Local Transport Bill [ Lords ]
Procedure for orders under this Chapter
Mr. John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): I beg to move amendment No. 237, in clause 87, page 74, leave out lines 4 to 6 and add
(2) The Secretary of State may not make an order under this Chapter unless the Secretary of State has laid a draft of the order before each House of Parliament and the remaining provisions of this section have been complied with.
(3) The Secretary of State must have regard to
(a) any representations,
(b) any resolution of either House of Parliament; and
(c) any recommendations of a committee of either House of Parliament on the draft order,
made on or with regard to the draft order during the 60-day period.
(4) If, after the expiry of the 60-day period, the Secretary of State wishes to make an order in the terms of the draft, he must lay before Parliament a statement
(a) stating whether any representations were made under subsection (3)(a); and
(b) if any representations were so made, giving details of them.
(5) The Secretary of State may after the laying of such a statement make an order in the terms of the draft if it is first approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.
(6) However, a committee of either House may, at any time after the laying of a statement under subsection (4) and before the draft order is approved by that House under subsection (5), recommend under this subsection that no further proceedings be taken in relation to the draft order.
(7) Where a recommendation is made by a committee of either House under subsection (6) in relation to a draft order, no proceedings may be taken in relation to the draft order in that House under subsection (5) unless the recommendation is, in the same Session, rejected by resolution of that House.
(8) If, after the expiry of the 60-day period, the Secretary of State wishes to make an order consisting of a version of the draft order with material changes, he must lay before Parliament
(a) a revised draft order; and
(b) a statement giving details of
(i) any representations made under subsection (3)(a); and
(ii) the revisions proposed.
(9) The Secretary of State may after laying a revised draft order and statement under subsection (8) make an order in the terms of the revised draft if it is first approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.
(10) However, a committee of either House may, at any time after the revised draft order is laid under subsection (8) and before it is approved by that House under subsection (9), recommend under this subsection that no further proceedings be taken in relation to the revised draft order.
(11) Where a recommendation is made by a committee of either House under subsection (10) in relation to a revised draft order, no proceedings may be taken in relation to the revised draft order in that House under subsection (9) unless the recommendation is, in the same Session, rejected by resolution of that House.
(12) Where a person making representations under subsection (3)(a) has requested the Secretary of State not to disclose them, the Secretary of State must not disclose them under subsections (4)(b) or (8)(b)(i) if or to the extent that to do so would (disregarding any connection with proceedings in Parliament) constitute a breach of confidence actionable by any person.
(13) If information in representations made by a person in response to consultation under subsection (3)(a) relates to another person, the Secretary of State need not disclose the information under subsection (4)(b) or (8)(b)(i) if or to the extent that
(a) it appears to the Secretary of State that the disclosure of that information could adversely affect the interests of that other person; and
(b) the Secretary of State has been unable to obtain the consent of that other person to the disclosure.
(14) Subsections (12) and (13) do not affect any disclosure that is requested by, and made to, a committee of either House of Parliament charged with reporting on the draft order.
(15) For the purposes of subsections (5) and (9) an order is made in the terms of a draft order if it contains no material changes to the provisions of the draft order.
(16) In this section the 60-day period means the period of 60 days beginning with the day on which the draft order was laid before Parliament under subsection (2)..
The amendment is fairly self-explanatory and there has already been lengthy debate about ITAs. The reasons behind the amendment relate back to our discussions about the controversial nature of the ITAs. In line with previous amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes and me, this one would afford greater parliamentary scrutiny of any orders made under this chapter relating to those ITAs.
Graham Stringer (Manchester, Blackley) (Lab): I tabled a similar amendment, which would have the effect of replacing an affirmative order with a regulatory reform order or the super-affirmative process. That is a more appropriate way of dealing with a medium-sized local government reorganisation.
Why is that way better? The Government are proposingafter local consultations which may or may not be controversialto make an affirmative order and local government will be reorganised, so electors will lose their power to elect people who will directly implement certain highways and transport functions. That is a major change in local government.
Is an affirmative order, even after thorough and good local consultation, the right way to do that? Even if there is an hour and halfs debate, it will be whipped. It is just an opportunity, if the ruling party has a majority, for people who disagree to make their case and lose a whipped vote. That does not seem a proper way of dealing with local government reorganisation.
The alternative, which I do not think would be appropriate either, would be to have a Bill, go through the full legislative process and change the primary legislation. There could be two or three such measures a year, perhaps more in some years, which would take a huge amount of parliamentary time.
However, the regulatory reform order answers the question by pointing out the Governments proposals and the obvious alternative of primary legislation, because regulatory reform orders are a different parliamentary pathway for altering primary legislation. I think that is what we are doing. The Government have taken powers. One way of looking at the Bill is that it is one whopping Henry VIII clause that gives the Secretary of State a lot of power to make orders. That does not seem a sensible way to deal with local government reorganisation.
Many hon. Members will not be familiar with the super-affirmative process or regulatory reform order. The process is similar to making an order, but a Committee sits and it is possible for individuals to petition and make representations to alter the order. The Committee is able to call the Secretary of State or the Minister responsible and to ask for changes, so it is a very thorough process in both Houses. When it has been usedI think the process was introduced in 1992it has almost inevitably led to better legislation. It is a recognised parliamentary process for changing
My hon. Friends, and especially the Minister, need a long perspective when they are taking Henry VIII powers. It is easy when one party is in control to think This is good; this will get things done more easily, but the Labour party will not be in control for ever. People may think that I am referring to last weeks elections, but if Opposition Members look at similar debates in Committees on regional assemblies and various other debates in which I have been involved, they will see that I have made that point repeatedly. It is better to have proper procedures that do not merely pay lip service but are part of the democratic process and use the full parliamentary process properly rather than trying to take short cuts. Everybody benefits, whether one is in opposition or government.
It is certainly worth the Minister considering the amendment. It proposes a thorough parliamentary process which addresses, as I have said previously, the fact that the Bill is unbalanced, not in its desire to improve transport but in the way that it treats the local democratic process. The amendment is one way of re-establishing some of the balance. We talked about other ways, such as referendums, vetoes for councils and direct elections earlier this morning. The proposed parliamentary process would re-balance that part of the Bill. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look seriously at a well-established parliamentary procedure for dealing with changes in primary legislation, rather than taking the power to herself or to the Secretary of State.
Ms Winterton: I know how concerned my hon. Friend is about the issue, as we have had a number of discussions about it. I accept that the Bill provides for some quite significant reforms to be made via secondary legislation, but that is why we have provided for the affirmative procedure to apply in those cases, so that all such orders would need to be approved by both Houses of Parliament. That is completely consistent with the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, which looked carefully at the issue, but it noted the procedures and safeguards that were included in the Bill and concluded that
we do not consider these delegations inappropriate.
The powers in the Bill are not unprecedented. To give another example, the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 provides a power to establish unitary authorities in place of existing local authority structures. That power, too, is exercised by secondary legislation subject to affirmative resolution.
I think we have been through the proper procedures in relation to the points made by the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington, and we feel that the provisions are appropriate, given the advice we received from the Committee.
Mr. Leech: I am not persuaded by the Minister on this occasion, and we shall want to return to the matter on Report, so on that basis I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 87 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 8 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the BIll.
Stephen Hammond: I had tabled an amendment to the clause, but because of the bank holiday and my misunderstanding of the rules, it went in too late, so I want to test in the stand-part debate the issues I would have tested with the Minister in that amendment. They are similar to those raised in our earlier stand-part debate, and to what the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley has just been saying. I am looking for some clarification about the provisions of the clause, because they enable the Secretary of State to issue guidance about anything that could be done by a local authority under this chapter; local authorities must then have regard to such guidance.
We have already discussed the issue several times; the power is extremely wide. The chapter covers the change of names and areas; the power to establish; the need for review, which the Secretary of State already has powers to direct; the review of arrangements; which again the Secretary of State has powers to direct; the delegation of powers, which the Secretary of State can direct; the conferral of powers, where the Secretary of State can intercede; and the changing of boundaries and dissolution of areas, where again the Secretary of State can intervene. It seems to me that clause 89 allows the Secretary of State to issue guidance about anything.
The chapter already includes huge powers for the Secretary of State and it is, once again, a wide-ranging catch-all. In extremis, if the Secretary of State fails to gain the affirmative order that we were talking about in relation to the amendment to clause 87, she simply needs to issue guidance that must be taken regard of. The Secretary of State could issue guidance to an ITA, completely ignoring the local authority and the residents feelings, views or wishes, but, more important, she could completely ignore the affirmative order. As the Secretary of State already has huge, wide-ranging powers, can the Minister tell me why, on top of those powers, this provision is needed and can she give some specific examples of the issues it is intended to address?
Mr. Knight: I rise to support my hon. Friend, and to say to him en passant that if the Committee had the power to sit beyond today, his amendment would no longer be starred and we could have had a debate on it, so that adds to my earlier concern about the matter. I would like to hear from the Minister why she feels it necessary to include the provision, because it just seems to be a means of providing central interference in what ought to be local matters. The only possible justification for the clause would be that a Minister wanted a national plan or policy to be pretty much followed in every part of the country. However, when one looks at subsection (3), that supposition is blown out of the water, because it gives the Minister the power to issue completely different guidance to different parts of the country. It states:
Any such guidance may make different provision for different cases and different provision for different areas.
In that case why is she giving Ministers the power to make completely different recommendations to different areas? Is the clause nothing more than a provision to enable continued Whitehall meddling in what ought to be local issues?
Ms Winterton: The right hon. Gentlemen and the hon. Member for Wimbledon need to reflect back on some of their earlier comments about their desire that local authorities consult with passenger user bodies. I have made it very clear that we want to be able to issue guidance to local authorities about the powers that will be exercised under these clauses. We cannot put everything on the face of the Bill: it is a well-established principle that guidance can be issued to assist local authorities
Guidance can assist local authorities in deciding how they might carry out governance reviews, in judging whether existing arrangements are effective or whether there is a need for a greater strategic overview of transport in their area, and in issues relating to consultation. The right hon. Member for East Yorkshire said that, in a sense, there needs to be a greater degree of control over such things. The hon. Member for Wimbledon wants to put that on the face of the Bill, but what we need is the flexibility we can gain through the guidance we are drawing up, which takes into account the views of local authorities, because they say they find that a helpful way of operating. I will return to the right hon. Gentlemans point when I have taken his hon. Friends intervention.
Stephen Hammond: The Minister must concede that we have been consistent, in the passage of the Bill through Committee, in wanting to ensure that there is local consultation and that it is dealt with in the Bill so that all the necessary parties are statutory consultees. It is only the Minister who says she needs guidance. That is not what we have been saying.
Ms Winterton: Let me give an example. The right hon. Member for East Yorkshire said that if there was consultation, it would be appropriate to ensure that people who did not necessarily have access to the internet could look at proposals to set up an ITA or to make a quality contracts scheme. That is not the sort of thing that can be put in the Bill, but it can be put in guidance. The right hon. Gentleman welcomed my assurance that we would take that sort of thing into account.
We issued draft guidance in December 2007. Local authorities have said they find it very helpful in deciding how they might prepare for the enactment of the Bill, and we will be redrafting, revising and expanding that guidance in light of comments received from local authorities and to take account of changes to the Bill as it passes through Parliament.
The right hon. Gentleman asked why there might be different guidance for different parts of the country. Different parts of the country may face different issues. The guidance might be different if we were talking about establishing a new ITA in a rural area as opposed to an urban area. It might be different if we were talking about expanding a different ITA. We have to be able to reflect the fact that local circumstances might dictate a different approach in different areas.
I hope that is a helpful explanation of clause 89, and that the right hon. Gentleman will accept that it is the right approach.
Question put and agreed to .
Clause 89 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 90 and 91 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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