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Mr. Syms: I want to raise just one further point to do with licences. The Minister explained that the provision exempted the military from having to have a licence. In the Bill, the term was "licence or licences". I presume that one licence will be issued under the contract and the new arrangement, and that the inclusion of "licences" in the Bill was, as we thought, perhaps for future arrangements, where there might be a split.

Mr. Raynsford: I am happy to confirm that. We envisage only one licence being operated initially, but there could be circumstances where other licences might apply in future. That is the reason for the word appearing in the plural.

If there are no other points, I will urge the House to agree with the Lords in their amendments, so that we can move to the next set.

Mr. Gerald Howarth: I warmly welcome Lords amendment No. 36, which deals with the appointment of a national security adviser. Again, putting that in the Bill is important, but may I ask the Minister a question? Subsection (4) of the amendment, which is effectively a new clause, says:

That suggests that the important appointment of that national security nominee could, in a sense, be reduced by that person being allowed to nominate an employee. I wondered in what circumstances the Minister envisaged the CAA nominee appointing someone else for such a crucial matter. I want to give him time to reflect on that point, but he will agree that it is important. It is a delegated power in an important area.

Mr. Raynsford: I am grateful to the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) for explaining his point in such detail as to allow me to reflect on it before being required to respond. The provision is included only to make allowance for emergency circumstances--it may be necessary because of force majeure--but it is not intended that the provision would apply in normal circumstances. I hope that that satisfies the hon. Gentleman.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 12 agreed to.

Clause 4


Lords amendment: No. 13, in page 3, line 38, at end insert--
("(e) may be granted subject to such conditions as may be specified.")

Mr. Raynsford: I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 14 to 25, 30, 32, 33 and 133 to 140.

Mr. Raynsford: You will be relieved to know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this is the last group that I shall be presenting.

15 Nov 2000 : Column 1025

This group of amendments concerns regulatory and licence-related matters, as well as the transfer schemes. The amendments are largely technical, and the bulk of the group--Lords amendments Nos. 16 to 21, which concern the powers of the Competition Commission to veto licence modifications proposed by the CAA--is merely bringing our Bill into closer alignment with other utility legislation.

Lords amendment No. 15 is important because it allows the CAA to relieve the licensee of his clause 8 duty in respect of services that he is not providing. NATS, which will be the licensee, will not be the sole provider of services in licensed airspace, and it would be unduly onerous if NATS were to be bound by statutory duties for services provided by others. That is the purpose of Lords amendment No. 15.

Lords amendment No. 30 seeks to clarify and strengthen the objective of clause 48(3), which reaffirms the Government's commitment to the two-centre strategy for the development of air traffic control. Lords amendments Nos. 133 to 140 provide clarification to the drafting of paragraph 25 of schedule 6--it contains detailed provisions on transfer scheme arrangements--and make consequential amendments to schedule 7, which deals with taxation matters and transfers.

Lords amendments Nos. 32 and 33 provide a definition of the term "Northern Ireland Minister" for the purposes of the transfer scheme provisions.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 14 to 26, 30, and 32 to 67 agreed to.

Clause 104

Quality partnership schemes

Lords amendment: No. 68, in page 63, line 43, leave out from
("strategies") to end of line 4 on page 64

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Keith Hill): I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 69 to 80, 92 to 94, 96 and 145 to 147.

Mr. Hill: This group of amendments is concerned with the new powers in the Bill for quality partnership schemes, ticketing schemes and bus information, and with better bus lane enforcement. The amendments respond to various representations made during the Bill's passage in another place.

I wish to deal specifically with the provisions on bus lane enforcement. Lords amendments Nos. 80 and 192 provide that local authorities with decriminalised parking enforcement powers outside London may apply to the Secretary of State to enforce moving bus lane offences. In so doing, the amendments fulfil an undertaking given in Committee by my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning, on 17 February, when he said that it was our intention to extend local authority camera enforcement of bus lane offences to outside London.

15 Nov 2000 : Column 1026

The new clause also provides the Secretary of State with powers to repeal the current camera enforcement regime of bus lane offences in London, under the London Local Authorities Act 1996, and to make regulations to enable Transport for London and London local authorities to operate under the new powers as well. Trials of camera enforcement in a number of London boroughs have shown that where the system is operated and resourced properly, it is very effective in reducing bus lane offences by up to 70 per cent.

9 pm

We very much hope that the take-up of these powers on a wider scale will substantially reduce the offences. However, the powers will be available only to local authorities with decriminalised parking enforcement powers. That will ensure that local authorities are able to enforce both waiting and driving offences in bus lanes. The new clause does not give local authorities the power to stop vehicles.

The new clause provides for the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales to make regulations in connection with allowing approved local authorities, Transport for London and London local authorities to impose penalty charges for moving bus lane contraventions, and the payment of penalty charges. Regulations can specify the person by whom a penalty charge in respect of a contravention is to be paid. As we said in Committee in the other place, we intend, at least initially, to make regulations for areas outside London on the basis of driver liability. However, the matter will be kept under review.

In London, the current system operates on the basis of owner liability. We consider it prudent to allow owner liability to continue to apply in London for the foreseeable future, but this will be kept under review. If necessary, any changes to liability can be made by regulations, which would be subject to the negative resolution procedure--and I emphasise that.

As the new clause does not remove the power of the police to enforce moving traffic offences, it has been necessary to include the provision that motorists should not be subject to double jeopardy and prosecution by the police and local authorities for the same offence or contravention.

I hope that the House will welcome all the amendments in this group. They will allow the benefits of statutory quality partnership schemes to be extended to a wider range of circumstances, extend the scope of through-ticketing powers, clarify the scope of bus information under clause 128 and provide for better enforcement of bus lanes. They are a further demonstration of our desire for a more effective and joined-up transport strategy.

Mr. Syms: I have just one brief point to raise. In Committee, we had a lengthy discussion on the impact of the Competition Act 1998. I note that since that legislation came into force in March a number of bus companies have been raided in order to discover whether they were involved in cartels or any other problems. A number of the amendments in the group relate to improved text on through ticketing. At one stage there were concerns that if bus companies had agreements on through ticketing or even ticket prices they might be caught by competition law. Can the Minister reassure the House that the Bill will

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work in the way that was intended and that the concerns about competition are just concerns and are not likely to impact on the strategy for buses?

Mr. Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington): I welcome the amendments. Before pressing the Minister on one particular amendment, let me say that it was a pity that there was nothing in the pre-Budget statement about fuel duty rebates for buses, community transport or express coaches.

The amendment on which I want to press the Minister relates to quality partnerships. I understand that when the matter was discussed in another place Ministers said that fares and frequency could not be included in quality partnerships, yet I understand that that has happened in Scotland. Does the Minister now think that fares and frequency can be included in quality partnerships or does he still maintain that they cannot?

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