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Above all, we need to consider how we can, in the not-too-distant future, secure an improved, fully integrated, robust link between HS1 and HS2. The link should be available for international and domestic services routed through Stratford at the heart of the growing east London economy, and benefiting economies in the midlands, in the north and indeed across the whole country.

4.11 pm

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): I apologise for arriving late for the debate, Madam Deputy Speaker. Thank you for your leniency in allowing me to speak for one minute.

Before the Bill goes into Committee, I just want absolute clarity. Last night, I asked the Minister a question about the Heathrow link. Clause 50 refers to the ability to extend the scheme under a Transport and Works Act order, without the full legislative scrutiny that would be required if a further Bill was introduced to deal with the Heathrow link. I want absolute clarity about whether my interpretation of clause 50 is accurate: could the Secretary of State use the provision to make a Transport and Works Act order to introduce a Heathrow link without full legislation? I ask that because many of my constituents want to petition against the Bill, and we need absolute clarity on which clause we are petitioning against and about whether we should petition against the whole Bill because of its failure to address the Heathrow link as part of a comprehensive package of railway network development.

In addition, I have been through all the inquiries for terminals 4 and 5, as well as various other inquiries, and I was a petitioner in relation to Crossrail the time before last. We found that there was a great inequality of arms in making representations, particularly for small community groups. Will the Government look at whether there is an opportunity for better resourcing not local authorities, which can stand on their own feet, but smaller community groups that represent individual facilities or individual communities? They need assistance of some sort to ensure that they can draw on the full expertise they need during the petitioning process.

4.12 pm

Lilian Greenwood: With the leave of the House, I will start to bring this two-day process to a close. Over the course of more than 10 hours, several right hon. and hon. Members have set out the compelling case for building a new north-south line. Passenger demand has doubled during the past 20 years, and in the west midlands demand has more than trebled. Every day, tens of thousands of commuters are left standing on the approaches to London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. All too often, cities in the midlands and the north have relatively good links to London and relatively poor links to each other. That holds back economic growth and prevents regional commuter economies from developing. On the west coast main line, the busiest and most complex line in the country, the scope to run more trains is almost exhausted.

If we are to achieve balanced economic growth, we must invest in 21st-century transport infrastructure for the midlands and the north, just as successive Governments

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have done for London and the south-east. I very much hope that in 20 years’ time we will see an extensive flow of high-speed services extending beyond the west midlands as part of a fully integrated inter-city network. To achieve that, we need to enable the new Select Committee to proceed with hearing petitions on the phase 1 route, and that means agreeing to the motions.

Right hon. and hon. Members have made important points in the debate. The right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) said that agreeing to the Second Reading has not given this or any future Government carte blanche to ride roughshod over individual concerns. I agree with her. The Committee should listen closely to every petitioner’s individual concerns. That is precisely the point of the forthcoming stage in the hybrid Bill process.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson) has been incredibly tenacious in raising the concerns of his constituents. I was privileged to visit his constituency and to meet some of them. I was pleased when the Government finally conceded that the proposed HS1-HS2 link is wholly inadequate and should be withdrawn. I am also pleased that they have recognised the need to revisit their proposals for Euston station. I hope that, in doing so, they will listen much more carefully to Camden council and the local community, who have, as my right hon. Friend said, responded positively to the outstanding redevelopments at King’s Cross and St Pancras.

The right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Sir John Randall) paid tribute to those who will serve on the Committee. He asked that they have due regard to the impact on wildlife and the environment. Those themes also formed the basis of the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley), who called on the Select Committee to mitigate the environmental consequences of the new line. I hope that in his response to the debate, the Minister will acknowledge that many people inside and outside this House share her concerns about the impacts on biodiversity. I hope that he will reassure Members that those will be fully considered as the Bill proceeds and confirm that the Select Committee may amend the Bill to mitigate the environmental impacts in response to the cases that are made by petitioners.

The right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns) has been a staunch supporter of the high-speed rail project. He brought his detailed knowledge of it to bear in his contribution when he called for the modernisation of the processes for dealing with infrastructure developments of this scale. My hon. Friend the Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins) also demonstrated his long interest in rail issues in his remarks.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) made a compelling case for an integrated network that serves the long-term interests of her city and the wider west midlands region. I hope that the Minister will confirm that future-proofing is within the remit of the Select Committee.

The right hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs Spelman) made many important contributions in the Committee stage of the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Act 2013. She again raised valid questions today.

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My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) is rightly proud of her constituency’s Stratford international station and is ambitious for its future role in our rail network. I know that, like me, she is keen to see the report that HS2 Ltd and Network Rail are producing on the options better to connect the line to High Speed 1. I again ask the Minister to clarify when we can expect that report.

Finally, I trust that the Minister will address the questions that my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) raised on behalf of his constituents who will be affected by the Bill.

It is important that the Committee’s work can begin in earnest because the west coast main line is almost full. There are also capacity constraints on the midland main line and the east coast main line. Although some incremental work can be done to boost seat numbers in the short term, that will not meet future demand or enable new services to be run. There is already a train lengthening programme, but it is worth noting that there are hidden costs to that approach because platforms have to be lengthened and longer depots have to be built. It can also reduce the number of trains that can stop at platforms, so there limits to how far that approach can be pushed. In just a decade, a new line will have to be in place.

Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Transport referred to the building of the original railways almost 200 years ago, which still form the backbone of our network. It is fair to say that the original railways did not always enjoy a good press either. It is worth quoting the words of the promoters of the Liverpool and Manchester railway—the world’s first inter-city line—to Parliament in 1825:

“All I ask you is, not to crush it in its infancy.”

After last night’s vote, I am glad that the first phase of HS2 can go forward with confidence, although much work remains to be done. No one would pretend that the proposed route of HS2 is in its final form. It must be refined where needed and the environmental impact of its construction must be mitigated wherever possible. Labour will keep up the pressure on the Government to ensure that the spending is better managed and the costs brought down wherever possible. The hybrid Bill process has an important part to play in achieving those objectives. We will return to close line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill once the petitioning process is complete. I hope that the House will pass the motions and let that work begin.

4.20 pm

Mr Goodwill: I thank right hon. and hon. Members for their contributions to this important debate. I do not know whether other constituency MPs often feel frustrated, as I do, that many processes such as planning inquiries and the operation of health trusts and other bodies seem to be beyond the control of us as elected Members. In this case, the hybrid Bill Committee at least means that the process will happen within Parliament.

I thank the hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) and her boss, the shadow Secretary of State, for the co-operative way in which we have been able to work together. It has been a little bit like Christmas day on the western front, but no doubt when

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we have Transport questions next Thursday the howitzers will start to roar again across the no man’s land between the two Dispatch Boxes.

Hybrid Bills come along rarely, and changes to their rules and procedures seem to be even rarer, so it is important that these motions receive the House’s full consideration despite the fact that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns) said, they might seem arcane. Members have raised important issues about the Select Committee stage of the process, and I will address the amendments to the motions. I hope that I will allay many of the fears that have been raised, and that none of the amendments will be pressed.

I turn first to the points that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) made about the Heathrow link. I reassure him that Transport and Works Act orders can be applied only to extensions of under 2 km, so the Heathrow spur, which would be much longer than that, cannot be authorised in that way. I hope that sets his mind at rest.

John McDonnell: You’ll do it bit by bit, then.

Mr Goodwill: We would need a very good lawyer to get that passed.

I was interested to hear that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) came from Bavaria. I think a socialist in Bavaria is a very rare breed indeed. She talked about passing a provision for the HS1 link. As I said, it is ultimately for the Committee to decide whether a petition should be heard, and it may choose to hear petitions suggesting that a future link should not be precluded. Its work is on the railway proposal before it, and it cannot get bogged down in considering the merits of links that may or may not happen, but it could certainly consider ruling out any future provision should it choose to do so.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley), who chairs the Environmental Audit Committee, made a number of points about the environment, and I share her ambition to ensure that the environmental impact of the project is minimised. Of course, she is aware that we published a 48,000-page environmental impact report. I recognise the Environmental Audit Committee’s intention, and we are seeking to have no net loss of biodiversity. It is a hugely ambitious scheme, equal to that on any comparable project worldwide. We are building 140 miles of railway, and in biodiversity terms, it will be as though it were not there. In many cases, of course, there will be biodiversity gains. As I think I mentioned to the Committee, in some places where there is arable farming and monoculture we will put in something better than the current oilseed rape or wheat crops, which have little biodiversity and offer little in the way of habitat.

Joan Walley: Does the Minister agree that what the Government and HS2 Ltd intend to do is one thing, but the instructions to the Select Committee on the Bill are a slightly different thing? I would be grateful if he addressed how the Select Committee can be given the flexibility in its remit that it needs.

Mr Goodwill: The Committee will certainly be able to examine how measures in the Bill and the project will affect individual petitioners, and non-governmental

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organisations and other groups will also be able to petition. The overall scheme itself will not be under consideration, however, because it was decided last night.

I reassure the hon. Lady that I am not being dragged kicking and screaming into giving environmental reassurances, and I am keen for us to leave something for future generations. I am very aware of the problems of trying to restore ancient woodland. Unfortunately, 36 hectares of ancient woodland will have to be removed, and we are doing what we can to try to replace that. We cannot replace ancient woodland straight away, but we can do whatever possible to ensure that it regenerates and, in the fullness of time, replace that environment. Indeed, there may be other opportunities. For example, as research goes on to produce ash trees that will be resistant to the big problem of ash dieback that is starting to develop in this country, there will be a good opportunity, as we carry out tree planting, to ensure that there is a new generation of ash trees to replace those lost because of that terrible disease.

Joan Walley: A point was raised about having time on Third Reading to discuss feedback on environmental issues from the Select Committee. Is the Minister able to offer some kind of commitment on that?

Mr Goodwill: Certainly, regarding the hon. Lady’s amendment I can reassure her that that base is already covered. The introduction of Standing Order 224A, which she referred to, means that the amendment is unnecessary as it essentially copies part of the instruction given to the Crossrail Bill Committee at a point when there was no Standing Order 224A. The instruction to that Committee was to ensure that any environmental information in petitions that related to the principle of the Bill and therefore could not be heard by the Committee was reported to the House on Third Reading when the principle of the Bill was reconsidered. I hope that that allays her fears.

Standing Order 224A means that the amendment is not required because it introduces a process of consultation for any supplementary environmental information provided at the Select Committee stage. All consultation responses are summarised by an independent assessor in the same way as they have been for the environmental statement consultation. If a petition includes environmental information that does not touch on the principle of the Bill, it is wholly within the scope of the Committee to consider that. If the Committee considers that some reasonable and practical mitigation could be introduced to address the issue, it will amend the Bill to do so. That is a key part of its role and its conclusions will be included in its special report.

Joan Walley: What expertise and capacity will be available to the members appointed to the Select Committee to assist them in that?

Mr Goodwill: Obviously, within the limitations of the resources made available by the House to the Committee, it can enlist whatever expert advice it wants, just as the hon. Lady’s Committee will have advisors who give it expert and scientific advice and so on. That is a matter

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for the Committee, but I hope it will enlist the best advice to assist it in its work. Indeed, many of the environmental NGOs that produce petitions might themselves be providing what they consider to be expert advice, and it will be up to the Committee to consider how much weight to give it.

We must also comply with directives such as the habitats directive. As a Member for five years of the European Parliament’s environment committee, I was involved in many such directives. Even if some aspects of the project do not come within the scope of the petitions, we must comply with environmental protections that we have agreed at European level.

Mrs Spelman: The Minister mentioned that there would be an independent assessor. Who will that be, and will the Government make use of agencies such as Natural England to provide the kind of advice that the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee suggested would assist the Bill Select Committee in its work?

Mr Goodwill: I am not aware that an assessor has been appointed, and neither do we need to appoint one at this stage. Therefore, I am not able to tell my right hon. Friend who it would be, but under the definition of the word “independent” it would be a person not connected to any vested interest.

When we started this debate my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) touched on the Major Projects Authority report. As we have heard many times from the Dispatch Box, the MPA does not routinely publish its reports on the major projects it scrutinises, and a founding block of the effective function of the MPA is the confidential nature of the reports it produces and the way it can be used as a tool within government to ensure that projects are delivered efficiently.

Mrs Gillan: I understand what the Minister is saying and it is absolutely accurate. What I asked was whether, for the purposes of examining the project in detail, we could treat the Committee members as Ministers and give them confidential access to the MPA reports, so that they can fully see the risks that have been identified by the very body set up by the Government to scrutinise such projects.

Mr Goodwill: The work of the Committee will be done in public and I would be very nervous about giving confidential information of any sort to it. That would not be appropriate. The report that my right hon. Friend refers to is from 2011, so its relevance erodes by the day. I really do not think that it would bring anything to the Committee’s work.

My right hon. Friend mentioned electronic payments, and identified that Parliament’s website has much useful information for petitioners. This includes the information that payment can be made by cash or cheque, and by credit and debit cards except, I am told, American Express.

Mrs Gillan: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way; it is good to be able to have a proper debate. He refers to the MPA report being from 2011, but he must appreciate that the costs being used on the project are also 2011 costs. He says that the Committee will sit in

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public and so he would be nervous about giving its members confidential material. Does that also mean precluding Committee members from having access to the financial information and financial calculations made by HS2 Ltd on, for example, tunnelling activities?

Mr Goodwill: The Committee already has the budget before it. I do not want to add anything to what I have said already.

My right hon. Friend talked about further instructions to the Committee. It is the case that further instructions to the Committee can be made only by a motion in the House. The Government believe that these instructions are correct and we have no plans to change them.

Ms Gisela Stuart: The Minister is on weak ground if he does not make the MPA report available to Committee members and if the Committee does not have access to something so significant. Virtually every Select Committee I have ever been on has, at some stage or other, talked to Ministers and been shown confidential documents.

Mr Goodwill: I am sure that were the Committee to make a request for either this type of report or commercially confidential material it will be considered at that time, but at this stage the Committee has not been formed and no such request has been made.

The right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson), as we heard from his contribution, is a man ahead of his time. His predictions have come to pass—at least the ones that he referred to; he may have made other predictions that have not. I would be keen to have dinner with him at one of the restaurants at Euston and see the problem first hand. Maybe I should go incognito; I suspect he is so well known he could not go incognito. As a fellow Yorkshireman, I suspect that there may be a problem at the end of the meal when we have to decide who is going to pay.

Frank Dobson: I am very happy to take up that invitation. As a fellow Yorkshireman, I suggest we go at lunchtime when there is a brilliant buffet that costs a lot less than eating in the evening.

Mr Goodwill: How could I refuse such an invitation?

The right hon. Gentleman asked whether we could confirm that any new Euston proposals would require a new environmental statement, consultation and petitioning period. The answer is yes. A consultation would be required by Standing Order 224A. The change would then be subject to a new petitioning period.

The right hon. Gentleman also talked about petitioning by business associations. I think I can go further than I did in my intervention. A business is defined in the terms of this measure as an organisation that exists to make money for its owners. A business association would not seem to meet this definition and so would have the longer deadline. I suspect that if he found a different lawyer he would probably get a different result, but that is the position of this Government at this Dispatch Box and I hope those associations will be reassured by that.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs Spelman) talked about the green belt. The Bill includes powers for local authorities to approve plans

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and specifications for the railway, which should ensure that any structures in the green belt are designed sympathetically.

This debate has been an important stage in the progress of this Bill for phase 1. I hope I have explained why many of the amendments are superfluous to the effective operation of the Committee.

Ms Gisela Stuart: I may have missed the Minister’s—very brief—response to my amendment.

Mr Goodwill: The hon. Lady’s amendment was about the link. I made the point that it would be possible to petition to ensure that a link was not obviated, but the link itself, whichever route it might take, was not covered. Therefore, in the same way that we have provision for the Heathrow spur in phase 1, it would be possible to petition to ensure that the construction of phase 1 would not rule out any future link. I thought that was one of the very first points I made—if the hon. Lady was paying attention then.

Lyn Brown: I have paid great attention to everything the Minister has said, both today and yesterday, and I cannot remember hearing the word “Stratford” come from him at the Dispatch Box. Given that I have listened to every word he has said, I am hoping I will be able to add him to my Christmas card list, as he now gives Stratford some confidence.

Mr Goodwill: I am certainly happy to mention Stratford, but Stratford is not within the scope of the Bill at this stage. I made it clear in my opening remarks that this is about constructing a railway from Euston to Birmingham, with the intervening stations and other works, and not, at this stage, about including Stratford. In fact, the Bill does not include Stratford, so perhaps she should get to work on her policy people in the Labour party. I am sure they will be beavering away, busy writing their manifesto, and she might be able to be slightly more persuasive.

It is interesting, because people in Sheffield were keen to make the point to me that they wanted phase 2, which is not within the scope of this Bill, to go into Sheffield city centre, because a station was needed there. I am now being told that stations are needed way out. The idea that we could be served by Stratford and Old Oak Common, without the need for a city centre station, is the exact opposite of what I heard in Sheffield.

Lyn Brown: Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Olympic games were held in Stratford in 2012? The idea that Stratford is “way out” shows that he is himself a little distanced from the reality of what London is. Stratford offers interconnectivity through the rail networks in the east of England and to the north. It also offers economic opportunity. The idea that we will be wandering down roads with our suitcases in the rain shows the limit of his imagination. I would ask him gently—because I like him very much—whether he would reconsider his position.

Mr Goodwill: The hon. Lady makes some very good points, I am sure. I would merely make the point that the distance from Meadowhall station, outside Sheffield, to the centre of Sheffield is less than the distance

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between Stratford and the centre of London. It is interesting that when we talk to cities such as Nottingham, Sheffield and others that are served by parkway stations rather than city centre stations, they see the importance of having a station in the city centre. However, I understand the point she makes about Stratford.

Should the House approve the motions, the matter will move to the Select Committee to start hearing the petitions of those affected by the scheme. This is a crucial moment in the process and one that many have waited many years for. I therefore believe that the House has an obligation to ensure that we swiftly progress to that point. I believe that the motions as drafted provide a fair and reasonable framework for both petitioners and the Committee. As I have said, I do not believe that the proposed amendments would add to the Committee’s ability to hear petitioners or progress its work effectively. Indeed, in some cases the amendments seem to work against the interests of the petitioners and should be rejected. Indeed, as I read them, many of the amendments gave me the impression that they were designed to frustrate the Committee’s work, rather than facilitate it, but maybe that was one of the objectives.

Mrs Gillan: Will the Minister give way?

Mr Goodwill: I am moving to my conclusion. My right hon. Friend was not very generous yesterday, but I will not reciprocate.

Mrs Gillan: No, I was not very generous yesterday; the Minister is right, but it was because I was trying to leave enough time for others to speak in the debate. Let me say to the Minister that none of my amendments was intended to delay. There is a four-hour limit on the debate and the amendments were tabled in good faith to try to elicit more information from the Government. Once again, I remind the Minister that people have been abused in the process to date and I do not want him to continue that from the Dispatch Box.

Mr Goodwill: I merely make the point that if amendments were designed to waive the fee for petitioning while at the same time encouraging electronic petitioning, that could be used by some who seek to frustrate the Bill rather than to work with the Committee, using the provisions as a way of preventing the Committee from carrying out its work.

I commend the motions to the House and urge Members to vote in favour of them and against the amendments.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. I understand that the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) does not intend formally to press any of her amendments. Is that correct?

Mrs Gillan: Yes.

Madam Deputy Speaker: I am grateful to the right hon. Lady.

Question put and agreed to.


1. That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee.

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2. That the following Members be appointed as members of the Select Committee: Mr Henry Bellingham, Sir Peter Bottomley, Ian Mearns, Yasmin Qureshi, Mr Robert Syms and Mr Michael Thornton.

3. (1) That there shall stand referred to the Select Committee—

(a) any Petition against the Bill presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office between 29 April 2014 and the closing date (inclusive), during the hours specified in a notice published by the Private Bill Office, and

(b) any Petition which has been presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office during such hours and in which the Petitioners complain of any amendment as proposed in the filled-up Bill or of any matter which has arisen during the progress of the Bill before the Select Committee, being a Petition in which the Petitioners pray to be heard by themselves or through Counsel or Agents.

(2) The closing date for the purposes of sub-paragraph (1)(a) is-

(a) in a case where the Petition is that of a local authority (except a parish council) or a business, 16 May 2014, and

(b) in any other case, 23 May 2014.

4. That, notwithstanding the practice of the House that appearances on Petitions against an opposed Private Bill be required to be entered at the first meeting of the Select Committee on the Bill, in the case of any such Petitions as are mentioned in paragraph 3(1)(a) above on which appearances are not entered at that meeting, the Select Committee shall appoint a later day or days on which it will require appearances on those Petitions to be entered.

5. That any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Select Committee shall, subject to the Rules and Orders of the House and to the Prayer of that person’s Petition, be entitled to be heard in person or through Counsel or Agents upon that person’s Petition provided that it is prepared and signed in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill shall be entitled to be heard through Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against that Petition.

6. That in applying the Rules of the House in relation to parliamentary agents, any reference to a petitioner in person shall be treated as including a reference to a duly authorised member or officer of an organisation, group or body.

7. That the Select Committee have power to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place and to report from day to day the Minutes of Evidence taken before it.

8. That three be the Quorum of the Select Committee.

High speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill: Instruction


That it be an Instruction to the Select Committee to which the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill is committed to deal with the Bill as follows—

1. The Committee shall, before concluding its proceedings, amend the Bill by

(a) leaving out provision relating to the spur from Old Oak Common to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and

(b) making such amendments to the Bill as it thinks fit in consequence of the amendments made by virtue of sub-paragraph (a).

2. The Committee shall not hear any Petition to the extent that it relates to whether or not there should be a spur from Old Oak Common to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

3.–(1) The Committee shall treat the principle of the Bill, as determined by the House on the Bill’s Second Reading, as comprising the matters mentioned in sub-paragraph (2); and those matters shall accordingly not be at issue during proceedings of the Committee.

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(2) The matters referred to in sub-paragraph (1) are:

(a) the provision of a high speed railway between Euston in London and a junction with the West Coast Main Line at Handsacre in Staffordshire, with a spur from Water Orton in Warwickshire to Curzon Street in Birmingham and intermediate stations at Old Oak Common and Birmingham Interchange, and

(b) in relation to the railway set out on the plans deposited in November 2013 in connection with the Bill in the office of the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Private Bill Office of the House of Commons, its broad route alignment.

That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.—(Mr McLoughlin.)

High speed rail (London - west Midlands) Bill: Carry-Over


That, notwithstanding the practice of the House, the following provisions shall apply to proceedings on the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill:

Suspension at end of this Session

1. Further proceedings on the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill shall be suspended from the day on which this Session of Parliament ends (“the current Session”) until the next Session of Parliament (“Session 2014-15”).

2. If a Bill is presented in Session 2014-15 in the same terms as those in which the Bill stood when proceedings on it were suspended in the current Session–

(a) the Bill so presented shall be ordered to be printed and shall be deemed to have been read the first and second time;

(b) the Bill shall stand committed to a Select Committee of the same Members as the members of the Committee when proceedings on the Bill were suspended in the current Session;

(c) any Instruction of the House to the Committee in the current Session shall be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill in Session 2014-15;

(d) all Petitions presented in the current Session which stand referred to the Committee and which have not been withdrawn, and any Petition presented between the day on which the current Session ends and the day on which proceedings on the Bill are resumed in Session 2014-15 in accordance with this Order, shall stand referred to the Committee in Session 2014-15;

(e) any Minutes of Evidence taken and any papers laid before the Committee in the current Session shall stand referred to the Committee in Session 2014-15;

(f) only those Petitions mentioned in sub-paragraph (d), and any Petition which may be presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office and in which the Petitioners complain of any proposed additional provision or of any matter which has arisen during the progress of the Bill before the Committee in Session 2014-15, shall stand referred to the Committee;

(g) any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Committee in Session 2014-15 shall, subject to the Rules and Orders of the House and to the Prayer of that person’s Petition, be entitled to be heard in person or through Counsel or Agents upon the Petition provided that it is prepared and signed and in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill shall be entitled to be heard through Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against that Petition;

(h) the Committee shall have power to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place, and to report from day to day Minutes of Evidence taken before it;

(i) three shall be the Quorum of the Committee;

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(j) any person registered in the current Session as a parliamentary agent entitled to practise as such in opposing Bills only who, at the time when proceedings on the Bill were suspended in the current Session, was employed in opposing the Bill shall be deemed to have been registered as such a parliamentary agent in Session 2014-15;

(k) the Standing Orders and practice of the House applicable to the Bill, so far as complied with or dispensed with in the current Session, shall be deemed to have been complied with or (as the case may be) dispensed with in Session 2014-15.

Suspension at end of this Parliament

3. If proceedings on the Bill are resumed in accordance with paragraph 2 but are not completed before the end of Session 2014-15, further proceedings on the Bill shall be suspended from the day on which that Session ends until the first Session of the next Parliament (“Session 2015-16”).

4. If a Bill is presented in Session 2015-16 in the same terms as those in which the Bill stood when proceedings on it were suspended in Session 2014-15–

(a) the Bill so presented shall be ordered to be printed and shall be deemed to have been read the first and second time;

(b) the Standing Orders and practice of the House applicable to the Bill, so far as complied with or dispensed with in the current Session or in Session 2014-15, shall be deemed to have been complied with or (as the case may be) dispensed with in Session 2015-16; and

(c) the Bill shall be dealt with in accordance with–

(i) paragraph 5, if proceedings in Select Committee were not completed when proceedings on the Bill were suspended,

(ii) paragraph 6, if proceedings in Public Bill Committee were begun but not completed when proceedings on the Bill were suspended,

(iii) paragraph 7, if the Bill was waiting to be considered when proceedings on it were suspended,

(iv) paragraph 8, if the Bill was waiting for third reading when proceedings on it were suspended, or

(v) paragraph 9, if the Bill has been read the third time and sent to the House of Lords.

5. If this paragraph applies–

(a) the Bill shall stand committed to a Select Committee of such Members as were members of the Committee when proceedings on the Bill were suspended in Session 2014-15;

(b) any Instruction of the House to the Committee in the current Session or in Session 2014-15 shall be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill in Session 2015-16;

(c) all Petitions presented in the current Session or in Session 2014-15 which stand referred to the Committee and which have not been withdrawn, and any Petition presented between the day on which Session 2014-15 ends and the day on which proceedings on the Bill are resumed in Session 2015-16 in accordance with this Order, shall stand referred to the Committee in Session 2015-16;

(d) any Minutes of Evidence taken and any papers laid before the Committee in the current Session or in Session 2014-15 shall stand referred to the Committee in Session 2015-16;

(e) only those Petitions mentioned in sub-paragraph (c), and any Petition which may be presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office and in which the Petitioners complain of any proposed additional provision or of any matter which has arisen during the progress of the Bill before the Committee in Session 2015-16, shall stand referred to the Committee;

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(f) any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Committee in the first Session of the new Parliament shall, subject to the Rules and Orders of the House and to the Prayer of his Petition, be entitled to be heard in person or through Counsel or Agents upon the Petition provided that it is prepared and signed and in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill shall be entitled to be heard through Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against that Petition;

(g) the Committee shall have power to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place, and to report from day to day Minutes of Evidence taken before it;

(h) three shall be the Quorum of the Committee;

(i) any person registered (or deemed by paragraph 2(j) to be registered) in Session 2014-15 as a parliamentary agent entitled to practise as such in opposing Bills only who, at the time when proceedings on the Bill were suspended in Session 2014-15, was employed in opposing the Bill shall be deemed to have been registered as such a parliamentary agent in Session 2015-16.

6. If this paragraph applies, the Bill shall be deemed to have been reported from the Select Committee and to have been re-committed to a Public Bill Committee.

7. If this paragraph applies–

(a) the Bill shall be deemed to have been reported from the Select Committee and from the Public Bill Committee; and

(b) the Bill shall be set down as an order of the day for consideration.

8. If this paragraph applies-

(a) the Bill shall be deemed to have been reported from the Select Committee and from the Public Bill Committee and to have been considered; and

(b) the Bill shall be set down as an order of the day for third reading.

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9. If this paragraph applies, the Bill shall be deemed to have passed through all its stages in this House.


10. The references in paragraphs 1 and 3 above to further proceedings do not include proceedings under Standing Order 224A(8) (deposit of supplementary environmental information).

11. That the above Orders be Standing Orders of the House. —(Mr McLoughlin.)

positions for which additional salaries are payable for the purposes of section 4A(2) of the parliamentary standards act 2009


That the Chair of the select committee appointed to consider the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill is specified for the purposes of section 4A(2) of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009.—(Mr Goodwill.)

defence reform bill: Programme (no.2)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

That the following provisions shall apply to the Defence Reform Bill for the purpose of supplementing the Order of 16 July 2013 (Defence Reform Bill (Programme)):

Consideration of Lords Amendments

Proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion two hours after their commencement at today’s sitting.

Subsequent stages

(1) Any further Message from the Lords may be considered forthwith without any Question being put.

(2) The proceedings on any further Message from the Lords shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement.—(Philip Dunne.)

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Defence Reform Bill

Consideration of Lords Amendments

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): I must draw the House’s attention to the fact that financial privilege is involved in Lords amendment 7. If the House agrees it, I will cause an appropriate entry to be made in the Journal.

Clause 33

Amount of Penalty

4.43 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Philip Dunne): I beg to move, That this House agrees with Lords amendment 1.

Madam Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to consider the following:

Lords amendments 2 to 6.

Lords amendment 7, and amendment (a) thereto.

Mr Dunne: Before we proceed with the debate on the Lords amendments and with your agreement, Madam Deputy Speaker, I am sure that the House will wish to join me in paying tribute to Captain Thomas Clarke, Army Air Corps; Flight Lieutenant Rakesh Chauhan of Joint Helicopter Command, RAF Odiham; Acting Warrant Officer Class 2 Spencer Faulkner, Army Air Corps; Corporal James Walters, Army Air Corps; and Lance Corporal Oliver Thomas, Intelligence Corps, a reservist who worked for one of my hon. Friends in this House. They were killed while on operations in Afghanistan on Saturday 26 April. This appears to be a tragic accident during a routine sortie in Kandahar Province. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the families and colleagues of those who lost their lives. The incident is the subject of a thorough investigation to find out exactly what happened. The House will understand that I am unable to say anything further at this time, pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation into the incident.

4.45 pm

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): I cannot let the Minister’s comments pass without welcoming them and thanking him for them, and, in particular, expressing the sympathy of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party and its researchers and staff following the loss of their friend, who displayed great courage and died in the service of his country.

Mr Dunne: I appreciate and reciprocate that sentiment.

Let me now deal with the Lords amendments. They deal with all three elements of a Bill that introduces a new and significantly stronger regime for the management of single-source contracts, and makes important legislative changes that will enable us to modernise and make better use of our reserve forces. There is a great deal of support for those measures in all parts of the House, as was evident when we discussed all its previous stages here. The Bill also includes the measures that are needed

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to help an effective Government-owned contractor-operated organisation to manage defence equipment and support should a future Government decide to proceed with such an option. I shall return to that shortly.

These are all Government amendments, which were made following detailed consideration of the Bill both in this House and in the Lords. Although they deal with different parts of the Bill, they have a common theme: they either provide Parliament with further information relating to the implementation of defence policy, or strengthen parliamentary oversight of future legislation. That, I think, is right, and it reflects the Government’s commitment to ensuring that Parliament has a greater role in the scrutiny of the Executive. The amendments demonstrate that we have listened to the concerns that were raised about issues covered by the Bill, particularly in the other place, and that we have responded accordingly.

Lords amendment 6 fulfils a commitment given on Report in this House, on 20 November, to make it a statutory requirement to report annually on the state of the reserve forces, while Lords amendment 7 reflects the debate in the other place about parliamentary involvement in any future decision to proceed with a GoCo proposal requiring the provisions in part 1 of the Bill. The amendments will strengthen the parliamentary oversight of future defence plans, and I hope that they will be widely welcomed.

Lords amendments 1 to 5 relate to part 2, which concerns single-source procurement. They were made in response to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee’s report on the Bill, which was published on 20 December last year. I am grateful to the Committee for its report, and for the excellent work that it does in ensuring that any proposed delegated powers are appropriate.

The Committee recommended that the first set of single-source contract regulations should be debated and agreed by Parliament. It also recommended that certain of the regulations—namely those relating to the definition of a qualifying defence contract and to the penalty amounts applied under clause 32 of the Bill—should always be subject to the affirmative procedure. Those recommendations are reflected in Lords amendment 5, and Lords amendments 1, 2, 3 and 4 make the necessary consequential changes that arise from that amendment.

Lords amendment 6 would require reserve associations to report annually to the Secretary of State on the condition of the volunteer reserve forces, and for their reports to be laid before Parliament. The reports would include the associations’ assessment both of the capabilities of the reserve forces, and of the provision made in relation to the mental welfare of their members and former members. The amendment delivers on the commitment given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on Report in this House last November. Members will recall that we had a substantial debate at that stage, initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr Brazier)—it is good to see him in the Chamber—about the state of our reserve forces, and the need to report regularly to Parliament on the issue. The amendment enshrines in law the requirement to produce such a report.

Members may be interested to know that on 10 April I had the privilege of attending the West Midlands Reserve Forces and Cadets Association annual dinner.

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Their knowledge and enthusiasm for the reserves was palpable and I am glad we will have such expertise reporting to the Secretary of State on an annual basis as a result of this amendment.

At the dinner, Defence’s most senior reservist, Major General John Crackett, spoke eloquently and persuasively of the reservists’ contribution to our nation’s defence in the past century and the importance this Government have attached to revitalising and expanding the reserves during this century.

Last weekend’s helicopter crash, which unfortunately I have already had to refer to today, underscores the fact that, tragically, 31 reservists have paid the ultimate price in the service of their country since 2003.

Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): I thank the Minister for paying tribute to the five men who were lost in the tragic helicopter accident over the weekend, in particular Lance Corporal Oliver Thomas who used to work for me. He is a fine example of the very talented young people we have in our reserves and the contribution they make to the British armed forces.

Mr Dunne: I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has joined us. Unfortunately, he missed my tribute to Lance Corporal Thomas. I pass my sympathies to him and his colleagues, and his family and friends, on this tragic loss.

Lords amendment 7 will provide Parliament with information on the options for reforming Defence Equipment and Support before any order commencing part 1 of the Bill can be made. As Members will recall, part 1 provides the legislation needed to enable any GoCo solution for reform of DE&S to work effectively. This option is not being pursued at present, and will not be taken forward in the near future, but we think it right that the necessary legislation remains on the statute book in case a future Government, of whatever colour, decide to go down that route.

This amendment follows a substantial debate in the other place about the level of parliamentary oversight required before any future Government could proceed with a GoCo for DE&S that would require the provisions in part 1. As a result of that debate, Lords amendment 7 would require the Secretary of State to publish a report on the options for carrying out the defence procurement activity being undertaken by DE&S before laying the draft affirmative order commencing part 1. The report would need to cover any arrangements for a GoCo and any other options that had been considered, including the option of the new DE&S that is currently being put in place. This information will ensure that Parliament can have an informed debate on the reform of DE&S before agreeing to bring part 1 into force.

The amendment to Lords amendment 7, tabled by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Alison Seabeck) —with whom I had the pleasure of serving on the Committee and who conducted herself with considerable distinction—would make it a requirement for a future Government to produce the report on the options for reforming DE&S at least 12 weeks before any order commencing part 1 is laid before Parliament. While on the surface this amendment might seem reasonable, I think it is unnecessary and would unduly constrain a

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future Government. Amendment 7 already places a statutory requirement on a future Government to produce a report and sets out what that report must contain—and it is most likely to take the form of a White Paper. To place such an obligation on a future Government is itself unusual, and we are aware of no other examples where a commencement order has such requirements attached to it. As such, it represents a major concession by the Government and demonstrates that we have listened carefully to the concerns expressed in the House of Lords.

We have therefore already gone a significant way towards ensuring that Parliament has detailed information to enable it to consider these matters, and there is no need to go further. Although I would expect any such report to be published in good time to enable Parliament to debate whether part 1 should be commenced, it is impossible at this point to predict the exact circumstances in which a decision to proceed with a GoCo might be made. Of course, if Opposition Members were to find themselves in government in the future—that is most unlikely in the immediate future—they could publish the report whenever they wish, but I think it is a step too far to put a legal time limit on the production of such a report; I simply do not think it is the sort of thing we should be setting out in legislation.

No doubt the hon. Member for Plymouth, Moor View will argue that without such a time limit a future Government might try to rush through proceeding with a GoCo—that, of course, will be up to her if she is in this post in a future Government—but that fails to take into account the reality of how these decisions are made or indeed the recent history of the time it took to go through the commercial process in looking for a GoCo solution. The need for a robust commercial process will mean that any such decision will not be taken quickly and that there will be announcements and discussions at each stage along the way.

The last competition, for example, took nearly nine months from the issue of the contract notice in April 2013 until the receipt of detailed bids in November last year. That helps to convince me that Parliament will have ample opportunity to consider and debate any proposals to move to a GoCo well in advance of any order commencing part 1 and we should not be placing arbitrary time limits into statute just for the sake of it. Placing such a time constraint in the Bill may add to uncertainty around the commercial process. The Government will therefore be resisting the amendment to Lords amendment 7.

Mr Bob Ainsworth (Coventry North East) (Lab): So is the Minister guaranteeing the House some minimum time for discussion in these circumstances? Is he able to say that there will absolutely be a certain minimum time?

Mr Dunne: What I am guaranteeing is that a report will be presented to the House before the commencement of part 1 comes before the House in an affirmative resolution. It will be up to the Government of the day to decide at what point to publish that report and therefore what interval to leave between publication and moving an affirmative resolution in this House. What I am not guaranteeing is the duration of that interval.

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These Lords amendments will make a good Bill better. They show that the Government have listened to the concerns raised during the Bill’s passage through both Houses. The changes to the Bill covered by the Lords amendments will ensure that Parliament has the information it needs on these important aspects of our defence. I therefore ask hon. Members to agree to Lords amendments 1 to 7 and to reject the Opposition amendment to Lords amendment 7.

Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Moor View) (Lab): Labour Members associate themselves with the condolences offered to the family and friends of the five servicemen lost so very tragically while serving their country. Their loss is deeply felt, particularly by their colleagues and close friends here in this place, and we acknowledge that loss.

Let me start by discussing the proposals to part 2 of the Bill. The Minister has talked about Lords amendments 1 to 5 to clauses 33, 39 and 42, which deal with the single-source procurement contracts. Labour Members welcome the amendments in principle, because they take forward the recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, and because they make sensible changes to simplify this legislation. It does indeed make sense to use one statutory instrument for all the regulations under part 2, as Lords amendment 1 achieves, along with the accompanying amendments—the technical changes that follow. Baroness Jolly in the other place explained the logic behind these amendments, which allow all the regulations under part 2 to be made in one statutory instrument; there is also provision for the maximum penalties to be made under the single- source contract regulations, rather than in separate regulations.

My colleague Lord Tunnicliffe, who did sterling work in the other place speaking on behalf of the Opposition, said he needed to see the proposal in writing before deciding whether there might be a problem. Having seen it in writing, Labour takes the view that these are largely technical amendments to which we have no objections. However, there are some concerns about the way in which impact assessments are being carried out by Departments on new regulations. The recent Regulatory Policy Committee report, published last month, on the improvement of the evidence base for regulation suggested some serious weaknesses in the way in which Departments were estimating the impact of new regulations. Indeed, only 75% of the first-time impact assessment submissions were fit for purpose, down from 81% in 2012. Will the Minister confirm that the proposed change has been given the green light and whether there are likely to be any problems for that Committee? Lords amendment 5 addresses two more recommendations of the DPRRC. As the Minister stated, it is purely technical and we have no problems with it at all. The Opposition support the work done by the DPRRC and on both sides of the House of Lords and we welcome that group of amendments.

5 pm

Amendment 6 to part 3 introduces a new clause that will add a section, as we have heard, to the Reserve Forces Act 1996 requiring an annual report to set out an assessment of the capabilities of the volunteer reserve forces. The report will have regard to the duties that may be imposed on members of those forces, including mobilised service under a call-out order. Although the

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proposed new clause does not go as far as the amendment tabled on Report by the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron), who is sadly not in his place today, which was supported by Opposition Members and called for a report on the viability and cost-effectiveness of the reserve reforms, we welcome it as a step forward as well as the principle of increased statutory reporting on the implementation of the reserve reforms.

We must, however, be wise to the fact that there are ongoing concerns. General Sir Peter Wall, Chief of the General Staff, was candid in his description of the driving force behind the Army 2020 plan when he gave evidence to the Select Committee on Defence during its inquiry “Future Army 2020”. He said:

“I remember the genesis very clearly. It was a financially driven plan. We had to design a new structure that included the run-down of the 102,000 Regular Army to 82,000, which is pretty well advanced now, to follow a funding line that was driven by the austerity with which everybody is very familiar...It triggered the complete redesign of the Army.”

Will the Minister say on what strategic basis, if any, the Government arrived at their figure of 82,000 regulars and 30,000 reservists?

The new clause also provides for an assessment of the provision made for the mental welfare of members and former members of the volunteer reserve forces. We have heard a salutary reminder of the risks taken by reservists and by our servicemen and women in general, but reservists also suffer disproportionately from mental health issues as a result of their service. Members of the Territorial Army are twice as likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as regular soldiers, because they lack the equivalent long-term support structures. I know that things are getting a lot better and that lessons have been learned, but they lack the support that can often be offered by a regiment, a ship or a squadron. We welcome the further provisions better to assess the mental welfare of the reserves and will support the amendment.

We now come to the groundhog day part of today’s business: Lords amendment 7. The amendment is to the part of the Bill that “never was, or is ever likely to be”, which was all about setting up a Government-owned contractor-operated model, which, of course, fell apart when it became impossible to keep two bidders in the process. That pretty much happened the day before we started to discuss the issue in Committee. I should point out that there will not be any consideration of moving to a GoCo at this stage. As the Minister said, that might well happen after a general election. Obviously, we do not know the political complexion of the next or any future Government, so it is a mystery why the Government should resist the Opposition amendment. However, the Minister has made himself very clear.

I suspect that the decision to continue with part 1 of the Bill was more about saving face for the Government after they had ploughed on regardless and maintained this element of the Bill, partly just in case the model being worked through by Defence Equipment and Support, which is up and running, does not work. It is a fall-back position, in which industry and others have little confidence.

It seems appropriate when discussing an amendment that relates to the potential for major changes in DE&S to point out that, despite the launch of the new DE&S model this month, defence procurement is still in a mess. The lack of understanding between the potential

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bidders and the MOD means that the new system may well not deliver value for money for the taxpayer. That view certainly still pertains in the media. It would be helpful if the Minister put on record exactly why he remains convinced that the model will work, not least because it is loosely based on a model that the Labour party put forward in 2011. Bill Thomas and Tony Roulstone suggested it in a report that they produced for us.

There are issues about wholesale outsourcing. We therefore think that injecting essential expertise into identified key areas is an interesting option alongside some changes to support better the development of existing skills in DE&S. Those skills are undoubtedly present in the civil service, but we need to avoid the constant moves that have been happening and encourage a greater understanding that actions have consequences, and that responsibility has to be taken for the commercial decisions that are made. We support measures and flexibilities that allow the Department to retain and recruit the best delivery leaders.

The Government have listened to some of the concerns that were raised in Committee and in the other place. Lord Rosser welcomed the Government’s move from their previous position, which was for an affirmative order without any of the associated requirements for which a case had been made. We are therefore glad that the Government have tabled the amendment, as it at least ensures that a report—indeed, possibly a White Paper and an impact assessment—will be laid before the House comparing the current model with a proposed future model for defence procurement, aka a GoCo, and allowing parliamentary scrutiny. We know that the financial effects are minimal in terms of the preparation of the report, although there is no mention of any additional cost of any consultation that may follow. I am sure that the Minister has considered that.

Without the amendment, the Government could have introduced a GoCo in future with absolutely no public scrutiny. The Opposition felt that that would be highly inappropriate, considering the catastrophic failure of the tendering process the last time the Government tried to move DE&S to this model and the continuing issues relating to the potential for conflicts of interest and risks to intellectual property, which were the subject of debate in Committee. They are still bubbling.

The Opposition argued in the other place for a super-affirmative procedure involving an independent examination of a future Government’s case for a GoCo and for a report on that independent review by the House of Commons Defence Committee before Parliament made a decision on the affirmative order. That did not find favour with the Government, but the amendment has moved the debate forward, and we appreciate that.

However, the amendment does not set a time scale for scrutinising the report. We would like 12 weeks, as a reasonable period. Lord Astor of Hever was not dismissive of the need for a clear time scale when it was raised and that is partly why we are pursuing this further today. The Opposition feel that the Government have on too many occasions sought to rush through consultations and scrutiny, and run them over a public holiday, and that that practice is not good enough and does not allow full and proper public scrutiny. A recent example involves the Land Registry, whereby a very restricted time scale was allowed.

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No Government of whatever complexion should ever be afraid of strong scrutiny—it makes for better and more transparent government, which the public demand. If we ignore that, we further damage the reputation of this place. I am therefore disappointed that the Minister feels unable to include that in the Bill.

Mr Dunne: I am intrigued by the selective amnesia from which the hon. Lady appears to be suffering. Does she recall the passage of the Companies Bill under the previous Government, as no fewer than 250 amendments were proposed for consideration by the House in the final two minutes of debate?

Alison Seabeck: The Minister is quite right to make that point. It is deeply frustrating for Back Benchers and for the public to see legislation being rushed through Parliament. There are lessons that Members on both sides of the House can learn—

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): You are as bad as each other.

Alison Seabeck: We can learn the lessons without hectoring from colleagues from Scotland. Full and public debate, and full and open scrutiny, are a sign of strong government, and it is something that we should all try to achieve in the House.

My noble Friend Lord Rosser said:

“If a future Government adopt the same approach”

and seek to run Defence Procurement via a GoCo

“the report on the effectiveness of the new DE&S-plus-plus organisation will be crucial, as will be the objectivity of that future Government’s assessment of DE&S-plus-plus”—

as it was referred to in the House of Lords—

“and their case for believing that the GOCO option would be more successful.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 2 April 2014; Vol. 753, c. 966.]

The report for which this amendment provides will ensure that we can have real oversight as to the effectiveness of the new-look DE&S. However, as I have said, it still falls a bit short of what we would like. We are being asked to allow a measure to proceed that has been fraught with difficulty, at considerable cost to the taxpayer. According to the Minister, in a written answer to me on 18 December 2013, in running the tendering process the Government had

“spent £7.4 million supporting the work on the GoCo option”—[Official Report, 18 December 2013; Vol. 572, c. 636W.]

However, according to a parliamentary answer on 11 February 2014 to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones), the total for the concept and assessment phase was almost £29 million. What is the final total, and has the Minister assessed the costs of running a similar exercise if a future Government opted to go down the GoCo route?

The Opposition very much hope that the changes that have been made—sadly, many of them are still not in the public domain—will make a difference, bolstering those areas within DE& S that need additional expertise or which have been hollowed out by changes to the overall size of the civil service. As we are discussing this part of the Bill, will the Minister kindly explain why, as of yesterday evening, the corporate plan and framework document for DE&S were not in the Library or on the

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Ministry of Defence website? In a written answer to the hon. Member for Mid Worcestershire (Sir Peter Luff), a former Defence Minister, and to me on 7 April, an assurance was given that that would happen. Certainly, in discussing the need for openness and for the full and proper scrutiny of the proposed measures, as well as consideration of the Lords amendments, having sight of this document would be helpful.

It was noted in the other place that a future Government, having made up their mind that they wanted to go down the GoCo route, might be tempted to try to rush through the affirmative order. That was acknowledged by the Minister as a potential problem. Lord Rosser pointed out:

“I cannot help but recall that this Government, in declining to withdraw Part 1, argued that there might in future be a need to bring in the GOCO option with a minimum of delay—an odd argument, bearing in mind that the Government themselves had just had to delay their intentions on the GOCO option by at least two or three years, but nevertheless an indication of a Government’s thinking that they might seek to make the change as quickly as possible at the possible expense of proper scrutiny.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 2 April 2014; Vol. 753, c. 966-67.]

That was enough to cause Opposition Members concern. Any decision that could have such a major impact on the safety and performance of our heroic servicemen and women must be subject to the necessary scrutiny, and Parliament should be allowed time to undertake that scrutiny. We also have at the back of our mind debates about conflicts of interest, intellectual property protection and so on, which will need, should a new proposal be introduced, to be addressed properly and transparently. A rushed scrutiny period would be unsatisfactory and it would not inspire public confidence.

In conclusion, I am concerned that simply expecting the DE&S-plus proposition to become match-fit as a public sector comparator for future market testing of the GoCo is hardly a vote of confidence in the hard-working staff of that organisation or, indeed, of those businesses that have been encouraged to tender to become strategic partners, which is why stronger scrutiny would help. The Minister mentioned significant concessions, but he also referred to an uncertain future. The measure, as it stands, could do with a little more certainty and scrutiny. Sadly, he has failed to persuade us that our amendment is unnecessary, so we will be pressing it to a vote.

5.15 pm

Mr Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): I join my hon. Friend the Minister and the hon. Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Alison Seabeck) in their tribute to the five young men who lost their lives and in expressing thoughts and prayers for their families and loved ones. Our colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Roger Williams), has lost a researcher, who served with 3 Military Intelligence, with which several House of Commons researchers are also associated.

The House will be relieved to hear that I will be brief. I congratulate the Minister on the quiet and typically modest way in which he has taken the Bill through Parliament, listening at every stage. I will not say much about procurement except that I feel oddly comfortable with the outcome. I expressed several concerns throughout the Bill’s passage about the possibility of going as far as a GoCo, but we would not have obtained concessions from the Treasury and the wider civil service had the MOD not tried it.

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Alison Seabeck: The hon. Gentleman mentioned the concessions from the Treasury, but without the detail of the corporate plan, which is yet to be laid in the Library, we do not know exactly what those flexibilities are.

Mr Brazier: We do not have the detail, but we do know that there is now more flexibility on people and in other crucial areas, such as the annuality of budgets, which are extremely important for running an operation such as procurement.

I want to leave one thought on procurement. Some 25, 26 or 27 years ago, when working as a management consultant, I was privileged to take part in a study comparing the procurement methods of seven different countries. Our procurers in the then procurement executive—it has changed its name several times since—were at least as good as the average and arguably better. The majority of the problems in the system fell into one of two categories. Either the customer within MOD changed its mind or was unclear about its needs, or things were laid down from outside, some of which appear to be being addressed. As a result of the unsuccessful attempt to create a GoCo, we have ended up with a better outcome than we would otherwise have had.

I support all the Government’s amendments and I am pleased that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Moor View is with them, too, although she has indicated one area in which she would like to go further.

I of course knew when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made his pledge on the reserves that it would be honoured. However, not only has it been honoured exactly, but the Government’s wording of the clause is better than I originally proposed and has been well thought through. They particularly thought through the complicated federal nature of the reserve forces and cadets associations. The clause deals neatly with a problem, which I hope will never occur again but happened some 15 or 16 years ago, when the centre got out of touch with its regional branches. Leaving the real power with the regional branches, which are elected, covers that issue nicely. Parliament will get a good report whatever happens. I am grateful to the Government for agreeing to the proposal and to the Members on both sides of the House who supported the original measure.

I end by saying—I hope that you will indulge in me in this, Madam Deputy Speaker, because, strictly, it is beyond the amendment—that when we originally debated the matter in the House, there was great concern about recruiting for the reserves. I expressed the view that it had been seriously mishandled under the new assimilated structure controlled by the Regular Army. I also expressed confidence in Major General Chris Tickell, who had taken over.

Since then, things have moved a long way. My local TA infantry battalion got as many soldiers in January and February as it did in the previous 10 months. That is still only two thirds of what it needs if it is to grow, rather than just tread water, but it is a huge step forward. Today it has eight young officers under the age of 30, whereas a couple of years ago it had only two or three.

I firmly believe that things will move in the right direction, but I think that the steady hand on the tiller of this annual report from the RFCAs, which really do

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get it, will play a profound role, and I am grateful to the Government for giving way on that. I support all the Lords amendments.

Martin Horwood: It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr Brazier), who displays great knowledge of these issues. I am sure that the friends and family of Oli Thomas will very much appreciate the comments that have been made across the House, as I am sure will my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Roger Williams). He would have been here at the beginning of the debate to respond to the Minister’s comments had the expected times for votes not changed rather suddenly. I hope that people will understand that. I am sure that all Members across the House would wish to express their sympathy to the friends and family of all the servicemen who lost their lives in that terrible accident.

I welcome the Lords amendments, which I think strengthen Parliament’s role in scrutinising the implementation of defence policy, which is very important. I know that several of my noble Friends had concerns about the process of building up the new reserve force and about the technicalities of the GoCo idea. It is very welcome that the Government have been open-minded enough to bring forward their own amendments to reflect those concerns and increase parliamentary scrutiny.

On the volunteer forces, we have an ambitious plan to change the whole chemistry and make-up of our armed forces. I think that will leave us with armed forces that are more flexible, more light-footed and more cost-effective, and in a time of genuine austerity that must be borne in mind. On the concerns that have been expressed on both sides of the House about exactly how well that will work, whether it is too ambitious and whether it will at some stage pose unexpected challenges, I think that it is right to have this extra level of parliamentary scrutiny over the process, so Lords amendment 6 is extremely welcome.

Lords amendment 7, which relates to the GoCo, now seems slightly academic, given that we are unlikely to see any proposals for a GoCo in the near future. However, were such a proposal to come forward at some point, I think that it is important to have the safeguards in place to ensure not only that a draft statutory instrument is laid before the House before the actual order is laid, but that we have the report beforehand on alternative options and impact assessments for each one.

In tabling amendment (a), the hon. Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Alison Seabeck) is perhaps trying to gild the lily. I think that she is trying to conjure some mild controversy out of what is now a consensus on the issue. She said that she had remaining concerns about wholesale outsourcing, but of course that is only about the outsourcing of outside supplies, so it does not really change anything in that respect. It is only about whether in future that outsourcing is managed directly by a Government agency or by a more independent and commercially orientated organisation.

Many of us have expressed doubts about that idea. I expressed doubts on Second Reading about whether we should have yet another tier of decision making in between the armed forces and the actual decision-making process and the eventual supplies. However, I think that

29 Apr 2014 : Column 786

the formula we have come up with, whereby the different options will be re-examined at the time any such proposal comes forward, is a good one. We would not normally insert another 12-week time scale into legislation of this kind, so I am not sure that that is absolutely necessary, but I appreciate the spirit in which the amendment was moved.

I think that the Lords amendments have made a good Bill even better. I join the consensus on both sides of the House in this good-natured debate by saying that this is the right Bill to bring forward at this time.

Mr Dunne: With the leave of the House, I shall make a few closing remarks. I know it is not conventional to do so, but I have been challenged in customary fashion by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Alison Seabeck) with a number of questions, and it is right that we put some answers on the record.

The first question that the hon. Lady posed was a technical one about whether the framework of part 2 had been approved by the RPC. We approached the Better Regulation Executive in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which confirmed that in its view part 2 did not constitute regulations of the type that ought to be considered by the RPC or the reducing regulations committee. We therefore did not do so.

The hon. Lady also asked whether in the strategic defence review in 2010 there was some strategic basis for arriving at the force composition of regulars and reservists. As she will know, I was not in post at that time, so I cannot give her my personal recollection of those discussions. It is undoubtedly the case that the fiscal situation that not only the country faced but our Department inherited—the £38 billion black hole in unfunded commitments—played a part in determining dispositions, but the main drivers of the force composition were set out at the time of the SDSR—namely, the unpredictable strategic environment and the need for an agile and adaptable force structure. The force structure that we ended up with, we believe, will enable us to meet the unpredictable strategic environment in future. It also moves UK armed forces closer to the force structures in place among many of our closest allies, so we do not think it is out of line with our main partners and allies.

The hon. Lady touched on reserves and the status of reserve recruiting, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr Brazier). I thank him for the anecdote he gave us about the growing youthfulness of officers and the growing numbers of recruits that he referred to. I am not in a position to give the House detailed figures at this point, but applications are running significantly higher than average applications in months last year, which is an encouraging sign. We are making good progress in increasing the conversion rate from applicants to trainees. That is also an encouraging sign. I would not like to give the House the impression that we do not recognise that we have a considerable way to move in raising both the number of applicants and that conversion rate.

Mr Ainsworth: There is no doubt that there has been an improvement, but what the Minister and the House must do, as the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr Brazier) said, is keep on top of it. There is institutional resistance to that change and we must recognise that. If we want it to work, we have to be prepared to drive it.

29 Apr 2014 : Column 787

Mr Dunne: I am grateful, Madam Deputy Speaker, for your indulgence not only of me, but of the right hon. Gentleman, the former Defence Secretary, for making that point. It gives me the opportunity to say that there is a clear determination from the Secretary of State downwards to bear down on the issue within the Department. My colleague responsible for personnel, the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), is having weekly meetings with the officials who are responsible within the Department and there is a clear determination throughout the ranks, in particular the Army, to ensure from the very senior levels down that there is a major focus on getting the institutional and behavioural change that the right hon. Gentleman talks about.

We are doing some practical things to try to improve recruitment. For example, the bounty for regulars going into the reserves has been doubled relatively recently. We have also introduced a bounty for completion of phase 1 training and a subsequent bounty for completion of phase 2 training to encourage applicants who start the training process to see it through and to have better results at the end of the process.

Mr Brazier: I strongly endorse the remarks of the right hon. Member for Coventry North East (Mr Ainsworth), who understands these matters so well.

Of the two measures that the Minister has mentioned, I particularly welcome the second one. On the first, it seems to many in the reserves that the transfer rate is excessively generous. The fact that the other two services have chosen not to adopt it, although they both seem to be doing well in this regard—the Navy has a particularly good record in getting ex-regulars to join, especially as pilots and in other key skill areas—suggests that it should perhaps be a temporary measure.

5.30 pm

Mr Dunne: It is not for me to determine what may happen in future in an area of the Department for which I am not responsible. My hon. Friend needs to recognise that the cost of training and bringing a new entrant into the Army Reserve is considerably higher than the cost of an already-trained regular transferring, where the cost is, in essence, negligible. The rationale for providing an additional bounty for the regular is that the cost is equivalent to what we are paying to train up a raw recruit into the reserves.

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Moor View asked where the corporate plan and the framework documents stand in relation to DE&S-plus. I am pleased to be able to inform her and the House that we will be placing those in the Library and publishing them shortly.

The hon. Lady asked about the costs of the exercise. I think she was trying to get me to predict the future cost of a subsequent GoCo exercise. I like to think of myself as a clairvoyant in some areas, but I cannot possibly determine what the rates of consultant advice might be at some indeterminate point in the future, so that was a question incapable of an answer. She asked specifically about the costs that we incurred on the previous exercise. I gently point out to her that the answer I gave on the cost of the GoCo element was a subset of the cost of

29 Apr 2014 : Column 788

the matériel strategy as a whole. That is why there is a difference between the £7.4 million figure and the £28.9 million figure that we gave to the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) in response to a question.

We have had a good debate this afternoon. It has been good natured—

Alison Seabeck: I thank the Minister, who has been helpful and charming throughout this whole process. I wonder whether he will indulge me in putting on record my thanks to the Officers of the House and to all the Members who have contributed to this debate. I am sure that he is about to do the same.

Mr Dunne: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for indulging so many Members of the House in an opportunity to use time that is rarely available to us to pass such niceties and congratulations across the Chamber. Yes, the hon. Lady’s remarks are absolutely reciprocated. We have had good support from the Officers of the House and from Members of the House throughout the Committee stage and all stages of the Bill. We have also had considerable support in the other place, where there was a great deal of interest not only from the former Chiefs of Staff who sit there but from many other Members on both sides of the House. I thank the hon. Lady for her contribution. I also thank the hon. Member for North Durham, who aided and abetted her throughout the Committee stage. I place on record my thanks to my colleague, Lord Astor of Hever, who took the Bill through the other place in his customary exemplary style.

This is an important Bill that will help transform the way in which we procure equipment for our armed forces and the way in which we use our reserves. I am pleased that it will now proceed to Royal Assent.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments 2 to 6 agreed to.

Clause 49


Amendment (a) proposed to Lords amendment 7.— (Alison Seabeck.)

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The House divided:

Ayes 220, Noes 285.

Division No. 256]


5.34 pm


Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Burden, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Sir Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Docherty, Thomas

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Doran, Mr Frank

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jowell, rh Dame Tessa

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mactaggart, Fiona

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miller, Andrew

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Osborne, Sandra

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Steve

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Robertson, Angus

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Sawford, Andy

Seabeck, Alison

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Simpson, David

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Twigg, Stephen

Vaz, rh Keith

Walley, Joan

Watts, Mr Dave

Weir, Mr Mike

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Woodcock, John

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Susan Elan Jones


Karl Turner


Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Barclay, Stephen

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Sir Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burt, rh Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Cable, rh Vince

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, Sir Edward

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Green, rh Damian

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Harvey, Sir Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hunter, Mark

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kelly, Chris

Kennedy, rh Mr Charles

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Sir Peter

Macleod, Mary

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McVey, rh Esther

Menzies, Mark

Miller, rh Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Mordaunt, Penny

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, rh Mr Stephen

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, rh Sir Richard

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Sir John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reid, Mr Alan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, rh Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Sir Richard

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Henry

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, rh Sir Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Teather, Sarah

Thurso, John

Tomlinson, Justin

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Simon

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Harriett Baldwin


Gavin Barwell

Question accordingly negatived.

29 Apr 2014 : Column 789

29 Apr 2014 : Column 790

29 Apr 2014 : Column 791

29 Apr 2014 : Column 792

Lords amendment 7 agreed to, with Commons financial privileges waived.


Green Bins in South Gloucestershire

5.51 pm

Chris Skidmore (Kingswood) (Con): I rise to present a petition on behalf of the residents of Kingswood.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of Kingswood,

Declares that South Gloucestershire Council is now charging residents £36 per year for the collection of their green bins and further that a local Petition on this subject has received over 4,200 signatures.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to encourage South Gloucestershire Council to reconsider this decision and not implement a charge for the collection of green bins.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


29 Apr 2014 : Column 793

Rural Bus Services

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Gavin Barwell.)

5.52 pm

Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con): We have had green bins in Gloucestershire; perhaps we can have green buses in Dorset.

It is a fact that rural bus services in my constituency are under great pressure, as they are across the country. In urban areas, bus services will continue for as long as demand and passenger numbers ensure their viability, which is highly likely to be the case. Operational costs in those areas are met entirely by revenue, and operators receive no financial support from local authorities. However, out in the sticks, where a lot of my constituency is, there is no commercial incentive to maintain rural bus routes, many of which are underused. Instead, local authorities run so-called tendered services, which form about 20% of the market. Those are mandatory services, providing transport for the old, the disabled, the vulnerable and of course our schoolchildren. They also include buses to isolated communities, rarely used routes and early morning and late night services.

Until recently, those services were tendered for and provided by bus companies. Now, as part of the Government’s localism agenda, local authorities run them. The changes came into effect on 6 April, after which Dorset county council cut just under £1 million from its bus budget of £2.8 million. Consequently, 38 routes have changed, 12 Saturday services have been removed and 10 bus routes have been withdrawn completely, while 39 bus services have remained untouched. It was a difficult exercise for the county council, whose budget has been cut by a third—about £100 million. To its credit, it consulted widely on the changes and proposals were drawn up based on surveys of passenger numbers, to which 1,200 responses were received. The result was that services during the week were reduced to ensure that communities continued to have Saturday services. Dorset county council is also investing £25,000 to help community transport schemes tackle the problem of rural isolation, and it continues to invest almost £2 million a year in bus services.

As I have said, however, savings are beginning to take their toll on rural bus services, which are a lifeline for many of my constituents and others around the country. For example, the No. 103 bus service from Bovington and Wool to Dorchester now runs only once a week on market day, allowing barely two hours in the town. We will all agree that that is too short for shopping, and certainly too short for any appointments.

When cuts are made, evening and Sunday buses go first, and of course, it does not make commercial sense for operators to put on a day service if there is no bus to return on. Go South Coast in Dorset is currently providing a number of services at a loss in an attempt to retain the integrity of its network, but as it says, that situation obviously cannot go on for ever.

A critical player in this whole issue is the bus services operator grant, or BSOG, which sounds a bit like a sort of underground warthog. Since 1966, bus companies have been able to claim back that fuel duty, which in

29 Apr 2014 : Column 794

turn has held down passenger fares. Nationally, that amounts to £350 million per year, which the 2002 Commission for Integrated Transport described as

“outstanding outcomes for very little cost.”

Over the years BSOG has been reduced by 30%, and not just by this Government, and with local authorities now funding bus services, less money is available for the commercial operator. As I understand it, BSOG is ring-fenced only until 2017. Operators in South Dorset are warning that any further cuts will inevitably lead to service reductions right across the bus network.

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate, and I endorse his comments. Like him, I have constituents, whether in Greenhead or Gilsland, who currently have no bus service. Is it incumbent on our county councils to prioritise rural bus services, because without them our constituents are literally left high and dry, and incumbent on us to support innovative schemes such as catch the bus week, which is this week? I have been proud to support that scheme, and I believe it is a good innovation that supports bus services, particularly in rural areas.

Richard Drax: I thank my hon. Friend for his wise intervention and I agree with both the points he makes. However, although his efforts to provide some form of service are to be highly praised, such a service does not necessarily fit in with the right timings to get people to or from work, for example. In Wool, the Share and Care system has been set up mainly by retired people. Some 50 drivers provide a service, at a price of about 40p a mile, for those who are stuck at home and need to get to the doctor or to hospital, or to go shopping and do all the everyday things that people in rural communities need to do. That is, one could say, the community in action, which is to be applauded, but it is slightly regrettable that such a basic service as a rural community bus must be provided almost through charity. As I say, however, I applaud the initiative.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): In Northern Ireland the Rural Community Network scheme provides Government grant aid and assistance through the Northern Ireland Assembly to enable those who live in rural areas or are isolated, such as elderly or disabled people or those who do not have cars, to get transport to where they need to go, such as their GPs, doctors or shops, at a price they can afford. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman and the Minister will consider that scheme, which enables people in the countryside to access transport.

Richard Drax: I applaud the scheme in Northern Ireland. The Minister will no doubt have heard the hon. Gentleman’s point and perhaps he will comment on it.

Another pressure on rural bus services is the concessionary bus pass. Government statistics show that 30% of all bus journeys are now made using this pass. Free off-peak bus passes for pensioners are welcome, but they skew the economics of bus networks in rural areas. For example, in Dorset operators are dealing with record numbers of pass holders enjoying our stunning countryside and coastline. Up to 20 million people visit Dorset, many of them on buses. It is a tourist destination. The original idea of the pass was to ensure that

29 Apr 2014 : Column 795

bus companies are not better or worse off. However, reimbursement is paid on the basis that without concessionary journeys, fewer would have been made. Dare I say it, that is slightly illogical in a business sense, although any money is gratefully accepted. The rebate is about a third of the cost of a ticket, which clearly disadvantages the bus company and the local taxpayer. Inevitably, it means that operators are left struggling to fund services, not least in rural areas such as my constituency.

The Government recognise the value of the national network, and the “Green Light for Better Buses” agenda is intended to improve local bus services. Some, however, such as the Campaign for Better Transport, worry that 2014 may be the worst year yet for cuts to bus services.

Annette Brooke (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (LD): I thank my hon. Friend for giving way and I concur with everything he is saying, particularly about the pressure from visitors, who are welcome, on our bus services in one way or another. Does he agree that this has been a particularly bad year? We have villages that are now down to just two bus services a week. Young people want to be able to take up an apprenticeship and travel to our local colleges. There are people who, for whatever reason—perhaps sight impairment—cannot get to work. We are at crisis point in Dorset. We need longer term planning. We cannot go from year to year with people wondering whether they can stay in the village in which they have lived for many years.

Richard Drax: I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s intervention and I agree with her entirely. I wonder whether the Minister will consider the point I was about to make. Obviously, some routes in rural areas are loss-making. When contracts are put out to bus operators, as part of that contract, should they not have to take on board the whole contract and not be allowed, as they currently are, to drop non-profit-making routes? Business plans should be drawn up to take this into account, so that, rather than making x profit the operators make y profit, but essential bus services are retained.

Guy Opperman: I utterly endorse the point about not dumping unpopular routes at the first opportunity. However, does my hon. Friend agree that the way forward is surely to take the London example of an integrated transport system with a single card, the Oyster card, that is interchangeable between different operators—some national, some local—which has the benefit of reducing the cost to the provider and, ultimately, the passenger, and brings down the cost of that transport arrangement? Does he welcome the work that is being done to try to extend that around the country, beyond London?

Richard Drax: I welcome anything along those lines. I agree with my hon. Friend, and I am sure the Minister can expand on that point and say how far such an arrangement has progressed. We welcome any initiative that creates a better and more integrated bus service, not least for those who are stuck out in the sticks.

Tessa Munt (Wells) (LD): I want to draw the attention of the House and, in particular, the Minister to the fact that in my area someone trying to travel to Taunton from Street in Somerset can get caught out, because different bus companies run different services at different

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times of the day. That competition means that someone who buys a ticket, unwittingly thinking that they can use it for the return journey to the village from which they came, can find that that is not possible if the service is run by a different company. It is completely ludicrous that people should end up having to buy a new single ticket to return on exactly the same route. Some of the suggestions that my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman) made might solve that problem.

Richard Drax: I agree, and I think my hon. Friend has answered her own point: our hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman) has made some suggestions. I would entirely concur with anything that creates a better, more integrated system that is not as convoluted as she describes.

Local authorities nationwide have already announced savings of almost £20 million. I use the word “savings” rather than “cuts” intentionally, because I accept, as I know the Minister does, that we face difficult times and we are not out of the woods yet—although the economy is showing signs of turning—so we all have to live more reasonably, and certainly within our means. I welcome a lot of what is going on. This country has to learn to live within her means, because clearly we cannot do otherwise. However, I feel that the provision of bus services—better integrated, we hope, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Tessa Munt) has said—will not disappear, and certainly not in my rural Dorset.

Routes to remote parts at the most unsocial hours are the most vulnerable to being lost to savings. In a recent reply to me, Transport Minister Baroness Kramer wrote that

“local transport matters must be determined locally and that the Government’s localism agenda is about giving people the freedom to create effective working partnerships.”

In insisting on a localism agenda, we must ensure that we do not inadvertently starve councils of the resources to provide a proper bus network, especially for the most vulnerable in our society. In rural areas, I would categorise not just the elderly and the sick as “vulnerable”. They include, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) mentioned—she beat me to the punch—those holding down a job, trying to find work or attending college or university. Just because they live in the countryside, they should not be disadvantaged so far as their future careers, what they want to do and where they want to go are concerned.

Tessa Munt rose

Annette Brooke rose

Richard Drax: I have got two hon. Friends wishing to intervene.

Annette Brooke: I thank my hon. Friend for giving way a second time—I will claim first place because I want to mention a Dorset problem. I wonder whether he has experienced the same problem that I have, where parents and students have decided to go to an out-of-catchment school, knowing that there was a bus route, but suddenly the bus service has been terminated. Even for catchment routes, I have got parents and students

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stranded without a bus or a safe route to school along country lanes. Our problem with the main services has spilt over into providing services that get young people to school and thereby comply with our law and our expectations of young people staying on longer at school.

Richard Drax: Again, I agree with my hon. Friend. I have some experiences in my constituency—I am wandering slightly off the point—where, as I understand it, school children cannot get to school because the school bus will not pick them up, as they are not quite in the catchment area, yet if the bus travelled another mile or so, they would be. Again, this goes back to—[Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham has disappeared.

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con) rose

Richard Drax: I give way to my hon. Friend.

Tessa Munt: Ahem!

Richard Drax: I will give way to my hon. Friend next.

Neil Parish: I thank my hon. Friend for securing this debate on rural bus services. Does he agree that in some areas where there are very few people, a commercial operation, however much subsidy we give it, is not always likely to work? What we need is some support, even if just for fuel or whatever, for those who can create a transport system, whether charitable or not. At the moment, fuel is very expensive and we do not seem to have any means to help those people to help themselves. We need that help, too.

Richard Drax: I am going to be very naughty now. Perhaps my hon. Friend was not present at the beginning of my speech—

Neil Parish: I was, I was!

Richard Drax: He was, he was—in which case, I apologise profoundly. I mentioned the bus service operators grant, which is, in effect, a fuel rebate, and which is being gradually reduced. One bus company managing director has told me that if the Government continue to cut the grant, bus services will be even more seriously affected.

Tessa Munt: My hon. Friend mentioned jobs. A number of my constituents who live in Cheddar, Axbridge and Chippenham work in Bristol, which is on the other side of the local authority boundary. When Somerset county council makes decisions about transport, it needs to worry only about the areas that it covers, but some of my constituents will have to give up their jobs because, owing to the one-mile gap between the Somerset and North Somerset bus services, they have no means of travelling to work in Bristol. There are only 10 or 12 of them, but the Government should bear in mind the cost of supporting them in some way with taxpayers’ money because otherwise they cannot reach their workplaces.

Richard Drax rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. Before the hon. Gentleman responds, let me say to the House that interventions are becoming speeches: they are becoming very long. Of course Members can speak

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if they wish, as long as what they say is on the subject of the debate, but I implore those who intervene to follow the normal rules of the House, under which an intervention must be short and must be relevant to the point that is currently being made.

Richard Drax: I assure you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I too will be very brief.

For all the reasons that I have given, I ask the Minister to consider ring-fencing BSOG beyond 2017 to ensure that the remoter parts of our constituencies continue to be served. Ideally the Government would return BSOG to its earlier levels, although I do not suppose for a minute that that will happen: I suspect that it is wishful thinking, given our current financial circumstances.

Finally, may I ask the Government to consider a fairer way of sharing the financial burden of concessionary travel across the United Kingdom? I am thinking especially of counties such as Dorset, where tourism effectively penalises bus operators. As I said, Dorset is a major tourist attraction, but it suffers a great deal more than other counties that may not attract so many visitors. Our bus companies are, in effect, being paid a third of the price of a ticket.

The overall benefits of buses need hardly be rehearsed. Last year 5 billion journeys were made in the United Kingdom, a fifth of them by commuters. Those benefits, social and economic, are incontrovertible. Residents of rural areas spend between 20% and 30% more on transport than their city counterparts. The need is there, and in some cases it is desperate. Does the Minister not agree that all Governments of all colours have a duty to preserve some form of service—preferably, as many of my colleagues have suggested, a better-integrated service, but at least a service —to support those who live in rural areas? Rural bus services provide a genuine lifeline for many, and, in my humble opinion, we must do all that we can to protect them.

6.14 pm

Annette Brooke (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (LD): Madam Deputy Speaker, with your permission, and I hope that of the Minister, as we have so much time—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. I feel I should just explain to Members, as they may not be familiar with this, that the Minister’s permission is not necessary when we are on an Adjournment debate that has begun significantly before the moment of interruption. That is a matter for the Chair to judge. The hon. Lady can make a contribution in this debate. She does not have to seek the Minister’s permission. It might be helpful to remind Members of these arrangements, as we do not often start an Adjournment debate so early. I hope that is clear.

Annette Brooke: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is very helpful to have that clarified, and I apologise for my earlier lengthy interventions as I was not aware of that.

I am deeply concerned about cuts in rural bus services. I know that they are not just happening in Dorset as studies have shown that there have been cuts across the whole country. I therefore think that, as much as we

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want to make our decision making as local as possible, this is an issue on which an overview from the Government is needed, if only to make sure that best practice—some of which we have heard about tonight—is shared. That should be encouraged and seminars should be available to show what can be done.

I have a village that has at least 1,200—maybe 1,400—houses. That is quite a large village. Every single year the bus service is threatened. That creates a great deal of uncertainty for families and older people, who wonder whether they can remain there as this goes on year after year. It is a huge worry, and a great number of petitions are produced and eventually somebody comes up with some sort of solution. The current solution, which is thanks to the very many people, including councillors, who have worked hard to get something in the way of a solution, is a commercial service. Will that last the year? Will notice be served during the year? Nobody knows, and even though the bus service is there for some people, we do not have a service between 7 am and 9 am, which is not terribly helpful for people getting to work.

As I mentioned, I feel there must be some way in which we can have some longer-term planning. Of course there will have to be variations to take account of population movements, but there must be a certain basic level of service to which people are entitled. I am all in favour of the community services which many Members have mentioned and I think parish councils are able to take a great lead in these types of services. Very often it is nonsense to have a very large bus running on a certain route when there are not many passengers. The flexibility of community transport for some of the functions is all-important, but I would argue that there is a core service that we need for workers, students and apprentices so that they can access work or their studies, and so that everybody has a future.

By turning our backs on this problem, we are creating even more rural poverty. We are all aware of the rural poverty figures, and it is those families and young people who are truly deprived as they are not getting access to a lift in the car every day and at all times of the day, because sometimes that just cannot happen within families, whereas for others it can be much easier to give a lift into the local town so family members can socialise.

This is a crisis and I plead with the Minister to look at what is happening over the whole country. I am particularly concerned about the situation in Dorset, and the services my constituency shares with that of my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax), which are constantly being cut away. Our mailbags are enormous, and they are full of letters from people who are very worried. People should be spared this anxiety and know that there is a certain minimum level of service to which they are entitled. A lot of work may need to be done on encouraging people to use the bus—that is acceptable and the strong message of “use it or lose it” can be given—but we need a continuity of service so that people can be confident enough to plan their lives around using the bus service. We are in a downward spiral the more we cut, as people find they cannot sustain their living styles with the current provision. I issue a plea to the Minister to say what leadership the Government can give to save our rural bus services and, at the same time, our rural communities.

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6.20 pm

Tessa Munt (Wells) (LD): I could not agree more with what my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) has said, but I wanted to bring one or two other aspects of life in Somerset to the Minister’s attention. This subject is one of the most vexing that comes up in casework and in my surgeries, as people complain because they are not able to get to work or to hospital appointments. In my part of mid-Somerset, someone wanting to attend an acute hospital has to go to Taunton, Yeovil, Bath or Bristol. Nobody complains about that because that is just a fact of life and people have to travel 20 or 25 miles to get to any appointment. We have the opportunity to do something pretty standard; that does not mean we have to have bus services once an hour through the villages, but it does mean we have to consider people’s needs. When their needs cross local authority boundaries, things becomes increasingly difficult for them when the authorities do not work together.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman), who has left the Chamber, was talking about different technologies and making sure that we have some form of co-ordination. A lot of modern practices in London and in other cities around the country allow people to see where their cards have been used when they are using a bus or train service. There should be some way of ensuring that we have co-ordination in gaining information on the activities of passengers, so that the bus companies are aware of, for example, exactly how many tickets are used by older members of the population at no cost to themselves. We should be able to allocate those to services and then take action in areas such as mine, which have a large number of tourists and a lot of people using their free bus passes to travel around my beautiful constituency. That would allow for a more accurate reflection of what is actually happening.

We should also probably examine some of the alternatives. As a child, I lived for a while in a part of the country where there were post buses, whereby the Royal Mail provided a minibus that had about 17 seats. The back part of it was a cage and the postmaster or postmistress would call at villages on a particular route to collect the post or deliver it to the point where people could collect their own post. The post in all the mail boxes was collected on that trip, and people had to sit on the bus and wait for two minutes while people jumped in and out to put the parcels and envelopes into the back of the minibus. The Royal Mail needed to collect the post and there was a civilised, co-ordinated and fantastic service, which was reliable because it ran to outlying villages regularly at certain times every day and fitted in entirely with the postal collections. I wonder why government cannot consider co-ordinating services with those of other organisations that have to go into the villages—the Royal Mail is exactly one such organisation.

I am sure we can find some way of ensuring that smaller buses are used for core services. Large areas of my constituency, such as Brean and Berrow, attract a huge number of visitors who want to be able to access the bus service, particularly on changeover days when they need to go to Weston-super-Mare station or down to Taunton station. Those bus services need to be provided, particularly in the summer months, but perhaps

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even from March to October. A much more basic service is needed for local people, however, so perhaps it might be worth considering an extended service during the summer months and a basic service during the winter months. That might mean having smaller buses, but having more of them during the summer months.

One of my passions is ensuring that younger people use bus services. In my area, if someone wants to move out of their village or the most local town, they invariably need access to a car. It seems to me that modern technology should allow us to give some sort of restricted access to a free bus pass. That was one issue on which I crossed swords with Bob Crow here in Parliament, because he expressed his desire that only older people should be able to enjoy free bus passes. I do not think that is right. We should at least be able to allow young people up to the age of 19 a card that gives them free travel within a 25 or 30-mile radius of their home. That could be done using the technology used on some of our buses and would reduce the need for young people to use cars and it would set good habits for the future.

I also want briefly to mention a point on which I hope the Minister can give us absolute clarity. When alternatives such as car sharing are used, what is the insurance situation for those who drive other people? Is that considered to be work in some way and is the act of offering lifts absolutely excluded from one’s normal social, domestic and pleasure use of a vehicle? If someone is effectively charging 40p or 25p a mile, I believe they can get into difficulties over the insurance cover they need and there is the question of whether that becomes business use or whether it is covered by social, domestic and pleasure use.

I hope that something can be done to give more assurance to people in rural areas about their bus services. Buses provide vital links to the local town. Someone living in a village might often have to make a journey of five, six or seven miles to reach any services whatsoever given the reduction in the number of post offices, garages and so on. Although one might formerly have been able to buy some small services, a lot of our village shops are no longer around and people might have to cover significant distances that are far too far to walk, and in places where there are no footpaths, it is extremely difficult for people to access services. I hope that the Minister might be able to address some of the points that I have raised.

6.28 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Stephen Hammond): It is a pleasure to be in the Chamber this evening and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax) on securing this debate on rural bus services. I also thank my hon. Friends the Members for Wells (Tessa Munt) and for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) for their contributions this evening.

I listened carefully to the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset, who is a passionate advocate for his constituents on a number of matters that we have debated. I was particularly interested to listen to his in-depth knowledge of the local bus service and to his view of where issues remain. That was helpful.

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My hon. Friend was right to point out, as many people have, that buses play a vital role in our economy. Some 2.2 billion journeys were made on local bus services outside London in the past year and more than half of those who rely on bus services outside London do not have access to a car. Not only in rural areas but in other areas the bus is essential, not only enabling many people to get to work, to education, to the doctor or to hospital but for their quality of life. I accept the case made tonight that for many, particularly in rural areas, the bus is a lifeline, and without it people cannot access essential services, or do a number of the things that people in cities and towns take for granted.

We should note that, overall, satisfaction with bus journeys is high: 88% of passengers are satisfied with their services. As was pointed out, it is not just older people who use buses: under-21s make up a third of bus passengers. However, as a result of the concessionary pass, use among older people is increasing. I will touch on some of the compensation arrangements for that in a moment.

I want to set out how important the Government think buses are. The point about their importance was recently reinforced by a study from Leeds university, which pointed out that bus commuters generate £64 billion of economic output every year, and that one in five bus journeys is for work purposes. I therefore absolutely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset that there is an onus on the Government to recognise that bus services are essential. The Government’s continued commitment to expenditure on buses, and to improving bus services, reflects that. This year, we will spend some £1 billion on the concessionary travel entitlement, and some £340 million on direct subsidy. More than £300 million has been allocated to funding major bus projects in the last year, so the Government absolutely recognise the importance of bus services.

Moreover, we have worked with a number of local authorities, through the “Better Bus Areas” fund, to deliver improvements. We have provided £22 million to support community transport, much of it in rural areas. Many bus improvement schemes are funded via the local sustainable transport fund. A total of £95 million has been provided for four rounds of the green bus fund, which has also helped to make environmental improvements. My hon. Friends rightly make the case for their area, and for us to look at further solutions, but I hope that they will recognise that in this spending round, we have protected bus spending until the end of 2015-16, despite the economic chaos that the Government inherited.

I am pleased to say that we have looked at Dorset. Its county council has received some £14.5 million via the local sustainable transport fund. My hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset will know that some of that has funded bus improvements along the Weymouth-Dorchester corridor, which I think goes through Dorset. That money has also resulted in a package of new public transport infrastructure improvements in south-east Dorset.