Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: In my efforts to be brief, I may have been difficult to understand. I do not propose any additional clauses except that proposed in Amendment No. 141. My main objective is to ensure that when consultation is mentioned in Clause 110 on bus strategies, in Clause 114 on quality partnership schemes, in Clause 124 on quality contracts and in Clause 135 dealing with bus ticketing schemes, that consultation should not just be with organisations of bus users which, as we have said, are rather thin on the ground, but with bus users and their organisations. That is all that I suggest.
However, I shall read with care what the Minister said. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 126 not moved.]
Clause 110 agreed to.
Clause 111 [Plans and strategies: supplementary]:
Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 127:
Page 67, line 30, leave out subsection (1).
The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 128. They are separate amendments. I can understand why they are grouped together because they both deal with the same
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subject, but they are separate in the sense that the first seeks to remove absolutely the Government's power to issue guidance in this matter and the second seeks to limit the contents of the guidance.
I recognise that these amendments are, in a sense, an attempt to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted because the guidance was issued in March. However, we need to think extremely carefully what we are about because Clause 111 says that in drawing up transport plans, local transport authorities "must have regard to" the guidance. My view--and it may be a narrow view--is that that makes the guidance statutory guidance. This Bill has 342 pages, 265 clauses and 30 schedules. As if that is not enough, in effect, those words which I have quoted from Clause 111 add another 150 pages to the Bill.
It was because I could not see quite how to debate that guidance that I tabled these amendments. I hope that Members of the Committee will tell me that I am not abusing the process by doing so when they have heard what I have to say.
The guidance is a very significant document. I simply begin with the introduction: "What is an LTP?" It states:
"LTPs have replaced the Transport Policies and Programme (TPP) system of bidding for capital resources, which was no longer delivering efficiently".
When I asked under which legislative authority the transport policies and programme system is derived, which has distributed money for highways purposes to local authorities for so many years, I did not receive an answer. I went to the Local Government Association, to my own local authority and to the Library. The best answer I found came from the Library, "Because this is the distribution of funds the Treasury can just do it". Therefore, they can change the system. I assume that in this instance we are concerned with a deal that has been struck between the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Treasury. I hope that there is complete agreement between the two departments on this matter. I hope, when the Minister replies, that he will give me an absolute assurance that there is complete agreement and understanding as to what is taking place.
It is interesting that we are able to change completely a system of financial allocation without reference to statute at all, which as a local authority man--I am sorry to mention my local authority background--I find quite fascinating. Nobody in any local authority has been able to do anything without statutory backing, until now. In recent legislation we have begun to put in aspects of a general power and a general competence. However, that is as it may be.
The document also states:
"Under TPP, authorities were allocated funding for individual schemes. This meant the Government took decisions on very small schemes, often costing as little as a few thousand pounds. It wasted time and resources and meant decisions were taken in isolation, often on purely financial grounds"--
and so on.
What does this wonderful document achieve? We may have thought we were heading for an easier, simpler system. On the next page, there is a section
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headed, "What will LTPs deliver?" The contrast between local transport plans and the transport policies and programme are set out at the top of the page. We find that a local transport plan,
"does not require detailed list of schemes, but rather indications of where the main problems are and how they will be tackled ... Plans will be assessed on the quality of the strategies they contain"--
and so on. We are dealing with a bidding programme. As one reads on, one finds that another line reads:
"Ministers will be looking for evidence that a local transport plan is of a high standard across the board, as assessed against the criteria in Annex D".
Annexe D is wonderful; it is a mine in which one can dig for ideas for a long time. Annexe D includes a whole series of identified problems and talks about objective settings, about the minimum requirements of a plan and about the characteristics of a good local transport plan, which, in principle, as we have heard, should not be detailed and need not go into individual schemes and the reasons for them.
I turn to "Strategy development". It is tempting to read out the whole document. Of course, if I were rash enough to do so, it would be seen to be a patent filibuster. What is required under "Strategy development" is,
"Clear evidence of a fundamental review of existing strategy ... a robust analytical or evidence based approach ... Alternative solution(s) tested, in particular alternatives to major schemes ... a clear link between objectives, strategy and the specific measures in the LTP ... Identifies cross-boundary issues ... Steps being taken to ensure consistency with the local authority development plan and the national and regional planning guidance ... Programme of public participation reported, with indication of how this has influenced strategy ... consideration of links with other relevant local strategies (e.g. Health Improvement Programme, education policies)"--
and so on. Those are only "Minimum requirements". Then we find "Characteristics of a Good LTP". They are,
"Full range of potential solutions tested and appraised ... topic based ... and local area-based strategies pulled together in a coherent way in over-arching strategy ... Strategy incorporates measures to tackle cross-boundary issues in partnership with neighbouring authorities ... Clear evidence of close integration with other relevant local strategies ... Principles of good participation have been followed in developing the strategy, in particular, evidence that public fully involved in consideration of alternatives".
Under "Implementation Programme"--I shall be a little briefer this time--it states:
"Clearly identifies the level of resources bid for ... Identifies the cost and timing of all major schemes (£5 million) proposed ... realistic about the level of available resources".
We have already heard about the reliability of available resources. That may or may not be all right. It continues:
"Indicates effectively the scope for modifying the implementation".
In other words, what do you do if you do not receive the money?
The document refers to,
"Clear indication of priorities ... Identifies contribution of the private sector ... commitment of partners clear ... Identifies clearly any significant statutory or other consents that may be required ... includes details of planned revenue expenditure".
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Again, that is a minimum requirement. A good LTP will also contain,
"contingency plans in case statutory or other consents are not forthcoming ... Maximises contribution of the private sector, both as a source of funds and as a provider of services ... Groups small scale projects into appropriate programmes".
If you believe the preamble, small projects are not supposed to be considered at all.
The document states:
"Clearly explains what part of the programme is supported by revenue resources ... explains how this relates to the proposed capital programme",
and so on. I have not counted the sectors, but there are about 16 or 20 of them, all of which set out what is to be in a good local transport plan.
Lord Berkeley: Perhaps I can help the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. There are 27 paragraphs like that and he has read out only two. Perhaps I have made the point!
Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. I did not want to bore the House with these wretched things. However, this is exceedingly important because local authorities are obliged to comply with all--I stress "all"--these matters in intimate detail.
The result is that Hampshire has a plan that has to be submitted some time this month--I do not remember the precise date and that is not relevant to the point that I seek to make. It is 800 pages long and cost over £300,000 to produce. This is supposed to be a simplified, straightforward, non-detailed system of planning highways expenditure allocation, among other things. Of course, the programme is more than that, but this procedure would not be necessary if it were not for the fact that this is also a bid process for financial allocation. The reason that it becomes so intrinsically detailed and appallingly hard work is because, as it is a competitive bid programme, every local transport authority must perforce ensure that its plan has the characteristics of a good local transport plan, as defined. Therefore, each has to produce all the detail.
Another result is that Kent, which wanted to purchase 20 reflective jackets for those manning road crossings on dark, winter nights, felt that it had to include that in the plan. Otherwise, simply putting 20 more people on its crossings did not make sense; they had to have reflective jackets for the winter; and if the council wanted a good plan, it had to fill in all the detail.
There are 150 pages of such details. They receive no supervision from Parliament at all. That produces a serious constitutional issue; that is, the question of the status of statutory guidance and Parliament's supervision of it. Unfortunately, technically, we have no means of looking at that. That is my excuse for tabling these amendments.
Amendment No. 127 simply seeks to remove the power to make that guidance. I recognise that the stable door has been opened and the horse bolted, so
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there is not much point in that amendment. Amendment No. 128 seeks to limit the power. I raise this issue not in the sense of the detail, but in the constitutional sense; that is, that we need to think carefully what we are about. It is my view that this Bill is not 342 pages long; it is 492 pages long, and 150 pages contain no supervisory powers whatever. That must be wrong. I beg to move.