HL Deb 21 October 1999 vol 605 cc1307-15

—(1) This section applies where—

  1. (a) a landing place was transferred to London Regional Transport or any of its subsidiaries on or after 31st March 1999 but before this section comes into force, or
  2. (b) after this section comes into force a landing place is transferred to London Regional Transport or any of its subsidiaries pursuant to an agreement made on or after 31st March 1999 but before this section comes into force.

(2) In this section "qualifying landing place"—

  1. (a) means a landing place transferred as mentioned in subsection (1)(a) or (b) above, and
  2. (b) includes any property associated with the landing place and transferred with it.

(3) Any agreement—

  1. (a) made between the transferor of a qualifying landing place and the owner of a vessel, or with a waterman in respect of a vessel not owned by him, and
  2. (b) which concerns the use of the qualifying landing place by the vessel,
shall have effect on and after the relevant date in accordance with subsections (4) to (6) below.

(4) The agreement shall have effect as if—

  1. (a) the transferee had been a party to the agreement instead of the transferor;
  2. (b) for any reference to the transferor there were substituted a reference to the transferee;
  3. (c) any reference to any officer or member of staff of the transferor were a reference to such person as the transferee may appoint or, in default of appointment, to the officer or member of staff of the transferee who most closely corresponds to the transferor's officer or member of staff;
and this subsection shall apply whether or not the agreement is capable of being assigned or transferred.

(5) An agreement shall only have effect in accordance with subsection (4) above—

  1. (a) to the extent that the agreement concerns the use of the qualifying landing place by the vessel, and
  2. (b) in relation to things falling to be done under the agreement on or after the relevant date.

(6) An agreement shall not have effect in accordance with subsection (4) above to the extent that the transferor and the transferee have made contrary provision.

(7) For the purposes of this section—

"landing place" means any waterside landing place, pier, jetty, pontoon or other similar installation;

"transferee", in relation to a qualifying landing place. means the body (being London Regional Transport or one of its subsidiaries) to which the landing place is or was transferred as mentioned in subsection (1)(a) or (b) above;

"transferor", in relation to qualifying landing place, means the person by whom the landing place is or was transferred to a transferee as mentioned in subsection (1)(a) or (b) above;

"relevant date", in the case of a qualifying landing place, means—

  1. (a) the date when this section comes into force if on that date the landing place has been transferred to a transferee, or
  2. (b) if the landing place has not been so transferred, the date when it is transferred to the transferee;
"waterman" means a person who navigates a vessel used for carrying passengers for reward.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, is aware of concerns that have been expressed on behalf of those who provide tourist bus services on the river under contracts drawn up, I believe, with the PLA, which will run until 2002. The operators are concerned that under this new clause all the property will move to TfL. They do not know whether the ticketing kiosks form part of the jetties and quays, and so forth. The operators have used their own funds to provide those ticketing kiosks. Furthermore, they have wider concerns that in the future they will be dealing with an authority whose sole concern is that of public transport, whereas previously their Ministry, as it were, has been the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Different contractual arrangements apply between themselves and the PLA than are likely to obtain with TfL or its subsidiary—or whatever London River Services will be called when it becomes a subsidiary of TfL rather than, as it is now, a subsidiary of London Transport.

I should like to put some questions to the Minister. First, has he consulted on this matter with Janet Anderson MP, who is the Minister responsible for this area at the DCMS? Secondly, how does he think such tourist services will be run, possibly in competition with public transport services, in the interim period between the creation of TfL and the possible—some seem to think inevitable—creation of a strategy for the River Thames? Once such a strategy is created, it will bear in mind the needs of tourists and the services for tourists provided on the river. The providers of tourism services fear that they will be put into direct competition with public service providers working off the same jetties and along the same routes and that they will therefore have their current contractual arrangements in effect spoilt.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I am aware of the general concern which the noble Baroness and her noble friend Lord Thurso have raised but I am not sure that I am able to give a reply to all of those details. I can assure the noble Baroness that there is no sinister purpose behind the clause. We are merely transferring from the PLA to London Transport, and thereafter to Transport for London, all the contractual and other liabilities associated with piers. That is common sense. The reason that some operators are concerned is that they are engaged in ongoing negotiations with the new pier owners, London River Services, itself a subsidiary of London Transport. Ongoing negotiations will, of course, continue. I have no wish to become involved in the details of those negotiations. Nothing changes in terms of the nature of those negotiations—simply the ownership of the infrastructure. I cannot answer the noble Baroness's specific point about infrastructure that has been separately provided. I am confident that the property and legal position will not change.

As far as concerns the broader point, the Government are supportive of the excellent strides that London River Services has made during the short period it has been in existence. We are fully supportive of its objectives, which include the tourism objective. My department has worked closely with the DCMS on this matter and will continue to do so. I therefore believe that it is an unfounded fear that the tourism dimension would disappear with these new arrangements. I undertake to write to the noble Baroness on her other points.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 227 [Designation of first GLA roads]:

Earl Attlee had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 476:

Page 125, line 34, at end insert— ("(4) No order may be made under this section in respect of any road unless a draft of such proposed order has been circulated to all local authorities within Greater London for a consultation period of at least nine months' duration, and the responses of such authorities to such draft order have been received and considered, and no order may be made designating a road as a GLA road with effect from a date prior to the end of such period of consultation and consideration.

(5) No order may be made under this section in respect of a road within the City if before the end of the consultation period referred to in subsection (4) above the Common Council have objected that such proposed order would adversely affect either—

  1. (a) the integrity of any traffic management scheme within the City of London operated by or on behalf of the Common Council on the day before the Greater London Authority Act 1919 received Royal Assent, or
  2. (b) the ability of the Common Council to ensure, or to assist and facilitate those responsible for ensuring, the security of the City of London and the people and businesses resident within it."").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I shall not be moving this amendment or Amendment No. 479 as the issue will be better covered in the Government's group of amendments. However, I shall be speaking to Amendment No. 477 when it is called.

[Amendment No.476 not moved.]

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 477:

Page 125, line 34, at end insert— ("( ) The Secretary of State shall not make any order under this section in respect of any highway or proposed highway for which a London borough council or the Common Council is the highway authority, unless he has given 2 months' notice of the proposed order to the highway authority and considered any representations made."").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, which stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 478. The amendment focuses a consultation requirement on the Secretary of State before he makes an order under Clause 227, which designates which roads will be GLA roads. It is clearly in the public interest for there to be a reasonable consultation period before this action is taken. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, perhaps I may clarify one point. The noble Earl has not moved Amendment No. 476. Can he say which other amendments in the group he does not intend to move?

Earl Attlee

My Lords, Amendment No. 476, which I did not move, was the ring of steel amendment. The Minister has made concessions and I therefore thought it would be better not to move that amendment and wait until we discuss the Minister's amendment. I have moved Amendment No. 477 and spoken to Amendment No. 478, which deal with Clause 227. I hope that that is helpful to the Minister.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, are we therefore abandoning the other grouped amendments? It is difficult to know what is happening.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, the purpose of Amendment No. 477 is to require a two-month consultation period with the boroughs when the Secretary of State designates the first GLA roads. That seems a somewhat arbitrary timetable for consultation. Most of the designation of the roads is pretty much agreed.

If there are problems, it may well take less or more than two months to sort them out. It is also the case that we should not be in a situation where one London borough could exercise a right of veto over the total strategic position. As I understand the noble Earl's amendment, it would give London boroughs individually a veto over these proposals.

Amendment No. 478 would allow the designation of a road as a GLA road only if it is of strategic importance in determining the mayor's integrated transport strategy. It would prevent the Secretary of State including side roads off the GLA road network within the definition. We shall deal with the issue of side roads later, but what is proposed does not seem appropriate. I believe the amendment is therefore redundant in any case. The whole designation and description of Greater London strategic roads is that they are part of a strategic transport policy. However, there may be side roads which would not obviously be strategic were it not for the fact that they were part of a one way system or linkage system. One can think of an example not very far from your Lordships' House—around Victoria Station. It is designated a strategic road although, if one studies a map, it might not look strategic. The amendment, I believe, could lead to some misunderstanding. I hope that the noble Earl will not pursue it.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. I apologise if I slightly threw him by not moving the first amendment in the group. It will be interesting to see what happens when we focus the debate. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 478 not moved.]

Clause 228 [Orders by the authority changing what are GLA roads]:

[Amendment Nos. 479 and 480 not moved.]

Clause 229 [Certification, lists and maps of GLA roads]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 480A: Page 127, line 4, leave out ("list of, and a map showing,") and insert ("record or).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 480B to 480F. This group of amendments seeks to give Transport for London greater flexibility in the way it maintains the definitive record of which roads are GLA roads. As the Bill stands, Transport for London would have to prepare and maintain both a list of, and a map showing, the highways and proposed highways which are GLA roads.

However, when the Secretary of State defines the first GLA roads, the Bill does not specify how the roads are to be identified. The Secretary of State could choose to define the network by means of a list or a map, or a combination of both methods. We think it right that Transport for London should have the same freedom to keep the definitive record of the network in the form it thinks appropriate. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 480B to 480F:

Page 127, line 5, leave out ("and proposed highways").

Page 127, line 6, at end insert—

("( ) The record required to be prepared and maintained under subsection (3) above may consist of—

  1. (a) a list;
  2. (b) a map; or
  3. (c) a list and a map.").

Page 127, line 7, leave out ("list and of that map") and insert ("record").

Page 127, line 12, leave out ("list and map") and insert ("record").

Page 127, line 13, leave out ("list and map") and insert ("record").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 230 [Supplementary provisions]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 480G: Page 127, line 31, after ("Mayor") insert ("of London").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 480H. These two amendments make minor technical changes to the Highways Act 1980 to ensure that the references to the mayor and assembly are freestanding with that Act. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 480H: Page 127, line 33, after ("the") insert ("London").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 231 [Exercise of powers so as to affect another authority's roads]:

4.30 p.m.

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 481: Page 128, line 10, at beginning insert ("Subject to subsection (11 A) below,").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 482, 483, 484, 492 and 493.

We return to the thorny issue of the word "affect". The question has been raised as to how far the GLA/TfL will be able to interfere in local decisions through their control over GLA roads.

Various clauses insert new sections into the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 giving the GLA a veto over local decisions in respect of roads. This therefore appears to be the appropriate place to peg back GLA power by clarifying the basis on which it can act.

There is a serious question as to the meaning of "affect". This amendment would usefully end the uncertainty. Virtually anything, however trivial, that a London borough does will affect a road in another borough, especially if the two roads concerned are adjacent. As there is a need to notify, and that is subject to a one-month expiry period as provided for in subsection (3), that means that the London boroughs will always have a bureaucratic and statutory delay of one month imposed on any action which will not even have a substantial effect, if I can turn matters round the other way. It is important to make sure that consultation is not required for trivial matters. I beg to move.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I question the purpose of the amendment. I believe it to be otiose—but no doubt my noble friend will be able to correct one or other of us on that point. If the matter were deemed to be de minimis in terms of the effect that it might have, it could not be capable of being upheld in the courts. Therefore, I wonder what value the word "substantially" would have in this respect.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, as I said in Committee in response to a similar amendment, the provisions in Clause 231 are modelled on current arrangements for designated roads and priority routes. The arrangements and the terminology have worked well for a number of years. The concept of "affect or likely to affect" is therefore well established and well understood. It is also possible that, should there be any confusion, the mayor would be able to issue guidance on the operation of these proceedings.

Changing a well understood formula would, as my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis indicated, introduce an element of doubt as to whether previous operations had been changed, and it might well lead to some legal dubiety; whereas most people who operate the highways within London understand how the previous arrangements have worked. Therefore, we do not think it sensible to make a change. Amendments which change a formulation which has stood the test of time are usually not appropriate and would merely create uncertainty.

The noble Earl's objective of trying to exclude minor issues is understood. Currently, minor matters are excluded, and will be in future, because the mayor will have the same power as the Secretary of State to exclude them. It will be in his interests to do so in order to reduce bureaucracy. It would not be helpful for the noble Earl to pursue this change.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, I am grateful for the contributions to this short debate. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 482 and 483 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendments No. 483A: Page 129, line 34, at end insert— ("(11 A) Any reference in this section to a GLA road includes a reference to a GLA side road, within the meaning of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (see sections 124A(9) and 142(1) of that Act).").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to the other amendments in this group.

We have brought forward these amendments in response to concerns expressed by the Association of London Government that Transport for London should not be the highway authority for side roads to the GLA road network.

When we announced last February the Government's intentions for the GLA road network, we said that we were minded to include in it those short stretches of side road which were necessary for the safe and efficient operation of the main roads. That was an indication of intent. But we then heard representations from London's local authorities. They said that they did not think that that was sensible. We obviously, therefore, reconsidered our position. To say the least, that proved to be a somewhat complex matter and so it has taken some time and has required a number of meetings both at official and ministerial level to attempt to resolve it.

In Committee in July, I explained that the discussions were still ongoing. I am now able to report that, following the discussions held by my former colleague, Glenda Jackson. with the ALG later in July, we were able to reach a consensus on a practical way for TfL to have a measure of control over these short stretches of side road. Transport for London is to be the traffic authority for a new category of road known as "GLA side roads", but the local borough remains the highway authority. That is what the amendments before the House seek to ensure.

The key amendment in this group is Amendment No. 485ZA. It amends the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 to provide the Secretary of State with the power to designate roads which are to be GLA side roads, in much the same way as Clause 227 provides for him to designate the first GLA road network.

Once the first GLA side roads have been defined, the Secretary of State can by order apply, for such modifications as he sees fit, the provisions of Sections 14B and 14C of the Highways Act 1980. The provisions will enable the mayor to change and to keep records of the GLA road network. That can also be applied to GLA side roads by order of the Secretary of State.

We have not sought to amend the Bill to set out in full the procedure for changing roads. Had we done so, your Lordships would, I regret to say, be faced with even more amendments. That is why we have taken the approach of an order-making power. After the long discussions that we have had with the boroughs in London and their professionals, we see this as the best way forward and it has been agreed among us.

The other amendments in this group, including this one, Amendment No. 483A, are effectively consequential amendments to Amendment No. 485ZA. They give effect to the intentions that I have spelt out. I beg to move.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, in Committee we were concerned regarding the ring of steel and the position of the City. In part the Minister has met our concerns with his amendment and we are grateful. There is a residual concern regarding side roads that haw been stopped up as part of the ring of steel. We are worried that they could be opened up, against the wishes of the City. Can the Minister give me any assurance on that?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, in the procedures for consultation and any change on the side roads, the City would remain the highways authority for the side roads. The GLA would be the traffic authority. Therefore, one hopes that the two could reach consensus. If they did not, on physical matters such as stopping up the road I assume that the position of the highways authority would be the determining one. Therefore, the City's position is maintained.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 484 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 484YA: Page 129, line 39, at end insert ("or GLA side roads").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 484ZA: After Clause 231. insert the following new clause—