|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
This part of the Transport Bill aims to improve local transport facilities through the implementation of best value and the further establishment of quality bus partnerships and quality contracts within local authorities. The purpose of these amendments is to seek further clarity as to whether passenger transport authorities and passenger transport executives fall within the best value remit of the legislation.
Over the years, the six PTAs and PTEs, which, between them employ over 5,000 workers, have been extremely successful in fostering the development of integrated public transport involving bus and train and, where appropriate, ferry and air services. Indeed, they provide much of the infrastructure such as bus stops and bus stations. Moreover, in the case of Tyne and Wear, they own and operate the Metro system. In Manchester and South Yorkshire they were instrumental in the planning and operation of the new light rail services in both Manchester and Sheffield. They also play a major role in securing the provision of socially needed bus and train services by way of the subsidised tender system, including rural services and special community transport services. Elsewhere, some of those responsibilities are undertaken by local county councils.
PTAs and PTEs have, therefore, a great deal of responsibility in relation to the provision of integrated transport services in their particular areas. It is important that they should be obliged to abide by the same standards of high service as other local government transport authorities. However, as I understand it, they are not currently subject to the same best value legislation as local government transport authorities. In its current form, the Transport Bill does not appear to provide for any measures that will make their position clearer and thus provide the necessary safeguards.
The proposed amendment to Clause 113 and to Clauses 123 and 140 would ensure that both PTAs and PTEs are subject to the same legislative provision as local transport authorities, especially when entering into quality bus partnerships, quality contracts and subsidised tendered services. This also applies to the new national passenger information service. Without such direction on the face of the Bill, I have concerns that PTEs will not feel it necessary to follow best value principles and procedures in setting up contracts, partnerships and when procuring tendered services. Therefore, it would be most helpful to hear from my noble friend the Minister how the Government intend to ensure that both PTAs and PTEs will abide by the same legislative rules as their local authority counterparts. I beg to move.
Lord Whitty: I should point out to my noble friend that there is a distinction between PTAs and PTEs in this context. This amendment seeks to add references to both of them alongside the current references to local transport authorities. As regards PTAs, I can assure my noble friend that such reference is unnecessary, as these authorities are already included within the definition of a "local transport authority" in Clause 107.
As for PTEs, we do not believe that it would be appropriate to give them identical powers to the PTAs. That would lead to some overlap and confusion. In any event, the two bodies have different powers and functions: essentially, the PTE is the executive arm of the PTA. Therefore, the Bill rightly gives to PTAs the same powers as other local
At points, the Bill recognises the particular role of the PTEs by providing in Clause 109(4), for example, for their advice to be taken into account by the PTAs in connection with the bus strategy. But it is the PTA that remains the body with the principal powers and duties. That is already covered in the same way as applies to other transport authorities. In the light of my remarks, I hope that my noble friend will not press his amendment.
Lord MacKenzie of Culkein: I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for his reassurance about PTAs. I note what he said about PTEs; namely, that, in his view, this amendment is not appropriate for them. I shall certainly read his response in Hansard to consider what was said in that respect. However, having been reassured on the position of PTAs, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Lord Whitty: I should normally be very responsive to the noble Lord's call to register road safety in various parts of the Bill, but I do not think that it is appropriate here. There is a direct relationship between the level of bus take-up and the provision of bus services with congestion, pollution and air quality, which means that such issues can be built into the quality partnership or contract. However, the relationship with road accidents is less clear.
In one sense the increase in bus take-up provides a safer mode of transport because travelling on a bus is statistically safer, for example, than travelling by car. But the total effect may not be so direct because a smoother bus journey and less congestion may actually lead to faster speeds and, therefore, the possibility of further accidents. Indeed, when considering road safety, one has to take the whole journey into account, such as walking to the bus stop before the journey and away from it afterwards.
It is therefore within the total transport plan that the issue of road safety has to be addressed, rather than in the particular instrument of quality partnerships or quality contracts. The link between better bus provision and fewer road accidents does not seem to us clear, unlike the link between better bus provision and a reduction in congestion and pollution, which is already included in the Bill.
The link with the payment of bus subsidy in Clause 151--which Amendment No. 175 seeks to amend--is even more tenuous in our view. The primary purpose of subsidy is to ensure an adequate bus network, plugging gaps in what is offered commercially by providing non-remunerative services. Subsidy may also be paid to enhance services, perhaps with a view to promoting public transport use--hence the relevance to congestion and pollution in Clause 151(2). However, to link the payment of bus subsidy with the prevention of road accidents does not seem appropriate. The important issue is the total approach to preventing road accidents rather than giving a subsidy to a particular form of transport. I hope that the noble Lord will not press the amendment, although I accept that it is well intended.
Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful for the Minister's comments and for his sympathy with the objective behind the amendment, even if he does not think that it is appropriate. I shall study his comments with care. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
I do not know how one can provide a quality service if one is not required to provide information about that service to the public. I am a little puzzled at that exclusion. I hope that the Minister will comment on the Government's thinking on that matter. I do not believe that a service will be of a high quality unless the public are fully informed about it. I beg to move.
Lord Whitty: I reassure the Committee that there is nothing sinister about the proposals. It is certainly possible for a quality partnership scheme to include requirements as to bus information to passengers, and many will do so, as is the case at present, although practice varies throughout the country. Subsection (5)(b) is simply aimed at avoiding duplication of powers. Thus any facilities which relate to information and are required to be provided under the separate
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|