Other Private Bills before Parliament
Arrangement of Clauses (Contents)
|Humber Bridge Bill|
This Bill is promoted by the Humber Bridge Board ("the Board"), which is a statutory corporation responsible for the Humber Bridge. The Bill confers new powers and duties on the Board and modifies the existing powers and duties of the Board as set out in its existing legislation. That legislation comprises the Humber Bridge Acts of 1959, 1971 and 1973, as amended by the Local Authorities etc. (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Order 1974, the Local Government Changes for England (Miscellaneous Provision) Order 1996, the Humber Bridge Board (Membership) Order 2012 and miscellaneous other enactments. Borrowing by the Board is also subject to the Humber Bridge (Debts) Act 1996 and orders made under it, whilst the maximum tolls which the Board may currently levy for use of the bridge are set out in the Humber Bridge (Revision of Tolls) Order 2011.
Clause 1 of the Bill deals with citation and the coming into force of the Act, and Clause 2 with interpretation.
Clause 3 contains provisions which alter the membership and other constitutional arrangements of the Board. The Board currently consists of four members, one of which is appointed by each of four local authorities from amongst their council members. The local authorities concerned (which are referred to in the Humber Bridge Acts and the Bill as the constituent authorities) are the East Riding of Yorkshire, Kingston upon Hull City, North East Lincolnshire and North Lincolnshire Councils.
Subsection (1) of clause 3 provides for Board members in future to be known as directors, in keeping with what is common practice amongst corporate bodies generally. Subsection (2) provides for the number of Board directors to be increased by two to six and subsection (3) introduces Schedule 1 which amends certain provisions of the Humber Bridge Act 1959 for that and other purposes, as described later in this memorandum.
Schedule 1 re-enacts sections 6 to 14 and 25 of the Humber Bridge Act 1959 with amendments. The effect of the amendments is to increase the composition of the Board by two, to substitute references to directors for references to members of the Board and more generally to update the provisions in question. In relation to the appointment of the two additional directors, the replacement section 6 provides for the two directors to be appointed by the members of the Board appointed by the constituent authorities from amongst persons nominated by the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership or such body or bodies as the Secretary of State may substitute for it and requires each such appointment to be a person having special knowledge or experience of the operation of commerce in the area of the bridge.
Clause 4 authorises the Board to buy indemnity insurance for the directors in respect of any joint or several liability which they may incur in exercising their functions as directors.
Clause 5 allows the Board to pay allowances and expenses to its directors.
Clause 6 confers on the Board a general power to act, including in particular a power to promote or participate in the promotion of, the economic development of the Humber area and to do any other thing which in its opinion can usefully be undertaken by them and which in its opinion is likely to provide economic, social, cultural or environmental benefits to those in the area.
Clause 7 makes new provision for liability in respect of any deficits on the Board. At present, whilst the Board is not running a deficit, insofar as any such deficit is incurred and cannot be made good out of funds in the Board's reserve fund, if any at that time, the Board is required to recover it straight away by levy on three of the constituent authorities (Kingston upon Hull, East Riding and North Lincolnshire) and in the case of East Riding and North Lincolnshire by reference to rateable values in the areas concerned. The replacement provision now proposed would require the Board, if its reserve fund is insufficient for the purpose, to carry over the deficiency for up to two financial years and, if it still cannot make good the whole or any part of the deficiency, then to recover it from the constituent authorities in equal proportions.
Clause 8 confers new borrowing powers on the Board. At present, the Board is enabled to borrow money for the construction of the bridge and associated works and other sums as are requisite but it must repay these sums within specified periods and subject to certain other constraints. As a result of the Humber Bridge (Debts) Act 1996 and orders made under it, most recently the Humber Bridge (Debts) Order 2012, the liability of the Board to repay to the Secretary of State a proportion of principal and interest under agreements for the financing and maintenance of the bridge has been extinguished. The new power confers a more general borrowing power on the Board for any purposes relevant to its functions or the prudent management of its affairs and, in doing so, removes the existing constraints on borrowing.
Clause 9 amends the Board's existing power as to the use of its maintenance funds, which is contained in section 7 of the Humber Bridge Act 1971. The amendments would remove constraints on the use of the maintenance fund and enable the Board to transfer funds from the maintenance fund to its general reserve fund.
Clause 10 makes new provision for the keeping of accounts by the Board and their audit. It requires the accounts and any auditor's report to be made available or provided to the constituent authorities and the Secretary of State.
Clause 11 makes new provision to enable the Board to levy tolls on bridge users and to charge for services provided by it. The clause begins by providing that the Board may levy tolls up to the maximim tolls set out in Schedule 2, and that it may levy reasonable charges for services provided by it. The tolls set out in Schedule 2 are those currently levied by the Board, being a proportion of the maximum tolls authorised by the Humber Bridge (Revision of Tolls) Order 2011, together with additional charges levied in relation to abnormal loads. It further allows the Board to add to, adjust, alter, replace or remove any category or the amount of any toll but requires the Board, before increasing any maximum toll amount, to consult the Secretary of State, bridge users and the local population if the proposed increase is more than an increase by reference to inflation as measured by the retail prices index. At present, any changes proposed to the maximum authorised tolls (but not increases up to those maxima) are subject to a procedure involving approval by the Secretary of State who may determine to hold a local inquiry into the proposal. The clause also confers a general power on the Board to grant total or partial exemptions from tolls, allow rebates on, enter into compositions for, cease and to resume tolls and to dispense with tolls for particular hours and particular occasions, in respect of some or all users or particular categories of classes of traffic. It also provides that it is the owner of a vehicle who is liable for the tolls in respect of the vehicle and it authorises the Board to appoint agents for the collection of tolls and charges.
Clause 12 makes provision for the enforcement of tolls and as respects traffic regulation. It provides for the Board to be treated as a local authority for the purpose of enabling it to obtain information from the DVLA. It also provides a new power for the Board to recover its tolls and charges and associated costs and expenses. It then deems the Board to be the traffic authority for the highway on the bridge (North Lincolnshire and East Riding of Yorkshire Councils currently being the traffic authorities for the bridge). It also requires owners of vehicles on the bridge which are alleged to have been involved in offences to identify for the Board, if so requested, the driver of their vehicle and to be guilty of a criminal offence if they fail to do so.
Clause 13 introduces Schedule 3 which makes consequential and ancillary amendments to the Humber Bridge Acts.
Clause 14 introduces Schedule 4 which makes consequential repeals to the Humber Bridge Acts.
EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
In the view of The Humber Bridge Board the provisions of the Humber Bridge Bill are compatible with the Convention Rights.
|© Parliamentary copyright 2012||Prepared 1 December 2012|