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Lord Whitty: I appreciate much of what was said by my noble friends Lord Stoddart and Lord Berkeley. It is true that if the morale and commitment of the staff are not right we shall not be able to deliver effective improvements in service to the public. However, the Bill is primarily about delivery of service to the public; it is not about industrial relations and the terms and conditions of those who are employed.

Clearly, the transport authorities can take into account issues relating to terms and conditions if the effect of those terms and conditions is to undermine the performance of the service. It is open to local authorities to specify, for example, training standards for bus staff as part of the quality partnership standards. However, the broader question of how to deal with the staff of the local authorities, including those of passenger transport executives, is perhaps better addressed in a local government Bill rather than in a transport Bill.

My noble friend's amendment addresses,

that is, local passenger transport authorities and passenger transport executives. An additional problem with the drafting of the amendment is that the passenger transport authorities, not the executives, have responsibility for the strategy. However, by and

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large, the employees of the operators might be affected and not those of the local authorities or the passenger transport executives.

Clearly, we would wish for a good and positive best employment practice within all areas, particularly those of local authorities, but I do not believe that the Bill is the place to prescribe that. If anything, it should be in a local government Bill. As regards the employees of the transport authorities, as my noble friend's amendment does not address the employees of the operators it does not achieve what he intends. In any event, I do not believe that the provision would be appropriate here.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I thank my noble friend for his helpful reply and I thank my noble friend Lord Berkeley for his intervention in support of my amendment. It was difficult to frame and it is appreciated that there may be other means of achieving the ends.

I want to ensure that in the PTEs and the PTAs there is a realisation that transport services will succeed only provided the employees are satisfied, well remunerated and like their jobs. I speak as a former chairman of the Reading Corporation transport undertaking, so I know a little about negotiating procedures. It is necessary to have a well paid staff who are motivated to serve the public. People who are not satisfied and are frustrated will start their buses off sharply and will not consider the passengers who are standing in the rain at the bus stop. They should instead realise that the passengers are their livelihood and because they are properly considered they will give them good service.

I want to consider what my noble friend said. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 122 not moved.]

Clause 109 agreed to.

Clause 110 [Consultation and publicity about bus strategies]:

[Amendment No. 123 not moved.]

Lord Bradshaw moved Amendment No. 124:

    Page 67, line 11, at end insert--

("( ) the traffic commissioner for each traffic area covering the whole or part of the area to which it relates").

The noble Lord said: Before speaking to the amendment and to others standing in my name, I must declare an interest. I am a member of the Commission for Integrated Transport, to which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred, and a member of the British Railways Board. I make it clear that the amendments are my personal work and that I have received no advice or guidance from anyone connected with either of those two bodies.

I propose the amendments, with the support of my noble friends, because I believe that they will improve the Bill and make a useful contribution to the implementation of the policies contained in the Government's integrated transport White Paper, with which I am almost totally in agreement.

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I want, first, to talk about the traffic commissioners. This is the first of a number of mentions in the Bill of the traffic commissioners and of the duties attaching to them. When we discussed Part I, which relates to NATS, a great deal was said about safety. A commitment was expressed on all sides of the Committee to safety. The Government's road safety strategy makes it clear that road safety is a key aim of the six traffic commissioners who license bus, coach and heavy goods vehicle operators.

One of my concerns is that traffic commissioners are under-resourced. I believe that they are also under-utilised. However, we must not be complacent about safety in the whole area of road transport. I mention the fact that in the last year for which records are available 576 people lost their lives as a result of accidents involving heavy goods vehicles. In the context of our discussion on NATS last week, that represents two air crashes. Tremendous horror was expressed in the Chamber at the prospect of air transport safety being in any way compromised. However, we compromise safety in road transport every day, every week and every year.

The traffic commissioners are one of the principal groups of people whose duty it is to promote safety, and they work with the Vehicle Inspectorate. We must remind ourselves that on average 20 per cent of vehicles over 3.5 tonnes fail their test by the Vehicle Inspectorate and 12 per cent do so the second time that they are tested. Passenger service vehicles do not do a great deal better: 15 per cent fail the test and 9.1 per cent do so on a repeat test.

Therefore, in moving the amendment, I want to ask the Government whether they intend to review the resources available to traffic commissioners in order to enable them to carry out all their duties properly. What we propose and what the Bill says is that traffic commissioners are to have additional duties--referred to on pages 70, 71 and 74 of the Bill--particularly in regard to quality bus partnerships.

In my view, it is axiomatic that if a traffic commissioner is to play a part in the administration of a quality bus partnership, he should be a consultee of the bus strategy of a local authority. Either the traffic commissioners are important people in whose judgment the Government place trust or they are not. If they are important and if they are to be involved, they should be consultees at the beginning of the development of a bus strategy. As the Bill is written and as we continue with the subject of quality partnerships, there comes a point when the traffic commissioner must be part of the enforcement process of that quality partnership further down the line. Therefore, the amendment makes the traffic commissioner a consultee at the beginning of the process.

However, in order to play his full part in the administration of quality partnerships, in the whole realm of safety and in the proper regulation of road transport, I readily accept that the traffic commissioner must have adequate resources at his disposal.

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Before we move on from the question of resources, all operators--freight and road passenger operators--have always said that they would be prepared to pay a little more for their operator's licence if that money was spent on the enforcement resource available to the traffic commissioner. Again, it is a principle of fair competition that people should obey the rules: they should not overload; they should not allow their drivers to work excessive hours; and they should maintain their vehicles properly. The effect of not enforcing the rules is to move one of those principal pillars away from fair competition.

Amendment No. 125 deals with the issue of users. However, I shall stop at this point and ask whether we may have a response to Amendment No. 124. I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: If I am to respond properly to this amendment--I believe that I am responding only to Amendment No. 124--I must say quite a lot about traffic commissioners as well as something about the bus strategy. Perhaps I may explain the main responsibilities of the traffic commissioners and the powers that they are given under the Bill. I shall then refer to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, with regard to the resources available to them.

The main responsibility of traffic commissioners is to ensure that bus services meet the necessary statutory operating requirements and comply with their registered details. The Bill provides for traffic commissioners' involvement, but at the level of the detailed schemes which local authorities bring forward under the Bill rather than the bus strategy. They will be consulted on quality partnership schemes, quality contract schemes, ticketing schemes and information. That is referred to in Clauses 114, 124, 135 and 138.

Of course, the commissioners will be kept informed of the outcome of the matters on which they have been consulted. That is because they will have enforcement functions in the event of contravention by a bus operator. Failure to comply on the part of the bus operator will leave him open to action by the commissioners for breach of his registration conditions, except in respect of a quality contract operator, who will be answerable to the contracting authority. That is provided for in paragraphs 10 and 22 of Schedule 11.

Therefore, we believe that we have made appropriate provision for the traffic commissioners in the matters with which they are concerned. They have important powers, which they are well qualified to exercise, to oversee entry to the bus industry in terms of financial standing and professional competence and to monitor bus services to ensure compliance with their registered details. We are widening that activity under Part II of the Bill to include enforcement of quality partnership schemes, ticketing schemes and passenger information. Those will all be similarly enforced under the existing registration system.

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The mechanism to which I referred is set out in paragraphs 10 and 22 of Schedule 11, which provide that operating in breach of the provisions will attract the sanctions available under Sections 26 and 111 of the Transport Act 1985. They include the power to levy a financial penalty on the operator, currently in the form of a requirement to repay 20 per cent of the fuel duty rebate received for the previous three months. That can be a sizeable sum, and in the past the traffic commissioners have shown themselves ready to impose those penalties on under-performing operators.

Clauses 154 and 157 of the Bill provide for greater flexibility, both in the circumstances in which penalties can be paid and in the size of those penalties. That ensures that the financial penalty available is effective and flexible and the traffic commissioner can vary it up to specified limits to suit the circumstances of a particular case.

The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, raised the issue of traffic commissioner resources. He wanted an assurance that we recognise the need for resources. We do, indeed, recognise that it is important for the commissioners to have adequate resources to carry out the enforcement role that I described. That is why last year we made additional resources available to cover the cost of using Vehicle Inspectorate staff to undertake monitoring of bus services. I am pleased to say that we have recently agreed that that arrangement should become permanent. We have made available £0.5 million annually in order to enhance the monitoring role.

I have gone into some detail about the work of the traffic commissioners because that is the context in which I say, with some regret, that we cannot accept the amendment. We do not believe that it would be appropriate to require the traffic commissioners to be involved in the bus strategies. By definition, they are strategic policy documents designed to set out in broad terms how the local authority intends to exercise its bus functions. We do not consider those to be matters on which it is appropriate to trouble the traffic commissioners. They do not have responsibilities as regards overall judgments about the local bus network, whereas user representatives, who are referred to in Clause 110, may well be expected to have a view on those matters. Nor do the commissioners have wider interests of the kind that justify other local authorities and bus operators being consulted on bus strategies.

I hope that by setting out the difference between the two roles I can persuade the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, not to press the amendment.

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