HL Deb 02 November 2000 vol 618 cc1168-70

.—(1) Section 189 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 (appeals against decisions of Transport for London about London service permits) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsections (2) and (4) (appeals to be made to Mayor), for "appeal to the Mayor" substitute "make an appeal".

(3) In subsection (5) (appeal to be made within 28 days of issue of notice of decision), insert at the end ": but, subject to that, the procedure for the making of appeals under this section shall be such as the Secretary of State may by regulations prescribe."

(4) For subsection (6) (Mayor to refer appeal to panel appointed by him) substitute—

"(6) An appeal under this section shall be heard by a panel of persons appointed by the Lord Chancellor for the purpose of hearing such an appeal ("an appeal panel")."

(5) For subsection (7) (charging by Mayor of fees for appeals) substitute—

"(7) The Secretary of State may make regulations providing for the charging of reasonable fees in respect of appeals under this section."

(6) In subsection (9) (payment by Mayor of fees and expenses of panel members), for "Mayor" substitute "Secretary of State".

(7) For subsections (11) to (13) (power of panel to report to Mayor who may issue appropriate guidance or directions to Transport for London) substitute—

"(11) An appeal panel which has heard an appeal against a decision may—

  1. (a) upheld the decision,
  2. (b) quash the decision, or
  3. (c) substitute for the decision such other decision which Transport for London had power to make as appears to the appeal panel to be appropriate.

(12) An appeal panel which has heard an appeal may make an order about payment of the costs of the appeal; and such an order may require that Transport for London pay to the person who made the appeal a sum equal to the whole or part of any fee paid in accordance with regulations under subsection (7) above."

(8) In section 420(7) of that Act (regulations subject to negative Parliamentary procedure), after the entry relating to any provision contained in Chapters I to IV or VI of Part III, insert—

"section 189;".").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment. I shall speak also to Amendment No. 339.

These amendments are necessary to resolve a potential incompatibility with the Human Rights Act which we have identified in Section 189 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999.

Under the GLA Act, bus operators who wish to provide local bus services outside the Transport for London bus network can apply to TfL for a London bus service permit. We expect that the main users of the permit system will be operators of sightseeing tour services. Operators of commercial cross-boundary bus services, some scheduled coach services and some work and school services may also need to apply for a permit.

Section 189 allows bus operators to appeal to the Mayor against the refusal, suspension or revocation by TfL of a permit. Such appeals would be heard by the Mayor, who appoints the TfL board and can direct its policy. The Mayor may also be a board member himself. I am concerned, therefore, that the Mayor cannot be considered an independent appeals body, which leads me to conclude that Section 189 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 might contravene Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights; that is, the right to a fair trial.

The legislation came into effect on 3rd July. However, many bus operators are continuing to run services under the previous system until their licences expire, and we understand there have been no appeals so far. However, once operators of all non-TfL bus services are required to apply for a permit, there is an increased likelihood that appeals will be made under Section 189. We do not want to paralyse the new system, so we believe that we have little choice but to solve the problem by amending this Bill.

We believe that the new clause will fully satisfy the requirements of the Human Rights Act. Its main purpose would be to amend Section 189 to provide for appeals to be heard by an independent panel appointed by the Lord Chancellor. The panel would be given the same functions and powers as had been given to the mayor in this matter, and its decisions would be binding on the mayor. The panel members' fees and expenses would be paid by the Secretary of State, who could set fees to offset the costs. A consequential amendment is also required to Clause 266.

I should mention that the mayor is required by the 1999 Act to prepare and publish a guidance document setting out his policy criteria for granting permits for these services. TfL must have regard to that guidance when issuing permits and so the appeal panel will have to take its contents into account when reaching its decision. I hope that the House will agree that this amendment is essential if the regulation of non-TfL bus services in London is to work effectively. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, I am sure that the mayor would not want to be the cause of a problem under the Human Rights Act. There are faint bells ringing in my head now that I have heard the Minister's explanation of this new clause. I seem to recall that there was certainly some debate during the course of the proceedings on the GLA legislation regarding the mayor's position as chair of TfL, in the event of some such conflict arising. As we now have the opportunity to put matters right, can the Minister confirm that the whole of the Act has been trawled to ensure that there are no other problems that ought to be dealt with at this stage?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, as I am wearing my transport hat at present and have only transport advice open to me, I do not believe that I can give the noble Baroness the wide-ranging assurance that she seeks.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, perhaps I did not make myself clear: because the mayor is able to act as chair of TfL, the transport area is the one about which I am concerned.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, it is my understanding that this is the only potential conflict that we have discovered in the transport area. I commend the amendment to the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6.15 p.m.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market moved Amendment No. 317: After Clause 257, insert the following new clause—