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Mr. Syms: Passenger transport authorities, among other organisations, always complain that, with regard to concessionary schemes in the past, Governments have never fully compensated them, pound for pound, for the additional people riding on various forms of public transport. They have always felt a little short-changed.

The Minister spoke of £50 million for local authorities, and I presume that that includes passenger transport authorities. Has he discussed with them whether they are happy with the resources given to them to do the job? In meetings that I had leading up to the introduction of the Bill, a number of PTAs made the point that governmental organisations always assume that these are extra riding passengers and that sometimes the authorities were not fully compensated for the additional costs.

Mr. McDonnell: My point is on a related issue, specific to London. The Association of London Government has welcomed the Lords amendments, which clarify the approach to criteria for eligibility and the issuing of guidance and consultation. The ALG is grateful for the consultations that have taken place with the Minister.

The London boroughs are already funding the freedom pass concessionary travel scheme, which offers 100 per cent. discount to those eligible. There are no plans to change this level of concession. However, the ALG is concerned that the broadening of eligibility will increase costs for boroughs. The current estimate is that the proposals could result in an additional cost of £14.7 million, which would fall on the boroughs. We welcome the additional money that has been allocated. In the negotiations between the London boroughs and the Government there has been some enhancement, specifically in relation to the acknowledgment that the census data are unrelated to the real needs of Londoners.

There is still a funding gap, and a range of issues needs to be addressed in the continuing discussions--particularly those which arise from double counting and take-up rates, which we believe will be enhanced as a result of the additional publicity. There is no provision currently for administrative costs. The boroughs believe

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that there is little choice but to have a full-fare scheme for London, bearing in mind equity in terms of existing schemes. On that basis, the ALG has asked for assurances that the extra resources that the Government provide will be re-examined in the current negotiations. It is keen that the resources should be passported through to the boroughs rather than lost in the vagaries of the rate support grant system.

As the Minister has said, there will be further discussions and consultations. It would be welcomed if the matters that I have raised were taken into account. Rest assured that, the London boroughs are committed to the extension of this excellent scheme.

9.15 pm

Mr. Keith Darvill (Upminster): My point is similar to the one raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell). Having considered the Association of London Government brief, I took the opportunity this morning of speaking to the chief executive of the London borough of Havering. A rough estimate is that the cost of the proposals to that borough will be between £300,000 and £500,000 a year. If the additional funding to take account of these welcome amendments is not passported, local authorities will be left in a worse position. At a time when local authorities are struggling to implement a welcome range of initiatives, funding is extremely important. I look forward to hearing the Minister's comments.

Mr. Brake: I echo the points made by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) about a possible funding gap in the travel concessions schemes. Local authorities are concerned about the tightness of the definitions that are being used, in relation to the partially sighted, for example. Perhaps there is scope for that to be considered more widely than a definition would suggest. There are concerns about cost implications. Perhaps the Minister be able to offer some reassurance.

I ask the Minister to clarify when he expects guidance to be issued. I know that he has said that it will shortly be forthcoming, but local authorities need to plan and they need more precise information than that.

Mr. Hill: Departmental officials and I have had long and detailed discussions with local authorities, the Local Government Association and the Association of London Government on these matters. I was left with a powerful impression that their chief anxiety related to issues surrounding the definition of disability, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) spoke. I think that we have been able to offer them considerable reassurance, both in terms of the changes in definition in the Bill and the specific commitment to provide guidance.

The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) asked about tightness of definitions. It will be the job of my Department and local government associations to consult and discuss as guidance is being drawn up. As for when the guidance will be issued, the answer is certainly shortly. The hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Syms) asked about the allocation of funding to PTAs. They will benefit from the new money via the metropolitan districts. We have increased the money by an extra £7 million, which is good news for the PTAs.

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On the other issues raised by London Members, I can offer an assurance that London boroughs will benefit from the extra money. We are still discussing the details with them. On passporting, which was referred to by my hon. Friends the Members for Upminster (Mr. Darvill) and for Hayes and Harlington, we are still talking and are happy to continue to do so until we reach a satisfactory resolution.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 82 to 96 agreed to.

Clause 162

Extension outside United Kingdom

Lords amendment: No. 97, in page 96, line 43, leave out ("unlawfully interfered with") and insert
("interfered with with intent to avoid payment of, or being identified as having failed to pay, a charge")

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

Madam Deputy Speaker: With this we may discuss Lords amendments Nos. 118, 120, 123 to 132, 150 to 160, 164 to 168, 170 to 188, 193 to 196, 198, 200 to 219, and 221 to 235.

Mr. Hill: The amendments cover a wide range of changes to parts III, IV and V of the Bill, none of which, I suggest, is controversial. Some of them are essentially technical. I shall draw the attention of the House to just two of them.

Amendment No. 123 is a valuable measure in support of the Government's road safety strategy. Existing legislation provides the power for school crossing patrols to help school-age children to cross the road. The amendment provides that patrols can assist children of any age to cross, and extends the powers so that patrols can help any adult who needs assistance, such as the elderly. The clause also removes restrictions on the hours when school crossing patrols may operate. That will complete the package of measures to which the Government made a commitment in the 1998 "Integrated Transport" White Paper. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster), whom I am pleased to see in his place, because his earlier amendment on school patrols made it possible for us to develop this more comprehensive measure, which I know he warmly welcomes.

Amendment No. 125 deals with freight facilities grants for shipping. It, too, is a thoroughly useful change, which will extend the existing freight facilities grant to coastal and short sea shipping, as well as extending the scope of inland waterways grants. I hope that it will be welcomed.

Mr. Syms: I welcome what the Minister has said, particularly on grants to coastal shipping. Given what the Dutch and the Belgians do with small, family owned ships that carry a lot of cargo around the coast, and given that we have many ports around our coasts, congestion on our roads and some difficulties with rail, I believe that much more could be done through coastal shipping. Our waterways are heavily underexploited, and everyone in politics should do far more to encourage use of those facilities.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 99 to 110 agreed to.

15 Nov 2000 : Column 1033

After Clause 234

Lords amendment: No. 111, to insert the following new clause--Substitute services to be suitable for disabled passengers--

".--(1) This section applies where--
(a) a person who provides services for the carriage of passengers by railway provides or secures the provision of substitute road services, or
(b) the Authority secures the provision of such services (under an agreement entered into in pursuance of section 202).
(2) In doing so the person or Authority shall ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the substitute road services allow disabled passengers to undertake their journeys safely and in reasonable comfort.
(3) In the event of any failure by the person or Authority to comply with subsection (2), he or it shall be liable to pay damages in respect of any expenditure reasonably incurred, or other loss sustained, by a disabled passenger in consequence of the failure.
(4) The Secretary of State may by order grant exemption from subsection (2) to--
(a) any class or description of persons who provide services for the carriage of passengers by railway, or
(b) any particular person who provides such services,
in respect of all substitute road services or any class or description of such services.
(5) Before making an order under subsection (4) the Secretary of State shall consult--
(a) the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, and
(b) such other representative organisations as he thinks fit.
(6) An order under subsection (4) shall be made by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.
(7) In this section "substitute road services" means services for the carriage of passengers by road which are provided where railway services have been temporarily interrupted or discontinued.
(8) For the purposes of this section a passenger is disabled if he has a disability, or has suffered an injury, which seriously impairs his ability to walk."

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

The amendment is designed to ensure that when substitute road services are provided in place of railway services, the substitutes will be suitable for passengers with mobility problems. The amendment meets an undertaking given in Committee, and I commend this new duty as an honourable advance.

Lords amendment agreed to.

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