House of Commons portcullis
House of Commons
Session 2007 - 08
Publications on the internet
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 ]

1.10 pm
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the order of the Committee [22nd April 2008] be amended as follows:
In paragraph (3), for “4.00 p.m.”, substitute “6.00 p.m.”.— [ Ms Rosie Winterton .]
Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): I rise to place on record my dissatisfaction with this flawed procedure. It seems to me that it would be far more appropriate if the Committee were the master of its own destiny and if, instead of extending the time limit this afternoon, we could choose to sit for an extra day on Tuesday. I am sure that that would be far more convenient to many members of the Committee, who may have evening engagements back in their constituencies, particularly as the one thing that was certain from the outset was that we would finish at 4 o’clock today. Yet as I understand the position, the Committee has no power to decide to sit next week, because of a resolution of the House. It is unfortunate that the Government have placed us in this position.
The Chairman: It might help if I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is signifying objection to the motion or merely commenting on it. Perhaps he might indicate that before we go further.
Mr. Knight: I was commenting on the flawed procedure. If I am forced to decide whether we have totally inadequate time by finishing at 4 o’clock or reasonably inadequate time by going on until 6 o’clock, I will choose the latter.
Question put and agreed to.

Clause 81

Conferral of a power to direct
Question proposed [this day], That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Question again proposed.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Ms Rosie Winterton): I listened carefully to the arguments made this morning by the hon. Member for Wimbledon, and it might help if I address clauses 80 and 81. Clause 80 allows for the delegation of a local authority’s highway or traffic functions to an integrated transport authority to help it to fulfil its strategic responsibility for developing transport policies and planning transport across the ITA area.
Clause 81 offers a lighter-touch approach. It enables an ITA to influence how an area’s local road network is managed without the need formally to delegate functions. Any order giving an ITA the power to give directions would need to specify the roads in the ITA’s area to which the power would apply. It could apply just to roads that carry major bus routes, or the order could list a limited network of the most strategically important local roads in the area. That decision would be made at the point at which an order was made, and the order would have to designate the roads in question. I hope that that helps to clarify the position of what we are trying to achieve.
Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con): I was aware of the position beforehand, but I was seeking reassurance from the Minister that subsections (8) to (11) would give the local authority the ability to send a proposed scheme back to the ITA if it did not take account of local circumstances. Is she saying that those subsections allow that local discretion?
Ms Winterton: When making the order, the local authority would be able to say that it was prepared for the ITA to make directions over particular roads, but it would be at that point and not at a later stage. The idea is to decide which roads might fall under the scheme at the beginning of the process. We will be issuing guidance on the direction-making powers later in the year. That will obviously be open to consultation, and some of the points that the hon. Gentleman makes now could be made then.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 81 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause s 82 and 83 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 84

Dissolution of an integrated transport area
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Stephen Hammond: Clause 84 allows the Secretary of State to make an order to dissolve an integrated transport area and abolish the integrated transport authority. One or more local authorities will then be designated to take over as the local transport authority for the area.
At the moment, it requires a majority of the constituent councils to consent in order to dissolve an ITA. As drafted, the Bill does not require the Secretary of State to nominate the successor body to be a directly elected authority for each part of the former ITA area. It could happen that an authority that formed part of the minority—it might not have consented to the dissolution—found the functions of the ITA being transferred to an authority that had no accountability to the dissenting authority or to the electorate of the area.
I realise that this is a highly technical point, and that that eventually might already be covered, but I look to the Minister to reassure us that if necessary it will be dealt with in guidance or on Report.
Ms Winterton: An order dissolving an ITA would have to designate one or more authorities in the area as local transport authorities in order to take over the responsibilities of the ITA, particularly the duty to produce a transport plan.
Stephen Hammond: The Minister has not answered my point. I understand fully that a local transport authority would be designated, but can she assure me that the local transport area designated to each area of the dissolved ITA would be democratically accountable—that it would be the local transport authority for that area? Under the Bill, the position stated by the Minister is absolutely correct, but that leaves us in the position that local authorities might not have a local transport authority that is the same as it.
Ms Winterton: On dissolution, the responsibilities of the ITA would have to be transferred to an authority. It would not be transferred to another body; a local authority would have to take over the transport functions of the ITA—as in subsection (2)(a).
Stephen Hammond: Yes, again the Minister has not answered my question, but restated the position.
I realise that it is a highly technical point, but I shall write to the Minister to seek reassurance. I do not want to delay the Committee, and I suspect that the subject could lead to a certain amount of discussion.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 84 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 85 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 86

Incidental etc provision
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Stephen Hammond: This morning, when I moved amendment No. 275, part of the Minister’s answer to me was that clause 86 was the part of the Bill that dealt with section 15 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. As I pointed out, the trouble with that is that clause 86 is one of those very wide catch-all clauses.
Clause 86 deals with incidental, consequential, transitional or supplementary provisions and the ability of the Secretary of State to make those as he or she deems necessary. The explanatory notes cite two examples. First, to provide for
“the transfer of property and assets to an”
integrated transport authority
“in consequence of an order...which has delegated certain functions to an ITA.”
So that is clear; it is a consequential provision. The second example cited is,
“in consequence of making an order, for instance to reflect the fact that a new ITA has been established.”
Again, that is clear; there is a need for a transitional provision. However, one might argue that though the consequential and transitional examples that have been given in the explanatory notes are fair, the purpose for which the provisions under the headings “incidental” or “supplementary” would be used is not clear.
I am perfectly aware of what consequential and transitional purposes may be, but I am far from clear as to exactly how the Secretary of State would want to use those provisions in an incidental or a supplementary manner, given that we have throughout the Bill given the Secretary of State extremely wide powers to do as she sees fit, and to include persons and local authorities and to undertake consultations as she sees appropriate. The Secretary of State has wide-ranging discretion already and I cannot see what these powers will be needed for. I am looking for specific examples of why the incidental or supplementary powers are needed. It is an extremely wide-ranging catch-all clause. It implies a potentially huge transfer of power. I am concerned about exactly what the limits to that power are and why the Minister or Secretary of State should need that wide-ranging power.
Ms Winterton: This goes back to the discussion that we had earlier about political balance. The idea of clause 86(1) and (4) is that they would enable a governance order made by the Secretary of State to apply relevant parts of existing legislation to ITAs, including, for example, a requirement for their membership to reflect the political balance of councils in their area. As the hon. Gentleman said earlier, that duty applies to passenger transport authorities under section 15 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. The clause is about giving the Secretary of State the power to put in an order the other parts of existing legislation.
I want to return to the point that the hon. Gentleman made about political balance, because I listened to what he said and I think that it may be possible for us make those issues clearer in the Bill. I would like to take that away and I may come back to that particular issue on Report.
Stephen Hammond: I am grateful to the Minister for that reassurance. I am delighted that for the first time in a very long Committee she has accepted that there may be some merit in one of my amendments. As she heard this morning, it was a wide-ranging concern of the Committee. It will be extremely welcome to hear back from the Minister. I have listened to her explanation of incidental and supplemental. I think that that was where she was going this morning. I am glad that we will get what I was trying to do this morning in the Bill. I will reflect whether incidental and supplemental are really necessary. We may discuss that later.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 86 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Contents Continue
House of Commons 
home page Parliament home page House of 
Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2008
Prepared 9 May 2008