HL Deb 17 May 1984 vol 451 cc1583-600

House again in Committee.

Clause 36 [Provision for additional functions of London Regional Transport as to railway services]:

Lord Tordoff moved Amendment No. 125: Page 29, line 30, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Lord said: I will be very brief on this. The purpose of this amendment is just to see what the Government's response is in terms of the intentions of the Secretary of State in putting this clause into effect. As it reads at the moment it says: The Secretary of State may by order provide that Sections 37 and 38 of this Act shall apply". I am moving that it should read that he "shall by order provide". It seems extremely open-ended as it stands at the moment.

I understand we are also intended to speak to Amendment No. 126, which has a similar sort of purpose, I believe (although no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, will explain) by indicating that it should be operative within one year of the appointed date. Amendment No. 126:Page 29, line 36, at end insert— ("( ) An order under subsection (1) above shall be made within one year of the appointed day and shall specify an operative date within one year of its making.").

As far as I am concerned, this is largely just to find out from the Government what their intentions are. As the Bill is at present worded, it could hang on the statute book for ever and not actually be applied. I beg to move.

Lord Underhill

If I may follow the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and be as brief as he, the purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the discussions with British Rail with a view to getting some—I use this word—"integration" will not just be drifting from year to year, and we are suggesting that we should have the order within a year of the appointed date and its operative date a year from the date that the order is made. The purpose of the amendment is really the same as that of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, to ascertain what the Government's real intentions are other than talking about them.

Lord Trefgarne

The Government have repeatedly stressed the importance which we attach to the need for close co-operation between LRT and British Rail. Part I of the Bill brings LRT and British Rail within the same policy and financial framework. Part II of the Bill contains reserve powers to establish an even closer formal relationship between the two, if that is proved necessary.

The effect of the amendments would be to force the Secretary of State to implement Part II of the Bill. The two proposed amendments would require us to bring the reserve powers into effect within two years of passing the Bill, but that would give no real opportunity to test the new framework established by Part I of the Bill within which LRT and British Rail will operate, backed up by the statutory powers and duties in Clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill, or to test the liaison arrangements which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will be setting up.

I very much share my right honourable friend's hope that the reserve powers in Part II of the Bill will not, in fact, be necessary. During the course of the various debates we have had on this Bill, many examples have been given of instances where greater co-operation between the main transport operators in London is needed. Reference has been made to the modest success achieved so far in improving the degree of integration between bus, Underground and rail services in London, some through ticketing, some through joint marketing and publicity. As I said in my Second Reading speech, it is clear that much more needs to be done to ease the movement of travellers between the networks, to improve information about the various services provided, and to secure the co-ordination of those services and avoid wasteful duplication.

The question is whether the improvements which we all recognise are needed can best be achieved by making LRT the controller of British Rail in London. I am happy that the reserve powers are in the Bill in case experience shows that institutional change is necessary to achieve one of our main aims: better co-ordination between transport operators and less waste. But I believe that we are more likely to achieve our objectives through liaisor once LRT is established.

The Government are confident that British Rail and LRT will want to work together to improve services for London, and I hope that the powers and duties in the Bill for LRT and British Rail to co-operate, together with the high level non-statutory liaison arrangements which the Secretary of State will be setting up will be sufficient in themselves to ensure the improvements that are possible and necessary. The reserve powers are there if we should perchance need them. I hope in the light of these considerations that both noble Lords will see fit to withdraw their amendments.

Lord Tordoff

I thank the noble Lord the Minister for that reply. It is useful to have on the record further reassurance of the attitude of the Government to the integration of rail and LRT services. I think the noble Lord may be a little sanguine in view of past history, although more recent history has been somewhat more encouraging, but I suspect that is because of the intervention of the GLC as much as anything.

In many ways, I do not like to see Secretaries of State intervening to force reserve powers. That is why I was a little suspicious of my own amendment, philosophically as it were, but I did want to test exactly what the Government's intentions were once again. I think that reassurance has been given by the noble Lord the Minister, in which case I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 126 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 127 not moved.]

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 127A: Page 30, line 9, at end insert ("the accounting year of London Regional Transport current at the expiry of).

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the amendment standing in my name.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Trefgarne moved Amendment No. 127B: Page 30, line 11, leave out ("previously") and insert ("before the end of that period of eight years it is").

The noble Lord said: I owe my noble friend and the Committee an apology. I should have moved the last amendment, and I apologise for not doing so. However, this amendment including the one which has preceded it and Amendments Nos. 127C, 131 A, 131B, 189A, 189B, are indeed minor drafting amendments dealing with a single point. Amendment No. 127C: Page 30, line 15, after ("period") insert ("of eight years"). Amendment No. 131A: Page 33, line 41, after ("period") insert ("of eight years"). Amendment No. 131B: Page 33, line 42, leave out from ("subsection") to ("when") in line 44 and insert ("on the date"). Amendment No. 189A: Page 61, line 15, leave out from ("If) to ("the") in line 16 and insert ("an order has been made under section 36(1) of this Act specifying a day for the application of sections 37 and 38 of this Act and either—

  1. (a) the period of eight years mentioned in subsection (5) of section 36 has expired without the order having been confirmed by order made under that subsection; or
  2. (b) before the expiry of that period a further order has been made under subsection (1) of that section for the purpose of revoking the order;").
Amendment No. 189B: Page 61, line 20, leave out ("that Part") and insert ("Part II of this Act by virtue of section 39(b) of this Act"). They are intended to ensure that the Bill makes workable provision for dealing with the situation where the powers in Part II of the Bill either lapse under Clause 36(5) at the end of an eight-year period because they have not been confirmed—that is, made permanent—or where they are brought into force but revoked before that eight-year period comes to an end.

I hope with this short explanation your Lordships will see fit to accept this amendment as well. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Trefgarne moved Amendment No. 127C:

[Printed earlier.]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 36, agreed to.

Clause 37 agreed to.

Clause 38 [Application and modification of Part I]:

[Amendments Nos. 128, 129 and 130 not moved.]

8.10 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 131: Page 33, line 17, at end insert— ("( ) London Regional Transport shall have the power to enter into and carry out agreements with the councils of any county or any district in whose area there are public passenger services serving destinations within Greater London on terms which provide for the financing of such services by the same councils.").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment, on which I hope the Minister will be able to reassure me, is to allow London Regional Transport to collect money from outside London for the services they provide. It really means that LRT can recoup their costs of all the benefits and services from travellers from outside London in respect of that part of their journey within the boundaries of the LRT.

If British Rail services are financed through Clause 13, London ratepayers may be contributing towards the cost of out-county services. It may be difficult to give a quick and simple answer but this is something which will be raised more and more as the integration of LTR and British Rail goes on apace, particularly if there are outside contractors and other bodies coming along to provide a service. There will be the feeling that London ratepayers alone should not be paying for services that are coming from a good distance outside London, but that they should have some recompense from those people outside London who nevertheless use the services. I beg to move.

Lord Trefgarne

It may just be that this amendment reflects a misunderstanding on the part of the noble Lord. The amendment is drafted in very wide terms to enable LRT to make agreements with any county or district council in whose area are services serving Greater London and where the councils provide financial support for those services. Local authorities outside Greater London already have powers to buy extra services or to top up services from British Rail under Section 1 of the Transport Act 1968. These powers will continue to be available.

Clause 53 provides for agreements under which London borough councils and the Common Council of the City of London may secure from British Rail services and facilities in addition to those which the board would normally provide; that is, the services and facilities at the margin to meet local needs. Clause 28 provides a similar power for such agreements to be entered into with LRT.

There is no reason in principle for these topping-up arrangements to be affected if Part II of the Bill is brought into operation, and there is no reason why LRT, rather than British Rail, should attract the additional funding provided by local authorities in respect of rail services. I hope that this reassurance will enable the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I thank the Minister for that explanation, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 38 agreed to.

Clause 39 [Expiry of Part II]:

Lord Trefgarne

I beg to move Amendment No. 131 A.

[Printed earlier.]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Trefgarne

I beg to move Amendment No. 131B.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 39, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 40 [The London Regional Passengers' Committee]: [Amendment No. 132 not moved.]

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 133: Page 34, line 9, leave out from ("appoint") to end of subsection (2) and insert ("of whom not less than two-thirds in proportion to the total number of such members shall be from among persons nominated by the Greater London Council and by bodies appearing to the Secretary of State to represent local authorities in Greater London. ( ) Subject to subsection (2) above, the Secretary of State shall appoint members of the Committee after consultation with such bodies (not being local authorities or bodies representing them) as appear to him to be representative of the interests of persons likely to be significantly concerned with matters within the competence of the Committee.").

The noble Lord said: Perhaps it will be convenient if I speak also to Amendment No. 136. Amendment No. 136: Page 34, line 12, at end insert— (" ( ) The Secretary of State shall appoint membership of the Committee to include one or more representatives from each of the following to represent the interests of women, ethnic minorities, disabled people and elderly people.").

Clause 40 relates, as I think your Lordships are aware, to the London Regional Passengers' Committee. The Bill stipulates that the membership shall not exceed 30 members. There is no requirement at all there that there shall be or there need be members of local authorities on the passengers' committee. There is no provision for local authority membership on the LRT and there is none for the passengers' committee, as the Bill stands.

I am sure we would not want people to consider themselves as direct members of local authorities, but I would suggest that there ought to be something in this clause which indicates that there should be a proportion. It may be that the figure I have here, of not less than two-thirds of the current number to be persons nominated, is not perfect; but the principle that there should be persons who are representative of local authorities on this committee is surely very important. They are the persons who are paying two-thirds of the cost of LRT. and they will know the problems of their own people and of the transport users. Amendment No. 136 says: The Secretary of State shall appoint membership … to include one or more representatives from each of the following to represent the interests of women, ethnic minorities, disabled people and elderly people.". That may seem excessive, but when one recalls that the Bill makes it quite definite that the membership of the committee shall not exceed 30, we are not asking for many; and if the committee is really going to do the job everybody wants it to do, then it is appropriate that there should be persons representing these interests on the committee. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

As this is the first amendment in this particular clause, perhaps I might speak for just a little longer than I might otherwise do. These amendments seek to write into the Bill obligations on my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who will have primary responsibility for the passengers' committee, to undertake certain consultation over his appointments to the committee, and to make a proportion of appointments in response to nominations from the local authorities.

The first of these amendments is identical to an amendment debated in another place. My honourable friend the Minister of State made it quite clear on that occasion that it was the intention, in appointing members to the passengers' committee, to cover all interest groups so far as practicable. But we must be realistic about this. It will not be possible to cover every conceivable interest, even in a committee of 30 members, and we believe that number to be slightly on the high side. It will be important for the committee as a whole to be representative of a wide range of interests found among the travelling public. But I do not believe that it would be helpful to begin to specify the interests to be covered. That will move us in the opposite direction to the one we wish to follow—which is to avoid a committee comprised of individuals representing purely sectional interests.

For the same reasons, we do not believe that it would be right to make special provision for local authority representation on the committee. As has been said before in our debates, the Bill does provide for local authorities to be consulted over matters which are of direct importance to them, and to be informed of LRT's plans, for example, with respect to fares and services. But the passengers' committee are not a vehicle for accountability between LRT and local authorities. They are a consultative body charged with representing to LRT and to the Secretary of State the interests of consumers; those who use the services of LRT or British Rail.

We must also bear in mind that the committee's area of concern is not restricted to Greater London. It extends to areas well beyond the Greater London boundary, where local interests could claim an equally legitimate right to be represented if the principle of this amendment were agreed. I hope that I have said sufficient to explain to the Committee why we do not wish to tie the Secretary of State's hands in this way.

The same arguments apply to Amendment No. 136. The Secretary of State should be free to appoint those whom he regards as most suitable. He should not be constrained by conditions imposed on him in the Bill. If we say that he must appoint representatives of the interests of "women, ethnic minorities, disabled people and elderly people", why not also "housewives" or even "foreign visitors"? By referring to specific groups we effectively narrow down the committee's focus, which ought to be on the needs of the travelling public as a whole, in whatever shape or form. The Secretary of State will be guided by the views of the many representative bodies whom he will consult as a matter of course, but I do not believe that he ought to be dictated to by them.

So far as the organisations representing the disabled are concerned, the Secretary of State normally consults the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation, the Royal National Institute for the Blind, the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, the Disablement Income Group, the Disablement Living Foundation and the Disability Alliance. I give your Lordships that illustration to show the scope which is already foreseen by the department on such discussions. What I have tried to do is to explain the Government's thinking on this clause and I hope that I have been able to convince the Committee.

Lord Tordoff

I have great sympathy with the intention behind this amendment because, as we have pointed out several times, we are worried about the composition of this committee. For my own part, I am less than happy with such a large proportion of people being nominated by local authorities. It seems to me that there is a danger, as there frequently is in certain areas, of political appointments being made and political dogmatism creeping in, if we are not careful. It happens in some places with the appointment of school governors. It is sad that it should be so, but I am afraid it does happen. I therefore have considerable hesitation in supporting the terms of this amendment, although I understand the thinking behind it. Also, I am not very reassured by what the noble Earl the Minister has said.

I wish that we could find some way of getting a better idea of the sort of people who will be appointed to this body, because they have to be people who are prepared to give the time. They also have to feel that they are doing a useful job, and so many things that have happened in the Committee stage so far have reduced, not necessarily the impact but the image of the committee. I do not think we are yet in a position to be satisfied with the way in which this committee is to be appointed, but I regret that I cannot support the amendment as it stands.

Lord Underhill

I am both pleased and disappointed with the reply of the Minister. I am pleased in so far as he has given an assurance that the committee will be as widely representative as possible. But I was disappointed when he did not mention the local authorities when he referred to the bodies which the Secretary of State will consult. I am prepared to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Tordoft": we do not want persons directly responsible to an authority. But when 1 look at the schedule and the membership of LRT, the Secretary of State has to have regard to persons with, experience of, and shown capability in transport, industrial, commercial or financial matters, administration, applied science, or the organisation of workers". The Secretary of State will appoint the board of LRT, but he has to have regard to those factors. As regards the passengers' committee, he may appoint, after consultation with such bodies as appear to him to be representative of the interests of persons likely to be significantly concerned". The Minister has not mentioned that local authorities will be consulted in any way, although he mentioned the disabled and other bodies. I do not want to see persons directly representing a particular council, but it is surely in the interests of the committee that persons who understand the problems of local government should be on it. But there is no indication of that at all. We do not even know the bodies whom the Secretary of State must consult under Clause 40(2). That subsection does not say which bodies they are. The list of bodies who are always consulted did not mention local government. We shall look very carefully at what the Minister has said and, perhaps, come back with something on Report, unless the Minister can give us some firm assurance that the Government themselves will introduce an amendment to amplify and clarify subsection (2).

The Earl of Avon

Where we are probably apart here is in the fact that local authorities will presumably have their own transport committee, of whatever form the 33 boroughs decide to set up, which will look after the local authorities' workings with transport. But what we are looking at here is the consumer group, which need not necessarily have a duplication within local authorities. I am not being dogmatic about this, but that is my feeling. I do not see why we must have local authorities in the consumer body, because the local authorities will be one of the group at which the consumer body will look to make sure that it is looking after disabled people, and so on. I cannot see the point of making the consumer body full of local authorities. I look after one of the consumer bodies. Certainly, that is not the case with ours; and may I say that the selection of people is exceptionally good.

Lord Tordoff

There is a slightly different dimension here in terms of London. One wants some sort of balance of people from inner London and the outer suburban areas, and, maybe, people who use the outer commuter services. That is why the idea of local authority nomination is seductive. I have put forward my qualifications. But it is a question of getting a matrix of interests, both geographical and functional.

The Earl of Avon

I find it very useful to get the noble Lord's feelings about this, because I was worried about what the amendment meant and I now know. But I honestly think that our own solution is better.

Lord Underhill

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 134 not moved.]

8.27 p.m.

Baroness Macleod of Borve moved Amendment No. 135: Page 34, line 12, at end insert— ("(2A) At least one member of the committee shall represent the interests of the users of any special transport service provided in accordance with section 2(4A) above and the Committee shall also include one or more persons with disabilities being representative of organisations of disabled people.").

The noble Baroness said: I hesitate to intervene in this exciting Committee stage, but in the absence of my noble friend Lady Lane-Fox I should like to talk for half a minute, having listened to my noble friend the Minister and having agreed with all that he said.

Amendment No. 135 mentions only the disabled. I would not go so far as the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, in his amendment, but I should like to refer to the Telecommunications Act which is fairly comparable to this Bill. When committees were being set up under that Act, the Government approved of amendments which meant that the disabled and those of pensionable age were represented. This amendment does not mention those of pensionable age but, while intending to withdraw this amendment, I wonder whether my noble friend the Minister would take kindly to the suggestion that one might bring back an amendment including disabled people and those of pensionable age, who have trouble with transport. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

May I just say, for the information of the Committee, that the Bill deals with this in paragraph 12 of Schedule 3. It applies Section 14(1) of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 to the passengers' committee, and has the effect that the Secretary of State must consider appointing to the London Regional Passengers' Committee people with experience among disabled people, and of their special needs, such people being disabled themselves.

I was going to say that I felt that this covered the spirit of the amendment, but my noble friend has now added the words "or pensionable age" which were included in the terms of reference of the Director General of Telecommunications. We have had time to look at this point for only a few hours. We do not believe that it applies so completely as might be thought to the Bill. However, may we look at the matter again and keep in touch with the noble Baroness upon it.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

I am most grateful to my noble friend the Minister. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 136 not moved.]

8.31 p.m.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 137: Page 34, line 25, at end insert— (" ; or (d) by any other person operating a London Bus service as defined by section 42(6) of this Act under a road service licence granted under the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981, as amended by section 44 of this Act.")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 137. The proposal is to insert another classification—paragraph (d)—in subsection (4). Subsection (4) relates to the duty of the committee to consider matters affecting particular services run by LRT, or by any subsidiary of theirs, or by any other person in pursuance of an agreement entered into by LRT, the Railways Board or any subsidiary of theirs.

The point of Amendment No. 137 is that if things go in the wrong direction there may be a spate of road service licences in Greater London which are granted not by agreement with LRT but because the traffic commissioners have granted those licences. And, as has happened more than once, where the traffic commissioners have not granted a licence there has been an appeal to the Secretary of State, who has upheld the appeal. There is no mention of matters affecting licence holders of that kind being able to be considered by the committee.

May I speak to Amendment No. 143 while dealing with Amendment No. 137. Amendment No. 143: page 35, line 20, at end insert— (" ; and (d) in the case of any matter affecting services and facilities provided as set out in subsection (A){d) above, to the Metropolitan Traffic Commissioners.") Amendment No. 143 relates, at page 35, line 20, subsection (7) to those to whom copies of the minutes, conclusions and recommendations with respect to any relevant matter should be sent. In Amendment No. 143 we suggest that it should be written into the Bill that any information which affects the group to which I have just referred should be sent to the Metropolitan Traffic Commissioners. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

I can well understand the points which the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has made. The Consumer Council system is not intended to apply to private sector operators who provide services independently of LRT. It is intended to apply to services provided by the nationalised industries, many of which are monopolies or near-monopolies. We believe that the extension of the role of a consumer council to small private sector businesses such as private sector bus operators would be an unwarranted increase in bureaucracy and public sector intervention.

As my honourable friend the Minister of State made clear when identical amendments were debated in another place, Government policy generally is to develop disciplines on nationalised industries as a substitute for market forces; improving their efficiency; improving their performance; and strengthening the arrangements for monitoring their performance. On transport the policy is, in addition, to create conditions of fair competition between operators. The Consumer Councils have an essential role in this process, particularly in relation to standards and quality of service. An informed contribution from them will help consumers directly; and indirectly it can stimulate improvements in efficiency.

Let me make one important point clear. The Government decided to include services provided by independent operators under Clause 3(2) agreements within the remit of the passengers' committee, because they will be provided on behalf of LRT and on terms agreed with LRT. They will be under LRT's overall control and can indeed even be subsidised by LRT. The Government regard Clause 3(2) agreements as an important feature of the system which they wish to see when this Bill is in operation. They will provide a means of combining private sector efficiency with the undoubted benefits of a major network of services.

But we are not excluding the passengers' committee completely from decisions on the provision of independent bus services. It will be open to them to make objections or other representations to the traffic commissioners under Section 31(3)(c) of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 about any application for a road service licence to operate in competition with LRT's bus services. It will be for the traffic commissioners to decide what weight to give to any such objections or other representations. But we do not see that the consumer body should have a specific role towards users of privately operated services.

I do not believe that the noble Lord and I will come together on this amendment, but I hope he appreciates our point of view.

Lord Underhill

It is only incidental that these may be private operators. I was not looking at this problem from the standpoint of private or public operators, but from the standpoint of a proper, efficient and integrated passenger service. The noble Earl referred to small operators. They may not be small operators. There is power in the Bill for the Secretary of State to direct LRT to dispose of certain sections. Surely there must be an avenue whereby representations concern-ing those bodies can be made, particularly if their operations happen to be inefficient or if they conflict with and make almost impossible the operations of LRT, or those bodies which are subsidiaries of theirs. The noble Earl says that they can complain to the commissioners about the services, but there ought to be an opportunity to complain to a consumers body. I must not become involved in almost quasi-judicial matters, but let us assume that a body like Amos is given an extended service in London. Can that not be considered by the passengers' committee? If their service means that the operations of LRT in certain areas come into conflict with them, which will be bad for transport users as a whole, surely there ought to be an opportunity for this matter to be considered by the passengers' committee.

The Earl of Avon

The noble Lord is suggesting that LRT will use or employ this particular group. In that case, the passengers' committee can go to LRT and say, "What are you doing?"

Lord Underhill

If they use the group, yes. That is where there is an agreement. But if the Secretary of State decided to give certain services to a particular body, against the wishes of LRT—the Secretary of State has done this in the case of London Transport, so he may do it in the case of LRT—there ought to be an avenue by which matters affecting the operation of that service can be raised with the passengers' committee.

The Earl of Avon

Perhaps I may look into the more detailed arguments which the noble Lord has produced and let him have a note upon the matter.

Lord Underhill

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 138 not moved.]

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 139: Page 34, line 32, at end insert— ("( ) it has been the subject of representations made to the Committee by the Greater London Council or by a rating authority for any rating area comprised in Greater London; or").

The noble Lord said: In response to an earlier amendment the Minister said that local authorities would have the opportunity to make representations to the passengers' committee. They do not appear to be listed. May I speak also to Amendment No. 144. Amendment No. 144: Page 35. line 20, at end insert— (": and (d) in any case to the Greater London Council and the rating authorities for all rating areas comprised in Greater London").

The purpose of Amendment No. 139 is to ensure that a matter has been the subject of representations made to the committee either by the GLC or by the rating authority. As the Minister obviously believes that the Bill covers local authority representations, I have not the slightest doubt that he will accept the amendment. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

The amendment which the noble Lord has moved would put local authorities in Greater London in a special position in relation to the London Regional Passengers' Committee not shared by other local authorities, or by other bodies, in relation to the Transport Users' Consultative Committees elsewhere. They would lay a specific duty on the committee to consider local authority representations and a duty to inform the local authorities of the outcome of their considerations.

As I have tried to explain, we do not believe that it would be appropriate for the committee to be in any way answerable to local authorities in Greater London, as is implied by these amendments. The role of the committee is to consider matters put to them by consumers and to relate directly to LRT, British Rail and the Secretary of State. There is nothing to stop local authorities from making representations to the committee on behalf of users. Clause 40(5)(a) already provides for this. Nor is there anything to stop the committee considering such representations if they think it appropriate to do so. But we do not believe that it is necessary or appropriate for an obligation to be placed on the committee to consider such representations. Nor is it appropriate for the committee to have to send all London local authorities reports of all their proceedings. Local authorities in Greater London will in practice have ample opportunity to make representations on genuine local matters.

Clause 7(3)(b) provides for local authorities in and around Greater London to be consulted by LRT about their strategy statements, and Clause 43(3) provides that local authorities must be consulted by LRT about changes to any bus routes in their areas. We do not believe that the Bill needs to give local authorities' representations any special weight, or to provide local authorities with a further opportunity to press their case through the London Regional Passengers' Committee. I hope that by giving that explanation and by trying to tie together the various parts of the Bill I have clarified the noble Lord's mind at least slightly.

Lord Underhill

The Minister is endeavouring to be extremely nice and kind about these amendments, but he has clarified only one point in my mind: that what was said on the previous amendment is not the actual position. Under this particular clause there is no provision that representations made by any of the rating authorities in Greater London or outside Greater London in the LRT area shall be considered. That provision is not there. That contradicts what the noble Earl said about my earlier amendment: that local authorities will be able to make representation to the committee.

As there have been so many refusals of consultation at various levels during the progress of this Bill, I must say that I am very disappointed. In view of the hour I shall merely study what the Minister has said on this matter and in reply to the previous amendment. In the meantime, I hope that the Minister himself will consider the fact that rating authorities are contributing a lot of money. They want efficient services. They want to see complaints dealt with. Surely the only way to do that is through the body that the Government intend to set up—the passengers' committee.

The Earl of Avon

Perhaps I may briefly intervene. The noble Lord will recall that I mentioned the provision in Clause 40(5)(a) for representations to the committee on behalf of local authorities.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.43 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 140: Page 35, line 2, leave out from ("consider") to second ("any") in line 3.

The noble Lord said: It has been suggested that Amendment No. 140 should be taken together with Amendments Nos. 141 and 142. Amendment No. 141: Page 35, line 10, at end insert— ("but may consider the charges made for any service or facility") Amendment No. 142: Page 35, line 10, at end insert— ("( ) Without prejudice to subsections (4), (5) and (6) above the Committee may investigate or arrange for such other persons as it thinks appropriate to investigate any topics it considers suitable in the interests of the users of public passenger transport services in Greater London and if desirable as a result of such investigations make recommendations.") As I see it, there is a clear distinction between Amendments Nos. 140 and 141 and Amendment No. 142. I intend to acknowledge that distinction myself, though I shall speak to all three now.

Amendments Nos.140 and 141 serve to remind the Government and the Minister that fares are of great concern to passengers. Whether or not they are allowed to do so, the passengers' committee will inevitably discuss any abrupt change in fares. This discussion may not be published, but they will be the people involved in representing the consumer. Certainly there will be mutterings if, in the event of something happening of the kind we have seen in London Transport over the past two years, such a committee were not allowed to discuss, even amongst themselves, the question of fares.

I understand that the Government intend to allow discussion of fares and that legislation is to be introduced some time later. That is the information I have. Is that likely to happen fairly soon? I should like to have that information, and to remind the Government of the importance of fares to the travelling public. Although it is not the most important aspect of transport, it is certainly a very important one.

Amendment No. 142, on the other hand, makes a suggestion to the Government. Although it may be impossible for the Government to implement it in this broad way, it suggests that, the Committee may investigate or arrange for such other persons as it thinks appropriate to investigate any topics it considers suitable in the interests of the users of public passenger transport". I realise that is very wide, but 1 would still make a strong plea to the Government that the committee must have access to some independent source of information.

I am not for one minute questioning the integrity of the people in London Transport. I just hold the belief that they see matters from their own point of view. I was on the old Select Committee on nationalised industries in another place before we had such luxuries as experts. Frequently, it was only when we had completed a report that we began to know the questions we should have been asking from the beginning—and one of the questions happened to be about London Transport. The Government should look at this point very seriously and consider allowing—perhaps in a more curtailed form than the amendment suggests—a facility for the committee to request outside help on specific topics.

One of London Transport's proud boasts is that it sells know-how all over the world; what people will tell you is that they sell 150 years of mistakes all over the world. It would be helpful if the Minister would examine methods whereby the committee could obtain information of the kind that would enable them to ask London Transport the right questions when representing consumers. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

As the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, has explained to us, we are concerned in these amendments with the powers of the passengers' committee. The first two amendments would enable them to consider matters relating to fares and charges. The third amendment, No. 142, would enable them to investigate suitable topics of interest to public transport users in Greater London, and to make recommendations on such matters.

Your Lordships' Committee will know that the question of fares and charges was raised at Second Reading in another place. My honourable friend the Minister of State made it quite clear on that occasion that the general principle is that the nationalised industries must work to the financial objectives set by Government and determine the level of fares without being subject to specific directions. But she accepted that there was a role for the consumer bodies in relation to the structure and relativities of fares, and that the Government intended to deal with the matter for the country as a whole when a suitable legislative opportunity permitted.

We do not think it would be helpful in this particular Bill, whose scope is limited to London, to make such a change and put the passengers' committee for London out of step. Nevertheless, as my honourable friend went on to explain, the chairman of British Rail has agreed that his board will consult both the Central Transport Consultative Committee and the London Regional Passengers' Committee about fares and charges, on an informal basis, in advance of any new legislation. I am sure that the board of LRT, when appointed, will agree to do the same. I hope that this assurance will serve to underline that.

On Amendment No. 142, I would point out to the Committee that while the two existing consumer bodies do not have a specific power to carry out research, they are able in practice to do so as being incidental to their main functions. The London Transport Passengers' Committee have, for example, carried out surveys in which members of the committee have checked the number and timings of buses or trains on a particular route on a particular day, compared them with the scheduled timetable, and discussed with London Transport the reasons for any discrepancies. An Underground station facilities survey is also in hand, in which members of the committee visit two stations, each at different times of the day over a period, looking at the number of ticket offices and ticket machines. In addition, they look at cleanliness, the state of escalators, and so on. Individual members may become closely involved in issues such as cartography and may do modest studies for the committee on those issues.

As for the Transport Users' Consultative Committee for London, there has been a joint TUCC/LTPC working party looking into problems at interchange facilities. The London TUCC has also carried out surveys of the facilities at London's nine main line terminals. In view of this we should really ask ourselves whether we need to give the Passengers' Committee a specific power to initiate studies. I am sorry that I have been rather long-winded in my examples. Our view is that such a power is not necessary. We believe it could encourage the committee to get unduly involved in research projects of their own making rather than concentrate on responding to the views of travellers.

We certainly do not object to the Passengers' Committee carrying out some research. As I have said, they have an inherent power to do so as part of their functions. I hope with those two assurances the noble Lord will feel that I have put on record the way that the Government see this.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am grateful to the Minister for putting that on record. He talks about comparing London with other authorities outside London in regard to the TUCC, but in most of the discussions on this Bill we have been told just how different London is from the rest of the country. Apparently when it is apt it is possible to ask the TUCC.

However, I accept the problems. I am grateful for the possibility of legislation so that fare levels can be compared. I am slightly disappointed on the matter of giving help to the LRPC to undertake rather modest studies outwith the ones the Minister has described—although they themselves are extremely useful and must involve a great deal of work. I should have thought that it would be of interest if the committee could have employed, on a very short term basis, one of the survey people to do a special survey for it or even show it how to design the forms and do the survey itself. That is what I have in mind. I do not mean any wide-ranging travel to study transport in, say, Tokyo or anything like that. I mean something very modest and applicable to the London transport scene. I hope that the Minister will at least bear that suggestion in mind and perhaps at another time give it some thought to see whether there is any value in it. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 141 to 145 not moved.]

Clause 40 agreed to.

Schedule 3 [The London Regional Passengers' Committee]:

[Amendment No. 146 not moved.]

Schedule 3 agreed to.

Clauses 41 and 42 agreed to.

Clauses 43 [Exemption of London bus services under control of London Regional Transport from require-ment of road service licence]:

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 147: Page 39, line 9, after ("affected") insert (", with the Passengers' Committee")

The noble Lords said: Noble Lords will see that this amendment is identical to Amendment No. 148. I should perhaps say that a rather curious succession of mishaps befell the predecessor to Amendment No. 148 in another place. An indentical amendment was tabled but unhappily it was not, in fact, moved although my right honourable friend the Minister of State agreed with the principle behind it. On that occasion he said that the amendment had perfect merit and if he could change the amendment to omit the words "London Regional" and refer simply to the "Passengers' Committee" he would be happy to accept it. That can be seen in the Official Report for 13th March at column 1066.

An amendment was duly tabled on Report; but, unfortunately, on that occasion it failed to get moved so we now come forward with a similar amendment. The reason that we could not accept the original amendment in another place was purely and simply that throughout the Bill the London Regional Passengers' Committee is referred to quite simply as the Passenger's Committee. It would be better—so we are informed by the draftsman, whose ways are quite peculiar as I am sure your Lordships know—to keep it that way. I hope therefore that the Committee will accept Amendment No. 147, and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, will be happy not to move Amendment No. 148. I beg to move.

Lord Tordoff

I am most grateful. At least some "goodies" are coming this way tonight. Of course, communications between another place and your Lordships' House are probably the most difficult in the world. It is far easier to communicate with Hong Kong or deepest Africa than with some of our honourable friends in another place. I was not aware of the tangle in another place until the Minister explained it. I am most grateful that he has put us all on the right track and I am sure the Committee will accept his amendment; in which case I shall not move my own amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 148 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 43, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Underhill

Perhaps I may take up one small matter. I support Amendment No. 147, which we have just agreed. I am very pleased to note that under subsection (3) this is one occasion when the local authorities affected are to be consulted, but it appears to be only when there are new services which LRT or any subsidiary is to provide, or any in which they have had agreements. Can the noble Lord tell the Committee whether, if another operator is to provide a new service, there will be similar consultation with local authorities?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

Does the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, mean another operator with a licence outside the LRT remit? If so, the local authority, of course, would be consulted by way of the application to the traffic commissioners. Only in that way would there be consultation. I do not think I am wrong, but I shall confirm that to the noble Lord.

Clause 43, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 44 agreed to.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

May I just transfer hats, because it is not customary for someone taking part in proceedings on a Bill to move this Motion. I understand through the usual channels that we have arrived at the end of what has been agreed to so far as the Bill is concerned—and rather earlier than expected, which I am sure the Committee will appreciate. Therefore, I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.