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Lord Berkeley: I believe that the Minister has tried hard to rationalise and to clarify the comments made at earlier stages of the Bill. Congratulations are due.

I refer to Amendment No. 264C and the problem of the definition of operational land. In the days of British Rail, it had some operational land at a place called Mistley Quay in Essex, a quay beside the river. That had been closed for years and someone had decided to develop the land. However, as British Rail had not bothered to register the land, someone else had registered it for themselves at the Land Registry. There was a dispute about ownership, but British Rail said that it could not afford the legal fees to sort out the matter. In other words, any person with land adjacent to the railways could register such land and might get away with it if British Rail decided not to fight. That happened several years ago, but there is a suspicion there.

There is no problem with land that is currently operational, but there is a concern over land that was operational 25 years ago, or even 10 years ago. I am thinking of the railway line from Broad Street up to Dalston, which was closed when the Broadgate development began. There is now a proposal by Railtrack to re-open that line. In my view, that is operational land, but it would not have survived Amendment No. 264A because after five years it might have been sold off.

I am also unhappy about paragraphs (a) and (b) in Amendment No. 264C which mention that if the land is by its nature more general that is all right. I wonder whether the Minister could consider the question of land

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adjacent to operational land which could have been used for other transport purposes, as discussed in connection with a previous amendment.

In the past two weeks we have talked about Railtrack taking over the sub-surface routes and integrating services. I suspect that there will be many parcels of land, where the tracks are together or slightly separate, which could be useful for integrated services. Again, I worry that, under this clause, such land may have been sold off.

Turning to Amendment No. 264A, the amendment mentions "at least five years". I believe that is an inadequate period. I would like to see a period of 25, 50 or even 100 years. Twenty-five years ago we would not have dreamt of today's situation and considering expanding public transport. It is impossible to say what will be needed in 25 years' time. I believe that to sell off old railway lines would be a serious mistake, especially in London, as they may be of use in the future.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: In speaking to this group of amendments I also want to speak to Amendment No. 264 and to my Motion that Clause 141 shall not stand part of the Bill.

The purpose of Amendment No. 264 is to leave out the whole of subsection (3), which would have allowed non-operational land to be sold. Therefore, I am happy to the extent that the Minister in his Amendment No. 264A has gone some way to meeting my suggestion by putting a time limit of five years on the matter. I cannot go as far as the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. One simply cannot freeze this land for ever. He quoted the figure of 100 years. One must be able to realise the assets. The money could be spent on better transport rather than lying idle.

I welcome the amendments, which go some way to meeting the concerns that lay behind my amendment.

Lord Berkeley: Before the noble Lord sits down, under his definition the Thameslink line would have been sold 15 years ago. It is now running at such capacity that Railtrack is thinking of expanding it, at a cost of several hundred million pounds. Is the noble Lord seriously suggesting that railway rights of way should be sold after five years?

Lord Brabazon of Tara: I am not sure that I gave a definition that would have resulted in Thameslink being sold. I take it that the noble Lord means that it was not operational for more than five years. Five years is the Minister's timescale, not mine. I would have allowed the sale of non-operational land. The noble Lord gives one example. There may be many others in which land has been sold off and put to useful purposes, generating revenue for public transport that would not otherwise been made available.

Lord Whitty: I am not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, said that he would be opposing the Motion that Clause 141 stand part of the Bill. He mentioned the Motion in his opening remarks.

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I understand some of the concerns of my noble friend Lord Berkeley, but I also accept what the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, says. Some flexibility is required to allow TfL some commercial and operational freedom. It would be nonsensical if the sale of any strip of non-operational land that TfL owns required the Secretary of State's permission. In at least some of the examples to which my noble friend referred, the land would have been classified as railway land. I am not sure that all his anxieties are as well placed as he seems to think. The Bill gives TfL freedom over non-railway and non-transport use land, but we are also closing loopholes in other provisions. We have moved to some extent in his direction by providing a way round Transport for London selling public land to the detriment of future transport use. There is a bit of give and take and I hope that we have got the balance right. It would not be sensible to remove the clause, but it is currently a bit unwieldy and places rather onerous requirements on TfL which we would like to relax a little.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: I hope that I said--or at least I meant to say--that I was not going to oppose the Motion that the clause should stand part of the Bill.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 263B to 263E:

Page 76, line 9, at end insert--
("( ) The Mayor shall not, without the consent of the Secretary of State, make a scheme or series of schemes providing for the transfer of property, rights or liabilities to the Authority, the result of which would be that a company would cease to be a subsidiary of Transport for London, if the consent of the Secretary of State would be required--
(a) under section 141 below, or
(b) under section (Restrictions on contracting out certain services) below,
had the scheme or series of schemes been a transaction or series of transactions entered into by Transport for London.")
Page 76, line 10, leave out ("subsection (2) above") and insert ("this section")
Page 76, line 12, leave out ("subsection (2) above") and insert ("this section")
Transpose Clause 140 to after Clause 142

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 140, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 141 [Restrictions on the disposal of land]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 263F and 263G:

Page 76, line 14, leave out ("Transport for London shall not") and insert ("Neither Transport for London nor the Authority shall")
Page 76, line 16, after ("in") insert ("any land which is or has been")

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 263GA:

Page 76, line 19, leave out ("Secretary of State") and insert ("Mayor and Assembly")

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The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 263GA would require TfL to obtain the consent of the mayor and assembly rather than the Secretary of State before disposing of operational land or granting a lease of more than 50 years. We have touched on this issue to an extent in the Government's Amendment No. 265, where perhaps they concede that the mayor should not be in a position where he appears to grant something to himself. Amendment No. 263GA includes the assembly and provides the safeguard that we believe is required in this situation. I shall not move Amendments Nos. 263K, 264BA and 264BB. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: The amendments just agreed to would provide greater flexibility and freedom to TfL, but we believe that the Secretary of State needs to retain some reserve powers in this area. Therefore, any significant disposals of operational or railway land need to be referred to the Secretary of State. We are not in favour of substituting in this context the mayor, who, as the noble Baroness acknowledges, may find himself in a dual position in these circumstances, or the authority as a whole. We believe that in this area the Secretary of State needs to retain powers.

Baroness Hamwee: I hope that the Minister will not think me overly critical or carping. He has said he thinks that what the Government have drafted is correct but has not told the Committee why. It may be that he considers this activity to be so serious that the Secretary of State needs to be involved, but he has not told the Committee why the Government think what they think.

Lord Whitty: When the new authority is established, the Secretary of State will retain certain national powers to ensure that, in view of the commitment that has been given, these assets remain in public hands and cannot be eaten away at the edges. That is a commitment by national government, and therefore the Secretary of State should retain the power. I hope that that is good enough for the noble Baroness. At the moment, I cannot do any better.

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