§ 8.45 p.m.
§ House again in Committee.
§ Clause 32 [Bus and coach stations]:
Page 31, line 7, at end insert—
("(2) At the request of any traffic authority or Passenger Transport Executive the Traffic Commissioner for any traffic area shall require any PSV operator to use bus stations and designated parking places including bus turning circles provided by the traffic authority or Passenger Transport Executive on such terms and conditions as the commissioner considers reasonable after consultation with the authority or Executive.
(3) At the request of any traffic authority or Passenger Transport Executive the Traffic Commissioner for any traffic area shall require any PSV operator to use stopping places where the local authority has provided shelter for bus users.
(4) For the purposes of subsections (2) and (3) of this section "traffic authority" has the same meaning as in section 7 of this Act.").
§ The noble Lord said: I wonder whether I may have advice here. I understand that the Minister will be moving that this clause shall not stand part of the Bill. Is the procedure that I move the clause and allow the noble Lord to move his Motion, and then subsequently move his replacement clauses?
§ Lord Belstead
If the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, would like to move Amendment No. 163, I would be happy then, if it would suit the noble Lord and the Committee agreed, to move that Clause 32 be left out of the Bill, and I would speak to that. I would also speak to my Motion that Clause 77 be left out of the Bill, and that Amendments 240C, 240D and 240E be agreed to, because this is a simplified version by the Government of what has been in Clause 32 and Clause 33. If that sounds a sensible way of proceeding I should be pleased to do that.
§ Lord Tordoff
Might I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, that the wisest thing to do at this stage would be not to move No. 163, on the understanding that one could perhaps come back at a later stage? Then we can hear what the Government have to say in relation to clause stand part, and then come back later if any modifications need to be made.
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
That is rather helpful of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. While the Minister has said that this is a simplification, to us it is just an over-simplification. We should want to raise quite a number of points on it. If there was any possibility of our amendment being negatived on the new clause, which would mean that we should not be able to raise it again at a later stage, I should certainly not wish that.
We have had a rather short time to look at these important new clauses, and I am sure that the Minister will realise that there is a retrospective nature about them too, I would certainly wish to have time to look at this. We would want to think over what the Minister had said and perhaps bring something back on Report. I have one or two points I should like to make on what the Minister calls the simplified amendments. Perhaps it would be best if I did not move Amendment No. 163.
§ [Amendment No. 163 not moved.]
§ On Question, Whether Clause 32 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Lord Belstead
I should like to speak to the Motion that the clause should not stand part of the Bill. I am sorry that the substantial amendments that go with this Motion, Amendments 240C, 240D, and 240E, together with leaving out Clause 77, have been put to your Lordships, as it were, almost out of the blue.Amendment No. 240C: After Clause 77, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Provision, maintenance and operation of bus stations
§ .—(1) A Passenger Transport Executive for any passenger transport area shall have power—
- (a) to provide bus stations and associated facilities at any place in or in the vicinity of their area; and
- (b) to maintain, repair and operate bus stations and associated facilities provided under paragraph (a) above or under their former powers.
§ (2) A council operating a bus undertaking who have ceased by virtue of section 62(1) of this Act to have power to provide a service for the carriage of passengers by road which requires a PSV operator's licence shall have power to maintain, repair and operate bus stations and associated facilities provided by that authority under their former powers.
§ (3) Any charges for the use of accommodation for public service vehicles at any bus station provided by the Passenger Transport Executive for any passenger transport area or provided by any other person under any agreement entered into by any such Executive under section 10(1)(xv) of the 1968 Act (contracting-out powers) shall be reasonable.
§ (4) Subsection (3) above only applies where the charges are made by the Executive in question under section 10(1)(xiii) of that Act or by a person who is operating the bus station under any such agreement otherwise than as agent for the Executive.
§ (5) Any such council as is mentioned in subsection (2) above shall have power—
- (a) to make reasonable charges for the use of accommodation for public service vehicles at any bus station provided under their former powers; and
- (b) to make reasonable charges for the use of, or let on hire to any person, any associated facilities provided by them in connection with any bus station so provided.
§ (6) If any person who is the holder of a PSV operator's licence in respect of any vehicles using accommodation for public service vehicles at any such bus station as is mentioned in subsection (3) or (5) above considers that charges for the use of that accommodation are unreasonable, that person may apply to the traffic commissioner for the traffic area in which the bus station is situated (or, where it is situated partly in one area and partly in another, to the traffic commissioner for such of those areas as may be agreed between the traffic commissioners concerned or, in default of agreement, determined by the Secretary of State).
(7) On any application under subsection (6) above the traffic commissioner may determine the charges to be made in respect of the applicant's vehicles for such period and on such terms as he thinks fit.").
Amendment No. 240D: After Clause 77, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Bus stations: restrictions on discriminatory practices, etc.
§ .—(1) Neither a Passenger Transport Executive nor a local authority shall, in the exercise of any of their powers—
- (a) in relation to the provision or operation of bus stations or any associated facilities; or
- (b) (without prejudice to paragraph (a) above) in relation in particular to the charges to be made for the use of any accommodation at a bus station or of any associated facilities;
§ (2) In relation to a local authority, the powers in question under subsection (1) above include in particular (without prejudice to the generality of that subsection) their powers under section 38 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (appointment of parking places provided under section 32 of that Act as stations for public service vehicles and provision of accommodation in connection with places so appointed).
§ (3) Where under any agreement (other than an agency agreement) entered into by a Passenger Transport Executive under section 10(1)(xv) of the 1968 Act (contracting-out powers) a person is operating a bus station or any associated facilities provided by that Executive or provided by that or any other person under any such agreement, that person shall not—
- (a) in relation to the operation of that bus station or (as the case may be) of those facilities; or
- (b) (without prejudice to paragraph (a) above) in relation in particular to the charges to be made for the use of any accommodation at that station or (as the case may be) for the use of those facilities;
§ (4) The reservation of the whole or any part of the accommodation for public service vehicles at any bus station for such vehicles used in providing local services or (as the case may be) for 700 such vehicles used in providing services other than local services shall not be taken to be discrimination prohibited by subsection (1) or (3) above.
§ (5) Notwithstanding anything in section 8 of the Transport Act 1983 (obligation to accept tenders for carrying on activities of Executives in certain circumstances) a Passenger Transport Executive may not in exercise of their powers under section 10(1)(xv) of the 1968 Act enter into an agreement (other than an agency agreement) for—
- (a) the provision of any bus station or associated facilities the Executive have power under section (Provision, maintenance and operation of bus stations) of this Act to provide; or
- (b) the operation of any bus station or associated facilities provided by the Executive under that section or under their former powers or provided by any other person under any agreement entered into by the Executive under section 10(1)(xv);
§ (6) In this section "agency agreement" means, in relation to any agreement under section 10(1)(xv), an agreement with any person for the carrying on of activities by that person as agent for the Executive concerned.
§ (7) Any such agreement as is mentioned in subsection (5)(b) above entered into after this subsection comes into force shall include provision for ensuring that it will come to an end if the person who under the agreement is to operate the bus station or associated facilities to which it applies becomes the operator of any public passenger transport services or a person connected with any such operator.
(8) On and after the date on which this section comes into force, subsection (5) above shall apply in relation to any such agreement as is there mentioned entered into by the Passenger Transport Executive for any passenger transport area before that date as if this secton had come into force on 11th July 1985.").
Amendment No. 240E: After Clause 77, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Supplementary provisions.
§ —(1) References in section (Provision, maintenance and operation of bus stations) of this Act to the former powers of a council operating a bus undertaking are references to any powers which have ceased to be exercisable by that council by virtue of the application to that council of section 62(1) of this Act; and references in that section and in section (Bus stations: restrictions on discriminatory practices, etc.) of this Act to the former powers of a Passenger Transport Executive are references to any powers which have ceased to be exercisable by that Executive by virtue of any order under section 59(5) of this Act.
§ (2) For the purposes of section (Bus stations: restrictions on discriminatory practices, etc.) of this Act a person is a person connected with the operator of any public passenger transport services if that person is a member of a group of interconnected bodies corporate any one or more of which is such an operator.
§ (3) For the purposes of subsection (2) above, any two bodies corporate are to be treated as interconnected if one of them is a body corporate of which the other is a subsidiary or if both of them are subsidiaries of the same body corporate; and in that subsection "group of interconnected bodies corporate" means a group consisting of two or more bodies corporate all of which are interconnected with each other in the sense given above.
§ (4) In section (Bus stations: restrictions on discriminatory practices, etc.) of this Act "local authority" means—
- (a) in relation to England and Wales, the council of a county, London borough or district, the Greater London Council or the Common Council of the City of London; and
- (b) in relation to Scotland, a regional or islands council.
§ (5) In sections (Provision, maintenance and operation of bus stations) and (Bus stations: restrictions on discriminatory practices, etc.) of this Act and this section—
- (a) "bus station" means a parking place which may be used by public service vehicles (including 9y such parking place which forms part of any interchange facilities for enabling passengers travelling by one means of transport to continue their journey by another); and
- (b)"associated facilities" means, in relation to a bus station, any amenities or facilities provided for use in connection with that station.")
§ It has seemed to us that these provisions are incomplete and should be made more consistent with each other. We have also taken the opportunity, in the amendments to which I am speaking, to avoid a practical difficulty and to respond to representations made to us. The clauses concern only local authority and PTE bus stations, because it has seemed to us that special provisions were justified to ensure fair and equal access by competing operators to these municipally-owned assets. All other bus stations will also be subject to existing legislation on competition and fair trading.
§ The first thing the new clauses in Amendments Nos. 240C, D and E do is to place beyond doubt the powers of the PTEs and district councils to provide bus stations. As your Lordships know, the Bill provides for regional councils in Scotland, district councils and PTEs to lose their powers to run buses under the Bill, although there will remain a specific power in the 1968 Act for PTEs to provide bus stations. I am advised that the power will not be effective alone once the powers to operate buses have been removed. The same will be true where district council bus stations have been provided under bus operating powers.
§ It has been the Government's declared intention given in debates on the Bill in the other place that the operation of bus stations of a significant size or strategic importance should not pass to the new public transport companies, but should remain a function of local authorities and PTEs. So these clauses provide specific powers, lest there should be any doubt, that the PTEs and the district councils shall continue to have powers to run bus stations. I should add that the powers of local authorities—that is, the county, regional and island councils in Scotland and the district councils in England and Wales under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984—remain and are covered by the further provisions of these clauses and so the specific new powers are concerned only with PTEs and those bus stations which the district or regional councils have been operating under their bus powers rather than under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.
§ I have dealt beyond a peradventure with the fact that PTEs and district councils can continue to run bus stations. Secondly, the new clauses aim to introduce rather more consistency into the provisions on bus stations both in the 1984 Act and in this Bill. For example, at present where a local authority provides a bus station under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 the charges must be reasonable. If a bus operator thinks they are unreasonable, he can appeal to the traffic commissioners. It seems only sensible that such a provision should apply for the benefit of operators to all local authority and PTE bus stations and these three new clauses to which I am also speaking provide for this. Similarly Clause 32 as it stands prohibits local authorities from discriminating between operators in exercising their bus station powers under the Road Traffic Regulation Act. Again it seems only sensible to extend this provision to all local authority and PTE bus stations.702
§ We have next tried to respond to representations which have been made to us. For example, the original Clause 77 prevented PTEs from contracting out the management of bus stations to anybody who was a bus operator. It was suggested to us that this might be a hindrance and an expense to PTEs where a local bus operator, probably with an inspector on the spot anyway, would be much better placed to look after the day-to-day management of a bus station. Accordingly, in an effort to try to meet this point our clauses have the effect that contracting out to bus operators is permitted, provided it is done on an agency basis. In a technical legal sense "agency" means that the duty not to discriminate between operators would remain with the owning PTE or local authority, which would have the responsibility of ensuring that the agent fulfilled the PTE's or local authority's duties. So if another bus operator felt that he was being discriminated against, he could complain about it to the PTE or local authority. "Agency" also means that the PTE or local authority would have to fix charges for the bus station rather than leave it to the day-to-day manager.
§ I hope it will be felt that in these ways we have struck a sensible balance between the interests of the operators and of the local authorities or PTEs. Contracting out on a basis other than agency is now available in law to PTEs under the Transport Act 1968, but not in respect of these functions to local authorities. These clauses do not change that position. Where a PTE chooses to contract out in this way these clauses prevent agreements with people who are bus operators and place on them direct statutory duties as to non-discrimination and reasonable charges.
§ Finally, it was agreed in another place that although discrimination between operators was clearly undesirable, local authorities might legitimately want all or part of a bus station to be for express coaches rather than for local services or vice versa. Although the previous wording of Clause 32 was not thought to prevent this, the new clauses contain a specific provision to avoid any doubt.
§ I have been proposing that Clause 32 shall not stand part of the Bill and speaking to the proposal that Clause 77 shall not stand part. I have also been speaking to the new clauses in Amendments Nos. 240C, D and E. I hope your Lordships will feel that although this is rather a mouthful we are trying to do some fairly simple things which I have just run through.
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
I thank the Minister for explaining the new clauses and the amendments. The underlying principle of consolidating the references to management of bus stations is generally welcomed, but, as I said earlier, the Government have still failed to address certain points. That is why we felt the use of bus stations by bodies other than PTEs and local authorities, for example, was rather restrictive. There is no need for them to use them. Securing the continued use of bus stations, interchanges, turning places and shelters, which have been provided at public expense, will not necessarily be brought about and severe traffic problems could be caused by operators choosing not to use bus stations, interchanges, or proper turning facilities.
703 I do not want to weary the Committee, but there are many examples from different cities, ranging from Oxford to Chester, where bus stations have not been used and that has resulted in traffic using the main streets sometimes with restricted access for slow moving buses even to pedestrianised streets. The buses can stop in certain areas and it is more convenient to catch a bus in the street than perhaps go to a bus station. However, for the general good it is far better that people use bus stations, even though in some cases they are slightly less well placed than one would wish. It was possible to pedestrianise certain streets only because the buses were moved to another part of the centre of town. I feel that the use of the term "bus stations and associated facilities" is too restrictive and it would be better to use the phrase "bus terminal and passenger facilities".
Another point is that if competition is to be fair, no operator should be given advantages by being given access to terminal facilities on favourable terms. Other bodies providing bus stations for use by local services include county councils, property developers and bus operators.
There are two ways in which we could tackle this problem. The first would be to pursue amendments to the new clauses in Part VI of the Bill. The second way, which I should prefer and which I suggest to my noble friends, is that we table some amendments at Report stage to this important clause that the Government have introduced. At this point I do not feel disposed to oppose the Minister's proposal, but I reserve the right to discuss the matter at Report stage. I know that there are other Members of the Committee who may have views other than this and I think it would be very wise to listen to all of them before a final decision is made.
§ 9 p.m.
§ Lord Tordoff
May I endorse what the noble Lord has just said? It is all very well for the Minister to say that this was published on Thursday, but this is an important part of the Bill and it is one on which I personally have received representations from a number of places, both locally and in different parts of the country. For those of us who do not have civil servants about us, the Minister may not understand that to have really not much more than some 12 working hours in which to digest three long amendments puts us in a very difficult position. We are walking a kind of tight-rope here between, on the one hand, asking the Government to respond to what has been said at various stages of the Bill and, on the other hand, saying to the Minister, "This is really a fundamental change in the Bill: why didn't you think of it earlier?"
This Bill has had a considerable amount of time spent on it in earlier stages in the other place—and then suddenly, like a rabbit out of a hat, these new clauses are produced. I think they go some way towards answering some of the questions that I would have wished to ask on the original clauses, and the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, has touched on many of them. However, I am not satisfied by any means that the clauses answer all the problems that exist in various towns and cities—the question of access to areas where pedestrianisation has taken place and 704 where people are coming into bus stations which are not really bus stations but bus stops, as alternatives to the stops that existed on the roads which have been subsequently pedestrianised. I am sorry to be making rather a meal of this matter, but I am trying to illustrate the problem that we face at the moment in connection with these amendments.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, although obviously we shall not oppose these amendments tonight, I think that we must make it clear to the Minister that he must take them away and ask for comments from people up and down the country on how they will be affected. This is essentially a practical Bill, and people operating its provisions in the shires and the towns must themselves have a chance to think about the implications of the changes that are being made in relation to their areas. Therefore in not opposing what the Minister is seeking to do tonight, I should warn him that when we come back from the Summer Recess there may well be significant amendments that we would all wish to put forward from all sides of the Chamber.
§ Lord Sandford
I am most grateful to my noble friend for what he has said about this clause. His intention to oppose it, I think, was first tabled on Thursday. The changes of course affect not only the 50 members of the Association of District Councils who run their bus operations, but also a number of others who do not do that but who run bus stations. I shall not be in a position to have consulted them, let alone to have received their responses, by next Wednesday when we shall be dealing with the amendments to Clause 77, so it will be the Report stage at which I shall be able to give your Lordships the considered responses of the various cities and towns which will be affected by this amendment. I am sure my noble friend will appreciate that it is not possible for me now, or next Wednesday when we come to Clause 77, to say anything of consequence to your Lordships for your guidance.
§ Lord Belstead
I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Carmichael and Lord Tordoff, and to my noble friend Lord Sandford for their responses. I realise that these are long new clauses and I would say in reply, first, that they do not force any particular operator to use one bus station rather than another. These clauses are concerned with the operation of the bus stations, and in that respect I think that these new clauses are really for clarification. The fact is that the way in which bus stations should be operated fell under two clauses, Nos. 32 and 77; and that alone seemed to be rather obscure. We felt it was better to try to bring the provisions together into the same part of the Bill. Even though they are now in three new clauses, at least they stand together.
We really have not changed very much the thrust of what was being said. Incidentally, the clauses cover county council bus stations as well as district council bus stations, and they cover the privately-owned stations which are governed by the competition legislation. I have referred to that, and I think I also referred earlier to the point raised by my noble friend Lord Sandford just at the end of his remarks—namely, that some local authorities and district councils are 705 running their bus stations under their powers to run buses, and some district councils are running bus stations under other powers. We hope that we have dealt fairly with local authorities, no matter what powers they are using to run bus stations.
May I make two points in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael? The first that he made was that he felt unease that the use of bus stations—access, convenience, what turning areas they provided and so on—really do not seem to be part and parcel of the government's amendments, whereas of course they were part and parcel of Amendment No. 163 which the noble Lord did not move. In that connection I would just say that although at first sight there is some attraction in Amendment No. 163, if we are giving traffic commissioners the power to regulate stopping points on the road in Clause 7 under the traffic regulation conditions perhaps we ought to give them the power to direct operators as to where they can stop off the road.
I think it really is very difficult. If the noble Lord had moved Amendment No. 163, I was going to say I think it is very difficult to see how the traffic commissioners can oblige operators to use a particular bus station or some other parking place which is on private property, even if this is done at the request of the owner of the property. I think that there is an element of not being necessary in Amendment No. 163, in the sense that I felt that that amendment disregarded the powers of local authorities for traffic management under the 1984 Act, and indeed, the traffic regulation conditions in Clause 7.
One has only to look at Clause 7 to find that it is on the specific request of the local authority that traffic regulation conditions are brought in by the traffic commissioner laying down, for instance, that operators cannot stop in certain places and therefore 706 guiding them towards the use of particular bus stations as being desirable places to use. This is something which we could certainly go into if the noble Lord felt he wanted to do so at a later time. I felt that I ought to indicate on what was the first broad point of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, the attitude which the Government would take to that amendment.
The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, made a very simple point. I think the noble Lord simply said that if competition is to be fair no operator must be given access on any preferential terms. If I may say so, I could not agree more. As I endeavoured to say when I was making my introductory speech, the clauses aim to see not only, that charges are reasonable but also that there is a prohibition on discrimination between operators in the exercise of bus station powers. Therefore, I do not think that there is anything on that particular point between the noble Lord. Lord Carmichael, and the Government.
Before I sit down, may I add that I am afraid, by a slip of the tongue, I made the point that privately-run bus stations are dealt with in these clauses? Of course they are dealt with not in these clauses but by competition legislation. If one were to find in the future—as indeed is the case now—that a privately run bus station was discriminating in a way that it should not, then it might be necessary for the Office of Fair Trading to be brought into the whole business.
I hope that that gives an indication of my response to noble Lords. I hope that noble Lords will feel, when they have had more chance not only to look at the new clauses which are part and parcel of this debate, but also to glance at what we have all been saying on the record in Hansard, that the new clauses to which I am speaking now are not controversial, and indeed I hope that they will not need to be added to. I beg to move that Clause 32 shall not stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 32 disagreed to.707
§ Clause 33 [Extension of safety controls to certain passenger vehicles other than public service vehicles]:
Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 164:
Page 31, line 15, at end insert ("as it applies to a public service vehicle").
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 164 and would speak to Amendment No. 165.
Amendment No. 165: Page 31, line 16, at end insert ("motor vehicle as it applies to a public service").
§ These are drafting amendments. I beg to move.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill)
I should point out to the Committee that if Amendment No. 166 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 167.
§ Lord Belstead
With your Lordships' permission, provided that Amendment No. 167 is being moved formally, I shall not move Amendment No. 166. It is my intention to accept Amendment No. 167, if the noble Lord will very kindly move it. This will make Amendment No. 166 unnecessary and I shall therefore not move it.
§ Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 165:
§ [Printed above.]
§ [Amendment No. 166 not moved.]
Lord Sandford moved Amendment No. 167:
Page 31, line 21, leave out ("2") and insert ("5").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 167 in the name of my noble friend Lady Vickers. Perhaps I should explain to the Committee that Lady Vickers is indisposed in hospital and rang to ask me whether I would move her various amendments, which I was glad to do. But I did not realise quite what I was taking on. This is the first amendment. I think I can see what my noble friend is getting at. It is to change the level mentioned in Clause 33 from 2 to 5. But not being a magistrate, I have been trying to find out this afternoon just what was implied by that. I do not know whether your Lordships have tried to find a magistrate in this chamber. It is quite easy to find judges, barristers, solicitors or even Lord Chancellors, but finding a magistrate is more difficult. I nearly succeeded in tracking down the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, who could have explained to me the difference between level 2 and level 5, but I am afraid that I was unsuccessful. So if the Committee will forgive me, I shall just move Amendment No. 167 and hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will be able to understand what it was that my noble friend Lady Vickers was aiming at in her amendment, and if he is able to accept it so much the better. I beg to move.
§ Lord Tordoff
I rise to give my total and utter support to this amendment, which I do not understand at all. I do it on the basis of wishing to say how sorry we are that the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, is in 708 hospital. We wish her well from all sides of the Committee and hope that she will be back in our presence very quickly.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Lord Belstead
May I say that I am totally convinced by the persuasive argument of my noble friend Lord Sandford, and indeed by the support of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, for the architect of this amendment, my noble friend Lady Vickers, who has been here on every day of the Committee stage of the Bill. I join the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, in saying that we very much hope that she will be returning to us soon, particularly as I have great pleasure in accepting the principle of this amendment.
The effect of it is that the maximum fine on level 2, which is £100, will be increased to level 5 with a maximum of £2,000. I ask your Lordships to consider for a moment what it is that we are dealing with. We are dealing with the offence of knowingly driving, causing or permitting to be driven a vehicle in contravention of a prohibition imposed because the vehicle is unfit. There really is no reason why there should be a different maximum fine set for this offence when the vehicle is privately owned and operated or run under a mini-bus permit from when it is run under a public service vehicle operator's licence. That is the full effect of the amendment. Of course, an offence committed by a private individual may be less heinous than one committed by a commercial bus operator, but that would be for the courts' sentencing discretion and no doubt they would take that into account.
So for the Government's part we are happy to accept my noble friend's amendment in principle. I cannot accept it as it stands, I am afraid, because on drafting grounds alone if there is no difference between the two fines there is no need at all to have paragraph (b) in this subsection and the whole subsection needs rewording. But if my noble friend Lord Sandford will agree to withdraw the amendment, I give him an undertaking that, in consultation with him and with my noble friend Lady Vickers, we shall come forward with an amendment on Report to meet the point which is in this amendment.
§ Lord Sandford
I am most grateful and I think that my noble friend Lady Vickers will also be most grateful. I am intrigued by this technique for getting amendments accepted by the Government. Meanwhile, I am very pleased to beg leave to withdraw the amendment on that assurance.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 33, as amended, agreed to.
§ Baroness Lane-Fox moved Amendment No. 168:
§ After Clause 33, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Advisory Committee on elderly and disabled people's needs
§ There shall be established an Advisory Committee on the effect on elderly and disabled persons of or in relation to the provisions contained in this Act. The Committee shall be established in accordance with the administrative arrangements of the Secretary of State.").709
§ The noble Baroness said: This amendment seeks to ensure that the bus travel arrangements of elderly and/or ambulatory disabled people shall not be overlooked or ignored in the Bill; that the prescribed methods of solution shall be made very well-known to operators and be open to suggested improvement to research and progress; and that these points shall be achieved by establishing a statutory advisory committee.
§ On Amendments Nos. 42A and 42B, noble Lords on both sides of the Committee mentioned their difficulty in classifying elderly and disabled people. While pension books must be indisputable evidence for the first group, the disparate mass, properly described as disabled, are much more teasing to identify. Deaf and blind people, and others who are suffering from much less than obvious disabilities, such as heart trouble and nervous disorders, travel on buses.
§ Points that are helpful to very many have been most carefully researched in recent years, and there are practices and items that can greatly simplify bus travel for anyone who is handicapped but ambulatory. They can make full use of the split-level and shallower step improvements, hand-rails for the arthritic, frail and others who find it hard to cope; tactile symbols and extra lights for blind passengers; written notes and notices for people with hearing difficulties—these and other methods have been carefully and caringly thought out for the benefit of handicapped travellers on the buses. To know that such methods are practised makes the difference for some passengers between even setting out on their journey and deciding not to go at all. To those who have to travel it is a godsend for them to find their troubles cared for.
§ There are mechanical engineers and planners who are remarkably ingenious people. Many of us have a great deal for which to thank them in our means of transport. When we consider all the thought and skill that has gone into the buses and when we bear in mind that methods are being researched overseas as well, notably in the United States and Scandinavia, it is clear why there is a demand from disabled people and organisations to do with disabled people for a statutory advisory committee. It is essential that the information they glean is disseminated to the bus operators either directly or through local authorities. They must be made aware of the means available to meet the requirements of a sizeable proportion of their passengers. That would be an important duty of an advisory committee.
§ Knowing the wise and understanding qualities of my noble friend the Minister, it is my hope that he may be seized with the need for such a body. It is encouraging that the Department of Transport had the sagacity to set up a panel of advisers on disability in 1983. Could our amendment be treated as an offshoot of that panel, thus avoiding the dreaded quango? But it is not for me to propose methods.
§ The amendment is supported by my noble friends Lord Zouche and Lord Renton. My noble friend Lord Zouche asked me to tell the Committee that he deeply regrets that, due to a longstanding commitment with overseas visitors, he is not here to give his verbal support. To reiterate, the amendment asks for the 710 establishment of an advisory committee. While its wording and its placing may need to be improved, I trust that my remarks have described the purpose for which the advisory committee is designed. It is our fervent hope that my noble friend the Minister and the Secretary of State will do their best for us on this important request.
§ Baroness Elliot of Harwood
Perhaps I may say a few words in support of the amendment. With one or two other noble Lords I have been in close touch with the all-party committee on disablement. This is one of the subjects that we discussed at some length. I had not at the time realised that the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, had put down an amendment. I was asked to put one down too, but now this matter has been raised I endorse everything the noble Baroness has said. It is quite true that many discoveries are being made on all these subjects, particularly in connection with helping disabled people. If we had a group whose job it was to see that all these matters were reported and acted upon in this country, it would be a great advantage to this Bill and a great advantage to those people who use public transport and whom we have been discussing at such length.
§ Lord Belstead
During our earlier debate on the subject of the steps that could be taken to improve the accessibility of public transport to disabled people I think I made it clear that the Government had been looking with some interest at this amendment. As my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood has just said, it is a fact that the subject of a statutory advisory committee on the lines of this amendment was discussed when a few weeks ago Members of your Lordships' House met my right honourable friend in order to discuss provision for disabled travellers.
Now my noble friend Lady Lane-Fox has ingeniously suggested that a new statutory body could be seen as building very much on the work of the existing informal panel of advisers which was established in 1983. The expert members of that panel, working under the chairmanship of my honourable friend the Minister of State, Mrs. Chalker, have been willing to make their services available to the Department of Transport, often on a day-to-day basis, for consultation and advice on all aspects of the needs of disabled people.
I should add—and this point is of particular relevance to this amendment—that the panel's work covers all the forms of transport for which the department is responsible; aviation and shipping as well as rail and bus services. The amendment in its present form, if applied to that panel, would somewhat restrict its activities and interests. I am sure we want to avoid that. The amendment also needs to make precise provisions as to the way in which the committee would be established and its members appointed.
However, I fully agree with my noble friends Lady Lane-Fox, Lord Zouche and Lord Renton, all of whom have their names to this amendment, that there is no doubt that a statutory body is needed and that there is much for it to do. It would, for example, take 711 a lead in developing the code of practice to which we referred in an earlier debate and in encouraging, advising and supporting local authorities in the performance of their functions under Clauses 57 and 61.
My noble friend Lady Lane-Fox spoke of the benefits to disabled people that can flow from the right arrangements being made to help them—not always involving amendments that are very expensive. However, the present amendment needs some redrafting for the two reasons I have given. I would therefore ask my noble friend to withdraw her amendment on the clear understanding that I give an undertaking that we accept completely the principle of the amendment and that, after consultation, I will be ready to return at Report stage with a revised version agreed with her and designed to achieve the objectives of her amendment.
§ Lord Teviot
The whole Committee will be very gratified if my noble friend will do that. It is a great step forward that the Government have agreed in that way to the advisory body. I rise to mention only one group of disabled people which was not mentioned last week and which has not been mentioned today. I refer to those who are particularly affected by bus travel—the arthritic. They really suffer the tortures of the damned when they get on a bus and sit down. They have the most miserable time. I hope that the advisory body will look into their needs, as well as the needs of everybody else, and will put them high on the list of priorities.
§ Baroness Lane-Fox
I take this opportunity to thank my noble friend the Minister for his very generous response to our amendment. The Government, it seems to me, have taken a great step in our direction. I only hope that the various organisations for the disabled will now realise that the Government really are showing their wish to help us to be more and more self-supporting on the road.
I should like to remind my noble friend Lord Teviot that I made mention of the arthritic, and I share with him a great wish to see that the enormous troubles they encounter with high steps are met in every possible way. I also hope that they will be high on the list. I entirely agree with my noble friend the Minister that the amendment should be withdrawn and brought forward again in a proper, revised manner, but taking in the sense of my remarks tonight.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 34 agreed to.
§ Clause 35 [London local service licences]:
§ 9.30 p.m.
Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 169:
Page 32, line 7, leave out from ("service") to end of line 9 and insert ("secured by the Board under section 4A of the 1962 Act (Board's power to secure the provision of bus services where a railway service has been temporarily interrupted or discontinued).").
§ The noble Lord said: This is a technical amendment to correct a drafting imperfection. The purpose of the amendment is to exempt from London's local service licences the bus services which British Rail may provide in London on a temporary basis to replace a rail service which is temporarily interrupted or discontinued. This will bring them into line with temporary replacement services outside London. I beg to move.
§ Clause 35, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 36 agreed to.
§ Clause 37 [Grant of licences]:
§ [Amendments Nos. 169A and 169B not moved.]
Lord Ezra moved Amendment No. 169BA:
Page 35, line 10, after ("Council") insert—
("(bb) the traffic conditions on routes proposed and at stopping places;").
The noble Lord said: With this amendment I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 169BB, 169BC, 169BD, 169BE, 169BF, 169BG, 169BH, 169BJ, 169BK, 169BL, 169BM, 169BN and 169BP.
Amendment No. 169BB: Clause 38, page 35, line 20, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").
Amendment No. 169BC:Page 35, line 25, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").
Amendment No. 169BD: Page 35, line 27, after ("commissioner") insert ("after considering the views of the local authorities and the commissioner of police").
Amendment No. 169BE: Page 35, line 29, at beginning insert ("with regard to the prevailing traffic conditions").
Amendment No. 169BF: Page 35, line 30, leave out ("and").
Amendment No. 169BG: Page 35, leave out lines 34 and 35 and insert—
("(c) the safety and convenience of the public, including persons who are disabled; and
(d) the prevention of excessive environmental disturbance.").
Amendment No. 169BH: Clause 39, page 37, line 10, leave out from ("securing") to end of line 12 and insert—
Amendment No. 169BJ: Page 37, line 20, after second ("the") insert ("general").
Amendment No. 169BK: Page 37, line 22, leave out ("paragraph (c)") and insert ("paragraphs (bb) and (c)").
Amendment No. 169BL: Page 37, line 26, leave out subsection (8) and insert—
("(8) Section 38 shall apply except that in subsection (1) the metropolitan traffic commissioner, in attaching such conditions as he thinks fit having regard to the interests of the public shall not have regard to the matters mentioned in section 37(2)(a) and (b) of this Act.").
Amendment No. 169BM: After Clause 41, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Other road passenger transport services in London
§ .—(1) The Secretary of State may by order define areas within London which the metropolitan traffic commissioner may, at the request of the commissioner of police or of local authorities affected, determine conditions ("traffic regulation conditions") which must be met in the provision of a service or part of a service which is (or is proposed to be) provided in such areas, using one or more public service vehicles, for the carriage of passengers by road at separate fares, which is not—
- (a) a London local service;
- (b) a service for which the conditions set out in Parts II and III of Schedule 1 to the 1981 Act are met in respect of each journey made by the vehicle used in providing the service; or
- (c) a service where every vehicle used in providing the service is so used under a permit granted under section 19 of this Act.
§ (2) The operator of a service under subsection (1) above shall notify the metropolitan traffic commissioner such prescribed particulars of the service (and of any change of any prescribed kind made in the service) which the commissioner may require.
§ (3) The metropolitan traffic commissioner shall inform the commissioner of police and local authorities affected by the timetable, routes to be followed, terminal points and stopping places of each service notified to him under subsection (1) above within any area defined by the Secretary of State.
§ (4) If the commissioner of police or any local authority affected considers that the use of any road, terminal or stopping place used or proposed to be used by such services—
- (a) is or is likely to be a danger to road users;
- (b) produces or is likely to produce severe traffic congestion; or
- (c) produces or is likely to produce excessive environmental disturbance,
§ (5) In any case to which this section applies, sections 7, 8 and 9 of this Act shall apply subject to the modifications provided by the following provisions of this section.
§ (6) Section 7 shall apply with the omission of subsection (2), (5)(a), (10)(a)(iii) and (16).
§ (7) In section 7(4) the metropolitan traffic commissioner shall additionally need to be satisfied that traffic regulation conditions are required to prevent excessive environmental disturbance, and in section 7(5) the commissioner shall additionally have regard in particular to the interest of those who might be adversely affected by the environmental impact of such services.
§ (8) Section (8) shall apply with the omission of subsection (6), and in subsection (2) a licence or permit is relevant for the purposes of this section if a service notified under subsection (1) of this section by the holder of the licence or permit is affected by the conditions.
§ (9) Section 9 shall apply with the omission of subsection (10), and section 9(2)(a)(i) shall refer to any person who has notified a service under subsection (1) of this section.
(10) In sections 7, 8 and 9 references to "traffic area" shall be taken to mean London, and to "traffic authority" shall be taken to mean the commissioner of police or any local authority affected. Except in section 8(1) and at second mention in section 8(3), references to "traffic commissioner" are to the metropolitan traffic commissioner.").
Amendment No. 169BN: Clause 45, page 41, line 35, at end insert—
("local authorities affected" are the Greater London Council and any of the following councils, that is to say the councils of the London Boroughs and the Common Council").
Amendment No. 169BP: Page 42, line 1, leave out subsections (2) and (3).
§ This is a long list of amendments, but a common thread runs through them. They deal with the question of congestion in certain parts of London which is already arising as a result of the accumulation of coach traffic and the fear that unless suitable provision is made in the Bill to deal with this problem the congestion could increase, causing severe environmental difficulties and affecting a number of residents in those areas.
§ This problem is particularly noticeable in the City of Westminster, in which we are presently located. Apart from our own interest in this part of London, it is a great tourist attraction. Located in another part of the city, in Victoria, there is the principal coach station in London. I do not know whether your Lordships are aware of the number of coaches, particularly in 714 summer, that move into and out of that area, but I quote just three figures to give an idea of the size of the problem as it presently exists. In June 1982 the number of coaches entering the Victoria area was 1,385 on a given Friday. In 1983, on a given Friday in June, the figure was over 1,500; and in 1984, on a similar Friday, the figure was 1,900—that is, in one day.
§ To give some idea of what this means, at a planning inquiry into the possible use of the Gloucester Road coach centre as a station, which was held in January 1985, the inspector ruled as environmentally unacceptable the use of two residential streets by 31 coaches a day; that is, 31 coaches were regarded in the Gloucester Road area as unacceptable but 1,900 coaches are apparently regarded as acceptable in the Victoria area.
§ I have had the occasion recently of raising at Question Time the issue of the levels of smoke and sulphur dioxide emissions in the Ebury Street area, which is a residential district. These are calculated to exceed the European Commission levels. So it follows from the existing concentrations of coaches that already there is severe environmental damage and severe inconvenience to residents, pedestrians and other road users.
§ I should declare an interest in this matter as I am chairman of a local leaseholders' association. In that capacity, and with other local residents, I have had numerous discussions with the Westminster Council, which in turn has had discussions with Ministers—Mrs. Lynda Chalker in particular. They are keen to try to deal with this problem without in any way adversely affecting the intentions of this Bill. They consider that the amendments, which the noble Lords, Lord Strabolgi, Lord McIntosh and I are moving, will meet those requirements.
§ Therefore I very much hope that in replying on behalf of the Government the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, will accept the objective of this whole series of amendments. Perhaps I may briefly refer to them clause by clause without going into too much detail. The amendments to Clause 37 are to require the commissioner to consider the prevailing traffic conditions on the routes proposed when deciding whether to grant a London local service licence. In Clause 38 there must be consultation with the police and local authorities regarding conditions which may be attached to a licence to secure the prevention of excessive environmental disturbance and to ensure that suitable routes are used having regard to the prevailing traffic conditions.
§ Moving on from there, the amendments to Clause 39 deal with the licensing of tours and excursions, and their general objective is to broaden the consideration of the traffic commissioner, when granting this type of London local service licence, to include traffic conditions and environmental disturbance. After that, the new Clause 41 is aimed at dealing with the presently deregulated express coach services in order to bring them within the ambit of this consideration. Finally, in the amendments to Clause 45, we introduce some new definitions.
§ I therefore conclude by saying that the objective of this whole series of amendments is to take account of the possible worsening consequences of the main 715 provisions of this Bill so far as certain already congested parts of the country are concerned, which, as regards London, happen to be very near us indeed so we can all see for ourselves the present consequences of this situation. I therefore very much hope that in replying the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, will be able to give us a positive assurance that the Government will seek to deal with this problem. I beg to move.
§ Lord Strabolgi
I should like to support this amendment and the other amendments which have been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, to which I have ventured to add my name. Like him, I have direct experience of the neighbourhood because I live there, and I can vouch for the way in which the inhabitants of the area and the people who live around Victoria Coach Station are suffering to a degree which is becoming less and less tolerable. Like him, I have seen and witnessed the number of coaches which pass down the narrow residential streets—over 1,000 a day were counted by a friend of mine, and sometimes with peak hour usage there are up to 120 coaches an hour.
The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, mentioned Gloucester Road, which I know very well. I used to live there and was brought up there. The streets are much wider than the streets around Victoria Coach Station, such as Ebury Street and Elizabeth Street, but, as the noble Lord said, the inspector thought that 31 coaches an hour was quite enough for streets of that kind, whereas we have to suffer a far greater number around Victoria Coach Station.
There are different types of coach—British and foreign, Green Line, airport buses, vehicles called culture buses and Round London sightseeing buses—all belching out smoke. It might be interesting if somebody came down one day from the department—perhaps the Minister might like to come himself—to see what happens when these coaches are revved up. Black smoke belches out of the exhausts, many of which are dirty and have not been properly maintained.
I believe that the pollution level is above that permitted by EC limits. I do not know whether the Government realise that, but it is a matter to which they should direct their attention. In the Control of Pollution Act 1974 I do not think that there is any provision for controlling motor vehicle emissions. This Bill covers only passenger convenience. In fact the whole thing seems to be geared to the convenience of passengers. I have nothing against that, but the legislation should also cover the environment and the disturbance caused to it and to the people who live around there, and also to tourists. The Government are keen to increase the tourist industry and to encourage it as much as possible. In the area there are a great many small hotels. That is an added consideration.
What is needed is an overall traffic plan. There is a short-term solution whereby many of the buses could be encouraged to use the bus lane along Buckingham Palace Road, but it needs widening in certain parts so that the coaches can use the corners in which to turn. At the moment it is not wide enough. Because of the disruption caused to local government by the Local 716 Government Act all is in chaos. The GLC has been unable to make decisions on this, and that is causing further delay. There is also the matter of extending the bus lane right through to Grosvenor Gardens. That has also been delayed because not until April will the Westminster Council be able to take over the responsibility.
Those are short-term solutions and only part solutions at that. What is really wanted is an overall traffic plan. I hope that the Government will direct their attention to that and not just leave it to the decisions of local authorities and to market forces. It is lunacy—and I am not exaggerating—from a traffic point of view for traffic going to the north of England to cross the metropolis and to come from this one coach station, put down in a residential area such as Victoria. What is needed is a new coach station somewhere towards the north of London in, for instance, Marylebone. Marylebone would be an excellent site. British Railways are hanging on to it and I believe that they are reluctant to let it go for a coach station because they want to use it for developing, building on and making a lot of money. That is something on which an overall decision should be taken.
As the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, said, there is great concern in the neighbourhood. There is concern by the Westminster City Council and concern by the Grosvenor Estate. Representatives have been to see the Minister, Mrs. Chalker, to express concern, and I understand that she is looking into the problem to see how it can be tackled.
I hope that the Government will take this seriously and not abdicate all responsibility. I hope that they will show concern for the people who live in this area of Westminster who are suffering from a traffic situation which surely should never have been allowed to reach these proportions. I therefore hope that we shall have a sympathetic response from the Minister tonight.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
I had not intended to speak, but as a humble Westminster ratepayer and living in Marsham Street I should like to support the amendments wholeheartedly. It has become very hazardous driving up Marsham Street in one's car because the buses are parked in such a way that one cannot see people crossing the road. I live next door to the Westminster Hospital and the pollution going up through the windows into the hospital must be very great indeed.
Many people have said to me, "Surely Parliament can do something about these coaches". It is quite embarrassing that the situation has become so bad and nothing has been done. I would say that this is an opportunity for the Government to do something and to give some assurance on this matter tonight. As the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has said, the position will only get worse as more and more buses and coaches come into London.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Lord Sandford
Perhaps I may also support the general thrust behind this group of amendments. I, too, am a Westminster resident and have the 717 opportunity of watching this congestion build up from the beginning of the day, which those Members of the Committee who do not live in the area may not observe. In addition to everything else that has been described, all the way from where we are to Lambeth Bridge there is a queue of coaches which requires the attention of three traffic wardens full-time, every day, to control it. These are all symptoms of an overall problem which the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, has quite rightly drawn to the attention of the Committee and on which we all wish to hear the views of my noble friend on the Front Bench.
The general point I should like to make, rather than the specific one relating to this particular part of London, is that this is a situation which we see in a regulated state of affairs. The Hereford trial showed what happened when one moved from a regulated to an unregulated situation. The worst aspect of all the trials to which Hereford has been subjected has been not only the behaviour of some of the new operators who have come in, but the appalling congestion in the city centre. If this is the kind of situation that arises when bus operations are regulated, one does not have to use very much imagination to see what is likely to arise when one goes into an unregulated situation all over the country—not immediately in London—without having something approaching the powers which the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, is advocating. I think we shall all be very interested to hear what my noble friend on the Front Bench has to say about these amendments, as to whether they are acceptable, or as to what other amendments along these lines the Government have in mind.
§ Lord Mottistone
My noble friend certainly managed to bring his criticism of Hereford into an area which is not affected by the part of the Bill which affects the out-of-town towns. I agree in principle with what the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, is talking about, but with a great reservation. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, mentioned tourism. I am not sure that we are not committed to this because we are so popular and our tourists must come to central London in order to look at us. We have to endure this for only two or three months of the Year—
§ Lord Mottistone
Well, I am sorry; I come here every day, whenever Parliament is sitting, from Pimlico, which is as close as one can be—though not as close as my noble friend who can walk and does not even have to motor. Thus I know exactly what the problem is. However, that is not the point about this amendment. It is reflecting an instinctive reaction, which might be misdirected because we have to look at the wider issue of whether we want to have all these Americans running about in our streets, bringing in and spending lots of money.
That is one matter. The other matter is this. To be more direct on this particular group of amendments, I am not sure that they are the right amendments for achieving what the noble Lord is seeking to achieve. For instance, I do not think that the bulk of them apply to out-of-town coaches, they apply to local transport. Even if the principle is accepted, it will probably be necessary for the amendments to be 718 amended. I do not think they are the right amendments for achieving what the noble Lord wants to achieve, but I am not even sure that it is right that he should want to achieve it.
§ Lord Shepherd
As the subject of Victoria, a national bus centre, has been raised, I think that I should say a few words. I have nothing but sympathy for what has been said about the circumstances that residents around Victoria are required to put up with. The problem is perhaps less severe in the winter months, but it is very severe in the summer. The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, referred to vehicles that are taking passengers on sightseeing tours. One difficulty and part of the problem associated with this Bill is that there exists a competitive situation in which everyone wants to go to the Abbey at about the same time and to the Palace of Westminster at about the same time. There is no way of getting agreement among the various operators to spread out their services. They are reacting to what the market is saying. I do not know what the solution is. One problem is that there is nowhere that the vehicles can go to park while the passengers are away from the vehicle.
As to Victoria and express services, which are probably the biggest problem, I should like to say that the situation at Victoria bus station is not one that we, of the National Bus Company, are proud of, either in terms of the service that we give to our customers or the impact that we make upon those in the community. In truth, Victoria today is at its limits in the development by National Express, National Holidays and other operators of their businesses. No one other than the National Bus Company wishes to find an alternative site to Victoria. I do not say that Victoria would disappear. It would always have a role. We have done a great deal and spent a large amount of money in seeing whether it would be possible to develop the Marylebone project. That is both feasible and sensible. It would provide a great deal of relief. However, under the Bill, the National Bus Company will disappear. There will be no resources of the National Bus Company with which to undertake a Marylebone exercise. The cost of development is a matter on which the Government will have to give their reply.
The basic difficulty, as I see it, in terms of Victoria, is quite simple. It is the fact that Government policy is to rely on market forces. It is the Government who say that market forces shall prevail. The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, has been one of the most prominent speakers in terms of this approach. The statistics show that within the National Express network some 25 per cent. of passengers coming from the North board another coach to go somewhere else in the South. An equal number coming from the South or the South-West want to go to the North. So there is a need to have an interchange. It is the interchange system developed during my period of chairmanship that has created the congestion and the problems at Victoria. Those are the market forces of which the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, has been one of the most avid supporters. I do not think that we can do much about it unless the Government are willing to find the money and also prevail, through planning permission, for alternative sites.
719 As chairman, I spent a fair amount of my time trying to find alternative sites in London. We always had great difficulty. Therefore, in the end, it is not for the operators to resolve this problem. As the GLC will have disappeared and the City of Westminster has only limited areas, in the end it will be for the Government to resolve the basic problems which the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, has raised in this amendment.
However, I do not think that the situation is all that dismal. I suspect that if and when the M.25 is completed, we shall see a new structure of coach operations with interchanges, not in the centre of London, but at the periphery or at the end of the M.1 onto the M.25, and with the M.4 and the M.20 both joining the M.25. Then I think that there will be a lessening of pressure within the centre. However, even then the pressures on London will be great, not only as regards those within our own community who wish to use National Express but also as regards the commuters. One must not forget the number of commuters who today use coaches to go to the centre of London in competition with British Rail. But that again by choice is the policy of the Government, a policy which I fully support. Therefore, there will not be a great deal of relaxation. I believe that there will be some easement of the problem.
At the end of the day we cannot say that the operators are wrong and that they have created a situation which is unacceptable to the general public and local residents. With the disappearance of the GLC, which has wider powers but which I accept has never used them, it is a matter for central Government. If central Government want to ease the problem, it is for them to find a resolution to this matter. It is no good looking to the operators and complaining to the operators, because within the concept of noble Lords opposite, the operators are only doing that for which the 1980 Act provided. Those who introduced the 1980 Act knew exactly what they were doing. The repercussions are there.
In conclusion, the situation is not very pleasant. Certainly my old colleagues are not happy with the situation that prevails in Victoria Bus Station, with the services that we provide to the public and with the impact that it makes upon the community as a whole. It is, in fact, a limitation on the expansion of what is already a very successful business. But the resolution lies with the Government in the provision of spaces for parking. If the noble Lord could only give me an assurance that National Express and National Bus would remain as an entity, we could go ahead on the Marylebone scene, which would make a major difference to the pretty disgraceful situation that we have around Victoria.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
Having listened to the last two noble Lords, may I ask the Minister a question? With the GLC going, why not make that tremendous and magnificent building, the GLC building, into a centre for tourism with parking space for coaches?
§ 10 p.m.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
Before I start to answer noble Lords, perhaps I may say that I take note of the suggestion of the noble Baroness, Lady Masham. That would perhaps be a suitable use for County Hall.
720 To turn to the amendments proposed so eloquently by the noble Lords, Lord Ezra and Lord Strabolgi, concerning the problems caused by coaches in certain areas of London, it is not my intention to deny that there are places in London where the concentration of a large number of coaches can cause problems at certain times of the day. The question is what should be done to deal with these problems.
I have to say that I do not think that the amendments proposed by the noble Lords are the right answer to the problem. Local authorities have a wide range of traffic management powers under the Road Traffic (Regulation) Act 1984. These include powers to prevent buses or coaches from using particular streets, to prevent them waiting in particular places, and to regulate the use of parking places which may be restricted to specified classes of vehicles. At present these powers are the responsibility in London of the Greater London Council. Once the Local Government Act takes effect they will become the responsibility of London borough councils.
The Government's present view is that these traffic management powers ought to be sufficient to enable the local authorities concerned to exercise whatever controls are necessary over the stopping and parking of coaches. I know that certain local authorities are not convinced that these powers are adequate. The Department of Transport has been discussing with those authorities the problem which they perceive, and it is accepted that they face quite difficult problems especially during the height of the tourist season. We need to explore further with them the nature of the problems with which they are faced and the reasons why they do not consider their existing powers to be adequate. We shall be looking for a long-term solution.
I do not think, however, that the solution lies in introducing a new bureaucratic system of regulation, even one restricted to a few local areas. I know that the noble Lord's proposals, particularly in the new clause proposed in Amendment No. 169BM, are inspired by the procedure in Part I of the Bill for the imposition of traffic regulation conditions by the traffic commissioners outside London, but I would suggest to your Lordships that the analogy is a false one.
The system of registration for local services is being established for much wider purposes than the control of congestion. In particular it is the foundation stone of the system of competitive tendering subsidy by local authorities. Once we have established the need for such a system, which nevertheless represents a significant liberalisation of the existing regime for the control of local services, it clearly makes good sense to include within it a power for the traffic commissioners to impose traffic regulation conditions as part of that system.
This is a quite different proposition from that of establishing a new system of control of services which are currently deregulated for the sole purpose of allowing the metropolitan traffic commissioner to impose traffic regulation conditions. The great majority of coaches in London do not cause significant problems, yet we would be requiring all operators of coach services in a given area to register their services with the commissioner merely so that he could, in certain specific cases, exercise his powers to impose 721 traffic regulation conditions. I have to say that it would require extremely strong arguments to persuade the Government that this was a sensible course of action in a Bill which is devoted to reducing the amount of regulation of public transport vehicles.
Having set out these arguments of principle, I would venture to suggest also to your Lordships that the amendments which the noble Lords are proposing do not achieve the end they are seeking. Amendments Nos. 169BA to BG seek to amend Clauses 37 and 38 of the Bill. These clauses, which follow closely the provisions of Sections 31 and 32 of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981, define the powers and duties of the traffic commissioner in relation to applications for London local services other than excursions or tours—in other words, for ordinary short-distance London bus services. They do not apply to coaches. The amendments would require the commissioner to take into account matters which he is already required to take into account. He is required by Clause 37(3) to have particular regard to any objections or representations made to him. If, therefore, the local authority concerned, the police or anyone else consider that the service proposed would give rise to unacceptable traffic problems, it is open to them to make representations to that effect and the commissioner is bound to have regard to those representations. The commissioner is already able to take environmental considerations into account. The arguments here are different from those which arose on Clause 7 when my noble friend Lord Belstead accepted the principle of an amendment similar to Amendment No. 169BG. Without that amendment the traffic commissioners would not have had the power to impose traffic regulation conditions for environmental reasons. That is not the case with Clause 38.
Clauses 37 and 38 basically re-enact legislation which has been in force since 1980. They retain it in force, but restrict its application to London. Even in London it is the Government's intention to repeal it before too long by an order under Clause 46. As I have said, the clauses do not apply to coaches. I do not accept that there is any good reason now to amend these clauses in the ways proposed.
As for Clause 39, this applies only to excursions and tours which will require London local service licences—in other words, those which carry passengers for less than 15 miles as the crow flies before bringing them back to their starting place. The commissioner already has the power to control the stopping places of those services. Indeed this provision was introduced into the London Regional Transport Act in your Lordships' House only last year. I am not aware of any evidence that new problems have arisen in the past year which would justify further restrictions on these services proposed in Amendments Nos. I 69BH to BL. Once again the amendments will not affect coaches in general.
Finally there is Amendment No. 169BM, which would introduce a new clause after Clause 41. This is the only one of the noble Lord's amendments which would introduce new controls over coach services which are not currently subject to control. I have already explained in some detail why the Government are opposed in principle. I would only add that this 722 amendment would not affect all categories of coaches in London. For example, it would not affect privately hired touring coaches nor foreign coaches. By contrast, the use of traffic management powers, which as I have indicated is the Government's preferred solution, would allow the local authorities concerned to exercise control over all coaches in the areas affected.
The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, mentioned the problem of pollution particularly in Ebury Street. I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, in answer to a Question some while ago, to say we have the Warren Spring Laboratory investigating this matter. I shall try to find out how far they have progressed with that. The construction and use regulations contain requirements about emissions. If emissions contravene these requirements, criminal sanction is applicable under the Road Traffic Act 1972. The noble Lord also mentioned the possibility of a new or expanded bus lane in Buckingham Palace Road. I can see no reason why this should have to wait until April before the end of the GLC now that the Local Government Bill has become an Act. I hope that the GLC and Westminster City Council can work together and expedite this, if that appears to them to be the best solution to the problem. Both the noble Lords, Lord Strabolgi and Lord Shepherd, mentioned the possibility of a new coach station perhaps at Marylebone. This is obviously some way ahead in that if British Rail wish to close Marylebone Station they would have to go through the normal procedures, there would almost certainly be objections and therefore there would have to be an inquiry. The inquiry would probably have to come to the Secretary of State. Following that, if it was wished to turn it into a coach station, there would almost certainly have to be a planning inquiry into that as well; so if it were to happen it would be some way away.
§ Lord Shepherd
Could the noble Lord help us a little on this matter? Where will the Government be in this particular project—would they be neutral or responsive to the concept of a station which could well be replaced by other services connected with British Rail? Such services could relieve a great many of the problems of coach traffic. Where do the Government stand on this?
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
I am afraid that I do not think the Government can "stand" anywhere at the moment, in that if the closure of Marylebone as a railway station was proposed and there were objections to that closure, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State would find himself in a quasi-judicial role, and certainly it would not be for me to say now what we would recommend, if it were to be closed, it might turn into afterwards. I am afraid that at this stage I cannot be more forthcoming than that.
I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, about the completion of the M.25 and the possibility of interchanges being sited some distance around it. I can assure him that major parts of the M.25 will be complete at the end of next month, I believe, and the whole of it by the middle of next year. That is not too far away.
I hope I have demonstrated that the Government are not blind or uncaring about the problems with 723 which your Lordships are concerned. We are actively looking for ways in which the problems caused by coaches in London can be alleviated. We are investigating whether there are any vacant sites within easy reach of central London which could be used for coach parking. We have asked LRT to look at the present and future demand for coach terminals in London. We have no instant answers, I am afraid, but we expect local authorities to play their full part.
We accept that there are difficulties and that action is needed to deal with them. We do not, however, believe that the noble Lord's amendments represent a fully effective approach to the problem; and in particular they would not take into account private hire coaches and foreign tourist coaches which, as your Lordships will be aware, are represented in considerable numbers outside our own building these days. So I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, will feel able to withdraw these amendments, with the assurance that we take this problem extremely seriously.
I did not answer one question which was put by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, concerning Marsham Street—probably, in fact, outside the Department of Transport. There are coach meters in Marsham Street and there is a coach park in Thorney Street. These are located close to Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster, and it is inevitable that some congestion will occur. The police and traffic wardens take action to enforce parking and waiting regulations, but it must be admitted that more capacity is needed. As I say, we are actively looking to see whether additional "hedge" parking space can be found. Unfortunately, of course, security comes into the account; and whereas, for instance, coaches used to park up Constitution Hill when they came for the Changing of the Guard, that is no longer allowed for security reasons. It makes it all the more important for us to find some alternative sites.
§ Lord Sandford
May I ask my noble friend a question before the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, decides what he is going to do? My noble friend opened his remarks by making the general point that local authorities had a wide range of powers effective for dealing with the kind of problems that we have been discussing. He then went on to say something about the particular situation in London. If they have such a wide range of powers, which he considers to be effective, why did they fail so signally to deal with the situation which arose when unregulated bus operations were introduced for trial in Hereford city?
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
The powers under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, as I hope I have explained, are pretty wide-ranging. One can ban buses going down a particular road. I do not know precisely the situation in Hereford; but I know, and I can assure the noble Lord, that the provisions in this Bill—not in this clause on London—strengthen the powers to regulate traffic. So it is hoped the situation as it appeared in Hereford will not occur elsewhere.
§ Lord Shepherd
The noble Lord said that he was not aware of the situation in Hereford. I have to say that 724 I am deeply surprised. All I can ask the noble Lord to do is to read the city surveyor's report of the very severe congestion in Hereford that arose through the trial area. It created many of the problems to which the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, has referred—in terms of a much wider area—within a very small town centre. The noble Lord is supporting this Bill and says that he is not aware of the other problems in Hereford. I must say that I find that indeed surprising.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
I did not mean to indicate that I had not heard of the problems in Hereford. I had indeed. But I have not studied them, in that I have not been down there to see them in the same way that one can see problems in London outside your Lordships' House. I find it interesting, however, that we are on one side being told that no buses will exist after this Bill goes through; and, on the other hand, we are now being told that we must watch out for the congestion problems that the Bill will create.
§ Lord Strabolgi
Before the noble Lord sits down, I wonder whether he could elaborate a little on what he said about a long-term solution. He said, "We are looking for a long-term solution". The noble Lord then said that he hoped there would be some interchanges outside London. He hoped that there would be a site for the passenger coaches—and those are the ones about which I am talking, not the tours watching the changing of the guard, and so on—but the long-distance passenger coaches. He hoped that there might be something in Marylebone; he was not sure. When he said "we", does he mean the Government? Are they trying to plan a long-term solution for the long-distance traffic of London? Or are they just hoping that something may turn up; and are they being blown hither and thither like an autumn leaf?
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
No. I hope that I explained that we are looking into this. We take this problem very seriously. When I said that we are looking for a long-term solution I also explained that it was our hope that we would remove this particular part of the Bill, in the not too far distant future, to deregulate London. That is on the face of the Bill. Therefore, any amendment to this part of the Bill would not provide a long-term solution.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I am sorely tempted to continue the discussion about the Victoria coach station and its surrounding area, since my noble friend Lord Ponsonby introduced the bus lane in Buckingham Palace Road in his capacity as chairman of the Central Area Board of the GLC; and, as his successor as chairman of the Central Area Board, I had to face the protests of the Shenley Place residents' association as a result of his action. But I think it is important that we broaden the issue and look at the implications for the rest of this Bill, as well as for the Victoria area, of the 1980 deregulation of express coach services in London.
London is, after all, different in a number of ways related to transport legislation from the rest of the country. We have, as a result of the London Regional Transport Act, regulations for our local services, for 725 some commuter coach services and for sight-seeing tours. These regulations do not apply in other parts of the country, and the Government, as I understand it, are not proposing to change them. The bus service regulations introduced under Clause 36 of the London Regional Transport Act provide the kind of sensitivity to environmental considerations which those who have reservations, to say the least of it, about the Bill feel should be considered in the rest of the country. So far as we can see, since the passage of the London Regional Transport Act the concern for environmental considerations has worked well. There are a number of aspects, to which I want to refer in a minute, which mark an important difference between traffic management regulations, which are what are being recommended by the Government, and licensing, which is what is proposed under Amendment No. 169BM.
There are proposed controls under the Bill, in Clauses 37 and 38, in the form of London local services licences which appear, on the face of it, to be a reasonable progress towards regulation. But, in practice, under existing legislation the traffic commissioner has been unwilling or unable to refuse any licence on the ground of traffic conditions on proposed routes or stopping places. I must emphasise that the issue with which we are concerned here is not only the bus stations, not only the termini, but the question of routes and stopping places and how they may conflict or not conflict with local services.
The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, said that the traffic commissioner could take into account environmental considerations. I should be grateful—he may reply in this Committee stage—if he would tell me whether there is any experience of traffic commissioners intervening on environmental grounds. My understanding is the opposite, that there is no such experience and traffic commissioners have not felt able to take environmental considerations into account.
So far as local sightseeing tours are concerned, again the powers under traffic management regulations apply only to stopping places. They do not apply to routeing or to what we see all over London, which is stopping at the kerbside, without passengers alighting and getting back into the bus again, in order to take photographs. Anybody who has tried to get a bus from here up Whitehall in the middle of the morning will know exactly what I mean. The traffic jam runs right the way round Parliament Square, because of the congestion of coaches. One hesitates to say it so often, but London is, both in the nature of its traffic problems and in the nature of the regulations and laws which apply to it, a different problem from other parts of the country, and now that we are on to Part II of the Bill it is appropriate that we should refer to it.
What do we mean by "licensing"? What is the intention of Amendment No. 169BM? First, we mean that there should be the possibility of traffic commissioners taking account of objections by local authorities or competitors to any particular application, and that in studying and taking into account those objections they can consider whether to grant or refuse road service licences. Secondly, we mean that routeing and stopping places have been defined and have been agreed with the police and the highway authorities. This is a constant theme throughout this 726 Bill, that it is the highway authorities and the police who have the responsibility of dealing with congestion and dealing with the very considerable public expenditure which is involved in what used to be called improvement of our road network, which usually, in practice, means road widening.
Why do I say that London is different? London is different because in 1980 express services were deregulated, as my noble friend Lord Shepherd has described. He described quite candidly why it was that National Bus took their commercial objectives as being primary and why they pursued those commercial objectives—I will not say regardless of other considerations, but in preference to environmental considerations. The important point about these amendments, for those of us who are considering the totality of this Bill, is that deregulation has been tried in London with respect to coach services—exactly the same form of deregulation as has been tried on a much smaller scale on a trial basis in Hereford. This is the deregulation which is now proposed for the rest of the country.
It is proposed that the powers which now exist to control routeing and stopping places which no longer exist for express coaches should no longer exist for any such services in the rest of the country. I must immediately qualify that because, having said it in bald terms, I realise that there is in the Bill the concept of registration. It could be argued that registration as proposed in the Bill is licensing under a new name—in other words, that the Government accept the need for on&-street controls in services outside London. If that is the case—and I shall be interested to see whether the Minister chooses to argue that—and if the need for on-street controls is accepted by the Government, why cannot it be accepted for London?
It is very plain that deregulation in its crude sense—the crude sense that was introduced in 1980 in London which is applied to express coach services—does not work. That is clear from the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, my noble friend Lord Strabolgi, the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and other speakers. It is clear to every one of us who travels around the streets of London that in the past few years the physical conditions in London have become substantially worse because of the existence of unregulated coach and express coach activity. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, shakes his head. I am glad to give way to him.
§ Lord Beloff
Will the noble Lord perhaps explain how this would affect foreign registered coaches which seem to occupy a great deal of the space in this area?
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I should be interested, as I am sure would the noble Lord, to know the actual figures. If it is true that the amendments do not adequately cover foreign registered coaches, the conclusion is not to abandon all regulation but to extend regulation to cover foreign registered coaches as well. The implication of that is very precise. The implication is that any regulations we have must cover routeing and stopping places, and even pausing places, as well as the provision of bus stations and termini. The arguments of the noble Lord are very clearly against the Government's position, rather than the reverse.
727 The Government may argue that I am putting forward an anti-tourist posture. I do not believe that that is the case. The volume of tourism in London—I would gladly yield to my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, who knows far more about it than I do—has varied over the years with changes in exchange rates and so on. It is quite true that by a factor of two London is the most popular city in the world for outside visitors. I think we are talking about 11 million visitors per year to London, compared with 5 million to Paris. But this has been going on for a very long time. It has been going on since before deregulation of the coaches in London. It has caused problems, but never of the scale caused by deregulation under the 1980 Act. It is possible in a civilised metropolitan city such as London to accommodate tourists without the confusion and congestion and without the disruption to the day-to-day lives of Londoners which is caused by deregulation.
The reason I wanted to widen the issue from that of Victoria coach station and possible alternatives in Marylebone, or King's Cross, or wherever, is that the lesson from London for this Bill is very clear. We have seen the future, to turn on their head the words of Dean Hewlett Johnson, and it does not work.
§ Lord Ezra
I should like to say that I was extremely disappointed by the response from the noble Lord the Minister. I consider that the case made regarding the congestion, which is likely to get worse in Victoria and other central London areas, is such that I had hoped that the Government would at least recognise the problems and tell us what ideas they have to deal with it. In my opinion it is wrong for the Government to assert that the local authorities now have adequate powers to deal with this problem. That is certainly not the view of the local authority most involved in the area we have been talking about—namely, Westminster City Council.
On the basis of talks which I have had with that council, on the basis of the voluminous briefing the council has sent me, and on the basis of a letter which Councillor Alan Bradley, chairman of the planning and development committee, sent to Mrs. Lynda Chalker on 27th June, it is clear that Westminster City Council does not consider that it has the powers to deal with this problem. It has emphasised in its letter that the council considers it essential that there should be some control over the routes and stopping places used by coaches in the central areas.
I very much regret that I cannot accept the invitation to withdraw the amendment. I believe that the problem exists. I believe that the amendments which have been put forward would deal with that problem. I therefore say to the Minister that unless he is prepared to state that the amendment will be considered and brought back again, we ought to test the opinion of the Committee.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
I thought I had indicated that we cannot accept the amendments as they stand at the moment. I tried to indicate to the Committee that we take this problem seriously and that we see the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984 as being probably the main weapon in defence. I cannot give the noble Lord the assurance that we will consider his 728 amendments, but I can assure him that we take the problem seriously and will try to find a solution to it.
§ 10.32 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 169BA) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 25; Not-Contents, 43.
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 37 agreed to.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ Clause 38 [Conditions attached to licences]:
§ [Amendments Nos. 169BB, 169BC, 169BD, 169BE, 169BF, and 169BG not moved.]
Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 169BGA:
Page 35, line 35, after ("are") insert ("elderly or").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg leave to move this amendment, which goes with the Government amendments which have been put down to have regard to the needs of the elderly or the disabled when local authorities exercise their functions under Clauses 57 and 61. I am in some difficulty in moving this amendment, in the sense that we have not come to those amendments yet; but since those amendments are in terms of the elderly or the disabled, I have felt it appropriate to put down a reference to elderly people 729 in this clause dealing with the powers of the commissioner in London. I hope that perhaps noble Lords will feel that this is desirable even though the main discussion is bound to come at our next meeting of the Committee. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 38, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 39 [Grant of licences for certain excursions or tours]:
§ [Amendments Nos. 169BH, 169BJ, 169BK and 169BL not moved.]
§ Clause 39 agreed to.
§ Clauses 40 and 41 agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 169BM not moved.]
§ Clauses 42 to 44 agreed to.
§ Clause 45 [Interpretation of Part II]:
§ [Amendments Nos. 169BN and 169BP not moved.]
§ Clause 45 agreed to.
§ Clause 46 [Power of Secretary of State to repeal Part II]:
§ Lord Sandford moved Amendment No. 169C.
Page 42, line 20, at end insert—
§ The noble Lord said: On behalf of the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, and the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, I beg to move Amendment No. 169C. I gather that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we dealt with this amendment tonight and so came to the end of Part II.
§ I am pretty sure that the intention of my noble friends—one of whom is in hospital and the other is in Italy, though I am sure that they would much prefer to be here—was that this should be a probing amendment, and I certainly have no intention of pressing it tonight. Your Lordships will see the general intention behind the amendment, which is to pause and take care before subjecting the capital city to the rigours of the full-blooded competition which this legislation is about to impose on the rest of the kingdom.
§ The three ways in which they intend that that should be done is to require five years to elapse; to require the Secretary of State not just to lay an order before Parliament but to include a report on the effects of deregulation as they have occurred outside London—which I hope the Committee will agree would be sensible—and to consult with the local authority association, which is the London Boroughs Association, and with the London boroughs before taking the action provided in Clause 46 of the Bill.730
§ I hope that the Committee will agree that these are sensible provisions, and I look forward to hearing what my noble friend thinks of them. I beg to move.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
I hope that the Government will accept the amendment. We are not asking very much. In the Bill the Government have indicated that at this moment the provisions are not to apply to London, but at the end of Part II the Government are giving power to the Secretary of State to extend the provisions to London without new legislation. We are not asking for new legislation, but we do not want the powers extended to London until we are satisfied about how the provisions have affected the other big cities. I do not think that that is an unreasonable request. Five years is a reasonable period in which to assess that.
The Government have indicated in the Bill that Parliament will be asked to approve the statutory instrument that will be introduced to extend the legislation to London. All we are asking is that Members of Parliament should know how deregulation has worked in the rest of the country before the provisions are extended to London. I should have thought that that was quite reasonable.
Finally, we ask that local authority associations concerned with London should be consulted before the extension takes place. I can see no reason why the Government should oppose the amendment, and I hope that they will accept it.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My noble friend has a touching faith in the Government's willingness to listen to reason which, I fear, will not be realised. I accept that the noble Lord moved the amendment as a probing amendment and I accept his understanding that the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, intended it as a probing amendment at this stage. I shall not make the 39-minute speech which is perfectly well prepared on the subject. All I want to say is that when we come back to this at Report, unless the Government have yielded to the eloquent pleadings of my noble friend Lord Pitt, this will by no means be a probing amendment. Our willingness to let the Government sacrifice themselves on the ideological extension of a system which will not work for the rest of the country to London, where it most certainly will not work, will be extremely limited, and we shall make the utmost effort to persuade them that it would be extremely unwise for them to take the powers which they purport to arrogate to themselves in Clause 46 of the Bill.
§ Lord Belstead
I am afraid that neither the frontal attack of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, nor the bedside manner of the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, can persuade me to accept the amendment. I am sad about that because it is down in the names of two of my noble friends, neither of whom is able to be here—Lady Gardner and Lady Vickers—and it has been moved by my noble friend Lord Sandford; but even those aspects do not make the amendment particularly acceptable to the Government. Indeed, I think that it is a bit of a dog's dinner.
The first condition would prevent the Secretary of State from making an order, until five years had 731 elapsed from the coming into force of the Bill outside London. For a start that is defective because the Bill will come into effect on a number of different days and it is impossible to tell exactly what the amendment means by its first provision.
Then I come to the next provision, which is the real substance of the amendment. Here I think seriously I ought to say that of course when deregulation is extended to the metropolis there is bound to be a transitional period. Thus in effect this amendment is saying that deregulation would not be able to extend to London until 1992 at the earliest. It will not surprise the Committee to hear that that is not acceptable to the Government.
Then one comes to the condition which the amendment imposes, which would require my right honourable friend to lay before Parliament a report on the effects of deregulation outside in the rest of the country. I have to say to the Committee that we have debated this on previous amendments. It was on Amendments Nos. 4 and 10 moved by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. There was a Division and the amendment was defeated. I think that disposes of that particular agreement.
The last condition would require my right honourable friend to consult the local authority associations. I find this absolutely astonishing because, after all, the organisation which is most likely to be affected by deregulation would be London Regional Transport. There is not a word about London Regional Transport—only about the local authority associations.
My right honourable friend's power under this clause, if it is unamended, is not untrammelled. We are not trying to take draconian powers. All this clause would empower my right honourable friend to do would be to make an order. That order would have to be approved by both Houses of Parliament. That is in Clause 46. If your Lordships in this Chamber or if Members in another place did not agree with my right honourable friend then of course the order could be rejected. I think that is the way Clause 46 ought to be left.
§ Lord Tordoff
May I say again that one is becoming extremely tired of Ministers standing up and saying that this Chamber has the right to reject orders. It does not. The idea of laying instruments before this Chamber may be a useful occasion for people to make their views known. But it is not the convention that this Chamber rejects orders, nor have we the power to amend orders. Therefore, please will Ministers stop this? I appeal to the noble Lord the Minister, not merely in his present guise but as Deputy Leader of this House, to accept what I think his noble friend the Leader of the House accepts, that that kind of statement has no meaning whatsoever in relation to the processes of this Chamber.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
I am very sorry that the Minister has taken the attitude that he has. What we are asking the Government to do is to agree that before both Houses of Parliament deal with the order which the Secretary of State is empowered under Clause 46 732 to introduce, they should know how deregulation has worked in the rest of the country. What can be objectionable about that?—unless the Government want to sell Parliament a pig in a poke.
If Parliament is to decide whether this deregulation, this way in which buses are run in the rest of the country, is to be extended to London, they need to know how it has worked in the rest of the country. The mere fact that the Government have not extended the Bill to London at this stage would suggest that they wish to wait and see how it works elsewhere first. All we are saying is, "When you have done that, tell us before you ask us to vote". I cannot see what is unreasonable about that.
Of course the local authorities are the people to be asked what their views are on this issue. They represent the people of London. London Transport is a nominated body. The Government have wanted these people to run London's transport. But they should want the views of the people of London through their elective representatives. That is the point of paragraph (c).
I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, intends to do. I plead with the Minister to look at the matter again and try to see it from the point of view of the people of London who now have a regulated transport service that works and that was created because competition in London did not work. I ask the Government to try to remember that, and, having remembered it, to realise that we are not making an unreasonable demand. We are merely asking that London should not expect to be affected by the legislation until the facts are known and until the facts have been discussed by those who represent the people of London. That is all that is asked. I hope, therefore, that the Government will think again.
§ Lord Belstead
I should perhaps have pointed out that the amendment, if accepted, does not add, so far as the powers of Parliament are concerned, to Clause 46. Clause 46 lays down that deregulation for London cannot take place unless an order has been approved by both Houses of Parliament. This amendment, of course, says that deregulation cannot take place, presumably by order, until a report on the effects of deregulation has been presented to both Houses of Parliament. The truth of the matter is that this does not take us very much further forward. I find it almost inconceivable, particularly in this Chamber, that there will not be probably several debates on how deregulation is working. Therefore the presentation of reports is not going to carry us much further forward.
There is one thing that I should say. Seriously, I do not think that the amendment takes the argument or, rather, takes the position, much further forward. I would also ask your Lordships to remember that the sole reason for delay, so far as London is concerned, is that London Regional Transport has only just begun to function in its new role as a nationalised industry and a transport planning authority. We felt that it is right to allow that process of transformation to be carried through and for London Regional Transport properly to establish itself without any further major change for the time being. That is a very reasonable way to proceed so far as London is concerned.
733 Thirdly and lastly, we are debating the main principles of the Bill. London is part of those main principles in that it forms Part II of the Bill, which we are now completing, with the power in Clause 46 to activate the Bill so far as London is concerned when my right honourable friend makes an order. It is very ingenious of noble Lords to put down an amendment that Part II will not happen unless Parliament does something extra. But this amendment does not hit that particular target. Further, I do not think it is right that, having dealt with an enormously long Bill—which I hope we shall have done by the end of October—we should then say that so far as London is concerned we are going to have to do it all over again by some extra process. That is wrong. It is certainly a position that the Government will resist.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
I should like to illustrate what I am talking about. We have had debates in this House on the Transport Bill in which there have been different interpretations of what happened in Hereford. All that we are asking is that before this system is extended to London we have authoritative views on what has happened in the rest of the country as a result of deregulation. That is not an unreasonable request. If we merely leave a situation in which the Minister, on one side, gives an interpretation and my noble friends on the Opposition Front Bench give a different interpretation, we shall not be able to have a sensible debate. We are asking for a sensible debate when it comes to introducing deregulation to London. In order to have a sensible debate, we must have the facts about how deregulation is affecting the rest of the country. That is what we are asking.
§ Lord Sandford
I should like to thank my noble friend for the response which he has made to this amendment, which I moved on behalf of my noble friends, and other noble Lords who have taken part in the debate on it. I think they will be interested in what he has had to say. I think that they will benefit by having the guidance that he has been able to offer them on how their amendment might be improved. I do not think that they will be satisfied with the situation as it is left and I am pretty sure that they will want to return to it at the Report stage. However, equally, I am sure that they will not want to keep Members of the Committee away from their beds for any longer tonight and so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 46 agreed to.
§ The Earl of Swinton
I think that we have probably progressed as far as we can this evening. I beg to move that the House do now resume.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.