HL Deb 05 July 1999 vol 603 cc585-605

3.8 p.m.

Lord Whitty

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

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

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 186 [Duty of the PPP arbiter]:

[Amendments Nos. 282 and 283 not moved.]

Clause 186 agreed to.

Clause 187 agreed to.

Clause 188 [Provision of information to the PPP arbiter]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 283A and 283B: Page 100, line 32, leave out paragraph (c) and insert— ("(c) any person who has entered into arrangements falling within section 172(2)(6) above."). Page 100, line 36, leave out from ("to") to ("in") in line 37 and insert ("answer any question or produce any document which he would be entitled to refuse to answer or produce").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 188, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 189 to 191 agreed to.

Clause 192 [Interpretation of this Chapter]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 283C: Page 102, line 1, at end insert— (""PPP arbiter" shall be construed in accordance with section 181(1) above;").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 192, as amended, agreed to.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes moved Amendment No. 284: Before Clause 193, insert the following new clause— (" . No agreement made under section 193 shall reduce provisions for concessionary fares that exist on the day before this Act comes into force.").

The noble Baroness said: This is a simple amendment to ensure that the present concessionary fares system for people aged 60 or over living in London continues. I was in this Chamber when the issue of concessionary fares was debated some years ago. At that time the Government were defeated by an amendment brought forward by Lord Pitt of Hampstead. The original scheme was to start at 9.30 in the morning and cease at four in the afternoon. Lord Pitt moved an amendment to make the scheme operate from nine in the morning with no interruption. As I said, the Chamber thought that made sense and accepted the amendment.

Afterwards Lord Avon, who was dealing with the Bill on behalf of the government, told me that he was about to have a meeting with the then Secretary of State, Nicholas Ridley. He asked me whether I thought that the original scheme should be reinstated. I felt strongly that the new scheme should not be abandoned merely on grounds of political expediency as the Chamber had debated the matter and had decided that the new scheme was worth while. I was fortunate enough to persuade Lord Avon of the validity of my argument. He in turn persuaded the Secretary of State not to overturn the amendment. The people of London have benefited greatly from that decision. One of my main reasons for supporting the amendment was that I was on the GLC at the time and I received many letters of complaint from people who had missed the four o'clock bus because it had not turned up and at that time they had to wait until seven o'clock for the concessionary fare. London Transport was always refunding fares to people because the relevant pre-four o'clock bus had not turned up.

The scheme, which has now been in operation for many years, has worked marvellously well. However, I believe that nothing that is done in the future should damage the present scheme. To alter the start time of the scheme would make a big difference to people's lives. By nine o'clock those who are going to work have gone and the rush hour traffic is over. This scheme does not inconvenience rush hour travellers. I know that for years a group of people known as the "twirlies- have used the buses. These people get on a bus at five minutes to nine. They wave their passes at the inspector. When he tells them it is not yet nine o'clock, they reply, "Am I twirlie?"; that is, "Am I too early?" There are still a few such "twirlies", but whatever time the scheme started I am sure there would still be such people. Of course, on Saturdays and Sundays there are no time limits on the scheme. This amendment asks the Government to ensure that this concessionary scheme, which has huge social benefits for the people of London and keeps them mobile, should continue. It reduces social services costs in terms of employing home helps and people to help with shopping. I ask the Minister to assure us that the scheme will continue. I beg to move.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

I shall speak briefly to my Amendment No. 285 which is in the group we are discussing. In our view the way the Bill is drafted leaves open to doubt whether the travel concessionary scheme would continue as at present. Clause 193(1) states that any local authority "may enter into arrangements". Our amendment obliges Transport for London to make arrangements with the London authorities, within six months of the establishment of Transport for London". The amendment provides that these popular travel concessions which are so valuable for a number of groups, including the old, the blind and the disabled should continue on a compulsory basis. I support my noble friend's amendment.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Whitty

I am grateful to the noble Baroness and the noble Lord who have spoken for agreeing to group their amendments with the Government's amendments as it is sensible to have an overall debate on the future of the concessionary scheme. The Government's amendments should clarify the position.

This Bill essentially provides for continuation of powers which have been in existence since 1984, which may be the period mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner. The amendments that the Government are bringing forward essentially update and improve the operation of the current arrangements to the benefit of both users and local authorities. They bring the times of operation of the free travel scheme into line with the times of the scheme that the local authorities currently agree voluntarily. They clarify the costs of the free travel scheme and they give the local authorities powers to set up a statutory joint committee to take decisions on concessionary fares on the basis of qualified majority voting. These amendments have been drafted in accordance with the principle that at the end of the day concessionary fares are a matter for local discretion.

Government Amendments Nos. 286A and 286B are purely technical in nature. Amendment No. 286B relates to penalty fares but is being taken here because it is similar in effect to Amendment No. 286A. Amendment No. 286A ensures that it will be possible for the London local authorities to offer travel concessions on services provided under an agreement with London Transport under statutory powers contained in the London Regional Transport Act 1984, after the relevant sections of that Act are repealed. Amendment No. 287B ensures that the penalty fares schemes currently in operation by the Docklands Light Railway under that franchise will be able to continue. This is already the case for LT services.

Amendment No. 286AA is more substantial. It gives the London local authorities the option of exercising their power under Clause 193 to enter into concessionary travel arrangements with TfL and train operators through a joint committee to which special provisions apply. Decisions of the joint committee would have to be unanimous, unless the authorities themselves had already unanimously decided that all decisions or decisions on particular matters could be taken by a specified majority of the members. The majority so specified could not be less than two-thirds.

These powers, if the London authorities choose to make use of them, could make their decision-making on concessionary fares much more secure. They avoid the risk, inherent in a process which requires the unanimous agreement of all 33 local authorities at every stage, that travel concessions for London's elderly and disabled residents cannot be agreed because one local authority fails to signal its agreement in time. The powers in this amendment will be available to the London local authorities only if 'hey choose to use them. It would not in my submission be right for the Government to seek to impose the joint committee arrangements on the London local authorities.

Amendments Nos. 286B, 286C and 286D change the times of operation of the statutory reserve scheme, bringing them into line with those currently in the voluntary scheme. In the event of the London local authorities failing to agree a satisfactory scheme, TfL will be obliged to put a scheme in place which will provide free travel concessions on all services under its control. TfL would recover the cost of the free travel scheme from the London local authorities. The statutory reserve scheme has never been activated but its presence has always been a reassurance to London's elderly and disabled residents that the travel concessions they rely on will not be taken away. These amendments will reassure users of the scheme that if the free travel scheme is ever activated they will be able to use their travel permits at the same time as they currently do.

Amendments Nos. 286E and 286F require TfL to take into account the costs of travel concessions in previous years when calculating how much the boroughs would pay for the free travel scheme. TfL is also required to take into account fare changes and changes in the information available to it for calculating the costs. In the event of the London local authorities failing to agree a satisfactory scheme, TfL will be obliged to put a scheme in place which will provide free travel concessions on all services under its control. TfL would then recover the cost of the free travel scheme from the London local authorities. I hope that explains the slightly complex, interlocking government amendments.

Perhaps I may now make a few points on the other amendments before us. Amendment No. 284, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, seeks to impose a particular level of concessionary fares provision on the local authorities. The local authorities in London currently choose to fund free travel concessions for their eligible residents on London Transport services, Docklands Light Railway and the railway services. They have provided such concessions for many years and I have no reason to believe that any of the boroughs have plans to change that. Nevertheless, to follow completely the noble Baroness's amendment would mean the Government seeking to interfere with the local boroughs' discretion by prescribing the concessions that they must provide. It is right that the boroughs themselves should make such decisions and be accountable for them. The Government believe that that should remain the position, while recognising the powers that we propose to bring forward in our amendments.

The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, indicated that the main point of Amendment No. 285 was to require boroughs to enter into agreement rather than that they "may" enter into agreement. The drafting of the Bill follows that of the 1984 Act, which is the basis of the present scheme. That Act also said "may". At the end of the day, for reasons similar to those I have set out, it is for the boroughs to agree the scheme. If the boroughs do not agree, then the reserve scheme comes into play; that will still guarantee concessionary travel. However, in the first instance, it should be a permissive power for the boroughs themselves, hopefully, to agree a scheme. Bearing in mind those reserve powers, I do not think the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon— which seeks to turn "may" into "must"—is appropriate. I would therefore ask the noble Lord and the noble Baroness to withdraw their amendments.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

Before the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, tells us what she proposes to do with her amendment, perhaps I may welcome some of the government amendments, in particular the change of period in Schedule 12 from what it was to, in effect, 9 a.m. until 4.30 the following morning. That satisfies many concerns about the concessionary schemes. After all, quite a lot of people will be able to use them go to work; previously it was difficult for them to go to work at all on a concessionary ticket.

We also welcome Amendment No. 286AA and the arrangements for the joint working of the London authorities in relation to the setting up of the schemes. The reserve scheme will be at least as good as the existing scheme and not, as it has been in the past, slightly less good. One can unreservedly welcome the government amendments.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

The noble Lord asked me whether I would withdraw my amendment; I have not yet moved it. However, I am grateful to him for his explanation. I shall read what he said, but I think I am satisfied that my amendment is not necessary at this stage. I join with the noble Baroness in welcoming the government amendments.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I am delighted by the Minister's explanation. My one objection to Schedule 12 concerned the hours set out there because the fallback scheme was just not good enough. The amendments have changed the fallback scheme and have answered our concern. This carries on the marvellous work done by the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, many years ago. I am delighted that it is no longer necessary to move my amendment. It is appropriate that the boroughs should take the first decision and that the matter should be in their control. However, the fallback scheme is very important in case some of the boroughs fail to meet what we hope they will achieve. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 193 [Travel Concessions on journeys in and around Greater London]:

[Amendment No. 285 not moved.]

Baroness Darcy de Knayth moved Amendment No. 286:

Page 103, line 32, at end insert—

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 286, which stands in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, and myself. The noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, regrets that he cannot be here today. He is setting up a telemedical link between Bangladesh and hospitals in this country. Noble Lords may consider that that matter is every bit as important—I see that the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, is impressed—and perhaps even more exciting than taking part in the debates on the Bill.

Amendment No. 286 seeks to reduce the wide variations which exist at present in the criteria used by different boroughs to determine eligibility for the disabled person's freedom pass. Many boroughs say that a disabled person who is an orange badge holder is not eligible for the disabled person's freedom pass. I am told that that stance is illegal. A disabled person's eligibility for a disabled person's freedom pass should not depend upon in which borough he or she happens to live.

The London Accessible Transport Alliance, which has been mentioned before in Committee, is formed of groups of older and disabled people who are all door-to-door transport users, including the Greater London Action on Disability. I should declare I am a patron of GLAD. Perhaps if I declare that once today I need not do so again, otherwise the Committee may be bored rigid during the course of the evening.

The London Accessible Transport Alliance believes that the boroughs should frame their local eligibility criteria for the disabled person's freedom pass in the light of guidance issued by the joint authority running the scheme London-wide and that organisations of older and disabled people should be consulted in the preparation of the guidance. Amendment No. 286ZA, standing in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, omits the requirement to consult disabled people and their organisations. I do not know whether they feel that that is unnecessary because the matter is covered elsewhere or because they feel it is undesirable. I look forward to hearing what the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and her colleagues have to say, and to the Minister's reply.

Lady Thomas of Walliswood

We support the amendment. Amendment No. 286ZA seeks to do the same thing in a slightly different way. I accept that the consultation element may well be desirable. At present I think it is more important to press the principle involved. In our last debate in Committee a number of issues affecting people with mobility disabilities of one kind or another were raised. At that time, the question was raised—I cannot remember by whom—of how one determines who is disabled and who is not. These amendments attempt to answer that question. Perhaps the Government can say how that question is answered in the legislation before us. It is obviously important that the determination of who is to receive concessionary travel is perceived to be fair, both by people who have disabilities and impairments of one kind or another and by others. I do not need to bore your Lordships with the whole question of special tags for cars and how irritating that can be. That was also mentioned during the course of our debates in Committee. Can the Minister say how the question of defining criteria is resolved at the present time and in the Bill?

3.30 p.m.

Lord Morris of Manchester

I welcome this further opportunity to debate the problems and needs of disabled people with severe mobility handicaps. In doing so, I am again most grateful to my friend the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, for having tabled his amendment in close rapport with Greater London Action on Disability of which, as my noble friend the Minister knows, I am, like the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, a patron. I am most grateful also to her for moving Amendment No. 286. As she said, its purpose is to reduce the wide variation that now exists in the criteria that different London boroughs use to determine eligibility for the disabled person's freedom pass.

For my part, I do not believe that a disabled person's eligibility for a freedom pass should depend on which borough he or she happens to live in. I believe that boroughs should frame their local eligibility criteria for the pass in the light of guidance issued by the joint authority running the scheme London-wide.

I believe also that organisations for disabled and older people should be consulted in the preparation of the guidance. I do so on the basis of the recent experience of organisations of and for disabled people of contacting 18 London boroughs and asking for the criteria they operate when determining eligibility for the disabled person's freedom pass. A number were unco-operative. The City of London Corporation required prior permission from the Lord Mayor's office.

Amendment No 286 is important to disabled people and their organisations. I know that my noble friend the Minister will want to reply to it as helpfully as he can. Meanwhile I am most grateful to him for his letter to me of 5th July, which I received by hand during this debate, about the amendments I moved earlier in Committee on exempting disabled people from road user and workplace parking charges. My noble friend informs me: The Government will endeavour to agree the structure of concessionary arrangements for disabled persons in local authority schemes in time for them to be included in the GLA Bill at Lords Report". That is a most welcome response to my amendments. When I moved them, I said that I knew my noble friend's reply would be a positive one. He has been as good as his word in promising carefully to consider the case I argued and I am sure that Members in all parts of the Committee who have taken part in our debates on the problems and needs of disabled Londoners will honour him for his reply.

Lord Whitty

I am deeply grateful for my noble friend's response. I had not realised that my letter had reached him. I am glad that it has done so in time for this debate, although the issue to which it refers will arise later in the proceedings. My response indicates that the Government are trying throughout the Bill to meet the concerns of disabled people.

My noble friend may not be so positive about my response to Amendment No. 286. As I indicated on the last group, the principle, at least in the first instance, should be that discretionary affairs are a matter for local discretion. The section of the Bill dealing with disabled persons' permits is drawn from previous legislation, which says that they should be issued to people who suffer from a disability or injury that, in the opinion of the local authority, seriously impairs their ability to walk. Although that definition is fairly broad, its intention is clear.

I regret that my noble friend encountered some difficulty in getting information from particular local authorities. Nevertheless, we believe that local authorities themselves should decide whether they need to draw up further criteria for issuing permits to disabled people or rely on the definition in the Bill. Regardless or whether or not they have such criteria, if a London borough refuses to issue a pass to those considering themselves eligible under the Bill, the borough would be open to legal challenge over its decision. Anyone who felt they had been treated unfairly would have recourse to the local government ombudsman.

As to whether such criteria should be made public, both existing and planned legislation cover that area. The present access to information rights in the Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1985 mean that all papers put to a council are open to the public. Under our new proposals in the draft Local Government (Organisation and Standards) Bill, such papers will continue to be made available. In addition, if decisions are taken at an official level, those decisions, together with the reasons for them, must also be made public. I urge the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, and others who support the amendment to consider whether current and planned legislation providing rights of access deals with the issue of publication. The Government are bringing forward an amendment that would give boroughs the power to establish a joint committee to take decisions on the arrangements for concessionary fares. I quickly look around to make sure that my noble friend Lord Stoddart of Swindon is not in his place. Those decisions would be on the basis of qualified majority voting, which is an issue on which he jumps up in a different context. That also reflects our commitment to subsidiarity and the hope that boroughs will act jointly. Then there is the reserve scheme we debated earlier. If the London boroughs decide that the criteria for issuing disabled persons' permits ought to be drawn up and published, they could use the joint committee to do so.

Although I have some sympathy with the experience of my noble friend Lord Morris and others who tabled the amendment, I cannot agree that it is the appropriate vehicle for achieving their objectives. I urge the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth

I wonder whether the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, wishes to come back on her amendment before I withdraw mine.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

It is kind of the noble Baroness to give me that opportunity. The best that one can do is to read carefully the Minister's long answer to make sure that it satisfies the points raised. That is what I propose to do.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth

I thank all who have spoken and particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, for her points and the noble Lord, Lord Morris, for his comment about subsection (5B) and publicity. I am grateful also for what he told us about the Minister's letter to him, which we will come to later. I am deeply appreciative of that response and cheered by it.

I am reasonably cheered by the Minister's response on subsection (5B). He has he set my mind at rest. I shall be happy to read his comments on subsection (5A). I think I probably am satisfied.

Given the myriad of amendments about disabled people and transport, the wide range of fears and concerns that have been expressed, and the importance of getting it right, would the Minister be willing to meet the noble Lords, Lord Swinfen and Lord Morris, and the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, and our advisers between now and Report, to discuss all those matters?

Lord Whitty

I would be most happy to proceed with such an arrangement.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth

I thank the Minister very much. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 286ZA not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 286A: Page 104, line 21, after ("233") insert ("or 324").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 193, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 194 agreed to.

Schedule 12 [The free travel scheme]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 286B to 286F: Page 228, line 21, leave out ("the daytime, evening or late-night") and insert ("an eligible"). Page 228, leave out lines 24 to 26 and insert ("the eligible periods are—

  1. (a) the period from midnight to 4.30 a.m.; and
  2. (b) the period from 9.00 a.m. to midnight.").
Page 228, line 27, leave out ("daytime, evening or late-night period for the purposes of sub-paragraph (3)") and insert ("periods which are eligible periods for the purposes of sub-paragraph (2)(b)").

Page 229, line 6, after ("year") insert ("(referred to in this paragraph as the "current financial year")).

Page 229, line 34, at end insert— ("(5) In fixing the charges payable by London authorities under this paragraph Transport for London shall take into account—

  1. (a) the sum applicable by virtue of sub-paragraph (6) below; and
  2. (b) the matters specified in sub-paragraph (7) below.
(6) The sum applicable by virtue of this sub-paragraph is—
  1. (a) where the free travel scheme does not have effect during the current financial year, a sum equivalent to the total of the costs agreed to be reimbursed by local authorities during the current financial year under arrangements made by virtue of section 193(1) of this Act; or
  2. (b) where the free travel scheme has effect during the current financial year, a sum equivalent to the charges payable by London authorities under this paragraph in respect of the current financial year.
(7) The matters specified in this sub-paragraph are-—
  1. (a) the coming into operation of a service falling within section 195(3) of this Act, or the variation or discontinuance of such a service,
  2. (b) changes in the fares payable in respect of any such service, and
  3. (c) changes in the methods or information available to Transport for London for calculating the amounts specified in sub-paragraph (4) above, since costs were last agreed to be reimbursed by local authorities under arrangements made by virtue of section 193(1) of this Act or, if more recent, since charges payable under this paragraph were last fixed.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 12, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 195 and 196 agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 286AA: After Clause 196, insert the following new clause—


(" .—(1) If all the London authorities enter into arrangements under section 101(5) of the Local Government Act 1972 for the joint discharge of their functions under—

  1. (a) subsection (1) of section 193 above, or
  2. (b) subsection (2) of that section,
and the arrangements so provide, then this section shall apply.

(2) The arrangements shall have effect for such period as may be specified in the arrangements or until otherwise terminated by the unanimous decision of the London authorities.

(3) The arrangements must provide for the function to be discharged only by a joint committee under section 101(5)(a) of the Local Government Act 1972.

(4) The joint committee must consist of one member of each London authority.

(5) Decisions of the joint committee must be unanimous decisions of those present and voting.

(6) Subsection (5) above is subject to a resolution of the joint committee, passed unanimously by those present and voting, that—

  1. (a) decisions of a kind specified in the resolution, or
  2. (b) decisions generally,
may be made by such majority of those present and voting as may be specified in the resolution.

(7) The majority specified in a resolution under subsection (6) above must be not less than two-thirds of the members of the joint committee.

(8) In consequence of the preceding provisions of this section—

  1. (a) section 102 of the Local Government Act 1972 (appointment of committees) has effect in relation to the joint committee subject to those provisions; and
  2. (b) paragraph 39(1) of Schedule 12 to that Act (questions to be decided by simple majority), as applied to a joint committee by paragraph 44(1) of that Schedule, does not have effect in relation to the joint committee.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes moved Amendment No. 287: After Clause 196, insert the following new clause—


(" . The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for and in connection with the provision of transport facilities and services provided for the purpose of meeting the needs of disabled persons resident in Greater London.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment has been widely debated. I now rise to move it formally, as I have had the benefit of reading in Hansard the discussion and Minister's response to it. I shall ask him to comment on what he said the other day.

The Minister said: As was indicated in our White Paper … responsibility for Dial-a-Ride and Taxicard will transfer to the new authority".

He later said: The mayor will also be able to take responsibility for Taxicard or operate a similar scheme". The comments were made during a general debate on a number of mixed amendments. My concern is that they seem to run contrary to the Bill as presently drafted. While I understand that the mayor will be able to seek clarification on the role of the Taxicard within his or her local implementation plans, my concern is that funding for the Taxicard scheme is already being eroded in many boroughs. There seems to be no mechanism for the mayor, or indeed the Secretary of State, to ensure that the funding is not simply salami-sliced in boroughs on an individual basis. If that happens, there will be no Taxicard scheme for which the mayor can take responsibility.

Again I quote the Minister: Both schemes [Taxicard and Dial-a-Ride] are very important and need to be developed for disabled people".—[Official Report, 1/7/99; col. 462.] I simply seek a reassurance that there will be a safeguard for maintaining borough funding for Taxicard during any interim period that may arise if the schemes were to be transferred to TfL. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

The principle is there, and it is reflected within the Bill. If a transitional problem of the sort alluded to by the noble Baroness arises, I am confident that the powers cover that. However, to make doubly sure, perhaps I may undertake to write to the noble Baroness.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I thank the Minister for that reply. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 197 [Penalty fares]:

[Amendment No. 287A had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Clause 197 agreed to.

Schedule 13 [Penalty fares]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 287B: Page 232, line 20, after (" 233") insert ("or 324").

[Amendments Nos. 287C to 287G had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendment No. 288: Page 233, line 51, leave out ("the Secretary of State and").

The noble Lord said: This is a very small amendment. Schedule 13 deals with penalty fares on London buses and tubes. The amendment basically rewrites the whole of the London Transport Regional Transport Penalty Fares Act 1992. We shall shortly debate a more substantial amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty.

As I understand it, the powers are to be transferred mainly to Transport for London and to the mayor. The penalty fares are set at a certain level—£5 on local buses and £10 on the Underground. Paragraph 5(2) states that, The Mayor may by order prescribe that the amount of the penalty fare in either or both of the cases set out … above shall be different (whether higher or lower)".

Sub-paragraph (3) goes on to state that, No order may be made by the Mayor under sub-paragraph (2) … unless he has consulted the Secretary of State".

That is a blow for subsidiarity, for the power of the mayor. We do not understand why the mayor cannot be allowed to get on and do this without consulting the Secretary of State. The mayor already has to consult local authorities and, such persons or bodies representative of those who travel on local services … and … such other persons or bodies", as he may wish to consult. But I cannot understand why the mayor has to consult the Secretary of State as well. I beg to move.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Whitty

This provision does not give the Secretary of State powers, but the reason why there is a requirement to consult is so that there can be consistency about penalty fare levels on all relevant modes of transport. That is particularly the case where a number of stations are served both by London Transport and by the operating companies. At those stations there could be some confusion were the two forms of penalty charge to be completely out of line with each other. At the end of the day, the decision lies with the mayor, but the mayor needs to take that into account, and therefore needs to consult the Secretary of State on those matters.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

Given that explanation, although I am not entirely happy that it is necessary to consult the Secretary of State, it is not an important enough point to pursue to the end. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Clancarty moved Amendment No. 288A: Page 234, line 18, at end insert—

("Penalty Fares Appeals Service

.—(1) Subject to sub-paragraph (2) below, the Authority shall establish a body, separate from either Transport for London, or from any person providing a transport service to which this Schedule applies, to be known as the London Penalty Fares Appeals Service.

(2) Any body established by, or with the consent of the Rail Regulator to consider appeals against penalty fares issued on the national railways under Section 130 of the Railways Act 1993 may be appointed by the Authority in fulfilment of its duties under sub-section (1) above.

(3) Any person who has been issued with a penalty fare pursuant to paragraph 3 or 4 above, whose representations to the person providing the service in relation to which the penalty fare was issued has failed to result in that penalty fare being set aside, may appeal to the body, appointed under either sub-paragraph (1) or (2) above, for a determination.

(4) The Authority may, after consultation with Transport for London and the London Transport Users Committee, give guidance to the body appointed under either sub-paragraph (1) or (2) above as to the criteria it should adopt for the judging of appeals against penalty fares issued in accordance with the provisions of this schedule.

(5) The costs of the service provided under this paragraph shall be borne by Transport for London.

(6) Except as provided for in sub-paragraph (4) above, the London Transport Users Committee shall not consider penalty fares appeals except in so far as they give rise to questions as to the procedure followed by the body appointed under sub-paragraph (1) or (2) above in relation to the consideration of an individual appeal.").

The noble Earl said: First, I should like to apologise for not having spoken at Second Reading. The intention of this amendment is to establish an independent appeals body for penalty fares. This is an important amendment, and I am happy that it has the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood. There is currently considerable concern, shared both by passengers and the London Regional Passengers Committee, over the judgments made by London Transport, particularly concerning penalty fares applied by London Underground, and 82 per cent of representations on the London Underground to the LRPC are about penalty fares.

Sub-paragraph (4) asks for what I believe should be the bare minimum of guidance and consultation over the criteria by which appeals are judged. I understand the desire of the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, to catch those intending to defraud, which she stated when the 1992 legislation was introduced. But London Underground's present effectively unregulated penalty fares regime is draconian. There needs to be a fair and sensitive balance—300,000 penalty fares were issued last year on the Underground. That is an absurd figure and includes, I believe, many bona fide passengers who are caught out for a wide variety of reasons, including the complexities of the fares and differing ticketing systems, such as the carnet system for which London Underground makes no allowance for inadvertent errors.

In particular, the option of buying an excess or add-on ticket should be restored, since there is no reason whatsoever why a passenger who has a ticket showing evidence of his or her starting-point and who offers to pay the excess fare should not be allowed to do so, rather than have to traipse up and down the escalators to buy a second ticket for the same journey. For many, the £10 penalty paid on the tube at their destination point is not an expression of guilt; it is simply more convenient to do so rather than to raise an objection. Ten pounds for most waged people is not a lot of money, although for an unemployed person it is. The major problem, then, becomes the inflexibility of the conditions of travel, including for instance the inability to change one's mind about a journey once one is in the system in order to carry out a longer journey.

The main point to be made here is that London Underground is acting autocratically. A wider consultation process is needed—something that London Underground is resisting. Ideally, Transport for London, the authority, the London Transport Users Committee, the Rail Regulator and other operators from whom TfL can learn—including Nexus, for example, which runs the Tyne and Wear Metro and whose penalty fares regime is "exemplary" according to the Rail Regulator—should all be sitting down in the same room. The Rail Regulator is keen to encourage best practice sharing of penalty fare schemes.

Whatever criteria are agreed upon, they do not invalidate the important principle also that the appeals body should be independent. It is worth quoting the Rail Regulator's view on this principle as expressed in the 1995 consultation document on penalty fares: The normal requirement of criminal law provides for an appeals mechanism, independent of the prosecution, against conviction. In the case of penalty fares, the operator fulfils the role of both prosecutor and judge. In the Regulator's view, this makes it all the more important to ensure that an appeals mechanism is in place which operates impartially and independently". I entirely agree with that and beg to move the amendment.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I am happy to support the noble Earl's amendment. He has pursued the matter by most methods open to a Member of this House and, as a result, has received interesting answers from government Ministers. It is obvious that one point we must deal with on penalty fares is the way in which the fare and penalty fare structures operate. However, an equally important element that we are dealing with at present is appeals. The current system of appeals laid down in the Bill is not satisfactory. I support the noble Earl's amendment and look forward to hearing what the Government have to say on the issue.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

As mentioned, I achieved this legislation in 1992 when I took it through as a Private Member's Bill for London Transport. At that time there was a desperate need to try to make up some of the vast amount of lost revenue. Sadly, the revenue is still being lost and, if I am to believe the Evening Standard, there is an even greater loss now than years ago.

It is important for us to maintain a tough but fair stance on penalty fares. All those who legitimately pay their fares do so at a higher cost because of the great loss being carried. The time has gone when people used to pocket the excess fares when the passenger arrived at the end of the journey. That used to be a great fraud in the past. People used to set up arrangements to close the ticket office at one station in order for their friend to collect all the money at the next, then they would share it later. That was well known at the time. However, all that is a thing of the past.

Now the remaining issue is the appeals system. As a general principle, it is not right in any field and it does not accord with our sense of justice that people should have the right to be both judge and jury in any situation. For that reason I support the noble Earl's amendment.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

I also support the noble Earl. Many Members of the Committee may have read the case of the nun who fell asleep on a bus. They took her through the courts. Cannot common sense be applied'? Does the Minister realise that we all remember the advertisements saying: "If you are caught not paying your fare. you are a criminal"? That is how the lady felt when she was dragged through the courts. Admittedly, she got off in the end, as is being whispered on the Front Bench., but the matter still got into the press and was unpleasant.

Will the Minister consider all that has been said? I agree totally with the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, that when fares are not paid there must be a system for collecting them. It cannot be fair that those who are willing to pay should pay higher fares because the company does not receive the full income. Of course I understand that. But also, as the noble Baroness said, it is not right to have a judge and jury situation. I hope the Minister will consider the matter.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

I, too, hope the Government will consider the amendments. As I understand it, and as the noble Earl explained, this is not about penalty fares but appeals against penalty fares. There is no mechanism for them at the moment, other than an internal one operated by London Transport.

My noble friend Lord Archer pre-empted my criticism of the actions of London Buses the other day, widely reported in the press, in pursuing the most ridiculous claim against the nun who happened to fall asleep. I am glad that the magistrates dealt with it in the best way they could. Nevertheless, it caused the victim of the incident a good deal of disquiet. No doubt it also cost the fare-paying passengers of London Transport a good deal of money to pursue the exercise through the courts. It seemed to me completely unnecessary.

When the noble Earl last raised the issue at Question Time, I said that one of the best solutions would be to introduce more automatic ticket barriers at outlying stations. I reported that at the station I use in Zone 2 the barriers had been put in but were not yet in operation, owing to a lack of power at the station, according to London Transport. I cannot remember how long ago the Question was—at least a month—and I have to report that the barriers are still not in operation. I do not know whether there is a problem with the electricity in Fulham; I have not found one at home, where it seems to work well for me, but obviously it does not at Putney Bridge station.

I digress from the purpose of the amendment and I shall be interested to hear what the Minister says on the subject of appeals.

Baroness Hamwee

The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, said that in the case of the nun who fell asleep on the bus the magistrates dealt with the matter in the best way they could. That described it precisely. As I understand it, the nun was not found not guilty, but was given a conditional discharge. That goes to the heart of the complaints made by Members of the Committee about the criminalisation of something which should not be treated as a criminal matter. If I were taken to the magistrates' court on whatever charge and received a conditional discharge, I would leave the court feeling very unhappy.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

As I understand the penalty fare system, certainly the one I introduced, there is no criminal charge involved. The nun must have been charged under some other process; perhaps fraud. It is one of the important features of the legislation that when you are asked to pay a penalty fare no criminal liability or criminal record is involved.

4 p.m.

Lord Whitty

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for both her earlier intervention explaining why we introduced the penalty fare system in the first place and for the clarification of the position. The nun in the case was prosecuted for travelling with intent to avoid payment. I am not clear why she was not able to pay a penalty fare, but we are making further inquiries in that regard.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

I believe the nun tried to pay the penalty fare.

Lord Whitty

We are trying to establish the exact circumstances and why she was not permitted to pay the penalty fare. The noble Baroness is correct that the penalty fare system was introduced to avoid criminality and taking people through the courts. It was to provide a penalty fare, irrespective of proof of intent. Nevertheless, it was free from the label of criminality.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, said, there is a problem of fare evasion on the London Underground. Some of it will be dealt with when the whole network has been gated under the prestige project. I am not sure why the gates at Putney Bridge do not currently work, but no doubt when the full system is in operation they will. We hope that that will restrict evasion in the sense of intent to travel without a ticket. But there will still be people who travel beyond the duration of the ticket, for whom the penalty fare should apply.

The current legislation does not formally recognise the concept of an appeal. The appeal process was well established by London Transport, at the request of the previous government, at the time the penalty scheme was introduced. We are aware of the concerns of the noble Earl and other Members of the Committee in this matter. The Government have asked London Transport and the London Regional Passengers' Committee to review the whole system of penalty fares. A draft report has been produced and has, we hope, already led to some improvements in the operation of the scheme by London Transport. The final version has not yet been produced, and I must ask the Committee for a further period of patience before we see the final recommendations. The draft form is currently being considered by my colleague Glenda Jackson.

The amendment would compel the mayor to establish an independent appeals body without having the opportunity to assess the merits of that body in that situation. For example, the mayor may instead conclude that the administration of penalty fares can best be improved by other means. The review has already resulted in a much closer convergence of approach between the London Transport system and that which applies to the national rail network.

Changes arising from the penalty fares review are already being phased in by London Transport. I believe that London Transport should be given a little time to demonstrate that it can operate the scheme more effectively, including the appeals dimension thereof. I recognise the concerns of the Committee, but I believe that it is better to deal with the issue in that context rather than by way of an amendment to the Bill.

The Earl of Clancarty

I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, suggested that there should be more ticket barriers. I do not believe that we should await technology in order to have a fair and sensitive penalty system in operation right now. I am disappointed that the Minister does not immediately see the merits of this amendment and accept it straight away. I await with interest the recommendations relating to penalty fares. I shall certainly return to this matter at Report stage, but for the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 13, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 198 agreed to.

Clause 199 [The London Transport Users' Committee]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 288B: Page 106, line 37, after ("use") insert ("public").

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 288B takes us to that part of the Bill which deals with the Transport Users' Committee. The amendment provides that the new committee shall represent the interests of those who use public transport facilities and services, as distinct from all passenger transport facilities and services. Later the Committee will consider Amendment No. 294A in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and my noble friend Lady Thomas of Walliswood (who is to be congratulated on spotting this matter in two places). That amendment also provides that the matters referred to in Clause 200, which deals with representations to the committee, are restricted to public transport.

We understand that the Government are concerned to encourage all of us to think about integrated transport, not just integrated public transport, and that is entirely right. However, we do not believe it means that every reference to transport should deal with all transport. We do not believe that the new Transport Users' Committee is an appropriate vehicle to deal with the rights and concerns of all transport users. The Bill makes clear in dealing with the duties of the committee that the remit of that body is primarily public. If the definition included all transport it would cover almost everything, not just users of buses and so on but car users, pedestrians and cyclists. I do not deny that these people have rights, but there would be considerable problems if the committee was required, and resourced, to acquire the detailed knowledge and necessary representativeness to cover the wider agenda.

The committee may also have directly conflicting interests; for example, the respective claims of bus users and motorists where road space is scarce. The London Regional Passengers' Committee has put to me what is probably the worst case scenario with which the new committee may be faced: an appeal from a householder whose property fronts a GLA road and who wants to park his or her car outside the house but TfL wants to site a bus stop at that point. In our view, it would not be appropriate for the Transport Users' Committee to be required to deal with that situation. It will not be able properly to voice the concerns of the users of public transport, which must be its primary purpose.

We do not believe that the benefits that might be gained by including the interests of all transport users within the LTUC's remit would outweigh the dilution of its commitment to passengers which would inevitably occur. It is not the task of the new committee to take decisions about priorities between public and private interests that are likely to arise. The LTUC will have quite enough to do looking after the needs of public transport users, and its effectiveness could be very badly prejudiced if its remit was widened. I beg to move.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Reading the Explanatory Notes on the Bill, the whole point of this arrangement is that the new Transport Users' Committee will not try to sort out the problem but refer it to whoever has that ability. With great respect to noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Front Bench who are working so hard on this Bill, I do not believe that it is any good to go on about integrated transport and then to say that they do not want to integrate the public transport system with the private one. If cars are parked in a road where a bus stop is required, that issue must be sorted out. Surely, a complaint can be made to the committee, which will then refer it to whoever can deal with it. The committee is more a channel of communication than a body to sort out problems, unless I am mistaken.

The Earl of Clancarty

I rise to support Amendment No. 288A and speak also to Amendment No. 294A, which I believe the Government Front Bench has agreed can be debated at this stage. Like Amendment No. 288A, Amendment No. 294A seeks to ensure that a statutory watchdog is in existence to deal only with issues of public passenger transport. I speak simply as a regular user of public transport in London who is very worried that in dealing also with private transport the new Transport Users' Committee will have the effect of diluting, or even eliminating entirely, the voice of the public passenger, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has already pointed out. Clearly, that would be disastrous. The private passenger, unlike the public one, already has powerful lobbying organisations to turn to: the AA, the British Road Federation and so on. There is also the possibility of conflicts of interest. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has referred to the classic issue of whether a bus stop or private parking space should be provided outside a resident' house. It should not be up to a statutory watchdog to resolve differences between these two interests.

This amendment also has the strong support of the National Consumer Council and the Central Rail Users' Consultative Committee. One wonders whether the Government are falling between two stools. On the one hand, they appear to promote public transport; on the other, they are clearly very keen to develop overall strategies. But the assembly will be the executive and should make such decisions based on the evidence and advice given to it. from wherever they come. Have the Government properly thought out the effect that combining the two interests of public and private transport would have on the new body?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

The amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, would prescribe the factors to be taken into account when drawing up membership of the London Transport Users' Committee. Clause 199 indicates to the assembly what factors to take into account in selecting members of the committee. However, it is not an exhaustive list of criteria.

Amendment No. 288B proposes that the assembly takes into account the users of public passenger transport facilities rather than simply passenger transport. Even having listened to the noble Baroness, I am not sure why she would wish to append the word "public", given that the committee will have to consider representations from a wide range of transport users and the assembly would be expected to select the membership of the committee so as to reflect the full diversity of experience. I therefore hope that she will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 294A also reflects a misunderstanding of the Government's proposals for the London Transport Users' Committee, or a difference of opinion on them. The committee is intended to be a new body, drawing on the strengths of the London Regional Passengers' Committee, but doing so within a new context of London governance and with a wider remit.

Transport provision in London will be largely concentrated in a single integrated body—TfL—which must have due regard to the mix of demands represented by transport users. We believe that the new LTUC remit should reflect that integration and represent transport users who will be affected by the full range of TfL activities. LTUC will inevitably consider more representations about public transport because its highways functions are primarily connected with only 5 per cent of the road network in London.

As the Minister for Transport in London explained in the other place, while the LTUC will be capable of considering complaints from all transport modes, it will still represent passengers. We do not accept that a valuable voice will be weakened.

When considering complaints about GLA roads, the committee will be under a duty to consider the interests of all those who use the road, not just car users. There is nothing in the Bill to indicate that the committee should give particular attention to complaints from motorists rather than those travelling on public transport.

Perhaps I could remind the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and other noble Lords who spoke, that LTUC will not be a decision-making body. It will not itself be able to resolve a dispute about the use of a particular road. It can only recommend a course of action to TfL, and the mayor and the assembly will also see the advice. In the light of that explanation, I hope that the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

Before the noble Lords whose amendments we are considering speak, I wish to make a intervention. There is a profound difference of opinion between those who have moved the amendments and the Government who have written these clauses into the Bill. The difference of opinion is about exactly who the new passenger representative body should represent. Our contention is that they should represent the interests of, and speak up for, public transport users.

A curious suggestion seems to have arisen from this debate that somehow that unelected body, which has been appointed and not elected and which does not directly represent anybody, should take extremely important decisions about the balance of interests between one sort of transport and another and make a recommendation to TfL as to the decision it should take. Our contention is that it is precisely that sort of decision—such as where the balance should be struck—that should be taken by those people who act for, on behalf of or as part of the new GLA, and not taken on behalf of people who use transport.

There are several powerful bodies which represent the interests of freight on rail, cyclists, and especially those who travel in cars, so it seems to us to be more sensible to leave those bodies to continue to represent the interests of passengers in non-public forms of transport direct to TfL. That would leave the new body the task of representing direct to TfL the interests of those who travel by public transport. It would then be up to TfL to resolve any difficulties, ultimately backed by the power of the authority.

4.15 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

It is perhaps necessary for us to bring forward amendments to clarify the structure. The LTUC will be appointed by the assembly and we will bring forward amendments to allow the assembly to issue guidance and directions to LTUC. It may be that the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, will then feel able to accept that point.

Baroness Hamwee

Does the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, wish to say anything before I deal with my amendment?

The Earl of Clancarty

I am not convinced by the Minister's argument. I agree very much with what the noble Baronesss, Lady Thomas and Lady Hamwee, have said. The question still remains: what will happen to the smaller voice of the public passenger? What structure will allow that voice to be heard?

Baroness Hamwee

I am interested to have heard the Minister's comments and look forward to seeing government amendments. As the Minister will appreciate, and as my noble friend Lady Thomas made clear, there is a clear difference between us as to the appropriate remit of the new body. The appointments will be made by the new assembly and, no doubt, in making the appointments the members of the assembly will have the needs of an integrated transport system for London in mind, especially the strategic nature of the whole job. I must make it clear again—and I am sorry that it was not clear to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour—that we are not suggesting in any way that London's public and other forms of transport should not be integrated. That is as far from the case as it could possibly be.

I am puzzled by the wording of Clause 199(3). I read it again during this discussion and it states that the assembly is to have regard to the desirability of ensuring that members of the committee between them represent the interests of those who use passenger transport facilities and services in greater London. I suspect that, as drafted, that means everybody who does not stay at home all day every day. The Government may understand why, having read that clause, we felt that it was necessary to try to pin the description down a little more. However, we shall return to the issue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I beg to move that the House be now resumed. In moving the Motion, perhaps I may remind noble Lords that questions and comments from Back-Benchers on the Statement should be brief because the time is limited to 20 minutes and taking longer can use time available to other noble Lords.

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

House resumed.