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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: That is a matter to which we can return in terms of guidance. Obviously, there would need to be enough information for people to be aware of the decisions being taken. I am sure the noble Baroness can remember from her distinguished days in local government that there was always enough information on an agenda to be able to tell that the nature of the business being taken had to be taken in private.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: That was because of the Local Government (Access to Information) Act, which I do not believe applies here.

Lord Berkeley: Another example of when a meeting might have to be convened at short notice is if a major bus operator suddenly went into liquidation. There may need to be quick discussions taking place in such a situation.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I shall write to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, as to whether that Act applies.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Carnegy, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, who felt able to support at least the principle of two of the amendments. I shall read with interest what the noble

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Baroness had to say in relation to the first amendment. It may be that the provisions for disclosure of information will satisfy me.

In relation to the second amendment, I look forward again with interest to the technical proposals on audit which the Minister intends to bring forward. On the matter of allowing three clear days' notice, the explanation that there might be a matter of urgency which would need less than that is difficult to accept. Frankly, there will be up to 24 members on this committee plus the chairman, and I feel it would be difficult to organise a meeting of that number within three days in any case. It is not easy to arrange such a meeting at short notice.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, gave an example of the possible liquidation of a London bus operator. I would have thought that was more a matter for Transport for London than the new London Transport Users' Committee. It might be something with which the LTUC will have to deal, but I doubt that it would need to do anything immediately. It would be for Transport for London to produce an alternative operator if that was required. The reasons therefore for not allowing three days' notice are pretty thin. As I understand it, local authorities are required to give that amount of notice and I cannot understand why the LTUC should not be able to do so also.

The explanation to be given to the public as to why they are being excluded from the meeting relates to a very small request. As my noble friend Lady Carnegy said, it could lead to trouble if people find themselves being thrown out of a meeting without being told why. However, I shall not pursue the amendments at this point. Nevertheless, I shall study the Minister's response with care and reserve the right to return to such issues. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 199 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 290 not moved.]

5.30 p.m.

Schedule 14 [London Transport Users' Committee]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 290A:

Page 236, line 33, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment deals with a small point and I have tabled it in order to probe a little a matter which was discussed in another place. Paragraph 7 of Schedule 14 provides that the assembly,

    "may after consultation with the Rail Regulator make arrangements for the Committee to be provided with office accommodation". Our amendment proposes that the assembly "shall" provide such accommodation. That is not because we believe that it should or should not do so but in order to ask the Government to explain why it is that the provision needs to be here at all.

In another place, I understand that the Minister said that the objection to this amendment was that it would prevent funding to provide offices for the committee; in other words, saying that the assembly "shall" provide accommodation would disqualify it from providing funding as an alternative.

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I am concerned about the detail of the provisions in Schedule 14. One has to be so careful over this sort of provision. There is a provision in paragraph 5 of the schedule which allows the assembly to provide for the "expenses" of the new committee. Would that not be adequate to cover arrangements for office accommodation, which is the subject of paragraph 7? Moreover, as a subsidiary point, why should this apply to the rail regulator? He has many functions and sensible things to say, but does he really need to be concerned with this decision? I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: This amendment is unnecessary and could impose undue restrictions on the provision of accommodation for the committee. It is unlikely that the assembly would not provide accommodation for the committee that it had just appointed. However, there could be a situation where the committee is provided with accommodation in which the assembly had no hand. The assembly is already under a duty to provide the committee with funds for expenses incurred, and these could include accommodation costs.

Under Schedule 14, the assembly is under a duty to make funds available for expenses which could cover accommodation. The committee may want to make its own arrangements with funds provided by the assembly. Therefore, there is no need to make it a duty for the assembly to make arrangements for accommodation.

The rail regulator is involved here because of his role as sponsor of the rail users' consultative committees, of which LTUC would be one. With those explanations, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: Perhaps my amendment should have sought to delete the paragraph. By tabling an amendment in the same form as it appeared in another place, I now realise that I tempted the answer I have received, which I fear does not deal with my concerns. However, they are not the most major issues in the Bill.

I see that the Minister is looking puzzled. It seems to me that paragraph 5, which talks about the assembly providing the committee with funds to "defray" expenses, should be all that one needs to provide for accommodation. However, I shall not pursue the point at this stage. As I said, it is not the most important issue in the whole scheme of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 290B:

Page 237, line 5, after ("sub-committees") insert ("or officers").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment relates to paragraph 10 of Schedule 14, which allows the committee,

    "to delegate the exercise and performance of any of their functions to ... sub-committees". Our amendment would allow for delegation to "officers" as well as to sub-committees. In another place, the response to a similar amendment was that this would be

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    inconsistent with the regulations applying to other rail users' committees. However, whether or not it is inconsistent, we believe that it should be allowed if it is a sensible arrangement. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Officers of a committee such as the London Transport Users' Committee are responsible for much day-to-day activity and integral to its success. It is indeed right that it should work without the risk of possible legal action. However, the right level of protection under the law comes from acting within the broad framework of committee policy and considering representations accordingly. The officers are able to do so under the Bill without the proposed amendment. We are not aware that any problems have arisen under the present arrangements to which LRPC is subject. Therefore, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: Before my noble friend decides what to do with her amendment, I should point out that this issue was also debated in another place. In the course of the argument that took place, the Minister said that the amendment would make LTUC's arrangements inconsistent with those for other rail users' consultative committees--indeed, an argument which the Minister used when dealing with the other amendment that we have just discussed. I find that quite an interesting way of putting things. To my way of thinking, it takes us back to the previous amendment which was directed at trying to ensure that the new representative organisation represents the interests of public users of transport rather than the users of all transport. It is as though the Minister was saying that it will be like a rail users' committee; but it is not. It is going to be a different sort of committee. The Government must make up their mind as to what sort of committee we are talking about.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Reverting to the previous amendment, the answer is that in this case the rail users' consultative committee for the area is LTUC. The other answer is that, although it is that, it is that plus; in other words, it has a value added over and above that. I hope that that satisfies the noble Baroness.

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