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Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 412 to 420:

Page 93, line 26, leave out (“guidance document as revised") and insert (“current version of the guidance document").
Page 93, line 30, at end insert--
(“( ) The Mayor shall send to the Common Council and to each London borough council a copy of the current version of the guidance document.").
Page 93, line 31, after (“of") insert (“the current version of").
Page 93, line 31, leave out (“for the appropriate period").
Page 93, line 33, after (“Authority") insert (“, and
(b) at such other places as the Mayor considers appropriate,").
Page 93, line 34, after first (“of") insert (“the current version of").
Page 93, line 35, leave out (“during the appropriate period").
Page 93, line 37, leave out subsection (7).
Page 93, line 39, at end insert--
(“( ) Any reference in this section to “the current version" of the guidance document is a reference to the guidance document as last published, whether originally or as revised.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 412 to 420 en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 420A:

After Clause 172, insert the following new clause--


(“ .--(1) Subject to the following provisions, each of the London borough councils and the Common Council may provide and maintain in any highway within their district which is comprised in the route of London local bus services, or on any land abutting on such a highway, shelters or other accommodation at stopping places on the route for the use of persons intending to travel on such a service.
(2) Each of the London borough councils and the Common Council may enter into and carry out an agreement with any person for the carrying on by that person (“the contractor") of any activities associated with subsection (1) above.
(3) In exercising their powers under subsection (1) above, each of the London borough councils and the Common Council is to have regard to the Mayor's transport strategy.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 420A I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 420B. Amendment No. 420A proposes a new clause that enables the London borough councils and the Common Council to provide bus shelters and similar accommodation. We have

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tabled these two amendments in order to seek clarification from the Government as to how they anticipate resolving a rather complex situation. In London at present the boroughs or London Transport can contract for the supply of bus shelters. I suppose by definition London Transport would not do so outside London. The situation is different inside London.

On the one hand boroughs may prefer to control their own contracts for a number of reasons ranging from income from advertising to contracting for particular shelters. On the other hand, London Transport--soon it will be TfL--has a duty to promote public transport and to see that the supply of bus shelters suits customer needs and is one of their objectives. The revenue from the bus shelters that it provides will be returned for transport uses. There are also issues about the specification of the shelters such as uniformity, design and maintenance.

The situation is complex. As I understand it, a recent Court of Appeal decision, London Transport v. The London Borough of Hillingdon, has confirmed that the situation is complex. There are financial, commercial and passenger interests involved.

We appreciate that we have tabled these amendments at a relatively late stage. They ask the Government whether they accept that something should be on the face of the Bill either in the manner in which we are approaching the matter or by some other method. We ask how they see the current situation being resolved. I beg to move.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I have substantial sympathy for the motivation behind this amendment. I and my noble friend Lord Harris saw the Minister to express anxieties about the potential arising from a lack of competition in this field which could eventually cause great disservice to the London travelling public.

As the noble Baroness said, the issue is very complicated. I wish to recapitulate briefly some of the history behind it. No doubt some noble Lords will have received representations from Adshel, which is special pleading, to say the least. I do not blame the company for engaging in that because that is what corporate interests do. But we have to take it, not as a dispassionate view of the situation but one designed to serve the interests of that particular company.

The noble Baroness is also right in saying that the case affecting Hillingdon was also complicated. I do not believe that it provides a very clear-cut answer to the problems that arise. In 1990, which was 10 years after London Transport formed its partnership for the provision of bus shelters, it has to be said that, from a dispassionate view of the situation at that time, the bus shelters provided on the streets of London were in very poor condition. That is why many London boroughs, if not all, welcomed the competition introduced by J.C. Decaux, a well known company with a French background which has been very successful in providing bus shelters in France. When the competition arose, bus shelter design began to

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improve. That situation often emerges as a corollary of competition. In Kingston-on-Thames, Lewisham, Croydon, Merton, Camden, Hounslow, Hillingdon, Barnet, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest, that measure of competition was introduced to the general benefit of a substantial proportion of London's travelling public.

The situation in Waltham Forest is a little more difficult. It now feels obliged to deal with Adshel which had lost the tender. It had to go to tender with J C Decaux; and it had lost. But last March, I think it was, it was given the contract. Decaux had found itself in difficulty because it was said some time ago, when it sought to buy Adshel, that a strong, compelling reason prevented it from doing so. It would lead to one company emerging in this field and competition would be denied. Now there is a real risk, in particular because of recent events, that the situation is being reversed in favour of Adshel.

For reasons adduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee--it is a highly complicated matter--I do not say that we should decide definitively one way or the other. My noble friend was present at the meeting. He heard the representations made. I should like the Government preferably to keep an open mind and to ensure that the principles of competition are preserved. I withdraw in no way from the situation I adopted in relation to the meeting and for some time previously.

However, if my noble friend is not disposed to act, I ask him at least to ensure that careful consideration is maintained by government pressure on those providing contracts in the future to see how the situation is working out. The main criterion is the provision for the benefit of Londoners. It is not an ideological but a practical issue. If the best provision that can be made is through competition--it undoubtedly had a marked success in this case--it would be better to ensure that that opportunity remains open in the future.

I know that the Government have gone some way down their planning route. However, I urge my noble friend at the very least to give the assurance I seek so that the situation remains under careful review and Adshel is kept up to the mark. If it knows that competition is falling by the wayside, it has nothing to fear subject to maintaining the terms of its contract with London Transport and I believe that standards will drop to the disadvantage of many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people in London.

I know that the point does not go to the heart of the Bill, but it is an important issue of principle. I urge my noble friend to respond to the suggestion I have made in a positive way.

Lord Bowness: My Lords, I support the amendment. On previous occasions, I have asked the Minister whether this is a local government Bill or whether we were dealing with something unique. Now we are discussing bus shelters, I know that it is a local government Bill!

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I, too, have received representations from different interests and local authorities which are concerned about the issue. I support the amendment because I believe that it is in the interests of the travelling public and the London boroughs and that it makes sense within the context of the Bill. I submit that the provision of bus shelters is a London-wide matter only in so far as bus shelters are wanted in all parts of London.

Putting up bus shelters is not a truly strategic matter. Indeed, I recollect that in the shire counties it is a specific provision for parish councils. I have no doubt that putative officer moguls of the Greater London Authority will think it a matter eminently suitable for London boroughs. I suggest that the continuation of dual powers, in this as in anything else, is a great mistake. It may not be as fundamental as dual highway and planning powers, but it is an example of dual powers, which we need to avoid.

I submit that it is for the boroughs to decide what the provisions should be and, after competitive tender, to have the ability to make a borough-wide provision to decide what publicity should be permitted and what to do with the revenue that flows from it.

I draw on my experience as a former Leader of Croydon Borough Council when we decided that we wanted to undertake a comprehensive re-signing scheme over the whole of the borough and to provide bus shelters to a standard and quality which is common-place in many municipalities in continental Europe, but remarkably and sadly unusual within the United Kingdom. Certainly that which had been provided previously in no way reached the standard we sought.

I have to tell your Lordships that the viability of the contract we were able to offer was significantly challenged because we were unable to include the whole of the borough and because of the ability of London Transport and its partners to deal with particular instances within the borough. We were seeking a design to a high standard which could be carried out throughout the area. It is difficult.

Therefore, I ask the Minister to accept that there is an important strategy here in terms of whether the Greater London Authority and the mayor should be dealing with things which are not strategic. There is an issue about the ability of the boroughs to go out to competitive tender to achieve what they want. I hope that in replying to the debate the Minister will be able to give us some assurance that the matter can be looked at seriously.

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