Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 268E:

Page 79, line 31, at end insert--
("except where Transport for London proposes that a service replacing the London local service in question and equivalent to it will be provided (whether by Transport for London or any of its subsidiaries, or pursuant to a London local service agreement).")

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 268E provides that if a network service is being discontinued but is being replaced by another which is equivalent to it, TfL does not have to consult on the change. It seems a sensible piece of flexibility. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 268F:

Page 79, line 34, leave out ("local") and insert ("London")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 269 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 269A:

Page 79, line 38, leave out ("local") and insert ("London")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 269B:

Page 79, line 39, leave out ("local") and insert ("the London")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendment No. 270:

Page 79, line 40, at end insert ("or any local service which is provided or procured in whole, or in part, by a London borough council or a London health authority")

1 Jul 1999 : Column 532

The noble Lord said: The Bill is silent as to what happens with jointly-run services if TfL were unilaterally to pull out of the arrangement it had made. Potentially such services--for example, for schools and hospitals--become illegal. That is a defect. The amendment protects such services from being criminalised and shut down. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Amendment No. 270 seeks to extend the requirement to consult local authorities on the discontinuance of a network service. As drafted, it would have the effect of requiring TfL to consult any local authority which has within its area local services which are provided or procured, in whole or in part, by a London borough council or a London health authority. This requirement to consult would apply regardless of whether the discontinued route in question was within a local authority's area. So, if a local authority had local bus services run by local authorities or local health authorities within its area, it would be consulted on every proposal to discontinue to network a bus service in London.

Further, it is not clear what is meant by the term "local service". Local and health authorities have powers to provide or secure transport for certain specified groups, such as disabled people, with the exception of services using school buses which can be provided by LEAs. They cannot provide "local bus services" as defined in Clause 144 of the Bill.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply, which I shall obviously have to study in Hansard. However, I suspect that my questions have been answered. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 149, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 150 [London service permits]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 270A:

Page 80, line 3, leave out ("prepare and adopt") and insert ("consult the Assembly before preparing and adopting")

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 27OB, 273FA, 273GA to 273GD and 273HA. The first of this group of amendments, which concerns London service permits, seeks to provide that the mayor shall consult the assembly "before preparing and adopting" the guidance document for considering applications for such permits. This is consistent with our continuing argument that this type of activity is not out of line with the assembly's scrutiny role in the terms that we have been discussing. However, I can probably anticipate the Minister's reply and shall not, therefore, spend any particular time on this amendment. The next amendment would provide that the mayor should consult the assembly before revising the guidance, and the same points apply.

One of the more important amendments in the group is Amendment No. 273FA, which relates to appeals against the refusal to issue a London service permit. If the mayor is a member of TfL, we consider that such appeals should be made elsewhere because of the potential conflict of interest. We suggest that these

1 Jul 1999 : Column 533

appeals be made to the assembly. The next four amendments are consequential. Amendment No. 273HA provides that the mayor shall not be a member of an appeal panel.

The question of conflict of interest, or perceived conflict of interest, which is as important, is material. Dealing with appeals against the refusal to grant such permits is, I believe one could say, a quasi-judicial activity. For example, local authorities have a licensing role and great care is taken in that respect to deal with the matter with evident and overt propriety. The mayor could be the chair of TfL and although, in this case, he would not be judge and jury, he would be defendant and judge if he were involved in dealing with a dissatisfied applicant. I am aware that an applicant could apply to the courts if he or she felt that the appeal has not been dealt with properly, but that seems to me to be a very cumbersome remedy and an unnecessary one, as the potential for conflict of interest can be dealt with by disqualifying the mayor in the circumstances we propose. I beg to move.

10.30 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: We cannot accept Amendments Nos. 270A and 270B. However, I share the noble Baroness's assessment that consultation and openness in this matter are important. But these amendments call for another layer which I believe it is not necessary to prescribe on the face of the Bill. The assembly already has a general duty by virtue of Clause 49(1) to keep under review the mayor's exercise of statutory functions.

Furthermore, the Committee will see that Clauses 156 and 157 specify in some detail arrangements for appropriate consultation exercises. Through these arrangements, assembly members will have every opportunity to contribute to the formulation of the mayor's policy in these areas. I therefore urge the noble Baroness to withdraw these amendments.

Nor can we accept Amendments Nos. 273FA, 273GA, 273GB, 273GC, 273GD and 273HA. These amendments would require appeals to be made to the assembly in the event that the mayor was a member of TfL. There is no reason to suppose that the mayor, if he or she were a member of TfL, would treat appeals any differently. The mayor will not have the time, nor we suspect the inclination, to become involved in the day to day decisions of TfL. Bus services operated under London service permits will represent only a small fraction of his overall responsibilities.

The mayor will be able to refer appeals to an independent appeal panel for consideration and recommendation. Assembly members, GLA staff, TfL staff and members--and due to our Amendment No. 273J, TfL subsidiary directors and staff--will all be disqualified from sitting on that panel. Appellants can have confidence that their appeals will be heard in an impartial and unbiased way.

We are also bringing forward Amendments Nos. 273D, 273E, 273F, 273G and 277A to allow permit holders to appeal against TfL's decisions to attach conditions to permits or to revoke or suspend

1 Jul 1999 : Column 534

permits. I hope therefore that I have assured the Committee that the Government believe it is important that the legitimate interests of permit holders should be safeguarded and that we have brought amendments to achieve this. However, the noble Baroness's Amendments Nos. 273FA, 273GA, 273GB, 273GC, 273GD--it begins to sound like the football results!--and 273HA are disproportionate to the issue and unnecessary. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw them.

Lord Avebury: The noble Baroness speaks as if the appointment of the independent panel is automatic. However, as I read Clause 152, the mayor has the power to entertain an appeal himself or herself and the reference to the panel would be a discretionary matter. He does not have to refer to the panel. My noble friend is thinking of the circumstances in which the mayor himself or herself deals with the appeal and there is not an independent panel appointed for the purpose.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: It is a discretionary power but we have no reason to believe that it could or would be the subject of such detailed consideration by the mayor as the noble Lord fears.

Lord Avebury: In that case why does not Clause 152 state that the mayor shall,

    "refer the matter to a panel of persons appointed by him for the purposes of hearing such an appeal"?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Presumably he could do so in other circumstances apart from that. The noble Lord is obviously not satisfied with the answer I have given and I shall take the opportunity to write to him if he remains concerned about this matter.

Baroness Hamwee: I remain concerned, too, I regret to say. I think the amendments are disproportionate only in the numbering that has been allocated to them.

I have spoken before about the need for trust between the different spheres of government. This is an occasion where trust is becoming complacency. That is not directed at the noble Baroness, as I am sure she will understand. The need for complete impartiality is extremely important at every level of government. I know that the Government will agree with that.

Perhaps I can put the point in a different way. Will the Government consider providing for this situation in the guidance on ethical standards? Can we have an assurance not only that the mayor has an opportunity to take the steps which the noble Baroness explained but that there will be something more; that there will be guidance to the mayor about how to behave in such circumstances?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page