HL Deb 22 May 1984 vol 452 cc161-202

4.20 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 49.

Lord Tordoff moved Amendment No. 152: Page 46, line 39, leave out from ("below,") to ("enter") in line 40, and insert ("the local authorities falling within the boundaries of the Greater London Council as presently constituted shall").

The noble Lord said: I was tempted during that interesting exchange, had there been time, to suggest that there would not be quite such a decline in bus sales if we had a proper public transport system in London. That is something which we, at least on this side of the Chamber, are trying to achieve. I beg to move Amendment No. 152, and I understand it will be for the convenience of your Lordships if I speak to Amendments Nos. 153, 155, 156 and 158, which are consequential upon Amendment No. 152. Amendment No. 153: Page 47, line 3, leave out from beginning to ("reimburse") in line 5 and insert ("the local authorities concerned"). Amendment No. 155: Page 47, line 11, leave out from ("below,") to the end of line 12 and insert ("all London authorities shall"). Amendment No. 156: Page 47, line 23, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall"). Amendment No 158: Page 48, line 5, leave out ("local authority or any of the").

As the noble Lord. Lord Underhill, said, Clause 49 deals with travel concessions for the elderly, the blind and the disabled. Let me say straight away that in a better society than ours it would not be necessary to have travel concessions for the elderly. It is a symptom of our society that our pension provisions are inadequate and that our elderly people have to rely on concessions on public transport. It is not the most efficient way of dealing with the problem but it is the only way that we have at the moment. It is indeed a symptom of a somewhat sick society that we do not have a system where our elderly have a sufficient income to enable them to decide for themselves how they will spend their income, and we have to resort to concessions of this sort.

Nonetheless, nobody at present doubts that need. As the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said in relation to the subsequent clauses which were introduced by the Government in another place after considerable pressure from local authorities and from outside bodies, there is built into the Bill a fall-back scheme. Nevertheless, I think we would all prefer that local authorities should themselves put together a scheme. Clearly, there needs to be something to replace the provisions made by the GLC at the moment, and we are forced into this position again by the impending abolition of the GLC. It is another penalty that we pay for that abolition.

We must ask whether it is likely that a voluntary agreement can be reached by all the local authorities in the Greater London area. In some ways it seems to me that the fall-back clauses make it less likely that such agreement will be reached. The moral pressure, as it were, on the local authorities is somewhat removed by having the fall-back provision.

Secondly, the less willing authorities can block the agreement and thus cause the narrower fall-hack scheme to be brought into operation. The poorer boroughs may not be able to allocate sufficient resources to sustain the scheme, particularly in these days of rate-capping and central government interference with local government finance. I shall return to that in connection with a later amendment.

We seek to ensure that the scheme shall be mandatory on the authorities and not be a voluntary scheme. Frankly, we do not believe that the local authorities can put the act together themselves, and therefore Amendment No. 152 says that they shall enter into such an agreement with London Regional Transport. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

As the noble Lord said in his introduction, the main purpose of this series of amendments is to compel—and I stress the word "compel"—all local authorities in London to arrange travel concessions not only with LRT but also with private operators and with British Rail. The amendment would also have an unfortunate side effect, to which I will refer later.

As your Lordships will recall, I made it clear during the debate on Clause 12 that the Government's policy (in common, I may say, with successive Governments) is that local authorities should have discretion over the provision of concessionary fare schemes. That is why Clause 49 specifically re-enacts the existing law enabling local authorities to make their own voluntary arrangements. Nonetheless, the Government recognise the value which pensioners and disabled people place on a uniform scheme covering the whole of London. We have therefore provided, as the noble Lord was good enough to say, for a reserve scheme to come into effect for local authorities if they are unable to agree among themselves on a uniform scheme. I spelled out that reserve scheme in detail earlier on in the Committee stage, but if any of your Lordships would like me to do so again I shall he happy to do that. We believe a reserve scheme is the way ahead rather than to force a statutory provision on the local authorities, as the noble Lord's amendments do.

I think it would he right to draw the Committee's attention to the fact that these amendments, as drafted, would have an unfortunate effect so far as county and district councils surrounding Greater London are concerned. Clause 49 is specifically drafted in such a way as to preserve the existing powers of local authorities outside Greater London to enter into agreements with LRT to provide for concessionary travel. By restricting the application of Clause 49 to local authorities within Greater London, these amendments remove from county and district councils their existing powers to enter into agreements with LRT for the provision of concessionary travel. I am sure that this particular effect is not intended, but that is how we read it. I honestly think that the Committee would be well advised to go forward in the way that we have suggested and to have this reserve power available to the Government if required, and not to put in this statutory, mandatory section.

Lord Tordoff

I had anticipated that perhaps the noble Earl might refer to places outside Greater London and I concede that that is a weakness of this amendment; but in the Government's fall-back scheme I see no reference to the outside authorities he is talking about. It may be that I have misread the Bill or missed a particular point; but there is something of "sauce for the goose and sauce for the gander" here. I wonder whether, if it is not contained in Clauses 50, 51 and 52, the Government intend to put in their fall-hack scheme something which covers the area in which he suggests that my amendment is defective.

The Earl of Avon

I will certainly look into that.

Lord Tordoff

I am grateful to the noble Earl, and with that assurance I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 153 not moved.]

Lord Tordoff moved Amendment No. 154: Page 47, line 6. at end insert— ("; and ()expenditure incurred by local authorities under this section shall he disregarded for the purposes of calculating local government overspending.").

The noble Lord said: As I suggested a few moments ago on the earlier amendment, I am now speaking to Amendment No. 154. and I understand it is the wish of the Committee that I should also speak to Amendment No. 173. which stands in the names of the noble Lords. Lord Underhill and Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove. Amendment No. 173: After Clause 50, insert the following new clause: ("Financial provisions as to travel concessions on journeys in and around Greater London.

—(1) Any payment made by any London authority for travel concessions under this Act shall be disregarded for the purposes of calculating grants which may be payable to a local authority under any enactment.

(2) For the purpose of achieving a uniform concessionary travel scheme throughout London each rating authority shall levy a rate of the required amount in the pound such that if a rate of that amount is levied by each London rating authority the total amount levied will he sufficient to provide for such a scheme.").

The Government controls on local authority expenditure, as I suggested, are a severe disincentive for them to agree to a uniform scheme. Amendment No. 154 simple seeks to ensure that such expenditure shall be disregarded for the purposes of calculating over-spending. If we are seriously interested in wanting the local authorities to adopt a common scheme then we cannot use the stick without offering the carrot.

Amendment No. 173, if I may speak to that, in subsection (1) is similar, although it covers a wider aspect of the Bill. It also seeks under subsection (2) to balance the costs across all the local authorities. However, the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, will be speaking to that in a moment. Certainly I support those ideas. I think it is wrong for Parliament to expect local authorities to put in such a voluntary scheme and then not be prepared to accept the financial consequences of it. It seems to me that as the Bill stands at the moment that is the position we find and I seek merely to ensure that all the various forms of local government expenditure control are waived so far as this particular item is concerned, since we all believe that schemes of this sort are important for the disabled and the elderly. I beg to move.

4.30 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Nugent of Guildford)

Will the noble Lord make it plain? Is he moving Amendment No. 154?

Lord Tordoff


The Deputy Chairman of Committees

Then Amendment No. 153 is not moved, I presume.

[Amendment No. 153 not moved.]

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, for having moved Amendment No. 154 and I believe that it would be for the convenience of your Lordships' Committee if, as the noble Lord suggested, we took with it Amendment No. 173.

[Printed above.]

The purpose of the amendments is first to make it clear that any cost to the local authority from continuing with concessionary fares shall not be part of the assessment for clawback purposes by the Government. For instance, the GLC in London paid last year £56 million to finance the concessionary fares scheme and yet the Government's assessment of the value of the concession is less than half that amount. In fact. it is £27.6 million. What the amendment seeks to do is to ensure that that £27.6 million, or whatever figure up or down it should become on some agreed scheme, does not hit the penalties that the Government are imposing in some of the other legislation that is being put through. Unless the assessment is altered, the borough councils, when they are charged with paying for the scheme, will be in an even worse position if fares rise and concessions rise accordingly—of course one would believe that this would be proportionately.

The amendment proposes that expenditure on concessionary fares shall not be subject to any financial penalty. That of course gives a great deal more freedom and independence to London Regional Transport. But the amendment, and in particular Amendment No. 173, also proposes that the scheme shall be financed through rate equalisation with all those boroughs which are taking part in it, rather than on a permanent basis. The object of this of course is that there should be some reasonable feeling of equality between residents using exactly the same transport—the same colour, the same route marks and all the same accoutrements that make up London Transport. The people in all the boroughs would all be subject to the same payments. The permit system could differ very widely and one could have a situation where people on either side of a main road or a boundary which might run down a secondary road could pay quite different basic sums for their permits.

I am not a Londoner but I know many Londoners and it is doubtful whether even in their own boroughs people know where the boundaries are, never mind trying to pick out the boundary of boroughs out with their own area. I understand, for instance, that if costs remain constant, it is estimated that, on a permit basis, there would be an increase in rates of 2 5p or more in some of the outlying boroughs such as Barking. Dagenham. Bexley, Merton, Redbridge. Sutton, and Waltham Forest, whereas it would be less in the inner London areas. I really do feel that we should try to make a real job of giving people a feeling that there is such a thing as London. That is why I think it is wrong to talk about the boroughs having independence: for other things, certainly, but not for something which is spread over the whole of London and which everyone takes as relating to London. No one thinks of London Transport as something particularly associated with Barking, Bexley, Redbridge or Waltham Forest. It is London, and I feel, and the amendment seeks to emphasise it, that the scheme should be for the whole of London and that the additional cost of the scheme above Government grant is not something for which the boroughs should be penalised. Most important of all, it should he London-wide, not based on permits hut on a rates supplement.

I am very pleased to support the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, in moving the amendment.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I very much hope that my noble friend will not accept Amendment No. 154. It is designed, as I understand it, to exclude from the financial controls now somewhat belatedly being imposed local authority expenditure in respect of travel concessions. We all know the case for travel concessions and that it is a very strong one, but I cannot believe that even the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, thinks that this is in human terms the most important of the activities, social service-wise, of local authorities. If there is to be a case for excluding payment for travel concessions, what about home helps? What about meals on wheels? What about facilities for old people? Local authorities deal with people unhappily far too helpless even to use public transport. Those services, one might think in human terms, have really a far more compelling appeal than travel concessions. Therefore, this is really an attempt to use this Bill as a means of knocking out the general control over local authority expenditure which under other measures the Government are putting forward. I am sure that my noble friend has spotted this and I hope that he will knock it on the head.

The Earl of Avon

I do not think that I disagree with one word of what my noble friend has said, except that I now have to change my own notes. We do not think it would he right to single out concessionary fares and give expenditure on concessionary fares a statutory exemption from the general penalties which local authorities may suffer in regard to their total expenditure. The new clause would also have a disadvantage in that it would prevent local authorities which had their expenditure under control receiving grant on their concessionary fares expenditure.

Perhaps I may expand a little on what my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said. If the GLC is abolished, the boroughs will take on a whole range of new responsibilities such as waste disposal, more roads and more planning. The boroughs will have to have new targets which will be calculated to take account of their increased responsibilities. That will obviously be a matter for consultation with the London boroughs.

So far as rate capping is concerned, expenditure on concessionary fares will be part of a local authority's total expenditure. So far as the GLC are concerned, their expenditure on concessionary fares has formed only a small element of their total overspend of about £300 million. We should have to consider carefully how to treat that, if the GLC are selected for rate capping. We shall take into account how far the GLC have been positively increasing their expenditure instead of seeking to rein it back. In the case of the boroughs, we hope that they will get their financial affairs in order so that they do not face the possibility of rate capping. Rate capping is an absolute control on spending and covers all expenditure of a local authority and will be judged on a national basis. To put it in terms of disregards which the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, mentioned, one must consider that at the moment disregards are for such things as the additional cost of the police between September and March, and the extra cost incurred as a result of policing the miners' industrial action. Matters such as that should not be planned fully, as this one is.

The noble Lord. Lord Carmichael, spoke about the London rates equalisation scheme. Under the Bill, boroughs will contribute to the cost of the concessionary fares scheme on the basis of the number of permits issued in their area. This seems to us a more appropriate basis than rateable value. I understand the concern about the effects of the removal of the GLC precept, but the Government have undertaken to try to avoid major shifts in the relative burden of ratepayers in different parts of London following the disappearance on abolition of the GLC precept.

The noble Lord mentioned an estimate of 2½P in the outer London boroughs. I think that this ignores the proposed adjustments to the London rates equalisation scheme. The White Paper, Streamlining the Cities discusses the extension of the London rates equalisation scheme as a possible mechanism. The Secretary of State for the Environment is considering responses to his White Paper and will be discussing the issue further with the London boroughs. I believe it is right that we should acknowledge that these matters will need to be dealt with, but we should not anticipate our consideration until the abolition Bill.

Lord Tordoff

It seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has put his finger on a very important point. When we listen to the Government speaking on local government finance, they tell us that the reason for this is that certain local authorities are spending their money unwisely on foolish projects. They point in particular at the GLC in this regard. But I do not think that any of the projects that he mentioned could be regarded as foolish. Home helps and other matters of that kind which he mentioned are not foolish. Is he really saying that it is the Government's intention, willy-nilly, to force local authorities to choose between these quite vital services? It seems to me that that is the basis of what he was saying.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

If the noble Lord is asking me that question, I am only too happy to respond to it. What I am saying is that any responsible local authority will, anyhow, inside its total expenditure, give priority to these important social welfare activities and will cut out such eccentricities as, for example, the GLC's Prostitutes Co-operative.

Lord Tordoff

That is precisely the answer that one expects from the Government, but it does not bear on this point. What Parliament is saying here is that the local authorities should put together a voluntary scheme for concessionary fares. If that is what Parliament wishes, then Parliament should make sure that the local authorities have the finance to provide those schemes without doing it at the expense of home helps and the other matters which the noble Lord suggested. I accept that there has been foolish spending by a number of local authorities in different parts of the country; but that, as I see it, does not bear on the argument that I am putting before your Lordships today. I am extremely disappointed that the Government are not prepared to go along with the suggestions I have made here, and I feel that I must divide the Committee on this issue.

4.43 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 154) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 88; Not-Contents, 113.

Airedale, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Amherst, E. Lovell-Davis, L.
Ardwick, L. Mcintosh of Haringey. L.
Attlee, E. [Teller.] McNair, L.
Aylestone, L. Mayhew, L.
Banks, L. Mollov, L.
Blyton. L. Mulley, L.
Bottomley, L. Nicol, B.
Brockway, L. Ogmore. L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Oram, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Peart, L.
Collison, L. Perry of Walton, L.
Darling of Hillsborough, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
David, B. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Rathcreedan, L.
Diamond, L. Rhodes, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Roberthall, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Rochester, L.
Elystan-Morgan. L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Ennals, L. Sainsbury, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Seear, B.
Foot, L. Serota, B.
Gallacher, L. Simon, V.
George-Brown, L. Stallard, L.
Gladwyn, L. Stedman, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Grey, E. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Hale, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Hampton, L. Stone, L.
Han worth, V. Strabolgi, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Hughes, L. Tordoff, L. [Teller.]
Hunt. L. Underhill, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Jacobson,L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Jacques, L. Whaddon, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Wigoder, L.
John-Mackie, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Kilmarnock, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham,
Kirkhill, L. E.
Leatherland. L. Winstanley, L.
Listowel, E. Winterbottom, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Abinger, L. Alport, L.
Ailesbury, M. Auckland, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Avon, E.
Bellwin, L. Long, V. [Teller.]
Belstead, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Berkeley, B. Lyell, L.
Bessborough, E. McAlpine of Moffat, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. McAlpine of West Green, L.
Brookes, L. McFadzean. L.
Broxbourne, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Caithness, E. Mancroft, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Mar, C.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Margadale, L.
Cathcart, E. Marley, L.
Chelmer, L. Maude of Stratford-upon-
Clitheroe, L. Avon, L.
Cockfield, L. Merrivale, L.
Coleraine, L. Mersey, V.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Milverton, L.
Cork and Orrery'- E. Molson, L.
Cottesloe, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Cox, B. Morris, L.
Craigavon, V. Mostyn, L.
Crathorne, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Murton of Lindisfarne. L.
Daventry, V. Northchurch, B.
Davidson, V. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Donoughmore, E. Orkney, E.
Ebbisham, L. Pender, L.
Eccles, V. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Ellenborough, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Polwarth, L.
Elton, L. Porritt, L.
Fanshawe of Richmond, L. Portland. D.
Fortescue, E. Renwick, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Rochdale, V.
Gainford, L. Rodnev, L.
Gisborough, L. St. Davids, V.
Glanusk, L. Sandford. L.
Glenarthur, L. Sandys, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Sempill. Ly.
Gndley, L. Skelmersdale. L.
Hailsham of Saint Spens, L.
Marylebone, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Hawke. L.
Hayter, L. Strathspev, L.
Henley, L. Suffield, L.
Hives, L. Swansea, L.
Holdemess, L. Swinton. E. [Teller.]
Home of the Hirsel, L. Teviot. L.
Hood. V. Trefgarne, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Trumpington, B.
Ingrow, L. Ullswater. V.
Keyes. L. Vaizey, L.
Lane-Fox, B. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Lauderdale. L. Vickers. B.
Lawrence, L. Westbury. L.
Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Young. B.
Loch. L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

[Amendments Nos. 155 to 158 not moved.]

4.52 p.m.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 159: Page 48, line 8, at end insert— ("(d) registered unemployed persons and persons working under the Youth Opportunities Programme who do not come within the descriptions in paragraphs (a), (h) or (c) above.").

The noble Lord said: Noble Lords will recall that in the case of a previous Transport Bill there was a debate on an amendment to change the law to permit concessionary fares for the unemployed and for those on special training projects. In addition, a Private Member's Bill was promoted by my noble friend Lord Molloy. We have no hesitation about moving this amendment today. I would emphasise that it is not just travel in search of work to which we are referring. We are concerned also about travel for social and personal reasons. It must be emphasised that for many unemployed people a concessionary fare of this kind is their only means of communication. I am fortunate enough never to have been unemployed. I hope noble Lords can appreciate how an unemployed man feels when he is unable to move about freely. The Bill provides an opportunity for such travel to be made possible.

According to the terms of Clause 49, each borough will be able to decide whether it wishes to enter into an arrangement to cover the unemployed and those who are working under the Youth Opportunities Programme. I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, will support my amendment because under Clause 49 the option rests solely with the local authorities, a point which I hope will not be forgotten. It was suggested in the other place that it would he wrong for this to apply to London only. Whenever the Government oppose an amendment, either it is because it has national implications which cannot be applied everywhere, or it is because the Government wish to confine it to one area only. This argument has applied to other issues. However, London is a very big city. People who live in north London may wish to visit very close relatives who live in south London. I mentioned in a previous debate that my hard-up football club charges a special entrance fee for the unemployed. However, they have to travel in order to get to the football ground. This means that the club's concession to the unemployed is almost cancelled out.

The Secretary of State said that the "clinching argument"—those are his words—is that we should not differentiate between travel in pursuit of jobs and any other purpose for which the unemployed may wish to travel. That is just what we are seeking. We do not wish the unemployed to be unable to move about because they cannot afford the fares. We want the unemployed to be able to spend their limited resources on other purposes. In Standing Committee on 20th March the Secretary of State said, at col. 1165: The Opposition are suggesting that those who have to go to work every day and are paid very low wages should be disadvantaged and put in a worse position than the unemployed".

What a cynical argument to use, particularly by a Government which have abolished the wages councils! For the Government to argue that because people in employment are paid shockingly low wages they will not consider granting a concession to enable the unemployed to move around freely, seems to me to be terribly weak. Frankly, it shows a lack of understanding by the Government. I hope that the noble Earl will feel that he can accept the amendment, bearing in mind, as I have already said, that it will apply to London only and that it will be up to each borough to decide whether it wishes to enter into an agreement to grant concessionary fares for this purpose. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

Of course I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, that the Government fully share the concern of the Committee about the position of the unemployed, but I believe that there are difficulties in pursuing the course proposed in the amendment. The existing categories of people eligible for travel concessions—the elderly and the physically disabled—have been very carefully defined. They relate to physical handicap and frailty as much as to social disadvantage. In this respect, the Bill simply follows the wording of the existing legislation. If we were to include the unemployed, why should we not include other equally disadvantaged people—perhaps single-parent families or the mentally disabled? Once we started on this path I believe that it would be very difficult to know where to draw the line and that the consequences in terms of cost would be enormous. The noble Lord mentioned London. The cost of the present scheme in London could increase by nearly 40 per cent. and the cost of providing such concessions on a national basis would clearly be very substantial.

There are a number of municipal operators across the country which have introduced self-financing schemes for travel by the unemployed at reduced fares. The cost of fare reductions has thus been balanced by increased levels of patronage. There is no reason why LRT should not consider following this example; but we do not think that it would be right—I hope the Committee will agree with me—to put in a requirement on the lines the noble Lord has suggested. I would mention that a number of schemes already exist under which the Manpower Services Cornmisson and the Department of Health and Social Security provide limited assistance for travel expenses incurred in seeking work. These extend in certain cases to assistance with fares and subsistence in connection with pre-arranged interviews and with travel expenses on taking up employment in a new area.

As I said at the outset, of course we have sympathy with the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, but I believe that the amendment would have very wide implications. We do not feel that we can recommend it to the Committee for acceptance. I hope that on reflection the noble Lord will not wish to press it.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

I am not very happy about the Minister's answer. When all is said and done, no requirement is being imposed on local authorities. This power is being given to them, if they wish to exercise it. Unless that power is given to them, it cannot be exercised at the moment. The amendment gives to local authorities the power to make these concessions to the unemployed, if they so wish.

I cannot understand why the Government are so difficult about what I regard as being a simple matter. The question has been raised as to where one draws the line. We will decide where to draw the line. We hope that this problem of unemployment—and I use the word "hope"—is a temporary one. By giving this concession now, it does not follow that we will have for evermore millions of people making use of it. At this moment in time, they need this concession.

This amendment merely suggests that boroughs should have the power to make the concession if they so wish. I hope that the Government will think again. I would invite the Minister to examine this point in terms of giving the boroughs a power to do something that they could use if they wished—but which, as the law now stands, they do not have the power to do. The point is as simple as that. It does not follow, for example, that every borough will offer this concession. No borough may do so. But the boroughs will have the power to do so. As the law stands, they cannot offer this concession.

The Earl of Avon

It may help the noble Lord if I say that it is possible. without special legislation, to provide reduced fare travel for the unemployed on a self-financing basis.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

But a self-financing basis would involve the authority having control of the transport. In other words LRT could offer this concession but the boroughs could not. If London Transport were to remain under the power of the Greater London Council then the point which the noble Earl has made would probably hold good. But once the transport set-up which is envisaged in this Bill has been established, the boroughs will be able to grant only those concessions which they are permitted to grant.

Lord Underhill

I am sorry that the noble Earl the Minister has not responded to my noble friend's appeal. but I think he was being genuine when he stated that the Government have sympathy. But sympathy is not enough. Sympathy does not pay bills. Sympathy does not pay fares. We want some practical action as well as sympathy. I readily agree that the three existing categories are carefully defined. The Minister asked the question: if the unemployed, why not others? That uses the argument to which I referred in my opening remarks: that because we cannot help everybody. then we should not move at all. Everybody recognises that the unemployed have a special case.

The noble Earl asked: where should one draw the line? I do not believe that my memory is at fault when I say that the first concessionary scheme was introduced by Birmingham City Council when there was no legal power nationally for them to do so. They were taken to court. I believe that it was a Labour Government who introduced the concessionary fares general legislation. If my memory serves me right, the party represented by the noble Earl opposite opposed those proposals. That is an attitude which one finds fairly continually.

I am sorry that the Minister cannot move on this point. We readily understand the help that can be given by the MSC and by the DHSS in certain cases. We recognise it and have acknowledged it in previous debates. But it does not help us to deal with the position of the unemployed. However, the noble Earl has indicated that the Government cannot move in this respect. We will examine our position for a later stage of the Bill; meanwhile. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 49 agreed to.

Clause 50 [Reserve free travel scheme for London residents]:

5.4 p.m.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead moved Amendment No. 160: Page 49, line 2, leave out ("free") and insert ("London free and concessionary.")

The noble Lord said: With Amendment No. 160 I would invite the Committee to consider also Amendments Nos. 161, 162, 163, 164, 174, 175, 176, 178 and 181. Amendment No. 161- Page 49, line 4, leave out ("free") and insert ("London free and concessionary"). Amendment No. 162: Page 49. line 34. at end insert— ("and ( ) references to any services under the control of the Railways Board are references to any public passenger transport service provided by the Railways Board. or any subsidiary of theirs, within Greater London."). Amendment No. 163: Page 49. line 41, at end insert ("or the Railways Board"). Amendment No. 164: Page 50, line I, after ("payable" insert—("on any service under the control of London Regional Transport, and the reduction or waiver, on production of such a permit, of any fare otherwise payable on any service under the control of the Railways Board"). Amendment No. 174: Clause 51. page 50. line 29. leave out ("free") and insert ("London free and concessionary"). Amendment No. 175: Page 50. line 33, leave out ("free") and insert ("London free and concessionary"). Amendment No. 176: Page 51, line 21, leave out ("free") and insert ("London free and concessionary"). Amendment No. 178: Page 51. line 33. at end insert ("and the Railways Board"). Amendment No. 181: Clause 52, page 53, line 5. at end insert ('and within Greater London those under the control of the Railways Board").

The purpose of these amendments is to introduce the concession that now exists for holders of London travel permits to use British Rail. The reason why we must add the words "and concessionary" after the word "free" is that the concessions on British Rail are not free. What they offer is the right to use their permit to buy the concessionary fares which elder citizens can obtain for British Rail nationally through buying the travel card. It saves them having to buy the 12 travel card.

This matter is more important than it may seem at first. The Underground is mainly, north of the river. The boroughs in the south depend mainly on buses and British Rail. If the citizens in the southern part of London do not enjoy the concessions they now have from British Rail, then the travel permit will not be worth the same to them as it will to the citizens living in the north of the capital. In fact, even with the British Rail concessions, it will not be worth as much to them as to people living in the northern boroughs. However, I accept that this is as far as we can go, unless we are prepared to provide free travel on British Rail. At the moment, we are able to obtain a concessionary fare—a half fare—on British Rail. That is the same concession which any of us can enjoy when travelling on British Rail nationally, using the London travel permit.

The purpose of these amendments is to ensure that people can continue to enjoy the concession I have described. I hope that the Government will accept these amendments because it is my view that if the Government arc to negotiate an agreement with the boroughs (under which, as I understand it, the boroughs will pay for the permits they obtain for their citizens) then the boroughs in the south will insist on paying a smaller price because their citizens will be getting less of a good deal than will citizens north of the river.

As the Government are very anxious to deal with the matter in that way rather than have a London levy, as we have suggested. then it would be wiser for them to concede the points I have made and try to include the British Rail concession in the whole concessionary fares scheme. I hope the Government will agree. I beg to move.

Lord Somers

While I am in favour of all the amendments which have been moved for concessionary fares, it may be partly in the light of self-interest as I am one of those people who are kindly known as "being of pensionable age". None the less, I feel that one of the great difficulties in a place such as London is that if one leaves this matter to the boroughs there will be a lack of uniformity. One will never have all the boroughs agreeing to a single plan. It is as much as they can do to agree among themselves. One will never achieve a uniform plan throughout the whole of London.

Imagine a bus route or an Underground route that extends from one side of London to the other and which passes through half a dozen different boroughs. Supposing some of those boroughs do and some do not agree to concessionary fares. What then? It would be hopelessly confusing. Who, in the end, will settle what the fare shall be? It seems to me that there must be some controlling body higher than the boroughs to settle what the fares should be.

The Earl of Avon

We are now debating Clause 50 which, in fact, is about the reserve scheme. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, might like to bear in mind that it is because of the doubts he expressed that the Government have put in this reserve scheme; it caters for just such an eventuality as he envisages. The amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, are designed to extend the concessionary travel scheme under Clauses 50 to 52 of the Bill to travel on British Rail services.

What we have to hear in mind in our debates on these clauses is that the Government are embodying in statute for the first time a specific concessionary fares scheme which the local authorities in London will be obliged to finance—that is, if conditions are such that the scheme automatically comes into operation. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, was pessimistic enough to think it might have to.

In drafting the Bill, the Government had very much in mind the need to balance the interests of pensioners and disabled people in London on the one hand, and the ratepayers on the other hand. For instance, we do not think it right to impose on the boroughs the cost of financing the most generous possible concessionary travel scheme that could be devised. We believe that the boroughs should remain able, as they are now, to finance concessionary travel for their pensioners on British Rail services if they wish. The Bill retains their right to do this, by the powers given to them under Clause 49.

The current position is that the GLC has, since last October, had an agreement with British Rail under which pensioners can travel for half-fare within Greater London after 9.30 a.m. The cost of the scheme to the GLC is some £2 million a year. They have every right to provide these benefits for their pensioners; and the boroughs will have the same right after the GLC is abolished. But the issue is whether these additional benefits should be built into the statutory reserve scheme that we are debating under these clauses.

The Committee should take into account—the noble Lord, Lord Pitt. was good enough to mention this—that British Rail already operate a national scheme of their own under which, for the payment of a modest sum (£12 a year), pensioners receive a travel card which entitles them to half-price travel on British Rail services anywhere in the country. So whatever action the boroughs take under the new arrangements, pensioners will be able, if they make frequent use of British Rail services, to benefit from that scheme.

I hope that, on reflection, your Lordships will agree that what has been written into the statutory reserve scheme under these clauses strikes the proper balance between the cost of the scheme and the desire to offer concessionary travel to pensioners and disabled people in London. I look forward to hearing the response from the noble Lord, Lord Pitt.

Lord Underhill

Before my noble friend replies, may I ask, is it not a fact that if the reserve scheme comes into being without this concession a large number of pensioners in London will be adversely affected? Surely the Government must admit that. The Minister also referred to the British Rail pass. I have one to enable me to travel round the country. However, there are pensioners in London who also want to travel by bus, and if a borough should make a charge for the permit, as it has every right to do under the Government's proposals, the pensioners will have to pay not only the £12 to travel by any British Rail service but that, too. Perhaps the Minister will comment on those two points.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I do not know whether I can help the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, but he will recall that the boroughs have always had the opportunity to support further schemes, and the Bill enables them to continue to do so. Whether or not they make a charge of £1, 50 pence, or no charge at all, is entirely up to the borough. What we are talking about is the reserve scheme. This is a basic scheme which is brought into being, and was introduced into the Bill very largely in response to requests by honourable Members in another place, in the event of the local boroughs failing to agree on a uniform scheme.

We are a long way from that—in fact, nearly two years away. We believe that a uniform scheme is possible. We are talking now of a basic scheme. Even where a uniform scheme is not available it would not prevent various boroughs with differing needs for their elderly pensioners or disabled to supplement the scheme, whether by a card or with special arrangements. The noble Lord opposite should remember that in his consideration of my noble friend's basic response to the amendment.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

I despair. It seems impossible to get the Government to take a proper view of these issues. Of course we are talking about the basic scheme. Of course the basic scheme will provide for the elderly—I hope with the amendments I shall move later—for travel in London on London Transport vehicles; but it does not provide for that sort of travel on the services of British Rail which are within Greater London. Pensioners in London need those services just as much as they need the services of London Transport.

What is more, as I said earlier, those who live south of the river will require British Rail services to a tremendous extent, while those who live north of the river will not require British Rail services to the same extent because they have the Underground. I should have thought any Government would regard it as reasonable to have a scheme which covers both. All I am doing in these amendments is trying to get the Government to agree to do that. I am sorry that the Government cannot see their way to doing something even as simple and straightforward as that. However, there does not seem to be any point in pushing the matter, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 161 to 164 not moved.]

5.18 p.m.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead moved Amendment No. 165: Page 50, line 6, leave out ("offs-peak").

The noble Lord said: I will have another try. This time I will see whether I can get the Government to recognise what they are doing. As I said in moving an earlier amendment on our previous sitting, I was in County Hall at the start of all this. What we found is that, as a result of our restriction—I agree our's was four o'clock and the Bill proposes 4.30 p.m., which gives an extra half an hour, which may help—there was congestion because children from school and old people were trying to use the buses at the same time.

We also found that in this short time—and it will be the same whether it is 4.30 p.m. or four o'clock—there is much conflict between conductors and elderly passengers. The conductors say, "It's one minute past four and therefore you must pay". The passenger says "No, it's one minute to four.- Moreover, if the bus is very late. the passenger will say, "I have been waiting here for 20 minutes", and sometimes it is true. That was the situation. We also found that after the removal of the peak hour travel restriction there was no problem. There is no problem as regards whether or not the buses can accommodate these people between 4.30 and 6.30 p.m. There is no problem there. Therefore there is no need for the restriction. It causes congestion before the time when it comes into force. Old people try to get home before the restriction. They want to be on the bus before 4 o'clock, or 4.30, so there are problems then. It has also happened to be the same time that the children are rushing to get home from school, so there is that problem, too.

There is another problem. If old people are visiting someone, they have to watch the time and rush to make sure that they get the bus before the concession ceases. In my previous speech I mentioned what I had found in my practice. Patients have said to me, "Please, doctor, will you see me early, because I have to catch the bus? If I am delayed in the surgery, I shall not be able to use the bus, as I will have to pay the fare". I also know of people who visit their families and have to rush because the off-peak period is about to be over. If they do not leave in a hurry they will not get the concession.

At the beginning we were afraid that during the peak period there would be too much congestion and there was not the capacity. But during the time when we have not had the peak hour restriction, experience has shown that the capacity is adequate and that there is no difficulty in accommodating all the passengers. I hope that the Government will rethink this one.

I said earlier that I was not prepared to do battle about the early morning peak period. There actually is congestion then. I should be happy to accept an amendment on that. If my amendment was accepted. I should probably try to come back with something that would start the free service from 9.30 a.m. onwards. I think that that would be fair, and I am quite happy to do that. But I believe that the 4.30 to 6.30 p.m. exemption is bad and should be abolished. It restricts the activities of elderly people and also creates quite unnecessary conflict.

There is also the peculiar point that there is this restriction between midnight and 1 a.m. during the week, when in fact the buses are empty, but there is no restriction on Friday and Saturday night, when they are full. All these anomalies are created by the insistence on restricting the concession to off-peak times. I hope that the Government will accept my amendment. As I said, if it is accepted, I shall, in consultation with the Minister, bring forward another amendment which will start the concession from 9.30 in the morning. In other words. the period will run from 9.30 a.m. onwards. I beg to move.

Lord Tordoff

I should like to add a very small point to what the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, has said. I support everything that he has said on this. By imposing these off-peak restrictions, you are not only restricting those people who are moving out of town on the busy buses but also the people who are moving into town on buses that are very often empty. It may be just as important for elderly people to travel from somewhere outside the city to see their relatives, or whoever else, at precisely this time of night. They may want to go to see their grandchildren at teatime, or whatever. I do not want to tell a great sob story. All I am saying is that by putting this sort of blanket restriction on the off-peak you are not only blocking people getting on the buses at what is accepted is a reasonably busy time—I think the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, has dealt with that—you are also putting a restriction on those people who could on their return journey be travelling on buses, which in many cases are travelling empty.

The Earl of Avon

I find this a fascinating argument and one that is really a question of preference as much as anything else. It might be a reasonable start if I were to say to the Committee that there are of course good reasons for imposing limitations of this kind in the reserve scheme. In fact. my right honourable friend the Secretary of State made it clear at Report stage in another place, that the reserve scheme was deliberately being restricted to off-peak travel, and he explained why. Concessionary fares schemes have their origin in the fact that, in the middle of the day, buses and trains were running three-quarters empty. It therefore makes sound social and economic sense to make use of this spare capacity to provide concessionary travel for pensioners and others. There is little, if any, extra cost involved to a public transport operator if seats on buses which are running, and which would otherwise be empty, are filled during these periods.

The position is very different at the peak periods. Everyone knows what travel is like in the rush hours in London and in the other major conurbations. Public transport is crowded and inevitably uncomfortable. There really is not a great deal of point in encouraging pensioners to travel at times when commuters are going to and from work. The noble Lord, Lord Pitt, mentioned the word "conflict". I am not at all sure that there would not be more conflict at the hour of 5 o'clock if that was encouraged. It discourages commuters from relying on the buses and makes more of them take to their cars instead. I believe also that it could lead to additional costs.

My noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes spoke with the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, on the earlier amendment on the subject of late travel. I believe that this is an example of something which ought to be considered, but I do not particularly wish to accept this amendment at this stage.

As to the extent of the peak periods, the Bill does of course specify what these should be. But may I also say to the Committee that the Bill recognises that circumstances and habits change and it provides a means whereby these peak periods can be altered in order to suit circumstances. I should like to suggest to the Committee that we leave what is in the Bill at the moment. If in future times the suggestions which the noble Lord has made should be agreed by all concerned, we could go ahead and change the system in accordance with (1 think it is) subsections (5) and (7) of Clause 50.

I do not believe that there is any danger that pensioners or disabled people, having boarded a bus or train, will be ejected from it simply because in the course of their journey they find themselves encroaching on the forbidden peak period. The Bill makes it quite clear that the definition of peak travel relates to journeys which start during the peak period.

I fully sympathise with what the noble Lord says. I think that we could go on arguing about different peak hours for some time. I hope that he will appreciate equally what I have said.

The Earl of Perth

I find some difficulty on this. I must confess that I have a lot of sympathy with Lord Pitt. My reason is one of the points that he made: what happens if you have been waiting 20 minutes and then the bus comes along and you cannot get on it because it is then one minute past the hour or half hour? If it had in fact been proved that these peak periods caused great inconvenience, we should have to put up with it, but I certainly have seen some facts which seem to illustrate that in practice what we feared would happen during the afternoon does not happen at all.

It is all very well for the noble Earl, Lord Avon, to say that we can always change the system. I would far rather see it the other way round—namely, that at this moment we accept Lord Pitt's amendment and if later it is proved that the numbers getting there at certain time are intolerable, we can then put it the other way round. I hope the noble Lord will think about doing it that way.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

May I just follow the noble Earl, Lord Perth. I listened with great attention to the Minister's reply and I understand that he has great sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, has to say. I also listened with great attention to my noble friend Lord Tordoff, who has great experience of matters in relation to London transport; but I did not gather that the noble Lord the Minister felt that he could add anything in relation to the very interesting—and I thought very appropriate—remarks or submissions which were made by my noble friend Lord Tordoff on this matter.

The Earl of Avon

I think I would like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, only one thing. Perhaps he can tell me if I am wrong. This is the point of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, on the present scheme. I understand that for the present scheme, which we have incorporated, these times are based on advice from London Transport.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

Of course the present scheme permits of travel from 9.30 a.m. until midnight. That is really what I am trying to restore. What may happen in the peak hour was the basis of the argument when we first introduced the scheme. Then, after I had left, the council found there was this conflict and decided just to extend the scheme. What happened orginally was that the council extended the scheme to the Underground. When it extended the scheme to the Underground it did not impose anything other than the morning peak restriction. In other words, the concession on the Underground was from 9.30 until midnight. Then it was obviously sensible to do the same thing with the buses. When that was done there was found in fact to be no problem. If you ask London Transport now, they will say that there is no problem.

What is more, more often than not the position is as the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, said, that people are travelling at that time in the reverse direction to the peak flow. If I am coming to the House from Hampstead during the peak hour, the bus is half empty until I reach Oxford Street. Then of course it is crowded. It leaves me here, so I do not know whether it is crowded afterwards. If I am going home at that time, I have trouble getting a bus between here and, say, Gloucester Place. But after that I will get a bus quite easily. This is the sort of problem that one faces. Really what happens with the old people is that often they are travelling not with the people who are going home from work, or going to work, but in the opposite direction to those people. Therefore there is no problem with the buses. That is the first point.

I do not believe the Government have thought this out at all well and perhaps because they do no' like the GLC, they have not consulted them about it. The GLC started this scheme in 1974. They have been operating it now for 10 years. They know something about it. If you consult them about it they will tell you what problems there are and what problems there are not. Really there is no problem nowadays. We thought there would be a problem about the 4.30 to 6.30 travel but there is not.

I am always hearing about this cost. People have the pass. Whether they use it during the off peak hour or during the peak hour, I cannot see how that will incur an extra cost. I am afraid somebody will have to tell me. I cannot see where the extra cost comes in. People have the pass and they will use it. Incidentally, I have to say to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, that the point he made is not quite right because when we restricted it originally, pass holders had free travel up until 4 o'clock. So if they boarded the bus before then it did not matter how long they had to travel on it, that was all right. What they had to do was to board the bus before 4 o'clock. That was why this conflict used to occur between them and the conductor. This is a point that the noble Earl, Lord Perth, also made. People would be standing waiting for a bus for 20 minutes. Had they boarded a bus in time, they would have been all right. The bus having come 20 minutes late, they were too late to enjoy the concessionary fare and therefore they had to pay the full fare.

Those were the experiences that we had in the first year or two of running this service. Then we found that when we extended it and there was not this restriction, we did not have a problem. Now the Government are going to reintroduce the problem by insisting on this restriction of between 4.30 and 6.30 p.m. As I said earlier, I am not prepared to go to battle on the issue on morning peak travel. I do not think it is worth going to battle for. But I am prepared to go to battle about this evening peak between 4.30 and 6.30 p.m. because that is the time when that restriction adversely affects the elderly people. I am afraid that I shall have to divide the Committee on this amendment.

The Earl of Perth

Before the noble Lord does that, I should like to just ask, as a matter of fact, whether the situation at the present time is or is not that between 4.30 and 6.30 p.m. people cannot travel free. I think they can. Therefore, the answer that the noble Earl, Lord Avon, gave us, as I understood him, is not that we are doing what is already in existence but in fact that we are going backwards from an existing plan. Therefore I hope that he will think once more about the situation so that we can avoid a Division on this amendment. As I see it, he gave us an answer which was not in accordance with facts.

The Earl of Avon

In case I misled the Committee on that point, I agree exactly with what the noble Earl, Lord Perth, said. Something that the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, mentioned was whether we had consulted the GLC about the scheme. My understanding is that the scheme is actually based on the advice of London Transport.

5.37 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 165) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 104; Not-Contents, 96.

Airedale, L. Lawrence, L.
Ardwick, L. Leatherland. L.
Attlee, E. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B
Aylestone, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Bernstein, L. Longford, E.
Blyton, L. Loudoun, C.
Boston of Faversham, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Bottomley, L. McCarthy, L.
Brockway, L. Mcintosh of Haringey. L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. McNair, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Mar, C.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Mayhew, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Mishcon, L.
Collison, L. Molloy, L.
Croham, L. Mullev, L.
Darling of Hillsborough, L. Nicol,"B.
David, B. Ogmore, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Oram, L.
Diamond, L. Perry of Walton. L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Perth, E.
Donnet of Balgay, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Elystan-Morgan. L.
Ennals, L. Rathcreedan, L.
Evans of Claughton, L. Richardson. L.
Falkland, V. Roberthall, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Rochester, L.
Foot, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Gallacher, L. Seear, B.
George-Brown, L. Serota, B.
Gladwyn, L. Simon, V.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Somers, L.
Grey. E. Stedman, B.
Hale, L. Stewart of Alvechurch. B.
Hampton, L. Stewart of Fulham. L.
Hanworth, V. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Stone, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Hughes, L, Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Hunter of Newington, L. Terrington, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Tordoff, L. [Teller,]
Irving of Dartford, L. Underhill, L.
Jacobson, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Jacques, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Jeger, B. Whaddon, L.
John-Mackie, L. White, B.
Kagan, L. Wigoder, L.
Kennet, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Kilmarnock, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, L.
Kinloss, Ly.
Kirkhill, L. Winstanley, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Craigavon, V.
Alport, L. Cranbrook, E.
Ampthill, L. Crathome, L.
Avon, E. Cullen of Ashbourne, L.
Bellwin, L. Daventry, V.
Beloff, L. Davidson, V.
Belstead, L. Digby, L.
Bessborough, E. Donoughmore, E.
Brookes, L. Drumalbyn, L.
Broxbourne, L. Ebbisham, L.
Buccleuch and Queensberry, D. Eccles, V.
Ellenborough, L.
Caithness, E. Elliot of Harwood, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Elton, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Fanshawe of Richmond, L.
Cathcart, E. Fortescue, E.
Chelmer, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Cockfield, L. Gainford, L.
Coleraine, L. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Gisborough, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Glanusk, L.
Cottesloe, L. Glenarthur, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Molson, L.
Gridley, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Northchurch, B.
Hawke, L. Orkney, E.
Henley, L. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Hives, L.
Holderness, L. Rochdale, V.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Rodney, L.
Hood, V. St. Aldwyn, E.
Ingrow, L. St. Davids, V.
Lane-Fox, B. Sandford, L.
Loch, L. Shannon, E.
Long, V. [Teller.] Skelmersdale, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Soames, L.
Lyell, L. Spens, L.
McAIpine of Moffat, L. Strathcona and Mount Roya, L.
McAlpine of West Green, L.
McFadzean, L. Strathspey, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Suffield, L.
Mancroft, L. Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Margadale, L. Teviot, L.
Marley, L. Trefgarne, L.
Marsh, L. Trumpington, B.
Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L. Ullswater, V.
Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Merrivale, L. Vickers, B.
Mersey, V. Young, B.
Milverton, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

5.45 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Jacques)

Before calling the next amendment, I should inform the Committee that the numbers voting in Division No. 2 should have been announced as: Contents, 88; Not Contents, 113—instead of 112.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead moved Amendment No. 166: Page 50, line 10, leave out ("off-peak").

The noble Lord said: I have spoken already to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead moved Amendment No. 167: Page 50, line 11, leave out ("4.30 p.m.") and insert ("6.30 p.m.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead moved Amendment No. 168: Page 50, line 12, leave out ("off-peak").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead moved Amendment No. 169: Page 50, line 14, leave out ("off-peak").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead moved Amendment No. 170: Page 50, line 16, leave out ("off-peak").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 50, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 171: After Clause 50, insert the following new clause:

("Provisions for the operation of travel concessions by independent transport operators.

It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State—

(1) (a) subject to subsection (2) below to consider any request received from a London authority in relation to the provision of travel concessions by an independent transport operator as defined in section 48(8) of this Act and, if he considers it appropriate, to direct such an operator to provide travel concessions to persons eligible to receive them in accordance with section 48(7) of this Act similar to those concessions which are from time to time available on services provided by London Regional Transport and the Railways Board;

(b) in relation to paragraph (a) above, if he considers it appropriate, to give directions as to the maximum payments which may be made by a local authority to an independent transport service operator for the provision of travel concessions under this section.

(2) No direction under subsection (1)(a) above shall be made by the Secretary of State for the provision of travel concessions by any independent transport operator unless the Secrectary of State is satisfied that financial provision for them will be made pursuant to subsections (1) and (3) of section 48 of this Act.").

The noble Lord said: We are still dealing with concessionary fares. The Bill, as it stands, imposes no obligation on an independent operator to participate in a concessionary fares scheme. It is optional upon an independent operator whether he intends to join in an agreement with a local authority under a concessionary scheme. Unless an independent operator can arrange a satisfactory price for the provision of concessionary fares, it is obvious that there will he little incentive for the independent operator to introduce them. We recognise generally that independent operators will seek remunerative routes at profitable times. Naturally, they will run their services for profit. There is no obligation upon them to follow any social considerations. That is not a political point; it is a common-sense business point. That is what independent operators will be running their business for.

This will not be good enough. The amendment provides for a new clause which gives the Secretary of State power to direct an independent operator to provide travel concessions. This will only occur following a request from a local authority. We are not suggesting that it should be made mandatory for local authorities to enter into such a scheme. Paragraph (b) enables the Secretary of State to determine the maximum payment to be made by a local authority for a concessionary scheme. I do not like to argue that the Secretary of State should have additional powers under the Bill. However, unless something of this kind is done, we could have a situation where the only service in an area might be run by an independent operator, and those persons entitled to a concessionary fare would have no concessionary facilities at all failing any agreement of the kind proposed in this amendment.

Therefore, what we are really asking for is that where a local authority asks that the independent operators should come into the scheme the Secretary of State shall make it mandatory for the independent operator so to do; but also that the Secretary of State shall fix the figure to be paid by the local authority to the independent operator to meet the cost. It seems that this meets every possible criticism and I hope the Government will accept this amendment.

The Earl of Avon

This new clause appears to be based on an assumption that it is necessary statutorily to compel an independent operator to provide concessions if the local authority want them and are prepared to pay for them. I believe I have understood the noble Lord correctly. But if the local authority are prepared to pay for them, there seems to be no reason why such operators should not provide them. It would involve them in no net additional cost; and they would be most unlikely to court adverse publicity by refusing to help those for whom such concessions are intended.

In the circumstances, the only justification for the new clause would seem to lie in the fact that it provides a mechanism for limiting the charge made by such operators to an amount which the Secretary of State considers reasonable. This seems to us to he an unnecessary form of nannying. I can understand the hesitation of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. to put such an imposition on the Secretary of State. Surely it is possible for two such parties to negotiate a satisfactory agreement in such circumstances, rather than to deal with it by a statutory means.

Of course, any concessionary fares scheme will apply automatically to services provided for LRT by independent operators under a Clause 3(2) agreement. As for the wholly independent operator, who operates under a road service licence, in practice I am quite sure that the boroughs will wish to extend concessionary schemes to them, too. But I believe that it would be wrong to put a private operator under this statutory obligation. That is a matter which they and the boroughs concerned should settle locally.

The Government do not think it right to require all such operators by law to provide concessions, whether or not they want to and whether or not the local authorities want to pay for them. But in practice there can be little doubt that it will be in the interests of everyone to extend concessions to those small number of operators operating independently of LRT. I hope I have said enough to appease the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and that he may feel able to withdraw his new clause.

Lord Underhill

Far from appeasing me, the noble Earl the Minister makes me rather concerned. He mentioned the small number of operators. One of our complaints about the Bill is the obvious encouragement within it for there to be an increased number of independent operators. That has been mentioned time and time again. We are concerned that in future, once this Bill becomes law, there can be areas where the only person operating on a certain route at a certain time may be an independent operator.

It is not good enough to say that it is common sense, that agreement will be reached. Agreement may not be reached. Therefore, why should not this Bill make it mandatory that where a local authority says it wants to have an agreement the independent operator must provide it? Why should it be mandatory on LRT? Why should it be mandatory on an operator with whom LRT has got an agreement but not be mandatory on an operator who has not worked on an agreement with LRT but has got a road service licence? There seems to be no argument as to why that should not be so, particularly as where there is failure of the local authority and the independent operator to agree on a figure the Secretary of State shall determine this.

I will read very carefully what the Minister has said but it seems to be one of those points where we may have to come back on Report stage. I should like to think that the Minister will consider what I have said, because we are not forcing anything unless the local authority wants it and the proper agreement to pay for it can be arranged. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 172 to 178 not moved.]

Clause 51 agreed to.

Clause 52 [Requirements as to scope and uniformity of arrangements for travel concessions under section 49(1)]:

5.56 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 179: Page 53, line 1. leave out ("section 49(1) ") and insert ("sections 49(1) and 50(1)").

The noble Lord said: It might be for the convenience of the Committee if we spoke also to Amendments Nos. 180 and 182. Amendment No. 180: Page 53, line 5, leave out from ("on") to end of line 5 and insert—

  1. (" (a) on all services under the control of London Regional Transport and within Greater London on those under the control of the Railways Board;
  2. (b) on all services operated wholly or in part as London Bus Services, under road service licences in accordance with section 44 of this Act, on roads or between destinations where immediately prior to London Regional Transport vesting day, services are provided by
    1. (i) London Transport Executive, within and outside Greater London;
    2. (ii) any other person in pursuance of an agreement with London Transport Executive within Greater London, and outside to the extent that concessions on fares are available to Greater London eligible residents:").
Amendment No. 182: Page 53, line 9, at end insert— (" ( ) The provisions of section 52(1) are without prejudice to the powers available to any London authority, or any two or more London authorities acting jointly, contained in section 49 of this Act.").

My noble friend Lord Underhill was trying to have put into the Bill a provision to operate a concession fare with groups of people, either British Rail or private operators, when the Bill came into force or when agreements were made. These amendments are trying to ensure that there should be an immediate acceptance when the Bill comes into force and not only when an agreement is made. Amendment No. 180 seeks to delete or to remove, all services under the control of London Regional transport … That is the part that is being omitted and a rather fuller explanation is being put in: … services under the control of London Regional Transport and within Greater London on those under the control of the Railways Board; and, on all services operated wholly or in part as London Bus Services, under road service licences in accordance with section 44 of this Act .…

This is applying to services that are being operated already on the routes by London Transport and may in future be operated by a private operator. It is important to note the point made by my noble friend Lord Underhill when he spoke about the small numbers of people who may very well take over some of the bus routes. The number could be extremely small. We have had no indication as to whether it should be half a dozen buses or perhaps even only one bus. With one bus or one single operator it could become extremely dangerous. For quite perverse reasons he may decide that on his route he is not going to be bothered with such problems as concessionary fares, even if he were reimbursed the face value of them. He may very well consider that there were too many other problems involved.

Therefore, one could have one or two single routes in the London area surrounded by people, perhaps private operators or London Regional Transport, who are operating schemes. One could be left with a single operator or two or three operators who for personal reasons just refuse to have anything to do with concessionary fares. It is important that before there is any given date, before there is any actual take-over, these changes he made as proposed in Amendments Nos. 179, 180 and 182. I will be very pleased to hear the Minister's reply. I regard the amendments as a safeguard we should have in the Bill before we let it leave this Committee. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

The Committee will recall that one of the debates which we had on Clause 49 covered much the same ground as these amendments. In essence, what the amendments seek to do is to impose on all London authorities a duty to arrange uniform travel concessions, not only on LRT services, but also on those of British Rail and independent operators within Greater London.

I would ask the Committee to bear in mind that the purpose of Clause 52 is to set out the degree of scope and uniformity which must apply to the voluntary concessionary travel scheme if the statutory reserve scheme is not to be brought into effect. As the Committee are aware, the statutory reserve scheme, for the reasons I have already described, covers only those services under the control of LRT. I therefore hope that the Committee will agree that it does not seem reasonable to make it a condition of uniformity under Clause 52 that all authorities must agree a scheme covering not only LRT services but those of British Rail and independent operators as well.

As I have mentioned in earlier debates on these clauses, the Government's policy is to maintain, so far as possible, the discretion of local authorities in the provision of concessionary travel. While the Bill makes it obligatory for local authorities in Greater London to agree a uniform scheme for LRT services, we do not believe that it is necessary to extend this obligation to include other services.

Clause 49 provides ample opportunity for local authorities to make such arrangements if they so wish. Indeed, there is nothing to stop them agreeing a joint scheme for the whole of Greater London. But again we do not believe that this should be made obligatory. I hope that I have said enough to set Lord Carmichael's mind at rest on this point, and I hope that I have persuaded him to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Underhill

I wonder whether the noble Earl could answer one question for me. The Secretary of State has said that the Bill will take effect as soon as possible after Royal Assent. The "appointed day" refers to the day when London Transport ceases and LRT takes over. Until there is either a voluntary agreement or the reserve power, what will happen to the existing concessionary schemes? Is there anything in the Bill which says that they will continue until something else is done? In my view this is a very important question.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, my understanding is that they continue. If that is not the case, I will let the noble Lord know.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

I should be grateful if the Minister could investigate the matter. They will continue, for example, if the GLC agrees to continue them. But the GLC may not agree to continue them.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

Both of my noble friends have made important points. The Minister has said that, so far as he understands it, they will be continued. However, it would be useful if the Minister would look at the matter more closely. The gap between the takeover day and the final working out of the schemes is an important point and it may involve quite a long time. If the Minister would agree to look at the matter and give us a specific statement at the next stage of the proceedings, then I would beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees The next amendment is Amendment No. 180 and it should read: Page 53, leave out line 5 and insert the words as printed.

[Amendment No. 180 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 181 and 182 not moved.]

Clause 52 agreed to.

Clause 53 agreed to.

Clause 54 [Interim control over organisations and fares of Executive]:

Lord Tordoff moved Amendment No. 183: Page 54, line 16, leave out ("submitted to and approved by") and insert ("discussed with").

The noble Lord said: Clause 54(3) provides that the London Transport Executive cannot change the general level or structure of fares before the appointed day unless approved by the Secretary of State. But it seems to me that before the appointed day it is not his responsibility. The clause therefore gives him blocking power without responsibility for the result of his actions. Clearly he needs to be consulted but to suggest anything more seems to me to be an unwarranted attack upon the integrity of the members of London Transport Executive as at present consituted. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State said in another place, the whole purpose of Clause 54(3) is to enable him to prevent the GLC from making any extravagant gesture over fares in the period before they lose control of London Transport. On the contrary, there is no attack upon LTE. If no such drastic changes arc in mind, as my right honourable friend was given to understand in another place, he will not need to exercise his powers of approval in subsection (3) and the clause therefore will have no further effect beyond the appointed day. It seems reasonable to me that he should at least have these powers, even if they will be operative only for the short period between enactment of the Bill and its coming into operation. The point here is that we have to ensure that there are no great changes over fares after Parliament has approved the Bill, but before the appointed day. That is why I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Tordoff

It does not refer to anything wild that the GLC is going to do. It says that: the Executive shall not make any alteration in the general level or structure of the fares without the approval of the Secretary of State. It seems to me to be imputing motives to people and it seems to me that the Government clearly have no evidence on which to make those imputations. But having smoked out that reply, there is not much point in going further at this stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 54 agreed to.

Clause 55 [Provisions as to approvals, consents and directions]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 184: Page 54, line 41, leave out from ("assets") to end of subsection (4) and insert ("provided that the Secretary of State shall give no directions which cause London Regional Transport to dispose of assets at a loss or incur a liability to local authorities.").

The noble Lord said: This is a probing amendment. We would be giving a great deal of power to the Secretary of State merely to say blandly that he can give a direction to London Regional Transport to discontinue any activity or to dispose of any property whether or not they do so at a loss and whether or not there is any recompense to them. It is important to have the parameters of the powers explained to the Committee. Indeed, the purpose of the amendment is totally to negative those powers and I have a feeling that the noble Lord the Minister would not be willing to accept it. But perhaps he would at least be willing to explain rather more fully than the Bill appears to do, the circumstances under which it is envisaged that the Secretary of State would use such a powerful provision as is contained in this subsection. So in order to elicit a reply from the Secretary of State, I beg to move.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, for having explained the principle underlying this amendment. When I looked at it I thought that the amendment would probably be more in the nature of an exploratory one. As he will know, a similar amendment was discussed during the Committee stage proceedings in another place, and at that time my right honourable friend the Secretary of State sought to explain that there was nothing sinister in subsection (4) of the clause as it was then drafted. It is in fact precedented in Section 41(2) and (3) of the 1969 Act. So the Greater London Council at present have this power in relation to London Transport. I can see no reason why, on that basis, it should be objectionable to give the same power to the Secretary of State, as this would be consistent with the transfer of responsibilities to London Regional Transport.

If the Committee will allow me, it might be as well if I take a moment or so to explain the general background to the clause. The main point is that if London Regional Transport have taken an action which requires the Secretary of State's consent or approval, but have not obtained that consent or approval, the action in question might be ultra vires in the absence of Clause 55(2). I should point out that if LRT take an action which requires the Secretary of State's consent or approval but have not obtained that consent, one is not imputing anything. It could be a genuine error or misunderstanding. Subsection (2) of Clause 55 avoids the difficulty by providing that the action in question is not unlawful merely because the Secretary of State's consent or approval has not been obtained. But it combines that provision with a power in subsection (3) for the Secretary of State to give directions to LRT to rectify the problem. Subsection (4)—with which the amendment is concerned—then spells out the form which these directions may take.

Having said all that, it might be helpful if I give a hypothetical example in which subsection (4) might be used. Let us suppose that LRT have ordered an expensive piece of research equipment but, for whatever reason, LRT did not obtain the consent of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State then needs power to require LRT to halt the purchase and/or dispose of the equipment. If the supplier had expected to deliver the equipment and to be paid for it, and then the Secretary of State intervened. LRT could be faced with a claim for breach of contract. That is why the clause specifically provides that a direction by the Secretary of State may result in LRT incurring a liability to other persons. The noble Lord's amendment refers to a "liability to local authorities" and he spoke to this. The effect of his amendment appears to be to rule out any direction by the Secretary of State which would cause LRT to: incur a liability to local authorities". I wonder whether this is quite what the noble Lord really intended. His amendment would effectively absolve LRT from any liability to local authorities in such circumstances. As I understood his remarks, his anxiety was that local authorities should not themselves suffer liability. If my understanding is correct, in any event his amendment would be defective. But when we discussed earlier whether local authorities should somehow be "compensated" for any contribution that they may have made in the past towards assets which LRT may dispose of, I explained why the Government could not accept that this should be the case.

Given that rather lengthy explanation, I hope that the noble Lord is clear about the purpose behind subsection (4) as drafted, and the kind of circumstances that might arise in which the Secretary of State would need to take action under subsecton (4). If he is able to accept my explanation, no doubt he would agree to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

The noble Lord the Minister has given a long and helpful explanation. I should have preferred him to give a different example than the fairly obvious one of LRT embarking on a large-scale assessment, or a large scientific or technical assessment, which involves them in equipment. For instance, I was concerned about the disposal of land and whether the Secretary of State could give the instructions to dispose of land, even at a loss. That is when we come on to slightly more difficult ground. However, perhaps the noble Lord the Minister would take note of everything that has been said in Committee, as I am sure he does, and at the next stage of the Bill deal with this matter specifically. That requires a little more explanation than we have been given. I see that he has signified his agreement to do that and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 55 agreed to.

Clauses 56 to 61 agreed to.

Schedule 4 [Operation of enactments relating to former London Board functions]:

6.17 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 185: Page 81, line 27, leave out from ("provisions") to ("shall") in line 28.

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I should also like to speak to Amendment No. 186. Amendment No. 186: Page 81, line 30, at end insert ("; and section 104 of the Act of 1934 mentioned above (power to erect shelters, etc.) shall also apply (with any necessary modifications) with respect to the routes of any public passenger transport services operated by any person in pursuance of any agreement entered into by London Regional Transport by virtue of section 3(2) of this Act as it applies with respect to the routes of such services operated by London Regional Transport or any subsidiary of theirs.")

Amendment No. 185 simply corrects an error in the Bill. The power to make by-laws and regulations under Section 104 (2) and (3) of the London Passenger Transport Act 1934 was repealed in a subsequent local Act as long ago as 1938. We therefore seek to delete the reference to that power from paragraph 8(3) of Schedule 4 to the Bill.

However, the main part of Section 104 of the 1934 Act is still in force. It will continue to apply to LRT and to their subsidiaries by virtue of sub-paragraphs (1), (2) and (3) of paragraph 8 of Schedule 4. It will allow LRT to erect and maintain bus shelters on the routes of services operated by LRT themselves or by their subsidiaries.

In addition, Amendment No. 186 will allow LRT to erect and maintain bus shelters on routes operated on their behalf by private operators who may be operating under Clause 3(2) agreements. I am sure that your Lordships will readily agree that this is sensible. Without such a power it would be necessary for independent operators to have to negotiate their own arrangements with the local authority or local authorities involved, as bus operators other than LRT or the National Bus Company do not have their own powers to erect bus shelters. This then would be needlessly complicated. We can avoid difficulties of this sort by amending the Bill in the way in which I have described. I hope that the Committee will welcome this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 186:

[Printed above.]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.

[Clauses 62 and 63 agreed to.]

Clause 64 [Initial membership of London Regional Transport]:

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 187: Page 61, line 3, leave out from ("office") to end of subsection (2) and insert ("provided that person is given a period of notice as specified in the terms of appointment for that person or if no period is so specified a minimum period of notice of one month shall apply, and that person shall be informed in writing of the reasons for removal.").

The noble Lord said: Clause 64 provides for members of the London Transport Executive to continue in office as members of London Regional Transport after the appointed day, but within a period of three months from the appointed day the Secretary of State will have power to remove any such person from office. This appears to be unfair in so far as it allows dismissal by the Secretary of State without any notice and without any assigning cause. This is in the form of a probing amendment, and I should like to know why this is done and whether the Minister would agree that our amendment is better.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I shall be happy to give the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, a reason, but may I start by saying that I cannot agree with him that his amendment is a better way of doing what we intend. As the noble Lord has explained, Clause 64 is concerned with transitional provisions which deal with rather exceptional circumstances. Normally, on the creation of a new public body, its board members would be newly appointed from scratch. In this case, however, the London Transport Executive are not changing their legal persona; they are simply continued under a new name and under a new constitution, and their board members will continue in office as LRT board members on the appointed day. But it is quite possibly the Secretary of State's single most important function, in his relationship with LRT, to make appointments to the board, and he must have freedom to start LRT off as early as possible with a board which he regards as suitable for implementing his policies.

Normally a Secretary of State will of course inform the board member whom he removes from office of the reason for his decision. Indeed, paragraph 7(1) of Schedule 1 lists those circumstances in which the Secretary of State may remove a member of LRT, and he will make clear the ground for his action. But we are not talking, in this clause, about a normal period; we are talking about the transitional period during which the Secretary of State is building up the new board. During this time the Secretary of State must be free to discharge a member if, on the basis of whatever consideration, he regards the member as unsuitable. There is in these circumstances no question of "assigning cause": he must be able to say in this transitional period, "I am sorry, I don't want you. I want somebody else".

It is true in this case that for the Secretary of State to dismiss a board member without notice and without assigning cause would be outside his existing terms of appointment under the GLC. As I understand it, the GLC's current terms of appointment for members of London Transport provide for a period of notice of unspecified length. This is precisely why the Bill provides in Clause 64(3) that the dismissed member should have a right to compensation. We shall be discussing compensation when we get to Amendment No. 188, so at this stage I would not like to go into that.

The amendment that the noble Lord has tabled specifies a minimum period of notice of one month. That may not seem—and perhaps indeed it is not—a very onerous requirement under normal circumstances. But, as I have implied, the circumstances are not as normal as one might have wished. The Secretary of State must be able to start, as it were, on day 1 with a board of his own choosing, and it is not reasonable for his hands to be tied in the way implied by the amendment. With that explanation, I hope that perhaps the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Underhill

I am obliged to the Minister for his explanation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 188: Page 61, line 8, leave out ("London Regional Transport") and insert ("the Secretary of State").

The noble Lord said: Perhaps it would be convenient for the Committee if I speak also on Amendment 189. Amendment No. 189: Page 61, line 9, leave out ("the Secretary of State") and insert ("he").

In speaking to this amendment I must draw attention to some of the remarks that the noble Lord the Minister made on the previous amendment because it would justify the present amendment that I am now moving. I am paraphrasing. We were told: "The Secretary of State must start on day 1 with a board of his choosing. It is a most important decision that he has to make to start with a board that suits his policies. He should be able to say, 'I don't want you. I want someone else'. It is a transitional period when the Secretary of State is building up a new board".

The clause goes on to say that the Secretary of State will determine the compensation, the amount and the terms, as he may so determine. I think all noble Lords will agree that it is right that compensation should be paid in such a case, but who is going to pay it? The Bill provides that the Secretary of State will decide the terms of the compensation and the amount, but LRT is to pay: the London Regional Transport is to pay. In other words, it is added to the costs of London Regional Transport. It adds to the total charges of London Regional Transport which will then be put on to the local authorities at the end of the year, or whenever the precept is being made, as part of their maximum two-thirds contribution.

It may be right for the Secretary of State to determine the compensation because it is his decision; he has removed the man from the board for his own reasons. Yet the Treasury is not meeting the bill, or the compensation; the LRT is to meet the compensation, and they will add it to their charges which will affect the contribution paid by the local authorities. The point of Amendments 188 and 189 is that LRT will not pay but the Secretary of State will pay. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I can quite understand what prompts the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, to use some of the terminology that he did in moving his amendment, but the logic behind the amendment appears to me to be that if the Secretary of State is responsible for the terms of appointment of members of the board of LRT, then he should be responsible for paying any compensation if they are removed from office.

We do not think that this is the right way of preceeding. It is an absolute standard for all nationalised industries that it is the industries themselves which are responsible for paying compensation to members of their boards if a question of compensation arises. The provision for LRT in this clause follows all precedents. I think the reason is quite clear. Although it is the Secretary of State who appoints members of the boards of nationalised industries and who fixes their remuneration (certainly with the approval of the Treasury), it is the industries themselves which provide their salaries. In these circumstances it is absolutely right and logical that it should be the industries themselves who should pay compensation in those cases where compensation applies.

There is nothing more to it than that. A question was raised in another place as to whether or not the GLC should be responsible for the compensation paid. This was generally thought by the Government to be an unfair burden to put on the GLC. Again, it was felt that since LRT were going to have the changes made, fix the salaries—whether they be higher or lower than those existing is immaterial—it would be logical for them to meet the charges that might result from compensation being paid. It is for those reasons that I would invite the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, to withdraw both the amendments.

Lord Underhill

The noble Lord said that in the other place suggestions were made that the GLC should pay. I believe I am correct in saying that the original Government drafting of the Bill was to the effect that the GLC should pay and the amendment was made because the Government had second thoughts. I would ask them to have second thoughts again. It is pretty clear from what the Minister has said that the Government will not shift on this. We will have a look at it, but it is not the LRT that will be responsible for the changes; they will take over a board that is responsible to the GLC now. The Secretary of State wants to change the board for policy reasons and therefore it seems so logical to me that he, on behalf of the Government, should pay the cost of compensation. That was the point of the amendment. The Government obviously think otherwise. We will have a careful look at what the Minister has said but I believe that logic, common sense, fairness, reasonableness and businesslike ethics are on our side. At this stage I would beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 189 not moved.]

Clause 64 agreed to.

Clause 65 [Further transitional provisions, savings, amendments and repeals]:

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 189A:

[Printed earlier: col. 1585.]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 189B:

[Printed earlier: col. 1586.]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 65, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

Schedule 5 [Transitional provisions and savings]:

6.32 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 189C: Page 87, line 22, after ("office)") insert ("(a)").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I would like also to speak to Amendments Nos. 189D and 189E. Amendment No. 189D: Page 87, line 24, leave out from ("Act") to ("as") in line 27 and insert ("or (b)"). Amendment No. 189E: Page 87, line 29, leave out from ("pay") to ("on") in line 31 and insert ("to that person compensation of such amount, and").

I think these amendments will he welcome to the Committee, and in that belief I will be brief. They provide that as the chairman of the London Transport Passengers Committee loses his office prematurely as a result of the Bill, any compensation due to him will be paid by the Secretary of State instead of by the GLC. The amendments do not imply any decision about the position of the present holder of the chairmanship. They apply merely to the chairmanship of the London Transport Passengers Committee, and the principle which was accepted by my right honourable friend in another place in relation to loss of initial membership of the LRT, that the GLC should not be required to pay compensation. In the circumstances, we believe that the most appropriate course is for the Secretary of State instead to pay any compensation. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I beg to move Amendments Nos. 189D and 189E:

[Printed earlier.]

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 190: Page 91, line 7, leave out ("2nd December 1983") and insert ("the appointed day").

The noble Lord said: The Bill provides that where before 2nd December 1983 the GLC have entered into certain capital commitments, whether legally enforceable or not, that commitment shall have effect as if it transferred to the LRT. The point of the amendment is to change the date 2nd December 1983 to "the appointed day". That seems quite important, because we want to ensure that the commitments referred to in the clause shall apply not to those made before 2nd December but to those made before the appointed day, which the Secretary of State hopes will be some time this summer.

The reason is that the GLC has quite an ongoing programme, for instance, with British Rail; and the present drafting means that the matter will be made retrospective. Any costs that have been incurred since the 2nd December 1983 up to the appointed day will not be transferred to LRT. Moreover, I would ask: why 2nd December 1983? That just happened to be the date of the publication of the Bill. One would have thought the correct procedure would be to take any commitments entered into before the appointed day after Parliament has approved the Bill. A number of the projects are long term and cannot be rushed through. It seems so important that these commitments should not be prejudiced, and I hope that the Minister will be able to accept this amendment which, again, is not only logical but seems to us to be good business practice.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

As the noble Lord said in moving his amendment, it is quite important. Indeed it is; but I regret to say that we do not find the amendment acceptable. The noble Lord seeks to substitute in paragraph 15 of Schedule 5 a reference to "the appointed day" in place of the reference to "2nd December 1983", which was the date when this Bill was published. That is germane: he himself underlined it, and I shall return to it in a moment. That would allow the Greater London Council to enter into grant-making commitments with British Rail and other people right up to the appointed day, knowing that LRT would be obliged to take over, and a considerable proportion of the costs would then fall to London Regional Transport.

I believe it is reasonable to accept that once we had published the firm legislative proposals for London Regional Transport—that is, on the 2nd December 1983, as we have said—the GLC should realise that any grant-making commitment entered into after the publication of the Bill, whether on capital expenditure or otherwise, should be their own responsibility. Indeed it would have been most odd if we had permitted the GLC to commit their successors in this way to possible major expenditure over which LRT had no say.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State made this quite clear in a debate on an identical amendment in another place, when he said that the provision was not intended to stop all capital investments from being made but that it was simply designed to secure fair arrangement for the funding of sensible schemes for this transitional period. The precise extent of the GLC's commitments under these projects as at the appointed day is not known. They are likely to have a very firm commitment to the Homerton Station, which is something of the order of £410,000 and of which the GLC's share is £102,000 and which is funded very largely by the Department of the Environment. It is not expected to be completed until 1985. The important point is that the commitments would not necessarily fall to LRT. They may be outside the scope of Schedule 5, paragraph 15.

To the extent that the GLC had made a firm commitment they would be able to continue to pay grants notwithstanding the repeal of Section 3 of the 1969 Act. If they have no such firm commitments they would have to rely on other statutory powers or simply withdraw their involvement. That is the purpose of the clause and with that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will be able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

There is a principle involved in this. Who runs affairs—the executive or Parliament? The implication is that the moment you publish a Bill everybody must conclude it is law and act accordingly, and that from the day of the publication of this Bill the GLC should cease to make any capital commitments. If you say that the moment a Bill is published eveyone must take it that it is the law of the land, I think you are belittling Parliament to a terrible extent. No one is entitled to assume that anything is law until it has been passed by Parliament. Therefore the GLC and anybody else were entitled to assume that things will continue as they are until Parliament has given its consent to this Bill and the Bill has received the Royal Assent.

I think that the Minister would have been right if he had said to my noble friend that, instead of "the appointed day", he would have the day on which the Bill received Royal Assent. That would have been in order. But to say that because the Bill was published on "X" day no one has a right to do anything after that is really to be giving a power to the executive which I cannot believe members of your Lordships' Committee really intend the executive to have. I would have thought that there are people here who are sufficiently concerned about the constitution to see that this is the wrong way to go about things and that, in effect, this is a belittling of Parliament. We should not allow it. We must say to the Minister, "You published the Bill. Very well. When Parliament says the Bill is law and the Queen gives her consent to the Bill, it is the law of the land and then everybody must respect it. But until then you are not entitled to say that no one can make a commitment because you published a Bill saying that you are going to change things." After all, Parliament may have refused, and if Parliament had refused things would remain as they are. People are entitled to assume that everything will remain as it is until Parliament gives its consent.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Will my noble friend the Minister agree that in principle everything that the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, has said is impeccable? But are there exceptional circumstances and, if so, do they not warrant some exposition?

Lord Tordoff

May I from these Benches support what the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead. has said. I am sure that your Lordships will understand that retrospective legislation is anathema, and this is a piece of retrospective legislation. Could the noble Lord the Minister indicate whether there have been any substantial amounts of capital expenditure to date, and whether he anticipates that there are likely to be any major items of capital expenditure between now and the time at which the Bill becomes an Act? If not, would he be prepared to accept an amendment at a later stage which was not "the appointed day"—I can see that there may be some problems in that—and not the date on which the Bill was published, but the date on which the Bill becomes law? That seems to me, along with the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, to be the proper way in which to proceed.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I never fail to be amazed at the imagination of the noble Lord. Lord Pitt of Hampstead, in these matters, because in fact we are not really doing what he suggested we are doing. We are not flouting the law of the land. All we are saying in this schedule is that London Regional Transport should not be obliged to honour GLC commitments entered into after the Bill was published. We said that right at the beginning. If the Bill fails. the position remains as it was. But we are dealing with exceptional circumstances. Some of the actions of the Greater London Council who are the masters of London Transport have been, to say the least, somewhat unpredictable over this past 12 months or so. Indeed, if they want to continue financing capital projects the GLC can so do, but any contractor entering into agreements on such projects after 2nd December 1983 does so with his eyes open, because when the Bill was published we said what the intentions would be.

I think it was my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway who asked whether I had any details of expenditure. The details which I understand the GLC have entered into are with British Rail for the electrification of the line from Dalston to North Woolwich at a total cost of some £7 million; they are also helping to finance the Finsbury Park Station improvement programme at a cost of £900,000; and they have station improvement programmes of a minor nature totalling a further £1 million or so. I do not think I can say any more.

Lord Tordoff

Can the noble Lord the Minister be precise about this? Have these expenditures been entered into since the date the Bill was published?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

As I understand it, they have not. I think that I have actually come to the end of what I had to say. I was about to say that I cannot say any more and that I hope the explanation is acceptable to the noble Lord.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

If I may intervene again, all GLC capital expenditure passes through both Houses of Parliament. The GLC gets permission to spend money through a money Bill. That money Bill passes through Parliament. So everything that the GLC commits itself to spend on capital is approved by Parliament.

Lord Underhill

The three items to which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, referred totalling some millions of pounds will be covered because I think he replied in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, that these were entered into before the 2nd December 1983. Therefore we are not arguing about those. I will certainly check up to see what commitments have been entered into since 2nd December, because the inference from the Minister is that we could not have a situation where the GLC were rushing things through. There is no indication that that has happened and, as far as British Rail is concerned, that is suggesting that British Rail would have connived at something. The Minister said that people should have known the intentions when the Bill was published and therefore should not have entered into matters with the GLC afterwards. But my noble friend Lord Pitt did not say that this was against any parliamentary constitutional law; what he said was that it is belittling Parliament to make something retrospective on the publication of the Bill, before the Bill has even had its Second reading in Parliament, never mind actually receiving Royal Assent. I will check up very carefully to see what the commitments are. but the GLC have over a period of years had a very progressive scheme, about which very few people know, by which they have been meeting the costs of renovations and improvements to British Rail stations. We learn only about grants to lesbian bodies. We do not hear about the grants that are made by the GLC for practical and useful purposes.

I will check exactly what commitments have been entered into and we may well come back to this at Report stage, because if there are important items in connection with the GLC's transport planning requirements which will not be taken over by London Regional Transport but will fall solely on the GLC, it is a serious matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment in the meantime, but will check the position; and I hope that the Minister will do likewise.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 5, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 6 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 190A: Page 97, line 47, at end insert ("or to any subsidiary of London Regional Transport (within the meaning of the London Regional Transport Act 1984)").

The noble Lord said: This amendment deals with a small oversight in the preparation of the Bill. Paragraph 22 of Schedule 6 as drafted will enable LRT to retain an exemption which London Transport and British Rail have from the general requirement placed on public service vehicle operators under Section 27 of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 to produce financial and statistical returns to the Secretary of State. We omitted to apply that exemption to LRT's subsidiaries, and it is obviously sensible to treat LRT and its subsidiaries in the same way. Once the main bus subsidiary has been established, it will be that subsidiary which is actually operating the public service vehicles. We therefore seek to add a reference to LRT's subsidiaries into paragraph 22 of Schedule 6.

We are not seeking to exempt LRT's bus subsidiaries from the need to make financial and statistical returns. It is simply that the Bill already contains a power for the Secretary of State to obtain this information; namely, in Clause 32(10), which the Committee will note on page 27 of the Bill. We do not need a requirement in two separate places. LRT and its subsidiaries will be required to make extensive information available, as we have discussed on earlier clauses. We are concerned here only with the question of which power should be used for the purpose. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6.52 p.m.

Lord Teviot moved Amendment No. 191: Page 97, line 47, at end insert— (" . Section 35 (which relates to the grant of road service licences for certain excursions or tours) of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 shall have effect subject to the following amendments—

  1. (a) in subsection (1), at the beginning, there shall be inserted the words "Subject to subsections (1A), (1B), (1C), (1D) and (1E) below"; and
  2. (b) after subsection (1) there shall be inserted the following subsections:—
    1. "(1A) If it relates to a service which would involve picking up or setting down passengers on any road in Greater London an application for a licence for a service of a kind described in subsection (1) above shall be treated as an application to which this subsection applies and subsection (1) above does not apply.
    2. (1B) As regards an application to which subsection (1A) above applies the traffic commissioners shall grant the licence unless they are satisfied that to do so would be against the interests of the public on the grounds only that the use for the taking up or setting down of passengers of any place which may be so used would be prejudicial to the safety or convenience of the public.
    3. (1C) In relation to an application to which subsection (1A) above applies and to any licence granted on it, section 33 of this Act shall not apply and sections 31 and 32 of this Act shall have effect as if section 31(2) to (4) and, in section 32(1), the words "and in particular to the matters mentioned in section 31(3)(a) to (c) of this Act" and paragraphs (a) and (b), were omitted.
    4. (1D) In considering under subsection (1B) above whether the grant of a licence would be against the interests of the public or whether in accordance with section 32 of this Act it would be in the interests of the public to attach conditions to the licence, the traffic commissioners shall have regard to any objections or representations, which they consider relevant, which are made in the prescribed manner by the Greater London Council, any London Borough Council, the Common Council of the City of London and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and, where the proposed service involves any place within the City of London which may be used for the taking up and setting down of passengers, the Commissioner of Police for the City of London.
    5. (1E) Notwithstanding subsection (4) of this section, section 50 of this Act shall apply to applications to which subsection (1A) above applies.")

The noble Lord said: As your Lordships are already aware, I referred to this amendment in the Second Reading debate which took place on 1st May. I commented at that time that this amendment is in the same form as Clause 44 of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Bill and is intended to strengthen the operation of Section 35 of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 in Greater London.

The 1981 Act came into force on 30th October 1981, although many of the measures contained in it were previously contained in the Transport Act 1980. The main purpose of the legislation was to relax the licensing arrangements for public service vehicles in order to encourage greater competition between operators in the provision of bus services. Sitting on this side I applaud competition, especially when it is innovative and interesting, and my amendment is entirely consistent with that view.

As your Lordships are aware the 1981 Act defines three types of bus service for licensing purposes: stage carriage services, which are dealt with under Section 31 of the 1981 Act; express carriage services, which are stage carnage services of more than 30 miles, and excursion or tour services, which are dealt with under Section 35 of the 1981 Act. The amendment to Section 35 is concerned with the way in which the Traffic Commissioners deal with applications for road service licences for excursion or tour services. In marked contrast with applications for stage carriage operations under Section 31, the commissioners have no power to refuse a licence for an excursion or tour, nor to impose conditions on the grant of a licence, provided that they are satisfied, first, that the service is a "tour or excursion" service and, secondly, either that there would not be direct competition with other services which are not excursion or tour services, or that the service is for the purpose of some special event.

Unlike the arrangements for Section 31 applications, the Traffic Commissioners are not empowered to receive and consider any representations from local authorities or from the police responsible for highway matters, including road safety and traffic control or from other operators. The Traffic Commissioners are not, for example, able to refuse to grant an unlimited number of licences for excursions or tours, even if the operators all wished to operate their services on the same route with the same picking up or setting down points, however undesirable or dangerous that might be.

In Greater London, the existing arrangements have caused considerable difficulty over the last two years and placed the safety of the public at risk, particularly at the height of the summer tourist season because the operators all wish to provide services for tourists at such places as Piccadilly Circus, Victoria and Trafalgar Square, where there is already heavy traffic congestion and very limited scope to provide special bus standing facilities. The police and highway authorities for these areas have been expressing great concern and pressing for urgent action for some time and they have given their support to my amendment.

It may be felt that by some that the Traffic Commissioners should have the wider powers to consider tour and excursion applications on the grounds of whether or not there is a need for the service, as they have at present outside London and will have in London under Clause 43 of this Bill for stage carriage services. In my view, that would tend to stifle competition, which I appreciate is contrary to the policy of both the 1981 Act and the present Bill

For that reason, as can be seen from the text of the amendment, while it follows the scheme of Section 31 of the 1981 Act in making provision for the Traffic Commissioners to receive representations and to refuse an application or give a conditional licence, the representations, the grounds for refusals or the imposition of conditions are limited to matters of road safety or public convenience and may only be received from the authorities named in the clause. It is also important for me to mention that the provisions of Section 33 of the 1981 Act, which deal with conditions as to the level of fares, are expressly excluded and, in subsection (1E), my amendment preserves the right of appeal in Section 50 of the 1981 Act, which is not presently available for operators who are refused on a Section 35 application.

I should say that the amendment is in identical form to Clause 44 of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Bill, which has the support of the Department of Transport. In my view, the measure I propose, which amends a public Act, should be in a public Act dealing with the same subject matter, rather than the GLC's private Bill, and as matters of public safety are involved it should be introduced with the minimum of delay.

Before I sit down and to reinforce what I have said, I inspected some of the sites this morning. Perhaps this was not a day conducive to much tourist activity, as the heavens opened. However, at Piccadilly Circus, where there is a stand on Eros island for only two buses, there were three buses and three operators and people were going round in circles. That place. which is probably the most popular picking-up point in London, is again to be reorganised. Applications for all the surrounding streets will mean that Lower Regent Street will have one operator. there will be another one in Regent Street, which is not so bad, one in Coventry Street and possibly two in the Haymarket. The Traffic Commissioners can do absolutely nothing to stop them and I can foresee congestion. not only because of the private motor car, which in central London is not so important, but—very much more important—because the public stage carriage services could be seriously hampered. I hope that my noble friend will give serious consideration to this amendment, which has already been agreed in principle. Therefore, I commend this amendment to your Lordships and I beg to move.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Teviot for the explicit and very full way in which he has explained the reason for his amendment. We have been listening to a noble Lord who has some experience in this field and I accept most of what he said. We all recognise the concern of London Transport and the GLC that there is insufficient kerbside space for potential operators of excursions and tours, and we can see, too, that this causes a good deal of congestion in a number of places in central London.

The essential point of my noble friend's amendment was his reference to Clause 44 of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Bill, which is now before another place. Indeed, it is the existence of Clause 44, in an indentical wording to his amendment, which makes me very doubtful about supporting that amendment. I should record here and advise the Committee, if noble Lords are not already aware of it, that the Government support Clause 44 of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Bill, but we do not believe that it is necessary to duplicate legislation. It is not likely to become law quite so soon as the Bill which we are discussing tonight, but there is no reason to fear that the clause will fail, either because of the removal of the GLC's public transport functions by the present Bill or because of the proposals to abolish the GLC.

It would not be right for me to seek to pre-empt consideration of the GLC Bill in another place. However, I understand that Clause 44 is not itself opposed. In the light of that fact, we are referring only to a few months' delay. Since we shall already be well into this year's tourist season, I doubt very much whether that kind of delay will have any effect, in practice, this year. In the light of that response, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Tordoff

At such a late stage of the Committee stage of this long Bill. I should have thought that the Government could be more forthcoming. It seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, has made his case. That fact has been acknowledged by the Government. Surely they could accept it at this stage. This is the right place to have this piece of legislation. If the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, were here I am sure that he would give us another speech on consolidation. This is a means of consolidating an important measure and putting it where it ought to be. I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will give way on this important measure.

Lord Teviot

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, for his intervention. I disagree with my noble friend about the tourist season. The most important part of the tourist season is from the beginning of July until the end of August. I believe that the amendment should be written into the Bill, and I am extremely unhappy that my noble friend says that he is unable to consider it. Whether or not he has any more to say about it I do not know. He agrees with it in principle. At the Report stage I may make a slight adjustment to the amendment. I do not intend to let the matter rest. For very practical reasons it is a very important amendment. At the Report stage I shall be armed with further information. Although I may return with the same amendment, I may, as I have already said, make slight modifications to it.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I regret that my noble friend has not found my explanation to be satisfactory. I accept my noble friend's description of the tourist season, but the Government see no point in duplicating identical legislation, even though there may be a few months' delay. We believe that the clause which the noble Lord seeks to insert into the Bill is far better placed in the Greater London Council (General Powers) Bill. However, my noble friend is supported by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. Therefore, without any commitment, I am willing to have a further look at the matter in order to examine whether my explanation is totally satisfactory not only to my noble friend but also to the Government.

Lord Teviot

I thank my noble friend for what he has said. However, may I make the point that, although my noble friend has referred to the duplication of legislation, the GLC Bill may not be enacted within a few months. It may take longer than that. This amendment ought to be incorporated in a public rather than a private Act of Parliament. I do not intend to weary the Committee for a minute longer. I am grateful to my noble friend for saying that he will look again at this point. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 6, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 7 [Enactments repealed]:

[Amendment No. 192 not moved.]

Schedule 7 agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the amendments.