that particular stage—that the noble Lord was proposing to withdraw this series of amendments. He says that he recalls the hours we spent on the 1983 Act. I thought I made it clear—and if I did not, I should like to try again—that we really cannot compare the 1983 Act with this present Bill. The 1983 Act was designed for a very particular and specific purpose. This Bill is designed for a quite different purpose, and so those hours that we may have spent in 1983 do not necessarily relate to what we are doing here.

The noble Lord says that the only excuse is that this is going to be a nationalised industry. That is not an excuse: it is a reason; it is a far more basic reason. We discussed all that on Second Reading. It may well be that, as I suggested at the time, there is an ideological difference between us. If that is so, so be it; and I think that is what has underlined the noble Lord's feelings in moving these amendments.

Let me say just one thing. The amendment requires the annual plan to cover a three-year period—again following the 1983 Act. What particular need is there to set that requirement in concrete in the Bill? It may or may not be right to have a three-year period for the plan. On the other hand, I believe it may be very much better for it to concentrate, as would be done normally in the annual business plan, on the one year in hand. It can also—and it almost undoubtedly will—set down further information, perhaps over one, two, three or four years. That is what the plan covers; and it is also a record of achievement as against the target which will be set in the strategy statement. I believe it is far better to leave that to be worked out in practice rather than to specify it in legislation which, frankly, would be so inflexible.

The noble Lord talked about accountability. He wants everything laid on the table. Let me remind the Committee that we have the Clause 7 strategy statement. It has to be laid within one year of the appointed day and thereafter within three years. Under the clause that we are discussing, there is the annual business plan. In Clause 30 there is the statutory requirement to inform local authorities and the passengers' committee each year about their plans for fares and services. In Clause 34 there is the requirement for an annual report to be laid before Parliament. Under Clause 30 there is the annual order concerning the ratepayer levy.

Clause 43 requires LRT to consult relevant local authorities when it wishes significantly to alter the existing pattern of bus services. Really, if they do all that, one could hardly suggest that there is any secrecy or that anybody would be withholding information. I hope that in his further consideration of these amendments the noble Lord will bear those points very much in mind.

Lord Underhill

I had not intended to say anything more, but the noble Lord the Minister has goaded me to do so. There is nothing in these amendments to suggest ideological differences. They are to improve the managerial competence of LRT, so that it has the information that it ought to have from the bodies specified, and in the particular form it will need. There is nothing ideological about that, unless good management is ideological—and we want the same good management as the Secretary of State.

The Minister has said that this is a different question altogether and so the details are not really relevant here. The difference is that the Bill makes quite clear that LRT will operate on principles determined from time to time by the Secretary of State. We want to ensure that all the information is obtained, that all the information is dealt with and that all the information is given in this business plan.

I was hoping, as I said at the outset, that the Government would say, "You are trying to be helpful. We will see what is good in this." But the Government seem to be blind and they believe that everything in this Bill is perfect. So far they have accepted one very small amendment. We shall look at what the Minister has said, but I am certain that there are some good points in this amendment which we can bring forward on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 106 and 107 not moved.]

Clause 29 agreed to.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Wootton of Abinger)

I shall not call Amendment No. 108 now, because it arises later in a different version as so-called manuscript Amendment No. 116A.

Clause 30 [Information and publicity with respect to plans as to services and fares]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 109: Page 25, line 22, leave out ("inform") and insert ("consult").

The noble Lord said: With this amendment I shall speak to Amendment No. 110. Amendment No. 110: Page 25, line 23, leave out ("of) and insert ("about"). No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, will be speaking to Amendment No. 110, which has been selected to be included in this group of amendments. The purpose of this amendment is nothing like so ambitious as Amendment No. 108. It asks that there be some consideration given to allowing local authorities and user groups to be consulted in advance of the publication of the plans for London Regional Transport, Subsection (1) will then read: It shall be the duty of London Regional Transport in each year to consult the local authorities concerned and the Passengers' Committee of their current plans".

The importance of this is partly emphasised by the fact that the Minister, while saying that LRT would be a nationalised industry, indicated that it would be a special type of nationalised industry. The difference between transport in a city area such as London, and telephones, electricity or gas is very obvious. There is no absolute and direct representation, except through Parliament, of the consumers of those other services, whereas London Regional Transport will have direct representation of consumers through the local authorities and also through the committees which will look after the interests of travellers.

It seems reasonable and prudent to suggest that, instead of merely informing the representative bodies which will be most concerned, there should be consultation. As I have said repeatedly, local authorities will be paying quite heavily for services and there should be some discussion about the commitments of London Regional Transport for the year ahead.

I do not think it would be difficult to do this. A timetable could be worked out which would not delay London Regional Transport's plans for the following year. Amendment No. 113 merely stated that LRT will, take into consideration any representations received during the consultations provided for by this subsection. There is nothing binding on LRT. We are merely asking that, before LRT finalise their operational plans for the following year, they will consult with the boroughs, the representatives and the users' committee. I beg to move.

Lord Tordoff

I rise to speak, since we are speaking at the same time to Amendment No. 110 which is consequential on No. 109.I am not sure how we have got into this Cox and Box situation, with the consequential amendment being moved from here. Nevertheless, I must say that we support Amendment No. 109. It seems to me that a number of these amendments to which we are coming, and the subsequent ones on the Passengers' Committee, relate more to the tone and the attitude which is to be taken between the participants. We expressed our worries throughout the last part of the Committee stage, and to a certain extent today, partly about the lack of accountability and the fact that accountability to the 84 London Members of Parliament seems hardly adequate. As I said earlier, even if they all voted together in a block in another place, they would be overwhelmed by the Government's majority there.

We have not made very much progress on that, but it seems to me that we could make progress here. The attitude of London Regional Transport to the local authorities and to the Passengers' Committee should be one of greater dialogue than is put into the Bill, and not just for the sake of statutory consultation, as the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, suggested earlier—and I take his point on that. There can be far too many of these consultative arrangements which waste everybody's time and get nowhere. But there must be somewhere in this system some sensible level of exchange of information and ideas, and knowledge of what each other is about, for no other reason than to make more efficient and more acceptable to the users' needs the activities of London Regional Transport. It seems to me that this amendment goes some way towards achieving that end, and it has my support.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

We return to matters of consultation. This series of amendments would require consultation rather than the provision of information, and would require LRT to take into consideration any representations received from the local authorities or the Passengers' Committee. I am sorry, but we do not regard these amendments as workable. We do not see it as practicable for LRT to have to consult the local authorities and the Passengers' Committee each year about the matters dealt with in Clause 30. Once again, noble Lords opposite are seeking to establish what I might call a whole new industry of consultation, and I believe that if they were successful LRT would never emerge to get on with the job of running the buses and the trains.

I cannot again remind your Lordships of what the Bill provides in regard to consultation right through the four or five relevant clauses, which I outlined only a few minutes ago. The purpose of this clause is to keep the local authorities and the Passengers' Committee informed on an annual basis of LRT's current intentions for the general level of transport services and the general level and structure of fares. This will provide them with an opportunity of making any representations to LRT that they may wish on any matters which concern them. I believe that one could look to LRT and, indeed, to the local authorities and the Passengers' Committee, to make common sense arrangements rather than have something written into the statute. I believe that LRT wish to do this. I believe that their tone and attitude, to pick up the words used by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, will be right. The local authorities and the Passengers' Committee will have ample opportunity to consult, quite apart from the occasions when the Bill requires that there should be consultation.

We are concerned with providing certain information on an annual basis to keep the local authorities and the Passengers' Committee informed. We do not believe that it is appropriate to go further and to extend this clause by changing the requirement to one of consultation. There is no shortage, we believe, of opportunities for representations to be made to LRT. We believe that to impose another duty to consult would lay another burden on an already very tight but very full consultation schedule. On that basis, I would ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Somers

Will not this clause give London Regional Transport totalitarian control over the entire operation? The borough councils know most intimately what their needs are. The amendment does not require the consent of the boroughs to be obtained before any changes are made; it merely suggests that there should be consultation. I should have thought that a suitable rapport between the boroughs and LRT is very much to be desired.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am most grateful for the eminently sensible intervention of the noble Lord on the Cross-Benches. I am disappointed by the Minister's reply. I thought that this was a modest request. We know that there will in any case be consultation. However, as the amendments suggest, there will be to-ing and fro-ing behind the scenes between the officials of the local authority and the officials of the nationalised industries. There will be a great deal of discussion, and it would be sensible to require that there should be consultation, with no strings attached. London Regional Transport would listen to the representations made to them and would either throw them out or include them.

Lord Tordoff

May I stress that the clause refers to the Passengers' Committee. There will surely have to be consultation with the Passengers' Committee. As I have already said, this will be a very important body—the matrix of the Government's set-up. It will be a key point in the relationship with the travelling public. At Second Reading I said that I was worried about the Passengers' Committee becoming a toothless watchdog. The attitude which is being adopted towards this amendment seems to me to confirm that point of view. Even if the duty to consult local authorities is thought to be too onerous, surely the Passengers' Committee, by its very nature, ought to be consulted, not just informed.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. He is absolutely correct. The credibility of the Passengers' Committee would be very greatly enhanced if they had the right to be informed before a change is made and if they also had the right to be informed about the immediate plans of London Regional Transport. The people who will sit on this committee will be conscientious. If they are merely given information after decisions have been taken, I doubt very much whether they will wish to continue to sit on the committee. The result will be that the people who ought to serve on this committee will not be prepared to do so. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, though I shall probably move it again in a slightly different form at a later stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 110 not moved.]

6.14 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No.111: Page 25, line 24, after ("facilities") insert (", service frequencies and routes")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 111. It will perhaps be for the convenience of the Committee if, while moving this amendment, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 112 and 114.

Amendment No. 112: page 25, line 28, after ("structure") insert ("and scales")

Amendment No. 114: page 25, line 30, at end insert— (" ( ) It shall be the duty of London Regional Transport before making any major variations of routes or withdrawals of public passenger transport services to give not less than three months notice of their proposals to local authorities whose areas are affected by the variations and withdrawals proposed and to take into consideration any representations received from those authorities within 28 days of their submission by the local authorities concerned.")

The aim of the amendment is to require London Regional Transport to give more information to local authorities and to the Passengers' Committee about the services provided. London Regional Transport could curtail or cease to operate services which a local authority and the Passengers' Committee may feel are essential. They could include services to hospitals, homes, shopping centres, sports and leisure complexes. It may not be apparent from a purely accounting point of view that these services are important to a particular district or area. The accounting methods of London Regional Transport will also be very important, but LRT should give advance notice to the local authority and the Passengers' Committee of any important changes which they are likely to make.

Advance information would help local authorities to plan extra services which they feel they may require and which they could provide under Clause 28. It would be of overall benefit if local authorities and the Passengers' Committee could be given full information about transport provision.

The amendment which deals with the timetable may, I accept, be too explicit. If the Minister were willing to accept it in principle, I should be prepared to consider changes to the wording of the amendment. I hope that the Minister will see the purpose behind the amendments. They contain no ideological point. They are merely an attempt to keep management even closer in touch with both the local authorities and the Passengers' Committee than is already provided for in the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I have listened with great interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, has said about these three amendments. I hope it will not come as too much of a shock to him when I say that I have some sympathy with the spirit of Amendment No. 111. This amendment would include service frequencies and routes among the matters about which LRT will be required to inform local authorities and the Passengers' Committee.

An extension of the clause would reflect the extension of Clause 8 which was made at Report stage in another place. That clause requires LRT to exercise their control over their subsidiaries and their powers to buy in services from private operators in such a way that they co-ordinate the fares, service levels and charges for the services which are their responsibility. Clause 8 deliberately seeks co-ordination at a general level, and Clause 30 operates in a very similar way. On closer examination it may be that the term "general level of transport services", which appears in Clause 30(1)(a), will be sufficient to cover the concept of service frequencies which the noble Lord seeks to include. The concept of providing information about routes appears to be absent from the clause at present. If I may, I should like to take this amendment away and consider what we could do to meet the spirit of what it is that the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, is asking for—and then return with something at Report stage.

Having been very nice to the noble Lord on that count, and to take these amendments in strict numerical order, I fear that I am considerably less sympathetic towards Amendment No. 112. We do not believe that the addition of a reference to fare scales is absolutely necessary. Nor do we believe that it would be particularly helpful. The clause already refers to: the general level and structure of the fares", and I would regard that term as ensuring that local authorities and the Passengers' Committee will receive a sufficient general indication of LRT's plans as to fares. I do not believe that anything more is needed here.

On a good note, Amendment No. 114—and I am grateful to the noble Lord for putting these three amendments together—raises a slightly different and more complicated point. I can understand why it has been tabled and, as with Amendment No. 111,I can see merit here. The difficulty is that the amendment, as it derives from the Greater London Council's 1971 direction to London Transport, fits rather awkwardly alongside the proposals already in the Bill when we are considering rail closures, variations in bus routes, and so on. Frankly, it would have very little relevance to Underground services, for example. Variations of route cannot apply on the Underground—while in relation to railway closures, the Bill applies statutory detailed procedure that is set out in the Acts of both 1962 and 1968.

If Amendment No. 114 is meant to be relevant only to bus services, we would need to take account of what is already provided for in Clause 43, to which I have referred your Lordships on a number of occasions. Local authorities must already be consulted, under the Bill, on all variations of routes. I agree that the require-ments proposed in the amendment are not all provided for in the Bill. If I may, I will give an undertaking to the noble Lord to take Amendment No. 114 away, to see what we can do to meet the spirit of his argument, and to bring something back for discussion on Report.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am most grateful to the Minister for his consideration and I look forward to having his observations when we reach Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 112 to 114 not moved.]

Lord Tordoff moved Amendment No. 115: Page 25, line 40, leave out from ("of) to end of line 43 and insert ("such plans to be published in a manner appropriate for informing persons likely to be concerned.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment seeks to remove most of subsection (3) so that it would read London Regional Transport shall cause particulars of such plans to be published in a manner appropriate for informing persons likely to be concerned". My basic quarrel with the existing subsection comes in two parts. First, the clause as it now stands just leaves London Regional Transport publishing information in a manner which it sees fit. That again seems to me to be a little unbalanced. It may not be what is really required for various people to do their jobs. The point is as simple as that.

The amendment would also substitute the word "plans", which is referred to earlier in the clause, for the phrase: the general level and structure of the fares". In the light of what has been said on the earlier amendments, it seems to me that that might be a rather better way of wording the earlier part of this subsection. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

I must apologise to your Lordships because I believe that we are a little out of order. I should have called Amendment No. 116 before, and that involves the question of a manuscript amendment. Will the noble Lord allow the Committee to proceed in that way?

Lord Tordoff

If that is the way we have to proceed, but I must say that this is news to me. I am surprised that we should have to take Amendment No. 116 and Amendment No. 116A before Amendment No. 115.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

I am only following the procedure as it is laid down. May I call Amendment No. 116?

Lord Tordoff


Lord Trefgarne

We should continue with Amendment No. 115.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

We should finish with Amendment No. 115 first, the Government say.

Lord Trefgarne

No—the Clerk says.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

Amendment No. 115 has been moved.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, for explaining the purport of his amendment. As he said, it would require London Regional Transport to publish particulars of their current plans in respect of services and charges. But London Regional Transport are already required to publish an annual business plan under Clause 29, and to publish a strategy statement at least every three years under Clause 7. Both will deal with matters relating to fares and charges, along with other matters. I do not believe it is necessary to impose a further requirement to publish plans in yet another form, and it would add a considerably heavy and additional burden to LRT.

Basically, the amendment raises the question of the difference in wording as to the manner in which publication is to be carried out. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State tried to be helpful when an identical amendment was debated in another place. He said then that he could not see any great difference between the words, but he agreed that he would take a second look. He took a second look. Having done so, I am afraid that he did not believe—and neither do we, having considered the matter further—that a change of words on these lines would achieve anything useful.

It is self-evident that the object of publication is to bring the matter to the attention of those to whom it would be of the greatest interest—otherwise there would be no point to it. LRT will be required to cause particulars of the general level and structure of fares to be published, in such manner as they think fit". That is a common enough phrase in statute and we believe that it does not require elaboration. Bearing in mind that which occurred in another place and the further explanation I have given, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, will not consider it necessary to press this amendment.

Lord Tordoff

I am not prepared to go to the wall for this change of words. Again, it is more a question of style and terminology than anything else. As the noble Lord, Lord Somers, said, there seems to be a danger of London Regional Transport appearing to be somewhat dictatorial and I thought that there was an opportunity here for LRT to show that the information it provides will be designed for the people who will have to use it and not just for LRT's own purposes. But the Government are obviously adamant on this point, and with that in mind I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Tordoff moved Amendment No. 116: Page 25, line 43, at end insert— (" ( ) London Regional Transport shall furnish the Passengers' Committee with such other information as the Committee may reasonably require for the proper discharge if its functions under section 40(4) below.").

The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak also to Amendment No. 138 at this stage.

Amendment No. 138: Clause 40, page 34, line 27, at end insert— (" ( ) London Regional Transport, the Railways Board and the Secretary of State shall each furnish the Passengers' Committee with such information as the Committee may reasonably require for the proper discharge of its functions under subsection (4) above.").

There is a specific need for London Regional Transport to furnish information to the Passengers' Committee. This goes back to something that I was saying before about the role of the Passengers' Committee when I mentioned the amount of weight that is being placed on that committee. Because of various matters such as the removal of redress to the courts and the general centralisation of power, there is a very substantial workload being placed on the Passengers' Committee—which it certainly cannot carry out without proper information; specifically, those items under subsection (1)(b). These need to be catered for. Additional information might also be required from time to time, and it seems to us that the committee should be able to require LRT to furnish information in order to carry out its duties under the relevant provision.

Amendment No. 138 is designed to ensure that other bodies give information to the Passengers' Committee in order for it to discharge its functions. Here again, I hope that the Government can accept these amendments to indicate their belief that the Passengers' Committee should be made into a useful body. I beg to move.

6.31 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, has on a couple of occasions used words relating to tone and attitude. I hope he will not take it amiss if I say to him that I was rather surprised to see that this amendment had been tabled. Both of the amendments are the same, in substance. The first gives the London Regional Passengers' Committee a general right to information which would come to it from LRT. In the second amendment the information would come from LRT, British Rail, and the Secretary of State.

Amendment No. 138 is almost identical to an amendment which was discussed in another place. As my honourable friend the Minister of State said on that occasion, there is no disagreement on this side that the Passengers' Committee should have access to the information that it reasonably needs to do its job. But that alone is not a sufficient case for legislating. We need to ask ourselves whether the absence of a statutory duty in this respect has given rise to any problems in practice; whether the inclusion of such a duty on these lines would be the best course of action; and, lastly, even if such a course were desirable, whether this is the time and place to deal with the matter.

I have to say that, in answer to the first question, we are not aware of any practical difficulties at present. No mention was made, for instance, of any problems of this kind in the annual report of the Central Transport Consultative Committee for 1982, or in the report of the London Transport Passengers' Committee in the same year. The CTCC report even commented on the helpfulness of the British Railways Board in providing information.

The new Passengers' Committee will be the result of a merger of rail and London transport consumer bodies. It will be much larger and we certainly expect it to have a very much higher profile. The new committee will have a very substantial remit and considerable influence. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is, of course, responsible for setting out the terms of reference for consumer bodies. Nevertheless, Clause 40 sets out the general arrangement for the new body. I believe that we can be satisfied that the committee itself can be relied upon to exert all the pressures that are necessary for it to get the kind of information that it wants in order to do its job.

If we want to expand that further, I think that I would need to draw the Committee's attention to the Government's report in 1982, The Nationalised Industry Consumer Councils—A Strategy for Reform. It was accepted in that report that the industries must co-operate in providing information—even at additional cost to themselves in time and trouble—if the consumer bodies are to do their job effectively. But attempting to spell out statutory rights to information is not, we believe, the answer. It is surely for the consumer bodies and the industries to agree together, on a practical level, what can and cannot be supplied within the framework we have laid down.

The Committee will know that the Government have undertaken, following the report to which I have already referred, to bring forward legislation on a more uniform legal basis for nationalised industry consumer bodies. If any changes were needed, I think your Lordships will agree that it would be better for them to be considered in that context rather than in the narrower context of this Bill dealing primarily with London only. Certainly it remains our view that these amendments should not be written into the present Bill. Therefore, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, whether he can agree with me and withdraw his amendment.

Lord Underhill

Before the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, replies, may I say a few words on Amendment No. 138. Despite what the Minister said, surely there is an advantage in putting in these words. He does not dislike the principle; so why not put it in the Bill? It is what is in the Bill that matters. Time and again all sides of the Committee have emphasised that it is the words of a Bill that matter—not good intentions, because good intentions can change. In Amendment No. 138 the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, is asking for a statutory requirement that the Passengers' Committee shall be supplied with information that it reasonably considers necessary.

I do not have the details before me, but I can recall many items of legislation in the consideration of which I have taken part where the words "information as may be reasonably required", or words to that effect, have been mentioned. I recall in particular information that the Secretary of State has required from local authorities and that he required in the Transport Bill 1983, which I come back to once again. Therefore, why cannot we put in the words? If we want the bodies to supply the Passengers' Committee with information, why not say so?

Lord Gallacher

I intervene on this matter on the basis that I had personal experience of serving on this committee both before and after the transfer of buses and the Tube to the GLC. I can say with certainty that the committee, when it had full responsibility for buses, tubes and the suburban railways, had a very difficult assignment, not least because the officials of London Transport, as distinct from the officials of British Rail, were a particularly difficult group of officers to deal with.

With British Rail the Transport Users' Committee, if it had a reasonable case, could, with due persistence, get somewhere but with London Transport I must say, with regret, that the difficulties in persuading those gentlemen to improve the lot of the bus and Underground users were enormous. The Minister is holding out hopes for a higher profile, but I have looked at the specification in the Bill for the committee and it does not seem to me that it in any way differs fundamentally from the committee I knew many years ago. Undoubtedly, apart from anything else, the sheer volume of work which the committee will have to undertake is considerable because, in the matter of railways alone, the London Transport Passengers' Committee does not deal with one region of British Rail as do most other transport users' committees throughout the country. It has to deal with four separate regions. This is because it is a London committee and London suburban railways are structured in that particular way.

Further, there is not even the concession that the chairman of the committee might possibly have a seat on the board. There are precedents for doing so in the gas and electricity industries. Although one goes along with the Minister in saying that we should wait until the position is regularised for consultative machinery generally, the fact is that the Government are taking an unconscionably long time to bring about these changes. In the meantime, this particular body will have seen the light of day. Therefore, in view of past experience and the importance of the workload of this committee, there is much to be said for the amendment. I hope that the Minister, even if he is not persuaded by what has been said so far this evening, will give further consideration to it on Report, with a view to making some improvement in strengthening the powers of the committee.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I am most grateful, as I am sure will be the whole Committee, to the noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, for his intervention, with his very particular and extensive knowledge of consumer bodies. I take very much to heart what he has had to say about the Government taking an unconscionable length of time with regard to the review of consumer bodies, particularly since, as he may or may not know, I was attached to the Department of Trade and Industry only a week ago and therefore will have dealings with it on a rather more intimate basis than hitherto. I shall certainly take that point back with me.

Our intentions are that the passengers' committee (which I have described as being very much larger than the merged committees to which I referred) will be of great importance and have a high profile. It is a body from whom we are expecting an awful lot. We also need to remember that its chief function will be to articulate travellers' views. LRT and BR will not be answerable to the passengers' committee in the way that they are to the Secretary of State. The relationship here is quite different. It is not really a body of auditors reviewing LRT's management and planning: it is there to give the views and advice of the travelling public. Notwithstanding what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, since I last spoke, I am not persuaded that a statutory right to information would be helpful. I believe that it may very well deflect it from its main task of articulating the travellers' views.

Lord Tordoff

I am naturally disappointed by the Government's continuing attitude on this aspect. I am most grateful to noble Lords on other Benches for their interventions. It seems to me that the statutory provision is already in the Bill for London Regional Transport to cause particulars, and so on, to be published. It says that it should be in such a manner as it thinks fit. All I am asking is that it should be in such a manner as to be of use to the user of the information. That is the only difference between us. It is not a question as to whether or not something should be made statutory by the Bill.

Again, I think one just has to go away and think about it, as the Government are clearly not prepared to do anything further at the moment, and hope that they will have some sort of conversion on the road to Damascus before we get to the Report stage, and that preferably they will come back with an amendment of their own. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 116A not moved.]

Clause 30 agreed to.

Clause 31 [Duty of Railways Board to consult London Regional Transport as to fares and services in London]:

Lord Tordoff moved Amendment No. 117: Page 26, line 2, after ("Transport") insert (", the local authorities concerned and the Passengers' Committee").

The noble Lord said: If it is for the convenience of the Committee, perhaps we may take this amendment in conjunction with Amendment No. 118, which is in the names of Lord Underhill and Lord Carmichael.

Amendment No. 118: Page 26, line 7, at end insert— ("and London Regional Transport shall make arrangements to include the opinions of local authorities for areas in Greater London in the matters upon which they are consulted under this section.").

This amendment relates to consultation with the Railways Board. The Government do not like integration, but they like consultation, as we have heard. The clause as it stands deals with consultation by the Railways Board with LRT as to the general level of fares and the general provisions to be made for each journey. What we are asking here is that included in that consultation with the Railways Board should be the local authorities concerned and the passengers' committee. I beg to move.

Lord Underhill

The noble Lord. Lord Tordoff, said that he was speaking also to Amendment No. 118, to which my name is attached. The point of the amendment is quite simple. Clause 31 places the duty on the Railways Board to consult LRT as to the general level of fares and also the general provision of services on rail journeys in London. At present the GLC is consulted on these matters. It will be appreciated that fare levels and services can affect the level of local authority support that may be required or even the buying of additional services. The local authorities represent the persons who use the transport services—both residential and business users.

All the amendment is saying is that when LRT is consulted by BR about this it should be in a position to include in its representations the opinion of the local authorities affected. We continually talk about consultation with local authorities. I do not want to spoil the chance of getting the amendment carried, but sometimes we feel that the local authorities are regarded as the worst ogres that there can possibly be. This proposal is put forward in a sensible way. BR should have before it not just the views of LRT but also the views that LRT has from the local authorities.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, is so often very persuasive. Having listened carefully to both the noble Lords speaking to the two amendments, I have to say that they both miss the main purpose of Clause 31. This is not to secure the widest possible consultation on British Rail fares and service provision within Greater London, but to ensure sensible co-operation between British Rail and LRT on fares and services. The requirement in this clause will serve to underpin the co-operation between LRT and British Rail which is required under Clause 2. The equivalent provision in the 1969 Act requires the Railways Board to consult the GLC about the same matters. This may have been appropriate while the GLC has a strategic role in relation to London's public transport, but it will no longer be appropriate in the new system which we propose.

It would be wholly impracticable to involve 33 London boroughs in consultation on British Rail fares; and it would in any case run quite counter to the principle that it is primarily for the management of LRT and British Rail to reach their decisions on fares and services on the basis of commercial considerations, having regard to their general duties. In particular it would contradict the duty on them to co-operate with each other in the interests of overall efficiency.

Further, it would be quite wrong to set up special arrangements in this Bill between British Rail and the passengers' committee, as Amendment No. 117 proposes. If the principle of consulation with the consumer bodies on these matters is acceptable, it should apply equally for the Transport Users' Consultative Committees in other parts of the country. It has already been made clear in another place that the Government accept that there is a role for the consumer bodies in relation to the structure and relativities of fares and that the Government intend to deal with the matter if and when a suitable legislative opportunity arises. We already have an undertaking from the chairman of British Rail that he will consult on fares and service levels with the London Regional Transport Passengers' Committee.

On service provision, British Rail already has arrangements for consulting relevant local authorities throughout the country, including Greater London, about passenger operations and about proposals for changes in service routes and frequency. It often consults transport users' consultative groups and commuter groups. These bodies all have direct access to British Rail and account is taken of their comments.

Amendment No. 117 seeks to impose on British Rail a statutory annual consultation, which is likely to be both impracticable and rather less effective than the existing non-statutory arrangements. Amendment No. 118 would require LRT—a major transport operator—virtually to act as a post-box for the local authorities. I believe that both amendments would confound the purpose of the clause, which, as 1 have said, is to ensure co-operation on these matters. They would also undermine the direct access to British Rail which the local authorities already have. I would ask both noble Lords to bear those words in mind and to withdraw their respective amendments.

Lord Tordoff

We are making our customary progress again, I am afraid. I find it very difficult when the noble Lord says. "Yes, the Government are looking at the whole question of nationalised industries and therefore we cannot put it into this particular Bill". This seems to be an argument that arises fairly regularly.

If it is put into this Bill and has to be changed at a later date, so modified as to fit in with the rest of the nationalised industries, it seems to me that we have lost nothing along the way. We hear that the chairman of British Rail is anxious to consult with people. If so, why cannot it go into the Bill? I accept that there may well be things connected with the amendment which are technically unsound, and more on that ground than any other I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 118 not moved.]

Clause 32 [Further powers of Secretary of State]:

6.50 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 119: Page 26, line 12, after first ("Transport") insert ("and with the local authorities specified in section 7(8) of this Act")

The noble Lord said: For the convenience of the Committee, this amendment could perhaps be taken with Amendments Nos. 120 and 121. Amendment No. 120: page 26, line 24, at end insert ("after consultation with the local authorities specified in section 7(8) of this Act.") Amendment No. 121: page 26, line 38. after first ("Transport") insert ("and with the local authorities specified in section 7(8) of this Act")

Amendment No. 119 is not just the usual amendment upon which we have been striving to persuade the Government for some time now, which is adding local authorities to the list of people who should be consulted. What we are asking in this amendment is that the Secretary of State should be obliged to consult local authorities before issuing directions to London Regional Transport in relation to certain things; for instance, their functions and the functions of their subsidiaries.

I am really seeking advice or an explanation from the Minister on this. I will be very brief. The Secretary of State can give any direction he likes under Clause 32(6). All he has to do is to direct London Regional Transport to carry on the proper discharge of their duty. But under Clause 2 the duties of the London Regional Transport are denned and approved by the Secretary of State. So there seems to be no restraint. There seems to be a circular distribution of duties and rights all going back to the Secretary of State, who of course ultimately has only the constraint of Parliament. A great deal could happen before this transpires. So the Secretary of State gives instructions to London Regional Transport, who have to carry out the duties as approved by him. I would really be pleased if the Minister could give me an explanation.

For instance, London Regional Transport could be directed by the Secretary of State to discontinue service in favour of private companies. I would find it difficult not to read this into the Bill as it stands at present. He could give them instructions to adjust fares or services; to make part of their operation profitable before it was sold off, or make it unprofitable so that it was ultimately killed off.

There is a certain worry about this particular clause, which I think these amendments would perhaps help to remedy. Perhaps the Minister could give me some explanation. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

Yes, I would be happy to try to help the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael. First, perhaps I could say that we are talking here of powers which are very well precedented. They exist in one form or another in all the nationalised industry legislation, most notably in the Transport Act 1962 in relation to the transport boards which were set up in that Act: British Rail; London Transport; the British Transport Docks Board and the British Waterways Board.

The significance of clauses such as this is that they provide one of the main ways of defining in statute the nature of the relationship between the Secretary of State and the industries and of his powers over them. For example, Clause 32, gives the Secretary of State power to give general directions to London Regional Transport as to the exercise and performance of their functions. It is not easy to give examples of instances where such a general power might be needed. Indeed, I cannot discover, nor were any of those whom I consulted able to discover, any instance where such a general power has been used. But that does not mean that there is no point in the subsection. It makes quite clear that the Secretary of State has authority over London Regional Transport, subject to his account-ability to Parliament for his actions. So no one can argue in a very general sense, that this subsection would be used all the time.

If it did become necessary to use such a power explicitly, the idea that the Secretary of State would have to engage in a series of consultations with all the local authorities inside London and a good many outside London, as this amendment would require, is perhaps rather unforseeable.

Similar remarks apply to the other amendments. For example, Clause 32(3) says that LRT, in formulating policies and plans for the general conduct of their undertaking, shall act on lines settled from time to time with the approval of the Secretary of State. The amendment would require that they could not engage in any planning activity, or indeed in any activity at all, without at first having consulted the local authorities. This is obviously quite unworkable.

Finally, Amendment No. 121 would make it necessary for the Secretary of State to consult the local authorities before directing LRT, for example, to dispose of any of their assets. Again I do not suppose the power is likely to be used often, but in this instance it might be used if the Secretary of State wished LRT to dispose of some surplus land. One cannot imagine the Secretary of State consulting all the local authorities on an issue of this kind. That is the explanation of the clause, which I think meets most of the points the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, raised in his moving of the original amendments.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

Yes, I am most grateful to the Minister. I will look at it carefully, but I think he has answered all the points I made. I will certainly be a wiser and better-informed man once I have read his words. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 120 and 121 not moved.]

Clause 32 agreed to.

Clause 33 agreed to.

Clause 34 [Annual report]:

Lord Teviot moved Amendment No. 122: Page 28, line 32, at end insert— ("( ) include a statement of any action taken by London Regional Transport or any subsidiaries of theirs in relation to consultation and co-ordination with the Railways Board in relation to the passenger transport services and facilities provided by, or by subsidiaries of, those authorities and to the fares and charges made for those services and facilities;")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 122. The purpose of this amendment is to strengthen what I see as the principal objective of this Bill; that is, to bring the improved, more flexible, more responsible services to the passenger. I am sure the public are looking for and will receive more cost effective public transport as a result of this Bill. What I want to be sure of is that they also get an improved service by sensible integration of fares between London Transport and British Rail and the development of joint services through modest but innovative investment schemes. I am sure it is in the Secretary of State's mind that developments such as these should flow from bringing London Regional Transport and British Railways under the same political and financial direction.

My noble friend has already expressed himself in favour of the recent move both operators have made towards co-ordinated timetables, improved ticketing and easier interchanges, and, as he says, perhaps other systems. But it would do much to remove any scepticism on this point if each year in their annual report London Regional Transport were required to indicate what progress they had made within the previous year in integrating their fares and service pattern with British Rail. I believe the public would, for instance, gladly welcome the extension of the travel card for rail services throughout the capital, especially south of the river, which I mentioned particularly on Second Reading, where few can benefit from the Underground. Equally, they would be encouraged by the sort of imaginative schemes that I am sure operators could bring forward to improve the interchanges in places and through running the two networks.

The success of this crucially important measure for London depends on the extent to which the public's experience of travel improves. Ensuring that London Transport and British Rail work creatively towards this together under the Secretary of State's direction is one of the keys to securing the public's approval. My amendment would focus the energies of all concerned on this aspect of the legislation and help to ensure that the public were not disappointed. I commend the amendment to your Lordships, and beg to move.

Lord Underhill

I am given to understand that Amendments Nos. 123 and 124 are being considered along with Amendment No. 122.

Amendment No. 123: Page 29, line 3, at end insert— ("( ) include a copy of the statement and report of the accounts required by section 23 of this Act, and a copy of the accounts of the companies established under sections 3 and 4 of this Act; and ( ) be no less informative than reports prepared pursuant to section 15(1) of the 1969 Act the former London Transport Executive.").

Amendment No. 124: Page 29, line 5, at end insert— ("( ) London Regional Transport shall cause every report to which this section relates to be published and made available to all local authorities whose areas are affected and to such other persons appearing to them to be concerned.").

We can, I think, support the general content of the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, but I should like to refer to Amendment No. 123 which also relates to the annual report. Subsection (3) of Clause 34 lists in four paragraphs items that should, in the Government's view, be included in the annual report. Amendment No. 123 asks that the accounts of LRT's subsidiaries should be included in the annual report and, secondly, that the information to be included should be not less informative than that currently provided to ratepayers by the present London Transport Executive. The Secretary of State has given an assurance that the annual report of LRT will be no less informative. We are endeavouring in Amendment No. 123 to make sure that this is laid down in statutory form. Again, I must emphasise that we are not necessarily mistrusting this Minister. But this is for all time. Therefore we should have things laid down as statutory requirements. We should not simply rely on statements that this will be done.

I turn now to Amendment No. 124. Subsection (4) requires that the Secretary of State shall lay a copy of every annual report before each House of Parliament. We are endeavouring to widen that requirement. We suggest that LRT shall cause every report to be published and be made available to local authorities in the areas affected. We are not asking for consultation, this time. We are simply saying that the annual report should be made available to the local authorities. It has to be remembered that local authorities are paying two-thirds of the cost of LRT.

With all the goodwill in the world, and I have the greatest admiration for them, Members of another place will not be able to discuss in great detail all the matters affecting every London borough and all the district councils outside London as regards the services and the annual report of LRT. We are therefore proposing this amendment. Reference has been made to the 1976 Select Committee report on nationalised industries. I understand that it contained a request for more information from British Rail. I gather, however, that this has not materialised in the form that the Select Committee wanted. We want to avoid anything like this happening in the case of LRT. I ask the Committee to support Amendment No. 123 which asks for the accounts of subsidiaries to be included in the annual report, and also Amendment No. 124 proposing that the annual report should be made available to local authorities in the areas affected.

Lord Tordoff

In the few minutes that we have not got to spare, may I support Amendment No. 122. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, is perhaps a little optimistic about the effect of the amendment, but it is certainly something that should be done as a spur towards co-operation and consultation between the various bodies. One would prefer rather more positive steps to be included in the Bill, but so far we have failed to achieve that end. There is no doubt that what the noble Lord proposes will act as a mirror that can be held up to London Regional Transport, and that should show its shortcomings in this area. So far as the other two amendments are concerned, anything in the Bill that increases the amount of information at a time when many of us are campaigning for greater freedom of information is a good thing. I therefore support those amendments as well.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Teviot for bringing forward the amendment, and equally grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for agreeing to take Amendments Nos. 123 and 124 with my noble friend's amendment. It is helpful to talk about them together because there is a common theme.

As regards Amendment No. 122, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State attaches great importance to the work of the liaison arrangements which he will be establishing as soon as LRT is operational. Once the present institutional barriers to full co-operation and co-ordination are removed, with LRT and British Rail under the same policy and financial control, we shall indeed expect to see progress towards service and fares co-ordination.

My noble friend Lord Teviot spoke at Second Reading about "tightening up" in this particular area. I can assure him that it is not strictly necessary to make the amendment in order to secure his objective, because LRT will already be required by the more general wording of Clause 34(1), to report on their co-operation and co-ordination with British Rail. But I accept that a specific reference in this clause would underline the importance which all noble Lords have attached to this co-operation and co-ordination. In view of what all three noble Lords have said, I wonder whether I can offer to my noble friend to take his amendment away and perhaps re-lay it in a form more acceptable to the Government draftsman before Report Stage.

Turning to Amendment No. 123, noble Lords have stressed the importance of maintaining the present flow of information about London Transport. As Ministers have assured Members in another place, the Government will maintain that flow at its present broad levels. Indeed, in requiring the publication of statements under Clause 7 and annual business plans under Clause 29 that we have discussed, there will be an increase. I am happy to repeat that assurance.

But the Government would not wish to be committed to keeping up that flow of information in exactly its present form. Indicators other than those currently published may be appropriate; other places may be better for publishing the results of efficiency audits; people other than the present auditors may be better placed to carry out the type of audit which we might be looking for. It would be foolish to freeze the present arrangements for ever in statute. I am sure that those of us with some direct experience of such matters will be the first to acknowledge that ideas on account-ability and efficiency are continually evolving. We would not wish unduly to limit our successors. Having said that, I cannot predict what those might be; for now, I can say categorically that I would be most surprised if for the foreseeable future LRT's annual reports did not continue to look very much as London Transport's do today.

Amendment No. 124 is concerned again with publication and dissemination of the annual report. I can assure noble Lords that it is not necessary to provide specifically for LRT's annual reports to be published. This is an automatic consequence of their being presented to Parliament. The procedure for nationalised industry reports is that they are sent to the responsible Secretary of State, normally with a covering letter from the chairman, and immediately they are laid before Parliament. At that time, they became public property and they are published within a day or two of their being presented to Parliament. LRT will follow this standard practice. They will have the report printed and put on sale to the public. Anyone interested will be able to buy copies in the normal way.

I would like finally to give noble Lords an assurance about the publication of the accounts. Clause 23(8) requires that a copy of every statement of accounts prepared under that clause, and a copy of any auditor's report on those accounts, must be included in LRT's annual report as submitted to the Secretary of State and presented, as I have described, to Parliament. The accounts covered are, first, those of LRT itself and, second, consolidated accounts of LRT and any one or more of their subsidiaries as directed by the Secretary of State. I hope that I have said enough on this group of three amendments to persuade the noble Lord to withdraw Amendments Nos. 123 and 124.

Lord Teviot

I should like to thank the noble Lords, Lord Underhill and Lord Tordoff, for supporting my amendment. I am extremely grateful to the Minister for giving some encouragement. I am sure my amendment has some defects and that what he can produce will be much more effective. In the light of that, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 122.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments No. 123 and 124 not moved.]

Clause 34 agreed to.

Clause 35 agreed to.

Lord Skelmersdale

This seems an appropriate time for the break. It has been agreed that we will not return to this Bill before 8 o'clock. We have a release until 8 o'clock. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.