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The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) made an important contribution. I was fortunate enough to serve on the Railways Bill in the run-up to the 2005 election. Much of the debate that we have had this afternoon was rehearsed at that time. There were grave concerns about the extent of the Mayors powers and the possibility of his tentacles reaching beyond the boundaries of Greater London. Some of those misgivings have been echoed by my colleagues who have expressed concern about the antics
of Transport for London, but there are more important constitutional issues, which the hon. Lady raised in her contribution.
It would seem strange if, in my constituency, where both Paddington and Victoria stations are located, I had no say on transport matters. That is the result of devolution in London. Many transport issues do not fall within the ambit of Members of Parliament, even those with London seats. I would have no say about anything going on in my constituency in relation to Victoria or Paddington, but I would potentially have a much greater say about anything going on in Windsor or Reading, down in Sussex or beyond. That seems a strange precedent to set.
For that reason, when we considered the Railways Bill a strong case was made here and in another place to ensure that the Government removed the clauses that they now seek to insert in this Bill. As the Minister knows, the deal to remove the clauses expanding mayoral power was done in the run-up to the 2005 election. They caused grave concern not only about the expansion of the Mayors remit beyond Greater London, but about how, without getting into great politically partisan difficulties, he would be able to appoint a range of new advisers for the TFL board or the board representing areas beyond that.
I want to say a word about pedicabs, which were mentioned earlier by the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich. It is to be regretted that my new clause 13 has not been selected for debate today. The matter was not debated in Committee, either. I understand that on advice from the Clerks, new clause 13 was considered to be out of order. However, the problem is a real one, and Transport for London and other transport bodies recognise that there is an increasing number of unregistered pedicabs, especially in the west end of Londonsome 300 or 400, and probably more in the months and years ahead.
I suspect that we are only a short distance away from the first fatality, when there will no doubt be a big hue and cry. I do not wish to blame the Government on this. Having had the opportunity to speak to the Ministers colleague, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Lincoln (Gillian Merron), I know that she too would like something put on to the statute book in double quick time. I am sorry that we were unable to use that as a device to get such a provision into this Bill. I implore the Minister to use the earliest opportunity to ensure that we have a proper registration process for pedicabs before some terrible accident happens, which will reflect very badly on legislators in this House and beyond.
Robert Neill: I want to return briefly to transport issues and the TFL board. Before I do so, let me say that I agree with the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) that the Mayor should get his own house in order first. In dealing with integrated transport systems in London, he could, for example, use his existing leverage to achieve a better alignment of bus and off-peak rail fares to make better use of the surplus capacity on some of the suburban lines within London, which he has declined to do, instead of seeking to extend his geographical tentacles beyond the M25.
My main concern is about the TFL board. I accept that the Minister is taking a step in the right direction, but it is a very small step. The reason why I asked him how the representatives of principal councils are to be appointed and how balance is to be achieved is that although the Mayor is responsible for transport strategy, in practice it is delivered by a partnership between TFL and the boroughs. The boroughs are still key playersthey administer and deal with the vast majority of the road network. We often find that there are problems with the interface between TFL roads and borough roads. Regrettably, throughout the seven years for which it has existed, TFL has persisted in trying to act as though it exists in isolation, hardly ever consulting the boroughs.
A simple example of that arose before I came into this House, when my name was briefly taken in vain. My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) raised with the then responsible Minister the farce that arose in the Coney Hall area of Beckenham when the A232 was dug up by TFL, putting a couple of local businesses out of business and completely disrupting and shutting off the shopping centre, and he responded to the effect that I had been involved in that as the assembly member concerned. TFL, which had not consulted at all with the London borough of Bromley about closing off this major road, promised to take on board the problems that had arisen and to undertake some works to remedy the damage that had been done to Coney Hall as a shopping centre. People were turning up and finding that the access to their place of business was closed off overnight. I attended a site meeting with my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham and local councillorsit was also attended by a senior officer who was one of the directors of TFLwhere it was accepted that an error had been made, lessons had been learned, and that it would consult in future.
That was in September 2005. Only a week or so ago, a piece of paper from TFL came across my desk at City hall proposing a scheme for realignments of exactly the same piece of road. Had it consulted the London borough of Bromley? Of course not. The better part of two years has gone by, and it is making exactly the same errors. There is real concern that those at TFL are the Bourbons of London government, because they forget nothing and learn nothing. They do that because they feel that they are answerable only to the Mayor and have no responsibility to answer to the boroughs. Putting borough representatives on the board would make them recognise that they have a responsibility to answer to the boroughs as well.
Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Con): There are some good, professional officers at TFL. However, is it not interesting that other Members are saying that the devolutionary settlement does not give them, as MPs, the opportunity to contribute on these issues? Is it not the case that London assembly members, who have supposedly had this responsibility devolved to them, are not consulted either? In reality, the issue is to do with the quality of culture on consultation with Transport for London as a whole. It would be a mistake for Members to believe that somehow Assembly members had been granted that role.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He and I know that the only way that we were able as
constituency Assembly members to get a foot in the door with Transport for London was physically thatthrough jamming our feet in the door, forcing our way through and demanding that we be consulted. That is not a satisfactory way of doing things. That is why one would have hoped for much stronger provision in the Bill to ensure that the appointments of representatives of the principal councils are agreed with the representative body of local government in London. I would have hoped for a few more than a token two members so that there were people who could speak unequivocally on behalf of the boroughsappointed by the boroughs and ultimately answerable to the boroughsrather than having just two people who happen to be borough councillors whom the Mayor finds it convenient to appoint because they will not argue too much with him or rock the boat.
Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): I welcome my hon. Friends characterisation of Transport for London as unaccountable and out of touch in many ways with areas such as Enfield, Southgate. My hon. Friend mentioned a specific example, but I would cite a routine example, as Transport for London routinely imposes bus stopsin Southgate and, no doubt, throughout London boroughswithout consultation either with London boroughs themselves or with the community. A wider example is the north circular road, as TFL is responsible for both houses and the road itself. For many years it has been blighted and the latest plan shows starkly how unaccountable is TFL and how unresponsive it is to the areas needs.
Robert Neill: My hon. Friend makes a very important point, which demonstrates how our concern on this topic is not with what might seem the arcane and rather formalistic matter of board consultation, but with the actual culture of the organisation of which the board is the head, which underlies the problem. Bus stops and, in particular, the erection of bus shelters in pursuit of a particularly dogmatic interpretation of the Mayors transport strategy show once again how the boroughs can be ignored. That is a matter of very real concern to us.
Those examples stress the unwillingness of TFL to come out of its own silo and talk or engage with other partners. That is why I hope that the Minister will provide some reassurance that the people appointed under the new provisions will actually speak for London government and London councils. If that assurance cannot be provided, some of us may decide to look into the problem again in other places, as it is not yet satisfactory.
Finally, I, too, am saddened by the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), but I congratulate the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) on having achieved the Brake laws. As those who followed the progress of the Bill in Committee will know, that means that I am going to have to break itplease forgive the punto my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath that whereas his mother and mine remain disappointed, the mother of the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington has been favoured by her
son managing to get the Minister to give ground. Despite the best of our endeavours and our eloquence, the rest of us have not yet achieved that.
Jim Fitzpatrick: It was remiss of me not to make reference to the absence of the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove). I agree with the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) that we shall all miss him, but perhaps not miss the reminiscences of the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, North (Joan Ryan) regarding the Aberdeen football team of 1970or whatever year it was. I made some grandiose claims on behalf of my own team and that of the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), but sadly they were very wide of the mark. I hope that my politics is far more accurate.
The hon. Member for Beckenham raised a question about mayoral strategies being ready in advance of the May 2008 elections and about the coincidence of timing. I would have thought that the Opposition parties would be pleased at having the opportunity to see the Mayors strategies in advance of an election. I would have thought that they would believe that it was to their advantage to see the Mayors plans because it gives them a platform to campaign against, rather than not having such an opportunity, leaving them to ask questions about why the plans were not ready and what people were actually being asked to vote for. The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) made the point that, on balance, we are happy that the Mayor will be able to produce strategies, because Londoners will be able to vote on the policies and proposals rather than on more abstract concepts.
The question of pedicabs was also raised by the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster. That issue is not covered in the Bill, and I acknowledge his regret that his amendment was not selected for debate. The Government believe that the Bill is not an appropriate vehicle for dealing with the matter as it is a more local issue.
The hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst made some strong points about consultation. Those points were also made by him and other hon. Members in Committee. They have been acknowledged, but we genuinely believe that lifting the bar to political representatives being appointed to the board of Transport for London will have a positive effect on its ability to respond to matters that are appropriately raised with it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) and others mentioned the extension of mayoral powers in regard to the geographical area that the Mayor covers, as opposed to that which he may have extended to him. She also asked about the consultation. The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster explained that the power to grant the Mayor control or influence over rail services outside London is not in the Bill, but was in the Railways Act 2005. The Department for Transport subsequently consulted on the matter last year, and that consultation closed at the end of May 2006. The Mayor has no such powers at present. The Railways Act seeks to provide greater integration, which would allow some additional powers outside London. That
was what the consultation was all about. The Government are still considering the case for extending the Mayors powers over rail, and we will make an announcement on that imminently.
|Column A: Provision inserted into GLA Act 1999||Column B: Provision of this Act||Column C: Provision of GLA Act 1999 for which consultation is effective|
Section 41(1)(bb) (section 41 to apply to health inequalities strategy)
Section 41(1)(bc) (section 41 to apply to London housing strategy)
Section 41(1)(ee) (section 41 to apply to London climate change mitigation and energy strategy)
Section 41(1)(ef) (section 41 to apply to adaptation to climate change strategy for London)
Section 309G(4) (consultation with relevant bodies or persons for purposes of health inequalities strategy)
Section 361B(7) (consultation with certain bodies for purposes of London climate change mitigation and energy strategy)
(2) The London Waste Authority shall have the functions conferred or imposed on it by this Act, or made exercisable by it under this Act, and any reference in this Act to the functions of the London Waste Authority includes a reference to any functions made exercisable by it under this Act.
(6) The control of places provided for the deposit of household waste in Greater London under section 1(1) of the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978 (c. 3) and 51(1)(b) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (c. 43) shall transfer to the London Waste Authority.
(7) The authorities established by Parts 2, 3, 4 and 5 of Schedule 1 to the Waste Regulation and Disposal (Authorities) Order 1985 (S.I., 1985/1884) are dissolved, whereupon any remaining property, rights or liabilities are transferred to the London Waste Authority.
(4) Any guidance or directions issued under subsection (1) must be issued in writing and notified to such officer of the London Waste Authority as it may from time to time nominate to the Mayor for the purpose..
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