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Lord Berkeley: Operational land and non-operational land is dealt with in the next group of amendments. I have some sympathy with this amendment, but I understand that there must be a minimum property size or value below which it would be unreasonable to ask for a list.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, has said, there has been a long history of deception--that is almost what I would call it--from the British Railways Board over the years. Many people, including me, have campaigned for the board to publish a list of its land holdings before they were sold. My noble friend the Minister has kindly managed to secure a list of the properties that the board has sold in the past year--which seems to be against the spirit of the White Paper--but we still do not have a list of the land that has not been sold. It does not really matter whether British Rail is continuing to sell land.

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The fact remains that, whereas I believe that my noble friend and his colleagues are doing their best to get this right, the history of the past 20 years has created an enormous backlog of suspicion. A list would certainly give people comfort that we are starting from a position of reasonable transparency. I support the principles behind the amendment.

Lord Clement-Jones: As my noble friend Lady Thomas said, this is an important amendment. Under the terms of the Bill--and following assurances given in the White Paper and by Ministers--the assets of London Underground will be kept in public ownership. I note that the amendment will change that to the operating assets of London Underground.

For instance, Clause 141 puts restrictions on the disposal of land owned by Transport for London. We strongly support these obligations and commitments. However, in order to ensure that Transport for London is complying with these obligations, we need to know what assets it owns--whether it is land, fixtures and fittings or rolling stock. Furthermore, when the leasing agreements with the PPP companies are drawn up, it will be important to ensure that all the assets to be leased are identified clearly in the agreements.

In this light, the amendment is surely eminently practical and reasonable. If the Government do not accept it, does that mean that they have not drawn up an asset register for Transport for London for the future? If they have not, is it because they see no prospect of the PPP agreements proceeding in reality?

Lord Whitty: I understand the arguments behind the amendment, but this clause is to do with something entirely different. It is about ensuring that the GLA will be able to transfer the legal ownership of property, rights and liabilities between itself, TfL and TfL subsidiaries in the course of setting up TfL. The amendment would require the Secretary of State to publish a list--which even the supporters of the amendment recognise would be an extremely complicated and difficult list--before making any orders that would bring into effect provisions relating to TfL.

Clauses 319 and 320 allow a Minister of the Crown to transfer property, rights and liabilities from predecessor bodies, such as LRT, to successor bodies, such as TfL. The powers allow Ministers to make those transfers either by order or by administrative transfer scheme. In the case of TfL, it is likely that the vast majority of property rights relating to the relevant functions of the predecessor bodies concerned will transfer to it. The working assumption is that this will be done by exclusion. That means that the orders dealt with under the powers in this clause would list the general classes of rights, property and liabilities which are to transfer between each relevant predecessor body and those individual rights, items of property and liabilities which are not to transfer. Producing a comprehensive list before bringing in the orders would be a hugely time-consuming and expensive undertaking. I certainly do not see that it is justifiable in this context.

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I understand the concerns that are being expressed. I do not believe that engaging in this listing process would be justifiable in any case, but it certainly would not be justifiable to require that list to be produced prior to any powers under this clause being operated. Otherwise the whole allocation of assets to TfL, the demarcation between TfL and its subsidiaries and the wrapping up of the property of the predecessor companies could not take place.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Clement-Jones: Can the Minister expand on his comments in terms of the listing of assets? He referred to the transfer of assets being by way of exclusion between successor bodies and so on. But, when it comes to a PPP agreement, surely those assets will have to be detailed in a positive fashion. When London Underground is being split into three parts it will not be good enough to do it by exclusion. That will not be possible. There will have to be detail for each of the different PPP companies.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: Perhaps the Minister will excuse me if I add a comment at this stage. When I said that I wanted to go with the spirit of the amendment, I should have added that I acknowledge that it has been put in the wrong place. We were mistakenly advised about that. It would have been more appropriate in the following clause, which deals with the disposal of assets as opposed to the transfer of assets. Does the Minister recognise that there is a real worry about what would happen in the event that, for understandable reasons, the new organisation wished to dispose of its assets? With the backlog of history, that would cause a good deal of suspicion. I have brought forward the amendments to achieve clarity and openness. Will the Minister consider the amendments in the light of the sale, rather than disposal and rearrangement, of the property?

Lord Whitty: By making it conditional on the powers under the clause, it would be a major inhibition on organising all the successor bodies. Therefore, for that reason as well, the amendment is in the wrong place. Even if I were to accept that there was a case for looking at this list, it would be an enormously complex, time-consuming and difficult task. It is not necessary for the PPP process because we will be dealing with PPP on the basis of classes of asset. I suspect that there may well be exclusions there, and the exclusions could be listed. But, in general, the PPP would be looking after the classes of infrastructure which related to particular lines. Therefore, it would not be necessary to list every individual asset where the assets of London Underground pertain to the sub-surface lines or the other groups which will be listed in the PPP. It is accordingly not necessary for PPP purposes.

It might optimally be necessary to make sure that there was no privatisation by stealth in the sense suggested by my noble friend Lord Berkeley and the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. But, even for that purpose, this would be an enormous task. I doubt whether it is worth it. I do not necessarily wish to

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register any encouragement to the noble Baroness that, were she to introduce this amendment in the right place, we should look favourably on it. It is an enormous administrative task for all the bodies involved.

Lord Avebury: Perhaps the list of assets could be confined to land assets, and not the installations on the land. I can understand that, if an inventory had to be taken of every signal, switch-box and so on, that could be an enormous undertaking. But the disposal of these assets could take place only if the land on which they were placed were also sold. Therefore, simply to list the land holdings would go a long way to meeting the wishes of my noble friend. I should be grateful if the noble Lord, in considering this matter, would take into account the size of the task if it were limited simply to the land holdings of the organisations concerned.

Lord Whitty: On the face of it--although I am not sure that I shall have any support from my colleagues--that sounds a slightly more reasonable request. Nevertheless, even to do that is extremely complex. The land on which, for example, London Underground's assets operate is under various different forms of tenure, not always the freehold of London Underground. So even that is pretty complex; however, I will examine the matter.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: The Minister has, as ever, been friendly and gracious in his responses. I am grateful for his answers and I shall read them carefully. However, we may return to this subject at a later date. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 263A:


Page 76, line 7, leave out ("disposal of an interest in land where the disposal") and insert ("transfer of an interest in land to the Authority where the transfer")

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 263B to 263J, 264A to 264C, and 265A.

Clause 141 and parts of Clause 140 place restrictions on TfL's ability to dispose of operational railway and tramway land. The clause is designed to prevent the permanent sale of key operational assets, primarily Underground and Docklands Light Railway lines and stations. TfL is required to obtain the Secretary of State's consent to such disposals.

However, as currently drafted, the Bill requires TfL to obtain the Secretary of State's consent to any disposal of operational railway or tramway land. We acknowledge that that formulation could be unduly restrictive. If unamended, it could potentially mean that TfL would have to seek consent to all land disposals, instead of just those involving Underground and DLR lines and stations. These amendments therefore give effect to the undertaking given earlier in the passage of the Bill by my honourable friend the Minister for Transport in London that the restrictions on disposal of land would be refined to give TfL some operational flexibility over its property portfolio. At the same time,

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we have also taken the opportunity to plug one or two gaps in the current clause so that the restrictions cannot be circumvented.

Amendment No. 264C changes the definition of operational land so that the Secretary of State's consent to disposal would not be required where the land in question is comparable to land in general, rather than land used for railway purposes. The wording of the revised definition is similar to that used in the Town and Country Planning Act.

Amendment No. 264A provides that, where Underground or DLR lines or stations cease to be used for railway purposes, disposal would not be permitted without the Secretary of State's consent for a period of five years, or such other period as the Secretary of State may determine.

Amendment No. 264B enables the Secretary of State to issue a consent authorising the disposal of land falling within a specified description.

Amendments Nos. 263B and 263H place restrictions on the disposal of TfL subsidiaries, so that the GLA/TfL cannot form a company, either as a subsidiary or as a joint venture, vest it with operational land and then sell it off--indirectly as a way of circumventing the other restrictions on the sale of land.

The remaining amendments are technical changes. They tidy up the effect of these amendments. I beg to move.


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