§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Further consideration of amendments on Report resumed.
§ Clause 117 [Duties of Authority or functional body as regards reports]:
Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 338:
Page 67, line 35, at end insert—
("( ) Where the Assembly makes a recommendation at a meeting under subsection (3) above, the Mayor shall comply with that recommendation when making any decision under subsection (6) above.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Clause 117 deals with the duties of the mayor of London and the assembly in relation to reports from the Audit Commission. Amendment No. 338 is directed to what happens when the assembly makes a recommendation about what the mayor should do.
Clause 117(9), new Section 115A(3) states:
The Assembly shall consider the report at a meeting where it shall decide—
Paragraph (7) states:
In making any decision under subsection (6) above, the Mayor shall take account of any views or recommendations of the Assembly at the meeting".
§ We do not believe that that is strong enough. If the assembly feels sufficiently strongly about an issue to make a recommendation, we should bear in mind that this is a report from the Audit Commission dealing with a matter which might be of considerable significance because it will be as a result of some irregularity. We believe that the mayor should be obliged to comply with the recommendation where it is required.
§ We have argued with the Minister on many occasions. He feels that the mayor should be free of any power of the assembly to shackle him in any way whatever. We have never accepted that principle. Noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches have never accepted that principle. We believe that the issue is worth raising in this context. I beg to move.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, as the noble Lord indicated, the amendment would give the role of deciding what action which followed the report by the GLA's chief finance officer to the assembly would fall to the assembly. As we indicated, it would directly undermine the separation in the balance of powers between the mayor and assembly. I can go over the whole argument again, but as noble Lords opposite have taken a different view on balance and different views between themselves, I would not wish to go over it in detail.
The mayor is responsible for the strategic direction of the GLA and of the functional bodies. It is he or she who must decide what action, if any, to take in respect 962 of a report completed by the chief finance officer. Under our proposals, provision has already been made specifically to require the mayor to attend the meeting at which the assembly considers the report. Furthermore, the mayor must have regard to views and recommendations of the assembly at that meeting.
We have therefore already provided that the assembly shall have some influence on the matter, but in our structure for the authority the may or must retain the final responsibility for deciding how to respond to the report. I therefore ask I he noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
My Lords, once again I batter my head against this wall. The only pleasant thing about battering one's head against a wall is that it is even more pleasant when one stops doing it. Nevertheless, we shall have, between us, to continue to reiterate the principle until we have finally done with the Bill. That time will arise, but we are not there yet. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 339:
Page 230, line 14, at end insert—
§ ("Studies of Authority by Commission at request of, Mayor
. In section 35 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 (studies at request of bodies subject to audit) after subsection (2) there shall be inserted—
(2A) Before exercising the power of the Greater London Authority to make a request under subsection (1) above, the Mayor of London shall consult the London Assembly.".").
§ The noble Lord said: M y Lords, this amendment would require the mayor to consult the assembly before asking the Audit Commission to promote or undertake studies to promote economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the management or operation of the GLA. Noble Lords opposite may therefore be gratified that we are writing in at least some influence over the proceedings for the assembly which we had previously failed to put into the Bill.
§ Amendment No. 340 is in the group and it places the same requirement on the mayor in respect of studies of a functional body. The Government believe that it would be sensible for the mayor to consult the assembly before requesting a study. The amendments fulfil the commitments which we gave during the Committee stage to consider the need to amend Schedule 7 in order to require the mayor to consult the assembly before requesting the Audit Commission to carry out value for money studies of the GLA or the functional bodies. I hope this is acceptable. I beg to move.
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his gesture. It is a creep in the right direction rather than a bold step where man has feared to go before. Nevertheless, anything is welcome and to that extent, the amendments are welcome.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.963
Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 340:
Page 230, line 24, at end insert—
("( ) the London Assembly; and").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 120 [Summary statement of accounts of Authority and functional bodies]:
Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 341:
Page 68, line 18, at end insert ("except to the extent that the Authority would be required to prepare a statement of accounts under any other enactment or under regulations made under any other enactment").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 341 is on the Marshalled List because we do not believe it is necessary to say in the Bill that for each financial year the authority shall prepare a summary statement of accounts. The authority is required to keep its accounts under so many Bills that if I were to list them we might be here for a long time. I do not believe that that would be helpful.
§ I do not suppose the Minister will accept the proposal but, as I have said elsewhere, we have a tendency in the Bill to duplicate work done only recently in this House. There are endless local government finance Bills which cover the point. I agree that the Bill seems to be a "catch-everything" Bill and probably other parts of it duplicate the requirements elsewhere. I had thought that the requirement to keep proper accounts—even a summary statement of accounts—was covered perfectly adequately under all forms of existing legislation dealing with local government finance. I beg to move.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, this Bill has to do with the unique situation of the authority. The summary statement provided for in this clause will not duplicate any arrangements in the Bill or elsewhere under which the authority and functional authorities must prepare their accounts. Our intention is that the summary referred to in the clause should provide a short, readyto-read statement of the overall financial position of the authority and the functional bodies, thereby improving accountability. Therefore, I believe that the amendment is unnecessary and I hope that it will not be pursued.
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
My Lords, I am quite sure that the amendment is unnecessary. Equally, I am unsure whether the clause is necessary. However, that is merely a difference of degree between the Minister and myself. It is a common form of disagreement between the two sides of this House in considering the Bill. None the less, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 342:
Before Clause 122, insert the following new clause—
§ AMENDMENT OF CROSS-REFERENCES TO
PROVISIONS OF CHAPTER I OF THIS PART964
§ (2) Schedule (Amendments to Local Government Finance Act 1992) to this Act (which contains amendments to the Local Government Finance Act 1992 correcting references to provisions of this Act which have since been renumbered) shall have effect.").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 342 I shall speak to Amendment No. 360 which is grouped with it. Earlier this year the Local Government Act 1999 received Royal Assent. Part II of that Act refers to the budget requirement and tax-setting provisions of the GLA Bill: first, in Section 31 and, secondly, at several points in Schedule 1. Due to the insertion of a new clause in this Bill during Committee the numbers of the GLA budget requirement and tax-setting clauses have changed. These changes need to be reflected in the Local Government Act 1999, which is the purpose of these amendments. I beg to move Amendment No. 342.
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
My Lords, Amendment No. 360 deals with all the amendments to the Local Government Finance Act 1992. It is almost impossible to check them in intimate detail. I confess to the House that I have been unable to do that—I reiterate a point that has been made so often—because of the detail and complexity of the Bill and the limited time available. I do not apologise for reiterating that point. It would have been nice to have had these amendments much sooner than we did, a fact of which we are all aware. I hope that I do not repeat that point, and I shall try to avoid doing so.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Clause 126 [General transport duty]:
Lord Morris of Manchester moved Amendment No. 342A:
Page 70, line 6, at beginning insert ("Subject to subsections 254(4) and 255(3),").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move this amendment and in doing so will speak also to my Amendments Nos. 496 and 511. Yesterday, The Times carried a letter from my good friend Nick Raynsford, MP, in which, listing what he sees as the "big three issues London faces" in electing a mayor, he puts transport first, the priority, as it were, of priorities. Nowhere is that judgment more strongly endorsed than among disabled and older people in London.
§ My noble friend Lord Whitty is aware of my interest in this Bill, as a patron for many years of Greater London Action on Disability (GLAD) and as the author of the Orange Badge Scheme for parking concessions for disabled people, which I legislated for in my Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. My noble friend knows, too, from my comments in Committee that it was the nightmare for disabled people of the exclusion of four inner London boroughs from that scheme which prompted my Amendments Nos. 496 and 511, exempting as they do both from road user charging and workplace parking levies disabled people who rely crucially on cars for their independence.965
§ In addition to the support of disability organisations and Age Concern, my amendments have the hacking of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. The amendments recognise, in the words of the Joint Committee on Mobility for Disabled People (JCMD), over which Sir Peter Large has long presided with such distinction, that to impose charges and levies on disabled motorists with severe walking difficulties, for whom the private car is the only viable way of getting around, would be a cruel and unavoidable tax on disability.
The JCMD believes, as I do, that all such people should be exempted from road user charging and workplace parking levies throughout London. In a letter to me before the Bill's Committee stage, it applauded the Government for consulting on how this might be arranged, but added:
If disabled people are to avoid being penalised in one area and not another, or penalised to a different extent in one area compared with another, it will be essential to agree a single national exemption scheme which must apply in and throughout London".
§ Happily, in my noble friend Lord Whitty we have a transport Minister who is at one with the organisations for disabled and older people in recognising that exemption from charges and levies for people who rely on cars for their independence ought to be decided, not by personal whim, but by the political will of Parliament. This is basically what my amendments are about.
Since my amendments were first debated in Committee, when my noble friend promised carefully to consider the case that I had argued for them, he has been as good as his word in writing to inform me that,
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 was a most welcome reassurance in relation to these amendments, and I am sure that noble Lords in all parts of the House who have taken part in our debates on the problems and needs of London's disabled and older people will honour him for it. More especially, I know that my noble friend Lady Darcy de Knayth will be as appreciative as I am of his warmth and helpfulness at the meeting we had with him last week at the DETR, at which we were accompanied by leading representatives of GLAD, the JCMD, Dial-a-Ride, Taxi-Card Users and Age Concern. I look forward very much to my noble friend's further response to the amendments this afternoon. Meanwhile I understand that a helpful further letter from my noble friend about them is on its way to me even as I speak. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, I am quite sure that the House already knows that the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Morris, are shared by those on this side of the House. I do not intend to 966 spend a lot of time on the matter. The Minister is aware of my views on the amendment, which I strongly support.
My Lords, I also support the amendment. It is right to disclose that, like the noble Lord Morris of Manchester, I am a patron of Greater London Action on Disability, formerly the Greater London Association for the Disabled. That body is concerned that in our largest city there are several hundred thousand people who suffer from disabilities of one kind or another. It must be the responsibility of the new Greater London Authority to do what it can to help them. We are aware that under the general law of the country there are various provisions and administrative efforts made in order to provide disabled people with transport. I am so old that I remember that it was almost impossible for a person with disabled legs to get in and out of an ordinary railway carriage. Matters have improved somewhat since then. But a great deal of vigilance is needed and much more needs to be done. In considering this part of the Bill dealing with transport, I hope that the Government will bear in mind that perhaps the greatest current problem they have to deal with is the provision of transport for disabled people. I support what the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, has said.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, I too support these amendments. There are more and more disabled people because we are becoming an elderly population. Disability comes with old age as well as to young people. There is great concern about parts of the City of London and London being closed to traffic. People cannot drive up to various theatres in London now which is causing considerable concern to disabled people, to those who help them and to taxi drivers. I hope that these amendments will be accepted.
§ Baroness Hamwee
My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister a question. I also hope that these amendments will be accepted. Like the noble Baroness, I shall not take up your Lordships' time by reiterating the reasons for supporting them. If the Minister is minded not to accept them, can he tell me whether the term "efficient" in Clause 126(1) requires the kind of consideration to which the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, referred to be taken into account by the mayor? It may be that my question would be better directed during the debate on a later group of amendments which includes the Minister's own amendment. It would be helpful to know how the Government interpret the term "efficient" in the context of the issues to which noble Lords have referred.
§ Lord Swinfen
My Lords, I support this group of amendments. As I understand it, it is government policy to encourage the disabled to work and not rely solely on benefit. It would be a great disincentive to work if those who require their own private transport because of their disabilities have to pay additionally for the use of the roads and a parking place at their 967 place of work. If the Government do not accept these amendments it will be a considerable discouragement to the disabled who wish to work. It should be borne in mind that once they are working they will no longer be such a burden on the state but in fact will be supporting it in the taxes that they pay on their earnings.
My Lords, as usual, the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, and other noble Lords have made a powerful case. It is clear that some disabled people will have no alternative but to use specialised vehicles. They will not be deterred from using their cars because of the charges. Therefore, there is little point in raising them against such people. However, if this amendment is agreed to, the Secretary of State will have to be careful concerning those whom he exempts from charges. We do not want a free-for-all.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester for raising these issues and for referring in a positive way to the discussions that we have had. Many noble Lords will recognise that the Government accept almost everything that has been said in the debate so far. We wish to provide an accessible form of transport for the disabled and the elderly.
Following the meeting to which my noble friend referred, we undertook to table amendments relating to a number of matters. We shall come to some of them later. They deal with the requirement on the mayor for consultation with disabled groups and on the timetable for providing such accessible transport.
As regards the specific issue of exemption from road user charging, substantive parts of my noble friend's amendments come later on in the chapter dealing with road user charging. I gave an undertaking during Committee stage and subsequently to endeavour to agree the structure of any national exemptions to road user charging for local authorities in time for them to be included in this Bill. However, that has not been possible because of the need to give wider consideration to the national picture. I am sure that noble Lords will agree with me that it is essential that any exemptions are clearly defined, equitable, practical to implement and not open to abuse, as the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said.
However, given that we do not as yet have a national structure, I am pleased to be able to inform the House today that the Government have tabled amendments which I believe will be taken on Thursday as regards the road user and congestion charging section of the Bill. They deal specifically with the points that my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, raised. The amendments will make it clear that the Secretary of State can specify an exemption from charges for disabled persons. They will ensure that a national exemption will be the same in and outside London, which I believe was the main point that my noble friend and others were concerned about. Therefore, regulations will be made under that provision which 968 arises from our new amendments. We shall prepare them once the structure for the national concessionary arrangements has been finalised. That will be before any charging scheme is introduced in London. It is still possible for the mayor to grant exemptions in London that do not apply nationally, but the national exemptions will provide the minimum, which I am sure will meet most of the requirements raised during this debate.
Debating the amendments at the start of Part IV of the Bill has enabled me to outline the changes which the Government propose later on in the Bill. However, that has slightly pre-empted the other amendments tabled for today and probably Thursday, depending on the progress of the Bill. In substantive terms, it is better to bring in those amendments at that point rather than now. I believe that my noble friend viewed this amendment as a paving amendment and for raising these matters at the beginning of the transport section of the Bill. We have had the opportunity to deal with that. However, I suggest that we deal with the substantive points either in terms of my noble friend's other amendments or, preferably from my point of view, in the terms that the Government have now tabled which noble Lords will not yet have had time to consider.
I reply briefly to the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. The word "efficient" in Clause 126(1) is a wide term which encompasses efficient and effective policies in all areas. In Clause 127 the mayor is specifically required to pay particular attention to the concerns of those with mobility problems. Taken together they meet the requirements that she was seeking. Therefore, I hope that noble Lords will recognise that the more logical way to proceed is to look at the new amendments and deal with them when we reach the road user charging part of the Bill. I hope my noble friend will accept that. I thank him very much.
I also wish to put on record my thanks to those who came to see me two or three weeks ago concerning this issue. I believe that we have made progress. I hope that noble Lords agree that the Bill is better for that. There is now a clear duty on the mayor and TfL to provide accessible transport for the disabled citizens of our capital.
§ Lord Morris of Manchester
My Lords, at our meeting last week at the DETR my noble friend explained why timing makes it impossible to legislate now for national exemptions. We fully understood his difficulty in that regard. Moreover, I know that he will move as quickly as he can. I am most grateful to him for his response to the amendments and agree entirely with him that it will be best for definitive decisions to be taken later on the government amendments that he has now announced that he will be tabling.
I shall not be pressing Amendments Nos. 342A, 496 or 511 because we have received a far better response to the amendments than most people ever expected. Clearly their purpose is endorsed by the Minister and I believe that what we sought to achieve by the 969 amendments will be met. Again, I thank my noble friend very much for all his help and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5 p.m.
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 342B:
Page 70, line 7, after ("safe,") insert ("accessible,").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the Minister has referred to the slight discomfort we feel because of the way the amendments follow each other; they have not all been taken in one group.
§ Perhaps I may explain the purpose of the two small amendments to Clause 126. Amendment No. 342B inserts the words "accessible" into the existing list of required criteria for the services and facilities which they mayor's transport strategy will be expected to provide under subsection (1) of the clause. The services and facilities would need to be safe, accessible, integrated, efficient and economic. Amendment No. 343A would amend subsection (3)(a) so that the services and facilities would need to include those required to meet the needs of all persons living or working in, or visiting, Greater London.
§ The amendments are an attempt to respond to the concerns expressed on all sides of the House that the transport strategy should make proper provisions for the needs of people with disabilities. In Committee a number of amendments were tabled to cover various aspects concerning people with mobility problems. The Government expressed sympathy and reassurance that those needs were not likely to be ignored. But Ministers resisted an approach which would result in numerous references throughout the Bill to the needs of people with mobility problems.
§ The amendments attempt to place on the face of the Bill a requirement to consider the needs of people with mobility needs. I hope for a positive response from the Minister if not to the wording of these modest amendments at least to the idea underlying them. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Masham of Ikon
My Lords, I support the amendment. It is important to have the provision written on the face of the Bill. Planners and all kinds of people forget. They do not mean to do so, but they forget. Therefore, having the provision written in the Bill would be helpful.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, noble Lords listening to earlier debates will accept that in the drafting of the Bill we are giving a clear priority to accessibility. In Clauses 126 and 127, the mayor's transport duties are designed to be inclusive and pick up neither mode of transport nor specific groups of users. However, while safety and integration are key issues, they also have to be accompanied by accessibility. In Clause 127 we have drawn attention to accessibility as one of the key aspects of the mayor's duty. Government amendments to that clause—I shall address them shortly in another 970 group—will strengthen further the involvement of the disabled and the need to commit a timetable to make transport more accessible to disabled groups and those with other access problems.
We have also made clear that door-to-door transport is a vital part of the picture. Again, I shall return to that issue in subsequent groups. I think, therefore, that the amendment is unnecessary. Accessibility is already reflected in these clauses. With the agreement of the House, we hope to tighten that up shortly. The other provisions will be dealt with later. The provision is already in the Bill. It Will be re-emphasised when we reach the government amendments. I hope that the noble Baroness accepts that that is a better way to proceed.
§ Baroness Thomas of Walliswood
My Lords, I am not sure that I accept that it is a better way to proceed. I do not think that "safe" means the same as "accessible". They are two quite different parts of a programme for transport. I am sorry that we are unable to put the word "accessible" in this part of the Bill. It would make a bold statement on the broad aims of the transport strategy. However, I am aware that the Minister has another amendment. We look forward to hearing what he says in proposing it. For the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 343:
Page 70, line 8, at end insert—
- ("( ) In developing and implementing policies in accordance with subsection (1) above the Mayor shall consult Transport for London as to its proposals to exercise borrowing powers pursuant to section 139(3A).").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving the amendment, I speak also to Amendment No. 359. The amendment relates to financing investment in London's transport. The amendment provides that the mayor will consult Transport for London on proposals to exercise borrowing powers. The second of my amendments sets out that in addition to its powers as a local authority, and subject to the approval of the mayor of the assembly, Transport for London may borrow money in the market for investing in improved transport in Greater London.
§ The importance of improving transport in our capital city can hardly be understated. Without improvement we are all aware, I believe, that there will be little incentive for travellers to leave the car at home and to choose another mode of transport. We are aware of the effects on air quality, and so on, of congestion on our streets. We are aware of the effects on social development. The ability to participate in activities may be affected by difficulties in travelling and being able to afford to travel; and we are aware of the need for improvement in transport as part of a programme of regeneration. If there is poor transport, a lack of variety of modes or inadequate connections, it must affect the regeneration of an area. In other 971 words, environmental, social and economic considerations are at the heart of the new authority's principal purposes.
§ Sadly, in addition, in the past two weeks there has been much increased public focus on the need for investment because of concern that lack of investment may mean a failure in safety standards. The priority must of course be safety. I believe that we would all agree on that. Doubts about safety impact on road congestion. If prospective rail and Tube travellers are concerned about the safety of the mode of transport, they may choose—possibly wrongly, given the statistics—to stay in their cars.
§ The GLA and its constituent parts are subject to the local authority finance regime. That should include credit approvals—in other words, approvals by the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State has control over the various categories of approval that can be given.
§ During the previous stage of the Bill, the Government made a point of not treating the GLA differently from other local authorities. I believe that it is different, in particular with regard to transport in London. None of our other cities has a transport system on the same scale or with the same scale of need for investment. That is not to say that other cities do not have problems, but let us get London right.
§ The unreliability and sheer discomfort of travelling in London are great. I know of people who, having moved job to work in London, are staggered by the difficulties involved in getting there. A great deal of discomfort was suffered this summer by the lack of air conditioning in the Underground.
§ I accept that investment is not the only approach to improving transport. Integrating land use and transport, changes in working practices and so forth are all important, but they are relatively small beer. We need investment not just to increase comfort but capacity; to improve signalling and rolling stock; to improve throughput; and to improve travelling conditions.
§ I accept that good work is being undertaken in the bus system in London. But there, too, a great deal is needed to improve the services and, I suggest, to assist in a cultural shift. One of the problems with buses is that so many of us view them as a poor relation and not the mode of first or obvious choice.
§ The amendments propose new borrowing powers which are limited to Transport for London; in other words, limited to the objective of improving our transport. It is true that one can go to the Secretary of State for permission to borrow; true that one can go to the Public Works Loan Board; and true that one can work with the private sector and use PFI initiatives. However, we know that those are not entirely straightforward.
§ In recent correspondence from the Minister, the description of the finance regime suggests that the Bill provides a robust system for controlling the use of credit by the GLA and functional bodies but one 972 which at the same time provides flexibility in deciding how to finance capital spending based on the well established local authority model.
Last week, in responding to the limited amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard of Didgemere, relating to borrowing against a future income stream, the Minister said:
I believe that the noble Lord can rest assured that the Government recognise both the economic and political imperatives".—[Official Report, 14/10/99; col. 654.]
§ I am aware of plans to publish a consultation paper on local government finance next year, but I do not believe that assurances that the Government understand the imperatives are sufficient unless Transport for London is in a position to use the widest possible range of sources of finance.
§ The Government are designing a new sector of government for our capital city. I applaud them for that, even though I do not agree with the structure. However, their continuing hold on the purse strings, and on the pen which signs on borrowing, lies ill with the claim that London is being allowed to run itself. I beg to move.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, as the noble Baroness said, we are to some extent revisiting the territory dealt with a few days ago in the early hours of the morning. It was the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard of Didgemere. Admittedly, his amendment was slightly narrower and proposed borrowing against the revenue from road-user charging and workplace levies. On the other hand, the noble Baroness's amendment is wide ranging in its ability to borrow, well outside the normal requirements of local authority finance. Nevertheless, their objectives are the same and, as I indicated to the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard, we accept the basic argument that upfront expenditure on public transport and other infrastructure is absolutely necessary not only in order for the road-user charging system to work, but also for it to be politically acceptable. It was in that sense that I used the words "political and economic imperatives" the other night.
We accept that new charging schemes must be associated with improved public transport, which means investment. Of course, £5 billion-worth of investment is in the pipeline for London's public transport. In addition—and the noble Baroness slightly dismisses them—there is a range of possibilities within the Bill and the local authority finance structure for the GLA and the mayor to acquire additional moneys for spending on upfront investment. There are the credit approvals, which can be allocated by the Secretary of State for the purposes of TfL; there is additional funding through the GLA transport grant; and there are many forms of PFI which, provided they meet the criteria, TfL would be able to extend and mobilise as new forms of capital in order to engage in public transport infrastructure investment.
973 There is a bit of a presumption lying behind some of the criticism and perhaps behind the amendment. There is a misapprehension that no funding will be available for TfL to carry out these early improvements and that we must wait until revenue streams come in before we can spend the money. It is true that we anticipate that once the road-user charging systems are up and running, there will be a recycling, and hypothecation will lead to a self-sustaining system. Nevertheless, we accept the case that there should be upfront expenditure.
We disagree with the noble Baroness—and I disagreed with the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard, the other night—that we need additional powers to mobilise the capital for that purpose. We believe that without breaching normal local government rules, without providing anything that is not already provided within the Bill, substantial resources will be available to TfL to provide for that infrastructure when added to the allocations which my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister has already made to improve the private and public transport sectors within London. Therefore, I do not believe that it is necessary to give the widesweeping borrowing powers, which the noble Baroness's amendment would allow and which would place the GLA in a category so substantially different from the rest of local government as to prove a problem. I therefore hope that she will not pursue the amendment but accept our intention that the pattern of expenditure will be the same as hers. Furthermore, our understanding of the acceptability of road-user charging in particular is the same as hers. I hope that she will not pursue the amendment today.
§ Baroness Hamwee
My Lords, I should not wish to suggest that the Minister does not believe wholeheartedly in what he is saying. I accept his assurances that the Government believe they have all that is necessary to enable the GLA and in particular TfL to invest. He talks about a range of possibilities. Apart from the public finance initiatives, those are all subject to the Secretary of State, which is our main objection and underlies the amendment.
I do not make the presumption that no funding will be available, but my amendment stems from the sheer scale of the programme. I accept that it may be possible to borrow against an income stream from road-user charging, but there are many unknowns about that. I accept that the Secretary of State may decide that plenty of funding will flow. What I do not see in the Bill is the opportunity for Transport for London to get to grips with the job and do it without having to go cap in hand to central Government. The Minister says that we need to understand that the amendment would put the GLA into a category substantially different from local government. I suggest that Transport for London, in particular, is in a category substantially different from local government.
We on these Benches feel strongly about this issue and, for that reason, given the stage vie have reached in the Bill, we wish to test the opinion of the House.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 343) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 55; Not-Contents, 134.975
|Division No. 1|
|Addington, L.||McNair, L.|
|Alderdice, L.||McNally, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Maddock, B.|
|Barker, B.||Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B|
|Calverley, L.||Morris, L.|
|Carlile of Berriew, L.||Newby, L.|
|Carlisle, E.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Clancarty, E.||Ogmore, L.|
|Clement-Jones, L.||Phillips of Sudbury, L.|
|Coleridge, L.||Porter of Luddenham, L.|
|Dholakia, L.||Razzall, L.|
|Ezra, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Rennard, L.|
|Geraint, L.||Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.|
|Goodhart, L.||Sharp of Guildford, B.|
|Grey, E.||Smith of Clifton, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Hamwee, B.||Taverne, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Thomas of Gresford, L.|
|Hooson, L.||Thomas of Walliswood, B.|
|Hutchinson of Lullington, L.||[Teller]|
|Jacobs, L.||Thomson of Monifieth, L.|
|Jenkin of Roding, L.||Thurso, V.|
|Lester of Herne Hill, L.||Wallace of Saltaire, L.|
|Linklater of Butterstone, B.||Watson of Richmond, L.|
|Mackie of Benshie, L.||Williams of Crosby, B.|
|Acton, L.||Eatwell, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Elder, L.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Evans of Parkside, L.|
|Alli, L.||Evans of Watford, L.|
|Amos, B.||Farrington of Ribbleton, B.|
|Ampthill, L.||Faulkner of Worcester, L.|
|Archer of Sand well, L.||Filkin, L.|
|Ashley of Stoke, L.||Gale, B.|
|Bach, L.||Goldsmith, L.|
|Barnett, L.||Gordon of Strathblane, L.|
|Bassam of Brighton, L.||Goudie, B.|
|Berkeley, L.||Gould of Potternewton, B.|
|Blackstone, B.||Graham of Edmonton, L.|
|Borrie, L.||Grantchester, L.|
|Brett, L.||Gregson, L.|
|Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.||Grenfell, L.|
|Brookman, L.||Hacking, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Hardy of Wath.L.|
|Burlison, L.||Harris of Haringey, L.|
|Carter, L.[Teller]||Hayman, B.|
|Christopher, L.||Healey, L.|
|Clarke of Hampstead, L.||Hilton of Eggardon, B.|
|Clinton-Davis, L.||Hogg of Cumbernauld, L|
|Crawley, B.||Hollis of Heigham, B.|
|David, B.||Howie of Troon, L.|
|Davies of Coity.L.||Hoyle, L.|
|Davies of Oldham, L.||Hughes of Woodside, L|
|Desai, L.||Hunt of Kings Heath, L|
|Dixon, L.||Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lora|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Islwyn, L.|
|Dubs, L.||Janner of Braunstone, L.|
|Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Privy Seal)||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Puttnam, L.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L.||Ramsay of Cartvale, B.|
|Judd, L.||Rea, L.|
|Kilbracken, L.||Rendell of Babergh, B.|
|King of West Bromwich, L.||Richard, L.|
|Kintore, E.||Rogers of Riverside, L.|
|Laming, L.||Scotland of Asthal, B.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Lea of Crondall, L.||Serota, B.|
|Lipsey, L.||Shannon, E.|
|Lockwood, B.||Shepherd, L.|
|Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.||Sheppard of Liverpool, L.|
|Longford, E.||Simon, V.|
|Lovell-Davis, L.||Stair, E.|
|Macdonald of Tradeston, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|McIntosh of Haringey, L.||Stone of Blackheath, L.|
|Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.||Symons of Vernham Dean, B.|
|Mallalieu, B.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Marsh, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Mason of Barnsley, L.||Thornton, B.|
|Turner of Camden, B.|
|Merlyn-Rees, L.||Uddin B|
|Milner of Leeds, L.||Varley, L.|
|Molloy, L.||Walker of Doncaster, L.|
|Monkswell, L.||Walpole, L.|
|Montague of Oxford, L.||Warner, L.|
|Montgomery of Alamein, V.||Warwick of Undercliffe, B.|
|Morris of Manchester, L.||Watson of Invergowrie, L.|
|Murray of Epping Forest, L.||Whitty, L.|
|Nicol, B.||Wilkins, B.|
|Parry, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Peston, L.||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
|Pitkeathley, B.||Woolmer of Leeds, L.|
|Plant of Highfield, L.||Young of Old Scone, B.|
On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ [Amendment No. 343A not moved.]
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 344:
Page 70, line 15, after ("London") insert (", including—
- (i) those required for the protection of vulnerable road users, and
- (ii) those required to promote interchange between different modes of transport").
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment involves further changes to Clause 126(3). It ensures that the services and facilities which the transport strategy should provide will include, as well as those already on the face of the Bill,
those required for the protection of vulnerable road users, and … those required to promote interchange between different modes of transport".
Again, those two subjects—vulnerable road users and/or cyclists; not cycling but cyclists—were mentioned on a number of occasions, as was the question of interchange facilities, during the course of our debates in Committee.
§ I believe we all know what "vulnerable road users" are. Broadly speaking, they are those people who always come off worst in a collision; those who, in other words, are not protected by the carapace of a car, bus, lorry or other such vehicle.976
§ My argument in wishing to amend the Bill in this way is parallel to the argument which I used when proposing Amendments Nos. 242B and 243A. Once again, it is an attempt to have an important concern expressed by Members during the Committee stage placed in an economical and brief way on the face of the Bill at an early stage in the Bill. I believe that noble Lords understand those arguments. I have used them already in connection with the other amendments. I beg to move.
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness for not having been here at the very beginning of her introduction of this amendment. However, I had studied it before she moved it. I well understand the good intention behind it but, if I may say so, from the drafting point of view, it produces a slight difficulty. It refers to,the protection of vulnerable road users".In the experience of all of us, all road users are vulnerable in one way or another. One cannot get away from that. I say with deep respect that I believe that the amendment would make more sense if it referred just to "the protection of road users".
§ Viscount Craigavon
My Lords, I support the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas. At the previous stage of the Bill she and I tabled a number of amendments. I believe this is a very constructive compromise of all those amendments which were produced at an earlier stage. Given the importance of cycling in the context of London and the mayor's duties, I shall take some time—not too much, I hope—to flesh out what the noble Baroness has said. I have, therefore, put my name to this amendment.
At previous stages of the Bill, I have been able to speak with the support of the cycling fraternity—in particular the LCC, which, as all noble Lords probably know, stands for the London Cycling Campaign. That body takes the matter seriously and hopes to use this Bill and the mayor's duties in order to complete the London cycling network and also to engage in constructive collaboration with the mayor.
I turn to the word "vulnerable" used by the noble Baroness. Thanks to the LCC, I have the benefit of having up-to-date figures for Greater London of the number of casualties who were travelling by pedal cycle and by other modes of transport. I believe that I have the official figures; they are taken from the London Research Centre report, which includes figures up to 1998. We have the official figures for all the London boroughs.
The number of casualties involving pedal cyclists up to the age of 24 has recently reduced and is continuing to reduce. However, to quote from the report:Adult pedal cyclist casualties are still over 50 per cent above the baseline".I believe that that baseline is the one used in the White Paper in which the Government stated that they would reduce cyclist casualties by one-third. That is very laudable and commendable. But when we saw those figures, we wondered how big the reduction would be. 977 By drawing attention in the Bill to the word "vulnerable" I believe that the Government may be able to take the opportunity to encourage the trends to go in the right direction.
The same section of the report from which I have just quoted refers to the fact that the level of casualties for those above the age of 25,gives particular cause for concern, especially taking into account the national initiatives currently being taken to promote greater use of bicycles as a sustainable and healthy mode of transport".As the Minister may point out, I realise that the word "safe" is included in the second line of this clause. Therefore, some consideration has been given to safety in the Bill. However, if the Government are trying to achieve those very commendable reductions in the level of cycle casualties, I do not believe that it does any harm to reinforce that by referring to "vulnerable road users".
Sometimes, when one produces a helpful amendment, as this is meant to be, other people then climb on the bandwagon and one feels that one's amendment is counter-productive. However, I must mention in the context of this report, which I happen to have, that there is also a reference to motor cycles. In the conclusion to the report on page 12, it is stated:In addition, it was found that for the third year in succession powered two-wheeler casualties increased, although they had previously shown a generally downward trend since 1989".I realise that motor cyclists are vulnerable in a different way from cyclists. However, I believe that motor cyclists, in their own way, should be given the same consideration, using the rather interesting definition of "vulnerable" given by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, when she referred to "those who come off worst in a collision".
Paragraph (ii) of this amendment refers to "interchange between different modes". At the previous stage of the Bill, we produced amendments which might have been regarded as too detailed and too specific; for example, encouraging rail franchises to be renegotiated in dealing with bicycles. That may have been too ambitious. However, in my opinion this part of the amendment, as does the one I have just discussed, provides a very workable compromise. It provides a general exhortation and a general reminder to the mayor that the problems of interchanges, which are liable to be forgotten, should be remembered when the mayor tries to bring forward schemes.
By putting such a provision on the face of the Bill we give the mayor a weapon—perhaps that is not a friendly word to use—or a device which enables him to remind people who come forward with projects that he is under a duty to bear in mind the problems of interchanges of one type of travel with another. So I hope that the Minister will accept this compromise.
§ Lord Berkeley
My Lords, I rise to support the intention behind the amendment. The real benefit of an idea such as this is how it will be perceived and the emphasis it will give to the subject. I hope that elected members and officials of the Greater London Authority and the local boroughs, as well as those in 978 the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, will take this matter a little more seriously.
The noble Lord, Lord Renton, mentioned the word "vulnerable". Some road users are a great deal more vulnerable than others. There is also the question of education. The consultation document on safety, published this summer by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, mentioned the number of fatalities suffered by pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and so on. Of course, the highest fatalities are among cyclists and pedestrians. However, he failed to mention that cyclists and pedestrians are nearly all killed by motor vehicles. There is a difficulty of perception. I hope that the amendment will go some way to flagging up the fact that people need to take the needs of the vulnerable road users more seriously.
Recently there has been talk about what needs to be done to encourage interchange between modes of transport. I have heard that some rail franchise companies believe that they have achieved the objective of modal shift by putting up a bus timetable on the station door. That is not good enough. If this amendment shows that they must do something more proactive, as was said in Committee by a number of noble Lords, it will have achieved its objective.
My Lords, I strongly support the sentiments expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, but I believe that the Bill already adequately covers her concerns.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, I commend the succinct intervention by the noble Earl. Broadly speaking, he has covered the point I was to make at rather greater length.
In response to the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, on the issue of cycling, the Government have made a clear commitment to cycling and the London cycling network. The Bill will end the fragmentation of responsibility within London for cycling. Clearly, that covers the issue of safe cycling as well as the provision of cycle networks. The integrated transport strategy within London must provide for the safety of road users such as cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists.
The present wording refers to the,encouragement of safe, integrated … transport facilities and services to, from and within Greater London".Clearly, "safe" means safe for all road users including vulnerable groups.
The noble Lord, Lord Renton, pointed out the slight difficulty of how one defines vulnerable groups because at various times all road users consider themselves vulnerable and indeed are vulnerable. I hope that this amendment will not be pressed because the intention of the provision in the Bill is clear from the reference to the word "safe". To include these words could lead to problems of definition.
On the second amendment in the group, the reference to integrated transport subsumes the commitment to interchanges of various sorts, including interchanges with public transport for 979 cyclists and pedestrians. I would assume that a major part of the mayor's commitment to an integrated transport policy, and to public transport that is more attractive to the citizens of London, would definitely include a commitment to provide such interchanges. Although these amendments point in the right direction, I believe that they are unnecessary having regard to what is already on the face of the Bill. I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Thomas of Walliswood
My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for their support. I refer particularly to the observation made by the noble Viscount, that the words on interchanges and vulnerable road users are a useful device which would give the mayor additional clout when he wants to promote such a matter. I shall return to that in a moment.
The phrase "vulnerable road users" is in constant use among transport planners. It means precisely those people who are the most vulnerable. Of course, everyone is vulnerable. One can be vulnerable in a car, but one is a great deal more vulnerable when not in a car and when one's body is not protected by a steel surround. Broadly speaking, people who fall into that category—children, pedestrians and so on—are often referred to as vulnerable road users.
Having come from local government, I am always conscious of the way in which such provisions are read and interpreted. It seems to me that an Act, a planning direction, a PPT or whatever, should indicate clearly the direction in which the Government want to go, otherwise there will always be those, in any local authority, who will not agree with the policy.
I am sure that there will be those involved in authorities who will say, "Bicycling is not important", "Cyclists are not important", or "We pay enough attention to pedestrians, look how wide our pavements are". Hence, it is useful for an officer, who is recommending a course of action to a council, to be able to say, "I am sorry, but that attitude is not in accordance with the legislation". This provision tells people about that. For that reason I have been a little pernickety in putting forward this amendment.
However, I can see that I shall not get my way, so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 127 [The Mayor's transport strategy]:
Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 345:
Page 70, line 25, after ("problems,") insert—
- ("(aa) shall specify a timetable for the implementation of the proposals contained in the transport strategy by virtue of paragraph (a) above,").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall take some time to deal with this group of amendments. I want to put on record the commitment that I mentioned earlier in relation to meeting the concerns of the disabled within London and within this House.980
§ In Committee we debated a number of amendments on this subject, and I want to pull them all together.
§ I beg to move formally Amendment No. 345 and speak to Amendment No. 346.
§ During the passage of this Bill a number of individuals have expressed their concern that the Bill is not sufficiently inclusive of the needs of people who need more accessible transport services. I have discussed those with some noble Lords present and with others. We have considered all those arguments carefully and, while we believe that the existing Bill largely meets the concerns over consultation with organisations representing disabled and elderly people, I recognise that there is still some considerable concern on the issue. I accept that there are distinct advantages in giving a clear signal about the importance that we attach to such issues. For that reason we have tabled Amendments Nos. 345 and 346.
§ Amendment No. 346 clearly requires the mayor to consult groups representing persons with mobility problems when preparing the transport strategy.
§ Amendment No. 345 explicitly requires that the mayor sets out in the transport strategy a timetable for the implementation of his or her proposals for the provision of transport which is accessible to persons with mobility problems.
§ I stress that these amendments are targeted specifically at the transport strategy, in recognition of the particular impact the strategy will have on those with mobility problems. The amendments, taken together, will ensure that transport for those with mobility problems will be key to the mayor's development of a transport strategy.
§ As it was raised, I should like to take a few moments to restate our position on transport services specifically for disabled people. In addition to the amendments, I hope that my remarks will give further reassurance to noble Lords.
§ We are committed to comprehensive, enforceable civil rights for disabled people. Accessible public transport within the framework of an integrated transport policy must be fundamental in delivering that commitment. The long-term goal must be to ensure that accessible transport is seen as part of the mainstream transport infrastructure and not as an "add-on". That means the design of transport strategies, the design of the physical nature of transport and the access and information relating to public transport; the needs of the disabled and others with mobility and access problems need to be built in. We must not forget the reality that many Londoners with mobility problems rely not on mainstream public transport, but on dedicated door-to-door transport services. The London White Paper set out our commitments in that area. Responsibility for the dedicated door-to-door services currently provided by the Dial-a-Ride and Taxicard schemes will transfer to the new authority. The mayor's duty to include in the transport strategy proposals for accessible transport encompasses proposals for door-to-door services as well as public transport.981
§ During our debates in Committee the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, raised the issue of funding for the Taxicarcl scheme in the interim period before the mayor assumes responsibility for the scheme. I subsequently wrote to the noble Baroness on the subject, and I hope it will be helpful if I reiterate the gist of my letter here.
§ Taxicard is currently a voluntary scheme. Those boroughs which participate in it are under no statutory obligation to do so and funding levels are a matter for the boroughs. That has naturally led to differences of approach from borough to borough, with eligible residents in some areas receiving different levels of service from those in others. Our proposals in the GLA Bill will give the mayor the ability to take a more cohesive approach—through his or her transport strategy and the boroughs' local implementation plans which will help to deliver the strategy. Each borough will be required to submit those plans to the mayor for his or her approval.
§ Users of the Taxicard scheme—and others like it—will benefit from the more co-ordinated approach in contrast to the present situation where decisions are left to individual boroughs. Given the reliance of many disabled Londoners on door-to-door transport, we have been concerned to hear reports that some boroughs have reduced funding or service levels in the pre-GLA period. Boroughs (including those which do not currently offer such a service) will need to bear in mind that they may have to revise any decisions they take now about funding or service levels once the mayor is on the scene. Even before the mayor is elected, boroughs will no doubt be watching carefully what mayoral candidates have to say on this issue. I therefore urge those boroughs which have reduced service levels for Taxicard to consider carefully how their decisions will impact on disabled Londoners, and what steps can be taken to mitigate any adverse effects.
§ I felt it was useful to cover that aspect of these provisions, otherwise the amendments may be taken to apply solely to public transport in its narrower sense. They do not; they cover also the issue of door-to-door services. Our amendments place the mayor under a duty in respect of mobility. They will send a clear message to the mayor as to what experience and expertise should be required in developing the strategy and ensure that the interests of those with mobility problems are fully represented.
§ Lord Swinfen
My Lords, grouped with Amendment No. 345 are my Amendments Nos. 358 and 363. I say at the outset that I welcome Amendments Nos. 345 and 346. They go a long way to satisfying those disabled people who are interested in Transport for London.
I am delighted to hear that there is to be a clear timetable and proper consultation with organisations for and of people with disabilities. I am also delighted that the Government are committed to fully accessible transport. I know that that will take a few years to come through, for obvious financial and practical reasons. I am also delighted to learn that the new authority will be responsible for producing a scheme 982 for door-to-door transport. However, I hope that the Government will ensure that a proper Taxicard scheme is running and is maintained between now and the time that Transport for London is up and running or the new situation is in place. The so-called "millennium borough" of Greenwich has, I understand, no Taxicard scheme at all. It is not a policy for the third millennium. If we were starting the second millennium, it probably would not allow chariots on its streets!
Perhaps when he replies the Minister can respond to one further point, which will avoid my having to move Amendment No. 469 later on; that is, what will the position be on public transport with regard to the freedom pass for elderly people and those with severe disabilities? Will there be a comprehensive criterion for the pass throughout the whole of London, or will it still be the responsibility of individual boroughs with a disparity of treatment throughout the metropolis and consequent unfairness on different people, often with the same degree of mobility disability?
§ Baroness Darcy de Knayth
My Lords, as my name is also attached to Amendments Nos. 358, 363 and 469 (the freedom pass, which comes a little later), I warmly welcome Amendments Nos. 345 and 346 and t hank the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, for the way in which he introduced them. I thank the Minister also for being so willing to listen and for the helpful meeting we had with the department the week before last. He came up with sensible and practical solutions. He said that it was right to give a clear signal. He has indeed given a clear signal. The Bill presents us with a great opportunity for improving public and door-to-door transport for people with disabilities. The Minister seized that opportunity most appropriately.
I welcome what the Minister said in relation to Taxicard. It is important to ensure that it continues. I am not a Taxicard user because I am not a resident of London, but I use accessible taxis and it changed my life enormously. I welcome the amendments.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, I was grateful for the letter sent to me by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and am glad that he read the contents out to the House. I was not able to attend the last meeting, but the previous one was of great help in discussing this issue. We have had considerable co-operation from his department which we all appreciated.
I particularly like Amendment No. 346. If we have consultation, then the genuine problems will be aired and people will be made aware of whether or not things are working. The timetable in Amendment No. 345 is a practical matter. We all hope and expect to see equal access, on which my noble friend Lord Swinfen commented—Amendment No. 358—but difficulties will arise. For instance, it may not always be possible to install a lift at an underground station.
I draw the Minister's attention to the speech made earlier today by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, when she went into the question of how disability can occur at any age, but is very often linked with old age. 983 The basic freedom passes for everyone are one of the real essentials. They have saved the boroughs an enormous amount of money in terms of social services because they have kept people mobile and enabled them to get around on their own. They are therefore very worthwhile. I believe my noble friend Lord Swinfen, when he referred to freedom passes a moment ago, was speaking of freedom passes for younger people with disabilities or who were disadvantaged rather than those of retiring age.
I have one question for the Minister about freedom passes for people of ordinary retiring age. Some of the boroughs that I have come across are definitely not issuing these passes to men at the same age as applies to women. I know that the European Court took a decision in this respect as regards swimming pools, and so on, and said that equal benefits should be available to men and women at the same age. However, certain boroughs have been a little reluctant to implement the policy. I hope that the GLA will change that and make the age of eligibility for these passes the same for men and women.
I know that there is talk about the retirement age for women being extended to 65, so it is possible that the age of eligibility will go up rather than come down; but it is really an issue of equality. Nevertheless, I support the amendments and thank the Minister again for what he has done on this issue.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Baroness Thomas of Walliswood
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Darcy de Knayth and Lady Gardner, are really the experts in this matter. Those of us who have tried to help them in their efforts have never ceased to be astounded by their persistence and endurance in putting forward such matters. I believe that they and those whom they represent have now, to some extent, got their reward for the long hours of hard work. I join with other speakers in thanking the Minister for having listened to these concerns and for having reflected them in these amendments.
I very much welcome the timetable for the implementation of the proposals contained in the transport strategy. That is a small but important addition to the duties of the mayor when proposing and carrying out his strategy. The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, mentioned the fact that men and women should be able to obtain a bus pass at the same age. I should point out that this question will be raised later when we reach Amendment No. 468A.
My Lords, we on these Benches also believe in comprehensive, enforceable civil rights for all disabled people. The challenge is to ensure that proper provision is made. Therefore, we welcome the Government's amendment, which was moved by the Minister, and the way in which the noble Lord has paid 984 attention to the concerns expressed by my noble friends Lord Swinfen and Lady Gardner of Parkes and by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, I appreciate the comments from noble Lords about these two amendments, which are widely acceptable and which will, undoubtedly, send a clear signal to the mayor about the priority that he needs to give to those with mobility and accessibility problems of all sorts, especially the disabled. I believe that both amendments were generally supported, although the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, drew us into an area which will actually be addressed later in our proceedings with his own amendment and, indeed, with others from the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas.
Perhaps I may say a few words here in that respect because, clearly, there is an overlap. There is indeed concern about the future of concessionary travel arrangements and the freedom pass. The Bill provides for the existing scheme to continue. Decisions on eligibility are currently with the boroughs. I understand that GLAD has undertaken research on this to ascertain where there are differential areas, and it will be necessary for us to consider the outcome.
However, the Bill also provides for the boroughs to set up a joint committee on the future of the scheme which will, of itself, lead to a more comprehensive and integrated approach. Such a committee will take votes by way of qualified majority voting, but I shall explain that in more detail when we reach that part of the Bill. Although we are not directly imposing a single scheme through the authority, the boroughs will still have the prime responsibility. I believe that that mechanism may well prove to deliver many of the objectives sought by the noble Lord and by other speakers who have taken part in this debate.
I turn now to the question of the retirement age. This is a somewhat wider question and one to which we shall return. In this particular scheme—probably in all schemes—it is the case that eligibility is linked to retirement age. That is probably a wider problem, which can be resolved either now or when we come to deal with the appropriate amendment.
Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 346:
Page 70, line 28, at end insert—
§ ("(3A) In preparing or revising the transport strategy the Mayor shall consult'—
- (a) the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, and
- (b) such other persons or bodies which represent the interests of persons with mobility problems as he considers it appropriate to consult;
§ Clause 128 [Directions by the Secretary of State]:
Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 347::
Page 70, line 36, leave out ("direct") and insert ("request").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 348 and 349, all of which relate to making the 985 Secretary of State's powers a matter of "request" rather than of direction. Amendments Nos. 350 and 351 tabled by the Conservative Front Bench are included in this grouping, the first of which proposes to make a direction by the Secretary of State subject to a veto by the assembly. The second amendment, Amendment No. 351, proposes to delete Clause 128 entirely. I should say that I fully support their approach to the clause.
§ We moved a similar amendment in Committee. At that stage, I asked why it was necessary to have such a provision in the Bill given the fact that the provisions of Clause 33(5) require the mayor to bring national policies into his strategy. Clause 128 deals with the situation where the transport strategy is inconsistent with national policies relating to transport and that inconsistency is detrimental to an area outside London.
§ I also pointed out in Committee that, if areas outside London were affected by the mayor's strategy, it seemed to me that he should be negotiating directly with those concerned. We would expect adjoining local authorities to undertake neighbourly discussions—I do not believe that other local authorities are subject to specific direction in quite this way—if one starts on a course which might affect its neighbour. I make this point quite seriously. It seems to me that the very process of negotiation is part of policy development. I do not believe that it is healthy for a local authority to be subject to direction by some other body or person who says, "You shall not do that". It would be much better if authorities which have to live together, or live next to one another, were to work out a way of doing so. That view may be regarded by your Lordships as naïve, but I prefer to think of it as optimistic.
§ The Minister responded in Committee by saying that there is a responsibility on central government to act on behalf of the nation as a whole. He also said—and no doubt will say again—that these are reserve powers. Throughout the course of our proceedings on the Bill we have often heard that it is "inconceivable" that the mayor could do a certain thing, or fail to do so. However, I think it is only inconceivable when we on these Benches, or other opposition Benches, conceive of it. If the mayor and the assembly are so little to be trusted, are the Government really wise to be creating them? I beg to move.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for explaining my amendments a little, but I should like to expand upon what she said. Clause 128 allows the Secretary of State to direct the mayor to revise the transport strategy if it is inconsistent with national transport policy and detrimental to any area outside Greater London.
Amendment No. 350 provides that no such direction shall take effect if,rejected by a resolution of the Assembly".986 As an alternative—and to tempt the Minister —I have also tabled Amendment No. 351, which proposes to delete this clause. I accept that this might be a little bit of a blunt instrument, but the Secretary of State should not be able to dictate the contents of the transport strategy to the mayor against the wishes of the assembly. For him to be able to do so would undermine the integrity of the authority's strategy for transport in London.
This matter returns to one of our central objections to the overall philosophy of this Bill. If there is to be a London authority it should be a genuine one treated as being composed of responsible adults and not tied to the apron strings of the Secretary of State. I follow absolutely what the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has just said about that. The Minister now has a choice of amendments to accept; the only question is which one he will select. He could choose the amendment from the Liberal Democrat. Benches or he could accept one of ours.
My Lords, will the Minister explain to your Lordships why he considers it necessary to have this draconian power in relation to transport when Clause 33—which the House has already dealt with which concerns the mayor's strategies—already contains an obligation to ensure that the strategies, including the transport strategy, are consistent with national policies and international obligations? It seems to me that the Government must have in mind something very particular with regard to transport and that if they wish this specific power to be included in relation to transport they seek in effect to be the transport authority for London, and the mayor and the assembly will be a sham.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, I am grateful to the Opposition for giving me a whole range of possibilities in terms of meeting their objective. I am sure it will disappoint them greatly when I say that I shall not accept any of them.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, that, as I understand the position, the powers in Clause 33 require the mayor to have regard to the need to achieve consistency with national policies. There are no additional powers for the Secretary of State in that clause. The powers with regard to transport are much greater than for any other local authority. Therefore we consider that we need at least reserve powers in t his area. We considered carefully what the balance of power should be between the mayor and the Secretary of State. Let me make it quite clear—as noble Lords' speeches may have elided this—that these powers could not be triggered simply because the Secretary of State thinks the strategy is out of step with national policies. It must be out of step with national policies and be detrimental to areas outside Greater London. Therefore there is a double hurdle to clear before the Secretary of State could use these powers.
One can envisage a situation in which the mayor might pursue an extreme anti-car policy, or indeed an extreme pro-car policy, for the GLA. area, which 987 would undoubtedly have serious effects on neighbouring areas. Essex, for example, might object seriously to such a policy. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that ideally such situations would be sorted out between the Greater London Authority and neighbouring authorities, but where that did not occur and where a neighbouring authority could clearly demonstrate that its interests were being harmed the Secretary of State must have a reserve power to intervene in such extreme circumstances.
I regret that these amendments would remove that ultimate power. I therefore hope that noble Lords will not pursue them. Indeed it would be to the detriment of those areas which immediately surround London—and, potentially, other areas of the country too—if we removed these powers from the Bill, or left the position subject to voluntary action. As I say, I hope that these amendments will not be pursued.
§ Baroness Hamwee
My Lords, I am disappointed but not surprised. I knew that reserve powers for extreme cases would be mentioned. The noble Lord, Lord Bowness, made precisely—but much more carefully—the point that I made about Clause 33. There is no sanction if the mayor breaches Clause 33. That makes one wonder about an awful lot of the Bill. However, I shall not spend time wondering about that as I shall probably tempt the Government to make practically the whole of the Bill subject to directions by the Secretary of State, clause by clause, and we have enough of that as it is. We profoundly disagree with the Government's approach to this matter. Having made that point entirely clear, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 348 to 351 not moved.]
§ Clause 129 [Duties of London borough councils etc.]:
Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 351A:
Page 71. line 12, at end insert—
§ ("(4) In exercising any functions in relation to the management of roads or traffic in a Royal Park in Greater London the Secretary of State shall have regard to the transport strategy.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 351A I wish to speak also to the amendments that are grouped with it. This takes us to a new area. However, at two points during the Committee stage we touched on how the Royal Parks relate to the mayor's transport strategy, particularly in relation to highways. We undertook to return to that matter. The government Amendments Nos. 351A, 484ZA and 493D seek to fulfil that undertaking by requiring the Royal Parks Agency to have regard to the mayor's transport strategy and to introduce for the first time a statutory consultation arrangement between the Royal Parks and the local highways authorities. The details are spelt out in the amendments. I hope, therefore, that as noble Lords expressed concerns earlier they will accept that these 988 amendments meet the situation where decisions relating to Royal Parks could undermine borough or GLA strategies in regard to highway transport in particular. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, I hope that the Minister can explain this matter further. I have always been concerned about Hyde Park in particular, which is an important traffic artery from the north to the south. Apart from that route there is only Kensington Church Street, where traffic flows in the one direction, and perhaps Park Lane where it flows in both directions. All kinds of steps have been taken in the park to reduce the traffic flow. Consequently the same volume of traffic no longer passes through, but there is now quite a lot of stationary traffic emitting fumes. I know that an underpass has been proposed to solve the problem of the fumes, as people like to walk in the park without breathing in fumes. But who would make a decision on that? I believe that in time there will be demands for traffic relief measures in Hyde Park.
§ Lord Berkeley
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend the Minister on a most excellent series of amendments. I expressed concern about the omission of such measures previously. I assume that they will mean that those who run the Royal Parks will not be able to close the Mall to traffic for three weeks for resurfacing without consulting someone. The person they may consult may have some professional knowledge as to how that may be done without closing the Mall to traffic for three weeks. As I say, this is an excellent series of amendments.
I have two further comments which I think are relevant. The Royal Parks Agency might appreciate that it would be nice to see speed limits enforced in the parks occasionally. We have a cycling strategy for London. There are a few white lines and a few paths in Hyde Park. However, you get to Hyde Park Corner—thank goodness something is being done about that—and then you try to get through the Mall and down Constitution Hill. Those are wide roads but they have no facilities for cyclists whatsoever. Cars travel extremely fast on those roads. I hope that this measure will provide an opportunity for the best professionals in the GLA to impart some of their knowledge and introduce some modern thinking to the parks agency. I support what has been done in Hyde Park to reduce the speed of traffic. I do not agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, said; I think it is important to reduce traffic speed in a place where there are many pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders. It may be a through route but it behoves car drivers to go at a reasonable speed. I congratulate my noble friend and support the amendment.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I should like to correct him. 989 I was not complaining about the speed; I was complaining about the fumes from stationary traffic. That is a rather different matter.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, the amendment covers the points raised both in relation to speed and congestion. Although I am taking the amendments together, Amendment No. 493D covers the point raised by my noble friend Lord Berkeley. Where the Royal Parks Agency proposes to carry out anything which is likely to affect a road for which a different authority is the traffic authority—in this case mainly the boroughs of Kensington and Westminster—it must consult with that authority. Similarly the traffic authority must consult the Royal Parks under parallel arrangements. There is no provision in statute or in the regulations covering the Royal Parks which requires that consultation.
We saw a little problem in the Mall a short while ago and, as the noble Baroness said, there are continuing problems in Hyde Park. The amendments are not designed to allow the GLA to somehow override everything the Royal Parks wish to do—they are in a special category—but they should have a duty to consult the local traffic authority and Transport for London.
§ Clause 137 [Implementation by the Mayor]:
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 351B:
Page 75, line 36, at end insert—
("( ) Where the Mayor issues a direction 10 a London borough council under subsection (5) above, the council shall comply with the direction.").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a technical amendment which requires a London borough to comply with a direction given by the mayor under Clause 137(5).
§ The amendment must be right. It would not make sense were we to be in a position where a borough could totally ignore a direction from the mayor in implementing his plans.
§ Clause 138 [Directions by the Mayor]:
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 352:
Page 75, leave out lines 43 and 44.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 352 I shall speak also to Amendment Nos. 353 to 357 which stand in the names of my noble friends.
§ The first four amendments seek to delete the power of the mayor to give directions to boroughs in respect of certain functions which we believe should be dealt with by the boroughs. This makes clear who is elected to do what and the public would continue to see who is responsible for the different areas within the different tiers of government.990
§ We believe that the kind of detail that is proposed will cloud the issue. The mayor's role should be visionary, enabling and strategic. As drafted, the Bill enables the mayor to direct borough councils in great detail. Without our amendments that power will remain in the Bill. It will simply encourage the mayor to become involved in the kind of functions that rightly belong to the borough.
§ Under Clause 138(1)(a) the mayor has the power to give general directions—that is fine—but Clause 138(1)(b) enables him to give specific directions of the way in which a borough is to exercise those functions. We believe that the way in which a borough implements a strategy should be a matter for the borough.
§ It gets worse. Under Clause 138(2)(b) the mayor has the power to dictate to a borough which bodies or persons must be consulted about a local implementation plan. He is not suggesting to boroughs who might be consulted; he is telling boroughs who must be consulted. Similar considerations apply in Clause 138(2)(e) where the mayor may direct the borough to implement proposals within a certain time. This kind of detail is a disincentive for the public to regard London boroughs as being accountable. It will encourage the mayor to fiddle in detail.
§ The issue was discussed in Committee on 28th June. The Minister said that the local implementation plans would be the key to successful implementation. Clause 130 defines in broad terms who the boroughs should work with and who to consult. Clause 131 clearly indicates to the boroughs that the mayor will not approve their implementation plans unless a number of criteria are fulfilled. There follow five pages in the Bill which deal with what will happen if the boroughs fail to comply. The Government added to this in Committee by the addition of Clause 132. We tried to be more positive at that point by moving Amendment No. 247A, which stated that the mayor shall approve a local implementation plan if he considers that it meets the criteria set out in subsection (3). The spirit of that amendment in Committee was correct but the Government were not able to accept it.
§ We believe that if the Government wish to stick by their guns and require the mayor to issue all these directions to the borough councils, at least he should consult the assembly before so doing. Amendment No. 356 seeks to achieve this. Perhaps more importantly, the mayor should consult the borough councils. Even if it is an informal consultation, it should be on the face of Bill that he consults borough councils before he issues directions, which are inflexible and detailed to the point of telling the boroughs which people they should consult.
§ At a time when the Government are pinning so much on best value, consultation, public opinion panels and encouraging borough councils to go down this road, it will undermine the spirit of that approach if the mayor directs exactly who should be consulted by the boroughs. One hopes that by the time the mayor issues his implementation plan to the boroughs they 991 will have carried out a lot of work on public consultation, perhaps far more than they have to date. We feel the amendments are important. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness. No doubt we will be told by the Minister that these provisions are here for extreme cases where borough councils do not do their job properly. However, that ignores the temptation that these powers will be to the mayor, perhaps to members of the assembly, and, more importantly, to their officials. The temptation to meddle will be enormous.
If the Greater London Authority is to be properly strategic, as the noble Baroness said, it has to stay out of details such as this. When it is given specific power to get down to this kind of detailed level, inevitably it will. We shall see a return to some of the worst features of previous structures of local government in London.
Without doubt, there was a patronising attitude in County Hall among members of all parties, and officers in particular: the belief that London borough councils were good for dealing with allotments; they might possibly be capable of dealing with pedestrian crossings provided no traffic flowed over them; but, apart from that, all matters should be dealt with by the real experts—both members and officers—at County Hall. I suspect that enshrining in this legislation the ability of the mayor—who no doubt will be pressured by his officers and the assembly members—to deal in this way with local implementation plans will prove to be an unmitigated disaster. It should be resisted and I urge noble Lords to support the amendment.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton
My Lords, this group of amendments seeks to change the reserve powers which we consider would, in extreme circumstances, be needed in order to deliver the transport strategy. We envisage, as noble Lords have said, that the mayor will work closely with boroughs in order to deliver the strategy. But we believe that the mayor should have effective powers. These amendments would have the effect of frustrating the ability of the mayor to require boroughs to produce local implementation plans to carry forward the strategic transport strategy.
We believe that anything that undermines the system of local implementation plans strikes at the heart of the mayor's transport powers. I hope that we have made clear in everything we have said to date about the relationship between the mayor and the boroughs that we see it as absolutely vital that the two parties work together closely, co-operating, consulting and improving London's transport. We have made it clear that the spirit and principle of subsidiarity applies and that matters that can be done should be done at the appropriate level. That is why, for example, it is only right that the boroughs will have 95 per cent of London's roads because they are best placed to deal with local matters that arise in respect of such roads. We listened extremely carefully to the 992 representations of the boroughs and the Association of London Government and we are now amending the Bill on Report to provide for the concept of GLA side roads.
One theme which has been made clear through all our policies right back to the Green Paper and the White Paper is that if the GLA is to be a successful strategic authority for London, and to tackle transport issues at a pan—London level, it must have adequate powers to deal with wider initiatives. For example, matters which straddle more than one borough. I know that all sides of your Lordships' House would not want to see bus routes which cannot be implemented because they straddle more than one borough.
As we have said before, the mayor's strategy will set out a framework within which boroughs, the Mayor and TfL can work together. However, I have to say that in the event of problems or delays in one particular area, Londoners cannot afford to have important transport issues potentially bogged down in long-drawn-out wrangling because there is no mechanism for resolution. The powers of the mayor in the clauses on local implementation plans are carefully designed to deal with that eventuality. The powers are set within a broad framework that anticipates co-operation, mutual consultation and a spirit of joint working between mayor and boroughs. However, at the end of the day there must be powers in the plans for the mayor to settle things in the interests of Londoners.
I hope that, in the light of my reply, noble Lords will feel that the amendments should not be pursued.
§ Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. I thank also the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, for his support and for reminding us of some of the important lessons of history. The Minister said that these powers were likely to be called upon only in extreme circumstances, but I do not feel that what we are seeking to delete from the Bill would be likely, in extremis, to help solve anything if things should come to such a pass.
The spirit of including such detail in the Bill cuts across what the Minister has said on the principle of subsidiarity, with which I heartily agree—it is a good principle to hold. I am sad therefore that the provisions are to be left on the face of the Bill. The Government have put in place sufficient powers to address failing boroughs by many other means, not least in the recent local government Bill.
However, I have listened carefully to what the Minister has said and I shall read her comments again. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 353 to 359 not moved.]993
§ Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 360:
§ Before Schedule 8, insert the following new schedule—
§ ("AMENDMENTS TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCE
§ 1. Chapter IVA of Part I of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (which relates to limitation of council tax and precepts and which was inserted by Schedule 1 to the Local Government Act 1999) shall be amended as follows.
§ Challenge of maximum amount after designation for year under
§ 2.—(1) Section 52F shall be amended as follows.
§ (2) In subsection (6)(a) for "70 and 71" there shall be substituted " 71 and 72".
§ (3) In subsection (6)(b) for "80" there shall be substituted " 81".
§ Duty of designated precepting authority
§ 3.—(1) Section 52J shall be amended as follows.
§ (2) In subsection (1)(a) for "70, 71 and 73 to 75 of and Schedule 6" there shall be substituted " 71, 72 and 74 to 76 of and Schedule 6".
§ (3) In subsection (3)—
- (a) in paragraph (a) for "73(2)" there shall be substituted " 74(2)", and
- (b) in paragraph (h) for "74(3)" there shall be substituted " 75(3)".
§ (4) In subsection (6)—
- (a) for "73(2)" (in both places where it occurs) there shall be substituted " 74(2)",
- (b) for "74(3)" there shall be substituted " 75(3)", and
- (c) for "74(4)" there shall be substituted " 75(4)".
§ (5) In subsection (8)—
- (a) in paragraph (a) for "73(2)" there shall be substituted " 74(2)", and
- (b) in paragraph (b) for "74(4)" there shall be substituted " 75(4)".
§ (6) In subsection (9)—
- (a) for "73 and 74" there shall be substituted " 74 and 75", and
- (b) for "74(2)" there shall be substituted " 75(2)".
§ (7) In subsection (10)(b)—
- (a) for "73(3)(b)" there shall be substituted " 74(3)(b)" and
- (b) for "74(5)(b)" there shall be substituted " 75(5)(b)".
§ Challenge of maximum amount after designation under section
52M or 52P
§ 4.—(1) Section 52Q shall be amended as follows.
§ (2) In subsection (5)(a) for "70 and 71" there shall be substituted " 71 and 72".
§ (3) in subsection (5)(b) for "80" there shall be substituted " 81".
§ Duty of designated precepting authority
§ 5.—(1) Section 52U shall be amended as follows.
§ (2) In subsections (2)(a) and (3)(a) for "70 to 75" there shall be substituted " 71 to 76".
§ (3) In subsection (3)(b) for "70, 71 and 73 to 75 of and Schedule 6" there shall be substituted " 71, 72 and 74 to 76 of and Schedule 6".
§ (4) In subsection (6)—
- (a) in paragraph (a) for "73(2)" there shall be substituted " 74(2)", and
- (b) in paragraph (b) for "74(3)" there shall be substituted " 75(3)".
§ (5) In subsection (9)—
- (a) for"73(2)"(in both places where it occurs) there shall be substituted " 74(2)",
- (b) for "74(3)" there shall be substituted " 75(3)", and
- (c) for "74(4)" there shall be substituted 75(4)".
§ (6) In subsection (11)—
- (a) for "73(2)" there shall be substituted "74(2)", and
- (b) for "74(4)" there shall be substituted " 75(4)".
§ (7) In subsection (12)—
- (a) for "73 and 74" there shall be substituted " 74 and 75", and
- (b) for "74(2)" there shall be substituted " 75(2)".
§ (8) In subsection (13)(b)—
- (a) for "73(3)(b)" there shall be substituted " 74(3)(b)", and
- (b) for "74(5)(b)" there shall be substituted " 75(5)(b)".
§ Meaning of budget requirement
§ 6. In section 52W(2) for "70(8)" there shall be substituted " 71(8)".").
§ Schedule 8 [Transport for London]:
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 361:
Page 231, line 21, at end insert—
("( ) The Mayor shall not be a member of Transport for London.").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 362 and 366. The amendments seek to remove the possibility that the mayor could be a member of Transport for London. Amendment No. 366 completes that process by removing the requirement that the mayor, if he is a member of Transport for London, is to be its chairman. Obviously those two points would —not be consistent.
§ On the fifth day in Committee I moved amendments to bring together the assembly and the mayor in order to appoint the members of TfL, as reported at col. 470 of Hansard. Subsequently I tabled another amendment to remove the requirement that the mayor should be the chair of TfL. Later the Committee discussed the problems which could arise if the appeals system in respect of granting bus contracts involved an appeal to the mayor from the decision of TfL. I acknowledge that this concern at least has attracted a response from the Government, as reflected in their Amendment 410, but I am not sure that it addresses the full measure of our concern. That concern principally relates to the provisions of the Bill which the amendments before the House seek to remove.
§ On reflection, we concluded that the clarity of the different roles of the mayor and Transport for London would be enhanced if the mayor were not a member of Transport for London at all; hence the amendments. However, we have not again attempted to prevent the mayor from appointing the members of Transport for London, having seen the force of the noble Baroness's argument on the matter. However, in an arrangement where the mayor will take the strategic lead on a range of different issues, and an extremely detailed system of delegation is written into the Bill, it seems undesirable for the mayor to be personally in charge of the 995 implementation of one of his strategies. It would tend to blur the role of the mayor; it may potentially involve her or him in undesirable personal conflict with the boroughs on matters of detail; and it may make it more difficult for the mayor to maintain a public stance as a strategic leader of a great city. I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, has raised an interesting point, but I am not sure what is the best answer. There are advantages, but there are also disadvantages. It should be noted that if the mayor is a member of TfL, by virtue of Schedule 8 on page 232 of the Bill, he must be its chairman. Interestingly, the schedule refers to "chairman" and "deputy chairman".
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, I hope that the noble Earl will not be reopening that argument. I regret that we disagree with the noble Baroness on this point. Transport is such a significant issue in London that we believe that the mayor should have the option of deciding whether to engage directly in TfL himself, and if he does so, then it would be appropriate that he or she should be the chair.
Whichever of the amendments of the noble Baroness one considers, that option would be removed. That would place too great a political constraint on the mayor's decision—making and priorities. For that reason, I hope that the noble Baroness will not press her amendments.
§ Baroness Thomas of Walliswood
My Lords, I have to say that we are in dispute with the Government on a matter of principle. The position of the mayor will be weakened if he or she is overly involved in day—to—day implementation of the strategy. However, I do not think that I will get anywhere with this amendment. I beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 362 and 363 not moved.]
Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 364:
Page 232, line 2, after ("London") insert ("(including conditions as to remuneration)").
§ [Amendment No. 365 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]
§ [Amendment No. 366 not moved.]
Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 366A:
Page 232, line 40, at end insert—
("(ba) any wholly owned subsidiary (within the meaning of section 736(2) of the Companies Act 1985) of Transport for London,").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 366B, 372 to 375, 375D, 376 to 380, 383, 384, 386, 392 to 394, 396A to 396E, 434 to 439, 447, 463, 466, 470, 528, 571, 578 and 576. This is a fairly large group 996 of amendments. They are largely technical in nature and make adjustments and additions to the powers of TfL to fit in with other parts of the Bill.
§ Amendment No. 366A enables TfL to delegate its functions to sub-committees and other bodies. Amendment No. 366B deals with the ability of TfL to engage in joint committees. Amendments Nos. 376 to 378 and 386 place a duty on TfL to provide information to the public about London public transport services. That issue was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, in Committee. The amendments also give TfL a number of additional powers, including, in Amendment No. 380, the ability to provide intermodal freight facilities, a point raised by my noble friend Lord Berkeley in Committee. Other powers conferred by the amendments give the mayor the power to distribute property rights and liabilities among TfL, its subsidiaries and PPP companies; to provide for the tax status quo to continue; to enable TfL to join with boroughs to discharge functions through joint committees; to give TfL power to make by-laws for its railways and piers; and to give TfL the power to run the London Transport Museum.
§ The group also contains a number of minor technical and typographical amendments further clarifying TfL's functions and London Transport's existing powers on disposals and transfer schemes. I regret to say that it is possible that we may need to make some further minor changes in that light at Third Reading but I hope that we can keep those to an absolute minimum. I trust that the House will accept these amendments. But should noble Lords have any queries on any of the amendments, I shall endeavour to elucidate. I beg to move.
My Lords, this is an enormous and largely unrelated group of amendments. My noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith will speak after me on this point. We shall have to see how the Bill looks after the Report stage. We reserve the right to return to these matters at a later stage.
The Minister mentioned Amendment No. 439, which allows the mayor to approve schemes for the transfer of key system assets between TfL, subsidiaries of TfL, PPP companies or PPP third parties. The power in relation to the PPP company or third party is subject to the provisions of the relevant PPP agreement. However, it is not immediately clear whether the assets involved have to be key systems assets under that agreement or whether they can be taken out of one PPP agreement with X limited and put into a second agreement with Y limited. I am not sure whether the noble Lord has the answer at his fingertips. Perhaps he will write to me on that point.
Amendment No. 447 introduces a new schedule. Paragraph 11 of that schedule introduces a bizarrely draconian power for TfL to demand information it requires from anyone. Why? If the property being transferred is from TfL to someone else, presumably TfL will already have that information. If it is in relation to a PPP company, the governing PPP agreement should already have dealt with that point. 997 Will Paragraph 11 not enable TfL to go on fishing expeditions for information? Irrespective of the underlying purpose of Paragraph 11, we will be tabling amendments at a later stage to insert a confidentiality provision. I look forward to the Minister's explanation of Paragraph 11.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lord Dixon-Smith
My Lords, such a large grouping is a temptation. I regret to inform the House that I have fallen into temptation. I have one or two questions for the Minister.
Amendment No. 375 inserts a new clause. It states:The Secretary of State may by order made with the consent of the Treasury provide that Transport for London",and so on. I presume that the consent of Parliament will also be required for the order. It would be interesting to know whether that is to be by affirmative or negative procedure. I regret that I have not had the time adequately to research which way round the procedure will be. I am taking the liberty of asking the Minister for that information.
I find Amendment No. 386 very curious indeed. It states:Transport for London shall make available such information as it thinks fit which … relates to public passenger transport services".It continues:The information shall be made available, in such manner as Transport for London thinks fit, to … the general public".It then goes on to refer to,such other persons as Transport for London thinks fit".I am curious to know from the Minister who these "other persons" are who are not the general public. I can think of one person, but only one. I think that the drafting is a little curious on that point.
Amendment No. 447 introduces yet another schedule to the Bill. The Bill really is growing like Topsy. Having read the schedule, I found myself trying to understand it. The second part of the schedule is headed Contents of transfer schemes. Is states:The property, rights and liabilities which may be transferred by a transfer scheme include property, rights and liabilities which would not otherwise be capable of being transferred or assigned".I should be grateful for an explanation of precisely what that means.
Sub-paragraph (2) states:No right of reverter, right of pre-emption, right of forfeiture, right of re-entry … shall operate or become exercisable as a result of any transfer of land or other property by virtue of a transfer scheme, or any instrument or agreement made in connection with a transfer scheme".I should like an explanation of exactly what that convoluted phraseology might mean. I think I know what it means, but my thoughts are very hesitant indeed.
If I detected a common theme throughout this rather diverse grouping, it was finally destroyed—dare I say? —by Amendment No. 528, dealing with the transfer and disposal of historical records and relics. Although I accept that historical records and relics are 998 in a sense property, I could not see what that had to do with this grouping. My thought was: what have I missed, and what are the Government trying to hide? I am sure that the Minister and the Government are not trying to hide anything from us. I trust that the noble Lord will forgive my suspicious nature. However, I should be grateful for answers to the questions that I have posed.
§ Baroness Thomas of Walliswood
My Lords, I welcome the amendment to which the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, drew attention. It enables TfL to provide interchange facilities for freight transport. It is a most useful addition to the Bill.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, I was able to follow some of the issues raised; on others, I fear that I shall have to write to noble Lords. Perhaps I may deal with them in the sequence in which the matters arise in the Bill.
In regard to Amendment 386 and the question of who are the "general public", the term "persons" refers to organisations; "general public" tends to imply individuals. Such organisations may include departments or other institutions with which TfL needs to maintain information flows.
A question arises as to which assets are referred to in Amendment No. 439 and what can be done with those assets. First, perhaps I may explain that the provisions in these amendments protect the assets of TfL. We are talking about key system assets. The amendments are necessary to ensure that designated assets can he returned to the public sector at the end of PPP contracts. They provide TfL with the flexibility to manage structural organisation of the PPP contracts. By and large, those contracts will be in the region of 30 years' duration. Transfer from one PPP to another is unlikely, but it is not entirely impossible. The amendments require the return of those designated assets to TfL at the end of that period.
Paragraph 11 of Amendment No. 447 is necessary to ensure that up-to-date information about the assets is available to TfL. Any information will be included in the original PPP agreements, as the noble Lord suggested. But that information may change over time. A PPP agreement lasting 30 years may require the PPP company to provide different information from that required at the beginning of the contract.
The last amendment referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, related to the London Transport museum and other historical areas. We regard it as part of the function of TfL to provide background on the development of transport within London and more broadly. We have therefore included that provision to give it the authority to do so. Both in relation to the museum and in relation to archival material on transport in general, that needs to be explicit in statute. There have been examples in the past where it has not been explicit and such material has been lost to posterity.
999 I shall have to write to the noble Lord in regard to his reference to an order with the authority of the Treasury. There was one other point where, I regret to say, I completely lost the noble Lord. I shall therefore need to reply in writing.
As to the coherence of this group of amendments—which may not be apparent at a casual glance, or even on detailed perusal—they clarify the overall powers for Tfl, in this and related clauses of the Bill. We need to pin it down in a number of respects. Some powers are relatively minor. Some, like that referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, which was also raised at an earlier stage by my noble friend Lord Berkeley, are important powers. Some are tidying up provisions. Nevertheless, we are attempting to put in place a coherent, final picture of TfL's responsibilities. I believe that the amendments achieve that. I shall write to noble Lords on outstanding issues. I commend the amendments to the House.
Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 366B:
Page 233, line 29, at end insert
§ ("Joint committees with local authorities
§ 8A. —(1) Transport for London shall be treated as a local authority for the purposes of the following provisions of the Local Government Act 1972 (arrangements for discharge of functions of a local authority by joint committees with other local authorities)—
- (a) section 101(5),
- (b) section 102 apart from subsection (1)(a) and subsection (4) to the extent that it would permit Transport for London to appoint a committee which is not a joint committee, and
- (c) section 103.
§ (2) Nothing in section 13 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 shall require a person to be treated as a nonvoting member of a committee appointed by Transport for London and one or more other local authorities by virtue of section 101(5) of the Local Government Act 1972 if that person is—
- (a) appointed to the committee by Transport for London, and
- (b) is not a member of Transport for London.").
§ The Deputy Speaker (Viscount Allenby of Megiddo)
My Lords, before calling Amendment No. 367, I should inform the House that, if it is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 368 to 370A.
Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 367:
Page 234, line 17, leave out from ("any") to end of line 26 and insert ("matter that is brought up for consideration at a meeting of Transport for London he shall disclose the nature of the interest to the meeting; and, where such a disclosure is made —
(2) A member need not attend in person at a meeting of Transport for London in order to make a disclosure which he is required to make under this paragraph if he takes reasonable steps to secure that the disclosure is made by a notice which is read and considered at the meeting.
(2A) The Mayor may, subject to such conditions as he considers appropriate, remove any disability imposed by virtue of this paragraph in any case where the number of members of Transport for London disabled by virtue of this paragraph at any one time would be so great a proportion of the whole as to impede the transaction of business.
(2B) The power of the Mayor under sub—paragraph (2A) above includes power to remove, either indefinitely or for any period, a disability which would otherwise attach to any member, or members of any description, by reason of such interests, and in respect of such matters, as may be specified or described by the Mayor.
(2C) Where the Mayor exercises the power under subparagraph (2A) above to remove a disability—
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak to the remaining amendments in this group. Amendments Nos. 367A to 367E stand in my name.
§ When we discussed the question of members' interests in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, expressed concerns about the scope for members of TfL to take part in discussions on matters in which they had a direct interest. The noble Baronesses, Lady Thomas and Lady Carnegy of Lour, also expressed concerns in the light of that debate. We explained that the Government agreed that the current provisions were probably too widely drawn and that we should be considering our own amendments.
§ Amendment No. 367 fulfils that undertaking by altering the requirements for TfL members to disclose interests and take part in discussions of such interests. The new arrangements are basely largely on those that already prevail in the Environment Agency.
§ Amendment No. 371 is a technical amendment to remove an unnecessary reference to allowances—members of TfL will in fact be paid rather than receive allowances.
§ The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, has tabled some amendments to which I shall reply in the course of this debate. I beg to move.
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 367, Amendment No. 367A:
Line 14, leave out ("Mayor") and insert ("Chair").
§ The noble Baroness said: I gave the Minister notice of these amendments. One can get into rather a muddle explaining these kinds of proposals, and I thought it would be useful for the Minister to know in advance the points that I was trying to make. First, I should reassure the House that the amendments do not reopen the role of the mayor vis-à-vis Transport for London, which I dealt with in a previous group of amendments.1001
§ My concern is with the wording of the amendment moved by the Minister. It could be deceptive. I assume that the amendment is designed to allow the chair of TfL, whoever that may be, to remove the inability of a member of TfL to take part in discussions or decisions because of a declared interest. That is a power that very often resides in the hands of the chair of a committee, usually with the advice of a legal officer. In my view, it is important to attach that power to the office of chair of TfL, rather than to the office of mayor. The current wording suggests that the mayor will waive the limitation placed on the member of TfL, whether or not the mayor is chair of Transport for London. I beg to move.
My Lords, I welcome the Minister's helpful amendment, which is similar in content to what the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, suggested at Committee stage. The new sub—paragraph (2B) appears to allow the mayor to remove the disability for an individual member. I assume I am correct on that point. That is an improvement on the original subparagraph (2) because the mayor now has to remove the disability rather than apply it, if he sees the need. Our amendments are a little tougher than the Minister's amendment, but I shall not move them. I am grateful to the Minister for going a long way to meet our concerns.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, I am grateful for that support and can confirm that the noble Earl's interpretation of sub—paragraph (2B) is correct.
When the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, first raised the issue with me, I thought that that was what I intended. I am now informed that that was not my intention at all. The intention behind the clause and putting the power in the hands of the mayor is to put the mayor in the same situation as the Secretary of State, as to whether or not he or she exercises the option of being chair of TfL. It is the same position as with the Secretary of State in relation to the Environment Agency. In other words, we are dealing with a priori disqualifications or otherwise, not problems which arise in the course of a meeting. Those would have to be dealt with by the chair on an ad hoc basis, whoever the chair may be.
It is the mayor's statutory right, as it is the right of the Secretary of State in the case of the Environment Agency, to decide on the issue of disclosure of interest. That was what was intended in the clause. Therefore, the arrangement does not mean that the person who can lift the disablement—that is, the mayor—can be present at the meeting. As with the Environment Agency, the Secretary of State is not normally present at such a meeting. The intention behind the clause is slightly different from what I previously assumed it to be, as did the noble Baroness. However, I hope that in the light of that she can withdraw her amendment.
§ Baroness Thomas of Walliswood
My Lords, that was an interesting and straightforward explanation of what the clause means. However, it raises the question why one would appoint anyone to be a member of TfL 1002 whose conflicting interests are so great that they require the mayor, acting as the Secretary of State might do in other circumstances with other bodies, to give that person some permanent exemption from the disadvantage or limitations on his activities as a member which would otherwise arise from his interests.
It would be better to take the noble Lord's new amendment away and examine it in the light of what he said and return, either informally with the Minister or more formally at Third Reading. We shall then have thoroughly taken on board exactly what the new clause means. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw our amendment to the noble Lord's amendment.
§ Amendment No. 367A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 367, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 367B to 367E, as amendments to Amendment No. 367, not moved.]
§ The Deputy Speaker (Lord Skelmersdale)
My Lords, by virtue of that agreement. Amendments Nos. 368 to 370A fall.
§ 7 p.m.
Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 371:
Page 234, line 38. leave out sub-paragraph (6).
§ Clause 141 [General powers]:
Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 372 and 373:
Page 78, line 2, leave out ("(3)(a)") and insert ("(3)
Page 78, line 22, leave out ("(3)(a)") and insert ("(3)").
Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 374:
Page 78, line 26, at end insert—
("( ) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, Transport for London may not acquire any interest in a company whose shares are quoted on a recognised stock exchange (within the meaning of section 841 of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988) or traded on any public market (any such company being in this subsection a "quoted company").
( ) Where Transport for London acquires an interest in a company which subsequently becomes a quoted company then it shall be permitted such period of time as is reasonable: in all the circumstances (being a period not exceeding 2 years beginning on the day when such company first becomes a quoted company) to dispose of such holding for the best price as may be obtainable. and during such period such company shall not be regarded for the purposes of this Part as a company in which Transport for London holds an interest.").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 374, I wish to speak to Amendment No. 382. In Committee, the Government dropped an original provision requiring the consent of the Secretary of State to any acquisitions. We welcome that sensible approach. The noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, indicated in Committee that there was no intention of allowing re-nationalisation or nationalisation of any company by the back door or otherwise. The amendments seek to help the Government by putting the issue beyond doubt.1003
§ The prohibition on holding listed shares will avoid the risk of TfL being tempted to speculate on the stock market. However, it is reasonable as it allows TfL to sell assets for shares. That could possibly occur under a PPP arrangement. TfL may also hold shares in subsidiaries that are privatised.
§ The reason for the two-year period of grace is that AIM flotations, whatever they are, typically have a two-year lock-in period for significant shareholders. I beg to move.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, as they stand, the amendments would curtail the commercial and operational flexibility of TfL. As the noble Earl hinted, the Bill is not designed to facilitate the taking back into public ownership of, for example, privately operated bus companies. My noble friend made that clear in Committee. The transport powers we are giving the mayor are targeted at delivering better transport facilities and services. TfL's power may only be exercisable in this context for the purpose of discharging its functions. That means that TfL, may need to acquire certain services. The powers are not designed to enable the mayor to embark on speculative ventures. It means that TfL cannot play the stock market willy-nilly nor can it significantly extend the means of production, distribution or exchange.
I say that because the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, indicated at an earlier stage that he feared that this would be the means whereby TfL would be able to re-nationalise Railtrack. That is a little far-fetched, given the amount of money that would be required. On the other hand, it is possible that TfL and the mayor might want to acquire an interest in a smaller transport undertaking or in the circumstances where he or she felt that it would be helpful in providing better facilities and services to London. We see no reason why the mayor and TfL should not have the ability to do that. They could only do so in the context of discharging the functions set out in the Bill and in no wider context. I hope that the noble Earl will not pursue the matter because it would restrict the flexibility of TfL.
My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord's response and will read carefully what he said. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 375:
After Clause 141, insert the following new clause—
§ RESTRICTION ON EXERCISE OF CERTAIN POWERS
EXCEPT THROUGH A LIMITED COMPANY
§ (" .—(1) The Secretary of State may by order made with the consent of the Treasury provide that Transport for London shall not carry on such activities as are specified in the order except through a company which is limited by shares and registered under the Companies Act 1985 and which is—
- (a) a subsidiary of Transport for London; or
- (b) a company which Transport for London formed, or joined with others in forming. by virtue of section 141(1) above and which does not fall within paragraph (a) above.
§ (2) The specification of an activity in an order under subsection (1) above shall not—
- (a) prevent Transport for London from entering into or carrying out under section 141(2) or (3) above an agreement with a person for the carrying on of that activity by that person; or
- (b) affect the validity of such an agreement.
§ (3) If it appears to the Secretary of State that Transport for London is carrying out, or proposes to carry out, otherwise than in compliance with an order under subsection (I) above any activities specified in such an order—
- (a) the Secretary of State may give a direction to Transport for London requiring it to comply with the order within such period as may be specified for the purpose in the order; and
- (b) Transport for London shall be under a duty to comply with such a direction.
§ (4) If Transport for London does not comply with a direction under subsection (3) above in the case of an activity to which the direction relates, Transport for London shall be treated in respect of the carrying out of that activity as not being a local authority for the purposes of—
- (a) section 519 of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988 (exemption of local authorities from income tax and corporation tax); and
- (b) section 271 of the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992 (exemption of local authorities from capital gains tax).").
§ Schedule 9 [Miscellaneous powers of Transport for London]:
Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 375A:
Page 235, line 28, leave out from first ("London") to end of line 29.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment stands in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Epping Forest. The anxiety that this series of amendments represents is from those who, like the noble Lord, Lord Murray, and myself, live outside the area of Greater London government. We are therefore deprived of a vote in the election of the mayor. Nevertheless, for some time we hope to continue to enjoy (if that is the right word) the services of the Underground. We live in Loughton which is the site of the first station on the Central line that is outside the GLA area. The people of Loughton enjoy the benefits of the service but are not actively involved in the election of the mayor. Although I have lived in Loughton for less than 10 years, there is always a feeling that that which we pay for may be affected by decisions taken on a metropolitan basis.
The purpose of these amendments is not to seek a reassurance but to put down a marker. I know that the Minister cannot speak for the future mayor of London—perhaps even a Labour mayor. He may tell me that the face of the Bill is not the proper place for this amendment. However, what the Minister says on the record in open debate in this House will go a long way. The important words of Amendment No. 375C are:
shall operate services provided under sub-paragraphs (2)(a) and (b) at the general level, frequency, and cost to the user as did London Regional Transport during 1998, or at improved levels and frequency".
§ We do not ask for an advantage; we want to guard against being either accidentally or deliberately disadvantaged by the transport policy that is in the gift of the mayor. The Minister will tell us that the face of the Bill is not the place in which to go into nitty-gritty of that kind, and my noble friend and I accept that. However, there have been some bad experiences in the past where those outside this particular remit, but nevertheless affected by it, find themselves at a disadvantage. We are anxious to secure protection from either ignorance or punitive action in the field of transport on the part of anyone with power to do that.
§ The Minister was kind enough to write to my noble friend Lord Murray of Epping Forest on 27th July. He said that the flexibility of the mayor of London should not be inhibited in these matters. I have no "quabble" with that. "Quibble" is better than "quabble"; a "quabble" is a bit more than a quarrel but not quite as effective as a quibble. I have no quarrel with the general philosophy and division of powers.
We are also heartened by what was written into the Bill by way of amendment in July. Therefore, some of the protections that we seek are already there. As to one of the amendments. which was quite helpful, the Minister writes:
The significant change is that it will be the mayor who takes the decisions, rather than the Secretary of State. However, in recognition of the position of those outside London, the amendment provides that persons aggrieved by a mayoral decision about discontinuance of services wholly or partly outside London will have a right of appeal to the Secretary of State".
I say to the Minister and the House—because the House approved it—that that is a good safeguard. I do not envisage for a moment that we shall reach that stage, but it is heartening to the people of Loughton, Theydon Bois, Debden and Epping—the stations affected—that if they were aggrieved by the decision of the mayor they would have a fall back. I also welcome the amendment whereby plans for fares and services should be the subject of consultation. One cannot go wrong by seeking advice and guidance from those who are affected in that way.
§ My noble friend Lord Murray of Epping Forest and I are well satisfied both with the amendments and the Minister's understanding and interpretation of them, but we take this opportunity to ask the Minister to reinforce our understanding that the people whom we seek to represent in this instance will be no worse off. While they do not seek an advantage, they do not want to be disadvantaged in future. I believe that Barnet is also included in those areas that may be affected. I beg to move.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
My Lords, I believe that my noble friend has done a real service by highlighting an important issue which he anticipates the Minister will be able to deal with satisfactorily. However, there was some doubt which led to my noble friend tabling this amendment. Whether it is a "quabble", quibble or whatever, I believe that my noble friend wants to find 1006 his place in the history books of London. Perhaps he will do so as a result of this. He should not try too hard because he is already there.
My Lords, I fully accept the noble Lord's point that it is desirable to maintain, or even improve, the current level of services. But suppose that a major employer closes down in an outlying town. Demand for transport services will be reduced, and therefore frequencies may have to be adjusted. I believe that the noble Lord's amendment precludes that. On a more general note, I beheve that it is important to avoid cuts in service that chase falls in demand caused by cuts in service.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, despite the brief absence of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, I can assure my noble friend that throughout the passage of this Bill I have always been concerned to protect the interests of the inhabitants of Essex, in particular those who rely on London Transport, and especially my noble friends Lord Graham of Edmonton and Lord Murray of Epping Forest. We have addressed those concerns in the Bill in two ways. First, the mayor's general transport duty will shape the overall approach that he or she takes on transport, including areas beyond London. Secondly, there are detailed provisions in Part IV which safeguard the interests of travellers who live outside the London boundary. I shall deal with those two aspects in turn.
In drawing up the strategy the mayor will have to take account of national policy, including the Government's integrated transport policy. By virtue of Clause 126 the mayor will be under a statutory duty to develop and implement policies for the promotion and encouragement of safe, integrated, efficient and economic transport services to, from and within Greater London. That encompasses passengers and customers outside the London boundary.
To deal with the more detailed provisions of Part IV, the powers in Schedule 9, which Transport for London will use to provide public passenger transport services between places outside the Greater London boundary, are very similar to those which London Transport currently has under the London Regional Transport Act 1984. We do not envisage that that situation will change significantly. However, in recognition of the position of those who live outside London, Clause 181 provides that persons aggrieved by a mayoral decision about discontinuance of services wholly or partly outside London will have a right of appeal to the Secretary of State. We believe that that approach strikes the right balance between giving the mayor operational control over TfL services and protecting the interests of those who live outside London.
I cannot accept my noble friend's amendments as they stand because, as he indicated, I have already informed him that the mayor will need flexibility to make sensible decisions on the level and provision of transport services. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said that one could not set these things in concrete. Flexibility is required. To specify fare and service levels 1007 on the face of the Bill would deny that flexibility. Incidentally, it will also give the Secretary of State greater powers than the Bill envisages. Therefore, I hope that noble Lords will note in that context my resistance to going down that road.
Services beyond the London boundary cannot be seen in isolation from the totality of the operation of the Underground network. Setting service standards in one area will undoubtedly have an effect on the rest of the system. That again will reduce the mayor's ability to cater for changes in travel requirements throughout the system, both in and outside London.
I hope that these reassurances and the others that I gave to my noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton and to the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Epping Forest, in writing will reassure them that the interests of those who use the London transport network outside London will be looked after under the new setup. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend can withdraw his amendment.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I certainly intend to withdraw my amendment. I express to the Minister my satisfaction and that of the noble Lord, Lord Murray, who is sitting in his place, that the Minister has gone as far as he can. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, raised the interesting point that there may be normal commercial assessments resulting in a service being reduced because the number of users had declined.
Our amendment refers to the general level, frequency and cost of services. That implies some flexibility. A decline in the number of users means that any community will expect some adjustment.
That leads me to the point made by the Minister that the Bill could not be expected to create exceptional circumstances for the outer London areas. We shall be satisfied provided we receive the same treatment as those within the London boundary. From past experience, we are concerned that opportunities have been taken to treat those living outside the circle in less favourable ways than those inside the boundaries. I can assure the Minister that I am deeply grateful for the care he has taken tonight and previously in correspondence. He has gone a very long way to satisfy our concerns and, I am sure, those of the people we represent. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 375B and 375C not moved.]
Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 375D to 380:
Page 236, line 33. leave out ("(3)(a)") and insert ("(1)(a)").
Page 237, line 41. leave out sub-paragraph (2).
Page 238, line 1, leave out ("means") and insert ("includes").
Page 238, line 3, leave out from ("services") to end of line 4 and insert (", the reservation of seats in vehicles used in the provision of those services and the provision of information about those services to members of the general public").
Page 238, line 23, at end insert ("arising from the activities it carries on in the discharge of its functions.").
Page 238, line 23, at end insert—
§ ("Intermodal freight facilities
§ 13A. Transport for London may provide and maintain facilities for the transfer of freight—
- (a) from a railway to any other mode of transport,
- (b) to a railway from any other mode of transport,
- (c) from a waterway to any other mode of transport,
- (d) to a waterway from any other mode of transport.").
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 381:
Page 238. line 25, after ("land") insert ("except operational land").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 388 to 390 and Amendment No. 524. This is a difficult series of amendments. They deal with the sale of operational land by Transport for London and with an issue that we raised at an earlier stage; namely, the need for people to know how much land, major interests and buildings will be left in the hands of TfL after the transitional period.
§ Amendment No. 381 would limit the ability of Transport for London to develop its land as it thinks fit. That is a very broadly based power. The amendment excludes from the power operational land. Amendments Nos. 388 to 390 all amend Clause 146 which deals with restrictions on the ability of Transport for London and the authority to dispose of land. In particular, neither organisation can dispose of operational land without the consent of the Secretary of State.
§ Amendment No. 388 provides that land must have ceased to be operational for 10 rather than five years before the Secretary of State's consent is no longer required for a sale. Amendment No. 389 limits the power of the Secretary of State to vary that length of time, but not to increase it. In other words, the Secretary of State cannot permit the sale of land which has been out of operation for less than 10 years. Amendment No. 524 allows that after the transitional period during which Transport for London is established, a list of the interests in land and buildings owned by Transport for London shall be available for inspection at its office. That is quite a severe modification of the amendment which we put forward at Committee stage when in effect we said that everything that Tf1_, owned should be listed. Now we only require interests in land and buildings to be so listed.
§ Arguably the most important amendment is Amendment No. 390 which amends Clause 146. It sets out a series of conditions which Transport for London and the authority have to meet before they can dispose of operational land under the Secretary of State's dispensation. Neither organisation can dispose of its interests unless it has been given not less than four months' notice of its intention to make such a disposal. In addition, that information should be made available to the London borough councils, the Common Council and bodies providing public passenger transport services. Whoever disposes of 1009 such land should have full regard to all the responses made by any of these bodies, including any proposal for acquired land. Finally, Transport. for London shall prepare, and keep available for inspection, a list of its freehold and other interests in operational and nonoperational land and buildings.
§ We put forward similar amendments at the previous stage of the Bill. We were correctly reprimanded by the Minister, who pointed out that the amendments had been put into the wrong series of c].auses. I believe I have corrected that mistake.
§ Perhaps I may explain how the conditions in Amendment No. 390 have been selected. They reflect the conditions which the Secretary of State has now put on British Rail Holdings and Railtrack in the disposal of their land. We know that the disposal of former railway land has been a matter of great contention since privatisation. The reason is very obvious; namely, that there is not very much land available on which, without any real difficulty, the track and other requirements for increasing the infrastructure of the rail system can be developed.
§ Our contention is that the same worries will accumulate around the relatively small parcels of land which are currently in the ownership of London Transport and which will be conveyed to Transport for London. The purpose of these amendments is to make sure that Transport for London will be unable to emulate BRB by selling land without anyone knowing how much had been sold and what the pieces of land were. In this amendment we are applying the same conditions to Transport for London at the outset as the Secretary of State has now applied to BRB and Railtrack. I beg to move.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, the issues raised by the noble Baroness are complex. I cannot accept Amendment No. 381. We certainly want TfL to maximise the transport use of its operational land but we do not want unnecessarily to restrict the way it does that. The amendment would prevent TfL from developing operational land for any purpose, including transport. TfL should be free to develop its land as it thinks fit, in the same way as London Regional Transport does now so that the revenue from development can be reinvested in transport. We have included in the Bill measures to protect operational land.
On Amendments Nos. 388 and 389, Clause 146 also provides that the Secretary of State's consent is not required if the land in question has stopped being operational land for at least five years. The Secretary of State can, by order, vary the five-year period up or down. Amendments Nos. 388 and 389 would lengthen the period from five years to 10 and restrict the Secretary of State's power to vary the period so that it could only be lengthened, not shortened.
As noble Lords will recall, the provisions which are the subject of the noble Baroness's amendments were inserted by the Government in Committee so that the Bill now provides that former operational land can be 1010 disposed of without the Secretary of State's consent after a period of five years. That five-year period can be varied up or down.
We think that five years is a reasonable period. It strikes the right balance between safeguarding transport assets and giving TfL a degree of flexibility. However, the noble Baroness may have a point with Amendment No. 389 which provides that the Secretary of State can only lengthen the five-year period. I am therefore prepared to consider this point and, it is to be hoped, return to it at Third Reading.
Amendment No. 390 would require TfL to give at least two months' notice of any proposal to sell operational land. The noble Baroness has drawn a parallel here with last month's announcement by my noble friend Lord Macdonald about British Rail property sales. But the situation with BR is different from TfL. BR is no longer directly involved in railway operations and its residual property holdings and is not constrained in its property dealings in the same way as TfL will by other provisions in the Bill. TfL, on the other hand, will operate a live railway. Under Clause 146, it will be restricted from offering operational land for permanent disposal. The situations are different.
Amendment No. 390 would require TfL to prepare and keep available for inspection a list of its interests in operational and non-operational land. Amendment No. 524 would require TfL to provide a list of property interests.
During our debates in Committee, the noble Baroness tabled an amendment which would have required the Secretary of State, prior to the establishment of TfL, to publish a list of all property. In the debate it became clear that the noble Baroness's interests were more narrowly focused. I indicated at the time that it might still be a substantial and complex task to identify all major sites but undertook to consider the point further. Although I cannot accept these two amendments as they stand, I hope that I can now respond to those issues.
We have carefully studied the arguments made in earlier debates. We agree on the importance of clarity on the land that will transfer at that point to TfL. I can therefore agree in principle that we shall arrange for the publication of such details at the point prior to land transferring to TfL.
But as I mentioned previously, it would be impractical and probably disproportionate to compile a list of all assets, including the most minor. We propose, therefore, to concentrate on major land assets. That will require definition, but that is the intention. I shall keep the House informed of our proposals.
However, we do not think it is necessary 1 o require TfL to maintain a list of property for public inspection, as envisaged in subsection (4D) of Amendment No. 390. To do so would place a more onerous requirement on TfL than on local authorities elsewhere. In any event, if TfL were to want to dispose of any land asset it would be in TfL's interests to circulate details widely so as to obtain the 1011 best price. And, as I mentioned earlier in this debate, any proposals to dispose of operational land will be made public by means of Parliament's consideration of any consent which the Secretary of State intends to give. Moreover, the assembly will be able to require TfL to provide details of TfL property holdings, if it so chooses. Such information would have to be made public unless it was commercially sensitive.
Similarly, we see no need for Amendment No. 524, but I hope that the noble Baroness will be reassured by our commitment that, in addition to the publication of details of major land assets which TfL will have on its establishment, we shall arrange for the publication of details of major land assets which will be transferred to TfL when control of the Underground passes to the mayor.
In that context, London Transport will remain in existence for that interim period and run the Underground prior to the delivery of a PPP. It will have to retain the necessary property for its remaining functions. We will therefore arrange for publication of two sets of details. The first will include the London Transport property which will transfer to TfL on TfL's establishment. The second will include details of London Transport property which will transfer to TfL upon delivery of the PPP.
This approach also takes account of the fact that London Transport is currently considering with its advisers the best arrangements for the future of its non-operational property. We want London Transport to continue to raise money from its nonoperational property as a contribution to the increased investment in the Tube which my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister announced last July. We have not taken any final decisions on precisely how that contribution should be made and we are still considering advice from professional advisers. But we certainly want to see all property managed in a way that will provide value for money and allow TfL to concentrate on its key task of providing a quality transport service for London. Proceeds from sales of non-operational property will of course be used to fund investment in the Underground.
I am sorry that I have had to relate that at some length. The noble Baroness raises important issues. It is important that we know what property assets we shall list, and at what point, in accordance with her wishes. In the light of the commitments I have given, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.
§ Baroness Thomas of Walliswood
My Lords, the Minister has given a most generous reply. I am grateful to him for that.
Perhaps I may get a niggle out of the way. I refer to the rather casual attitude to land which was once operational but is now no longer operational in the sense that nothing is going on on that land. It is precisely on such land that, if one is lucky and the land 1012 is in the right place, one can build, for example, modal exchanges for freight which is part of the currently modified powers of Transport for London.
However, I shall not pursue that quibble. I shall read the remarks of the Minister with great care. I welcome his willingness to accept the drift of my argument in Amendment No. 389 so that the Secretary of State can vary the time for which land is considered to be operational only upwards rather than downwards. That is a useful concession. I hope that the Minister will table an amendment at Third Reading to provide that.
I am also grateful for the noble Lord's response to the question of major land holdings and perhaps buildings. For the purpose of openness, apart from anything else, it is necessary so that potential purchasers who have an interest in transport—there are a number under the current regulations—can see what is available. I look forward to being kept in touch by the Minister with the progress of the proposal. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 382 not moved.]
§ Lord Burlison
My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned. In moving the Motion, perhaps I may suggest that Report stage begin again not before 8.40 p.m.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.