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Finally, the Minister talked about the need for strong and robust accountability. The only accountability for these regional learning and skills councils is through the Secretary of State. There is no accountability at a regional level to any elected, democratic authority lower than through Parliament. It is right that we have accountability through Parliament but it is a somewhat protracted, indirect accountability. Talking about strong, robust accountability is nice but I think that it is a bit pie in the sky.
Baroness Verma: Once again, I thank the Minister for introducing these regulations. We all agree that we must have a world-class skills base. As before, the noble Lord, Lord Jones, has asked a number of the questions that I had intended to put, so I shall re-emphasise, and elaborate on, their importance.
The regulations make provision for the salaries of the chairman and other members of regional councils. Can the Minister confirm that each of the nine regional directors will be paid salaries of between £115,000 and £140,000? That means that, even on a generous estimate, the wage bill will be in excess of £1 million, but of course that does not take
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If the restructuring of the learning and skills councils means that they are designed to be more responsive to employer, business and local demands, what specific interface will the new bodies have in terms of the constitution of the new bodies? What are the structural relationships?
Perhaps the Minister can elaborate on what fit to act means. Can she say how many employees, both full-time and part-time, are currently working for the regional councils? Can she also say what roles the sector skills councils will have? There is no mention of them in these regulations. Finally, can the Minister say whether the national apprenticeship service will have a relationship with these new bodies?
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: Once again, I thank noble Lords for taking part in this important discussion and for their warm welcome for these regulations. I think that I speak on behalf of the Government if I say that sometimes the Government feel that the accountability is pretty far-reaching, probing and challenging. However, it is extremely important, and I am glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, concurs with that. Clearly, the questions that have been asked are not trivial, and I am very happy to deal with them as comprehensively as I can.
My noble friend asked a question about payment, and I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, was also looking for the answer on that. The average wage bill for a regional council is expected to be in the region of £252,000 per annum. That includes a regional director at £125,000, a regional chairobviously part-timeat £23,000, and 14 regional council members at a total cost of £104,000, but an individual cost of £7,400.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, asked how the membership of the council will be set out. I believe that my noble friend Lord Adonis in Grand Committee on 22 January set out for the record that each regional council will be business-led, drawing employers from priority skill sectors in the region concerned. We expect membership to include a further education college principal and one other provider of work-based learning, a voluntary/community sector provider or school. All regional councils are expected to include a representative of the regional development agency, a trade union member and a member of a local authority. He also said that the Minister had written to Chris Banks, from the Learning and Skills Council, setting out his expectation that each regional council will also include a learner. We expect one or more members to be able to bring a good understanding of higher education, and there should be two observer members, one from Jobcentre Plus and one from the Government. I am happy to repeat that now.
I have picked up the question of salaries. My noble friend Lord Jones asked about further education colleges and councils. As I have said, they will be represented on the regional council. The noble Baroness Lady Sharp asked why the definition of council is not in the Act. Apparently it is not good drafting practice to include an unnecessary definition. That was her trivial question, but I have to say that it is quite an interesting question which I will look at further.
I picked up on the cost of regional councils. I am happy to review this discussion and ensure I have answered all noble Lords questions. The noble Baroness, Lady Verma, had a further question about the role of the sector skills councils. My noble friend Lord Adonis said in Committee that we want to emphasise the importance of working closely with the sector skills council. It is good that she has given me the opportunity to reiterate this. They play an increasingly important role in capturing and articulating employer demand for investment in skills. This role was also stressed by my noble friend Lord Leitch in his report, as everyone is well aware. Central to our ambition for sector skills councils is engaging with employers in their sector to stimulate increased demand for investment in skills.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: I am sorry, I meant to come on to that. The point of having regional councils is to allow them to engage more strategically. The noble Baroness has picked up one of the most important points, which is to allow the regional councils to engage directly with the national apprenticeship service and to be strongly involved as the service develops and rolls out. They will also be involved in regional development authorities. There needs to be a lot of joining up with RDAs, the national apprenticeship service and sector skills councils. There is an enormous challenge, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, stressed. She also kindly answered the point about the 150 local partnership groups. We are talking about operating at a regional level but maintaining very strong partnerships locally, particularly with small to medium-sized employers.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin) rose to move, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (Representations and Appeals) (Wales) Regulations 2008.
The noble Baroness said: I am delighted to move these parking regulations. They are part of a package of measures that will put into place new procedures for parking enforcement by local authorities in Wales. They were laid before the House on 7 January and debated in the Commons on 5 February 2008. Similar regulations for England were brought before the House on 19 November 2007. The intention is that the new enforcement regime will come into force in Wales and in England from 31 March 2008.
The regulations for England and Wales are deliberately very similar to improve understanding and to avoid complications arising from any significant cross-border variations. The only material differences relate to the fact that approval for new civil parking contraventions systemsCPEwill be given by the Welsh Assembly Government in Wales, which will also issue statutory and non-statutory guidance to local authorities in Wales. This means that motorists should have no reason to be confused by separate parking enforcement systems when travelling between Wales and England, or even between different local authorities within Wales. Local authorities will also be able to compare their performance against similar local authorities to see whether their own systems require revision.
I am sure that noble Lords are well aware of the importance of good traffic management in improving road safety, reducing congestion and minimising the impact of road traffic on the environment. The Traffic Management Act 2004 gives local authorities a specific duty to manage their networks, and fair and effective parking enforcement has a role to play in that. The regulations will help them to do that in a fair, transparent and effective manner, with the overarching objective of keeping traffic moving safely. There will also be the benefit of making public transport more attractive to passengers.
Essentially, the regulations tidy up and strengthen legislation that stems from the Road Traffic Act 1991. The new enforcement system will also benefit motorists by encouraging the best use of available road space and provide a more transparent mechanism for enforcement. Ministers of the Welsh Assembly Government will be responsible for considering local authorities new proposals for CPE and deciding whether they should be approved.
There may be instances where a vehicle has been immobilised or removed in error, or where a penalty charge notice has been served in error, for example, because a driver might be delivering or collecting
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The procedures for representations and appeals largely replicate those in the 1991 Act. The regulations maintain the 1991 Acts simplified and streamlined process in which appeals will continue to be made to an independent adjudication service that deals only with parking issues. Local authorities are required to publicise those mechanisms so that they are easily accessible to the public.
The package of regulationsothers are being taken through the legislative processes of the National Assembly for Waleshas been finalised following a widespread consultation exercise. Responses were received from individual local authorities in Wales, the police, the British Parking Association, the Institute of Highways and Transport, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport and others. In addition, the package of regulations has also benefited from expert and robust advice from the entirely independent adjudicators.
These proposals were first brought to the attention of local authorities in January 2007 as part of an initial consultation. It was clear even then that local authorities wishing to take on these permissive powers would need time to review their parking strategy, confirm that CPE is required, employ and train civil enforcement officers, update their ICT systems and ensure that road markings and signs are correct.
Subject to parliamentary and National Assembly for Wales procedures, and given the preparations that local authorities need to make, the coming into force date for these powers is 31 March this year. It is also important to note that local authorities that choose to take on these powers should aim to achieve self-financing as quickly as possible, utilising income from parking charges and PCNs to cover the cost of CPE. CPE is not a revenue-raising measure, and any surplus will have to be used on transport-related schemes. The Welsh Assembly Government will receive annual reports from local authorities that adopt CPE detailing their CPE activities and how any surplus was spent.
The regulations have been widely welcomed by local authorities and the public and I hope that they will be welcomed by all Members of the Committee, who I know have a great interest in promoting the best and safest use of road space and encouraging public transport. It has taken a great deal of hard work to balance the need of local authorities for a strong and effective enforcement regime with a system that motorists will recognise as flexible and fair. The Welsh Assembly Government will be issuing detailed operational guidance, statutory guidance and guidance about the use of approved devices used to record alleged contraventions to help local authorities that wish to take on CPE. I beg to move.
Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (Representations and Appeals) (Wales) Regulations 2008.6th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments(Baroness Morgan of Drefelin.)
Lord Glentoran: I thank the noble Baroness for bringing this statutory instrument before us. We have no serious quarrels with it, and we welcome it. I note her comment to me about tax-raising instruments. I totally accept that this is not a tax-raising power. We have had discussions about that on other occasions in this Room. I have a few questions and a simple request. The Minister mentioned a package of regulations and powers, but it is really more than that. The complexity of legislation in Wales coming from Westminster needs some serious government attention. I ask the Minister to pass that on. I refer noble Lords to Hansard in the other place, on Tuesday 5 February in col. 8, where my honourable friend Cheryl Gillan laid out that complexity very clearly. That is well worth reading for those who are going to have a go at simplifying how regulations are interpreted for Wales, because about 10 different bits of procedure have to be gone through in four Houseshere, the other place, Europe and the Assemblyjust for some parking regulations. That cannot be sensible for something so simple.
Only six local authorities have decriminalised out, I think, of 22I cannot remember how many there are. As I understand this, local authorities that have not decriminalised cannot benefit from this legislation and those things that flow from it. Passing legislation that will be used by only some very small percentage of Wales is not a good idea. Do Her Majestys Government and the Minister have any idea how they will either persuade or help Welsh local authorities to decriminalise? I do not know whether it is funding or the amount of administration that is required or what is needed to help, but that needs to be done as swiftly as possible.
In relation to cross-border happenings and now that this legislation is in place throughout the kingdom, including Scotland and Northern Ireland, will there now be a level playing field? Can motorists expect the same treatment all over the United Kingdom for parking offences and in particular for appeals against parking offences? There are offences that arise and people will be charged and fined, and so on. It would be nice to know about that, and this is a wonderful opportunity. I think that I understood the Minister to say that that is the case, but I should like confirmation that as a result of the legislation we will now have a fair, even and level playing field for parking management, fines and appeals against those fines. If that is the case, it is very much to be welcomed.
Lord Jones: I am glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, who asked a pertinent question about playing fields. I offer thanks to my noble friend for her observations. These regulations, notwithstanding their
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At paragraph 7.4 in the Explanatory Memorandum, regarding the responses to the documents, of which there were 16 in total, was there a theme and did the Welsh Local Government Association make a response? One assumes that it did, because it gives a strong lead to Waless local authorities. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Welsh Local Government Association has growing influence in the post-devolution scene. It has a lot to give and a lot to lead on. Can my noble friend say which local authorities in Wales responded to the consultation?
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: Many of the points that I wished to make have been covered, but I feel that it is a promising movement in the right direction for Wales to have the regulations. It is interesting from a constitutional point of view that the regulations cover non-devolved matters that are in the process of being transferred to the Assembly. I welcome that; it is a very slow process, as the noble Lord, Lord Jones, has just said. The enforcement authorities and the representations that will be made to them are a welcome step, as is the fact that there is to be an independent adjudicator. The regulations set out the grounds for making representations and for appeals.
I want to make a few points about some things in the Explanatory Memorandum. In paragraph 2.4, there is mention of civil enforcement officers acting on behalf of local authorities. First, I have a rhetorical question: do the enforcement officers already exist? I believe that they do and that they are employed by local authorities. The regulations open the door to othersagencies or private contract companiesand I am sure that those of us who live in Wales and are well acquainted with it know the situation in Cardiff, for example, where some parking has, after 10 or 12 years, become extremely expensive. Presumably, the penalties will likewise become even more expensive. It is a live issue in Cardiff, and this change may add fuel to the fire. What will the level of penalty charges be? Will they be self-financing from the point of view of employing enforcement officers? I gather from the document that, in fact, there will be no additional charges, but it seems to me that there may be.
Some other points emerge from the description in paragraph 4.6 of the Explanatory Memorandum. Local authorities will perhaps already have the staff, the equipment and the action plans, but will they all be ready by 31 March? There is some doubt about that, and some provision is made for it. However, it might be a slow process. When does the Minister think that it will all be in place?
In paragraph 5.1, there is mention of minor differences of detail between the administration arrangements in England and those in Wales. Can the Minister say what those might be? There are questions arising from that.
The other point that I might make is that paragraph 7.7 of the Explanatory Memorandum refers to a reduction from 60 to 30 minutes after the PCN is issued before a vehicle is clamped. I assume that the same applies in England. That does not seem to be very long and it could cause grave inconvenience and unnecessary bureaucracy in the process. What is the Ministers view on that?
That is a very broad statement and I am not totally convinced that local authorities will not have to find more resources. Certainly the one that I live in has received only a 2 per cent increase in funding this year, which is less than inflation. In fact, some of these matters do not add up as they should.
That is very desirable but in much of rural Waleswhich is most of Walesthere is very poor public transport and the car is the only means of getting about. I hope that that will be taken into account in all these regulations. Not so long ago, it used to be said that there was only one set of traffic lights in mid-Wales. Now there are a few more but there are not some of the traffic-management facilities that are mentioned in these documents. Quite frankly, this will be regarded by some citizens in rural Wales as outer space legislation.
I take the point that obviously not everyone will opt into this system, but the risk assessment makes a number of points on the costs and benefits of the regulations. Those may be a little out of the question in, for example, some market towns in central Wales, where there are often plenty of parking spaces and a very sparse population.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: I thank noble Lords for joining me in the discussion on these regulations. I think that it was the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, who said that parking should be simple. I am not sure about that. In local politics, parking schemes probably engender some of the most hotly contested campaignscertainly in my experience.
I shall aim to deal with some of the questions as helpfully as I can. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, raised his now perhaps well documented concerns about the process of legislation-making following the Government of Wales Act. I shall not bore everyone with my now well documented support of the process. I happen to believe that devolution is a great thing, and we are doing our very best in government to make it a success. I shall leave it at that, but I understand the noble Lords view and I am very happy to discuss it further whenever the opportunity arises.
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