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Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, I support the amendment. It is important to have the provision written on the face of the Bill. Planners and all kinds of people forget. They do not mean to do so, but they forget. Therefore, having the provision written in the Bill would be helpful.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, noble Lords listening to earlier debates will accept that in the drafting of the Bill we are giving a clear priority to accessibility. In Clauses 126 and 127, the mayor's transport duties are designed to be inclusive and pick up neither mode of transport nor specific groups of users. However, while safety and integration are key issues, they also have to be accompanied by accessibility. In Clause 127 we have drawn attention to accessibility as one of the key aspects of the mayor's duty. Government amendments to that clause--I shall address them shortly in another

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group--will strengthen further the involvement of the disabled and the need to commit a timetable to make transport more accessible to disabled groups and those with other access problems.

We have also made clear that door-to-door transport is a vital part of the picture. Again, I shall return to that issue in subsequent groups. I think, therefore, that the amendment is unnecessary. Accessibility is already reflected in these clauses. With the agreement of the House, we hope to tighten that up shortly. The other provisions will be dealt with later. The provision is already in the Bill. It will be re-emphasised when we reach the government amendments. I hope that the noble Baroness accepts that that is a better way to proceed.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, I am not sure that I accept that it is a better way to proceed. I do not think that “safe" means the same as “accessible". They are two quite different parts of a programme for transport. I am sorry that we are unable to put the word “accessible" in this part of the Bill. It would make a bold statement on the broad aims of the transport strategy. However, I am aware that the Minister has another amendment. We look forward to hearing what he says in proposing it. For the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 343:

Page 70, line 8, at end insert--
(“( ) In developing and implementing policies in accordance with subsection (1) above the Mayor shall consult Transport for London as to its proposals to exercise borrowing powers pursuant to section 139(3A).").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving the amendment, I speak also to Amendment No. 359. The amendment relates to financing investment in London's transport. The amendment provides that the mayor will consult Transport for London on proposals to exercise borrowing powers. The second of my amendments sets out that in addition to its powers as a local authority, and subject to the approval of the mayor of the assembly, Transport for London may borrow money in the market for investing in improved transport in Greater London.

The importance of improving transport in our capital city can hardly be understated. Without improvement we are all aware, I believe, that there will be little incentive for travellers to leave the car at home and to choose another mode of transport. We are aware of the effects on air quality, and so on, of congestion on our streets. We are aware of the effects on social development. The ability to participate in activities may be affected by difficulties in travelling and being able to afford to travel; and we are aware of the need for improvement in transport as part of a programme of regeneration. If there is poor transport, a lack of variety of modes or inadequate connections, it must affect the regeneration of an area. In other

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words, environmental, social and economic considerations are at the heart of the new authority's principal purposes.

Sadly, in addition, in the past two weeks there has been much increased public focus on the need for investment because of concern that lack of investment may mean a failure in safety standards. The priority must of course be safety. I believe that we would all agree on that. Doubts about safety impact on road congestion. If prospective rail and Tube travellers are concerned about the safety of the mode of transport, they may choose--possibly wrongly, given the statistics--to stay in their cars.

The GLA and its constituent parts are subject to the local authority finance regime. That should include credit approvals--in other words, approvals by the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State has control over the various categories of approval that can be given.

During the previous stage of the Bill, the Government made a point of not treating the GLA differently from other local authorities. I believe that it is different, in particular with regard to transport in London. None of our other cities has a transport system on the same scale or with the same scale of need for investment. That is not to say that other cities do not have problems, but let us get London right.

The unreliability and sheer discomfort of travelling in London are great. I know of people who, having moved job to work in London, are staggered by the difficulties involved in getting there. A great deal of discomfort was suffered this summer by the lack of air conditioning in the Underground.

I accept that investment is not the only approach to improving transport. Integrating land use and transport, changes in working practices and so forth are all important, but they are relatively small beer. We need investment not just to increase comfort but capacity; to improve signalling and rolling stock; to improve throughput; and to improve travelling conditions.

I accept that good work is being undertaken in the bus system in London. But there, too, a great deal is needed to improve the services and, I suggest, to assist in a cultural shift. One of the problems with buses is that so many of us view them as a poor relation and not the mode of first or obvious choice.

The amendments propose new borrowing powers which are limited to Transport for London; in other words, limited to the objective of improving our transport. It is true that one can go to the Secretary of State for permission to borrow; true that one can go to the Public Works Loan Board; and true that one can work with the private sector and use PFI initiatives. However, we know that those are not entirely straightforward.

In recent correspondence from the Minister, the description of the finance regime suggests that the Bill provides a robust system for controlling the use of credit by the GLA and functional bodies but one

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which at the same time provides flexibility in deciding how to finance capital spending based on the well established local authority model.

Last week, in responding to the limited amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard of Didgemere, relating to borrowing against a future income stream, the Minister said:

    “I believe that the noble Lord can rest assured that the Government recognise both the economic and political imperatives".--[Official Report, 14/10/99; col. 654.]

I am aware of plans to publish a consultation paper on local government finance next year, but I do not believe that assurances that the Government understand the imperatives are sufficient unless Transport for London is in a position to use the widest possible range of sources of finance.

The Government are designing a new sector of government for our capital city. I applaud them for that, even though I do not agree with the structure. However, their continuing hold on the purse strings, and on the pen which signs on borrowing, lies ill with the claim that London is being allowed to run itself. I beg to move.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, as the noble Baroness said, we are to some extent revisiting the territory dealt with a few days ago in the early hours of the morning. It was the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard of Didgemere. Admittedly, his amendment was slightly narrower and proposed borrowing against the revenue from road-user charging and workplace levies. On the other hand, the noble Baroness's amendment is wide ranging in its ability to borrow, well outside the normal requirements of local authority finance. Nevertheless, their objectives are the same and, as I indicated to the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard, we accept the basic argument that upfront expenditure on public transport and other infrastructure is absolutely necessary not only in order for the road-user charging system to work, but also for it to be politically acceptable. It was in that sense that I used the words “political and economic imperatives" the other night.

We accept that new charging schemes must be associated with improved public transport, which means investment. Of course, £5 billion-worth of investment is in the pipeline for London's public transport. In addition--and the noble Baroness slightly dismisses them--there is a range of possibilities within the Bill and the local authority finance structure for the GLA and the mayor to acquire additional moneys for spending on upfront investment. There are the credit approvals, which can be allocated by the Secretary of State for the purposes of TfL; there is additional funding through the GLA transport grant; and there are many forms of PFI which, provided they meet the criteria, TfL would be able to extend and mobilise as new forms of capital in order to engage in public transport infrastructure investment.

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There is a bit of a presumption lying behind some of the criticism and perhaps behind the amendment. There is a misapprehension that no funding will be available for TfL to carry out these early improvements and that we must wait until revenue streams come in before we can spend the money. It is true that we anticipate that once the road-user charging systems are up and running, there will be a recycling, and hypothecation will lead to a self-sustaining system. Nevertheless, we accept the case that there should be upfront expenditure.

We disagree with the noble Baroness--and I disagreed with the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard, the other night--that we need additional powers to mobilise the capital for that purpose. We believe that without breaching normal local government rules, without providing anything that is not already provided within the Bill, substantial resources will be available to TfL to provide for that infrastructure when added to the allocations which my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister has already made to improve the private and public transport sectors within London. Therefore, I do not believe that it is necessary to give the widesweeping borrowing powers, which the noble Baroness's amendment would allow and which would place the GLA in a category so substantially different from the rest of local government as to prove a problem. I therefore hope that she will not pursue the amendment but accept our intention that the pattern of expenditure will be the same as hers. Furthermore, our understanding of the acceptability of road-user charging in particular is the same as hers. I hope that she will not pursue the amendment today.

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