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Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendment No. 289:

Page 107, line 2, at end insert (", or
(e) any officer or employee or member of a company having business with the Authority or with Transport for London, or any company in which Transport for London has an interest, which generates revenue in any twelve month period (measured according to generally accepted principles of accounting) in excess of £10,000, or any officer or employee of any company under the control of such a company, or which is controlled by a company which also controls such a company").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 289, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 290, 292 and 293. This group of amendments is concerned with the transport users' committee. Amendment No. 289 seeks to add to the list of those who may not be appointed to that committee--assembly members, members of TfL, members of staff and so on--those who have a business interest with Transport for London, or with the authority, in excess of a certain amount of money. I am prepared to be flexible about the sum of money. The principle is that those who have business interests with the authority should not be members of the users' committee because there could be a potential conflict of interest.

Amendment No. 290 requires that,

Amendment No. 292 deals with public sessions of the users' committee. The amendment merely suggests that the committee should give three days' notice of such meetings. At the moment I can see no requirement to give notice of such meetings. Unless the public is given notice--we suggest three days--there is little value in having public sessions of the users' committee.

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I understand that local authorities are obliged to give three days' notice and that would be a good principle to apply here.

Amendment No. 293 deals with business taken at the meeting from which the public should be excluded. We have no objection to the fact that it may be necessary for the public to be excluded from some items, but we are suggesting that if such an exclusion is to take place, the public should be told what items are involved and given a brief reason why their attendance is not allowed. That seems a perfectly reasonable requirement to put on the committee.

5.15 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: These amendments cover a range of matters concerning LTUC, including provisions on membership, on audit and public accountability, and on the actual subject matter to be considered by the LTUC.

Amendment No. 289 is similar, as the noble Lord acknowledged, to one we debated last week in relation to the independent bus permits appeals body. The Government wish to see public bodies, such as LTUC, representing the full diversity of the communities who use the services. Yet the effect of this amendment would be to debar a significant number of people from applying for membership of LTUC. For example, the amendment would disqualify those working for firms providing office supplies, financial services and catering contracts to TfL, none of which is directly linked to transport provision, and many of which could easily be in excess of the £10,000 threshold contained in the amendment. On Thursday, the noble Lord acknowledged that the figure of £10,000 was perhaps too low.

At present, members of the London Regional Passengers' Committee, in common with members of the other rail users' consultative committees, are asked to disclose financial interests in the transport sector, and may be asked to divest themselves of such assets prior to appointment. That non-statutory method of managing conflicts of interests has worked effectively. We see no reason why the same practice should not be followed.

Moreover, it is the assembly which is to appoint members of LTUC. The assembly will want the LTUC to be independent, and will no doubt make appointments accordingly. We believe that the amendment is disproportionate, and that this is a matter for common sense rather than one requiring legislation.

Amendment No. 290 would require the assembly to appoint external auditors for LTUC. The Government plan to bring forward technical proposals of their own at a later stage to ensure that the audit provisions for LTUC fit within the overall structure for the Greater London Authority and its constituent parts. I am grateful for the comments of the noble Lord in that respect. I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Some of the amendments are proposed with the best of intentions but can cause practical problems. Amendment No. 292 is such an example. I am sure that, as a public consultative body, LTUC will strive to give

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timely notice of its meetings. However, the amendment would prevent LTUC meeting to discuss issues within a shorter timescale. A consultative body such as this should be allowed the flexibility to react to events in a timely way.

Amendment No. 293 would require the committee to give notice to the public of items from which they may be excluded. It would cause administrative difficulties. Although the confidentiality provisions in the Bill permit some items to be taken in private session if provided in confidence by the rail regulator or franchising director, other items can only be held in private session if the committee formally resolves to do so. Such decisions can only be taken at the relevant committee meeting.

I should perhaps add that it is the LRPC's normal practice for confidential items to be taken together so as to minimise inconvenience to members of the public who wish to attend the relevant meeting. That is not always possible and it would be inappropriate to limit LTUC in this way. I hope therefore that the noble Lord feels able to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: These are small points but if things went wrong they could cause a great deal of trouble. Have the Government thought about this? Three days is a very short time in which to give notice of a public meeting. Would it not be a good idea to have something on the face of the Bill.

We all know that there will be occasions when a body such as the new London Transport Users' Committee will want to be able to say it has held a public meeting but is not keen on too many people expressing their views at that meeting. Putting a minimum period of notice on the face of the Bill is certainly desirable, and I cannot imagine that less than three days would ever be required.

In relation to Amendment No. 293, will the agenda containing the items to be discussed in private be publicly available, or will the agenda of those items also be private? If the normal access to information applies, the agenda will explain what the items are. If the public know what the items are, then the chairman will have to give an explanation in order to get the members of the public to leave the meeting. One can trivialise this matter a little too much. Trouble could easily arise at these meetings.

Baroness Hamwee: When similar issues were raised from these Benches in connection with meetings of the assembly and public meetings, we detected--without commitment--a little sympathy on the part of the noble Baroness that they require careful attention. I hope that we can return to those earlier amendments at a later stage and that the Government will be prepared to agree to some minor alterations of the Bill simply in the interests of the good working of the new authority.

The points made in this current debate are very much in the same category. No ground is lost if this matter is conceded; it simply enables the Bill to provide what it should provide for the right sort of regulations. Will the

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Minister be prepared to consider these aspects of this part of the Bill with the equivalent provisions relating to another part of the new organisation?

Lord Avebury: Before the noble Baroness responds, can she give the Committee some idea of what matters are likely to be of such an emergency nature that it would be impossible to give three days' notice of their discussion at a meeting? Presumably, meetings will be held on a regular basis at fixed intervals and there would be no problem in giving the three days' notice provided for in the amendment. The Minister says that if we write this into the Bill it will prevent the committee having special meetings to discuss some item which requires prompt consideration. Can she tell us what kind of items might be likely to be taken at such a meeting?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: A matter of public safety would be an example. I cannot think of another example off the top of my head. If a restriction was placed on the committee, it would not be able to convene in a situation where there was that nature of urgency. I am happy to give the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, the assurance that we will give careful thought to this matter when we come back with amendments on the issue of guidance to LTUC from the assembly.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Can the Minister tell me if the agenda will be public, even if some of the items are private? Will people know what the private items are if they come to a public meeting?

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