Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I admit that when I first looked at the amendment it appeared to be quite interesting. However, further investigation revealed that the matter has been the subject of various legal challenges, as mentioned by the noble Baroness. This is largely a commercial dispute and we do not believe that we should become involved. On the other hand, I should be interested to hear the Minister's response to this important and complicated matter.

19 Oct 1999 : Column 1051

9.45 p.m.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, as the noble Baroness and my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis have said, this seemingly innocent area is extremely complicated. As the noble Earl has just indicated, it has already been the subject of serious legal disputes.

All that we were actually trying to do here was to preserve the status quo and to ensure that TfL took over the responsibilities which currently lie with London transport, but it has raised a hornet's nest of borough and commercial activity and lobbying, probably as much as any other part of the Bill. That extraordinary state of affairs needs to be addressed, but I do not believe that it can be addressed in the terms of the noble Baroness's amendments.

London Transport, and indeed every other local authority up and down the land, has the ability to raise bus shelters. In London, 93 per cent of the bus shelters are London Transport bus shelters. The second of these amendments would remove all the existing powers under the 1934 Act which London has to erect and maintain shelters. TfL would no longer have powers to build shelters and would also have to stop maintaining all London Transport's existing ones.

That is not what the Government envisage as a sensible arrangement. Clearly, like the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, the Government want to see adequate provision of shelters and improvement in the quality of shelters. The current arrangements have actually resulted in a fairly substantial provision of bus shelters in London. There are over 10,000 bus stops in London with shelters, which is 62 per cent of bus stops. That is a dramatically higher figure than applies for example, to Greater Manchester, where only about 29 per cent of bus stops have shelters--I am not saying that that is necessarily an example to us all. It rains more in Manchester, so I would have thought that there would be more in Manchester.

As I have said, over 90 per cent of London bus shelters are owned by London Transport. Of those, about 90 per cent are relatively new; less than 10 years old. I do not disagree with the noble Lord that there has been an element of improvement over recent months--my noble friend has just passed me a note saying, “Don't be southist"! I intend no disparagement to Manchester, apart from its relative meteorological position.

I do not believe that the boroughs will necessarily be in a better position than TfL to make a decision on the nature of bus shelters and on the requirements throughout the bus route, which, after all, will cross several boroughs and take little account of borough boundaries. It is somewhat bizarre to say to the people of London that their new transport authority can do almost anything in London except provide and maintain bus shelters for the most popular form of transport within London and one which we wish to improve and encourage people to use.

Therefore I believe that it is not a reasonable way out of what would appear to be something of a dilemma and conflict to delete all powers for London Transport in that area. Furthermore, through its

19 Oct 1999 : Column 1052

arrangement with Adshel, London Transport receives £5 million per year in advertising revenue from those shelters. It may be that, rather than being any great ideological issue, this is a matter in which the boroughs are undoubtedly interested. I understand that. Nevertheless, that agreement with Adshel has brought benefit to London Transport which has been completely reinvested in the transport system.

It is also the case, if we are getting into legal difficulties, that the Adshel/London Transport agreement is contractually binding and if we were effectively to end that agreement through legislation we should be in even more legal difficulties.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I am greatly obliged to my noble friend for allowing my interruption. I do not wish to prolong the argument unduly, but is it not a little bizarre that when J. C. Decaux wanted to purchase Adshel, the application was denied on competition grounds because there would be only one company involved with LT? Is it not now bizarre that that might in fact be the logic of the situation being driven by the Government at the moment?

Lord Whitty: No, my Lords. I was just about to come to the issue of competition. Clearly, when the contracts--both London borough contracts and LT contracts--come up for renegotiation, there will be an issue of competition. The Adshel agreement comes to an end in 2005. TfL will have a best value duty, as will other local authorities, and at that point it is the Government's duty to ensure that competition operates. The issue is not one of competition; it is one of powers.

I am sure that competition law, and probably European procurement rules, would require both the boroughs and London Transport to engage in effective competition at the point at which the contract is awarded. In the case of London Transport, that will be in 2005. Clearly, we are all in favour of competition operating at that point. However, we are not in favour of changing the situation whereby London Transport, after 70 years, is wiped out of the picture and everything is left to the London boroughs. I do not honestly believe that that would be understood by the electorate of London. London boroughs will have some powers in this area, as they do now, and they will contract their work to whomever is the best provider, of which there are two that we have named. Both are active lobbyists and, apparently, active litigants as well.

We have a difficult situation here. Broadly speaking, we have stayed with the status quo, transferring from London Transport to TfL its current powers. I believe that that is the most sensible way forward. Certainly, we do not wish to imply that there is an anti-competitive motive in so doing. Competition will prevail when those contracts come up. I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, first, I wish to make a very serious point. I hope that the Minister will

19 Oct 1999 : Column 1053

understand that Manchester's rainfall is precisely the national average. That is something that as a Mancunian I learned very early at school. The towns around it, such as Oldham, have a higher rainfall, but not Manchester--

Lord Whitty: My Lords, for the record, I apologise to Manchester.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I was going to add: despite the fact that it always rains when there is a test match at Old Trafford.

I was careful not to mention the names of the two suppliers. Inevitably those names emerged. I had not wanted to be thought to be taking either side. I believe that some very important issues arise from this. As the Minister says, they are both energetic companies. When I was still a local councillor and had some responsibility in the area, one of the companies was very keen to take me on a tour of its public “loos" in central London. I was told that the one in Russell Square was a particularly fine example. But it was a visit that I resisted.

There are serious points arising from this. I shall read carefully what the Minister has said. However, to pick up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, I believe that the major issue in all this is what is in the interests of the travelling public. If one can find that through the morass of complexity then that would be helpful. I am still a little unsure of quite what is in the interests of members of the travelling public among these issues.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 420B not moved.]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) moved Amendment No. 421:

After Clause 176, insert the following new clause--


(“ .--(1) The Secretary of State may, after consultation with the Rail Regulator and the Franchising Director, by order grant at any time--
(a) a licence exemption under subsection (1) of section 7 of the Railways Act 1993, notwithstanding anything in subsection (10) of that section, or
(b) a facility exemption under section 20 of that Act, notwithstanding anything in subsection (9) of that section,
subject to and in accordance with the following provisions of this section.
(2) An exemption by virtue of paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (1) above may only be granted in respect of railway assets or railway facilities comprised in, or used on or in connection with, a network on which some or all of the regular scheduled passenger services are operated by London Regional Transport or Transport for London or a subsidiary of London Regional Transport or Transport for London.

19 Oct 1999 : Column 1054

(3) The power conferred by subsection (1) above is exercisable only if the Secretary of State has received an application for the grant of the exemption from the appropriate London transport authority.
(4) In this section--
“the appropriate London transport authority" means--
(a) as respects any time before the transfer date, London Regional Transport; and
(b) as respects any time on or after that date, Transport for London;
“the transfer date" means the date on which London Underground Limited becomes a subsidiary of Transport for London;
and, subject to that, expressions used in this section and in Part I of the Railways Act 1993 have the same meaning in this section as in that Part.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 421, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 422 to 424. This group of amendments consists of technical measures which provide that LT and TfL will not be constrained from entering into an agreement to integrate the Tube and national rail networks.

The group also includes a small technical amendment which will add TfL to the list of local authorities and rail franchise agreements. I should mention here that, while we do not foresee a need to make any more significant amendments in respect of the national rail network, we shall need to bring forward a few amendments at Third Reading in respect of the Docklands Light Railway and the Croydon Tramlink. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 178 [Transport for London: contracts requiring passenger licences]:

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page