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Lord Dixon-Smith: At least I should be grateful that there is a possibility of regulations rather than guidance. I shall need to consider carefully what the

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Minister has said. We are discussing people's livelihoods, so the issues involved are important. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 129 agreed to.

Clauses 130 to 133 agreed to.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 147:

    After Clause 133, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) The appropriate national authority may issue guidance concerning the carrying out by local transport authorities and metropolitan district councils of their functions in this Part in relation to quality contract schemes.
(2) Those authorities and councils must have regard to any such guidance.").

The noble Baroness said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 151 and 154. The amendments would make the same provisions in different places in the Bill, making it possible for the appropriate national authority to issue guidance in relation to quality contract schemes, ticketing schemes and the provision of information.

The amendments are linked to a previous set of amendments that I spoke to on the consultation processes. As those previous amendments have fallen, it may be best to treat these as probing amendments. We want to be sure that we understand the Government's intentions on guidance in those three areas.

If our previous amendments on consultation had been accepted, the way in which it was carried out would have been a major part of any guidance that the appropriate national authorities put forward. It would be interesting to know whether the Government have any idea of using best practice as a way of informing guidance.

So I really have two questions in relation to these amendments: first, whether there is already or is going to be guidance on those particular items--and I repeat they are quality contract schemes, ticketing schemes and the provision of information; and secondly, if so, whether part of that guidance will propose the use of best practice in areas where it may not be very widely used at present. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: These amendments would empower the appropriate national authority--the Secretary of State or National Assembly for Wales--to issue guidance with respect to quality contract schemes, ticketing schemes and passenger information, and would require local transport authorities and metropolitan district councils to have regard to that guidance.

Of course we already have equivalent provisions in the Bill for local transport plans and bus strategies. That is because central government have particular policy objectives that they wish to have taken into account in those contexts; and because we are making statutory what is currently a non-statutory process.

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We have also made an exception in the case of quality partnership schemes. To some extent, those build on experience with existing voluntary quality partnership arrangements on which the department is already preparing a good practice guide. I shall return in a few moments to the issue of good practice. Under those circumstances, we felt that it might be helpful to develop that in the context of the move to statutory quality partnerships. We have taken the power to issue guidance in Clause 122.

But the focus of much of Part II of the Bill is on the delivery of local solutions to local problems. These are primarily matters for local authorities to decide in the light of local needs. We have no particular wish to burden authorities with central guidance on every issue.

It could be said that our existing guidance on non-statutory local transport plans is already too long. We do not agree. We are responding to requests from authorities to be clear and to address issues in some detail. But we do not see the same need for general guidance on schemes for ticketing or passenger information, for example. These are not areas where we think it is necessary to be prescriptive from the centre. Decisions are really down to local authorities, and then only where there has been a failure to secure satisfactory arrangements with operators without recourse to statutory powers. Clause 134(7) requires local transport authorities to co-operate with one another in relation to ticketing schemes. The Bill makes similar provision in connection with quality contracts and bus information.

So we do not accept the need to add these additional provisions on guidance to the Bill. There is always scope for informal guidance on any relevant matter. There is always scope for the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales to collect together and to publicise examples of good practice. It may well be that the Secretary of State will want to do that in the light of early experience of the powers in the Bill.

But we should avoid giving any impression that local authorities cannot get on with implementing their new powers without waiting for further guidance from Whitehall. In fact, I am slightly surprised that the Liberal Democrat party should be seeking to turn a Labour Government into control freaks. We are certainly not control freaks and we have no intention of either being type-cast in that way or being dragged into giving guidance to which local authorities must have regard. I hope that the noble Baroness will not pursue the matter.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: When the Minister said that he was not interested in sending out too much guidance, my noble friend on my left said, "I hadn't noticed"! We can return the compliment or the tease with good measure!

I listened carefully to the Minister's clear response and, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 134 agreed to.

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Clause 135 [Notice and consultation requirements]:

[Amendments Nos. 148 and 149 not moved.]

Clause 135 agreed to.

Clause 136 [Making of scheme]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 150:

    Page 83, line 26, leave out from ("scheme") to end of line 27.

The noble Lord said: This is another amendment designed with the good reputation of the Government in mind. It is designed to help them. Page 83, line 26 of the Bill deals with ticketing arrangements under which authorities may vary or revoke a scheme. Under Clause 135 a ticketing scheme is subject to certain notice and consultation requirements. Subsection (6) of Clause 136 states:

    "The authority or authorities may vary or revoke the scheme; and the variation or revocation is subject to the same procedure as the making of the scheme"--

which seems to be entirely reasonable. If one has taken fully into account the views of the public, it seems perfectly appropriate to follow that procedure if one wants to vary or revoke the scheme. If there had been a full stop there, I would have been content; but the sentence continues:

    "except to the extent that the procedure is modified by regulations made by the appropriate national authority".

Should the regulations ever be promulgated, we shall have an opportunity to discuss them. I hope that the Minister will take the course of greater discretion and accept my amendment which would prevent him having the embarrassment of standing up at some point in the future and explaining to the House why it was that the legislation passed so recently--you can bet your bottom dollar it will not be that far away--requires modification.

I do not believe that it is reasonable for that little escape clause to be in the Bill. What is written on the face of the Bill is not unreasonable. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I believe that the boot is on the other foot. If I were to accept the amendment, I believe that someone would have to return to the Dispatch Box to say, "Sorry, chaps, we did not think about the implications that varying or revoking a ticketing scheme may have, and we may now need to introduce regulations for making a modification". We are getting into pretty recherche stuff now. We are talking not about making a ticketing scheme, but about revoking or varying such a scheme, which would relate to a small minority of cases anyway.

I can assure the Committee that there is nothing sinister in subsection (6). We include the regulation-making power to ensure flexibility. Over a period of time--the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, may be right to say that it may be a short period of time--the normal procedures for making a ticketing scheme would benefit from some modification in the event of a scheme being varied or revoked. It is difficult to predict precisely what would be needed. But it is also possible that ticketing schemes will need to be varied over time to bring in operators or modes, for example.

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In Grand Committee we introduced government amendments that recognised the fact that there are through-ticketing schemes between buses and trains or trams. For instance, if we had suggested 15 years ago including trams in the Bill, everybody would have thought we were talking about Blackpool and not about the considerable number of cities which are now introducing trams. We would not have anticipated that. There may be an OFT investigation of the ticketing schemes which makes it necessary for us to issue regulations. All we are looking for is a degree of flexibility to respond to future developments. If we made regulations, they would of course be the subject of prior consultation with the relevant interests. There is nothing sinister in that.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I do not suggest it is sinister; I suggest it is misguided. It shows a remarkable lack of confidence in the legislative process in which we are engaged if the Government have to keep writing in escape clauses to cover something different happening in the future.

The Minister gave an interesting reply, but not a satisfactory answer. He said that legislation should be a legislator's charter. If we pass a law, we should pass in that law the right to pass more laws. I do not approve of that. I have always felt that we already have far too much law on the statute book. When we add regulation to law and guidance to regulation, heaven help us, but that is what we are doing in this Bill.

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