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Lord Bradshaw moved Amendment No. 122:

("(aa) the fares for such local services,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Shutt, who is not able to be here. This particular baton was passed from the noble Lord, Lord Morris, to my noble friend Lord Shutt, and now to me. I hope that, in transferring it to the Minister, we can arrive quickly at a satisfactory end to this particular race.

The amendment would simply add "fares" to the list of information on a service about which a transport authority is able to inform the public. We all know that, when people make inquiries, they want to know what fare they will be expected to pay. Fares are a complex and important issue, and this amendment would make arrangements for a local authority to pass on information about them. It has nothing to do with setting fares. Amendment No. 124 would allow an authority to collect from the operators a reasonable contribution towards the cost of publicity, including that relating to fares. I beg to move.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, our Amendment No. 123 is in this group and is directed to the same aim. I am happy to support the principles that have just been enunciated.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it has been and remains our view that this amendment is technically unnecessary. Fares are part of the information which could and would come under,

    "other matters of value to the public",

which already appears in the clause. However, in view of what has been said, I am prepared to accept Amendments Nos. 122 and 123 in principle and to bring forward a government amendment at Third Reading. That is simply so that the technical drafting can be checked by parliamentary counsel.

The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, did not speak to Amendment No. 124 in the same group.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I did not. That was remiss of me.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, perhaps it would be helpful if I replied to that amendment in order to avoid it coming up again at Third Reading.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, the Minister is optimistic if he believes that that will avoid the need for the issue to arise again at Third Reading. However, he may succeed.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, perhaps I may try because we believe that this amendment is also

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unnecessary. It seeks to make failure to agree satisfactory arrangements with bus operators as to the apportionment of costs a matter which can trigger the exercise of the default powers in Clause 139. However, Clause 139(1) already states clearly that the local authority can step in where it is,

    "unable to make satisfactory arrangements with one or more ... operators".

The word "satisfactory" is not qualified. In our view, the provision would include arrangements that are unsatisfactory in terms of the apportionment of costs as between the authority and the operators. However, it does not seem necessary to spell that out on the face of the Bill. In the light of that, I hope that none of the amendments will be pressed.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, in view of what the Minister said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 123 not moved.]

Clause 139 [Duty of authority to make information available]:

[Amendment No. 124 not moved.]

Clause 142 [Power to obtain information about local services]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 125:

    Page 85, line 40, at end insert--

("( ) If information is disclosed in contravention of subsection (4) the local transport authority which required its provision shall be liable to compensate the operator which provided it for any loss suffered by that operator as a result of its disclosure.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, when transport authorities release information about such schemes, not least of the problems is that occasionally and unfortunately through inadvertence they may release information which causes commercial damage to an operator. This amendment seeks to add words to the clause in order to provide for compensation should that prove to be the case.

I do not doubt that in his response the Minister will say something about the opportunities of judicial review. But that, of course, exposes the operator to considerable costs. A matter that has always caused me concern in relation to justice is that occasionally one feels that the system works extremely well provided that one can afford it. This amendment seeks to ensure that it is not necessary to be able to afford it. The Bill should provide that matters are properly compensated if, through inadvertence, commercially sensitive information is released and subsequently it is shown that it has caused commercial damage. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, the noble Lord is asking the House to decide whether disclosure in such circumstances should be a matter for criminal or civil law, although I believe that he is making it a matter for both. However, my question relates to how that ties in with subsection (4), which deals with disclosures about particular businesses and about the affairs of an

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individual. The noble Lord seems to be more concerned about compensating businesses than individuals. I wonder where the right balance should lie.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I can give the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, some reassurance in the sense that I was not intending to and shall not refer to the need for judicial review. I believe that the matter is somewhat simpler than that.

This issue was considered in Committee and I am afraid that I am no more convinced now of the necessity or appropriateness of this amendment than I was then. Clause 142(6) already provides that an unlawful disclosure of information is a criminal offence. However, I must make it clear that the subsection does not remove any existing rights under common law. There is a well established right of action at common law in cases where information which is known to be confidential comes into the possession of a person who then unlawfully discloses it to a third party.

Therefore, it would be open to an operator to take action in the courts, either to restrain wrongful disclosure or to obtain compensation. It would be for the courts to decide whether to grant an injunction or whether compensation, if any, should be paid.

The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, justifiably may say that action in the court, using the common law, involves expense. Of course, I am sympathetic to the idea that justice should be available without discrimination of means. However, unfortunately in addition the amendment goes too far. It would appear to make all cases of disclosure actionable unless covered by the specific exceptions covered in Clause 142(5). In some instances, the court may consider that it is in the public interest for the information to be disclosed. Under those circumstances, it is preferable that the common law rules and remedies, which give the court flexibility to decide on the public interest in particular cases, should continue to apply. There is no need for an amendment to the Bill to ensure that that is so. I hope that that satisfies the noble Lord.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for her comment, but I always make the blithe assumption that if I do have a somewhat inadequate amendment someone will show me what is wrong with it. She tends to improve my amendments enormously before bringing them back at Third Reading. However, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, may have obviated the need for that in his remarks that I will study with care. I am grateful to him for those comments. For now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 143 [Civil penalties for bus lane contraventions]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 126:

    Page 85, line 43, leave out ("by approved local authorities").

30 Oct 2000 : Column 683

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 126 standing in the name of my noble friend, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, and to speak to the other amendments in this group in his name.

The Government amendments would allow the Secretary of State to repeal the existing legislation that provides for bus lane enforcement in London and to apply instead Clause 143 in its place. This clause, as drafted, provides local authorities outside London with camera enforcement powers to enforce moving bus lane offences. The Secretary of State or the National Assembly will have the powers to make regulations specifying the person by whom a penalty charge in respect of a contravention is to be paid. At the Committee stage we indicated that we intend, at least initially, to make regulations for areas outside London on the basis of driver liability while keeping the matter under review. In London the current system operates on the basis of owner liability. As this is specified in the London Local Authorities Act 1996 it can only be changed by primary legislation.

These amendments will enable existing legislation to be repealed and Clause 143 to be applied in London with the flexibility to impose the basis of liability for charges by regulation, and subsequently to change this basis also by regulation.

We consider it prudent to allow owner liability to continue to apply in London for the foreseeable future, but this will be kept under review.

Transport for London and the London local authorities would be the enforcement authorities for London under the new regime. In fixing penalty charges for bus lane enforcement, Transport for London and the London local authorities will be required to obtain the approval of the mayor before setting penalty charges. The Secretary of State also has a power of objection.

Finally, our amendment also extends the scope of the provision in Clause 143 so that local authorities would have the powers to enforce moving vehicle contraventions that affect the movement of tramcars and trolley buses.

The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, has an amendment down in this group. We will listen to what he says before commenting on that.

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