§ 3.7 p.m.
§ Read a third time.
§ Clause 2 [Provision of passenger transport services for Greater London]:
Lord Ennals moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 2, line 45, at end insert ("and, where necessary, including the provisions of special transport facilities for people with particular disabilities.")
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment concerns the problems of meeting the needs of disabled people under the new authority. The noble Earl, Lord Avon, tabled an amendment at Report stage which was warmly welcomed not only by myself but, I believe, by the whole House, in that it clearly placed a responsibility upon London Regional Transport, and he set out his explanation of the implication of his amendment. He said:
It makes it absolutely clear that LRT's general duty extends to disabled people, and this point is important in relation to some of the other amendments which we are discussing today.
He then went on to say that the term "public passenger transport services" covers,
those people who are slightly disabled or who have some difficulty in using the buses and the Underground…the term also applies to those who need wheelchairs and ramps in order to travel; in other words those who cannot use the usual public transport services at all. So LRT will have a general duty to have due regard to the needs of all those people, including those who depend on special services such as dial-a-ride." [Official Report, 7/6/84; cols. 797–798.]
The reason I am quoting from the noble Earl, and will do so again, is that when I moved an amendment in identical terms at Report stage he gave these assurances and a number of others and suggested that we should see whether, in the light of what he had said and what the Bill contained, we were satisfied not with the Government's position on those who could use buses and Tubes, but on those who could not use buses and Tubes. He went on to say, (still in col. 798):
The Government are quite satisfied… that Amendment No. 6"—
that is, the Government's amendment—
backed up by provisions of Clause 34, which requires LRT to include in its annual report to the Secretary of State a specific statement of the action it has taken in relation to public transport provision for disabled people, will ensure not only that needs of disabled people are not overlooked but, much more positively, that LRT will have a clear remit to work towards developing and improving those services.
That was a very important statement. It was the kind of assurance that one wanted to hear—particularly those of us who are concerned with those who have special disabilities, some of which are being met by dial-a-ride and other organisations like it, to which very warm tribute was paid, quite rightly, from all parts of the House at the Report stage. It is fair to say that there are tens of thousands of disabled people who are dependent upon such schemes and who, without them, would be housebound—unable to visit their relatives, unable to go to any forms of entertainment, tied to their houses. We have a responsibility to ensure that schemes like this. which are now steadily expanding and which will, it is hoped. eventually expand to all parts of London, will be absolutely safe.
The noble Earl asked that we should, as I said, read his assurances in order to see just how things were going to work out. But later in his speech, at col. 802, the noble Earl said something totally different. When I read it again it concerned me greatly. I consulted widely to see whether others who are involved were or were not satisfied. It is for this reason, after consultation, that I have tabled this amendment. At col. 802 the noble Lord said:
…we did not believe it appropriate to impose a duty. on LRT either to prepare proposals or, in point of fact, to give effect to them".
At that point we were referring to those severely disabled people who are unable to use normal bus and Underground services. The noble Earl went on to say:
… it is the local authorities who should have the responsibility for identifying the need for such services and for organising and financing them as part of a more general provision which they make to help severely disabled people. It is not a duty which the Government believe we should place on a body charged with providing public transport services for the capital".
I believe that any fair noble Lords—and we are all fair—would accept that that statement is totally different from the assurance that had been given by the noble Earl. I fully accept that he went on to say:
I fully accept that LRT may be able to assist with technical and other expertise".
I hope that they will do so hut, frankly, that is not enough. It does not provide any guarantee that the funds will be made available. The assumption that paying for this is a responsibility which will fall upon the local authorities does not stand up to examination. I have the exact figures of the commitments for this
year from the Federation of London Dial-a-Rides. The GLC has approved funding of £1,603,469. The sum available from local authorities will be £120,435. That is, 6.8 per cent. of the total will come from local London authorities and the remainder from the GLC.
§ When one looks at which authorities have paid, there are only three. At least two of them are supposed to be on the hit list for rate capping. It is very interesting that the largest contributions come from Islington and from Lambeth. They make up about 70 per cent. or 80 per cent. of the whole modest total from local authorities. If that be the situation, the noble Earl has not given an assurance. If he is confident that London Regional Transport should fulfil this responsibility, as he said in the passages which I quoted, it is very difficult to understand why that commitment should not be written into the legislation. Simply to leave it to chance when we are talking about the needs of severely disabled people is not good enough.
I received a letter only this morning from the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation, in which they say:
Great support was given to the amendment during the debate".
The association were referring to the amendment which I moved.
It is doing no more than writing into the Bill the continuing verbal commitments made by Government Ministers throughout the passage of the Bill. Unless this is done, disabled people will not have protection of the law in maintaining special transport services in future. We do not underestimate the present Government commitment to continuing such services but without the amendment, disabled people will continue to be entirely dependent on the goodwill of successive governments. Able-bodied people will not be in this invidious position and it is quite unreasonable that disabled people should be.
§ I say, in conclusion, in moving the amendment that, however welcome the noble Earl's assurances are, unless something is written into the Bill which ensures that London Regional Transport have a responsibility, many of us will feel that this House and this Parliament have let down those who need transport most; namely, disabled people and especially those who are confined to their wheelchairs. I hope the amendment will be accepted by the Government Front Bench but, if not, I hope the House will accept the amendment, because that is our responsibility to disabled people in this country. I beg to move.
Baroness Darcy (De Knayth)
My Lords, I, too, should like to support the amendment. I have put my name to it because I feel it is essential that something about special transport services should be clearly stated in the Bill, despite the noble Earl's assurances. My noble friend Lady Masham of Ilion, who cannot be here today, says that she feels the same. I should like to make two points. The first is from the noble Lord, Lord Bancroft, who has had to leave the Chamber. He very much wants to have assurances about the future of the taxis of the new, accessible design when, in two years' time, they start to come into operation. He seeks only the simple Government assurance that the London Regional Transport authority will use its powers to subsidise disabled people's journeys by taxi. He makes the point that this would give London the best, most flexible and, in public expenditure terms, the cheapest system of public transport for disabled 14 people anywhere in the world. The noble Lord says that there is already a lot of interest in other countries in the new British design of taxi which makes this possible.
I was also going to quote a good deal from col. 802 which contains the noble Earl's words. However, I should like to refer to the last quotation from the noble Earl by the noble Lord, Lord Ennals. The noble Earl said:It is not a duty which the Government believe we should place on a body charged with providing public transport services for the capital".I find that statement amazing, because LRT is precisely the right body to deal with transport services, whether special or otherwise, for the disabled inhabitants of London. We must move away from what is a very old-fashioned attitude; namely, that the local authority knows best. This is a very "nannying" point of view.
We should listen to what the Federation of London Dial-a-Rides say on this point. They know best; they are the experts. They say:London-wide services are the only way of providing us with the special services that many of us need and with the integration that all of us need, and on the basis of a lower overall cost than fragmented borough services. We need public transport services at public transport fares, not an approach which regards us as social service cases".If LRT does not accept responsibility for special transport services, they may well founder. As the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, has said, disabled people will he left stranded in their homes without any means of transport. The amendment is mild and is very reasonable. It is only to "have due regard to", and I feel that it is necessary. I hope that the noble Earl may even agree.
§ Lord Somers
My Lords, I should like to support the amendment. We have here, surely, one of the problems that invariably arise when one breaks up an organisation that has been responsible for certain activities and then expects that responsibility to be accepted without question by a whole group of smaller organisations which, in fact, may or may not accept it. There is nothing to compel them to do so; and, therefore, this is what happens. One cannot expect matters to run as smoothly as they have in the past—though I am not holding for a moment that the GLC is without its sins, as none of us is. But in breaking up such an organisation one has to realise that, somehow, the various responsibilities which it has had have to be firmly fixed elsewhere, so that those who are without any kind of defence will not suffer.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, if I may I would join in from these Benches in the absence of my noble friend Lord Banks, who was active during the earlier stages of the Bill on this issue. The amendment has our strong support. In a sense it is the price that the Government have to pay for the way in which they have gone about organising London Regional Transport. I shall say more about that generally at a later stage this afternoon. It cannot be left to chance, and I detect that it is the mood of your Lordships' House that it cannot be left to chance in the hands of this great patchwork of local authorities in London. With the best will in the world they cannot put together in present 15 circumstances the same sort of cohesive practice which London Regional Transport ought to be putting together in the absence of the umbrella of the GLC.
The Government tell us that they are to remove the GLC. We shall see about that later. In the meantime, they have gone down this road of London Regional Transport, which, as I have said many times, is the road of fragmentation. I believe that this issue, among all the other issues, is one where there should not be fragmentation and where the disabled should be properly catered for in the Bill and not merely by assurances from the Government Front Bench, however attractive they may be.
§ Viscount Ingleby
My Lords, briefly. I should also like to support this amendment. The dial-a-ride services are vital and ought to be provided on a London-wide basis, and not by each individual local authority.
§ The Earl of Avon
My Lords, I said at Report stage that if any anxiety still remained after the assurance I gave I would be happy to look at the matter again. I have now had discussions with my honourable friend the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, as, indeed, has my noble friend Lady Lane-Fox. We have thought seriously since then about how best we could ensure that we were not leaving disabled people with doubts and worries. After due consideration we believe that our proposal is the right solution, and I shall now try to persuade the House to agree.
I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, for the rational way in which he put his views, and I shall try to do the same. I believe that I have made it clear that in substance there is nothing between us. We all want dial-a-ride and other things to continue progressing, as things are progressing now, and we hope they will progress in the future. I should like to make clear that the words "public passenger transport services" as used in the Bill cover special transport services for the disabled. That is already on record, but I am happy to put it on record again.
I fully appreciate the concern expressed about the future of funding the services like dial-a-ride. We do not want to leave anything to chance, any more than the rest of the House. We should not lose sight of the fact that the money the GLC is using to fund these services currently has been obtained from the boroughs through the GLC precept. If the GLC, as the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, suggested, ceases to exist, that money will be available to the individual boroughs to allocate on the basis of their own assessment of need or priorities. It is clear that if such services are to have a long-term future they must have the same regard to efficiency and cost as every other part of the public transport system. I believe it is right that in future boroughs will be able to look across the full range of their priorities and to allocate funding as they think best within those priorities.
The Government have already made their contribution to help dial-a-ride achieve a sounder basis for the future through the announcement of the setting-up of a London branch of the National Advisory Unit for Community Transport. As I told the House at an earlier stage in our discussions, the 16 Government will be setting-up and funding this branch as an off-shoot of the national advisory unit, whose excellent work in the community transport field will already be well known to many in the House. The London branch should be coming into operation within a matter of weeks now, and will be concerned specifically to work with local schemes to ensure that they are developing along sensible and cost-effective lines. They will be giving guidance and advice on a wide range of financial and operational issues to all those in London who are concerned with the provision of transport for the disabled.
I have already told the House at an earlier stage of the clear undertaking given by my right honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Transport, on the provisions to be made for disabled people. She said very clearly that instructions would be given to LRT by the Secretary of State to work towards improving their own vehicles and infrastructure with the needs of the disabled in mind. It has also been made absolutely clear that the London Regional Passengers' Committee, the consumer body for LRT, will include at least one person specifically to represent the needs of the disabled, and that that person would also be invited to join the Minister of State's panel of advisers on disability at the Department of Transport.
I appreciate that none of this alters the strongly-held view of the Government that those best placed to identify the particular needs of the disabled are those closest to them; that is, the local authorities. I hope that the House will recognise this point. We must never forget that we are not concerned here only with the articulate disabled, who might well be able to make their demands known to a London-wide organisation. We are most concerned with the majority of disabled people, who are not so articulate, such as the frail and the elderly. Unless they are looked after by someone with the closest possible local knowledge and understanding, they will, quite simply, be overlooked.
I believe that it would be counter-productive to refer to the provision of special services in this Bill. There is a real risk that the intentions of the Bill will be misinterpreted. People will inevitably infer that LRT would then be responsible for identifying, and funding, these special needs. What we want LRT to do is to co-operate at a practical level with those who are much better placed to identify the real needs. As has been said many times during the passage of this Bill, that is what we propose for LRT and that is what we intend to see happen. What we want LRT to do is to co-operate at a practical level with those who are much better placed to identify the real needs. As has been said many times during the passage of this Bill, that is what we propose for LRT and that is what we recommend to the House.
We have devoted much time today, and in previous debates, to discussing the merits of services like dial-a-ride and the subsidised taxi scheme. I endorse their value. These services have undoubtedly opened up opportunities to disabled and elderly people which they have never had before. Steps taken over recent years are to be applauded. It is equally important to ensure that such schemes are not simply a temporary phenomenon. We need to ensure that they have a sound basis in economic reality. I hope that noble 17 Lords will feel that the way we provide is the right way forward, and, with the assurances I have given, the best of the options which are open to us. Our reluctance over this amendment stems not from any lack of concern or understanding but, on the contrary, from the the belief that we are doing the best we can in this way to ensure that disabled people's needs are not overlooked.
§ Lord McCluskey
My Lords, I rise to make one brief point, and that is to support and underline the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy. All this amendment seeks to do is to include in the duty of the authority a duty to "have due regard to" the needs for these facilities. That is all it is. It merely says that, in law one should not take a responsible decision without having regard to these needs. If the Government cannot accept that, one will be left in the greatest doubt about the sincerity of the words which the noble Earl, himself certainly sincere, has just uttered.
§ Lord Ennals
My Lords, I am very disappointed in the reply given by the noble Earl. I do not for one moment doubt his sincerity. He has been kind enough to consult his colleagues and he has told us the conclusion, which is that our proposal is the right way. He has consulted his colleagues. May I ask him what consultation there has been with those organisations which exist for the sole purpose of representing disabled people, and which know the interests of disabled people on a day-by-day basis? What consultation has there been with bodies such as RADAR, and the joint committee on mobility for the disabled? I would guarantee that if the noble Earl had had consultation with any of them—the Spastics Society, or the rest—they would also have said that they need not just a ministerial assurance, or two ministerial assurances, as he has said; they need it written into the Bill. It is not good enough simply to say, "We will leave it to the London boroughs".
At the Report stage the noble Earl at column 803 of Hansard said:We believe that services such as Dial-a-Ride, which, as the House well knows, we welcome, fall properly within the responsibility of local authorities in a general context; and we believe that that is where they should remain".In the light of the record so far of the performance of local authorities in financing schemes such as Dial-a-Ride, where they have paid only 5 per cent. or 6 per cent. over the years and have not pledged more for the future, bearing in mind that many of them will, rightly or wrongly, have their expenditure heavily restricted, how can the noble Earl be satisfied that the needs of disabled people who cannot use London Transport will be met? He referred to Clause 2(7) which is about public passenger transport services. Nowhere does it state that the special needs of disabled people need to be even considered, let alone met.
If this amendment is not put into the Bill, it could well be that there will be no way in which the noble Earl can give an assurance that London Regional Transport will carry the burden which until now has been carried by the GLC. We should then be faced with the possibility either that the scheme, which is growing well and is giving a marvellous service, would fall apart, or that we should have to go around with 18 collecting boxes, as all the other societies which are represented on RADAR and the other bodies have to do, collecting money voluntarily. If the Minister believes that London Regional Transport has a responsibility in this regard, there can be no logical reason why that commitment should not be written into the Bill. I believe that we must press the Minister, or rather, since he has not made any concession, that we must press this matter to a vote.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships' divided: Contents, 86; Not-Contents, 101.19
|DIVISION NO. 1|
|Airedale, L.||John-Mackie, L.|
|Allen of Fallowfield, L.||Kilmarnock, L. [Teller.]|
|Ardwick, L.||Leatherland, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Listowel, E.|
|Aylestone, L.||Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.|
|Bernstein, L.||Longford, E.|
|Beswick, L.||McCarthy, L.|
|Birk, B.||McCluskey, L.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||McGregor of Durris, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Maybray-King, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Mayhew, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Mishcon, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Munster, E.|
|Chitnis, L.||Oram, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Phillips, B.|
|Collison, L.||Plant, L.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|David, B. [Teller.]||Porritt, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Reilly, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Roberthall, L.|
|Denington, B.||Rochester, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Seebohm, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Somers, L.|
|Ezra, L.||Spens, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Stallard, L.|
|Gaitskell, B.||Stamp, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Grey, E.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Grimond, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Hale, L.||Stone, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Henderson of Brompton, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Hooson, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Howard of Henderskelfe, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Howard of Troon, L.||Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|Hunt, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Ingleby, V.||Wigoder, L.|
|Jacques, L.||Wilson of Reivaulx, L.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Bruce-Gardyne, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Cairns, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Caithness, E.|
|Ampthill, L.||Campbell of Alloway, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Campbell of Croy, L.|
|Avon, E.||Cockfield, L.|
|Bauer, L.||Cottesloe, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Craigton, L.|
|Bellwin, L.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.|
|Beloff, L.||Daventry, V.|
|Belstead, L.||De Freyne, L.|
|Denham, L, [Teller.]||Merrivale, L.|
|Denning, L.||Molson, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Mottistone. L.|
|Donegall, M.||Moyne, L.|
|Duncan-Sandys, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Ebbisham, L.||Norfolk, D.|
|Eccles, V.||Northchurch, B.|
|Effingham, E.||Norwich, Bp.|
|Elton, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Faithfull, B.||Onslow, E.|
|Fanshawe of Richmond, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Peyton of Yeovil, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.|
|Glanusk, L.||Polwarth, L.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Rodney, L.|
|Gowrie, E.||Romney, E.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Gridley, L.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Grimthorpe, L.||Saltoun, Ly.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Semphill, Ly.|
|Hayter, L.||Shaughnessy, L.|
|Henley, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Home of the Hirsel, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Sudeley, L.|
|Killearn, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Kilmany, L.||Swinton, E.|
|King of Wartnaby, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Kinnaird, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Thomas of Swynnerton, L.|
|Long, V. [Teller.]||Trefgarne, L.|
|Lovat, L.||Trenchard, V.|
|Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Lyell, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|McAlpine of Moffat, L.||Vickers, B.|
|McFadzean, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Macleod of Borve, B.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Clause 6 [Obligations to invite tenders]:
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 7, line 9, at end insert—
(" ( ) In carrying out their duties under subsection (3) above London Regional Transport shall have due regard to the general conditions of service and wages exercised by persons submitting tenders.")
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is to ask for a little more assurance from the Government that when work is subcontracted by London Regional Transport the conditions of employment shall be reasonable and fair to the employees and ultimately to LRT. In Committee I tabled an amendment in which I asked that work under a tender should be carried out in accordance with recognised wages and conditions—wording to which the noble Earl, Lord Avon, took exception because he felt that it was too firm, too strong, and too inhibiting on LRT. The noble Earl said that an attempt could be made to find slightly different words, and the words in the present amendment ask merely that LRT, when calling for tenders, have,
due regard to the general conditions of service and wages".
of the people in the organisation which has been asked to tender.
§ The point was made previously that we do not want cowboy operators and that it is important to look at the general conditions of service and wages, rather than merely the wages because, as I pointed out, frequently cowboys are paid very high wages for doing a job but all the other conditions are missing such as the assurance of decent working conditions, or even insurance while working on a job. All these points are omitted. When a big job is to be put out to tender by organisations as responsible as LRT they make very sure of the background and the bona fides of the firm they are asking to tender. In fact, if the job is sufficiently big, there will be a special list of only two of three firms that will be acceptable. It is often difficult for sub-contractors to get on those lists because there are required contractors of which the firms have had experience and which the firms believe will be able to return an honest tender and, if selected, do a good job.
§ All this amendment asks is that for the medium to smaller jobs LRT makes itself aware of the status of the firm which it is asking to carry out the sub-contract work and that it shall have due regard to the general conditions of service and wages paid by the firm. It is a minimum requirement which does not tie down LRT in any way. We ask merely that LRT informs itself in a little detail of the type of firm it is dealing with and does more than just use the Yellow Pages—if ever LRT would do that.
§ It is asking very little. It would be wrong, on such a mild amendment for the Minister to say, "Of course LRT would do this", as he said on the previous amendment. We should like the words "due regard" to be inserted. I believe that the case is just as strong for this amendment and that the Minister should accept that London Regional Transport should have "due regard" to the type of firm it is dealing with as regards wages and service. I beg to move.
§ The Earl of Avon
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, for again introducing us to this topic; I believe that it is the third time we have gone over it. I appreciate that the noble Lord has made an attempt to meet my earlier criticisms of the drafting, but I still do not think that he has made a case for the substance of the principle of the amendment.
In our earlier discussions I sought to emphasise that Clause 6 provides LRT with a discretion to determine what activities carried on by it might appropriately be put out to tender. Having identified such an activity, LRT is then required to invite other people to submit tenders to carry on those activities. The invitation to tender may specify the period during which the activity is to be carried on, and the basis on which it is to be carried on. LRT is then obliged to accept a tender where the result would be to have the activity carried on in a satisfactory manner and at less cost. Those duties are equally applied to LRT's subsidiaries.
The noble Lord's amendment seeks to add a further rider. LRT would be obliged to,have due regard to the general conditions of service and wages exercised by persons submitting tenders".21 I hesitate to comment on the noble Lord's drafting, but I must say that I find his reference to "general conditions of service" somewhat imprecise; and I am not sure that either conditions of employment, which I think is his meaning, or wages can in themselves be "exercised".
Be that as it may, as the noble Lord said, the thinking behind the amendment is clear. It is aimed at securing fair competition on equal terms. I believe that I, in my turn, made the Government's position clear in our earlier debates. We are keen to encourage competition. We believe that it holds the key to obtaining a better service. We are not anxious to insert unnecessary obstacles.
I sympathise with some of the noble Lord's remarks, but as I have said before (in particular in response to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, at an earlier stage) we do not believe that Clause 6, as drafted, will in any way encourage cowboy operators. LRT must be satisfied that the activity in question will be carried out both in a satisfactory manner and at less cost. It will be in its own interests to ensure that it does not enter into contracts with disreputable or unscrupulous employers. It will be in its own interests to ensure that the person submitting the tender can be relied upon—
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, the noble Earl makes the point that LRT should not grant tenders to unscrupulous employers. If there is no obligation written into the Bill how will LRT know whether they are unscrupulous?
§ The Earl of Avon
My Lords, the noble Lord interrupted me in mid-flow of a marvellous sentence. But to go hack to where we were before, I should say that equally "general conditions of service" is so imprecise in itself. How would you identify that? What would that mean? As I was saying, it would be in LRT's own interests that the persons submitting the tender could be relied upon to provide continuity of supply and a satisfactory level of service throughout the period of the tender. We simply do not believe that LRT should be under a statutory duty to have regard to the conditions of employment, or the level of wages, of other employers. LRT must surely be allowed to exercise its own commercial judgment in these matters, subject to the constraints already written into Clause 6 to provide the impetus for contracting out. In fact, I do not think that it is very flattering to LRT's future mangement to suggest that it would do otherwise than what I have said.
I can only repeat that in our view the amendment would tend to frustrate, rather than to encourage, competition. LRT must be prepared to measure itself against the commercial market. It ought not to be shielded from outside competition if that would help to bring down its costs.
Finally, I reiterate that Clause 6 is not new. It simply follows the provisions which already apply to London Transport and the passenger transport executives by virtue of the Transport Act 1983. We have no evidence, and no evidence has been produced, that this has caused problems in practice. We therefore cannot see any need to depart from the framework laid down in that Act.
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
My Lords, the noble Earl will not be surprised if I say that his reply is disappointing. We are not concerned with trying to stop competion; we are concerned with stopping unfair competition. After all I said in earlier discussions on the subject, I had hoped that he would realise that it is perfectly possible to have a cheaper, but satisfactory, job done and—he may not like the phrase "general conditions of service"—one which is, nevertheless, carried out by people who are bad employers. I would think that there are legal precedents for the use of the definition, "good employer". I need to check on that, but I am sure that the Minister is aware that there is a classification of what are considered legally to be good employers.
It may be asked why we have produced the proposal now; the provision was in the 1983 and earlier Acts. As a party, we have always tried to have competition, but based on decent conditions of service and wages. Undoubtedly—and this is a political point, particularly in the present year—there has been great expansion of subcontract work for local authorities and hospitals, and especially the hospital laundry service. A great deal of it has been unsatisfactory. Many of the contractors are now proving themselves not to be good employers. The picture is now becoming sharper partly because bad conditions and poor wages are showing up in areas where they never occurred before. Local authorities and other public bodies always dealt with reliable people. I am not by any means saying that all contractors who take on direct labour work now are bad employers, but there is great scope for that. There are instances where contracts have been taken away from people because of the totally unsatisfactory nature of their work and also because it was discovered that their employees had not been treated fairly.
I am very disappointed in the Minister. After what has been said today I hope that he will take the opportunity to refer this to his department, and perhaps some change may be made in the other place when the Bill goes back there for consideration of our amendments. As the Minister is obviously unwilling to move on this point, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 43 [Regulation of London bus services under control of London Regional Transport]:
Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 41, line 32, leave out ("the route") and insert ("any part of the route in question or (as the case may be) the").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, it might be convenient for the House if in moving Amendment No. 3 I also discussed Amendment No. 4.
Amendment No. 4: Page 41, line 39, leave out from beginning to ("London") in line 46 and insert—
("(b) London Regional Transport propose not to renew any agreement entered into by them by virtue of section 3(2) of this Act for the provision by any other person of any bus service which is being so operated or to agree to the discontinuance of any such bus service currently provided in pursuance of any such agreement;
Then, before any decision is taken to that effect,").
§ Both these amendments correct minor errors. The first brings the wording of subsections (4) and (5) into 23 line in their treatment of parts of routes in order to put beyond doubt that every local authority affected by any proposal will be consulted, even if only part of the route in question runs through its area. The second amendment revises subparagraph (b) of subsection (5) in order to reflect more accurately what will happen in practice if the question arises of discontinuing a bus service which is being provided by another operator under a Clause 3(2) agreement with LRT. The substance remains exactly the same. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 4: [Printed above.]
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 44 [Application of Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 in relation to services in Greater London]:
§ 3.56 p.m.
Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 42, line 33, leave out ("they apply") and insert ("well as").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think that it will be for the convenience of the House if in moving Amendment No. 5 I also discuss the related amendments, Amendments Nos. 7 (which is a new clause to be inserted after Clause 44), 17 and 18.
§ Amendment No. 7: After Clause 44, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Excursions and tours with stopping places in Greater London
.—(1) The following section shall be inserted in the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 immediately after section 35 (grant of road service licences for certain excursions or tours)—
Excursions and tours with stopping places in Greater London
35A.—(1) If, in the case of any application for a road service licence made to the traffic commissioners for the Metropolitan Traffic Area—
(2) In this section "stopping place" means, in relation to any service, a point at which passengers are taken up or set down in the course of that service.
(3) Section 33 of this act shall not apply in relation to any application for a road service licence to which this section applies or in relation to any licence granted on any such application, and sections 31 and 32 of this Act shall so apply subject to the modifications provided by the following provisions of this section.
(4) The interests of the public falling to be considered under any provision of section 31 or 32, as that provision applies by virtue of this section, shall be confined to the interests of the public in securing that only places which are suitable for use as such are used as stopping places for the service in question in Greater London.
The reference above in this subsection to the service in question is a reference to the proposed service or the service provided under any road service licence granted on an application to which this section applies (as the case may require).
(5) For the purposes of this section a place is to be regarded as not being suitable for use as a stopping place for any service if the traffic commissioners are satisfied that its use as such would be prejudicial to the safety or convenience of the public.
(6) Section 31 shall apply with the omission of—
(7) In subsection (6) above "commissioner of police" means—
(8) Section 32 shall apply with the omission of subsections (1) and (2), but the traffic commissioners in granting a licence on any application to which this section applies may attach to the licence such conditions of a description within section 32(1)(c) as they think fit, having regard to any objections or other representations that fall to be considered in relation to that application by virtue of section 31(3)(c) as it applies by virtue of this section, for securing that only places which are suitable for use as such are used as stopping places for the proposed service in Greater London.
(9) Any condition attached to a road service licence under subsection (8) above shall be treated for the purposes of the references in section 30(7) and 32(5) of this Act to a condition attached under section 32 as having been attached to the licence under that section.
(10) Subsections (2) and (3) of section 35 of this Act shall apply in relation to a road service licence granted in pursuance of section 31, as section 31 applies by virtue of this section, as those subsections apply in relation to a road service licence granted in pursuance of section 35.
§ (2) In section 35(1) of that act, at the beginning there shall be inserted the words "Subject to section 35A of this Act".
§ (3) In section 54(4) of that Act (procedure of the traffic commissioners in certain cases)—
- (a) in paragraph (a), after the word "Act" there shall be inserted the words "or (as the case may be) as mentioned in section 35(1) of this Act and also as mentioned in section 35A(1)(b) of this Act"; and
- (b) in paragraph (b), for the words "so satisfied" there shall be substituted the words "satisfied as mentioned in section 34(1) or 35(1), other than an application in the case of which they have determined that they are also satisfied as mentioned in section 35A(1)(b)".
§ (4) Nothing in this section shall apply in relation to an application for a road service licence made before this section comes into force.")
§ Amendment No. 17: Clause 71, page 71, line 23, leave out ("subsections (3) to (5) below") and insert ("the following provisions of this section").
Amendment No. 18: Clause 71, page 71, line 37, at end insert—
(" ( ) Section (Excursions and tours with stopping places in Greater London) of this Act shall come into force at the end of the period of two months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.").
§ I shall concentrate on the new clause, but I will deal with the other amendments towards the end of my remarks. It would be difficult to improve on the advocacy of my noble friend Lord Teviot in introducing at Committee stage the amendment on which our own new clause is based; indeed, it would be difficult to improve on his description of the proposals themselves. But I should like to comment on the problem with which the new clause seeks to deal and to describe the new clause itself. Copies of the department's note on the clause have of course been made available in the usual way, which I hope has been helpful to noble Lords.25
§ The purpose of the clause is to give the metropolitan traffic commissioners power to control the use by vehicles operating excursion and tour services of stopping places in Greater London. These services are one of the three types of bus service defined for licensing purposes in the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981, and they are dealt with by Section 35 of the 1981 Act. At present, the traffic commissioners have very limited powers under that section to refuse a road service licence for an excursion or tour.
§ Over the last two years, the growth in the number of sight-seeing tours which pick up and set down passengers in London has caused traffic management problems at a few central London locations, in particular Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and Victoria. The reason, as my noble friend explained, is that there is already heavy traffic at these places and very limited scope to provide bus standing facilities. As I made clear at Committee stage, the Government agree that these traffic management problems are sufficiently serious and that the licensing system should he able to take them into account in considering applications for road service licences to operate excursions and tours.
§ We have, therefore, provided in the new clause that, where the service which the applicant proposes to provide would involve picking up or setting down passengers in Greater London, the metropolitan traffic commissioners must judge whether the application is against the interests of the public. This test is not imposed on applications under the existing Section 35. In order to judge whether the application under the new clause is against the interests of the public, the traffic commissioners must consider only whether the proposed stopping places for the service are suitable; and a stopping place is not to be regarded as suitable if they are satisfied that its use for that purpose would be prejudicial to the safety or convenience of the public.
§ The new clause gives local authorities and the police for the areas to be covered by any new service the right to make objections or representations on grounds of prejudice to the safety or convenience of the public. It gives the traffic commissioners power, in granting a licence to which the new clause applies, to attach such conditions as they think fit, having regard to the objections or representations, in order to ensure that passengers are picked up or set down only at specified points, or are not picked up or set down between specified points. It also gives the traffic commissioners power to alter, remove or attach additional conditions.
§ I should make it clear that the new clause is not intended to undermine our commitment to competition under the 1981 Act. The traffic commissioners will not have power to consider whether there is a need for a service, nor will existing operators he able to object to applications for new services. We are merely responding to representations from the police and from highway authorities on grounds of safety and of disruption to traffic, including buses.
§ Finally, perhaps I may say a few words about the amendments to Clauses 44 and 71, which have been grouped here for discussion with the new clause. The amendment to Clause 44 simply modifies the 26 declaratory statement in sub-section (1) of that clause in order to take account of the fact that the new clause introduces another difference between Greater London and the rest of the country.
§ The amendments to Clause 71 provide for the new clause to come into effect two months after the Bill receives Royal Assent. That is in order to give all concerned a suitable opportunity to prepare themselves for the new system.
§ I am sorry if I have taken rather a long time to explain this series of amendments, but I hope it will be welcomed, not only in order to meet a promise given at Report stage to my noble friend Lord Teviot, but as a practical measure to deal with the traffic problems caused at a very few places in central London by excursion and tour services. I beg to move.
§ Lord Teviot
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for his kind remarks about myself and for his detailed explanation of the new amendments, from which the whole House has benefited. I am sure that they are absolutely justified. I have nothing to add. I shall read the proposals very carefully. I am quite sure that the whole industry—not only London Transport, but also the existing competitors—will benefit.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, may I just ask the Minister to clarify one point on this matter. I know that when London Transport was asked to allow stops to be used by the privately run yellow culture bus, which we see going around town at the moment, there was great resistance for a long time, but in the end they agreed and they are allowing their stops to be so used. The Minister made the point that what is proposed is not intended to oppose any competition, but will he assure me that it will not be so prejudiced in favour of London Transport as to be at the expense of other operators? I am strongly in favour of London Transport, but not if there is any risk to other operators.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
My Lords, I am quite happy to give my noble friend the reassurance she seeks.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 6:
Page 42, line 43, at end insert—
("( ) In subsection (2) of section 31 (grant of road service licences) the following sub-paragraph shall be added before paragraph (a)
(a) shall, in respect of any application for a licence to operate a London bus service as defined by section 43(6) of the London Regional Transport Act 1984, send copies of that application and supporting information to the London Regional Passengers Committee;
( ) In subsection (3) of section 31 (grant of road service licences) the following sub-paragraph shall be added after paragraph (c): "and
(d) in respect of any application for a licence to operate a London bus service, any representations made by the London Regional Passengers Committee.".")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, you will recall that a similar amendment was introduced at Report stage. That was the first occasion when this particular 27 principle had been considered in this House. I would remind noble Lords of what I said on that occasion—that the principle of the amendment had the full support of the National Consumer Council. The consumer council take the view that the passengers committee should be in a position to represent users of all public transport and that they cannot carry out this responsibility effectively if bus services provided by independent operators are not fully included in the scope of the passengers committee's responsibilities.
§ Whereas those who are operating under agreement with LRT will come within the scope of the passengers committee, other services licensed by the traffic commissioners are to be excluded by the Bill as at present worded. The amendment seeks to amend the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 to provide that when an application is made to the traffic commissioners for a licence to operate a bus service, details of that application shall be sent to the passengers committee to be set up under the Bill and that the passengers committee shall have a statutory right to make representations.
§ When this principle was considered on Report, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, expressed the view that the Government saw no grounds for giving the passengers committee a particular role in relation to independent operators. He argued that the committee's role is to represent the views of services provided by a nationalised industry. The noble Lord added that it would be quite wrong to put the passengers committee in a privileged position is so far as traffic commissioners should be required to have particular regard to representations that may be made involving the passengers committee.
§ On that occasion I said that I would seek further advice and would no doubt come back at Third Reading, and, accordingly, I withdrew the amendment. Since then I have again consulted the National Consumer Council. Their view is still that they consider. it essential that the passengers committee should be able to act for all transport users. Services provided by the operators under road service licences could certainly affect the pattern of services provided by London Regional Transport. Should that lead to LRT withdrawing from certain routes, it would mean that passengers on some routes would not be represented only because the service was being run by a different operator.
§ The passengers committee should not be hindered in its representations on behalf of users of all bus services. Whether the services be public or independent surely is irrelevnat. The commissioners have powers to grant road service licences in Greater London. From various debates on this Bill, it is clear that the Government wish to encourage the maximum position—as they call competition—in regard to independent operators. Recent reports indicating the attitude of the Secretary of State in wishing to move towards scrapping local bus controls suggest that we could be faced with a greater number of independent operators in Greater London. If the Bill says that that should be the position, then surely the passengers 28 committee must have a statutory right to consider matters relating to independent operators as well as to LRT itself.
§ I hope that the Minister will see that the Bill will not restrict the passengers committee in carrying out their duties. The amendment I have moved will ensure that that will not he the case. Although we discussed this at Report, I hope the Minister will now see fit to accept this amendment because, without it, the work of the passengers committee will be severely restricted.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, I am not going to use the forbidden word, but I shall talk about co-ordination. It seems to me that this is one of the last backstops of co-ordination in the patchwork of transport which we shall have when independent operators become more usual in London. I believe that if we have regard to the needs of the passengers in Greater London, then the passengers committee should he put into a position where they have a statutory right to look at the whole of this patchwork and not just that part of it which is controlled by London Transport.
It may be that I have the picture distorted in some way, but it seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has a very important point here and that the passengers committee could be the last remaining mortar between the bricks, as it were, in this edifice which is going to grow over the next few years. So certainly on the basis of what I have heard so far this amendment has our very full support.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said, we debated an identical amendment at Report stage. I thought that I had then explained the Government's position quite clearly. We have now had a number of debates in which wet have explained why we see no grounds for giving the passengers committee a particular role in relation to independent operators.
My noble friend Lord Avon has also written to the noble Lord on this matter. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, says it is an important matter. I quite agree. But we take a fundamentally different viewpoint on the merits of the argument. As I have said before, the passenger committee's role is to represent the interests of the users of services provided by LRT, or provided under their control. It is not intended as a consumer watchdog to comment on passenger transport provision at large in the London area. If we accepted the spirit of this amendment, we would run the risk of diverting the passengers committee from their main task. I make no apologies for repeating this. We would then be encouraging them to consider, and comment on, matters which are essentially for the judgment of the traffic commissioners. We would be giving them a role in discussion of matters such as the relative sizes of the publicly and privately owned bus transport industries, and this surely is a matter for political judgment.
Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State said in another place, there is no reason why public transport must be provided by a publicly owned body. Where services are provided by public sector bodies in a relatively closed market, it is surely right for users to be given a means by which they can make their views 29 known or air their grievances. The consumer often does not have a real choice in the sense that he can take his custom elsewhere. That is the real reason for the nationalised industry consumer councils.
It is, I suggest, an entirely different matter when we are talking about operators applying for a road service licence to operate independently of LRT or even in competition with them. They are choosing the rigours of the open market on the basis of their ability to deliver a service that the public want and are willing to pay for. If they do not provide the right service, the traveller will make his choice accordingly. He does not need a consumer body to make his views known. He can take the direct and positive action of withdrawing his custom. It makes no difference whether the alternative service is being provided by a private operator or by a publicly owned body such as the National Bus Company.
I would emphasise again that the passengers committee will be able to keep themselves informed of applications to the traffic commissioners for road service licences by, as I have already said, subscribing to "Notices and Proceedings" in the usual way. They will be able to make representations where they feel that there are issues relevant to LRT's services. Those representations will have to be given due regard by the commissioners if they are made in the prescribed manner.
The amendment in itself may not look too unreasonable but what it really represents is a completely different approach. It would put the passengers committee in a privileged position where they, uniquely, are to be sent copies of applications for road service licences together with all supporting information. What possible grounds can exist for favouring them in this way? Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, it would further remove the traffic commissioners' discretion to determine whether any representations received from the passengers committee were relevant. The traffic commissioners would be obliged to have regard to their representations in any event. That cannot be right. We believe that it would be quite wrong to give the committee such powers. I invite the House not to agree to the amendment.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, I must confess that I am somewhat amazed that the Government are not moving at all on this issue. The Minister has simply repeated that the amendment would direct the committee from its main task. But what is its main task? Surely, as the Bill lays down, the main task is to look after the interests of users of London's transport. That cannot be separated into one operator that they can look into and another operator that they cannot look into. We are not arguing that the committee should be able to deal with the political issue of whether there should be more public transport or more independent operators. That is not the argument: it is the argument that the Government put forward. It is not an argument that I have ever advanced. Nor do I do so in this amendment.
To propose that the passengers committee should only deal with nationalised bodies and not with other bodies suggests that you could have imperfect services in one area. The Minister has not dealt with the case 30 that I put forward. The position could arise where, because of the restrictions placed upon them, and the financial restrictions, LRT might find it necessary to withdraw from certain routes. If that meant that there was only an independent operator, it is no good the Minister saying that the user can decide not to use that transport. There is no other service. There is only the independent operator. This means that there are no grounds at all for the passengers committee to make representations in that case.
We considered this matter last time at about twenty minutes past ten at night, and for that reason we did not divide the House. There is so much business before the House today—not just on this Bill but on other Bills—that, again, we do not propose to divide the House. But there is a deep principle here. I should like to ask that the Minister, between now and the Bill going hack to the other place—it has to go back because there are a number of amendments to various clauses—will consult with the National Consumer Council in order that the council may amplify the views that I have advanced. The Minister might also consult with the present passengers committee. I believe that the committee would emphasise the view that I have put.
I am afraid that the Government are taking very much the political angle. We are not. We are looking into the interests of the transport users. There should be an organisation that can look into all representations, whether in regard to the publicly-owned body or the independent body. Having put our case, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 7: [Printed earlier.]
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Clause 46 [Orders for transfer of functions, etc., within London Regional Transport group and between that group and Railways Board group]:
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 8:
§ Page 45, line 42, at end insert—
- "(a) any reference to a transfer by or a vesting by virtue of that Act shall be read as a reference to a transfer by or a vesting by virtue of the order in question; and
- (b) ")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a minor amendment which remedies a small omission in subsection (9) of Clause 46. The clause is concerned with orders transferring functions between London Regional Transport and British Rail. An order can also provide for the transfer and vesting of property associated with the functions. Subsection (8) of the clause applies Schedule 4 to the Transport Act 1968 to any such property transfer. The schedule provides the powers which are necessary to ensure that detailed arrangements for the allocation of property can be made as necessary. The amendment simply provides that wherever Schedule 4 refers to a transfer by or vesting by virtue of the Transport Act 1968, it is to be read for our purposes as a reference to a transfer by or vesting by virtue of the Clause 46 order. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.31
§ Clause 49 [Travel concessions on journeys in and around Greater London]:
§ Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 9:
Page 50, line 23, at end insert—
("( ) It shall he the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that arrangements made for travel concessions under this section enable persons eligible to receive them in accordance with subsection (7) above to travel, as a minimum standard, during identical hours of the day as are provided for the reserve free travel scheme under section 50 of this Act.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment deals with the travelling hours in connection with concessionary fares. It may be recalled that at Report stage I proposed an amendment seeking that as a minimum standard travelling hours in relation to concessionary fares should be identical to those hours in any scheme that may be in being prior to the appointed day. We had in mind that the hours should be those in the amendment agreed to in Committee for the reserve scheme. On that occasion, the noble Earl, Lord Avon, said that a scheme should be flexible, it must preserve the discretion of local authorities as to what travel concessions should be provided and that the boroughs must agree on the uniform scheme. If they did not, the statutory reserve scheme would come into effect. The noble Earl said that it would still be possible for local authorities to provide benefits on top of any statutory reserve scheme.
§ I should like to recount the history of this amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, on a previous occasion—I am pleased that she is here again today—agreed that a minimum standard was needed but said that she would give definite support to the amendment that had been moved in connection with the reserve scheme by my noble friend Lord Pitt. The noble Baroness said that the wording of the amendment brought forward on that occasion would mean accepting the additional half hour on buses in the early morning contained in the present GLC scheme. I agreed with that criticism. I gave notice that I would bring forward an amendment at Third Reading which would provide that the hours for any borough scheme should be identical to those that the House had agreed for the reserve scheme.
§ I hope that the Government's attitude will not necessitate a Division on this matter. The House has said what should be the travelling hours for the Government's own reserve scheme if a reserve scheme should be required. It will only be required if there is not a uniform borough scheme. We are saying that any borough scheme must surely have the same travelling hours as this House has said that it wants for the Government's own reserve scheme. I need not argue the case. It was put so well by my noble friend Lord Pitt on the occasion of the reserve scheme. I hope that the Government will accept it.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, on first reading the amendment I thought that it only applied to paragraph (c) of subsection (7). Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, will clarify this as I think now he is saying that it would apply to the total concessionary' fares scheme. Is that correct?
§ Lord Underhill
If I may, my Lords. The purpose of the amendment is that it would come under any 32 borough scheme, any local authority scheme, because we have already made the decision on the reserve scheme.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, I did not mean that. I meant that, as it is worded, the amendment says:Page 50, line 23, at end insert—".Therefore, I thought it was a continuation of paragraph (c) of subsection (7), but really it is a new paragraph to go in there. Therefore. I shall speak to paragraphs (a), (b) and (c).
I do not support the noble Lord in this amendment, although I can see that we agree on many things about concessionary travel. The reason I do not support it is that the whole purpose of this House agreeing a reserve scheme was to have a means whereby we could produce a minimum, but it was not to take over the situation which the boroughs already operate or would wish to operate. They operated in the past, in the days when the boroughs operated concessionary fares directly.
Under this new arrangement, as I understood it, it was for the boroughs first to come up with a scheme, which we hoped would be every bit as good or better but which would give the boroughs the freedom of making that decision. If instead we accept this amendment, as I understand it, the reserve scheme would be completely pointless because we should already have taken the reserve scheme and inserted it here as a mandatory scheme. I cannot quite understand that.
In regard to blind persons, I understand that it is the boroughs that operate the concessions for blind persons. They are not operated by the Greater London Council; they have always been operated by the boroughs, and I believe that that is still the case. I think their hours of travel are considerably better than the reserve scheme would offer to other people such as those covered in paragraph (a). As I understand it, this amendment is either unnecessary or an attempt to take away any power from the boroughs, if we are insisting upon what they should do: whereas the other way, if the boroughs do not agree, as the noble Lord has said, we have the fall-hack position of our reserve scheme. On those grounds I do not consider this amendment to be necessary.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, I have no doubt that the noble Lord. Lord Underhill, will respond at the end, but, if I may say so. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, is wrong on this. The reserve scheme is there if the boroughs fall down. What this amendment is saying is that there should be certain minimum standards within any scheme that the boroughs put together, and that one of the minima that should be included in the boroughs' scheme which we all hope will be put together (although I think some of us are less sanguine than others about the possibility) is a criterion in relation to hours that is the same as in the reserve scheme. I believe that is all it is saying.
It is not taking away from the boroughs the right to get together and put together a scheme which one would hope would be better than the reserve powers, but is saying that in this particular case there should be a minimum standard, which the boroughs should be 33 obliged to adopt, in relation to the hours for which these schemes operate. That is my understanding. I see the Labour Party Front Bench agreeing with that. On that basis, certainly I would support the amendment, and I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, can reconsider.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps he would allow me to say this. Is it not possible that if any one borough insists on a standard not less than the minimum in the reserve scheme, then, automatically, the situation would exist where the boroughs did not agree? It requires only one in disagreement for the boroughs not to be agreeing, and therefore we should be back to the reserve scheme.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, since the noble Lady addresses me before I have sat down, perhaps I had better remain standing and say a word. It seems to me that, if a borough wishes to have a better standard, then it would be up to it to persuade the other boroughs to adopt that better standard. With this written into the Bill, as I see it, one borough standing out for a better standard would not wreck the whole scheme. This would be the minimum which Parliament had agreed was the acceptable minimum, around which the boroughs could agree. As I say, there may be a chance of having better provisions in the voluntary scheme, as it were. But at least within the voluntary scheme there would be a fall-back position which at the moment does not exist.
§ The Earl of Avon
My Lords, as I have emphasised throughout the debate on this subject, it has been the policy of successive Governments that local authorities should have discretion over the provision of concessionary fares schemes. That is why Clause 49 basically re-enacts the existing law, enabling local authorities in and around Greater London to make their own voluntary arrangements with LRT, British Rail and other operators in their area, as they wish. In these circumstances, we think it would be wrong to impose on local authorities a particular form of scheme.
I recognise that the amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, differs slightly from the one we discussed at Report stage, but I do not believe that that should affect our general view. Nevertheless, for reasons of which I am sure the House is fully aware, at the instigation of the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, we have provided in the Bill, to come into operation in Greater London, a compulsory reserve scheme which includes this particular time-scale. As we all know, if the London boroughs fail to agree on a uniform scheme to replace the GLC-operated scheme, this reserve scheme will come into operation.
As I have said before, for the first time the Government are embodying in statute a specific concessionary fares scheme which the local authorities in London will be obliged to finance if the conditions are such that the scheme automatically comes into operation. We have had very much in mind the need to balance the interests of, on the one hand, pensioners and disabled people in London, and, on the other hand, the ratepayers. We simply do not think it right 34 to impose on the boroughs the cost of financing concessionary travel on the same basis as the reserve scheme unless it is absolutely clear that they cannot agree to a voluntary scheme of their own.
We continue to take the view that the best approach is to maintain the right of local authorities to decide the scope of the travel concessions they provide. Under the Bill, they must agree on a uniform scheme. If they do not, the statutory scheme will automatically come into effect. But even if that happens, it will still be possible for local authorities to provide additional benefits to residents of their area, on top of the statutory scheme. In this way we acknowledge that local authorities are in the best position to judge what provision, if any, should be made to suit special local needs over and above any uniform scheme agreed for all boroughs.
I repeat that the Government accept the decision of this House on the amendments agreed to at Committee stage. I should like to point out just one other thing. I believe that an unacceptable consequence of the amendment for the areas around Greater London would be as follows. The enabling powers under Clause 49 to arrange concessionary travel on LRT's services are not limited to local authorities within Greater London. Therefore, the effect of the noble Lord's amendment would be that if any local authority outside Greater London wished to make arrangements with LRT for concessionary travel it would be required to do so in accordance with the benefits envisaged under the reserve scheme in Clauses 50 to 52.
Thus, for instance, Hertfordshire County Council, which currently provides for the elderly in its area concessionary travel at child fare rates on London Transport services, would be obliged to provide free travel on LRT services. We believe that that would be a quite unreasonable imposition on the authorities outside Greater London; and it could discriminate in statute between the concessions to be provided on LRT's services and those which can be provided on the services of other, and sometimes more extensive, operators in the country.
I have been over this ground before with the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. I hope he does not feel he has to press his amendment. There is little between us, because what he actually wants is in the reserve scheme, anyway. I do not think we really need it in this general scheme.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, I should like to deal first with the last point which the noble Earl raised and which referred to the question of outside bodies. We are not dealing in this amendment with what charges shall be made. We are not dealing with whether or not an authority wants free fares or fares at the children's rate. We are dealing with a minimum standard as regards identical hours. That is what the amendment is dealing with. It deals with that and with nothing else, and I hope that the House will treat it on that basis.
It is suggested that we are going to take away freedom from the boroughs. As the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, has said—and I am again grateful to the noble Lord for his support, which I expected on this matter—we are discussing minimum standards. I do 35 not want to go into all the arguments as regards the case put forward by my noble friend Lord Pitt, but your Lordships realised that what he was saying had great force. We do not want to have a situation where old people have to start their journeys before 4.30 and where they have to keep looking at the clock. It is no good the noble Earl shaking his head; that is the argument put forward.
The amendment carried by your Lordships in Committee was that journeys will be able to start during the period 4.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. That is what your Lordships agreed upon. We say that such a provision should apply to any other scheme. We must always remember that journeys do not stop at borough boundaries and that most people who travel cross boundaries. I suggest that it would be wrong if we had one borough with certain hours, because it is prepared to "go additional" and because we have not laid the hours down in a general borough scheme, and another borough with contrary hours. Surely that would make nonsense of the decision which your Lordships made in Committee, when your Lordships agreed that it was absolutely vital that the reserve scheme should have the hours that are now laid down in the Bill. All we are saying is that, if that is right for the reserve scheme, then common sense suggests that those hours must he right for a general scheme. That must be one of the points of uniformity upon which this House must insist.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? Surely the noble Lord is slightly wrong about that. If there were a common voluntary scheme, then there would have to be the same hours across the board. In other words, it would not be possible—would it?—to work a system where people who were benefiting from a voluntary scheme in one borough were given different times from people in another borough. The result of that—and this is where I support the noble Lord—is that we should get the lowest common denominator and, therefore, that the scheme which was brought in could well be below the minimum standards that we have suggested are required in the back-up scheme.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, I think the noble Lord is correct. I referred to the possibility of different borough schemes because the Minister said that, even if there were a uniform scheme, a borough authority must be free to buy in extra time if it wished to do so. It may be that an authority will want to buy in the extra travelling period. I do not know. The travelling period which applies in my outer London district is totally different from that which applies elsewhere. I come back to the argument. We should insist on minimum standards for a borough scheme in the interests not of LRT, but of the travelling public—in this case, aged persons. I hope that the House will agree that, having made a decision on the reserve scheme, it is common sense that we should make the same decision on a minimum standard, and I hope that the House will support the amendment.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 9) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 79: Not-Contents. 118.37
|DIVISION NO. 2|
|Airedale, L.||Jeger, B.|
|Allen of Fallowfield, L.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Amherst, E.||John-Mackie. L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Kilmarnock, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Leatherland, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Listowel, E.|
|Bernstein, L.||Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Longford, E.|
|Birk, B.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Blyton, L.||McCarthy, L.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||McCluskey, L.|
|Briginshaw, L.||Mayhew, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Mishcon, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Northfield, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Oram, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Phillips, B.|
|Collison, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|David, B.||Plant, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|Diamond, L.||Reilly, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Donnet of Balgay, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Seear, B.|
|Evans of Claughton, L.||Stallard, L.|
|Ezra, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Gaitskell, B.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Stone, L.|
|Grey, E.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Grimond, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Tordoff, L. [Teller.]|
|Hanworth, V.||Underhill, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L.||Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Wells-Pestell. L.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Jacques, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Denham, L. [Teller.]|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Denning, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Dilhorne, V.|
|Allerton. L.||Donegall, M.|
|Ampthill, L.||Ebbisham, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Eccles, V.|
|Avon, E.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Bauer, L.||Elles, B.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Elton, L.|
|Bellwin, L.||Faithfull, B.|
|Beloff L.||Fanshawe of Richmond, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Fortescue, E.|
|Bessborough, E.||Fraser of Kilmorack, L.|
|Brookeborough, V.||Gardner of Parkes, B.|
|Broxbourne, L.||Gibson-Watt, L.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, L.||Glanusk, L.|
|Cairns, E.||Glenarthur, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Gormanston, V.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Gowrie, E.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Gray of Contin, L.|
|Cockfield, L.||Gridley, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Grimthorpe, L.|
|Craigton, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.|
|Cullen of Ashhourne, L.||Halsbury, E.|
|Daventry, V.||Hemphill, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Home of the Hirsel, L.|
|Hood, V.||Peyton of Yeovil, L.|
|Hornsby-Smith, B.||Plummer of St. Marylebone, L|
|Inglewood, L.||Polwarth, L.|
|Kinnaird, L.||Porritt, L.|
|Kitchener, E.||Renwick, L.|
|Lane-Fox, B.||Rodney, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Romney, E.|
|Long, V.||St. Davids, V.|
|Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Lyell, L.||Saltoun, Ly.|
|McAlpine of Moffat, L.||Sandford, L.|
|McFadzean, L.||Savile, L.|
|Macleod of Borve, B.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Mancroft, L.||Shaughnessy, L.|
|Margadale, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Marsh, L.||Spens, L.|
|Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Merrivale, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Molson, L.||Swinton, E. [Teller.]|
|Mottistone, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Thomas of Swynnerton, L.|
|Munster, E.||Trenchard, V.|
|Murton of Lindisfarne, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Norfolk, D.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Northchurch, B.||Vaizey, L.|
|Norwich, Bp.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Nugent of Guildford, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Onslow, E.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Orkney, E.||Westbury, L.|
|Orr-Ewing, L.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Pender, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Penrhyn, L.||Young, B.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Clause 51 [Supplementary provisions with respect to the free travel scheme]:
§ Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 53, line 19, at end insert—
("( ) Each issuing authority shall he obliged to make arrangements with the Post Office for permits to be issued from each Post Office or sub-Post Office in the area of that authority.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, it may be recalled that at the Report stage an amendment was moved which was in two parts. One part dealt with the fact that permits for concessionary fares should be issued without charge, terms, limitations or conditions; the second part suggested that arrangements be made for permits to be issued from post offices. Because of the arguments advanced at that stage I withdrew the amendment, and it will be noted that on this occasion the amendment before the House deals only with the one item—that the issuing authority should issue permits through post offices or sub-post offices in the area of that authority. I had hoped that there would be no need to argue the case, but I think that I had better put forward one or two points.
§ Under the GLC scheme post offices are used for the issue of permits. It was argued at the Report stage that authorities may wish to use council offices. On that occasion I put forward what happens in my own district council area, which is outside Greater London, where a council sub-office is used. Even from where I live, which is not the distance which many people have to travel, it means that my wife has a long walk. She is very able-bodied and can walk, but others cannot make the journey and have to wait for transport 38 facilities. Very few boroughs will have an adequate number of offices or sub-offices. Often the person has to walk quite a distance, and frequently some mode of transport is involved. Also, because of the limited number of council offices in an area, there could be quite a waiting time for the issue of a permit. That is what happens in my own area; because there is a substantial number of aged people in the area, there is always a fair wait at the council sub-office for the issue of a permit. We want to avoid that wait.
§ Post offices and sub-post offices are manned every day of the week except Sundays. They provide reasonable access for the great majority of people. They are a great help to pensioners, because the majority still use post offices to collect their pensions and therefore pensioners could apply for permits at the same time as they get their pensions. The staff of the post office know the procedure and are well used to it, As I mentioned on Report, many of the staff often know the applicants personally.
This is a common-sense provision. If it is not included in the Bill and if we have separate authority schemes, some authorities may not use post offices. I believe that it is essential that we lay down, as we do in this amendment, that:
Each issuing authority shall he obliged to make arrangements with the Post Office for permits to be issued from each Post Office or sub-Post Office".
I hope that we shall not be told again—as we were when we discussed the last amendment—that this procedure should be flexible, that each council should be able to decide for itself. Some councils are mean-minded and we must always remember that. We want to ensure that particularly the aged person receives fair treatment, and that means that he or she ought to be entitled to use post offices. Post offices are a public institution and there should be this co-operative effort between local authorities giving concessionary schemes and the public institution of the post office. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, again—and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, will expect it of me—I rise to oppose this amendment. I do not think that there should be a compulsion on local authorities to use the post office. When we talk about that we imagine that we can use post office services for nothing. However, that is not so. There is a charge for using the post office. As time goes by we have no way of knowing how the post office might vary that charge. Councils may find that to use the post office might involve them in very major expense. The fact that they have a choice means that they are in a stronger position to negotiate favourable terms with the post office than if, under this amendment they are obliged to use the post office.
Again, a council might think it preferable in terms of social services to be able to see the people who are applying for the passes and to make a social services contact with them at the time. We have no way of knowing how the councils will think. I believe that many councils would use the post office. They would negotiate a good price with the post office and would use it because it is a convenient and efficient way of providing this service. But if we write this into the Bill, 39 it puts the post office in a monopoly situation where it can demand anything it wants for the issuing of these passes. When we hear—as we did during the previous stage—about the noble Lord's own difficulty with his pass outside the London area, we tend to be carried away by the thought that one applies for something like this once a week. At a maximum it would be applied for only once a year. Like the issuing of driving licences, there is a tendency to issue such passes for longer and longer periods. If the post office charges a high price or it costs a great deal to issue these permits, then I believe that as time goes by they will be valid for longer periods.
I do not think there is a case for writing into the Bill the compulsion to make arrangements with the post office. I am putting aside entirely the fact that post offices are not always open. I know that in the last couple of weeks a number of them have been closed in some sort of protest, and this can be extremely inconvenient to the public. However, putting that point aside (because I do not think it is important) I believe that councils should have a choice as to how to go about this matter so that they can consider the economics of it. One man's mean-minded council is another man's careful, thrifty council, and they will have to weigh up one social service expense against another, because this concessionary fares scheme is a very major social service. I should not like to see this amendment written into the Bill.
§ Baroness Phillips
My Lords, it is important that when older people apply for concessionary fares they should be able to do so with the greatest degree of dignity. I find it abhorrent to see older people lining up to have their photographs taken, because this condition has now been imposed. The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, stressed that it would be a monopoly if the issuing of these passes was left to the post office. It would equally be a monopoly if only local authority establishments were allowed to issue them because establishments are few in number, are usually centralised and are much larger buildings. It is mainly the elderly who apply for permits for concessionary fares, and they are easily confused. They know their local post office and. as my noble friend has said, they are used to going there for their pensions. In particular, sub-post offices are very friendly and helpful to these older people. We must recognise that this is not a question of money. If we are going to save money, let us not be saving money at the expense of the older people among the population.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
My Lords. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, felt the need to oppose this amendment. We have to think of the convenience of the elderly people getting their passes. They have been going to the post office for the last eight years, proving their identity, proving their address, and getting their permits. I should have thought that we would want them to be able to continue to do just that.
Whatever slightly increased cost there might be—and I am not doubting that there might be some increased cost—it is outweighed by the convenience of allowing them to use their local post office, as they are 40 now accustomed to doing. I stress that point because it is important in this context. I hope we shall not have to troop through the Lobbies. I hope the Government will accept this. It is a sensible and useful addition. It is not even an addition, because these people already have it. It is merely safeguarding a privilege that the old people now have. I hope that the Minister will accept this amendment.
§ Baroness Macleod of Borve
My Lords, I agree with my noble friend Lady Gardner and with the reasons that she gave. Some time ago I had to deal with gas, when people wanted to get stamps for gas through the post office. They were not able to afford it: it was so expensive. It is not a small sum at all that the post office will charge. As the noble Baroness said, they might charge increasing amounts for giving out these passes. As she rightly said, if it is open-ended and left to the local council they will know what their local people want and the most convenient place for the people concerned. I would rather leave it to them.
§ The Earl of Avon
My Lords, I am grateful to my two noble friends for their support. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, that I have taken out my little sentence about flexibility, as he obviously did not want me to read it again. May I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, that it is not a question of money here: and may I say to the noble Lord. Lord Pitt, that it is not a question of changing the custom. We are not against this idea at all, but purely of making it a statutory imposition and imposing it on the boroughs.
As I said in our previous debate, I appreciate the convenience for all concerned of travel permits being issued by the post office. As I said at that stage, it is our understanding that the London Boroughs Association have this possibility very much in mind in seeking to devise a workable uniform voluntary scheme. Just as the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, and the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, said. I am sure that they will want to adopt the best possible arrangements. I also had to say then that it would be difficult in practice to make such an arrangement work in some cases, because if some boroughs choose to impose different terms and conditions on the issue of travel permits, as they would be free to do, it could cause difficulties. I am sure that the House would recognise this. In the circumstances, I do not think that it would be helpful to pre-empt the outcome of further discussions by the boroughs and to fix a particular arrangement rigidly in the statute.
I am rather surprised that the noble Lord is so opposed to giving the local authorities discretion in this matter. We simply see no benefit in imposing a particular arrangement on all the boroughs before they have had an opportunity to devise their own arrangements. We are not saying that there will be any change. All we say is that surely the London boroughs can be left to adopt the best arrangement in the circumstances, and we should not prescribe this in the Bill. There is no difference between us that the post offices are very useful. The difference between us is that we should like to leave it to the boroughs to make up their minds.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Avon, thanked his two noble Baronesses for their support, but it is clear that there is a difference of opinion on his side of the House. The noble Earl said that it is not a question of money, His two supporters advocated particularly the possible saving of money, and said that that was why we should not commit ourselves to the use of post offices. It was emphasised that they are in a monopoly situation and could make charges; in other words that they could take the boroughs "to the cleaners". Therefore, I am surprised that the noble Earl is grateful for their support on this and then says that it is not a question of money.
The noble Earl said that there is no way of knowing how the councils will think on this. We want to be assured, irrespective of what the councils may think, that the scheme is in the interests of the pensioners. If it is not going to be the post offices, where else could it be? The number of councils which have a sufficient number of council sub-offices with trained staff available at proper hours will be limited. We want the post offices because the post offices are fairly accessible in most areas, and particularly in Greater London.
I should like to think that in this matter we are considering not merely what the borough councils feel they ought to do. We must remember that the borough councils are going to be pushed on the question of money in relation to a Bill we shall be discussing shortly after we have finished this Bill this evening. We want to ensure that somebody is going to ask what the pensioners want. You will find that the pensioners will opt overwhelmingly for collecting their permits from the post offices.
We are in a difficult situation here. Those of us who feel strongly on this feel that we ought to divide the House. But may I be completely honest: if noble Lords will not go into the Lobbies to support proper travelling hours for aged persons, then they will not go into the Lobbies to support us on post offices. It is regrettable, but that is the position. Therefore, if there is to be a borough scheme I can only hope that the Secretary of State will use all his good offices and ensure that he urges, or his staff urge, that the post office system should apply and continue as at present. We believe that that is essential in the interests of the pensioners. It is only because of the result of the last vote that I beg leave to withdraw this amendment, because I do not believe that noble Lords will be prepared to support it in view of their vote on the previous amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 53 [Penalty fares]:
Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 11:
Page 57, line 26, leave out ("lower than the fare properly payable") and insert ("appropriate in the case of another category of traveller but lower than the fare properly payable by the person in question").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, before I move Amendment No. 11 may I remind your Lordships that this is one of a short series of amendments to Clause 53 and is in accordance with the undertaking I gave on 12th June at Report stage, when I said that if 42 any of the matters contained in what is now Clause 53 could be improved I would give your Lordships an assurance of my determination that this would be done. This is such an amendment, as are a number of others that I shall seek to move.
§ This is a technical amendment designed to clarify the situation as regards an adult who over-rides. Subsection (9) of Clause 53 sets out what fare has to be taken to be multiplied by 10 to arrive at the penalty fare. Paragraph (b) of that subsection is intended to cover a person who over-rides. In that case the penalty fare is 10 times the excess distance travelled, treating the excess distance as a separate journey. Paragraph (c) of that subsection is intended to cover a young adult who travels on a child's ticket. In that case the penalty fare is 10 times the difference between the adult's ticket and the child's ticket.
§ In view of the present wording of paragraph (c), it might be possible for a person who over-rides to claim that he comes within that paragraph rather than paragraph (b). In that event he would be liable only to a penalty fare calculated on the difference between the fare which he should have paid and the fare which he has paid. This would probably be lower than the fare calculated under paragraph (b). It is obviously unsatisfactory that there should be any lack of precision in the subsection. The effect of the amendment will be that paragraph (c) will clearly be relevant only to the young adult who travels on a child's ticket.
§ I hope that your Lordships will agree that it is essential that we reduce the risk of dispute between the inspector—the "authorised person", as we have hitherto called him—and the passenger as to the amount of the penalty fare. This amendment seeks to do that.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ 5 p.m.
Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 12.
After Clause 53, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Information as to liability
§ At the time an authorised person requests the payment of a penalty fare under section 53 of this Act the authorised person shall have the duty to inform the person who has become liable under section 53 of this Act to pay a penalty fare of his obligations under the Bill and, in particular,
- (a) that the penalty fare shall be payable within the period of twenty-one days beginning with the day following the date on which the journey was completed,
- (b) that the payment of a penalty fare is not, of itself, an admission of intent to avoid payment of the correct fare,
- (c) that the person shall not be liable to pay the penalty fare in a case that falls within subsection (4) or (6) of section 53 of this Act.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, perhaps it will be for the convenience of the House if, in moving Amendment No. 12, I speak also to Amendment No. 13.
§ Amendment No. 13: After Clause 53, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Interpretation of payment
§ . Any payment of a penalty fare under section 53 of this Act shall not be deemed to be an admission of intent to avoid payment of the correct fare.").
§ I reflected on the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, when he introduced the new clauses for the penalty fares provisions and also the various points raised in the useful debate on that occasion.43
§ Although from these Benches we echoed the view throughout the House of general support to these provisions, it will be recognised that we must ensure that they operate fairly and with full regard for the rights of individuals. All that the amendment seeks is that when an authorised person requests payment of a penalty fare, at the same time the traveller should have the right to be informed of all his obligations. These are listed under heads (a), (b) and (c) in the amendment. Amendment No. 13 lays down that the payment of a penalty fare is not to be regarded as an admission of that person's intent to avoid payment. We think that it is in the interests of the person that that should be done. I ought to thank the noble Lord the Minister for kindly writing to me on this and putting his point of view. I believe it is important that we should have the views expressed to the House so that they can be on the record. I beg to move.
§ Lord Denning
My Lords, may I say a word on this because these penalty fares are a new introduction into our English law. There still remains the old law of 1889, with which I was familiar: that a person is guilty of a criminal offence if he travels on the railway without having previously paid his fare and with intent to avoid payment thereof. If he did not give his name and address he was liable to be arrested. That is the law still; that Act still remains on the statute book. This concept of a penalty fare is in no way criminal, it is only obtainable either on demand if the traveller admits his liability or by an action in the civil court if he is proved to be liable.
The position is this. If a ticket collector goes up to him and asks him for his ticket and he has not got one and he has not paid his fare, there is a danger that the ticket collector may then just say to him: "I must ask you for the penalty fare. I must ask you to pay the £5 or 10 times the multiplier"; whereas the man has a perfectly good defence if he says, "1 did not have the chance of getting my ticket, I was rushing for the train". Or he might say that the booking office was closed. This is a perfectly good answer and he is not liable for the penalty fare. Indeed, the ticket collector ought to know that: But ought he not also to ask the traveller, before he demands the penalty fare, "Did you have a chance of getting a ticket?" If the man says "I did not", then that is a perfectly good defence.
It is interesting to see that there is an amendment on this coming along at Amendment No. 16, where the Government are saying, quite rightly, that it is for the plaintiff—the company or the board who are claiming the penalty fare—to prove that the traveller did have the opportunity of getting a ticket. They recognise that the burden is on the claimant to prove that he did have that opportunity. It seems to me in fairness to the individual traveller that when the ticket collector goes up to him and asks him (as he may well do) for the penalty of £5, the man should be told, "You are not liable to pay if you did not have a chance of getting the ticket". He ought to be told the legal position. Although this amendment is a little bit elaborate—I would not think it necessary to go into all the detail about it—I think that the substance of it should be told to the traveller by the ticket collector or by whoever is collecting the penalty fare so that the man knows what 44 his rights are. I would support the amendment in principle, so that the traveller should be told what his position is. If he has a good answer, that he did not have a reasonable opportunity of getting a ticket, then he is not liable for the penalty fare. On the whole, I would support this amendment.
My Lords, may I try to get clear one small point which may be clearer to others. The "authorised person" is referred to in this amendment but I am not quite sure who is the authorised person. Presumably, every constable would be an authorised person. May he be also a constable of a force other than the British Transport Police? Again, there are members of the staff of the railways who, I believe, have limited powers of arrest outside the powers of an ordinary citizen. Unless it is made really clear in this Bill who are or are not the authorised people, then we can have quite a lot of unnecessary ill-feeling and argument at the end.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, I should like the benefit of the wisdom of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, on the words under paragraph (b) of the amendment and also on the similar words in Amendment No. 13. In the situation of a civil matter—and I understand that this would be a civil contract, whether you bought a standard ticket or a penalty ticket—I thought it unusual that someone should say to you that in paying the penalty fare you were not admitting an intent to avoid payment of the correct fare. As a lay person, I am not clear how often someone who is not committing any form of criminal offence is told that they are not committing it. Surely, in the course of doing ordinary things in ordinary life we would not expect everyone to be saying to us such things as: "By crossing the road here you are not committing a criminal offence".
So I am slightly puzzled by paragraph (b) and also by its repetition in Amendment No. 13. I wondered whether, instead, it would be more practical on the ticket or receipt that the person is given to have printed something to the effect that payment of this amount discharges the full liability for the travel—or whether there is some other way to cover it rather than what seems to me this very unusual method. I do not know whether the noble Lord is able to comment before I sit down—which I suppose is the procedure at this stage because he is not allowed to speak again.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
My Lords, I think it would help my noble friend if she understood that in practice the noble Lord. Lord Underhill, who is moving the amendment, has the right of response at the end of the debate.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to say so, it was Lord Denning's legal view on this matter that I was seeking. It was not a point that he went into in his contribution.
§ Lord McCluskey
My Lords, I hesitate to step into the shoes of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, but I think that the noble and learned Lord might offer the explanation which I would humbly offer to the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes: 45 that although the new system substitutes strict civil liability for a potential criminal liability, it does not do so entirely in respect that, under Clause 56 of the Bill, certain offences survive, and therefore it is conceivable that a person not only fails to pay the correct fare—and so becomes liable to pay the penalty fare—but is a person who deliberately intended not to pay. If he commits the offence, it looks to me, subject to what the Minister will say to the House, that a person could face a criminal prosecution under the surviving criminal provisions which are kept in force, I think, by Clause 56.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
My Lords, it would seem to me that we are moving into a number of amendments all at once. I think it might be better if I dealt just with this particular one at this stage. As I made plain at the outset of the debate, we are sympathetic to the underlying purpose. The Government accept that when a person becomes liable to a penalty fare he must be provided with information as to his rights and obligations. The Government have every intention of ensuring that this will be done.
Unfortunately, the amendment of the noble Lord poses a number of problems because in the first place it does not make clear how such information should be provided. I am sure your Lordships will agree that it would be most unsatisfactory for this to be done by word of mouth alone, because this would leave too much scope for discretion or for matters to be left out inadvertently. Then, as I am sure the House will also appreciate, if the requirement to provide certain information were to be written into the Bill in this way, it could well open up an area of potential dispute as to whether the information had been provided; as to how, where, when and by whom it was provided; I do not think I need elaborate further on that point.
A further point to bear in mind is that, while being well intentioned, the amendment may leave out a number of matters which should perhaps form part of the information to be provided. As I said in my opening remarks, we have every intention of ensuring that information as to rights and obligations is provided to those who become liable to a penalty fare. What the Government propose is that the form of notice issued by the authorised person will be subject to approval by the Secretary of State under his general powers in relation to London Regional Transport. In this respect I think the House can accept my assurance that the points which noble Lords may make, and certainly have made, will be taken care of in the framing of that particular notice.
My noble friend Lord Inglewood will see on page 58, Clause 54(3), that an'authorised person' means a person authorised by the person providing the service in question".
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
My Lords, it is page 58, Clause 54(3). The "authorised person" is defined there. It means that only one of these authorised persons who is a special inspector specially trained will have the authority of the provider of the service to 46 make an alleged fare dodger liable to a penalty fare. So I do not think the question of constables of any force arises.
The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, also spoke to his Amendment No. 13, the purpose of which was to ensure that,Any payment of a penalty fare under section 53...shall not be deemed to be an admission of intent to avoid payment of the correct fare".I understand the purpose of the noble Lord in wishing to place the point beyond any doubt, but I do not think the amendment is going to be necessary and I do not think in any case it would be very helpful to those whom he is seeking to protect. I have made clear throughout the discussions on these clauses that their purpose is to introduce a new civil liability, the point which both the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and I think the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, sought to underline in their interventions. As such, there can be no suggestion that in discharging the civil debt incurred any admission of intention to avoid paying the proper fare is involved. As I think the House is aware, the purpose of penalty fare provisions is largely to stand in
I am sure your Lordships will appreciate that these clauses have been drafted in such a way as to avoid any suggestion of intent to avoid payment. What is involved here is a simple arrangement where a passenger either pays the ordinary fare, or, if he cannot show that he has done so, he pays the higher penalty fare. The reasons for him not having paid the ordinary fare do not enter into it at all.
I hope the House will agree that in these circumstances to insert a reference to an admission of intent to avoid payment, albeit in the negative, would draw attention to a possibility which the clauses are, by definition, framed to avoid. I hope that on reflection the noble Lord will not find it necessary to move either of these two amendments.
§ Lord Teviot
My Lords, I hesitate to come in here but I think there is one point which has not been covered in this wide-ranging discussion. What we are talking about especially is the train side of it. The train side of it will not be started until the Minister of State is convinced that London Regional Transport has everything correct for it to go forward. One point has arisen: where the passenger was unable to get a ticket at a particular station. We did not mention it, I am afraid to report, but it has to be mentioned now and if I am wrong my noble friend will interrupt me. The point is that, at each of the stations, if for any reason the booking office is closed there will be opportunities for passengers to obtain a ticket, or for a machine to provide a ticket, to prove the station where the journey started. I do feel that explaining this should alleviate doubts in some people's minds as to the fairness of this whole proposal.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, may I thank both the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and my noble and learned friend Lord McCluskey, for generous support in principle. When as a layman one is dealing with legal matters one needs to have support of that kind. I am very grateful to the Minister for the general 47 sympathy he has given to the points of the amendment and I readily recognise the deficiencies in the amendments to which he has referred.
I am particularly pleased that in his sympathetic response he said there is every intention that persons shall be informed of their rights and obligations, and that the Secretary of State will have to approve the forward notice which will have to be prepared in connection with these new clauses. We are prepared to accept those assurances and we are grateful for them; and it is very good that we have had this short debate and placed those statements on record. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 13 not moved.]
§ Clause 55 [Supplementary provisions with respect to penalty fares]:
§ 5.18 p.m.
Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 14:
Page 59, line 34, leave out subsection (1).
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 14 I should like also to speak to Amendment No. 15:
Page 59, line 42, leave out subsection (2).
§ These two amendments arise directly from a point raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, during our debate last week at Report stage. I have written to the noble and learned Lord about the matter he raised, and indeed so seized was he of the urgency of the matter that he has in fact responded to me.
§ The point of the noble and learned Lord was that, since the penalty fare provisions are a new civil liability, it was wrong in principle to extend the powers of arrest which currently apply to contravention of regulations carrying a criminal sanction—the point which I think the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, has made on two occasions. Having considered the matter, we concluded that this point is quite justified, and in the spirit in which I introduced the provisions I have accordingly tabled these two amendments.
§ Your Lordships will appreciate that our original purpose in including the subsections was to ensure that adequate means were available for obtaining the name and address of people liable to a penalty fare. In practice it is likely that people who are liable to a penalty fare may be in contravention of the existing regulations governing the conduct of passengers. Nonetheless, it is important that sanctions which apply to matters involving a criminal sanction should not appear to extend to civil liabilities. I therefore think it right for the avoidance of doubt that these two subsections should be deleted. I beg to move.
§ Lord McCluskey
My Lords. I am certainly grateful to the Minister for the promptness with which he has considered the matter and for the readiness with which he decided to change the provision, and in particular also for his courtesy in advising not only myself but my 48 noble friend Lord Underhill and the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, of the changes he proposed to make. I think the change is wise and the action taken is right. For myself, I thoroughly approve it. I do not think the Government are entirely out of the wood in this respect—and your Lordships may wonder what a Scots lawyer is doing in the Bill at all—but having gone into the field I wonder whether or not Part III of the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill (and in particular Clause 25) is apt. No doubt those in the Box will be passing views on to the Home Office that they ought to be looking at Part III of the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill. If that is not done, I shall certainly raise the matter at an appropriate occasion some other time: but in the meantime I would express my thanks to the noble Lord.
§ Lord Denning
My Lords, I, too, would agree very much that it is a very good thing to omit these subsections.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ [Printed above.]
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 16:
Page 60, line 11, leave out subsection (3) and insert—
("( ) In any action for the recovery of a penalty fare payable under section 53 of this Act it shall be for the plaintiff to show that any relevant exception provided by subsection (4) or (6) of that section does not apply.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is to reverse the effect of the existing provision. Subsection (3) of Clause 55, as it appears in the Bill, places the onus of proof on the passenger to show that he had no reasonable opportunity to pay the fare or buy a ticket. That was a point which interested a number of your Lordships throughout our discussions on these clauses, and my noble friend Lord Teviot also raised it when we were discussing an earlier amendment this afternoon.
§ Our original purpose in including this provision was that if a passenger wished to claim exception to the payment of a penalty fare on the grounds that he could not buy a ticket, then it was not unreasonable for him to have to prove that that was the case. Having reflected further on this point, we now consider that since London Regional Transport will be the plaintiff in any civil action for the recovery of a penalty fare, the more reasonable course is for the LRT to have to show if a passenger chooses this line of defence, that the exception provided of being unable to buy a ticket does not apply. As I think your Lordships will appreciate, the effect of this amendment is to restore certain rights to the individual, and as such I trust that it will meet with the House's approval.
§ This is not to suggest in any way that London Regional Transport will not be required to satisfy my right honourable friend the Secretary of State that adequate machinery and adequate facilities are placed at the disposal of travellers so that they can pay the proper fare or a deferred authority ticket can be 49 obtained before a journey is undertaken. Nevertheless, we think, as I say, that this restores the rights of the individual, which I am sure the House would agree with. I beg to move.
§ Lord Denning
My Lords, again I would support this amendment. It really puts the burden on the right place—it is on the railway company to prove and to get its penalty fare. I should like to take this opportunity of saying how much I appreciated what was said, that there will be proper training of the authorised officers, and further that there will be a proper record of instruction and notice given so that the individuals themselves will know what their rights are. In particular, I should imagine there will be a question on it: "Did you have an opportunity of getting your fare or not?"—because this is part of the record which I gather is going to be prepared for the sake of the authorised officers.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 71 [Short title, commencement and extent]:
§ [Printed earlier: col. 24.]
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ [Printed earlier: col. 24.]
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 2 [Operating powers of London Regional Transport]:
Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 19:
Page 79, line 18, after ("may") insert ("manufacture and").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 19 and I hope that it will be for the convenience of your Lordships if I speak to Amendment No. 20 as well as to Amendment No. 19.
Amendment No. 20: Page 79, line 20, after ("of') insert ("manufacturing or").
§ These amendments may seem familiar, but there are good reasons why they are brought forward again at the Third Reading stage. Your Lordships will recall that at the Report stage I dealt with the Ministerial reply at the Committee stage, and particularly the statement made that the London Transport Executive accepted the restriction written into the Bill of their present manufacturing powers. At the Report stage I quoted from a letter sent by the solicitor to the London Transport Executive to the Department of Transport as recently as the 5th June, a copy of which the Board had asked the solicitor to send to me. I shall not weary the House by reading that again, but the letter makes clear two points. London Transport Executive as such had never been of the view that London Regional Transport should not have manufacturing powers and that the LRT should have such powers, subject to constraints. That was a unanimous confirmation of the view taken by the board meeting of London Transport on 5th June.50
Having read very carefully what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said in comment on that letter, particularly regarding the discussions between London Transport officials and the Department during the preparation of the Bill—it is stated quite clearly in Hansard in column 1039 on 12th June, by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas:
London Transport was able to tell us that the proposals as they appear in the Bill would not cause any serious problems".
The solicitor to London Transport was asked to write to me further because he has seen that reply. It is so important to get the matter right that I shall not attempt to paraphrase the further letter, but I will quote extracts from it. These are as follows, from the solicitor to London Transport in a letter dated 18th June, a copy of which I understand has been sent to the Department of Transport.
While the Bill was in draft form the Executive was told that it was intended that L.R.T. would have very restricted powers to repair and no powers to manufacture. We explained to the Department that rather wider powers were needed and persuaded them to put into the Bill the provisions which now appear in paragraph 9 of Schedule 2. It is true that we did say that we could live with that formulation, and indeed we can since the amount of use we make of the repairing power for third parties is very limited. It was against the background of a determination by the Government to restrict our manufacturing powers that we made the comments we did.
It remains true that the Executive would like to have wider manufacturing powers (subject of course to restrictions currently imposed on us—consent to engage in the activities and the certainty that public money would not be needed) but it has to be admitted that it is unlikely that any vast amount of manufacturing for third parties would take place if the power was available.
§ In conclusion, if I might just mention a few brief points, the view of London Transport is now clearly set out. They would like to have the powers which are proposed in the two amendments which I have put forward. LRT, under the Bill, is to be permitted to manufacuture for itself. The obvious question is: why not also manufacture for third parties if there is available capacity? Under the Bill LRT may undertake repairs for third parties and supply parts and components. The obvious question again is: why not extend to manufacture for those same parties?
§ As I said at the Report state—and this was supported by a number of noble Lords—there is only a very thin line between manufacture and repairs. If LRT has spare engineering capacity it is surely in the best interests both of LRT and of third parties that we should make the maximum use of that capacity.
§ I close by saying that, in the words of the Government, we are going to have a managerial board. Surely it should be left to the managerial and common-sense decisions of the board. It is wrong to lay down in advance that the board shall not have these powers. Your Lordships have heard from the letters I have quoted that the London Transport Executive believes that these powers should be given to LRT. The Bill provides that the Secretary of State has reserve power to approve any such proposals, to modify such proposals or to tell LRT to discontinue any such activities. Therefore, if at any time the board of LRT wished to extend manufacture on behalf of third parties, the board would have the opportunity to put the justification for its managerial and commercial decisions before the Secretary of State. That seems the right approach to make. The decision whether or not 51 to approve would rest finally with the Secretary of State. That is what the amendment would still continue. What the amendment suggests is what the London Transport Executive has said ought to be put into the Bill and I hope, despite the previous discussion we have had, that the Government will now recognise that this is a common-sense managerial and commercial matter and that these proposals in the amendment should be agreed to. I beg to move.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
My Lords, I am not very surprised to see that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has returned to this point. However, we have discussed it twice already in the House and I am just a little disappointed that he felt it necessary to raise it again, particularly as he was not able to advance any new argument in support of his amendment. Therefore, he will not be at all surprised to hear me say that our position remains completely unchanged. We do not believe that LRT should have wide manufacturing powers either for themselves or for outsiders, as these amendments propose. I repeat what I have said on two, if not three, previous occasions. The job of LRT is to run buses and trains and not to make them for themselves or for anybody else.
The noble Lord made great play in our earlier discussions— and he reminded us of it today— with the recent letter which London Transport had sent to the department. That letter was written on 5th June. It conveyed the unanimous view of the executive that they, the executive, had never accepted that they should not be able to manufacture for third parties. The Bill was published on 2nd December last year. Both London Transport and the GLC have had over six months to consider the Bill in detail and at no time have we received representations from them on this matter. They now come forward at this very late stage with a protest, almost as if some major injustice had been done to them. I am afraid that their protest is not at all convincing at this late stage.
The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, read out most of the letter of 18th June which was addressed to himself and signed by the solicitor to the executive. He did not, however, read out the last paragraph, which states:I should also explain that this letter is not written as a result of any Board decision but merely as an explanation of the background of the present wording of the Bill".So I do not think that that is tremendously helpful in support of the amendment.
The fact of the matter is that London Transport's wide powers of manufacture have been little used in recent years. We sought a reassurance well before the Bill was published with regard to there being, or not being, any significant difficulty if we draw the powers, as we have done, more narrowly. Recent discussions with London Transport have not changed that view, which was expressed then and which we understand is the real view at this time.
Of course the executive's view was unanimous, but I may say that not even the professional members of the executive make Government policy. I might draw your Lordships' attention to the disclaimer which the chairman of London Transport felt obliged to write with regard to the three-year plan which the board set 52 down a short while ago. There are fundamental differences between us and I do not see any possibility of bridging that gap. Our very firm view is that London Regional Transport do not need, and should not have, powers to set up a manufacturing base for themselves or for outside bodies. The powers in the Bill will enable them to manufacture spare parts and components for their own operations and for their own servicing, where necessary, and to make sensible use of their resources to carry out this kind of repair and manufacture for other people. We do not believe that those are unreasonable constraints on a nationalised industry, supported by public funds, whose prime function is to provide a public transport service. Therefore, we shall have to reject the amendment and I invite the House so to do.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said that there are no new arguments in support of this amendment. There are no new arguments in support of the principle, but I advanced new arguments to justify bringing the amendment forward again this afternoon. The noble Lord implied that he could not understand why these points of London Transport should be made at this late stage, but let us see what the history is. The letter which I quoted at Report stage was dated 5th June. It was the unanimous view of the board that these restrictions should not be placed on London Transport. It was the unanimous view of the board that these manufacturing powers should he given to LRT. Because of the comments made at Report stage, the solicitor wrote to me again and pointed out exactly what took place during the discussions. I read the letter in full, so that I could not be accused of paraphrasing it.
I am certain that, on reflection, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will agree that it is not good enough to say that this letter of 18th June was not written because of any board decision. It was written by the chief executive because he felt that he ought to explain exactly what took place during the discussions between the officials and the Department of Transport. That is what he set out to do, as any competent official would do, so as to put the matter right, and I believe that we have put the matter right by mentioning these points tonight.
The Minister said that there are fundamental differences and I regret that that appears to be so. He rightly pointed out that under the Bill LRT will have power to manufacture for themselves components and certain other items of equipment. The amendment would make it possible to say, "Right. There is spare capacity. Let us manufacture those same items, if necessary for third parties." It is commercial and business common sense, but there are these fundamental differences. We have put the position of London Transport quite clearly. It is a decision taken not only by politicians but by professional men, who believe that this is an essential power. I shall not put the issue to a vote, having made the position quite clear for the record. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 20 not moved.]53
§ Schedule 4 [Operation of enactments relating to former London Board functions]:
Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No.21:
Page 90, line 30, leave Out from second ("to") to second ("of") in line 31 and insert ("any wholly owned subsidiary").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a minor amendment to paragraph 6(4) of Schedule 4, and it corrects an error in the description of paragraph 7(1) of Schedule 16 to the Transport Act 1968. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 5 [Transitional provisions and savings]:
§ 5.40 p.m.
Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 22:
Page 99, line 13, after ("to") insert ("any service or services provided in pursance of").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 22. With the leave of the House, perhaps I may speak also to Amendment No. 23.
§ Amendment No. 23: Page 99, line 15, leave out from ("40(4)(b)") to ("of") and insert ("and 50(3)(e)")
§ Both these amendments affect paragraph 11(4) of Schedule 5, which makes arrangements for bus services provided under existing London bus agreements or consents. The amendments correct two small mistakes. The first ensures that the references to which the Bill applies are references to bus services rather than to the agreements under which they are provided. The second amendment omits an incorrect reference. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 23:
§ [Printed above.]
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 6 [Minor and consequential amendments]:
Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 24:
Page 108, line 7, leave out from ("(i)") to ("any") in line 10 and insert ("after the word "include" there shall be inserted the words "in the case of those mentioned in paragraph (a)" and at the end there shall be added the words "and in the case of London Regional Transport,"")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a technical drafting amendment, in that section 38 of and Schedule 4 to the Animal Health Act 1981 provide that the London Transport Executive and wholly owned subsidiaries must, if directed by the Minister of Agriculture, provide food and water at stations. It goes on to say when the food and water must be supplied and who must pay for it. The Bill as drafted makes the necessary consequential amendment to Section 38 of the Animal Health Act so as to refer to LRT and any subsidiary of theirs, but it does not make clear the 54 application of the related Schedule 4 to that Act. The amendment remedies this defect. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 25:
§ Page 109, line 14, at end insert—
§ 30.—(1) In section 11(4)(a) of the Food Act 1984 (vehicles whose detention by an officer of a council is not authorised under that section), for the words from "Boards" to "subsidiaries" there shall be substituted the words "transport authorities mentioned in subsection (4A)".
§ (2) the following subsection shall be inserted after section 11(4)—
§ "(4A) The transport authorities referred to in subsection (4)(a) are—
- (a) the Boards established by the Transport Act 1962 and any wholly owned subsidiary of any of those Boards; and
- (b) London Regional Transport and any subsidiary (whether wholly owned or not) of London Regional Transport (within the meaning of the London Regional Transport Act 1984).".
|1968 c. 73.||Transport Act 1968.||In Schedule 16, paragraph 7(2)(d)."")|
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, with Amendment No. 25 I believe that it would be helpful to the House if I spoke also to Amendment No. 27.
§ Amendment No. 27: Page 115, line 58, at end insert—
|("1984 c. 00.||The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.||In Schedule 13, paragraph 8.|
|1984 c. 00.||The Food Act 1984.||In schedule 10, paragraph 16.")|
§ My Lords, both these amendments are technical amendments to take account of consolidation Bills. They involve no change in the law. The first amendment refers to the Food Bill. This is a consolidation Bill which is expected to receive Royal Assent with the London Regional Transport Bill. It consolidates and repeals, among other things, Section 11(4) of the Food and Drugs Act 1955. We are also repealing, by means of the second amendment, a provision in the Road Traffic Regulation Act which makes a textual amendment to Section 1 of the 1969 Act. That section is of course repealed in this Bill, so the amending provision becomes redundant. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 7 [Enactments repealed]:
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 26:
§ Page 113, line 38, column 3, at end insert—
§ ("the Common Council").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment corrects a minor error in the Bill. The Bill as drafted mistakenly repeals the definition of "the Common Council" in the 1969 Act. That definition is still needed for Section 30 of the 1969 Act, which deals with development control on metropolitan roads and which is not repealed by this Bill or by the Road Traffic Regulation Bill. The amendment therefore saves it from repeal. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.55
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 27:
§ [Printed above.]
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass. We now approach the end of our deliberations on a very important Bill. First, I should like to thank my noble friends Lord Avon and Lord Trefgarne for the very great contribution they have made to these debates on behalf of the Government. May I also thank the noble Lords, Lord Underhill and Lord Tordoff, for the very courteous and constructive way in which they have spoken for the Opposition parties. Let me not forget, either, the very substantial contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, who I believe was speaking from the Opposition Front Bench for the very first time on transport matters. May I thank, too, all other noble Lords and noble Baronesses on all sides of the House who have taken part in our debates. Thirty-three of them have taken part in those debates during the last few weeks. I am glad that we have been able to accept the spirit of at least some of their proposed changes, and have thus improved the Bill.
When my noble friend Lord Trefgarne introduced the Bill at Second Reading on 1st May be dealt with two major points of principle. The first was the importance, for reasons of transport policy, of bringing the organisation of bus, Underground and rail services in London more closely together. In the Government's view, this on its own justified the need for a Bill of this kind. The other major area discussed by my noble friend was that of accountability. Opposition parties, both here and in another place, have consistently argued that the new arrangements will adversely affect local democratic accountability.
I do not expect to convert at this late stage those who remain unconverted to the Government's point of view on these matters. If the debate on these aspects of the Bill has been a little sterile at times, this may perhaps reflect the somewhat abstract nature of the ideas and (dare I say it?) the way in which they have been affected by other topical aspects of local government reform. But if there has been an unexpected but welcome feature of the Bill it is the way in which a good deal of the debate has focused on issues at a more personal and humane level. Much time has been spent on the transport problems faced by the disadvantaged: those who are elderly, frail or disabled. I think all noble Lords will be grateful, both to my noble friend Lord Avon particularly for the sympathetic and understanding manner in which he dealt with these clauses, and also to the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, whose input was of such importance.
We have introduced, very largely at the instigation of my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes, some innovative and, I believe, generally welcomed clauses dealing with measures to combat fraudulent travel. I am most appreciative of the expeditious manner in which these clauses have been dealt with, introduced 56 as they were at such a late stage in the Bill. In these two particular areas I believe that the Bill has been substantially improved in its passage through Parliament.
I wish to take up the rest of this very short speech by dealing with one of the other pervasive themes of our debates. It concerns finance. Noble Lords opposite have criticised the way in which the Bill emphasises the primacy of LRT's financial duty. The Government have never argued that in setting financial targets for London Regional Transport people's needs for public transport will be ignored. Indeed, we have established in the Bill a regime for planning and consultation quite unparalleled in nationalised industry legislation. We have done this precisely to ensure that the financial targets and constraints within which LRT will have to operate do take proper account of London's needs. The primacy of the financial duty simply means that once financial targets have been set on the basis of all the relevant considerations then LRT must live within them. There is nothing draconian or sinister in this. It is no more than the good husbandry proper to any major corporation, just as it is to every family household.
But there is more to it than that. London Transport has for many years now been run on the principle of high subsidies and low fares. There is nothing wrong with low fares per se. There is nothing wrong with low prices generally, provided that they are not achieved at the expense of massive amounts of ratepayers' money. If low prices are the results of efficient production, that is fine; but as has been shown time and time again when public subsidy is freely available, especially when it is available to monopolistic suppliers, efficiency suffers and costs rise. That leads to ever higher subsidy, and so the vicious circle continues.
I believe that with this Bill we now have a new chance to break out of this circle. We shall achieve it by encouraging competition where that is possible and by introducing stronger financial and management disciplines. That will be to the benefit of those who travel and those who provide the finance. This is a Bill which I believe spells new hope for those who live and work in London, the capital city, and also those who visit London, I believe it merits your Lordships' support, and I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.
§ Moved. That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, for his kind references, particularly to my noble friend Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, who, as the Minister rightly said, has been dealing with a transport Bill with me for the first time. I am also grateful to my colleagues and noble friends who moved amendments and made contributions during the passage of this Bill.
I should also like to reciprocate, not just formally but meaningfully, to thank the three noble Ministers— Lord Lucas of Chilworth, Lord Trefgarne and Lord Avon— for the courteous way in which they have handled all the debates during the passage of this Bill through its various stages. I also thank them for the attention they have given when they have promised to take matters back to look at them. They 57 have done so, and have written to a number of noble Lords to show that they have carried out their undertakings. It is unfortunate that those kindly attitudes did not have a better Bill on which to be exercised.
Although we have made some useful amendments to the Bill, it still remains a Bill in which London Regional Transport will be isolated from other highway matters, traffic management and planning, and. frankly, isolated from all the other services which a local authority has to provide and which should be considered while discussing transport matters.
As the Minister said, there are fundamental differences. There is a difference of attitude to public transport. The main criterion is to be financial primacy. We have not said that we shall not take account of financial matters. Of course we have to do so; but the question is how we approach it. The Government have refused at all stages to write into the Bill a duty to meet needs. There has been a refusal to write into the Bill social benefits. That is the same sort of opposition we had throughout consideration of the Transport Act 1983, when none of this was written into the Bill at all. One cannot have an efficient transport system unless regard is paid to needs; otherwise, there will be minimum standards and the financial primacy will be the thing that matters.
I shall not go into the argument on the benefits of low fares, although the noble Lord the Minister referred to it. Figures show that low fares not only benefit the passengers but also affect non-travellers; they affect commercial undertakings because they affect staff getting to work; and they affect the big stores in city centres because they affect people travelling there. These are the social benefits that must be considered. They were rejected on this Bill as they were on the 1983 Bill.
We regret, too, that there is no local authority input into the work of the new LRT board. That is unique in any nationalised undertaking: that two-thirds of the costs of work in which the local authorities have no input has to be met by the local authorities. No reference was made to that when the Minister moved the Motion, That the Bill do now pass.
The board will be appointed by the Secretary of State, and we have been told quite clearly that he will have who he wishes. It is to be managerial and commercial, yet we have shown in amendments that this managerial and commercial board will not be allowed to decide its own attitude to establishing separate companies for buses and separate companies for the Underground, and will not be able to take its own decisions on tendering or on manufacturing. These have been written into the Bill in advance. A self-respecting managerial board might query having to undertake them, but this is laid down and the Bill does not give them freedom to take decisions.
There are too many indications in this Bill and in speeches made by the Ministers to encourage independent operators on road service licences. These are in line with reports of further deregulation from the statements made by the Secretary of State and reported in the press. We should remember that London Regional Transport has a duty to operate on principles that will be determined by the Secretary of 58 State. With his declared intention to encourage further deregulation, naturally we are worried about the effects on London Regional Transport. That is reflected also in the refusal, as we had this afternoon in an amendment, to permit the passengers' committee to look at the whole of London Transport services— those provided by LRT or bodies with which it is in agreement, and those which are promoted by independent operators.
We are grateful for the assurances given by Ministers on various matters, but I must repeat what I have said before: that it would be far better if assurances were written into the Bill. Present Ministers may not be in their present posts— I hope they will not be there too long— and a different attitude might prevail upon even other Conservative Government Ministers. We must reckon— and I am certain that any noble and learned Lords here will agree— that the courts will always say, "We do not care what Ministers have said: we do not care what Hansard has said; what matters are the words written into the Bill". While we appreciate the statements and assurances given on many matters by the Ministers, they are not good enough. That is why we went to the vote today on the question of the disabled. I am only, sorry that the amendment was not carried.
We agree with the Minister that it is good that we have had the penalty fares amendments brought forward. Fortunately, it has worked out all right, but the introduction of those seven pages of amendments at Report stage could have presented problems. Fortunately, the wording was such that there is general acceptance for them. That shows the value of a second Chamber, that after having gone all the way through the other House we have seven pages of amendments on a really important matter and on which we are all agreed.
On these Benches we are worried about the future development of LRT to meet transport needs. Of course we want efficiency, but needs have to be met and what we have to do as citizens is to decide how much we are prepared to pay so that the needs shall be met. We should not decide in advance before we know what the needs are.
Lord Tordoff: My Lords, I am conscious of the fact that there is much heavy business for noble Lords to deal with later, but I feel I must say a word or two at this stage. May I join in the thanks to the Government Front Bench for the extremely courteous way in which they have handled this Bill, The quantity of their response, as well as the quality, has been impressive. I do not mean that in any cynical way at all. I remember a year ago, when we were dealing with the 1983 Bill. Because of other pressures upon the Government Front Bench at that time, such as a pending general election, there was a tendency for them to have to press things through against an unspoken timetable.
The contrast this time has been very impressive. We are all grateful to the three Ministers who have dealt with the Bill and who have given the House the courtesy of their attention. Perhaps it is a pity that the Back-Benches are fuller at this time than they have been at any time during the discussions on the Bill. I suspect that if noble Lords had had a chance to listen to the arguments we have had on some of the 59 amendments we might have come somewhat closer to winning one or two of those we should like to have won. We have, however, improved this Bill only very slightly. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, is to be congratulated on raising the whole question of stopping places. It was a very important point to raise and I am glad that the Government were able to deal with it.
We have made progress on cheap fares for the elderly and disabled in relation to the reserve provisions within the Bill, and the House must be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, for the work he put in on those amendments.
The penalty clauses came, as everybody has said, at a very late stage. I hope that, thanks to interventions by the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, and others, we have now got them right. It is worrying that on a subject as important as that, where individual rights are concerned, we perhaps have not had as much time as we should have liked to deal with those matters, and perhaps people outside your Lordships' House have not yet had their eyes turned towards some of the problems that could occur within the penalty clauses. However, I think we have given them as clear a scrutiny as we could, and so far as one can see, they are as right as we can make them. Certainly I think we all agree on the need for the penalty clauses and I consider the Government have been wise to introduce them into the Bill.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and his noble colleague Lord Carmichael on the amount of work that they have put into all stages of this Bill. It has been a marathon task. I think that he has perhaps deserved better on some of the amendments that were put down. Nevertheless the amount of work that they have put into this Bill, as the noble Lord himself said, supports the need for a second Chamber, as does the fact that, after a long period in another place, there is still a need for 65 amendments at the Committee stage, all of them carefully debated and carefully responded to.
But we have not, I am afraid, had much movement. We have had assurances on the dial-a-ride. I sincerely hope that in practice those assurances will provide the degree of support needed for the disabled sectors of our community in Greater London. I am afraid that I really have my doubts, since I think something should definitely have gone into the Bill there.
We have had no movement on the dreaded integration question, and that saddens me because it is worrying that, underlying this Bill—as I have said so many times, and I say again now—is a tendency towards fragmentation. I referred to it as disintegration of London Transport. That is perhaps a little strong; but there is a danger of fragmentation when the private sector is to be allowed to tender in respect of various parts of the undertaking where there is separation of the bus and Underground management. All these things seem to me to move away from the ideal of having a properly integrated London passenger transport system which, as the noble Lord, Lord Underhill said, is also integrated into other facets of local government activity in Greater London.
60 We have had no movement at all on the question of duties which should be written into the Bill. I was unable to get any movement on the question of bringing the National Bus Company into various clauses of the Bill. I am extremely worried about the Government's attitude to that because I fear that coming events may be casting shadows before them and that before we are very much older the National Bus Company might be before the court of privatisation to a greater degree that it is at the moment. I think that would be extremely sad in terms of the integration of the activities of the London country bus services with London Transport.
We were unable to move the Government on the question of enforceability before the courts. On the questions of planning and co-ordination, we obtained very little movement. On the passengers committee I fear that, as I said at Second Reading, it will be a toothless watchdog not able even to watch over the whole of the London Transport area, as we saw with the amendment that was defeated earlier this afternoon.
Of course, if you accept the Government's concept of London passenger transport, these things are inevitable. I think that that concept has become much clearer as we have gone through the Committee, Report, and now Third Reading stages of the Bill. It is a concept which is totally foreign to the one we have on these Benches and, similarly, to the one that is held in the Labour Party, though at the end of the day we should probably put up different models. Very frequently, I have spoken in this Chamber in support of amendments by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. That does not mean to say that at the end of the day the model for London Transport which would be produced by him and the one that would be produced by my party would be identical: they would not. But I think that they would have in common a belief that the services of a public passenger transport system should not be totally dictated from the Treasury, in terms of finance.
I believe that the picture which the Government see is not a pretty view. Certainly we all have a belief in having a more efficient public transport system. I do not think anybody, in any part of the House, would suggest that at the moment London Transport is as efficient as it could be. Introducing a degree of competition is something with which I would not quarrel. What we want at the end of the day, because of the relationship between public transport and the whole quality of life in London, is a public transport system which will encourage the maximum number of people to use it so as to get them out of their motor cars and so reduce the congestion on the streets of Greater London. Instead of that, the Government have made it clear that they regard cost as the overriding criterion, despite the fact that they must know that the level of subsidy in London, though not insignificant— it is a very large amount of money— is nothing like as high as subsidies in other capital cities of the world.
I suppose the point which will astonish supporters of the Government outside is that in order to create efficiency in London Transport they have gone down the road of nationalisation. It seems to me there is something a little ironic about that. But it is due to going down that road of nationalisation that the 61 checks and balances that we had in the 1983 Act will not apply to this Bill when it becomes an Act. Because of that the access of the public to facts will be more restricted than it would have been had one of the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, been carried. We are retaining the myth that somehow members of another place are going to provide a reasonable check on what is happening regarding London Transport. Frankly, I do not think that that will happen. The number of London MPs are overwhelmed by people from outside London and, on a practical basis, the amount of time that is needed to challenge the power of the Secretary of State in this matter is simply not available in the House of Commons.
The Government are obviously using this as a route to further privatisation and, as I have already said, the problem of fragmentation immediately comes to mind. I fear the disintegration of London Transport. I fear failure of co-ordination. I fear rises in fares which will make London passenger transport increasingly unattractive to the travelling public, and that, in turn, will mean more cars, more congestion. This Bill is an opportunity missed, and I am sad to see it go on its way in this state.
§ Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone
My Lords, perhaps I may say a few words. When I was Leader of the GLC I took London Transport into the reluctant arms of the GLC, but I never felt that it was absolutely right that it should be kept there. I believe that in the end this Bill will make an improvement to London Transport and that the staff of London Transport, together with the managerial staff, who have been constantly interfered with over a number of years, will now have the opportunity to see that the undertaking runs in the right way. Now that the Government have the responsibility for public transport I hope that it will be accompanied by improvements to the road system in London. I congratulate the Ministers on the way in which this Bill has gone through.
§ On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with the amendments.