Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 30A:

The noble Viscount said: Amendments Nos. 30A to 30D relate to Schedule 1 and the composition of the authority. They seek to achieve a number of aims. Amendment No. 30A provides that the authority should have 12 members. We believe that for the authority to be truly independent and impartial, its composition should reflect a proper balance of legitimately interested parties and that, therefore, there should be a reasonable chance of those interested parties obtaining a place on the authority and so a certain number of members is required.

Amendment No. 30B concerns the type of people to serve on the authority. We suggest that no more than two members should be employee representatives; no more than two members should be employer representatives; at least one member should represent consumer groups; and one member should represent the police and criminal justice service. In that way we are trying to ensure that there is a split and that the authority can be generally independent.

Amendment No. 30C provides that the term of office should be for three years, and I should be interested in the Government's comment on that. Amendment No. 30D says that the word "five" should be deleted and that a quorum should be "half" of the authority's members. should be

Here we are seeking to learn more about the Government's thinking on the composition of the authority and how many members there should be. I have no doubt that the Minister will say that those matters are better dealt with in regulations. He may be

5 Mar 2001 : Column 55

right. But if so, perhaps he would help the House by telling it the Government's thinking on the matter. I beg to move.

Lord Gladwin of Clee: My Lords, to some extent, we have already had this debate but I want to put on record my unhappiness about and total opposition to this set of amendments which is far too prescriptive. It is impossible to expect the idea of a board with representatives on it to work. I should not like to be faced with the task of trying to get two representatives of the employees whose term will last for three or five years.

The authority of the authority will be dependent upon the appointments which the Secretary of State makes. That is a blinding glimpse of the obvious. But I believe that the idea of having representatives sends completely the wrong message. We have had the discussion about the consultative process. I hope that the Government will consult about what mechanism there will be. But that is the point at which representatives come in. There needs to be flexibility and those representatives can change. It is a diverse industry and we shall need different kinds of representatives. But I believe that to have them as members of the authority would mean that the authority would face an impossible task.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, these amendments seek to impose certain specific requirements as to the size, make-up, quorum and terms of office of the authority.

I look first at the size and make-up of the authority. We saw a number of amendments in Committee which sought to specify how many members the authority should have and what interest groups they should represent. I explained then and retain the position now that it would be a mistake to place restrictions on the way in which the Secretary of State may construct the authority for many of the reasons which my noble friend Lord Gladwin has expressed, not least because we require flexibility. I should add also that that is not because the Government have an agenda to crowd the authority with some interest groups to the exclusion of the others but for precisely the opposite reason.

As we spelt out in the White Paper which preceded the Bill, there are a number of interest groups whose presence on the authority will be essential for its effective functioning. Those include the police, local authorities, customers, the industry itself, employees of the industry and others. I have mentioned already, in connection with Amendment No. 2A, that the authority can constitute specialist advisory committees to help in its work, and it is perhaps appropriate to mention that again in this context.

A committee structure is likely to be an additional way in which the voices of important stakeholders can be heard by the authority. But I remain of the view that we do not need to specify the composition of the authority or its committees on the face of the Bill.

5 Mar 2001 : Column 56

A related argument is that it would be a mistake to limit the number of members of the authority in the Bill. Our White Paper suggested that a board of about eight people plus a chairman might be appropriate. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, suggested, that there should be no fewer than 10 members. Now the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, suggests an unequivocal 12. None of those numbers is indisputably wrong or right. There needs to be flexibility to ensure that the number is as many as is needed for the authority's effective functioning, no more and no less.

Having said that, it is logical to look at Amendment No. 30D which would require that a quorum of six members should attend the meeting which determines what the quorum shall be for future meetings of the authority.

It is clear that that assumes an even number of authority members. As I indicated, the Government do not want to become tied on the face of the Bill to a particular number of authority members. Even so, I am somewhat doubtful that the authority will expand to consist of the noble Viscount's projected 12 members. The Bill as drafted sets an initial quorum at five members. That seems about right although, of course, it is not scientific. It is important to remember that that is the quorum for a first orientation meeting of the authority only and that a higher quorum--perhaps even half of the members--may be set for future meetings. In keeping with what we see as the need to preserve the authority's flexibility in operations, we should obviously want to see it reviewing the quorum strength whenever its size was changed.

I turn lastly to Amendment No. 30C which seeks to reduce the term of appointment for an authority member from a maximum of five years to a maximum of three. There is no particularly solemn significance in suggesting a maximum term of five years. It certainly can be argued that a more rapid turnover of authority members, assuming there were no reappointments, might help to keep the authority fresh and bring in regular new thinking and new blood. However, there is also the argument that some experience and continuity in doing the job is important, and that a period of five years is a reasonable period in that it will not allow one to become too stale nor will it be so short as to prevent the accumulation of genuine experience.

I argued on the composition of the authority that the question of "how many members" was not one that had a single numerical answer. That argument may also apply here, although clearly, in contrast to the size of the authority, we have to decide in favour of a specific number. Having received the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, I have become conscious that a term of appointment of five years for authority members would be relatively unusual in terms of non-departmental public bodies for which the Home Office has responsibility.

Therefore, with your Lordships' permission, I want to consider the matter further and perhaps return to the matter at Third Reading. In those circumstances,

5 Mar 2001 : Column 57

is the noble Viscount able to withdraw, not just that amendment, but also the other amendments in the group?

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. His explanation gives us a much clearer view of the way in which the Government perceive the authority and who should be on it. In relation to various non-governmental statutory bodies, it is quite often noticeable that the matter of who should be on them is laid down. Sometimes the Home Office argues that it should have people on a body, so such a provision should be in the Bill. Equally, we have now heard the Minister say the opposite. There does not appear to be a general practice in such matters; it appears to depend on how they feel on the day.

I believe that there is a strong argument for flexibility, but we needed to know the Government's thinking. Having said that, there is also a strong argument for saying that the industry must be representative and fair. I am grateful for what the Minister has said on that issue and for considering the five-year point. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 30B to 30D not moved.]

Schedule 2 [Activities liable to control under the Act]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 31:

    Page 22, line 39, after ("vehicle") insert ("or bicycle").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this is an extremely important amendment because it concerns my noble friend Lord Cope, who, as I am sure your Lordships will have noticed, bicycles to your Lordships' House. On this side of the House we do not have the use of large ministerial cars like noble Lords opposite, so we have to come by the best means available.

While bicycling to the House, my noble friend Lord Cope noticed a sign outside a block of flats saying that any bicycle chained to the railings would be clamped and not released until £10 had been paid to the caretaker's block. Do the Government approve of such behaviour? Do they believe it is right that caretakers should hold bicycles hostage? If they do believe that that is right, surely such a situation should be regulated. If we are to regulate clampers of cars and motorbikes, should we not also regulate those who clamp bicycles? Such clampers would prevent my noble friend attending your Lordships' House on time, which I am sure would be a serious disappointment to noble Lords opposite!

This is an important issue. What is the view of the Government? Do they consider that bicycles should be clamped? Is it legal? Is it legal if it is done on a pavement as opposed to on private land? Can someone clamp a bicycle or can a local authority clamp a bicycle on a pavement? What is the law surrounding this issue? One leg of the Government's transport policy is that people should use healthy ways of getting to work such as cycling as opposed to driving. What principles do

5 Mar 2001 : Column 58

the Government consider are appropriate in those circumstances? I look forward to the Minister's reply. I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, initially I was not sure whether to take this amendment seriously, but I can see that the noble Viscount has raised "an interesting point", as it says in my note. Perhaps it is rather more than that. I was not aware that wheelclamping is used as a means of tackling unwanted parking by cyclists. I guess that the noble Viscount is right to seek clarification.

For the record, while I certainly make good use of the ministerial transport, I would not describe it as an expensive limousine. Equally, I have suffered the rigours of travelling on Connex South Central which is not always a pleasant experience. I use a wide range of other forms of public transport, but I do not use a bicycle.

Paragraph 3(1) of Schedule 2 to the Bill states that the paragraph applies to,

    "immobilisation of a motor vehicle",

and in Clause 23 "motor vehicle" is defined as,

    "a mechanically propelled vehicle or a vehicle designed or adapted for towing by a mechanically propelled vehicle".

In our view, that excludes bicycles but includes motorbikes, cars and other motor vehicles and trailers such as caravans.

It is true that Section 104 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act provides for the immobilisation of "vehicles" parked on roads, not "motor vehicles", but we are not aware that the parking of bicycles has ever been a problem which needs to be deterred by wheelclamping. Given the relative lightness and lack of security of a normal bicycle, the owner would probably think twice about parking it irresponsibly in any event.

I believe that the Government are right to oppose legislation that tries to meet a need that does not exist. We have no widespread experience of extensive wheelclamping of bicycles and we do not see this issue as being a major problem. No doubt if in the future it became a major problem, the SIA, having received many protestations, may want to review the position and draw it to our attention. We do not consider at this stage that that is something that the legislation should cover.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page