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Mr. Betts: In new clause 10, the Government are trying to set a better framework. Some on the Labour Benches are just trying to encourage the Minister to make the framework a little more specific to secure democratic accountability and prevent the misuse of powers.
Finally, I turn to the potential extension of the new PTA areas and the new ITAs. I think that that is a real possibility in south Yorkshire, north Derbyshire, north Nottinghamshire and perhaps even north Lincolnshire. The issue is exciting, because the current PTA boundary ends at the bottom of my garden. There is nothing intrinsically wrong about that, but the problem is that the travel-to-work area does not end there. The travel-to-work area of Sheffield, as a city region, extends into north Derbyshire, north Nottinghamshire and north Lincolnshire. Good relationships are now developing between the various local authorities, which want to come together on issues of transport, and perhaps skills, to consider how they can work together better.
I do not think that everything is sweetness and light between the districts and county in Derbyshire, and elsewhere, about how that will be done; there are some tensions that will have to be talked through. However, the possibility of doing that is a positive and helpful step in the Bill. I ask the Minister to think about the one issue that might be restrictive. I am thinking of representatives of an ITA that incorporated only part of a county but the whole of certain districts within that county, which could happen in, for example, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. In such a case, there would have to be a decision on whether the county or
each individual district was represented on the ITA. Might not making that decision, and saying that only one or the other could have representation, create a further problem for an agreed way forward between the county and districts on those other issues? Will the Minister think about how such a restriction might prove more unhelpful than it need be?
Paul Clark: We have certainly had an interesting discussion about the provisions of integrated transport authoritiesthose that exist and those that we want local authorities to consider as a way forward.
The last comment made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts) was about the representation of districts and counties. He is right that there is a minimum position of there being a representative either from each of the districts or from the county council, by agreement. We are saying that that would be the minimum representation. I shall come back to the other matters that he raised and reflect on other things that he mentioned. I shall try to deal with some of the amendments and then with the issues that have been raised individually.
Amendment No. 11 relates to clause 73, under which the Secretary of State can make an order establishing a new integrated transport authority and integrated transport area where the local authorities in the area have reviewed their existing governance arrangements and have published a scheme that proposes that an ITA be set up. However, let me make it absolutely clear: an ITA to be established can usually cover only those geographical areas included in the proposals for a new ITA put forward by two or more local authoritiescounty councils, metropolitan districts, councils or unitary councils. The only exception to that rule would be in the circumstances that two or more authorities have not only been directed by the Secretary of State to undertake a review of all or part of their area but have been directed by the Secretary of State to prepare and publish a scheme for the establishment of a new ITA in that area or part of that area. I would expect that to be a rare occurrence, if it ever proved necessary at all. However, there might, for instance, be a major difference of opinion between neighbouring authorities that made it impossible for them to decide what area a new ITA should cover, thus holding up a review that could lead to improvements to transport locally.
In those circumstances, a direction by the Secretary of State determining the likely area of an ITA could remove the main blockage to a review going forward. If the local authorities failed to comply with such a direction, the Secretary of State would be able, subject to the procedures and safeguards set out in the Bill, to make an order setting up the new ITA. The Bill already provides several constraints on the Secretary of States power to establish a new ITAfor instance, the procedural safeguard of consulting representatives of appropriate authorities and others. What is more, any governance order setting up a new ITA would need to be approved by this House and by another place.
These safeguards will enable individual local authorities properly to represent the interests of those who live and work in their areas. I am not convinced that requiring a local referendum or the passing of resolutions before an ITA may be established would provide any worthwhile extra protection. It is worth repeating that people using
transport in the area may not always live within the boundaries of the proposed ITA itself, especially where it is an urban area that has a large number of commuters. I hope that my explanation has convinced hon. Members that the safeguard that they are attempting to introduce into the Bill is unnecessary and that they are able to withdraw their amendments.
I turn to the Conservative amendments to new clauses 10 and 11. I have already explained the purposes of the new clauses, one of which is to provide that non-elected members of an ITA should have voting rights only where the existing voting members of that authority agree. This deals with the concern expressed in Committee that having non-elected members could lead to a shift in the political balance of the ITA. That is why, as some right hon. and hon. Members have recognised, we moved to reflect the debate that took place in Committee.
Only those members appointed from among the elected members of the constituent councils.
That is slightly different from the Liberals amendment, which would provide the flexibility that the House does not appear to want. I hope that I will be able to press my amendment at the appropriate time, because the Minister has not given me the reassurance that I sought.
Paul Clark: Amendment No. 13 would mean that non-elected members had no voting rights at all under any circumstances. I have already been through that discussion. The hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Leech) referred to the fact that individual authorities have not yet asked for non-elected members because they have not yet undertaken a review of their governance arrangements in those areas. We are not forcing non-elected voting members on anybodywe are providing the possibility that that can be decided at a local level. We have said that non-elected members cannot vote unless the ITA wants them to do so.
Graham Stringer: My hon. Friend has been courteous throughout this long debate, but could he explain the purpose of transferring to the ITA the power to give non-elected members the power to vote, which is very unusual?
My hon. Friend has mentioned other examples of where this happensfor example, police authorities. If the provision is not widespread, that does not mean that it should not apply and that we should not be far-thinking in getting the arrangements for governance of the transport system in our towns and cities that we think are right and will deliver. One reason for giving non-elected members the power to vote could be to give a voice to passengers from outside the ITA area, such as those who commute to the travel-to-work area. That was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe, who welcomed
the ability to change the boundaries of existing areas because of changing travel-to-work areas. All these measures reflect the changes that have happened over the past 25 years or so while provisions on the Governments arrangements for transport within our major cities have been frozen without the ability to introduce any new ones.
Mr. Truswell: My hon. Friend mentioned the sort of constituency that might be represented by co-opted members who are given the vote, but to whom would they be accountable? Does the situation that he describes override the fears of abuse that have been expressed around the Chamber?
Paul Clark: ITAs are responsible to local authorities and, ultimately, to the people whom they servethe travelling public. I reiterate that this is about making a provision for an ITA to take if it so wishes. If it wants to incorporate and involve non-elected membersfor example, representatives from user groups, operators, or other interested bodies that it thinks would add to its deliberationsthat is one of its powers. The second power is the ability to say, You can vote or you can choose not to vote. It is a matter to be decided locally.
Rob Marris: Many of us would find it much more reassuring if my hon. Friend were able to give the House a commitment on the point about review at election, if I could use that shorthand for Members who have taken part in the debate. Would the voting status of non-elected members who were given a vote by the ITA have to be reviewed by the elected members at the first meeting subsequent to any council elections?
Paul Clark: That might be a good provision to be incorporated within the constitution of an ITA, but I want to talk further about the question of a review after an election. An amendment was tabled by the hon. Member for Wimbledon to new clause 10 that would require that members were appointed precisely in proportion to their representation. This is an example of where the provision would work exactly as my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) says.
As other hon. Members have said, it is unlikely that we would always have a situation where a precise political balance on an appointing council matches the number of appointments that it can make to an ITA. That is why the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 sets out at length the way in which political balance works. Section 15 sets out principles by which appointments can be balanced. When political balance changes, the duty on the appointing authority is to review the representation as soon as is practical thereafter. A review would therefore be going on, even if there was not a change of political balance, because the legislation requires it. Section 15(6) of the 1989 Act deals with non-elected appointees by requiring the number of such appointees to be taken into account.
Mr. Leech: Would the Under-Secretary accept that, compared to the current arrangements for PTAs, the Governments proposals make it far more likely that the composition of an ITA will not reflect the political balance?
Paul Clark: No, I do not accept that because of the safeguards in the Bill that I hope we will pass today, and in the 1989 Act. I do not believe that the proposals would do as the hon. Gentleman describes. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe talked about reflecting population differences in the numbers that could come from each participating authority. That is a possibility, and the relevant ITA could decide to reflect the population on that basis. The effect of further amendments to new clauses 10 and 11 would be to preclude any representation on ITAs other than by elected councillors. The Government believe that non-elected members of the ITA could have an important role to play if the local ITA so decided.
Amendment No. 64, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Graham Stringer), would introduce additional procedures for any orders making changes to existing transport governance arrangements in any part of the country that the Secretary of State might make using his powers in clauses 73 to 91. A key objective of the Bill is to allow local government arrangements to be tailored to meet local needs. In contrast to the current statutory arrangements, which are extremely inflexible, the Bill allows for separate orders to be made to introduce changes in different parts of the country. An order covering the west midlands could include different provisions from one covering Merseyside. That is why provisions cannot be included on the face of the Bill, and need to be left to secondary legislation.
I entirely accept that the Bill provides for significant reforms to be covered in secondary legislation. That is why the affirmative procedure will apply, so that all such orders would need to be approved by both Houses of Parliament. That is entirely consistent with the findings of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in the House of Lords. The Committee considered the issue carefully. It noted the procedures and safeguards that are included in the Bill, and concluded:
we do not consider these delegations inappropriate.
Therefore, I ask my hon. Friend to consider his amendment unnecessary. I think that I have covered all the points raised in the debate, and with that I urge hon. Members to support new clause 10 and to reject the amendments tabled.
(d) for those members to be appointed from among the elected members of the different political parties represented in the constituent councils, in such numbers as to be proportionate to the representation of political parties on those councils. [Stephen Hammond.]
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