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Session 2007 - 08
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General Committee Debates
Local Transport Bill [Lords]

Local Transport Bill [Lords]

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairmen: David Taylor, † Ann Winterton
Baker, Norman (Lewes) (LD)
Betts, Mr. Clive (Sheffield, Attercliffe) (Lab)
Carswell, Mr. Douglas (Harwich) (Con)
Hammond, Stephen (Wimbledon) (Con)
James, Mrs. Siân C. (Swansea, East) (Lab)
Kidney, Mr. David (Stafford) (Lab)
Knight, Mr. Greg (East Yorkshire) (Con)
Laxton, Mr. Bob (Derby, North) (Lab)
Leech, Mr. John (Manchester, Withington) (LD)
McCarthy, Kerry (Bristol, East) (Lab)
Scott, Mr. Lee (Ilford, North) (Con)
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough) (Lab)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles) (Lab)
Stringer, Graham (Manchester, Blackley) (Lab)
Watts, Mr. Dave (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Minister of State, Department for Transport)
Wright, Jeremy (Rugby and Kenilworth) (Con)
John Benger, Annette Toft, Committee Clerks
† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Thursday 8 May 2008

[Ann Winterton in the Chair]

Local Transport Bill [Lords]

9 am
That the Order of the Committee [22nd April] be varied as follows—
In paragraph (1)(e), for ‘1.00 pm’ substitute ‘1.10 pm’.—[Mr. Watts.]

Clause 73

Power to establish a new ITA
Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con): I beg to move amendment No. 273, in clause 73, page 64, line 6, at end insert—
‘(2A) An order may be made only if all of the constituent councils of the proposed ITA have approved the scheme by means of—
(a) a resolution, and
(b) a public referendum.’.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 10, in clause 73, page 64, line 40, at end insert—
‘(10A) Where all of the constituent councils of a proposed integrated transport area agree a resolution opposing the designation of the area as an integrated transport area the Secretary of State shall not make an order under this section.’.
No. 11, in clause 73, page 64, line 40, at end insert—
‘(10A) The Secretary of State shall not make an order under this section if one or more of the constituent councils of a proposed integrated transport area opposed the designation of the area as an integrated transport area.’.
No. 12, in clause 73, page 64, line 40, at end insert—
‘(10A) Where a majority of the constituent councils of a proposed integrated transport area agree a resolution opposing the designation of the area as an integrated transport area, the Secretary of State shall not make an order under this section.’.
No. 13, in clause 73, page 64, line 45, at end insert—
‘(11A) The Secretary of State shall not make an order under this section unless a referendum of all electors within the boundaries of a proposed integrated transport area has been held and a majority of electors are in favour of the establishment of an integrated transport area.’.
Stephen Hammond: In this part of the Bill, we shall be considering integrated transport authorities, their new powers, how they might come into being, several ways in which their powers may be exercised and restraints on those powers. We shall be looking to probe the Minister in a number of areas for clarification of exactly how the system will work. Amendment No. 273 is grouped with four amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley that are not dissimilar to mine. They would result in a position whereby a new integrated transport authority can be established only with the consent of the local authorities that make up the new integrated transport authority, and that consent could be judged in two ways.
First, the elected members of each local authority could agree a resolution. That would make perfect sense to the elected officials who will serve on the new ITA. It would be wrong if the Secretary of State decided that several local authorities would benefit from being amalgamated into an integrated transport authority, but the elected people—those sitting on the bodies—disagreed. Each and every local authority should agree an affirmative resolution before they are made part of an integrated transport authority.
If I understand the hon. Gentleman’s amendments correctly, amendment No. 10 states that an ITA would not be created if all the constituent councils pass a resolution opposing it. It is slightly different from my amendment, but it is motivated by the same concerns. Under amendment No. 12, an ITA cannot be created even if a majority of councils oppose it, which again is similarly motivated. The second way in which each local area must approve the creation of an integrated transport authority is through a referendum, which is echoed by amendment No. 13. The proposal is motivated by the simple factor that local people are hugely concerned with local transport in their areas and they should, or could, be given a direct say in how their local transport is managed. I look forward to the Minister’s agreeing to establish democratic consent for an integrated transport authority.
Graham Stringer (Manchester, Blackley) (Lab): I will not repeat what the hon. Gentleman has said. I tabled four amendments to elucidate the Government’s thinking about the changes in the local democratic process brought about by the Bill. I support the motivation behind the Bill, which is to improve integrated transport in an area. However, I tabled the amendments because I am worried that, with that drive, the integrated transport authority does not run roughshod over the electors or the local authorities in its area. There is the potential for transfer of real highway authority powers to a body that will not be directly elected and if a local authority is to lose those powers, it should have some say in that matter. Three of the amendments provide that a local authority should have a veto, that it should not lose those powers if it does not want to, or that there should be the agreement of a majority of or all the authorities. The amendments aim to probe the Government’s thinking.
The final amendment addresses the change that removes power from the electorate. At the moment, if the electorate want to dispute a bus lane or if shopkeepers want to ask for better parking, they can do so, or they can vote out the people responsible for such things. If those powers are transferred to an integrated transport authority, the electorate will no longer have a direct power to vote out the people making the decisions. The final amendment provides that if those powers are to be changed, it should be done after a referendum. Really, I am speaking to the amendments to probe the Government’s thinking on the relationship between improving public transport, which I think we all want to do, and the democratic process.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Ms Rosie Winterton): It might help if I explain a little bit of the background to setting up a new integrated transport authority. As clause 73 makes clear, the Secretary of State can make an order establishing a new integrated transport authority and an integrated transport area where the local authorities in that area have carried out a review of existing governance arrangements in their area and have published a scheme proposing that an ITA be set up.
Where a new ITA is to be established, it can usually cover only those geographical areas included in the proposals for a new ITA made by two or more local authorities—county councils, metropolitan district councils and unitary councils. The authorities themselves, having decided that they want a new ITA, would carry out a review of the governance for transport in their area and put it to the Secretary of State. It is very much a bottom-up approach.
Norman Baker (Lewes) (LD): Could the Minister help us by explaining what the situation would be in a city council area that is to go ahead with an ITA where there are, say, five other councils surrounding the city council in a kind of doughnut arrangement? If three or four of those councils wanted to go ahead and one did not, would that one effectively have the opportunity to scupper the scheme, which would become unviable if it did not participate?
Ms Winterton: Councils would not have the right to veto schemes. We would look for evidence that there had been thorough consultation and that the proposed changes would improve transport in the area. What we found during the consultation was that many authorities said that they found it difficult, for example, to introduce bus lanes, because one particular area might say, “We do not want to play.”
If it is obvious that public transport requirements cannot be met, we would want a thorough review of the governance procedures. The only exception to the bottom-up approach would be where the Secretary of State had actually directed authorities not only to undertake a review of all or part of their area, but also to prepare and publish a scheme for the establishment of a new ITA in that area or part of an area. However, we think that would be quite rare. It would have to be very obvious that the provision of transport in the area had failed.
By and large, we expect that local authorities would say that they wanted to improve public or integrated transport in their area and would, therefore, want to carry out their own review and come forward with proposals to the Secretary of State. Furthermore, there is the procedural safeguard in the Bill of consulting representatives of appropriate authorities and the fact that any governance order would be subject to affirmative resolution in the House.
With the safeguards in the Bill and that explanation of how we believe that this would happen, I do not feel that we should be requiring a local referendum when establishing a new ITA. The approach we have taken is the correct one. It is very much a bottom-up approach to improving integrated transport in the area, so I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley and the hon. Member for Wimbledon not to press their amendments.
Norman Baker: Like the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley and others in the Committee, I am in favour of the construction of ITAs and believe that they will deliver benefits to public transport users in the communities they serve. However, there is a need to balance the creation of a more streamlined arrangement with the democratic views of people in the area concerned.
The parallel in my mind, to which we might return later, is the issue of congestion charging and road charging in Manchester, in which a number of local authorities wish to participate and a number do not. There has been an interesting debate as to whether or not the majority can outweigh the minority on the imposition of such a scheme should they wish to do so. The question that applies in that case, and in the provisions we are discussing, is whether, for the greater good, the views of a particular area can be overridden to deliver a comprehensive and sensible scheme, or whether authorities can have a veto.
The Minister says authorities do not have a veto. I understand that they do not have a veto in the formal sense of being able to stop the scheme. However, if there is a key geographical component that must be included to make an ITA work, because of the transport arrangements—the transport corridors—and if the implementation of the scheme would be scuppered by the area not participating, the issue is whether it is right in those circumstances to compel that area to be part of an ITA, whether or not its local elected councillors wanted to participate. The other side of the argument is whether if individuals asserted their right for the local communities not to participate, they would be thwarting the weight of other democratically elected councillors in other areas who want a comprehensive scheme. There is a balance.
I have looked at the four alternatives proposed by the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley. There is not quite one that I would ideally like to vote for. I would not vote for the proposal that there has to be a simple majority—that is a dangerous arrangement—nor is it right that one authority should be able to thwart the implementation of the scheme. There needs to be a higher threshold than one, but less than a majority, whereby perhaps a third of local authorities would need to be opposed to a scheme to exercise an effective veto on it.
Stephen Hammond: Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that if the proposal were structured in such a way that it required say, two-thirds consent, that is what he is looking for in terms of the consent for procedures?
9.15 am
Norman Baker: There is no perfect answer to this, but that is roughly where I am.
The Minister talks about reserve powers whereby a scheme may be imposed, if necessary. It is probably necessary to have those powers for the reasons I have given, so it is important that we fully understand exactly when those powers will be exercised and what opportunities local councils and individuals will have to make their views known. I am uncomfortable with the idea that the views of local areas may be overridden for the greater good, particularly if there is no public referendum or other expression of support.
A referendum may seem over the top, but on the other hand town and parish councils, or town areas, are given the opportunity to have a referendum on all sorts of stuff. We had a referendum in Lewes about three or four years ago on a not terribly important matter because the local authority powers allowed that to occur. Local referendums are already established as a concept and are exercised by communities up and down the country.
If we are to have a referendum, the question is whether it will work on the basis of a simple majority across the proposed ITA area, or whether there will be a referendum in each particular constituent authority, which will also provide a veto. If we have a referendum only on the whole area, that will be no different from having the constituent local authorities. On the other hand, if we have a referendum only in one area, we will have the same problem with the veto that I referred to a moment ago. There is no simple solution to the problem, but it is an important matter to get right from day one. Otherwise, there will be a danger of having complaints further down the line about lack of democracy.
Stephen Hammond: I have listened carefully to the debate and I think that we probably need more reassurance, but having listened to the Minister I do not intend to press the amendment. I shall go away and look closely at her answer and at our discussion. Perhaps we might discuss the matter on Report to ensure that we have the right balance between the ITA and local authorities. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Graham Stringer: I beg to move amendment No. 9, in clause 73, page 64, leave out lines 29 to 32 and insert
‘that all members of an ITA shall be elected by a ballot of all the electors within the boundary of the proposed integrated transport area.’.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 274, in clause 73, page 64, line 29, leave out ‘for a majority of’.
No. 275, in clause 73, page 64, line 32, at end insert ‘, and
(c) for those members to be appointed from among the 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’.
No. 139, in clause 78, page 68, line 29, after ‘member)’, insert
‘, and for the ITA to determine what matters members of the ITA who are not elected members of the ITA’s constituent councils may not vote on (which may include any matters relating to the funding or expenditure of the ITA, whether of a capital or revenue nature).’.
No. 238, in clause 78, page 68, line 29, after ‘member’, insert
‘, but which arrangements must provide that members of the ITA who are not elected members of the ITA’s constituent councils may not have a vote’.
No. 286, in clause 78, page 68, line 34, leave out ‘for a majority of’.
No. 140, in clause 78, page 68, line 35, after ‘councils’, insert ‘from among their elected members’.
No. 287, in clause 78, page 68, line 35, leave out ‘and’.
No. 141, in clause 78, page 68, line 36, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—
‘(b) for all other members of the ITA to be appointed by it (whether or not on the nomination of any other person or body).’.
No. 288, in clause 78, page 68, line 37, at end insert ‘, and
(c) for those members to be appointed from among the 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’.
Graham Stringer: The amendment tries to deal with the problem we have just discussed, but from the other end. The reason we do not have integrated transport authorities goes back to the abolition of the metropolitan counties in the mid-1980s. What the Bill is trying to do, in many ways imperfectly, is put right some of the problems created by the deregulation of buses and the democratic deficit left by the abolition of the met counties.
I listened carefully to my right hon. Friend’s reply on the previous amendment, dealing with how to create ITAs. I believe that, although it is not her intention, it will be possible on controversial issues to repress the strongly held wishes of both the electorate and councils in those policy areas. This is about more than bus lanes—there are good and bad bus lanes and not all proposed bus lanes are right, but at the heart of the debate in Greater Manchester, as the hon. Member for Lewes said in the previous debate, is a new tax for going into the centre of Manchester.
It is proposed that, before that happens, Bolton council will hold its own referendums. That council is under no overall control, but its elected representatives feel so strongly that this is a difficult issue that they will put it to their own people. Bury—now a Conservative controlled authority—motivated by concern about this new tax, has sufficient signatures to trigger a ballot to decide whether to have an elected mayor. There is no doubt that behind that is dissatisfaction with the position previously taken on the congestion charge.
I was not totally satisfied—I think we shall return to this issue on Report—with all the parliamentary mechanisms that involve the local electorate, but there is another way of dealing with it, which used to be there and is now here in London, whereby direct elections are allowed. I have not yet heard the argument—if one is going to create these powerful ITAs—in favour of secondarily elected members rather than directly elected ones.
We opposed very strongly the abolition of the metropolitan county councils, but there is an opportunity now to ensure that—in the best possible way, which is by having direct elections—if the electorate do not like the transport schemes, the bus lanes or the new taxes, they can throw the rascals out.
The Government need to give a serious response to this probing amendment and explain why it is not currently their view that we should have direct elections. There are three issues: how to get to an ITA while consulting the people—I worry about the consultation process and the repression of electorates and councils; having direct elections; and, finally, the parliamentary process, which we will come to later. For what is a local government reorganisation, having one affirmative resolution as the procedure is not good enough.
I do not mind at which end of the process the matter is tackled from, but there is insufficient balance between the generally good idea of having ITAs and the democratic process, either in this place or with the electorate or district councils.
Norman Baker: I rise to speak to amendment No. 238, which relates to another clause but is tangential to the points just made. It is very important that the ITAs are as democratic and accountable as possible. It concerns me that we might have individuals on ITAs who are not elected, but appointed, and exercising perhaps disproportionate power. It is possible for an ITA—theoretically, at least—to have members appointed who are sympathetic to its views, in order perhaps to thwart the result of a forthcoming election, which may change the political balance in any particular area.
For that reason, my amendment No. 238 suggests that, while there should be no restriction on those who are added to an ITA who may have relevant experience, the only people who should exercise votes are those who are elected members of the ITA’s constituent councils. The vote should not be extended to those who are simply appointed.
Stephen Hammond: I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley and I share a number of his concerns about consultation the and establishment of ITAs and about the need to ensure democratic accountability and proper democratic representation on these bodies.
I will not repeat what the hon. Gentleman said about the possibility of having separate elections. Although we have them in London, as he said, those people fulfil more than a function of the authority of the ITA. My amendments Nos. 275 and 288 go to the same point, but through a different way. They would ensure that an ITA reflected the political make-up of the underlying councils. Again, that would protect the public’s wish to see proper accountability and representation.
The amendments would also offer protection in that a political party, of whatever hue, with a slim majority on a local authority could appoint only its members to an ITA. Ensuring that there is political proportionality in the representation on the body would protect the views of the electorate in an area and, indeed, views overall.
Norman Baker: I agree with the point that the hon. Gentleman is making, but does he accept that it could still be thwarted unless my amendment No. 238 is adopted?
Stephen Hammond: Potentially, but I am not absolutely certain. What we have is local people voting for their councillors; it is an open and democratic process. This time last week, all of us were heavily involved in that process in various parts of the country. In areas where there is no ITA, local people elect their councillors, who go on to implement local policy such as that on transport authorities. Therefore, in ITA areas that process, or something similar to it, is preserved. My amendments would achieve that by ensuring that the members of the ITA who make and implement the transport policy were drawn from a pool of locally elected councillors. I question the need for direct elections, although I understand that that process would have even greater direct linkage.
We have a process whereby elected officials can sit in a democratically accountable way on an ITA, but unless the ITA reflects the political proportionality, democratic representation and democratic consent are removed. The issue boils down to democratic accountability.
Having seen the range of amendments on the issue, the Minister will be aware of the concerns among members of the Committee. I look to her for reassurance, but I give notice that if I do not feel that she has reassured us, I shall push amendment No. 275 to a vote.
Ms Winterton: It is important that ITAs are properly accountable to local people. Clause 73(8) requires a majority of the members of each new ITA to be elected representatives from the councils that make up the ITA area.
If authorities were carrying out a governance review in their area, they could propose that all members of the ITA should be local authority representatives, if that is what they desire. I know from discussions that I have had around the country that some people in some areas with existing passenger transport executives—which, by the way already work under a system of, in a sense, indirect representation—might want to have a passenger representative sitting on the transport authority. Through the Bill, we are trying to give that flexibility, but also to say that the majority must be elected members.
In terms of political balance, existing PTAs are already subject to section 15 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, which requires that the political balance of the local authority representatives who sit on a PTA reflect the political balance of the constituent councils, which make up the passenger transport area. Any governance order establishing a new ITA could apply section 15 to the ITAs.
Stephen Hammond: Where in the Bill are the provisions of section 15 of the 1989 Act, putting that protection clearly in place?
Ms Winterton: The power to make the necessary provision is in clause 86.
There has perhaps been some expression of feeling that each transport authority should be represented on the ITA. I am prepared to look at whether we might require that in the Bill. I am happy to consider the issue and perhaps return to it on Report. Overall, however, I feel that the current provision allows for that democratic representation and for the majority of members to be democratically elected people from constituent councils. Therefore, I feel that the amendments are unnecessary.
9.30 am
Norman Baker: I do not object to the idea that a passenger representative should be on the ITA; the issue for me is whether they should have a vote. Is it not possible to have an arrangement whereby that expertise is available, but cannot skew any vote? The passenger representative would be there in a non-voting capacity.
Graham Stringer: I am listening to the Minister’s comments. In local government there is a lot of experience of having co-opted or non-elected members on police authorities and education committees and, in the past, on social services committees. How can political balance be maintained if the ITA has non-elected members who may well have political allegiances, but those have not been put to the test with the electorate? That has been the experience of police authorities: magistrates have had political allegiances and have changed the political balance on those bodies.
Ms Winterton: The people drawing up the governance order may wish to maintain political balance under section 15 of the 1989 Act, but again that is up to individual authorities to decide. They may decide that they want to co-opt other people on to the authority, and they may say in their governance order that they want a political balance in those co-opted members. There are ways to achieve that through the public appointments process, as I know well from the national health service. However, we want that flexibility so that local authorities considering governance in their area can decide for themselves the best approach.
Norman Baker: I am sorry to press the point, but it is important. Let us suppose that one party has a slim majority over another on the ITA but believes, because of the national situation or whatever, that it will lose support at the next local elections, thus changing the political balance on the ITA. What in the Minister’s arrangements would prevent the ITA from appointing a large number of co-opted members who are, in effect, party stooges, to thwart the wishes of the electorate at the forthcoming local elections?
Ms Winterton: Obviously, there are PTAs where political balance may change—I think we have that in our own area, in South Yorkshire. It comes back to the drawing up of the governance order in the first place. I am sure that there would be discussions during the drawing up of a governance order, because the process is that the local authorities concerned decide how they feel governance could best be improved. The proposal goes to the Secretary of State and then to Parliament for a decision under the affirmative resolution procedure. I am sure that if, during that process, it was felt that there was an attempt to try to skew things for the future, that would be reflected in the debates in the House. It is not necessarily always possible to prevent some of the problems that we are discussing. It may be that, as a result of that, those coming forward with governance orders might not want co-opted members to have voting rights, for example, although they might wish them to sit on the authority. Our aim is to achieve what people feel is the best approach for their own area.
Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe) (Lab): To pick up the point that the hon. Member for Lewes made, the police authority is in some ways a model for how things should work, or how they could work badly, for an integrated transport authority. The elected members from the various constituent councils are put on the police authority in proportion to the political balance of those councils. That balance changes after an election, and the council will then review membership. However, the so-called independent members of police authorities are elected for a period of time and could, therefore, alter the political balance of that authority, irrespective of what happens at local elections for constituent councils. Therefore, if an ITA co-opted members, stuffing it full of members of one political party, that could negate the effects of elections in the constituent councils in coming years.
Ms Winterton: What we have done with safeguards in the Bill is to say that the majority should be elected members. It is difficult to anticipate further down the line. We have to accept, as democratically elected people, that sometimes the political balances, even on existing PTAs, may change. We have to accept that. We cannot get away from that, nor should we necessarily want to. However, section 15 of the 1989 Act requires appointments to be reviewed as soon as practicable after any occasion on which changes in political balance occur. There are some safeguards, which emphasise the importance of the democratically elected side, saying, in a sense, that if the political balance changes within councils, then that should be reflected at integrated transport authority level.
There are, of course, no easy answers. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley believes that there should be direct elections to all the authorities, but we do not think that that is appropriate. We are trying to devolve decision making to local level and to enable local authorities to decide what is best in their area. There is no requirement for authorities to co-opt if they do not want to, nor is there a requirement to give co-opted members voting rights. The only requirement is that the majority should be elected members. I hope that with that reassurance my hon. Friend will withdraw his amendment.
Norman Baker: At the appropriate juncture, I would like the Committee to vote on amendment No. 238.
Graham Stringer: I am not particularly wedded to any of the remedies proposed here or in later amendments, be they referendums, which I am normally sceptical about, or direct elections, which create two tiers—there are real problems with that. I am not against having co-opted or appointed members on those bodies. What I am concerned about is that, throughout the Bill, the balance between the electorate, constituent councils and the need to make really quite difficult decisions is not correct. I hope my right hon. Friend will reflect on that, particularly when we come to consider the parliamentary process later.
I was also concerned by the answers to these problems of political balance. If four or five parties are represented on a council, it would be difficult to reflect that if there were only one or two elected representatives on an authority. It may actually be quite difficult to ensure that representation is proportionate.
Stephen Hammond: The hon. Gentleman is, of course, exactly right that there may not be absolute proportionality, but there are, as we both know, accepted proportionality rules already in place for appointments of councillors to outside bodies, and those rules could apply equally well to ITAs.
Graham Stringer: I accept that point and I think that those rules should apply to ITAs. I was really making another point—that even in that system, for instance, 10 per cent. of every council in an area such as Greater Manchester could agree that it would never get representation on the overall body because that is how it works. So it may end up with some unfairness within the system that is difficult to see how to correct. I think that should be looked at.
I am concerned that, once a structure has been set up that allows appointed members, they could change that political balance. I hope my right hon. Friend will look seriously at this. There is the possibility, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe said, of an outgoing administration trying to load the authority, which would be reprehensible. I suspect we would quickly pass primary legislation to stop it, if that happened, whichever political party was responsible. Politicians are in the business we are in to win power, and these things happen—I have seen it happen.
However, rather than the stooges of the Labour party, the Conservative party or the Liberal Democrats being appointed to ITAs, it is much more likely that “experts” will be appointed, on the model of Transport for London. Those experts, as we discussed on the first day in Committee, may well have very strong views about the levels of bus fares and taxation, on the congestion charge, and on the level of investment, and it seems to me that that could change the balance. It seems wrong to me—I would be grateful if my right hon. Friend could reply to this, or cogitate on it—for those appointed members to be able to vote on the levels of taxation, congestion charge and bus fares, which they would have the power to do in quality partnerships and quality contracts, and the level of investment. All those issues have direct consequences for council tax payer—and income tax payers for that matter, given where most of the money comes from. Overall, the balance of packages to make the good measures in the Bill work, is wrong, and I hope my right hon. Friend will think hard on that before Report.
9.45 am
Stephen Hammond: I want to test the Minister one more time. I was initially listening to her very carefully and I thought I was going to be persuaded by her arguments that my amendment No. 274 was actually wrong-headed and that the need for flexibility and local decision making should be preserved. I think that that argument is right, but having listened to some of the points made by the hon. Members for Lewes, for Sheffield, Attercliffe and for Manchester, Blackley, it seems to me that I should have preserved amendment No. 274 and had a new paragraph (c) that would allow co-opted appointees to be non-voting members. I therefore hope that, having heard all the arguments and not only her arguments for flexibility, the Minister will reflect on that and consider the powerful points made by the Committee.
I asked, where is section 15 of the 1989 Act mentioned in the Bill? The Minister’s answer was that it is in clause 86. Clause 86 is a wide-ranging catch-all clause that I want to explore in some depth when we come to it. I am therefore not reassured by the right hon. Lady’s answer and wish to push amendment No. 275 to a vote.
Graham Stringer: I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment proposed: No. 275, in clause 73, page 64, line 32, at end insert ‘, and
(c) for those members to be appointed from among the 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.]
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 10.
Division No. 16 ]
Baker, Norman
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Hammond, Stephen
Scott, Mr. Lee
Wright, Jeremy
Betts, Mr. Clive
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Kidney, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
McCarthy, Kerry
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Stewart, Ian
Stringer, Graham
Watts, Mr. Dave
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Question accordingly negatived.
Stephen Hammond: I beg to move amendment No. 276, in clause 73, page 64, line 38, leave out ‘and’ and insert—
‘(aa) the Public Transport Users’ Committee for England,
(ab) the Rail Passengers’ Council, and’.
Consultation is a recurring theme in my amendments. It seems to me that there is real inconsistency throughout the Bill when it comes to consultation. In some areas, the Government have produced a relatively long and complete list of people who should be consulted. In other areas, the list is extremely short and we have the catch-all phrase, “as the Secretary of State sees fit”. This clause falls into the second category.
The creation of an integrated transport authority is an extremely important move. We have all agreed that it could present some laudable benefits for the local area. It will have a wide-ranging effect on the provision of local public transport and thus on the everyday lives of thousands. As for whom the Secretary of State is obliged to consult, it strikes me that
“such representative of the appropriate authorities”
Those two organisations were set up specifically to represent the views of users, and they are ideally placed to provide useful, sensible and constructive input into the decision-making process. I accept that the amendment would put a further obligation on the Secretary of State to consult not only local government, but the new Public Transport Users Committee for England—which will become Passenger Focus—and the Rail Passengers Council, but the burden would not be particularly onerous. It would not be a problem for her. The amendment is uncontroversial. It is utterly sensible and I am sure that the Minister will agree with me.
Ms Winterton: I accept that the hon. Gentleman is continuing his campaign for consultation. Obviously, passenger representative bodies have a valid interest in the setting up of the new ITAs, but as I explained, the problem with specifying individual bodies in legislation is that naturally many other important organisations will consider that they, too, should have been included.
Stephen Hammond: My amendment would not preclude any other important bodies from being consulted, but merely states that those two very important organisations that represent users should be consulted.
Ms Winterton: Of course I accept that, but my argument stands. If the House passes the Bill, we shall publish guidance on governance reviews later in the year, which will emphasise the importance of authorities consulting widely on their proposals for governance change. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall draw attention to bodies of the type that should be consulted. With that assurance, I hope that he will withdraw the amendment.
Stephen Hammond: I have listened carefully to the Minister. I am sure that we shall often have similar discussions. I accept her argument in part, but unfortunately I do not seem to be making any great progress in persuading her of my point. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 73 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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