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Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 466 and 467:

Page 116, line 21, at end insert--
(““PPP related third party" shall be construed in accordance with section 190(2)(b) above;
“PPP related third party agreement" means any arrangements falling within section 190(2)(b) above;").
Page 116, line 34, leave out (“means") and insert (“has the meaning given by section 185(2) above (that is to say,").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

19 Oct 1999 : Column 1071

10.15 p.m.

Clause 211 [Travel concessions on journeys in and around Greater London]:

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 468:

Page 117, line 6, leave out (“any local authority, or any two or more local authorities acting jointly, may") and insert (“each London authority (other than the Common Council) shall, either on its own account or jointly with any other local authority, and any local authority may, within six months of the establishment of Transport for London").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, travel concessions for the less fortunate members of society are essential for living in London, not a luxury. The protections for such individuals--the old, the blind, the disabled--as presently set out in the Bill are inadequate. The amendment makes it obligatory for London authorities to make arrangements for travel concessions and creates a deadline for their enforcement in order to reassure the disadvantaged. I beg to move.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, before the Minister replies, it may be for the convenience of the House if I speak now to Amendment No. 468A, which stands in my name and the name of my noble friend.

It is an amendment to Clause 211 which seeks to end the discrimination in eligibility ages for older people's local travel concessions. The rights of men and women to receive equal treatment from their governments was declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Now the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 regulates these matters in this country. There is a lack of certainty among lawyers as to whether the local travel concession is subject to Section 29 because local authorities are permitted, not required, only to grant these concessions from ages not below the prescribed qualifying age.

The concession has been linked to the ages at which the two sexes receive their pensions, and an argument has been put forward on behalf of the Government that, since everyone will retire at the age of 65 by the year 2020, the differential in the concession will gradually be eliminated. However, for older men who are not yet able to claim the concession although their slightly younger wives are, 2020 may be rather late for them to arrive at equal status with their wives.

It has occurred to us and to many other people that the Bill offers an interesting opportunity to put right the matter of equality between the sexes, at least as far as concerns London. The Government have said not once but many times that they are creating with the Bill a unique and modern authority. It should suit such an authority to take on this more modern approach to concessionary passes.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, some aspects of this matter were discussed earlier. I have some sympathy with the points made by the noble Earl and the noble Baroness. Although it is important to take their points into account, I think they are unnecessary and difficult in the context of the Bill.

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Our intention has been to carry forward as far as possible the existing arrangements for concessionary fares--partly because they have been largely successful and partly because the benefits need to be carried forward in as seamless a transition as possible. They are much valued by the people who receive them.

In response to concerns raised at an earlier stage both inside and outside the House, we amended the Bill in Committee and improved the arrangements for the benefit of users. I recall that there was a welcome for that, both in the House and beyond. These amendments would go further than the Government have gone and would significantly alter the present arrangements.

The first amendment would set a time frame to agree concessions. This is already provided for in the Bill. The local authorities will therefore need to agree arrangements with London Transport by 31st December this year to come into effect on 1st April 2000. Next year, the local authorities will need to agree a scheme with TfL by 31st December 2000 to come into effect on 1st April 2001. As TfL will come into being in July 2000, there is already a timetable and arrangements for concessionary fares in place within six months of the establishment of Tfl.

In addition, Amendment No. 468 would add an element of compulsion on the boroughs to agree a scheme which would be extremely difficult to enforce. The existence of a statutory reserve scheme would render the obligation redundant because it will already provide the necessary assurance to pass holders that concessions would continue to be provided. I referred earlier also to the various provisions on joint arrangements between the boroughs and TfL which I believe will ensure the adequate carrying forward of this scheme.

Amendment No. 468A, spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, relates to the link between the pensioner's pass and the retirement age. I accept that this is a difficult issue, but the link between eligibility and travel concessions and the state pension age is long-standing and clearly understood. As the noble Baroness said, the 1995 Pensions Act indicates that changes will take place in the retirement age. However, it is our intention that any changes implied in the concessionary fare scheme would follow the rest of that Act. There are of course serious financial considerations to take into account if any boroughs were to move ahead of, or in the opposite direction to, that Act. We estimate that it would cost around £20 million to extend the rights to men of 60 to 64 years of age. Further, it would put the scheme out of kilter with future retirement ages. For that reason, I believe that on balance it would be better to keep the present linkage.

I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, is not present to move Amendment No. 469. We touched on some aspects of that amendment earlier. I hope that

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the noble Earl will be able to withdraw that amendment, and similarly that the noble Baroness will not pursue her amendment at the appropriate point.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, the Minister has made a very interesting speech. It is an important issue. I shall study Hansard carefully tomorrow to see whether we can produce another amendment to deal with the issues. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, it appears that in error Amendment No. 452 and the amendments with it in the grouping were not moved by the Minister. With the leave of the House, I feel it would be helpful to deal with those now.

Clause 199 [The PPP arbiter]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 452:

Page 111, line 41, at end insert--
(“( ) a member of staff of Transport for London or of a subsidiary of Transport for London; or
( ) a director or employee of a PPP company or of a subsidiary of a PPP company or of a company of which a PPP company is a subsidiary").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the group of amendments to which I am speaking has been taken slightly out of order. Amendments Nos. 452 to 460, and Amendments Nos. 462, 464 and 465 make a number of minor and mostly technical changes to the provisions relating to the PPP arbiter. They allow the same person to hold the offices of rail regulator and of arbiter. They clarify the circumstances in which the arbiter can issue directions and guidance, refine the drafting of some of his statutory duties and provide legal protections and sanctions relating to his information gathering powers. The amendments are straightforward, but if there are any queries, I shall be happy to respond to noble Lords either now or in writing. I beg to move.

The Deputy Speaker : My Lords, I should make it quite plain from the Chair that the Chair accepts full responsibility for trying to move things on a little too quickly.

Baroness Miller of Hendon : My Lords, I wish to make only one comment on this matter. I appreciate that a mistake was made. However, I noticed immediately, as did other Lords on these Benches, that somehow or other we moved to a group of amendments that had not even been spoken to. There are three amendments in the group--Amendments Nos. 455, 464 and 465--which by no stretch of the imagination could be called technical amendments. Those are new clauses which were somehow moved en masse. That is totally improper.

I am sorry that the noble Lord who moved the amendments is not now in his place. I understand the difficulty because he thought that they had gone

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through. But the fact is that they are new clauses. Parliament must have an opportunity to discuss them and to have them explained to us.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I have a sense of dejavu. I well recall that during the proceedings on the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill the party opposite organised an ambush. However, the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, wanted to move an amendment to insist on seatbelts for minibuses. He overshot the groupings and found it extremely difficult to move his amendment. Fortunately, the House found a mechanism for considering that amendment later on.

My main concern relates to the new clause introduced by Amendment No. 465. It starts off quite well in the manner which the Minister described. However, it is spoilt by the two pages of exceptions. It also allows the Secretary of State to extend the list of exceptions. A parallel can be drawn with the freedom of information Bill which appears to be designed to prevent freedom of information. A case can be made for each of the exceptions. In outline, the person giving the information has been up to no good. But why should the PPP arbiter be used as an enforcement device for the Estate Agents Act 1979 or European directives on advertising? The list of exceptions leaves the suggestion that the PPP arbiter is meant to be checking up on the enactments. Will he not have enough to do anyway?

The exceptions should be confined to areas relating to transport. We will be tabling an amendment at a later stage to meet our concerns after we have examined the whole of the Bill and read the Minister's comments.

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