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Baroness Andrews: My Lords, before I move that the Bill do now pass, I shall say a warm thank you to everybody who has improved it. I want to single out the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, who has been remarkably assiduous and has kept us on our toes. It has been the greatest pleasure to work with the Opposition on improving a Bill that we can be proud of. I thank my noble friends who have been incredibly supportive and successful. We have some ping-pong, but it will be quite restricted. Above all, I thank my officials. I have worked with many Bill teams, but this team has worked very late and very long, has risen to the challenge of an extremely technical Bill and has done a brilliant job. I also thank my private office. With that, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.
Lord Adonis: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 1 to 8. I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 9 to 17, 149 to 151, 154, 155, 175 and 176. These amendments are relatively minor and technical. Amendments Nos. 1, 10, 149 to 151, 154 and 155 amend existing powers in the Bill that empower the
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The purpose of Amendment No. 10 is to clarify that the power would enable future secondary legislation to amend provisions contained in the Local Transport Act itself, or provisions as amended by that Act, as well as other enactments.
Amendments Nos. 2 to 8 amend the consultation requirements that are imposed on the senior traffic commissioner. The main change is that, before issuing directions or guidance to the other commissioners, the senior commissioner would be required to consult such organisations representing the interests of public transport users as he thinks appropriate. Amendment No. 9 confirms that the Secretary of State may issue guidance to the senior traffic commissioner about any of his functions.
At this point, I refer to the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Rosser, Amendment No. 9A, which is intended to ensure that the senior traffic commissioner has regard to any recommendations made by the Public Transport Users Committee for England or the Rail Passengers Council, now popularly known as Passenger Focus, so that enforcement action could be considered against poorly performing operators. I believe that I can meet the concerns that my noble friend has in this regard. Back in April, the Secretary of State announced that, subject to further consultation on the details, additional functions would be conferred on the Rail Passengers Council to enable it to represent the interests of bus passengers. That reflects the fact that many respondents to our consultation on strengthening bus passenger representation had a clear preference for Passenger Focus taking on this role. Passenger Focus already does a good job representing rail passengers, and there are economies of scale in giving the role to an existing statutory body; therefore, we do not intend to establish a public transport users committee at the current time.
However, I assure my noble friend that, were we to establish such a committee, the powers in the Bill would be wide enough to place certain requirements on the senior traffic commissioner to take account of recommendations made by the committee if that was thought desirable. Similarly, the current clause enabling the Secretary of State to confer bus and coach functions on the Rail Passengers Council through secondary legislation would be wide enough to make similar requirements of the senior traffic commissioner, if thought desirable. Due consideration would, nevertheless, need to be given to ensure that it was done in such a way as not to prejudice or diminish the authority or independence of the senior traffic commissioner. The secondary legislation will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, so there will be a proper opportunity for your Lordships' House and the House of Commons to debate the detailed proposals.
Amendments Nos. 11 to 16 relate to local transport plans. Amendment No. 11 makes explicit that local authorities must have regard to government policies and guidance relating to climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as other environmental issues. This responds to points raised in the House in earlier debates on the Bill, as well as to debates in the other place.
I shall say a few words about the amendment to the Motion proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. We entirely share his view that the planning and delivery of transport, whether by central government or local authorities, should play its full part in mitigating the threat posed by climate change. I reassure him that we will be emphasising the importance of taking that goal into account both in the guidance that we give to regions on planning regional transport priorities and in the draft guidance to local authorities on local transport plans, which we will publish before Christmas.
We are also developing the tools that regions and local authorities urgently need to help them assess the impact of their proposals and policies on the emission of greenhouse gases. Measuring such impact is, I fear, far from simple. It is well known, for example, that a well intentioned but badly planned measure to reduce congestion, and the emissions that result from that congestion, may have the unintended effect of encouraging more people to use their cars. We need to ensure that local authorities are encouraged not only to reduce emissions but to do so effectively.
Given our current state of knowledge, it is simply impossible for local authorities to estimate with any great accuracy the total impact of their transport policies on climate change. We do not believe that making such matters a potential issue for the courts to determine, as might happen under the noble Lords amendment, is the right way forward at this stage. In addition, it is important that local authorities consider the threat of climate change against the totality of their policy, taking into account the need to integrate transport policies with, for example, housing and land use planning.
Measuring the impact of transport policies alone carries a significant risk of perverse results. Impacts need to be measured across local authority policies, so that the best measures overall may be planned and implemented. I stress again to the noble Lord that we will be emphasising the importance of taking the threat posed by climate change into full account in the guidance that we give to both regions and local authorities on local transport plans.
Amendment No. 16 makes explicit that local authorities must consult transport providers and transport users when developing their local transport plans. Clause 12 would transfer responsibility for local transport policies and plans in our major cities outside London to the Integrated Transport Authority for the area concerned, but the ITA would be required to consult the councils falling within its area.
However, there are some statutory references to local transport policies developed by metropolitan district councils. Those councils will no longer be developing such policies, so those statutory references will no longer work. Amendment No. 17 and
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Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, some of us are surprised and a little concerned that so many amendments and clauses were brought to this House at such a late stage, but I accept the Minister's statement that a lot of them are tidying-up amendments and improve the Bill. I do not intend to say too much, except to welcome one or two things, but we have one or two concerns that we should discuss about provisions that might reduce the democratic aspect of the Bill. We are also obviously concerned about the imposition on local authorities. That will come up during the evening.
I especially welcome the amendment that means that we should consult passengers. We all think that we should do that; we discussed it at an earlier stage. I also welcome the Minister's comments on climate change; however, I hope that the Government practise what they preach. When you cross the QE2 Bridge as you go round the M25, a cloud continuously hangs over the toll booths. The Government may solve such things. Charges for the Dartford Crossing should be considered.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, I note what the Minister had to say about the amendment in my name but I am not entirely sure how far he is committing the Government in relation to the role of Passenger Focus. To be effective Passenger Focus is going to need to have some teeth, particularly given the problems that some passengers face with bus services outside London. I recognise that secondary legislation will deal with the powers of that watchdog in more detail but I would like to see secondary legislation ensureand I would be grateful if my noble friend could confirm if this is his intentionthat the watchdog Passenger Focus has a role on appeals on complaints because that would bring it into line with its equivalent for London, which applies to bus services in London as well as rail services. I would also like to see Passenger Focus given the powers to access performance information from operators which at present is not readily available and without which it is difficult to see how Passenger Focus could do its job.
Obviously the purpose of the amendment was to enhance the authority of the watchdog by ensuring that the traffic commissioners have regard to the views of the watchdog. If passengers are unhappy with what is happening to their services, they will surely expect the passenger watchdog to be able to do something about it. I ask the Minister to repeat the commitment that he appears to have given to ensure that I have understood it. At present the watchdog has no powers to make operators do anything about the service problems that passengers might be complaining about. However, the traffic commissioners have the powers to act on poor services because they can investigate and penalise poor performance. The amendment would mean that the body designated as the passengers champion can
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Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said that Passenger Focus needs more teeth, to sum it up in a few words. He spoke entirely about complaints by users to Passenger Focus and yet in a presentation last night which the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and I were at, the problems that people are bringing to Passenger Focus relate to such things as the overcrowding of trains, which is entirely in the hands of government. It is not much good having a passenger watchdog that can bite in one direction but cannot bite in the other. It needs to be a two-way-facing organisation, not a one-way-facing one.
On my Amendments Nos. 11A and 11B relating to climate change, I accept what the Minister has said. My worry is that the guidance issued might be issued in such a way that local authorities which choose to do so may ignore it. I remember the debate we had on the Traffic Management Act 2004. That was supposed to bring some discipline to the use of the highway by utility companies and it has not worked at all well because certain local authorities either ignore it or are too weak to enforce it. As congestion is the major reason for the unreliability of bus services and the escalating cost of the bus industry, it is important for central government to address issues such as traffic management and climate change in a way that will bring about some advance.
Lord Snape: My Lords, I do not have any problem with the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Rosser. Indeed, the strengthening of the powers of Passenger Focus is not something, I would have thought, that any of us in your Lordships House would object to. However, whether inadvertently or not, I felt that he glossed over many of the problems that give rise to complaints where bus services are concerned. I am not surprised about that because the brief that he delivered was prepared by the Passenger Transport Executive Group which believes that the only problem with buses is the question of ownership. Yet a countrywide survey made of passengers earlier this yearand I do not propose to read out the figures again because I did so at an earlier stagerevealed that in passenger transport executive areas in particular the main complaints of passengers were not the matters raised by my noble friend Lord Rosser but those of overcrowding on some services, congestion and the lack of information about where buses go to and how to pay fares, because many towns and cities have a different system of fare
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While supporting the aim behind the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Rosser, I hope the Minister will agree that other matters ought to be addressed, such as the recalcitrance of some local authorities to provide proper paths for their buses, proper areas restricted for bus usersbus lanes in other wordsand the habit in some cities, including Birmingham which is run by a Conservative-Liberal coalition, of removing bus lanes because the leaders of those councils are in thrall to the private car. I hope these matters will be addressed by the Minister and he will bear in mind that the main complaints of many of our passengers in our major towns and cities lie at the feet of the passenger transport executives rather than those who own and operate the buses.
Lord Adonis: My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for the broadly positive welcome they have given to this first group of amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is right that it is not sufficient simply to produce guidance. The guidance needs to be taken seriously by local authorities. However, it appears to the Government that local authorities are taking the need to give much greater priority to the tackling of climate change very seriously indeed. The number of local authorities which have chosen to include an emissions target among their priorities in local area agreements is very encouraging. One hundred out of 150 local authorities have selected National Indicator 186 measuring the per capita reduction in CO2 emissions in the relevant area as a priority in their local area agreement with the Government. All 150 will monitor progress against this indicator and this will feed into the Audit Commissions comprehensive area assessment starting next year. So the trend is encouraging but as I stressed in my opening remarks, it is very important that the Government provide local authorities with much better tools with which to assess the impact of their proposals and policies on the emission of greenhouse gases because this is not an area in which many authorities have had much experience.
This is a collaborative process between us and local government. We are working together to identify best practice. Local authorities are willing to take action, and we now need to capitalise on this spirit of good will to see that it leads to real change on the ground.
I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, welcomed the improved consultation requirements and the climate change measures that we have put into place. As we develop the guidance to which I referred, I will see that both noble Lords are kept informed. We welcome any comments that they have to make on the guidance as we develop it.
My noble friend Lord Rosser asked specific questions about the powers of Passenger Focus. I hope that I can give him some reassuring replies. We will consult early in the new year on the secondary legislation about Passenger Focus, but I can tell him that powers under Section 6(9)(k) of the Transport Act 1985 could be used to require operators to provide information; for
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My noble friend also asked about complaints and Passenger Focus having a complaints-handling role in relation to buses, as it does in relation to rail. As he will be aware, an existing bodythe Bus Appeals Bodyalready performs a complaints-handling role. However, we recognise that there are some concerns about the way in which complaints are sometimes dealt with in the bus sector, and we will ask Passenger Focus to undertake a review of the existing complaints-handling process. If this provides evidence that the current system is inadequate, we expect Passenger Focus to work with the industry to explore options for addressing this. Our future action will depend on the outcome of this work.
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