Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive (IT 98)

INTEGRATED TRANSPORT WHITE PAPER

BACKGROUND

  1. Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive is a member of the Passenger Transport Executive Group and wishes therefore to associate itself with the collective submission which is separately being made to the Select Committee on behalf of the seven Passenger Transport Authorities and Executives.

  2. This separate submission is made because, in addition to being within the scope of the UK White Paper (Cm 3950 page 8 and paragraph 4.71-2), Strathclyde Passenger Transport also operates within the devolved policy sphere covered by the parallel Scottish White Paper Travel Choices for Scotland (Cm 4010) and which will ultimately become part of the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament and Executive.

  3. While acknowledging that Cm 4010 and these latter dimensions are a matter for the Scottish Select Committee, Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive has some concerns arising out of the interface between UK policy as laid out in Cm 3950 and the specifically Scottish elements contained in Cm 4010. Noting that transport policy for Scotland should be "consistent with the principles in this paper" (Cm 3950, page 8), and that "there will continue to be a need for a common UK transport policy in key respects" (Cm 4010, page 5), the Executive considers that there are matters which may be appropriately raised in response to the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee's invitation of submissions of evidence.

  4. In reaching this view, the Executive has been assisted by a helpful letter dated 4 September from Transport Division 2 of the Scottish Office. This states:

    In drafting the Scottish Transport White Paper we did not attempt to go into the level of detail that there is in the UK White Paper. That would have merely produced another very large document for Scotland, with significant overlapping text with the UK White Paper. What we tried to do was to create an intelligible, self-standing document that could be fairly easily read from cover to cover to give an accurate impression of all the key aspects of the Government's transport policies for Scotland. In some cases the UK White Paper makes it clear that a policy does not apply to Scotland. In a few others, the Scottish White Paper proposes a policy that is somewhat different from what is in the UK White Paper. In other cases, the reader should assume that the Government are, in Scotland, committed to policies based on the same details that are contained in the UK White Paper.

  5. In this context, specific concerns which Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive wishes to raise with the Select Committee are as follows.

BUS POLICY

  6. The Executive fully shares in the views expressed in the paper submitted on behalf of all PTAs and PTEs about the difficulties of relying in the first instance solely on the voluntary co-operation of the bus industry in delivering improved and integrated local public transport through the mechanism of a quality partnership. In Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive's own experience, the number of changes to bus service registrations has increased from an average of 4.8 per working day in 1996-97 to 5.9 in 1997-98. On current experience the average in 1998-99 may be higher still. Far from assisting in the White Paper's objective of achieving greater service stability (Cm 3950, paragraph 3.65), present practice within the bus industry appears to be working increasingly against this aim, at least in the west of Scotland.

  7. Because this is an area in which the Scottish White Paper is less explicit than the UK document, the Executive sought clarification from the Scottish Office of the extent to which Ministerial commitments to legislate to limit bus operators' freedom to alter registered services would also apply in Scotland. Similarly, it also asked whether the undertaking given in paragraph 3.53 of Cm 3950, that operators would be required to participate in joint ticketing and travelcard schemes, also extended to Scotland.

  8. The Scottish Office letter referred to in paragraph 4 above confirmed that these commitments did indeed also apply to Scotland. However, it indicated that legislation on these questions would be a matter for the Scottish Parliament. Quite apart from the inevitable delay before the Scottish Parliament is in a position to legislate on devolved matters, there is also the question of the extent to which Ministers are presently able to commit a future Scottish Parliament and Executive to specific proposals.

  9. Furthermore, as the joint submission from the PTAs and PTEs emphasises, some key aspects of bus policy (and in particular the stress which is placed on Quality Partnerships and Quality Contracts) are conditioned by competition law and policy. This could raise particularly acute problems in Scotland, since although most elements of transport policy will fall within the competence of the Scottish Parliament, competition policy will remain a reserved matter, subject to the Westminster Parliament.

  10. Unless there was some mechanism to ensure that the two Parliaments moved forward together on those aspects of bus policy which interfaced with competition policy, the Executive would therefore question whether or when the proposals in the two White Papers to amend the existing arrangements for the provision of registered bus services can in fact be delivered in Scotland.

  11. Consequently, it might be appropriate for the Government to legislate on these matters on a UK basis prior to the establishment of the Scottish Parliament. This would leave the latter with the ability subsequently to modify the application of bus policy in Scotland, but within the context of a clearly established UK framework which had given effect to the intentions of both DETR and Scottish Office Ministers.

RAILWAY POLICY

  12. Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive welcomes the provisions within the White Papers for the devolution to the Scottish Executive of matters relating to internal Scottish passenger railway services and overnight Anglo-Scottish sleeper services, together with the ability to influence other cross-border passenger services.

  13. Consistent with its previous evidence to the Select Committee on the proposed Strategic Rail Authority and Railway Regulation, the Executive considers it essential that, in the exercise of its specific functions, the Strategic Rail Authority should not seek to duplicate or override the role of other statutory bodies with separate but equally legitimate strategic objectives and responsibilities which relate to railway services, such as the Scottish Executive and the Passenger Transport Authorities and Executives.

  14. This proposition should be self-evident. However, the final sentence of paragraph 24 of Cm 4024—"Such powers and rights of consultation will not however compromise the SRA's duties to plan the operation and development of the rail network on a strategic, GB-wide, basis"—could be interpreted as giving a primacy to the role of SRA which would be inconsistent both with the general principles of subsidiarity and the specific statutory duties and responsibilities of other bodies.

  15. Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive is also concerned that any legislative delay in implementing the White Paper proposals for the devolution of railway functions to the Scottish Executive could compromise the effective delivery of the Government's proposals for integrated transport in Scotland, by delaying the establishment of appropriate Scottish administrative machinery and possibly by skewing the momentum of transport policy development in Scotland as a result of the initial absence of specific devolved powers and responsibilities for the railway element of the Scottish domestic transport network.

  16. In addition it is concerned that, until the Government is able to give effect to the relevant undertakings which were offered during the Committee stage of the Scotland Bill (Hansard, 31 March 1998, column 1063) it will continue to be necessary for any private legislation relating to railways in Scotland to be promoted under the terms of the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1936 and therefore to remain a matter for the UK Parliament. Again, this will inhibit effective devolution of railway matters to the Scottish Parliament and Executive.

TIMING OF POLICY IMPLEMENTATION

  17. These issues are part of a wider concern which the Executive has about the apparent lack of a clearly defined timescale for giving effect to significant elements of the White Paper proposals.

  18. The Government's earlier consultation document, Developing an Integrated Transport Policy, laid great stress on the immediacy of the policy issues that had to be addressed in this sphere, an immediacy which is reinforced by wider concerns about sustainability and the global expectations generated by the Kyoto conference.

  19. While accepting that much can be achieved within existing legislative provision and by voluntary action, these mechanisms have been insufficient in the past significantly to influence trends in transport use and behaviour which the Government acknowledges to be unsustainable.

  20. The Executive's general concerns about the need for a more specific implementation programme to give effect to the White Paper proposals are reflected in the joint submission from the PTA and PTEs. As noted above, however, (paragraphs 8, 11, 15 and 16), these concerns are reinforced by the need to bring the various policy commitments which require legislation within a framework of timing and process which is consistent with Scottish devolution.

  21. In the Executive's view, it would therefore be extremely regrettable if the implementation of the Government's new approach to transport policy, and of guiding principles which Cm 3950 identifies as having relevance throughout the United Kingdom, was further delayed in Scotland because of any additional legislative hiatus arising from the devolution process.

24 September 1998


 
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