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Lords Chamber

Volume 603: debated on Thursday 1 July 1999

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House Of Lords

Thursday, 1st July 1999.

The House met at three of the clock (Prayers having been read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of Gloucester): The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES on the Woolsack.

Tributes To The Late Viscount Whitelaw

My Lords, as Leader of your Lordships' House, it is a sad duty but nonetheless a great privilege to pay tribute on behalf of the whole House to the late Lord Whitelaw, who died this morning at the age of 81. Many noble Lords, and indeed many Members of another place, were personal friends of Lord Whitelaw over very many years and many more were political colleagues and sparring partners. I am sure that the whole House will agree that the noble Viscount held a particularly significant place in the affections of both Houses of Parliament.

My Lords, Lord Whitelaw, known to many here and away from Westminster simply as "Willie" Whitelaw, had an extremely distinguished career in politics. There is no need for me to remind your Lordships in detail of his achievements.

Suffice it for me to say that after distinguished service in the Forces, decorated with the Military Cross, Willie Whitelaw won a seat in the House of Commons where he represented Cumbria, Penrith and the Border division from 1955 to 1983. During that time he served in a number of senior government posts, including as Lord President of the Council; Leader of the House of Commons; as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland; as Secretary of State for Employment; and as Secretary of State for the Home Department.

Lord Whitelaw joined this House in 1983 and took continuing office as Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House. His combined service on the Front Benches of the two Houses ran for more than 25 years. But it will be as Leader of your Lordships' House that many here today will remember him. Lord Whitelaw was Leader of the House at an extremely busy period. Many major government Bills were going through Parliament at a time when the House needed very careful handling. I am sure that noble Lords who were here during that period will agree that it was a great tribute to Lord Whitelaw's consummate skill and special combination of gravitas and charm that such good order was maintained in the House while the government's programme was being successfully delivered.

Lord Whitelaw made a particular contribution to the government in which he served as Deputy Prime Minister, overseeing the work of key Cabinet committees. Those of your Lordships who had personal experience of his chairmanship of the so-called "Star Chamber" will recall the fairness and strength with which he brought his own special skill to delivering the public expenditure rounds at the time.

Perhaps a less formidable skill, but nonetheless one of enormous value, which Lord Whitelaw always exhibited was his sense of humour and his ability to see the funny side in any situation. I am sure that other noble Lords who will speak today will want to share with the House their experience of Lord Whitelaw returning from his weekly Monday meeting with the Prime Minister and colleagues, full of news of the day and anecdotes about the politics of the time.

It is of course very difficult to sum up a tribute to a man who commanded such wide respect for so many reasons on so many fronts and who so well combined a sense of service with a sense of humour. There can be no doubt that as a Leader of your Lordships' House, Lord Whitelaw was that invaluable phenomenon, a safe pair of hands.

Perhaps I may add a personal note. My only political encounters with Lord Whitelaw were during the Patter years of his life, but he was always charmingly courteous to a newcomer to this House, even one sitting on the Opposition Benches. But beyond the courtesies, he usually had an intriguing comment to pass on the events of the day when I met him in the corridors; a comment often enlivened by a certain degree of barbed wit. I am sure that many noble Lords who have joined the House in the past decade will, like me, be grateful that we have personal memories of a splendidly engaging personality and a very significant parliamentarian.

On behalf of the whole House, I hope that everyone will join with me in expressing our condolences to Lady Whitelaw and to the family. Our thoughts are with them and will be in the future.

My Lords, on behalf of these Benches, I join the noble Baroness in paying tribute to Lord Whitelaw, known by so many as Willie. I thank the noble Baroness for her words.

Though he had not been well for a while, it is still a great blow to lose such an extraordinary man as my noble friend. He was a fine example of service and duty to the people of this country, most particularly to Parliament. He had a great war record and an extraordinary political one. He was a Chief Whip to Ted Heath; Secretary of State in Northern Ireland, in the Department of Employment and in the Home Office; and subsequently he came here as Leader of your Lordships' House. He came as one of the very last hereditary Peers ever appointed.

In this House, we have seen many former Members of another place make the transition from that House to this. Your Lordships will know that it is not an easy one to make. But for Willie it was as easy as crossing the road. He immediately made himself at home. He was comfortable not just with his surroundings, but with people who were here and he remained remarkably effective almost until the very end.

He was a Scot, although living in Penrith, and a countryman. Both Cumbria and Scotland will be the poorer for his passing. He also carried with him a tremendous sense of humour and a great understanding of human nature. He always recognised when someone was talking rubbish and behind his bluff exterior was a finely honed and cunning political mind. He was a great help to me as a Minister in this House, but he really came into his own when I became Chief Whip. From time to time, he would steal into my room and give me a word of advice. Invariably he was right. Whenever I did not take his advice I came to regret it almost immediately.

I, too, join the noble Baroness in saying that our thoughts at this time are for his family and in particular Lady Whitelaw. Undoubtedly, the whole House will miss Willie Whitelaw, but for the Tory Party he is irreplaceable.

My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity on behalf of these Benches to join in the tribute to the man who we all remember simply as Willie Whitelaw. Public life has lost a distinctive, wise and, as the Leader of the House said, very engaging figure. I did not experience him as Leader of the House; that was before my time here. But I know that with great skill he performed the difficult twin-track role of being the authoritative voice for the government in this House and also—and as important—a persuasive voice in Cabinet on behalf of your Lordships.

We all have our personal memories. Mine is of serving on a committee with him on the Contracts of Employment Bill 1963 in another place. I was new, young, partisan and even, perhaps, brash. He was a parliamentary secretary in charge of the Bill. At first I thought of him as a slightly laughable, Bertie Wooster figure. However, I quickly discovered that behind that slightly muddling style there was a great deal of substance. He was a man of considered opinions, bravely held, but prepared to listen, persuade or be persuaded.

I have a particularly fond memory of flying to Heathrow from Teeside Airport in a very small plane, together with my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, during the referendum campaign. He tirelessly advocated Britain's place in Europe and continued during our flight to London. He said later that it was the campaign he most enjoyed in all his life.

He will be remembered with affection across party and will remain a source of well-told anecdotes for many years to come. We shall all miss him but we shall also all remember him.

My Lords, I had the privilege of being with the late Lord Whitelaw in both Houses and was interested in similar subjects. He had an agricultural background. He asked me Questions when I was Minister of Agriculture. The Questions were sensible and generous, just what I liked. As my noble friend said, he held a number of Ministries including Ireland, Employment and the Home Office, which he organised with effective common sense (not always available there). Finally, he came to this House and became Leader when I was his opposition. It was a pleasure I shall not forget.

Willie was always ready to discuss problems and seek solutions. Beyond that, he had a ready humour and a good nature. We were fortunate to know Willie and shall miss him. We send our thoughts of Willie to Lady Whitelaw today.

My Lords, I was not in your Lordships' House when Willie Whitelaw was the leader here but I rise to pay tribute to him on behalf of the Cross-Benches and also in a personal sense. I had been in the other place for only 18 months when, to my astonishment, I was summoned by him and invited to join the Whips' Office. I was put in to represent the new boys, suburbia and trade. These were vintage days. I always remember two dictums which Willie Whitelaw drilled into us as Whips: first, we should never take credit ourselves but always give it to the troops; and secondly, that arrangements brokered through the usual channels must always be kept, even though we had to fight for our own party.

As a result, he was trusted, respected and held in great affection. He was a role model for me throughout my time in the other place and for many other Members of Parliament also. He had that most desirable of all parliamentary reputations; that is, the respect of the House. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him and held him in such high regard and affection.

My Lords, I learnt only a short time ago of the sad death of Lord Whitelaw. However, I gladly associate the Bench of Bishops with these tributes.

I understand from my noble friend the Lord Bishop of Carlisle that the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, was an active member of his local church in the parish of Dacre in Cumbria. He undoubtedly lived his life always as a deeply-committed Christian. He was a good man, a good churchman, and we thank God today for his life and example. We gladly remember in our prayers today his bereaved wife and family.

My Lords, one of my most endearing memories of Willie was his flashes of extreme anger, which lasted approximately a minute and a half, and were followed by a totally unnecessary, abject apology. He was one of that very small number of immaculate politicians who are supreme in the skills of their profession and at the same time are incapable of doing a mean or dishonourable thing. Even among that select company, Willie stood out for his universal kindness and, above all, his approachability. The legacy of his benign influence will remain in your Lordships' House for a long time.

My Lords, perhaps I may add a word on this occasion to the memory of Willie Whitelaw in Northern Ireland. In 1962 there was a high rise in unemployment, particularly among young people. He was then Minister of Labour in the United Kingdom Government. He came to Northern Ireland and tried to promote some interest in the affairs of young people. He left a long-lasting impression there.

I first met him through my trade union background. I found him extremely helpful and earnest in his approach. Latterly, he became Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Again, with my background of trade unions, not politics, and seeking to represent the broad spectrum of life in Northern Ireland, Willie Whitelaw was a gentleman in many, many ways. He listened attentively. He did not preach or lecture but talked with you. He will always be remembered for the way in which he handled affairs in Northern Ireland in those dark days.

My Lords, it may be appropriate if I say a few words, particularly today when there is so much trouble in Northern Ireland over the setting up of an executive. Willie Whitelaw was the first Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the dark days of 1972 when nearly 500 people were killed. I said today in Northern Ireland that of all the Secretaries of State that we have had since then, he will be remembered by thousands of people from both communities with great affection.

Within a few short months he was able to talk to the majority Unionist party and my own party, the SDLP. He had a great personality. He almost put his arms round the different factions. He brought us into a room on a few occasions and, within a very short time, we had the first executive in Northern Ireland. It was a very real tragedy that Willie had to leave Northern Ireland before the Sunningdale executive was formed. I have no doubt that many people have been saying over this past week, in view of events in Northern Ireland, that if that executive had survived and if Willie had remained there, Northern Ireland would not be going through such trauma today.

Willie Whitelaw was the first and by far the most courageous and far-seeing Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. He will be sadly missed in Northern Ireland. He will be sadly missed by all those who knew and loved him throughout his lifetime in this country.

My Lords, I believe that there have been almost a score of Leaders of the House since the war. We are a mixed bag. Some people find us agreeable; others not so. However, I think that one matter on which all parties will agree, as will the present House, is that Willie Whitelaw was the most lovable Leader of the House that anyone can remember.

My Lords, as one of the family—Willie Whitelaw's eldest daughter is my sister-in-law—I should like to thank the House for the very good tributes paid to him.

My Lords, on behalf of the Association of Conservative Peers, I should like to say that we have lost a great friend and a great man; someone who was respected for his integrity, honour, sense of duty and sense of service. He was an example to us all. We shall greatly miss him.

Eu Intergovernmental Conference 2000

3.20 p.m.

How they intend to consult Parliament on the United Kingdom's preferred agenda for the European Union Intergovernmental Conference now planned for next year.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

My Lords, the agenda for the next intergovernmental conference was agreed at the Cologne European Council. It builds on the agreement at the Amsterdam negotiations that the Union should prepare for enlargement by looking at the size of the Commission and the weighting of votes in the Council. The IGC will also look at the possible extension of qualified majority voting and other institutional issues arising from this agenda.

It is too early to say exactly how the UK will approach this IGC, but it will be a priority for the Government to ensure that Parliament is kept thoroughly informed.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Does she agree that some of the difficulties that this country faced in becoming a comparable member of the European Union arose from the fact that there has often been a wide gap between what those inside government accept as being on the agenda for negotiation and what those outside government are aware of as being under discussion? Does she accept also that it was helpful when the Government published a White Paper for Parliament in advance of the intergovernmental conference, though only in response to demands from committees of both Houses? Is it possible for the Government to give an undertaking at this time that they will publish such a consultative paper at an early stage to make sure that Members of both Houses are well informed of the issues on the agenda and of the Government's approach to them?

My Lords, since the IGC there have been some improvements as a result of the Amsterdam Treaty about the flow of information to the United Kingdom. I hope, too, that the White Paper which the Government published in November last year—The scrutiny of European Union business—has given both your Lordships and Members of another place an opportunity to look at the agenda in a more structured way. The noble Lord is quite right:, it has been the usual practice for the government of the day to publish a White Paper setting out the approach to the IGC. The Government undertake to address that in due course. But for the moment we do not know how the work on the IGC will be taken forward or what the precise timetable will be. The expectation is that the IGC will begin formally in the first half of next year under the Portuguese presidency. Then we ought to know precisely the scope of the negotiations and more about the positions of member states.

My Lords, can the Minister confirm that it is government policy to agree to give up our second commissioner only if we are compensated by vote re-weighting in the Council of Ministers?

My Lords, it was agreed at Amsterdam that in the interests of a more effective Commission the larger member states would be prepared to give up their second commissioner when the European Union expands, provided that a satisfactory agreement was achieved on the re-weighting of the votes in the Council.

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that it is the intention of your Lordships' Select Committee to investigate the IGC? The Select Committee will take on that task in the autumn of this year. Can we look forward to the usual co-operation from government departments in reaching conclusions that we can put before the House? Without wishing to pre-judge the outcome of that investigation, the call for a White Paper might well come from both Houses again.

My Lords, I am delighted to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, says. We look forward to the outcome of the Select Committee's deliberations. During the progress of our discussions on the Amsterdam Treaty the whole House acknowledged the valuable work that the noble Lord's committee undertakes. I note what the noble Lord says about the White Paper. I hope that he understood the points that I made to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire; that is, that the Government cannot make a hard and fast undertaking at this time, but it is my expectation that such a paper will be published.

My Lords, can the Minister say that Parliament will be consulted on the possibility of an early and wide enlargement of the European Union, perhaps linked with variable periods of adjustment for individual countries according to their needs and situations?

My Lords, perhaps I can remind the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, that the Government deposit with Parliament all proposals for Community first pillar legislation coming from the Council of Ministers, as well as the legislative business under the second and third pillars. Certain other documents dealing with major policy, legislative or budgetary implications are also deposited. I hope that the undertakings made in the White Paper published in November last year assure the noble Lord and the whole House that the Government will seek to consult properly on the issues covered in that paper.

My Lords, can my noble friend give the House an assurance that at the forthcoming intergovernmental conference the momentum established by the Prime Minister in his terse observations on fraud and irregularity in European finances will be fully maintained and explained to the intergovernmental conference in order to ensure that the new Commission adopts different standards as regards the administration of public finances from those it has adopted in the past?

My Lords, I can give my noble friend the absolute assurance that Her Majesty's Government will continue to be in the forefront of the arguments that the Commission should be more effective, more efficient, more accountable and more transparent in its business. We believe that it must operate by the highest standards of honesty, integrity and accountability. That will be our stance not only during the IGC, but also before it as well.

My Lords, can the noble Baroness assure the House that her right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary will take care in developing the policies in the conference to make sure that communication is not only with the Westminster Parliament but also through the proper channels for the devolved Parliaments? Noble Lords who this morning saw the opening of the Scots Parliament on television will realise that there are high expectations in Scotland as regards its political future within the Union. There are so many Scottish interests in Europe that are being handled through Westminster that it is vital that roads of communication are constantly open. Can the noble Baroness assure the House that that will be done?

My Lords, I can assure the noble Baroness that not only will my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary be extremely vigilant, but also his right honourable friends the Secretaries of State in all the departments concerned, in making sure that matters appropriate for discussion—possibly also in relation to the Welsh Assembly—go to the appropriate quarters.

Nato: Strategic Concept

3.27 p.m.

What further action they will propose to other NATO countries by way of reviewing NATO's strategic concept.

My Lords, NATO heads of government and state agreed an updated strategic concept which takes full account of the environment in which the alliance operates and the challenges and opportunities it faces at their summit meeting in Washington on 23rd to 25th April. There are no plans for a further review at this stage.

My Lords. I am somewhat disappointed with the Answer of my noble friend. However, does she agree that at the non-proliferation treaty review conference next year it will be essential for the nuclear powers to demonstrate their good faith if the whole process is not to risk collapsing? Could not that demonstration be provided by NATO, for example by a declaration of no first use? In what conceivable circumstances is NATO likely to encounter an aggressor in which it could not muster an overwhelming preponderance of conventional weapons? Is there not everything to gain and nothing to lose?

My Lords, my noble and learned friend is quite right that it was agreed in Washington that proposals for options on confidence-building, on verification, on nonproliferation and arms control should be taken forward and put to NATO Ministers for agreement in December. Allies are discussing what those proposals might be, but those discussions are at an early stage. I ask my noble and learned friend to recall the considerable progress Her Majesty's Government have made over nuclear issues—the withdrawal of the free-fall bomb, cuts in operationally available nuclear warheads among other things. It is clear that there is no prospect at the moment of consensus among NATO allies on a move to a policy of no first use.

My Lords, can the noble Baroness assure the House that never again will NATO's strategic judgments be corrupted and confused by sentimental estimates of humanitarian needs in advance of Security Council authority?

My Lords, I do not believe that NATO's use of any weapons whatever has been corrupted by sentimentality. I believe that NATO has acted entirely properly. I know that the noble Earl disagrees with that; and, indeed, we have had an honest disagreement in that respect. However, I must say to the noble Earl that I do not believe that I have to give the assurance that he seeks, because I do not believe that the words "never again" were quite appropriate in the question that he put to me.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that the Kosovo operation has, however, provided very considerable lessons for the future of NATO and for the balance between European and American contributions to NATO? Can she tell us how NATO intends to reflect on the lessons of the Kosovo operation?

My Lords, when one thinks of what has happened in all these enormous encounters—for example, in Iraq and in Kosovo—it is only human to draw lessons from such events. However, perhaps I may tell the noble Lord that one of the lessons that we should all draw from this is the really quite remarkable achievement of the 19 countries of NATO staying united throughout what was, after all, a very difficult operation. Indeed, not only did they stay united but they also remained engaged in a discussion with Russia about the way forward. We have a great deal to learn over what happened during the engagement. I believe that we also have a great deal to learn about the re-building exercise, which will now be going forward.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that her noble and learned friend has raised a most important issue by drawing our attention to the new NATO strategic concept? Is she aware—I am sure that she will be—that the 1991 NATO strategic concept contained as its central message the words,

"NATO is a purely defensive alliance"?
Does she also agree with me that the disappearance of those words from the 1999 strategic concept is a cause for concern? On a close reading of the new NATO strategic concept, does she further agree that NATO now seems to have a licence to intervene almost anywhere in the world, not only where its security is involved but also where, to quote the new strategic concept, its "interests are involved"? Is this not a path that must be trodden with very great care?

My Lords, all matters concerned with defence must be a path trodden with very great care, as the noble Lord says. However, I do not agree with him that the omission of the words he reminded us of are a particular cause for concern. Like any other organisation, NATO has to be updated as the circumstances around it change. That was the point of looking at the strategic concept. I should remind the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that this was agreed by the then 16 nations in NATO—now 19, as a result of what happened in Washington—and that the new strategic concept still takes into account the five fundamental security tasks; namely, security, consultation, deterrence and defence, crisis management and partnership. I believe that those five criteria are correctly identified as the ones that should inform the way in which NATO undertakes future decision making.

My Lords, in these forthcoming discussions, can my noble friend the Minister say whether it will be borne in mind that NATO was created to perform a defensive role, rather than an attacking role, and that that is still the primary purpose of the organisation?

My Lords, I am sure that all appropriate matters will be borne in mind. I should point out to my noble friend that I believe there is a little confusion here. The strategic concept was set and agreed in April of this year. The NATO countries have undertaken to look at issues around disarmament and non-proliferation and have agreed to take those discussions forward in December of this year. When we talk about nuclear issues, we must not lose sight of the fact that there are three important matters which lie ahead of us; namely, the ratification of Start II, the negotiation on Start III, the entry into force of the comprehensive test ban treaty and the negotiation on a fissile material cut-off treaty. Those three issues are very important and they are the ones upon which we will be concentrating.

My Lords, can the Minister say why the Government agreed at Cologne to the merging of the functions of the Western European Union into those of the European Union, when that very move was described by the Prime Minister only two years ago as an "ill-judged transplant"? Can the noble Baroness explain why what the Prime Minister vetoed at Amsterdam was acceptable at Cologne?

My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord will know that there are a number of outstanding questions which now need to be taken forward in the light of the St. Malo discussions that the Prime Minister had with the President of France. This raises the issues around the relative positions of the WEU, around NATO and around the discussions which the noble Lord knows are ongoing about the future of the EU countries in European defence. The noble Lord knows that these are all issues which are currently under discussion. The Government will be keeping not only the Opposition parties but also the public in general well in the picture as the matter develops.

Un Security Council: Reform Proposals

3.35 p.m.

What proposals they have prepared for the reform of the United Nations Security Council, covering both its membership and its procedures.

My Lords, in discussions at the United Nations, the United Kingdom has continued to advocate early enlargement of the Security Council, with an increase in both permanent and non-permanent seats. We would like to see an additional five permanent members and four non-permanent members, making an enlarged council of 24. The United Kingdom has also taken the initiative in the council's Working Group on Procedures in suggesting ways to promote greater openness and transparency in the council's working methods. We will continue to look at ways to make the council more effective.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that interesting reply. However, when it comes down to specifics, does she agree that credibility will depend upon more representation for the third world and probably permanent places for Germany and Japan? Can my noble friend tell the House how the Government see a permanent place for Germany, bringing European permanent places to three within the Security Council, in the context of the development of a common foreign and security policy? Does my noble friend also agree that there is a danger, as illustrated by what happened in Kosovo, that the veto system could undermine the role of the UN in global security policy by leading to action which bypasses the Security Council? What do the Government believe can be done to prevent such a danger arising?

My Lords, my noble friend is always extremely skilful in asking a number of linked questions. I can tell him that we would like to see an additional five permanent members. We believe that three of these will be for the developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and that two of them will be open to applicants from the industrialised countries. The United Kingdom believes that Germany and Japan should be permanent members, but we have yet to take a decision on the others. We also support four non-permanent member seats—one each for Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. I hope that that deals with the point that my noble friend raised about the issue of developing countries.

As to the question of the veto, I can tell my noble friend that the UK Government have argued for some time now that this should only be used with restraint and in a manner which is consistent with the principles of the charter. I believe that we have been true to our word over this matter. I also pay tribute to the previous government for their use of the veto; indeed, we have not cast the veto in almost 10 years.

My Lords, as the number of members is increased, is there not a danger that the use of the veto might also be a tempting proposition for some of the new member states? Further, does the Minister agree that recent events show that the Security Council should, while it is reforming its procedures, look at Article 27 of the charter with a view of defining more closely the circumstances within which the international community is entitled to intervene across a boundary in support of the objective of preventing an overwhelming humanitarian disaster?

My Lords, we must be very careful over the use of the veto. Indeed, we must be clear on this point. For some time, the policy of Her Majesty's Government has been that we are opposed to any change to the current veto for the permanent five. However, we recognise that there is a need to find new ways to make the United Nations and the Security Council work more effectively. Given the difficult issues at stake, a decision on extending the veto to new permanent members may have to wait until after they are elected. I believe that the points the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raises, and the additional points that my noble friend Lord Judd raises, are recognised and that there is caution about the extended use of the veto in future.

My Lords, uniquely in an otherwise exceptional and Boadicean presence at the Dispatch Box this afternoon, I am not sure that the Minister wholly answered the Question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. Can she assist by informing the House whether she agrees that while we would strongly support Germany's candidacy for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council it would not be, nor conceivably would ever be, in this country's interests to give up our permanent seat in favour of a European seat on the Security Council?

My Lords, I thought that I must have answered at least six of my noble friend's questions. I take the point that the noble Lord raises about the possibility of an EU seat on the Security Council, which I know has been discussed. We believe that the United Kingdom is on the Security Council on its own merits. This country makes a disproportionate contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security. We are the sixth largest contributor to the UN regular budget and the fifth largest contributor to the peace-keeping budget. An EU seat is not possible under the UN Charter as only the UN member states are eligible for membership of the Security Council. It is the states; it is not the EU. I do not believe that t e United Kingdom Government are about to give up cur seat.

My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister say whether, in reviewing the role of the Security Council, the relationship of the Council to the General Assembly will also come under consideration?

My Lords, I believe that there is much reform going on at the moment in the UN. Of course there is an important area of reform outside what we are talking about in terms of the Security Council and permanent and non-permanent members. The reforms have to be seen as a package of reforms which your Lordships will know was brought forward by Kofi Annan. The United Kingdom is committed to achieving a modern and effective United Nations. We believe that there has been some progress over this. Certainly the appointment of Louise Frechette, the Deputy Secretary General, has already had an impact. She has particular responsibilities for reforms. However, this matter does not just concern the Security Council but the organisation as a whole. We must look particularly at the budgetary and management techniques that are deployed.

My Lords, the five power veto to which the noble Baroness has referred, and to which she suggests no extensional change, was devised in the first place to prevent the walk out by great powers that had destroyed the League of Nations. Does she agree that the need—anachronistic though it is—to alter the veto would require urgency only if any major power in the future threatened to walk out completely from the organisation; a possibility which happily does not pertain at present?

My Lords, I am doubtful about the wisdom of dealing with a hypothetical question of that nature. However, I assure your Lordships that Her Majesty's Government's policy as regards the United Kingdom veto remains the same policy as was adopted by the previous administration, which is that we believe that we have that veto on our own merits. We do not see that there is an argument to change the current veto rights of the current permanent members, as I hope I have made clear to your Lordships. Future vetoes should be dealt with in due course as regards those who may join the Security Council, but we believe that the position of the five permanent members should remain as it is.

Abattoirs

3.44 p.m.

Whether they will convene an urgent meeting with representatives of the Federation of Small Abattoirs and other interested parties in order to discuss the current position of abattoirs and the rural community.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Lord Donoughue)

My Lords, Ministers are very willing to meet representatives of the abattoir industry. My honourable friend the Minister of State wrote to the Federation of Small Abattoirs on 25th June welcoming a meeting and a meeting has been arranged for Monday 5th July.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Will he ask his honourable friend in another place to bear in mind the effects that the present activities of the Meat Hygiene Service are having not only on small abattoirs but on the whole of the rural community, including consumers who like good food? Is there any possibility that I might meet with the Meat Hygiene Service to discuss all the questions that are arising to which we have had no proper answers over a long period?

My Lords, I assure the noble Countess that my honourable friend is aware of all the very genuine concerns of the industry and will bear them in mind. I spoke this morning with senior officials of the Meat Hygiene Service. They are happy to meet the noble Countess and for her to raise her concerns. As regards not responding to questions, I feel that the replies I have signed to the large number of Questions tabled by the noble Baroness cover the concerns she has expressed.

My Lords, one of the issues that has emerged from the closure of so many small abattoirs is that of animal welfare because animals now need to be transported longer distances. Is the Minister aware that the Farm Animal Welfare Council has commissioned two reports and is investigating slaughterhouses and livestock markets, but neither report has addressed the transportation and collection of animals, which seem such fundamental issues?

My Lords, I wholly agree with the noble Baroness that the welfare of animals is a most important aspect of the closure of abattoirs, especially small ones in remote areas. We believe that transportation is an important aspect of animal welfare. We bear that in mind. There are already welfare rules covering the matter.

My Lords, is it not extraordinary that while we worry about abattoirs here we allow animals to be exported live on nightmare journeys to the Continent to be slaughtered, in many instances in abattoirs which would be closed immediately if they were situated in this country? Can the Minister give us any encouragement on that score?

My Lords, the export of live animals is allowed under the existing rules to which we are subject. We subject that transportation to quite strict welfare rules. I do not believe that continental abattoirs operate under much poorer regulations than ours. We are all subject to similar rules. We have written to the Commission asking it to inspect abattoirs throughout the whole of the European Union to make sure that similar rules are being applied.

My Lords, before asking my question I declare an interest as a non-executive director of a large pork meat processing company. Not long ago meat hygiene services were the responsibility of local authorities. Since the central Meat Hygiene Service took over, its charges have risen astronomically. That affects not only the small abattoir but also the large abattoir and affects export capability. Will the noble Lord therefore contemplate reversing the centralisation of meat hygiene services and reverting to the localised service which was much more sensitive and infinitely cheaper? Finally, will he consider how Germany manages to have vastly more small abattoirs which seem to survive, and indeed thrive, to the benefit of their local communities?

My Lords, I do not agree with the noble Lord. All the evidence shows that under the previous system hygiene standards were not as high as they are now. Standards are rising under the Meat Hygiene Service. Currently, 75 per cent of plants meet a B category under the HAS system—that is a score of 70 or more—and standards are rising. It would be quite wrong to revert to the previous system. The charges we apply for hygiene inspections are required under the European directive. We are required to recover the costs; there cannot be cross-subsidisation. As to the German system, I do not feel expert enough to comment.

Business

My Lords, at a convenient moment today and before the Committee stage of the Greater London Authority Bill, my noble friend Lady Hollis of Heigham will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement which has been made in another place on the Child Support Agency.

Business Of The House: Northern Ireland Motions

3.50 p.m.

rose to move, That, in the event that one or more statutory instruments relating to Northern Ireland are laid before the House this day, a Motion or Motions to approve them may, notwithstanding the practice of the House, be moved this day without notice; and that Standing Order 70 (Affirmative Instruments) be dispensed with to enable the Motion or Motions to be taken, notwithstanding that no report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments on the instruments has been laid before the House.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, with the leave of the House, perhaps I may give a brief word of explanation. This is an unprecedented Motion but I believe it is justified by unprecedented events. It has the full support of the usual channels.

As your Lordships will be aware, discussions in Northern Ireland are still under way. I must report to the House that they are still without conclusion. It had been agreed through the usual channels that should a resolution have been reached sufficiently early yesterday, the necessary secondary legislation would have been laid last night and would have appeared on your Lordships' Order Paper today. Had this been the case, I would have moved only the second part of the Motion which stands in my name on the Order Paper today, that which dispenses with Standing Order 70.

I should like, if I may, to take this opportunity to emphasise again that the Government take very seriously the work of the Joint Committee. It is only in the most exceptional circumstances that we move to suspend the Standing Order requiring the Joint Committee to report on a Statutory Instrument before the instrument is taken. In the event, it was not possible to lay the necessary secondary legislation last night. In those circumstances, it was agreed through the usual channels that this Motion should appear on the Order Paper today against the possibility that the process would be complete and it would be possible to proceed with the necessary secondary legislation tonight. The Motion before the House will allow an order laid today to be taken tonight; a similar Motion has been passed by another place.

It is proposed that any substantive Motion should be taken by my noble friend Lord Dubs during the dinner hour this evening or, if necessary, at the end of Business. So your Lordships will have time to study the text. I hope that in the circumstances the House will support this Motion.

Moved, That, in the event that one or more statutory instruments relating to Northern Ireland are laid before the House this day, a Motion or Motions to approve them may, notwithstanding the practice of the House, be moved this day without notice; and that Standing Order 70 ( Affirmative Instruments) be dispensed with to enable the Motion or Motions to be taken, notwithstanding that

no report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments on the instruments has been laid before the House.—( Baroness Jay of Paddington.)

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for explaining the background. It is an unprecedented Motion but, under the extraordinary and unusual circumstances that exist today, we are happy to agree with it.

Will there be any means of letting Members of the House know if an agreement has been made and if the Business is to be dealt with in the dinner hour or at the end of the day? If not, could there be? Perhaps I may suggest that the Committee stage of the Greater London Authority Bill, which is about to get underway, could be broken into and an announcement made. Perhaps information could be shown on the annunciator so that people are:not kept hanging around if nothing is going to happen: alternatively, if something is going to happen they will know at what stage they should go and look for papers in the Printed Paper Office.

My Lords, I am very grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for his support for this unprecedented Motion. As he and the House will see, my noble friend Lord Dubs is in the House. He is, of course, in constant contact with his office in Belfast. He will let the Government Chief Whip and myself know if there is any news and that will be immediately conveyed through the usual channels and there will be an announcement on the annunciator. The noble Lord's suggestion that an announcement be made during the Committee stage of the Greater London Authority Bill, which we are now about to begin, would be appropriate.

My Lords, although the Cross-Benches are not normally part of the usual channels in respect of business of this kind, may I ask the noble Baroness whether, in future, when matters of this kind—particularly concerning Ulster—are being discussed through the usual channels, we can be so informed? We have on our Benches a number of noble Lords with Northern Ireland connections—we are about to have a number of others as well—and it would be very helpful to us.

My Lords, I appreciate the noble Lord's comments. I am sure that the usual channels have heard them.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Child Support Agency

3.54 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security
(Baroness Hollis of Heigham)

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made earlier by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Security on our reforms of the Child Support Agency, a key part of our strategy for supporting families and children. The Statement is as follows:

"Last year, we published our Green Paper setting out our proposals. There was overwhelming support for change and I am placing in the Library a summary of the 1500 responses, along with a list of those who contributed.

"Today, I am publishing our White Paper on child support, setting out reforms which will get money to one million children who today miss out. I have written to all Members enclosing a summary of the White Paper and placed copies of the White Paper in the Vote Office.

"The reforms I will set out today are driven by principle. We are putting children first. And we are making sure the new system is fair on fathers who want to support their children and tough on those who will not. Our reforms mark a new contract for child support based on the right of a child to the care and support of its parents and the responsibility of parents to provide it.

"The responsibility for bringing up children lies squarely with both parents. And it is a responsibility that endures whether they live together or apart. All children have the right to a decent start in life and this Government are already doing a great deal to help. We are increasing child benefit by a record amount and providing more help for low-paid families through the new Working Families' Tax Credit, tax changes and the national minimum wage. Together, this means that a family on £13,000 a year will be better off by up to £2,500 a year. We are investing £540 million in the Sure Start programme for very young, disadvantaged children. And we are committed to ending the scandal of child poverty in a generation.

"We are determined to make sure children get all the help they need, which is why we are introducing a new system of child support that is simple, effective and fair. Because, today, many children miss out on the support of both their parents. Under the present system, only 250,000 children actually get maintenance and only 100,000 children get all they should. Thirty per cent of parents using the CSA are paying nothing towards the care of their child. That cannot be right. The child support system should help parents meet their responsibilities and, where necessary, take action when parents will not.

"But the system we inherited has failed. It does not help parents who want to pay and it is not tough enough on those who will not.

"The previous Government set up the Child Support Agency in 1993 to replace a courts system that could not cope. Going back to the courts is not the answer. In 1979, 52 per cent of lone parents on income support were getting maintenance. By 1990 the courts were getting money to only 20 per cent. On top of this, decisions were often unpredictable, unreliable and unfair. The CSA was meant to sort this out. But it did not. The percentage of lone parents on income support getting child maintenance is the same today as it was when the Agency was set up.

"The CSA became a bureaucratic nightmare for parents and staff alike. And the reason for that is clear. Under the current system the CSA can need over 100 different pieces of information to make a single decision. So today a third of all child support cases wait at least six months for a decision. The CSA spends 90 per cent of its time chasing information and only 10 per cent chasing parents who will not pay. The result: many responsible parents who genuinely want to support their children often find themselves facing a mountain of debt through no fault of their own, while irresponsible parents can play the system to their advantage and end up paying nothing for their children. And it is children who lose out.

"These failures have their roots in the complexity of the current system. And the result is an administration so burdened that only root and branch reform will turn things round.

"So we are tackling that inheritance by introducing a simple, new and effective system of child support; delivering for children by reforming the policy—and rebuilding the agency.

"We are putting the confidence back into child support by introducing radical reforms in four key areas. First, we are abolishing the current system for calculating child support, replacing unworkable policy with a workable new system that is based on a simple way of deciding how much parents should pay. Secondly, we are turning the agency around so that it provides a decent and effective service to all parents to make sure that children actually get the money from their parents—and quickly. Thirdly, we are introducing tough new measures to deal with parents who try to run away from their responsibilities. Fourthly, we are helping the fight against child poverty by introducing new help for children in the poorest families.

"I turn now to the detail of our proposals. First, I want to set out our plans to reform the formula that is currently used to calculate how much parents pay towards the care of their children. This is the fundamental flaw at the heart of the system. It was designed to take account of any—in fact, almost every—detail that might affect how much a father could pay. The result is a calculation so complex that it is barely workable; so complex that it is often difficult for parents to know whether a decision is right; and so complex that it takes months to get a decision.

"So, today, I can announce that we are abolishing the complex formula and replacing it with a system of simple rates that is so easy to understand that parents can work out for themselves how much they should pay. We will publish these rates—they are in the White Paper—putting leaflets in post offices, libraries and elsewhere. The new rates are reasonable because they reflect the amount that a parent would pay if he were still living with his children.

"Under the new system, a father will pay a flat rate percentage of his net pay—that is, his take-home pay. This will amount to 15 per cent if he has one child to support, 20 per cent if he has two and a maximum of 25 per cent when he has three or more children. For fathers on less than £100 a week, there will be a flat rate payment of £5 a week.

"Every parent knows that one cannot calculate the cost of bringing up a child down to the last penny. However, our proposals are fair and reasonable. They are fairer to fathers because they are more reasonable and realistic; they are fairer to mothers who will get money much more quickly; and, above all, they are fairer to children who will actually get the money they need. Because it is so simple, it will take the agency only a few days to confirm what should be paid rather than the months that it takes now. It is fast and simple for parents, fast and simple for the agency, but, above all, right for children.

"Secondly, to do this we need also to reform the way in which the CSA operates and significantly improve the service that it provides. This will not be easy. The CSA will never be popular: it will always do a difficult job at a difficult and emotional time. However, by replacing the complex formula with new simple rates, we are laying the foundations for a far better service than would ever be possible under the current system. So these reforms mark a new contract for the CSA too: a new system in return for a radical change in culture, service and approach.

"The shake-up has already started. We are strengthening the agency's management, importing private sector know-how to work together with public sector experience to sort things out. From next week, we are bringing in the private sector to help the agency collect more money from more parents. I can announce today that we will invest an extra £28 million over the next three years. However, in return, the CSA will have to deliver clear and tangible improvements: a better service, quicker decisions and more money getting to children than ever before.

"The CSA will get new information technology and will make more use of the telephone to sort out queries quickly. The CSA will be there at times that suit parents so that they can call in the evenings or at weekends from the privacy of their own home and not in the daytime while they are at work. The CSA will also introduce a more effective complaints system to ensure swift and effective action if things go wrong. Parents will get a clear statement setting out what they have paid and what is due—a clear picture of where they stand, just as one gets from a bank statement. In short, the CSA will move from an organisation bogged down in paper to an organisation that will focus on the needs of parents and, above all, on the need to get money to children fast.

"Thirdly, our new contract for child support is good news for responsible parents who get a better service that helps them do what they want to do. However, it is bad news for the minority—the hard core who persistently let their children down—because we will make sure that they are brought to book.

"So I can announce that, for the first time ever, we are making it a criminal offence to fail to provide or misrepresent information to the agency. If parents lie to the agency, if they try to dodge their duty and if they persistently pay late, they will face a fine or time in gaol. While most self-employed parents are highly responsible, there are some who are not. So we are introducing new measures allowing us access to tax records to get a true picture of their income. We will make sure that fathers who run around in the company Porsche but who plead poverty to their children cannot get away with it.

"We are also closing a loophole that allows fathers to string out a decision by denying that they are the father of their In future, if a child is born while a man is married to the mother, the burden will be on him to prove that he is not the father. We will also make sure that teenage boys who become fathers face their responsibilities. They must realise that bringing a child into the world is a lifelong responsibility—it is not something from which one ever walks away. So we will make sure that, once they can pay towards the care of their child, they do pay.

"Because we are determined to make sure that all parents meet their responsibilities, we are looking at further measures to deal with the persistent minority who will not co-operate, including taking driving licences from fathers who persistently shirk their responsibilities. The message is simple: no hiding place, no excuse and no easy way out. Their child is their responsibility. Every parent must face up to that—they owe it to their children.

"This is our new contract for child support: we will deliver a new, fair and simple system that will help responsible parents to support their children, but, in turn, we will take tough action to make sure that the rest deliver for their children.

"Fourthly, we are also reforming the system to make sure that it does more for children in the poorest families. Under the current system, mothers lose their income support, pound for pound, whenever any maintenance is paid. Because mothers lose out, their children lose out also. So today can announce significant new help for children in the poorest families worth up to £10 a week. More than 250,000 children will gain from this change alone. That is real help from this Government for children in the poorest families. For the first time ever, we will make sure that money gets to the poorest children, not to the Treasury.

"I can also announce today that in order to make work pay, from October, low-paid families in work receiving the working families tax credit will keep every pound and every penny of child maintenance paid. All of these measures are delivering on our commitment to do more for those who need it most, to end child poverty and to make sure that Government, parents and the Child Support Agency together deliver for children.

"Finally, we must make sure that these changes are introduced smoothly and successfully. We want to introduce the new scheme as soon as possible, but it is vital to get it tight. The present system collapsed under its own weight because the previous government tried to introduce it too quickly and with too little thought. This is a massive task. Within a year of the millennium, the Child Support Agency will be dealing with more than one million cases—that is more than two million parents. Radical change on this scale will take time. The new system needs legislation—new IT systems—and a radical change of culture and working practices in the CSA itself. We plan to introduce the new system for new cases only towards the end of 2001, with existing cases coming onto the new system later, once it is up and running. But we want to introduce some measures earlier: such as making it a criminal offence to lie to the agency, and closing the loophole that allows fathers to falsely deny their paternity; and improving the administration of the CSA itself.

"The future of child support lies in our new contract that puts the rights of children first, and the unshakeable duty of parents centre stage. The new system will be simpler and fairer for those fathers who want to support their children. And it will be tougher on those who will not.

"The agency will be turned around—so it provides the standard of service we all expect. We are putting the confidence back into child support; replacing complexity with simplicity; replacing delay with quick and accurate decisions; replacing bureaucracy with high quality customer service.

"Together, our reforms will help one million children who today are let down by the current system. We are delivering for children; putting their needs first. I commend these proposals to the House".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.10 p.m.

My Lords, the House is grateful to the noble Baroness for repeating an important Statement on child support. Perhaps I may begin by congratulating her on her stamina. It was a fairly lengthy report. It is particularly appropriate that the noble Baroness should be the one to repeat the Statement in this House, as I understand that she has played a significant role in the work on the White Paper.

Ever since the Child Support Agency was introduced in 1993, policy has been bi-partisan. Indeed, that continued in 1995, when some of the proposals put forward by a Select Committee chaired by Mr Frank Field were placed before both Houses and implemented. The situation inherited by the present Government reflected that bipartisan policy. The matter was clearly in need of further reform.

Having spent many hours, as a Member of the other place, dealing with child support cases, I recognised the problems—not least when one was faced with a father who was determined not to pay anything at all if possible towards the upkeep of his children, and on the other hand a department that worked inefficiently and constantly made mistakes, thereby making it very difficult to resolve constituency problems. I remember spending a great deal of time on one case, and even taking a particular individual to see Ministers on two occasions, simply in order to try to sort out the problems that the agency was experiencing. Nevertheless, the White Paper comes halfway through this Parliament, and its proposals will not be come into operation until nearly the end of its term.

There are some aspects of the White Paper that we can welcome. In particular, it is right for the Government to say that they are not going back to the courts—for the reasons mentioned by the noble Baroness, but also because many of the problems caused, which resulted in the setting up of the Child Support Agency, came about because the courts would often award the matrimonial home to the wife, and then expect public support—income support and so on—to provide for the children. That was the problem that the agency was intended to address.

Many of the problems at that time arose because, instead of dealing with new cases, the agency was asked to go back over previous cases, many of which had a long history, had been through the courts and so on. I therefore have some specific questions for the noble Baroness with regard to the proposals for the new system to work alongside the old. If I understood the Statement correctly, it is proposed to go ahead with the new system and then to turn back, so to speak, to the cases that are already in front of the Child Support Agency. I am sure that it is absolutely right not in any sense to give an amnesty to the old cases, but it seems that the Government intend effectively to place a moratorium on them. Perhaps the noble Baroness will clarify the Government's exact position in regard to the relationship between existing cases and those that will be dealt with under the new system.

Also, is it intended that cases that are already in front of the Child Support Agency will be dealt with on the old formula, and new cases on the new formula? If that is so, one family or another might reasonably complain that they are being treated either "too fairly" or unfairly. Will the noble Baroness also confirm that, as there are many cases of serious arrears now before the Child Support Agency, it is the Government's intention to collect those arrears in full? We need to be clear on that point.

On a more general point of principle, do the Government accept that it is important to encourage the sharing of care between parents, even though the actual marriage or partnership may have broken up? In that context, what will happen under the new formula as regards an allowance for the income of the parent with care? It may well be that the income of the parent with care is generally much smaller than that of the parent who does not have care; I believe that that is statistically the case. Be that as it may, there is an important point of principle here. Both incomes should be taken into account. Otherwise, there would seem to be an intrinsic bias against the father. How will the new formula cover that particular point?

Another point on which I am not entirely clear relates to appeals or tribunals. They have not been working properly. I remember one case that I finally managed to bring before a tribunal where everyone turned up except the chairman. What ideas do the Government have on improving the situation?

We part company with the Government on the question of penalties and the proposal that the criminal law should be invoked in relation to child support cases, by way of either a fine or imprisonment. Clearly, fines will be as difficult to collect as arrears are. But sending people in these circumstances to court, even as a last resort, may result in their having a criminal record and will not help the children. It would make it more difficult for them to get a job and pay for their children.

The noble Baroness referred at length to the consultations that have taken place. Have lawyers or the judiciary expressed any view on that point? My understanding is that, for example, the CAB took the view that it was not necessary to have such draconian sanctions but that it was important to use the existing sanctions more effectively. If cases are to go before the courts, we need to know to what extent the courts will be able to take mitigating circumstances into account.

The Statement also refers to taking away people's driving licences—although it is worded in a weasel way. It says that the Government are "looking at" the idea of withdrawing driving licences. Will the noble Baroness say how long they are going to look, or whether they have now finished looking so far as concerns that particular proposal? But again, taking away people's driving licences is not likely to help the children.

There was a strange reference in the Statement to the "company Porsche". I can see why the reference is made to Porsches, but I am not quite clear why it has to be a company Porsche. If it is a company Porsche and the driving licence is taken away, then the person will not be able to work as effectively and will have less money to give to the children. Perhaps the noble Baroness will make that plain.

The crucial point is this. Is it really the case that the present civil penalties are inadequate? Will the noble Baroness tell the House how many civil cases in relation to child support cases have actually been brought successfully? I understand that there are very few. The Child Support Agency has not used all its existing powers, but now wants to take the more draconian powers outlined in the Government's Statement.

Other issues cause concern, particularly with regard to the transfer of information from the Revenue. The noble Baroness will know that I have often raised that subject with her. At what level of seniority in the Civil Service will approval for transferring information to the Child Support Agency be given? We do not want that kind of information floating around at the level of seniority in the Child Support Agency that deals with such cases at the front end. One may be aware of situations like that from one's constituency experience.

There is also some concern about the idea of the private sector collecting such child support payments. I am not sure what sort of organisation the Government have in mind, nor am I sure what degree of supervision and accountability there will be by the agency and by Ministers.

In regard to the timetable, I understand that the Government need time to make sure that their computers work. Their record on computers in the Department of Social Security recently has not exactly been magnificent. Therefore, it appears that we shall not see the new system in operation until 2001.

Shall we have one or two Bills to deal with this matter? The implication in the Statement is that in regard to the penalties and in regard to one other matter, the Government will go ahead with the main bulk of the legislation, and the implication would seem to be either that they will tag it on to another Bill, or that there will be two Bills before your Lordships' House.

Be that as it may, we on this side of the House welcome a number of aspects of the Statement and what is proposed, but we shall scrutinise with great care some other aspects that vie believe are controversial.

4.20 p.m.

My Lords, while on my way to the House today I remembered another occasion when I had to come hot-foot from my day job to deal with a Statement on the Child Support Agency. That was the very first Statement by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, in October 1990 announcing the policy. I believe I am the only spokesman in any party in either Chamber who was in place then and is still in place now. I have seen it all. It is beginning to feel rather like reading War and Peace, except that there is not much peace.

During that time I have done business with a number of extremely able Ministers. I want to say a word in praise of Mr Alistair Burt, whose handling of casework showed a degree of integrity and attention to detail which I admired deeply. The Minister herself is in that league. It has been a privilege to do business with her. She has listened with immense care. She is well aware of a number of points which I shall not repeat at as great a length as I otherwise would have done. However, that does not mean that the policy is satisfactory.

The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, chose his words carefully when he said that the policy was bipartisan. He did not say it was all-party. We on these Benches have never been convinced by this policy and we are beginning to feel uncomfortably like Cassandra. Our objection is not—I repeat this for about the thousandth time—to the principle that fathers should pay for their children; our objection is to the principle that they should do so according to a formula.

The formula does not fit into the real world. The Minister said that the formula was complex; that is because real life is complex. The Government are entirely unaware—at least in their official capacity—of the immense variation in the types of matrimonial break-up that exist in this country, of the immense variation in the types of financial arrangements that have been reached and the types of problems involved.

Beware of Ministers offering simplicity. When they tell us all about the problems of fathers who will not pay, and do not consider the possibility that any of them may be in a position where, because of the formula, they cannot pay, I am uncomfortably reminded of Ministers defending the administration of the poll tax.

In regard to teenage boys, it is right that they should be held responsible. The Minister should consider that there may be more than one way of accepting responsibility. I remember one of my pupils asking to change the time of her tutorial in order to look after her sister's baby while her sister sat her A-level examinations. The parents were both teenagers, both father and mother took full shares in the care of the child and both sets of grandparents took full shares in the care of the child. Both parents graduated; they then married and set up a stable household. If the CSA had intervened I am almost certain that that success would have been made impossible. I am not sure that that would have been in the interests of the child, the Treasury or anyone else.

I could add many other stories, but I shall not. I hope that the Minister will understand that there is more than one kind of responsibility. I do not believe that the comments of the Minister on the courts—and those of the noble Lord, Lord Higgins—took account of the improvements in procedure in courts brought in under the Children Act 1989, or indeed of the improvements in the courts' powers of enforcement. I believe that some of what they said is out of date. Perhaps they could consult the Magistrates' Association on that point.

I shall concentrate on what is new in the Statement. In relation to misleading information, we on these Benches have no objection to the idea that to supply misleading information should be an offence, but we should welcome the qualification "knowingly supplying misleading information". I believe that the term is known in law. We have misgivings, like the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, about imprisonment and deprivation of driving licences. Improving employability has been the basis of much of this Government's social security policy. I do not believe that the Minister will tell us that either of those measures complies with that policy. To diminish "aggro" between parents, which occasionally leads to seriously undesirable consequences, is a desirable objective. I cannot see that that would do that.

Nor do I believe that that would diminish tension for the children. One can imagine what two very quarrelsome parents may tell them about it. I am pleased that they are still thinking about driving licences. The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, said that the Government had used weasel words, but at least the weasel appears to be travelling in the right direction. I hope it carries on.

I was a little taken aback by the Minister's statement about clarity—"just as you get from a bank statement". I must offer my congratulations to her bank manager.

There was much in the Statement about improvements for children. Many are genuine and I want to congratulate the Minister on her achievement with the working families' tax credit. I also want the Minister to ensure that the Department of Social Security, as well as the Department of Health, studies today's publication by the BMA, Growing up in Britain, in which they show that in health, in height and in infant mortality there are still wide variations between children in different income groups. The BMA also recommends that there be no further cuts in the single parent benefit. That needs to be put on to the other side of the scales.

On what we may, in shorthand, describe as the "Porsche problem", yes, something needs to be done. Long ago, I remember writing to a correspondent, "Don't shoot Mr Lilley, he's doing his best". The Minister may perhaps have done better, although I take the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, about the level on which decisions are taken and about confidentiality. There is a real problem here. If there is a solution—I am not sure that there is one—it may be along the lines that the Minister is investigating. I wish her luck.

I share the misgivings of the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, about involving the private sector. I hope that the Minister can give us a little more detail about the way in which the private sector is to be involved, in what context and on what terms. If it is starting next week, at least some of the answers must be "No".

There are problems of confidentiality; I should be glad to know how those are to be tackled. There are also problems of conflict of interest. The private sector must necessarily aim at profit; that is what it is for. It is foolish to complain about that; it is simply the nature of the animal. Attempts will doubtless be made to control that by performance indicators, but performance indicators, as Matthew Taylor of the IPPR pointed out recently, are capable of creating all kinds of perverse incentives. This is something that should be scrutinised very carefully. The terms on which the private sector is brought in are something about which the House should know a great deal more than it does at present.

Finally, I should like the Minister to think very hard about the point made by the late Lord Bancroft in the last year of his life that, if we are to expect the CSA to produce anything half-way towards a competent performance, we must consider the case for exempting it from the change programme which cuts the running costs of the DSS by 25 per cent. There are not many organisations that could take a 25 per cent cut in their running costs with their performance unimpeded. If there are any, I do not believe the CSA has turned out to be one of them.

4.30 p.m.

My Lords, I welcome the responses of the noble Lords, although I welcome that of the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, rather more than that of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, but the noble Earl will not be surprised about that.

Perhaps I may thank the noble Lord, Lord Higgins. I was pleased that he felt able to adopt such a bipartisan and consensual approach. He was right that when the agency was set up in 1993 there was support for the principles of what the then government were seeking to do. The difficulty was that, the more the previous administration sought to tweak the formula by taking extra information into account to make it apparently fairer, the net result was simply to complicate it still further and therefore make it harder for the staff to produce speedy and accurate assessments. That meant that men waiting for their assessments and women waiting for their money had to wait longer and longer and became more and more baffled and the system imploded into a black hole. We ended up with a system which had none of the simplicity of the bureaucracy and none of the individually tailored quality of the courts.

That is why—turning to the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Russell—when we approached this matter I did my best to read the research and track the footsteps of the previous government to see why they decided in 1992–93 not to go back to the courts. Some of the reasons are mentioned in the Statement today. It was clear that by 1990 the courts were delivering only about 20 per cent of maintenance to families entitled to it. It was also the case that the decisions the courts were making were extremely erratic. On the then average income of £140 a week, for a family with three children, in a quarter of cases assessments were below £12 and in a quarter of cases assessments were over £40. In cases with identical circumstances, there were whimsical results. Should we go back to the courts? I think not.

We now have a situation in which 1 million couples—2 million parents—are coming through the CSA. For the most part they are poor, particularly the women with care who are on benefit. For the most part they are not married, do not have matrimonial property and are not getting divorced. They have no need to come through a court system. Suddenly to bring through a court system nearly a million extra people, possibly having three changes of circumstances in a year, resulting in three million court visits, would, I think, destroy the court system for those who can go nowhere else but to the courts.

I agree with the previous administration that it was right to abandon the court system and to deliver instead an agency with a formula. We are all culpable in having made that formula more complicated. As far as concerns housing costs for those who have a mortgage, there are 49 different kinds of mortgages. Every time a mortgage changes, new calculations have to be made. A father may receive four different assessments in a week, all containing different figures. It is not surprising that he does not pay. We need to go back to a simple formula in which all that is needed to be known is the father's net take-home pay and the number of children. He pays the money according to the ready-reckoner of tables. The children, his former partner and he all know where they stand.

I now turn to the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Higgins. He pressed me about the timetable. We are expecting that new cases will come into this system towards the end of 2001. We shall bring on existing cases as soon as we decently can, but we are determined that the information technology that sustains the system must be rock solid. What we cannot afford to do is to bring a million new cases into the system on day one and risk the kind of overwhelming flood of cases and problems that the CSA experienced in 1993 and even now has not fully overcome. In the meanwhile, the existing cases will continue on the old system. I reaffirm that we shall not give any amortisation of arrears. Any money owed is properly owed. To amortise arrears would be to signal to those who have paid that they are being punished for doing the decent thing and paying for their children. Clearly, if someone is having financial difficulties we shall talk to them and make reasonable arrangements. If they pay regularly, we shall suspend more than six months of arrears as an encouragement to them to continue The existing system will continue until the non-resident parent goes on to the new system.

The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, pressed me on shared care. He is absolutely right: the argument behind this is that what we want is child support, in all its complexity, going to children. That is a financial matter and, as an agency, we are obviously dealing with the financial aspects. But we also want to encourage the emotional support that children are entitled to enjoy, even when their parents are separated. It seems to me that this is best done by enabling contact and making the maintenance system support contact where possible without legally connecting the two. This means that for the first time, instead of providing for an abatement of maintenance only in cases where the child stays with the non-resident parent at least two nights a week, we are proposing an abatement of maintenance where a child stays with the non-resident parent one night a week—say, every other weekend. We think that this will encourage the father to have the child living with him on an occasional basis while not discouraging the mother for fear of losing too much maintenance.

The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, asked why we were not taking into account the income of the parent with care. There are two reasons for that. First, we do not think it is reasonable to do so. The parent with care is providing her share of support for the child because the child is living in her home. Whatever standard of living she enjoys, through her own income or that of her new partner, so will her child. That is her contribution. If we calculate that on average it may cost 30 per cent of an income to bring up a child, the father continues to pay 15 per cent and the mother's share comes through her contribution. We do not think that the father's responsibility for his child should ebb and flow according to the fortunes of the parent with care or the size of her new partner's income. We believe that the father's responsibility to the child continues, whatever happens, and that it should be firm and clear.

The second reason why we are not taking into account the income of the parent with care is that it would make little practical difference. Ninety-six per cent of all parents with care have incomes of less than £100. Only 200 of a million parents with care have incomes of more than £500 a week. The amount of income earned by the parents with care is so modest that in relatively few cases would it significantly affect the assessment. Why bother? Ninety-six per cent of parents with care have incomes around income support rates or just above. In the same way, we are not taking account of the income of the new partner of the father, so we believe that there is equity across both families.

The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, asked me about tribunals and whether we were speeding up the process. As he knows, the new decision-making and appeals procedure is coming into force as of June. I share his hope that this will result in a speedier approach.

The noble Lord and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, both pressed me on penalties. We are seeking to change the culture. We are trying to develop a system in which the 60 per cent of fathers who do not now co-operate and the 70 per cent of mothers who do not now co-operate will in future co-operate in the best interests of their children. The men should co-operate because we are making a lower assessment for them, because the system is simple, and because we are giving greater support to their second families. We hope that mothers will co-operate because we are allowing them to keep maintenance for the first time.

If we are wrong and a father who can pay fails to co-operate, even though his assessment is lower, the system is simple and the money is going to the children. we shall be unashamedly tough. We shall not tolerate people who could and should pay but who apparently so undervalue their children that they would rather that anyone but themselves took responsibility for caring for them.

My Lords, will the Minister think a few more times about her criteria for defining those who "can't pay"? She is achieving simplicity only in so far as she departs from reality.

My Lords, does the noble Earl really think that someone on an income of £200, £300 or £500 a week cannot afford to pay 15 per cent for the support of his child, leaving him with 85 per cent of his income? That is an entirely reasonable figure and somewhat less than he is currently assessed to pay. Any man who believes that a child can be maintained for less should do the weekly shopping.

I hope that fathers will co-operate with us and pay the money, knowing that it is going to their children and that their children will see that they are paying. If they do not, we are willing to extend the penalties available to us. There are already extensive civil action powers, including bailiff action and garnishee orders. Because it takes us so long to assess and the formula is so complex, those powers have not always operated as successfully as they should. We are seeking to strengthen the penalty regime for those who can pay but refuse to do so. I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, for giving me notice of his question and I am happy to assure him that we shall seek additional penalties for those who knowingly or wilfully give false information. An honest mistake is not an issue for us. We are talking about someone who is wilfully deceitful to avoid his responsibilities.

We are contemplating the penalties that other countries use. In some states of the United States, driving licences are taken away. The state of Texas has been doing that since 1995. In that time 18 have been taken, but in the past six months the threat has brought in an extra 22 million dollars in child support. If we have to implement the penalty, we have failed. But we may need to do so if men who should pay do not. We are not seeking to make life harsh, but we are determined to ensure that children enjoy the support that they should get.

The noble Lord asked about the transfer of information. The relevant level of civil servant will be executive officer. On the role of the private sector, we are expecting banks and building societies to help to collect the money in the same way that they help to collect housing benefit from local authorities. The issues of confidentiality are similar in both circumstances. Will we have one Bill or two? If legislative time permits, we expect an early Bill to deal with all the issues, but some proposals could be implemented ahead of the new case load, which has to wait for the IT machinery.

Finally, the noble Earl, Lord Russell, asked whether I was aware of the British Medical Association report Growing up in Britain. He should keep reminding the House that the poorest children in this country still suffer in their education, their health, their housing, their poverty and their life chances. The poorest children in this country are the children of lone parents. They are poor sometimes because their mother is not in work, in other cases because their mother is not receiving the maintenance that she should. With the New Deal and the working families tax credit, the Government are encouraging parents to go to work, but through child support we are ensuring that the non-resident parent should co-operate. The noble Earl and I may disagree on how best to deliver support to children, but by ensuring that child support flows and that parents have opportunities to go to work we can stop children bumping along on the bottom of income support rates for 16 or 18 years and then becoming unemployable as they hit working age. We have a responsibility. Child support is part of it. I hope that your Lordships will help us to achieve it.

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I am sorry to say anything more after such a full reply, but will she tell the House in what way the Government are involving the private sector?

My Lords, we are expecting to use the private sector for consultancy on debt collection and its expertise on issues such as debt management work for self-employment.

4.46 p.m.

My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Higgins, I consider this to be a bipartisan matter. I welcome the Minister's commitment to maintaining the principle of the child coming first as the mainstay of the Child Support Agency. Like my noble friend, I recognise that there have been great failings in the way in which the system has worked. I sat for a few years as a lay member of a child support appeal tribunal. I have also sat on a family panel dealing with non-CSA maintenance payment enforcement. I see the noble Lord, Lord Gladwin of Clee, in his place. I was honoured to serve with him as a magistrate on that panel. I am sure that it is fair to say that we both found it frustrating to see how difficult it is to enforce the payment of maintenance to children from the father or, in some cases, the mother.

My questions for the Minister are about the penalties. With great respect, she talks about the Government getting tough and imposing tough penalties, but in the real world it will be the magistrates who will be called on to impose those tough penalties. What consultations have the Government had with the Magistrates' Association about the implications of imposing fines for the way in which magistrates' courts currently work? The Minister talked about penalties of imprisonment thereafter. I am sure that she is aware of the instruction from the Lord Chancellor's Department on the training of magistrates—it has been in force for some years—that imprisonment should be a last resort. Even if the penalty is "only" the imposition of a fine, non-payment of the fine will result in possible imprisonment. Magistrates are very reluctant indeed to impose a sentence of imprisonment. Very few cases of social security fraud ultimately lead to that. Perhaps we might temper our language when talking about penalties to take into account the practical realities.

What views have the magistrates expressed about the implications of such changes for CSA cases on the way in which maintenance is enforced through the family panel? The Minister and others have talked about equity. The noble Baroness also referred to abandoning the courts. One must remember that a huge number of maintenance cases are still heard in magistrates' and county courts. That will continue regardless of what has been said today. But the White Paper proposals may have huge implications for the way in which those cases are heard. For example, there is the matter of equity of treatment in access to tax records. Magistrates may feel hampered by not having access to them in cases that they hear. Those who are subject through CSA assessment to having their tax records open to view may find that there is a lack of equity of treatment. What view have the Government taken on that and what advice have they had from the Magistrates' Association.

What view has the Lord Chancellor's Department expressed to the Department of Social Security on write-offs? The Minister has already said that in the interim there may be write-offs for those who find it difficult to pay under the current system. I heard her refer to write-offs in her response to my noble friend Lord Higgins and the noble Earl, Lord Russell. I am sure that she is aware of the guidelines given by the Lord Chancellor's Department to magistrates in non-CSA cases that if someone has run up substantial arrears, usually more than one year's total maintenance, the amount is written off and the person escapes—I can say that in this House—from their duty.

I appreciate that the Minister may not be able to answer some of my questions today because I have referred to the Lord Chancellor's Department. I would be happy for her to write to me about them.

My Lords, I wonder whether we are contravening Standing Orders.

My Lords, I remind noble Lords that we have 20 minutes for questions to the Minister on this matter. It would be helpful if noble Lords confined themselves to questions rather than comments.

My Lords, my answer will be very brief. We have consulted both the Magistrates' Clerks' Association and the Magistrates' Association, not on the particular point about penalties but the scheme as a whole. They put their views to us which we found extremely informative. I must point out to the noble Baroness that most of her remarks went outside the realm of the White Paper which is concerned with reform of the Child Support Agency and, therefore, the mode of child support. We are not addressing ancillary relief issues currently handled by magistrates' courts. I am very happy to write to the noble Baroness on the question whether the LCD has any proposals for magistrates' courts, but they are not part of the White Paper. Therefore, many of the questions put by the noble Baroness go well beyond the subject we are discussing today.

My Lords, the staff have had a very difficult task over the years. Is it intended that their number should be supplemented under the old system. which is extremely complex, while they prepare for the new?

My Lords, I am grateful for the point raised by the noble Baroness. We are recruiting an extra 600 staff in order to develop face-to-face interviews. I have worked on these schemes with the staff fairly closely. They say that they spend 90 per cent of their time trying to make an assessment and, because the system is so complicated, only 10 per cent of their time is devoted to compliance. They want a simple system so that they can get the assessment cleared within days and then spend their time ensuring that the money flows. They tell us that a simple system such as that now proposed will make training and other matters much easier. We hope that as a result we can retain more staff—obviously, there is, a problem of morale and turnover—and offer a quality service, with the provision of information and face-to-face or telephone contact that too often the CSA has not been able to deliver.

My Lords, can the Minister deal with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Higgins? The Minister said that the new IT system would come into operation at the end of 2001 and new cases would be dealt with under that system at that time. That is a very short interval for a major computer system. As the noble Lord said, the record of the department has not been magnificent. Can the Minister say to what extent the timing of the introduction of the scheme is robust in terms of the non-delivery of the computer system? This has arisen in many other sectors of government. What are the fall-back plans if the noble Baroness introduces the new casework system at the end of 2001 and the computer system is not operational?

My Lords, I entirely take the noble Lord's point. The most worrying aspect may very well be the slowness of any new computer system. We cannot afford to bring on the new case-load, let alone the existing one, until we have a secure IT system. As this year progresses I shall be able to share with your Lordships the information that is available. Our realistic expectaion is that the IT system will be in place so that we can take on new cases towards the end of 2001. But noble Lords are right to be pessimistic. Our experience and that of the previous administration of IT systems has not always been a happy one.

My Lords, the Minister said that the comments of my noble friend Lady Anelay were lengthy and not wholly relevant. I suggest that when she reads Hansard she will find that a number of the points are relevant, particularly those related to penalties. The Minister said that all along she had consulted the Magistrates' Association. Has she also been in touch with the courts in Scotland to which this White Paper applies? If not, will she ensure that she does so soon? I am not sure how it is to be done, because as from today the courts are devolved to Scotland's Parliament. However, I am sure that the Government have worked out a way. It is important that any scheme that emerges in the form of legislation fits well with the Scottish system.

My Lords, not only have we had replies from 1,500 individuals; we have also discussed these proposals round the table with about 40 organisations, including the Law Society, the Magistrates' Association, family court judges, solicitors, the Family Law Bar Association and so on. They spoke regularly about both the Scottish and English experience. Representations have also been made to us by Scottish organisations. If the noble Baroness believes that we have overlooked any points I shall be very happy to take her advice, but in our consultations we have cast the net as wide as we can possibly conceive.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that many noble Lords hope that the attempt to make the CSA more effective will succeed and that the many children who need help receive it? Does the Minister agree that those who lie or who are deceitful, and fathers who deliberately evade their responsibilities, should realise that if they persist they must take the consequences?

My Lords, I agree with the sentiments of the noble Lord and others. This matter will be judged by whether the poorest children, particularly the 1 million who should receive maintenance at the moment but who do not, are given that support. If so, all of us can help to trampoline those children out of a life of rather deep poverty.

Greater London Authority Bill

4.55 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
(Lord Whitty)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Whitty.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES ( Lord Murton of Lindisfarne) in the Chair.]

Clause 133 [ Transport for London]:

moved Amendment No. 250:

Page 72, line 4, at end insert—
("() Transport for London shall secure the provision of transport services that enable disabled people to have access to the same level of services as all passengers.")

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 250 I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 287 in the name of my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that Transport for London secures the provision of special transportation services, such as Taxicard and Dial-a-Ride in order not to discriminate against older and disabled people who cannot use regular buses. The Committee will be aware that all buses in London will be physically accessible by 2017, but there will still be an enormous need for other types of transport provision for those who cannot use mainstream buses. I am advised that there are between 250,000 and 500,000 disabled and older Londoners who cannot use regular public transport, even when it is made physically accessible.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act, Transport for London will be obliged to ensure that all its buses are accessible, but it says nothing about provision for those who cannot use physically accessible buses. These Londoners need special transport provision such as Taxicard and Dial-a-Ride which now provide in the region of 1.5 million trips a year. These are not provided as a duty and are partly funded by voluntary contributions from the London boroughs. I am aware that the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, who has recently tried out the Taxicard service, may have something to say about this.

If special transport services are not continued and developed, thousands of older and disabled Londoners will be left marooned in their homes. It will also mean that members of their families will have to take extra time off work to look after them, to do their shopping and to run any necessary errands, which is not to the economic advantage of the country. The amendment is also designed to ensure the continuation and development of these special transport schemes. We should place a duty on Transport for London and make provision for it. If the Government are committed, as they have said it is, to ending social exclusion and integrating all older and disabled people, will they also give a commitment to the continuation and expansion of these vital transport schemes?

I realise that there may be a drafting error in this amendment. As drafted, it may mean that the Underground services have to be accessible to everyone, even people in wheelchairs. That, of course, is impractical and is not the intention of the amendment.

With regard to my noble friend's Amendment No. 287, to which I have put my name and which I strongly support, the noble Baroness will speak on it, but it is designed to reintroduce original Clause 169 of the Bill, which was removed in the other place. It will allow the Secretary of State to make regulations ensuring the provision of door-to-door transport for disabled people. I beg to move.

5 p.m.

I rise to support Amendment No. 250 and to speak to Amendment No. 287, which is in my name. My noble friend Lord Swinfen has covered most of the important points. I have put down Amendment No. 287 because it does not insist on any particular scheme. The wording of Amendment No. 287 is:

"may by regulations make provision for and in connection with the provision of transport facilities and services provided for the purpose of meeting the needs of disabled persons resident in Greater London".
That is not prescriptive in terms of how he must do it or whether he must do it. However, at least it places a responsibility upon the Secretary of State to ensure that disabled people in London are carefully considered and catered for in all forms of transport need.

My noble friend Lord Swinfen has mentioned the Taxicard scheme. I believe that it is an extremely valuable scheme. It works very well in central London. The reason for that is that central London boroughs have quite a high parking revenue and they are allowed to apply that to the Taxicard scheme. It is a greater problem in other boroughs. In fact, five boroughs have either greatly reduced the budget for it or reduced the number of journeys that people can take, which has more or less the same effect. No doubt those boroughs have found that their budgetary pressure has demanded that. If it became a part of the Transport for London issue, I am not sure where the money would come from to introduce throughout the whole of London a scheme as good as that in the boroughs in which it is working very well at present. However, one must accept the principle that it is desirable to see a gradual expansion of this scheme throughout London. Above all, we do not want to see an erosion of the present scheme, which has served so many people so well.

My noble friend mentioned that perhaps there may be a danger of implicating the Tube system. I took up this issue. It transpired that one of the real problems is that you cannot necessarily replace an escalator with a lift. An escalator can go down sideways underground and is not owned by the London Transport Authority, whereas a lift has to go down vertically and, for that reason, cannot necessarily be used.

I have for many years campaigned for a case of wheel accessible transport in London, not just for wheelchair users but also for travellers carrying heavy shopping and accompanying small children. For example, if the escalators at Heathrow are out of order, there is no way in which travellers can gain access to the Underground, which I believe is quite appalling. I asked the people at Heathrow, "What happens if you are disabled and you cannot walk down this escalator?" The reply was, "I suppose someone would have to carry you down. There is no other way". On the other hand, the access in the newer terminals, where they have been able to incorporate walking areas for passengers, is so much better. The disabled, of course, are greatly disadvantaged by a lack of access to the Underground. I believe that the Underground answer is a long way off. The bus answer may come much sooner. The taxi answer covers a different need; that is, the need of those who cannot manage on either the Tube or the bus.

I shall refer later to the issue of concessionary fares. I mention it in passing. Many people who are not yet disabled, but who have incipient disability, benefit greatly from the fact that they can use the buses and the Tube. Keeping those people mobile is really a very important way of dealing with their conditions and ensuring that much can be done for them.

With regard to the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, and perhaps the other one too, I believe that there is a need to define "disabled persons". This is referred to in another part of the Bill. I know that it includes people with mental disabilities, a point on which tie noble Lord, Lord Rix, has spoken. It refers to "disabled persons". I believe that it would be more helpful if it said "as defined in the Disability Discrimination Act". I find it extraordinary that at the time when we brought in the Disability Discrimination Act, we removed the term "registered disabled", which was very clearly identifiable for people. However, we apparently decided at that time that this term should no longer be used. I believe that it is important to identify in any clause of the Bill exactly who we wish to identify, so that there can be no confusion about that.

I will not continue for much longer. This is an issue in which many people are interested. I hope that the Minister will take our worries very seriously and look again at these amendments.

Both the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, and the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, have mentioned the question of access to the London Underground for disabled persons. I am sure that the noble Baroness will agree that all new construction to the London Underground, such as the Jubilee Line and the Heathrow Express, is designed with disabled access in mind, with lifts as well as escalators. The problem is that if one gets on the Jubilee Line at one end, one cannot get off anywhere else.

Having said that, I do not believe that the problem centres around new construction, but rather converting the existing lines, which does not involve only escalators. When you get to the bottom of an escalator at many stations, you have to walk up or down a flight of steps. I do not believe that it is feasible, at a reasonable price, to convert every one of those stations to provide full disabled access. Therefore, some reasonable compromise has to be made to recognise that matter.

I intervene to say that I introduced the Jubilee Line Bill in this House. It was a very important part of that Bill, and the changeover to Waterloo Station, that lifts were installed. I completely appreciate the point. In relation to the very remote future, it should certainly be incorporated in any new station design.

In moving the amendment, my noble friend Lord Swinfen expressed a doubt about the drafting of it. I am sure that that can very easily be put right. I would prefer to have this matter dealt with in the way that the noble Baroness has mentioned; namely, as part of Clause 133 of the Bill, Chapter II, which is headed, Transport for London. I believe that it would be better inserted there, creating an obligation, than in the position suggested by Amendment No. 287, which would bring it within Chapter X, dealing with transport concessions. Here we are dealing not merely with transport concessions. We are dealing with an obligation to provide transport. I suggest that it should have some prominence and come at that earlier stage of the Bill.

So much for the drafting of the amendment. Amendment No. 287 provides a good way of dealing with it. Though I always have doubts about giving power to make regulations, I believe that in this case it might be better to give that power rather than to attempt to set out all the detail in the Bill. Some provision along the lines of Amendment No. 287 but inserted after Clause 133 might be the best way to deal with the matter. However, that is for the Government to consider and decide.

As regards the merit of the amendment, we have to do something. I referred recently to GLAD as the Greater London Association for the Disabled. That body has done a great deal. However, I must confess that I was not quite up-to-date. It is now called Greater London Action on Disability. That good work must be carried on. The Dial-a-Ride scheme was introduced as a result of its efforts.

We have to bear in mind that many of the disabled people to whom my noble friend Lord Swinfen referred—there are roughly a quarter of a million—live in their own homes, including, alas, tower blocks. Others live in nursing homes, old people's homes and various charitable institutions. Some of those places can provide some transport. But it is where the individual is at risk that something needs to be done. I hope that the Government will look sympathetically at both amendments. Both have great merit. Something must be done.

I support most warmly the two amendments and pay tribute to the work of GLAD. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, referred to it. Perhaps I should declare that I am a patron of GLAD.

I have added my name to both amendments because I believe that it is important to write into the Bill a duty for TfL to make provision for those who cannot make use of regular public transport even when it is physically accessible to them because they need door-to-door transport. The noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, signalled that I would mention this issue. Owing to a combination of circumstances, for the past two days I have had to travel by accessible taxi from Maidenhead to London and, I hope, back again. The seamless journey has worked wonderfully. I do not think that I would be here if I had had to get in and out of a taxi, a train and another taxi, owing to sheer exhaustion and the time taken. The seamless journey assists those who cannot make use of public transport.

The noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, referred to Taxicard. I stress that I do not live in London. I should not be eligible for the Taxicard scheme—in case any noble Lord is having a fit because of my travelling from Maidenhead and returning there.

I support Amendment No. 287 which reintroduces a clause removed in another place allowing the Secretary of State to make regulations ensuring provision of door-to-door transport for disabled people. We have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, that in some boroughs the system works brilliantly. However, it is patchy at present. There has been a recent decline in finance in some boroughs. It is desperately important to ensure that that does not happen. I think that Taxicard should be transferred to TfL as soon as possible. Until the journeys currently made possibly by Taxicard are part of an integrated London public transport strategy, the provision will continue to be uneven. Users in different boroughs will receive varying levels of provision. The funding and future of Taxicard services will be at risk and further Taxicard services will be lost. We must not let that happen. The single management and funding regime would provide a focus and platform for the development of the integrated transport service. I hope therefore that we shall hear an encouraging reply from the Minister on both amendments.

5.15 p.m.

I have added my name to Amendment No. 250. I support the ideas underlying both amendments. I wish to give emphasis to the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, about the seamless journey and the need to provide a Taxicard service across the whole of London and not just in some boroughs.

I support both amendments. I urge the Minister to consider in particular Taxicard which has 45,000 members. In Greenwich the service has stopped completely; in Lewisham, Redbridge and Enfield it is on the verge of stopping.

Most courteously, I remind the Minister that paragraph 5.30 of the White Paper of March 1998, A Mayor and Assembly for London, states:
"Transport for London will acquire specific responsibility for the Dial-a-Ride and Taxicard schemes. Following a review of door-to-door transport services in London, we are convinced that a better service to users could be secured at a lower cost to taxpayers and council tax payers if these services were rationalised."
Therefore does the Minister believe that such provision should be in the Bill? I accept that this is a massive Bill. But perhaps the noble Lord would be kind enough to consider putting such provision again into the Bill in some form.

I am never quite sure—it always occurs when my noble friend Lord Renton speaks—of the wording of the amendment or on what page of the Bill it should be inserted. So I do not say to the Minister, "This is what I want. This is how I want it worded", because the wily and cunning lawyer, my noble friend Lord Renton, will explain to me later how it should be done. But it is the Minister who will have to bring back the matter to the House. Therefore I ask the noble Lord to consider bringing these two matters back at a later stage.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, I am a patron of Greater London Action on Disability and I pay tribute again today to its work in the service of disabled people. While I shall be speaking mainly to Amendment No. 250, I am grateful to both the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, and the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, for facilitating this debate.

The purpose of Amendment No. 250 is wholly unexceptionable. It is about ending a very hurtful form of discrimination against disabled and elderly people; namely, their exclusion from transport services of crucial importance to their quality of life. There are between 250,000 and 500,000 disabled and older Londoners who cannot use regular public transport even when it is physically accessible. There are over 200,000 Londoners who cannot walk 100 yards and whose nearest bus stop is more than 100 yards from their home. What use are mainstream bus services to them?

These Londoners need special transport provision such as Taxicard and Dial-a-Ride which now provide 1.5 million trips a year. But these are not provided as a statutory duty. They are partly funded by voluntary contributions from the London boroughs. To ensure the continuation and development of these special transport schemes, Parliament should place a clear duty on Transport for London to make provision for them. We must not leave all discretion to the mayor. The organisations of and for disabled and elderly people feel that the Government recognise their special needs but are content to leave it to others to decide how or whether they are met.

Action to meet their needs ought not to be decided by personal whim but by the political will of Parliament. I hope very much that my noble friend can offer a helpful reply to the amendments. I hope, too, that he is giving very careful consideration to the response of the Joint Committee on Mobility for Disabled People, of which I informed him by letter, to the debate on my amendments on charging. I repeat: these are important amendments. They deserve a positive reply.

Before the noble Lord sits down, I wonder whether I heard him correctly at the beginning of his speech. I may not have done so because, as he knows, I am rather deaf. I thought I heard him say that Amendment No. 250 was unacceptable. Am I right in thinking that he meant acceptable?

I said and meant unexceptionable. The very opposite of what the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, may have feared.

I heard the noble Lord right; he did say unexceptionable. We on these Benches in general terms support the principle behind these amendments. I am not certain which of the two is the better one. We believe that the facilities which are available to the disabled—there has been discussion on Taxicard and Dial-a-Ride—should certainly become better under the new system and there should not be any danger that they should become worse. From what one has heard in the debate this afternoon, it appears that they may be getting worse in certain places.

When I first saw Amendment No. 250, I worried that it might involve the London Underground possibly being made accessible to wheelchairs. Some figures were calculated once on how much it would cost and it amounted to billions of pounds. It is not only at the bottom of escalators where there are usually steps. There are many stations—particularly on the Piccadilly Line—which have no surface structure where, in order to get to the ticket hall, one has to go down steps and where I suspect it would be quite impossible physically to put in a lift. However, we on these Benches would like to support the principle behind these amendments. I do not know which is the better one of the two, but I hope that the Minister will be able to give a sympathetic response.

I do understand the concerns behind these amendments. With regard to Amendment No. 250, the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, recognised that it was drafted in such a way that it would run into some of the difficulties which both my noble friend Lord Berkeley and the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, have mentioned. It would imply a very onerous duty—far greater than on any other public authority—but also one which would override other priorities for TfL. One thinks in particular of the physically difficult problem which the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, has graphically outlined in relation to 100 year old London Underground stations.

In its present form, we could not accept that amendment. In one sense, the noble Lord was focusing on a much more limited area but one of absolute essential importance for the disabled; namely, their ability to obtain door-to-door transport and the mayor and TfL's responsibility for that. I shall mention that in a moment.

In relation to new Amendment No. 287, the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, is right that it bears a striking resemblance to Clause 169 of the original Bill. My honourable friend Glenda Jackson removed that clause for two reasons: partly because the other provisions in the Bill gave the mayor and TfL all the necessary duties and powers to ensure that transport issues affecting disabled people could be properly dealt with and will be taken into account in all the relevant details with the authority; and because we felt that the clause as it stood would put all responsibility on the Secretary of State to which by and large there has been some objection in this House. The clause as it stands would require the Secretary of State to issue orders and directions, whereas that ought to be part of the mayor's own responsibilities and, through the mayor, TfL's.

Several noble Lords have mentioned activity which is going on to improve the accessibility of transport to the disabled and others with mobility problems; in particular, the new regulations, which will be coming in over the next few years, affecting trains, buses and taxis and new stations. Clearly that cannot be done overnight and many disabled, elderly and other people with mobility problems will find it difficult if there are not adequate door-to-door services.

Under the present draft, we place the responsibility very clearly on the mayor, who will of course also be bound by the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act, but with an additional requirement which was passed rather late the evening before last—I seem to spend all my time in this Committee—on Clause 124(2)(a), which requires the mayor's strategy to contain the mayor's proposals for transport which is accessible to those with mobility problems. That leaves some flexibility with the mayor. But it is also important that the mayor has that requirement and that it is also reflected in the fact that the London borough local implementation plans must contain proposals for implementing that strategy. Therefore, this is written in the Bill as it stands both at the GLAffIL and at the London borough level.

This applies in the area of Dial-a-Ride and Taxicard. Dedicated door-to-door services in London are apparently provided by those schemes. Dial-a-Ride is run by six independent companies. Taxicard is a borough-operated scheme covering 29 of the boroughs. Both schemes are very important and need to be developed for disabled people to pre-book door-to-door transport, mainly by telephone. For Dial-a-Ride, transport is provided by small bus. Individual taxis provide services under Taxicard.

As was indicated in our White Paper—I think the noble Lord, Lord Archer, referred to this—responsibility for Dial-a-Ride and Taxicard will transfer to the new authority. Thereafter, we would envisage a progressive transfer of other door-to-door services where this can be shown to be of benefit to the users and with the agreement of the other service providers.

Dial-a-Ride, currently funded by London Transport, will, as an LT responsibility, transfer automatically to Transport for London. Amendment No. 259D, a government amendment, will enable TfL to cont:inue giving grant to the Dial-a-Ride organisations as London Transport now does. The mayor will also be able to take responsibility for Taxicard or operate a similar scheme. However, some flexibility is needed. We acknowledge that Taxicard is not a uniform scheme—indeed that was pointed out—and the mayor will be able to indicate the best development from Taxicard or services similar to it, and the boroughs will have to reflect the mayor's approach in their own local implementation plan as I have indicated.

The mayor will want to consider the benefits of further co-ordination or voluntary integration of other types of door-to-door services. These could include such areas as social services day care transport and indeed transport for children with special needs. It is a big area but it is absolutely clear that Clause 124 places the responsibility on the mayor to provide this kind of transport which is accessible to all of those with mobility problems.

Through that, he therefore will need to decide, among other things, on the exact timing and nature of the transfer of Taxicard and the future development of Taxicard and Dial-a-Ride and to do so in conjunction with the London boroughs.

As it stands, Amendment No. 250 would place too wide, too onerous and too expensive a duty on TfL; but the mayor, under provisions which already exist in the Bill and the particular responsibility set out in Clause 124, has responsibility to take account of and develop exactly the kind of services that the noble Lord and noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, were concerned with. I hope that noble Lords will recognise that there is no need for these amendments given the commitments and the implications of the earlier responsibility.

5.30 p.m.

Before the noble Lord decides what to do, perhaps I may ask for clarification. Let us suppose that it does not work out and that, heaven forfend, the boroughs do not do what the mayor is saying. The Minister said that under Amendment No. 287 the Secretary of State was obliged to make regulations, but I believe that it states that he "may" make regulations. Would not the amendment be a useful stop-gap if there were any problem?

By putting that clause at this point in the Bill it would appear to place responsibility on the Secretary of State. Our provisions would place responsibility on the mayor and that arises in Clause 134. However, if other procedures are observed, that does not prevent the Secretary of State making other directions.

I shall read what the Minister has said, but I believe that it would be a useful stop-gap.

I must make a correction. I referred to Chapter X. That was a slip of the tongue. I should have referred to Chapter VII because that deals with travel concessions.

I shall leave my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes to decide what she wishes to do with her amendment, Amendment No. 287, when we reach it somewhat later in the debate. However, her suggestion of including in the Bill a definition of a disabled person is useful. The definition in the Disability Discrimination Act may be useful, but let us consider that between now and the next stage of the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and my noble friend Lord Brabazon were right to point out the costs of making the whole Underground system accessible to people with all kinds of disability. That was never what I intended. I realise that it would be impractical and that the costs would be horrific.

I am delighted with the support I have received for the amendments from all sides of the Committee and with the Minister's support for the idea which lies behind them. I should like to read what he and other Members have said and possibly come back with them at a later stage. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

moved Amendment No. 250ZA:

Page 72, line 11, at end insert—
("() Transport for London may, with the approval of the Mayor and Assembly, borrow money for investing in transport in Greater London.")

The noble Baroness said: The amendment has a history. It was tabled by my honourable friend in another place and supported in Committee by the Conservative Members. Amendment No. 225D in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard of Didgemere, and my noble friend proposed that the GLA could issue a loan instrument secured on revenue-bringing charges and levies. When we discussed it in Committee on Monday this week, the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, suggested that the idea might be better located in this part of the Bill. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord and his noble friends will continue to be broadly supportive of these borrowing powers.

The purpose of Amendment No. 250ZA is straightforward; namely, to give the new functional body, Transport for London, the power to borrow money to invest in transport in London. The new functional body will have large assets and important duties to deliver, or cause to be delivered, over a wide range of transport for the people of the Greater London area.

However, the amendment raises wider issues. In response to the amendment, the Minister in another place said that under the Local Government Act, TfL is enabled to borrow. But we are worried that that will be limited by the existence of short-term borrowings. Perhaps the Minister can respond to that issue.

I should also like to hear in layman's language how the Government see Transport for London's financial autonomy. There are a number of amendments on today's Marshalled List, but I find it difficult to understand how the Government see that particular aspect of Transport for London. I beg to move.

During our debate on Monday on Amendment No. 225D, I did not realise that the noble Baroness had tabled this amendment relating to Transport for London. I am pleased that we are together on the issue and to be reminded that it was supported by my honourable friends in another place.

We support the idea in principle. Reflecting upon my suggestion that the borrowing should be against revenue streams from congestion and parking charging, I now believe that that would be too restrictive. It should be for the lender to decide how he wants the loan to be secured. Furthermore, it must be made clear that the borrowing must be in the market, so getting away from the public sector borrowing requirement, as happened in the case of local authority airports which are now allowed to borrow outside the PSBR. The Minister said that they were commercial organisations. I hope to goodness that Transport for London will be a commercial organisation, taking over from London Transport which tries its best to be a commercial organisation.

I do not intend to speak any longer on this issue. We shall wish to return to it at the next stage of the Bill.

I support the amendment. It follows closely on Amendments Nos. 224F and 225D, which covered the GLA as a whole. However, this amendment relates only to Transport for London.

In Committee on Monday, the Minister said:
"Their expenditure through borrowing increases public expenditure and, ultimately, exposes the Treasury. Our aim is to ensure that borrowing by the GLA is subject to the same system of control as applies in other areas".—[Official Report, 28/6/99: col. 105.]
I hope that the Minister's response to this more limited amendment is more positive. The Government's argument on borrowing powers is wholly circular. Borrowing by Transport for London or the GLA is public borrowing because the Treasury says it is. That argument was used by Humpty Dumpty in Alice Through the Looking Glass who said. "When I use a word it means what I choose it to mean." It is interesting that the Treasury should be using Humpty Dumpty arguments nowadays.

The fact is that the Government, when they choose, can exclude certain types of borrowing from "public borrowing" under the PSBR. Some regional airports have been excluded, as have the new guaranteed bonds by the Channel tunnel rail link. They are not treated as coming under the PSBR. If the rules were changed, there would be no need for the complicated, expensive and, we believe, ultimately doomed proposals for PPP which we shall discuss later. I hope that the Government will take a more flexible view on the issue and consider the amendment carefully.

We covered a great deal of the ground on Monday. The central point is that Amendment No. 250ZA adds nothing to the Bill because the rest of it places TfL, as a local authority body, within the local authority finance regime. The Bill already confers powers to borrow money on TfL. Clause 96(2) makes TfL and the other functional bodies local authorities for the purposes of Part IV of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, of which Section 46 provides that as part of the proper management of its affairs the local authority may borrow money for any purpose relevant to its functions. That remains the case in relation to TfL.

Therefore, the power to borrow money is clear. It is a question of the regime under which that borrowing takes place. We have said that TfL will be treated as a local authority. Accepting the amendment would not take TfL out of that system of regulation and, as with other local authorities, TfL's borrowing will be controlled through the issue of credit approvals.

The amount of a body's credit approvals is estimated in the capital spending plan. The assembly has a role in being consulted about that plan. The sources of funding for Transport for London will be diffuse. It will have its own ordinary revenue from fares and the GLA transport grant, which will comprise grants currently given to predecessor bodies, such as London Transport. The mayor can give TfL money from the GLA grant.

The revenues from road user charging and workplace parking charges will accrue to TfL and it can borrow in the same way as any other local authority body.

The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, said that this is a circular argument. However, this situation applies not only in this country; the Maastricht criteria effectively define borrowing by such a public body as public borrowing in all European Union countries. The PSBR is not a term that we use any more. We use the post-Maastricht terms—

I apologise for interrupting the Minister in full flow. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, made the interesting point that if TfL was allowed to borrow in the market there was no possibility that its borrowing could be considered as contributing to the public sector borrowing requirement. It would be borrowing from the total pool of money available for lenders to lend. It would not be creating a new money source.

Perhaps I might make that a "double-barrelled" question. Can the Minister explain why the Government are able to exclude from the PSBR those regional airports and, indeed, the Channel tunnel rail link?

The Channel tunnel rail link is a complicated matter which I do not propose to go into today. As regards the commercial airports, which are perhaps more directly analogous, they are effectively limited companies owned by the public sector. When I say that they operate as commercial entities, they are totally commercial entities. TfL, as a body, has both commercial and non-commercial aspects. Therefore, it is appropriate to treat it as a public body, as with many other public bodies.

This is not as constraining a regime as noble Lords seem to think. Clearly, the viability of future revenues is one of the considerations to be taken into account if TfL or any other public body applies for credit approval. Credit approval will be assessed with a view to TfL being able to deliver on all the duties imposed on it by the Bill.

The idea that taking it out of the local authority regime would give greater access to resources than the proposals we are putting forward is probably not a logical conclusion. At any rate, the amendment, if passed, would not, of itself, take TfL out of the local authority regime.

I accept the last point with regard to the way the clause is drafted. At this stage we are exploring the general principles. As his penultimate point, the Minister argued that this type of approach does not add to the sources of borrowing that may be available. However, we are seeking to remove the hurdle of the approval of the Secretary of State. I wonder whether the Minister can comment on that as it may be valuable for our debate at the next stage.

The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, raised an interesting point. It is really for the lender to express a view—more than a view; a requirement—as to the property to be charged; that is, the assets to which the lender will look in making funds available to TfL as the borrower. Can the Minister comment on the role of the Secretary of State in blocking funds which would otherwise have been made available, as the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara suggests? It seems to me inappropriate for the Secretary of State to say, "No, you may not borrow. I accept that your lender is satisfied as to the security to be given, but I know better".

I am not entirely sure that I follow the question raised by the noble Baroness.

Perhaps I may study the question and write in detail to the noble Baroness. The issue is not what the lender feels, or whether the lender is the public or private sector. Whoever lends the money, public expenditure by this public body will increase. That is straightforward and logical.

I thought that the noble Baroness was suggesting that the Secretary of State might veto access to private finance. That is not the way the system works. We shall work under the local authority credit approval process. The Secretary of State does not have any other parallel power. Once that process has been gone through, the credit approval is there.

I do not believe that we shall get much further today with the amendment. We have listened to an interesting series of speeches from both sides of the House. We shall go away and consider them carefully. I suspect that we may well bring this back again at a later stage. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 133 agreed to.

5.45 p.m.

Schedule 8 [ Transport for London]:

moved Amendment No. 250A:

Page 206, line 13, leave out ("its functions under this Act") and insert ("any of its functions")

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 256B, 256E, 258B to 258Z, 259A to 259C, 261A and 265A. These are all relatively technical amendments which tidy up the position relating to TfL.

Amendment No. 250A is a technical amendment to Schedule 8. Paragraph 1(3) allows TfL to do things which will facilitate or are conducive or incidental to the discharge of its functions under this Act. However, ill, will have functions under other legislation; for example, highway and traffic functions, and they also need to be covered. Amendment No. 250A makes clear that it can do that.

The rest of this group of amendments are technical improvements to Schedule 9 which deal with the detailed operating powers of TfL. Schedule 9 is very similar to the enacted legislation from which London Regional Transport derives its operating powers; that is, Schedule 2 of the London Regional Transport Act 1984.

The amendments do, however, give TfL two powers not previously available to LRT: the power to form joint venture companies and the power to provide transport facilities without having to provide services to them.

Amendment No. 256B amends Clause 136 to give TfL the power to form joint venture companies with private partners for the carrying on of activities which TfL does not have power to carry on. Currently, LRT cannot do that. Although it can form companies with other persons, those companies cannot undertake activities for which LT does not have powers. This has prevented LT from carrying out a number of worthwhile activities, such as the White Card, which is a single ticket allowing entry to a number of London museums. The London Transport Museum has been unable to take part in that initiative because of the lack of London Transport's powers to act in that area.

We believe that such a power will be useful to TfL in that it will be able to undertake innovative projects such as the White Card system, but it will not give TfL carte blanche—excuse the pun—to embark on speculative ventures. The activities of any company formed under this provision must include those activities for which TfL does have power, as well as other activities for which it does not.

Amendments Nos. 258D to 258F make it clear that TfL can provide transport facilities without itself having to provide services to and from those facilities. Although London Transport currently has power to provide incidental facilities (like car parks) it cannot provide "core" transport facilities without running services to and from them. This effectively prevents it from providing such things as river piers without operating services from them. It is entirely possible that TfL will want to provide facilities without services, and this amendment allows it to do just that.

Amendments Nos. 256E, 258H to 258T, 258V, 258X, 258Y and 259A replace references to TfL's "business" with references to "functions". That is because although TfL will be a trading organisation in some ways (for example, its sale of tickets), it will also be a regulatory body in respect of taxi and bus licensing, for example.

Amendment No. 258B, together with 258C, are technical amendments to divide the existing paragraph 3 of Schedule 9. The effect is to create a new paragraph 3A, extending TfL's power to use surplus premises for the storage of goods not carried by TfL. That means that TfL can use any of its surplus premises for that purpose, and not just premises it uses for the storage of goods which TfL carries.

Amendment No. 258G adds the word "or" to paragraph 9 of Schedule 9 to make it clear that TfL can provide "professional or technical advice" rather than "professional technical advice". Amendment No 258GA makes clear that TfL can charge for anything done under its powers in paragraph 9 of Schedule 9 to provide technical assistance and advice.

Amendment No. 258U brings TfL's compulsory purchase powers into line with those of the London Development Agency, by requiring TfL to obtain the mayor's consent before asking the Secretary of State to confirm a compulsory purchase order. Amendment No. 258W is a typographical correction. It ensures that TfL's powers of compulsory purchase are the same as London Transport's, subject only to the changes necessary to reflect the creation of Tfl, and the GLA.

Amendment No. 258Z removes the need for TfL to obtain the consent of the Secretary of State before acquiring any securities of a body corporate for the purposes of discharging its functions. Amendment No. 259B is a minor technical amendment, being a cross-reference. Amendment No. 259C amends paragraph 29 of Schedule 9 so that TfL may do anything necessary for the purposes of fulfilling a contract entered into by any of its predecessor bodies.

I hope the need for these amendments is clear. They tidy up the power; and in some cases extend them in sensible areas beyond those currently held by London Transport and other predecessor bodies. I beg to move.

Perhaps I can ask my noble friend two short questions. I believe my noble friend said that Amendment No. 258D would enable TfL to build transport facilities but not operate them. Would that include something like rebuilding Victoria coach station without the need to operate coaches to it? I believe the answer is yes, but I shall be grateful for his confirmation.

My second question relates to the word "goods". My ears pricked up as soon as I heard that word. I cannot remember to which amendment it relates because my noble friend was rattling through them nice and quickly. It allows TIL to store goods in places where goods would not normally be stored. Is this the start of a major intermodal facility in London for the transfer of freight from road to rail; or does it relate to Schedule 9, line 37 at page 210,
"Transport for London may also carry luggage and other goods"?
I am not sure what the definition of "goods" is in those two contexts and whether they are the same. I shall be grateful for an explanation from my noble friend.

On the latter point, my understanding is—I will correct this in writing if I am wrong—that the reference to luggage and other goods merely relates to goods similar to luggage. In other words, they can carry luggage separately from passengers. If one is travelling with an artist's easel, that could be put in with the luggage, though strictly speaking it is not a case. So it is not creating a new freight company, if that was my noble friend's concern.

In relation to Victoria coach station, conceivably the situation would be covered. I cannot see the circumstances in which it would arise, but it would definitely be covered. In terms of being able to store goods outside its own normal provision, in most cases the situation is probably more limited in that TfL would be able to use its own storage facilities for other people's goods if the storage was surplus to its requirements. It could, however, lead to substantially greater things, as my noble friend implied.

We on these Benches are grateful to the noble Lord for his detailed explanation of this large group of amendments and congratulate him on moving such a large group in one go. We will need to study the amended Bill at the end of Committee stage and we reserve our position until then.

We will also be studying the results of these amendments. I have a small query in relation to Amendment No. 265A where the Minister is proposing to leave out the "Secretary of State" and insert the "Mayor". But, as I read that, if the mayor ended up being chairman of Transport for London, he would effectively be giving consent to himself. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that for me.

He would be giving consent to TfL as an organisation rather than to himself. Nevertheless, the noble Baroness has a point which needs some explanation and I undertake to write to her.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

moved Amendment No. 250B:

Page 206, line 15, after ("to") insert ("sub-paragraph (1A) and")

The noble Baroness said: These amendments do a number of reasonably simple things. Amendment No. 250C requires the assembly's approval by a simple majority for an appointment made to the TfL board by the mayor. Amendment No. 250B is the paving amendment for that amendment. Amendment No. 251B would allow the assembly a say in the determination of the terms and conditions of TfL board members. Amendment No. 251 C would require the mayor to seek the approval of the assembly by a simple majority for the removal of a TfL member. That refers to the fact that the assembly could approve the appointment. Finally, Amendment No. 252A would allow the assembly a say in the appointment of the chair of Transport for London. I beg to move.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, clearly described the purpose of her amendments. However, I believe that they are based on a misunderstanding of the relationship between the mayor and TfL and the mayor and the assembly.

TfL's major role will be to deliver the mayor's transport strategy. TfL is the mayor's executive body, and a vital tool for him or her in delivering the improvements to transport in London which I know we all want to see. It is the mayor who will be accountable to the people of London for his or her performance on transport. The buck will stop with the mayor. The mayor must be able to appoint to the TfL board people whom she or he believes are the best for the job.

It is vital that the key management and leadership roles of chairman and deputy chairman are filled by people in whom the mayor has confidence. As we said in the White Paper, posts will be advertised and selection will be on merit with an independent element in the selection process following normal public service procedure. We have also said that we will expect the mayor, in line with Nolan procedures, to involve an independent element in the appointments process, and that we will provide guidance on that. This will safeguard against the mayor packing the board.

Turning to Amendments Nos. 251B and 252A, if it is the mayor's responsibility to appoint members it must also be for the mayor to decide on what terms and conditions they should be appointed and in what circumstances a member should be removed. If the mayor feels that a member is not up to the job, she or he must be able to do something about it without having to go through a complex and inappropriate procedure.

6 p.m.

I heard what the Minister said. However, it is not so much that we do not understand, but rather that there is a fundamental disagreement between us as regards the desirable relative roles of the mayor, the assembly and, indeed, the Secretary of State. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[ Amendment No. 250C not moved.]

moved Amendment No. 251:

Page 206, line 32, at end insert—
("(3A) The Mayor shall appoint as members of Transport for London—
  • (a) a person who has personal experience of being a disabled person; and
  • (b) a person who is an older person.")
  • The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 252, 267, 268, 269, 271 and 273. In no way dare I even seek to emulate the performance of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, with the number of amendments that he moved in one group; indeed, it was magnificent.

    I shall begin with Amendments Nos. 251 and 252, the purpose of which is to ensure that Transport for London, through its board members, is fully and properly informed of the needs, views and wishes of disabled and older Londoners. Schedule 8 to the Bill requires the mayor to,

    "have regard to the desirability of ensuring that the … membership of Transport for London represents the interests in relation to transport … of persons who require transport which is accessible to persons with mobility problems".

    Older and disabled people, and their organisations, believe that the best way of achieving that is for the TfL board to have members who are older and disabled and that these members should be supported and informed by a forum of organisations of older and disabled people.

    The Government's commitment to best value and social inclusion argues that the best advocates for services are the service users themselves. Older and disabled people and their organisations do not feel that it is sufficient for the mayor to appoint as their representatives people who have no democratic mandate and who may know little of the needs of older and disabled people, other than their personal experience.

    Amendments Nos. 267, 268, 269 and 273 have the purpose of ensuring that whenever Transport for London proposes to introduce a new local bus service or vary an existing one the impact on older and disabled people is taken into account through consultation. Clause 148 requires TfL to consult various interests when proposing to introduce a new bus service or vary an existing one. These amendments seek to add,

    "organisations of older and disabled people",

    to the list of statutory consultees, and,

    "the effect of the proposal on older and disabled people",

    to the list of matters about which consultation must take place.

    Disabled and older people are particularly dependent on buses, being usually poorer and less frequently owning cars or having access to cars. Indeed, some 72 per cent of London pensioners do not own a car. Buses are the form of transport that goes closest to people's homes. It is disabled and older people who have more to gain and, more importantly, more to lose from developments in London's transport than other members of the population.

    Amendment No. 271, which really needs to run with Amendments Nos. 267, 268, 269 and 273, is designed to ensure that the mayor's guidance on granting permits to run bus services outside the London bus network protects the interests of disabled and older people by identifying the interests of those who must be consulted in the preparation or revision of the guidance. The amendments seek to add the same list of statutory consultees to the mayor's consultation as regards his guidance on the granting of London bus service permits. I beg to move.

    As I have added my name to these amendments, I should like briefly and warmly to support the whole group. It is totally sensible and logical for TfL to have individual members with experience of age and disability, backed up by a forum of organisations with experience; indeed, LATA already exists. Obviously, before any change in a bus service or before granting bus service permits, the relevant organisations should be consulted about the likely impact. The Minister may well say that this is quite unnecessary because they are all so obvious. However, while there is much more awareness about these issues nowadays, things can be overlooked, forgotten or swept aside and the resulting chaos can be difficult and often expensive to put right.

    My name has been attached to some of these amendments. I should like to ask the Minister a fairly straightforward question. Can the noble Lord say how the Government, and the Bill, foresee the consultation process with regard to these particular users of transport? The Minister mentioned guidance in relation to the membership of Transport for London. Will that guidance indicate that it would be desirable to have persons who represent disabled or older people on the TfL board?

    The first of these amendments deals with representation on the TfL board. In one sense, there is no specification as to what organisations people on the board should come from. But under paragraph 2(3) of Schedule 8 the mayor will be under the duty to have regard to the desirability of ensuring that the membership of TfL represents the interests of those who require accessible transport. We do not believe that we should lay down in the Bill precisely how the interests of those needing accessible transport, including the disabled, should be represented on the TfL board. Indeed, that would cut across the general approach to membership of the board. However, believe that the provision in Schedule 8 meets the requirement in the amendments that people with experience of age and disability should be on the board. If we start specifying such organisations, there may well be more difficult problems.

    As regards consultation, with which the remaining amendments deal, there is clearly some concern that what I keep calling the "implication of the Bill" is not for real unless you have an amendment of this nature. I shall try, once again, to indicate where the consultation under the Bill as drafted would meet the aims of the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, and other Members of the Committee who have spoken. The reference in Clause 27 of the Bill to "voluntary bodies" will, in practice, ensure that consultation occurs with representatives of disabled people.

    When drawing up the transport strategy, the mayor must consider consulting those voluntary bodies. Under Clause 124, the strategy must contain the mayor's proposals for transport which is accessible to those with mobility problems. The logic of that is that the mayor has to consult all those with an interest; in other words, he must consult voluntary bodies representing those with mobility problems and the disabled. Admittedly, it is more explicit in relation to the local boroughs in Clause 127 where the local implementation plans must contain a borough's proposal for implementing a strategy in its area. That explicitly provides that boroughs will be under a duty to consult organisations representing disabled people when drawing up their local implementation plans. It is also explicitly stated in the Bill that the London Transport Users' Committee must be consulted in this whole process. The LTUC, like the LRPC, has people to advise it on matters relating to accessibility and mobility. There is no reason why the LTUC should be difficult in this regard.

    We contend that the present requirements of the Bill indicate that disabled groups must be consulted through the logic of the interplay of the various clauses. However, I suspect that noble Lords will continue to raise this issue unless it is explicitly spelt out, or they feel after reading Hansard that my words are so explicit that there is no further need to raise the issue. If the Committee will allow me, I shall consult further on the matter of how we meet what is an obvious concern, but one which we feel has already been met in the Bill as drafted.

    I hope that I may put one more point to the Minister before we finish with this series of amendments. I refer to the membership of Transport for London as opposed to the consultations. The Minister is saying that the point that is raised in the amendment has already been taken care of in paragraph 2(3) to Schedule 8, but that states only that members of Transport for London will represent,

    "the interests in relation to transport … of persons who require transport which is accessible to persons with mobility problems".
    However, that provision could be satisfied by the appointment, for example, of an official of Age Concern or an official of the Disablement Income Group. It does not mean to say that there is an elderly or a disabled person on TfL. It is important that the membership of TfL should comprise such people. After all, subparagraph (4) states who is specifically excluded from being a member of TfL. There is a long list of people who cannot be appointed in this capacity. Therefore, why should we not have on the face of the Bill a provision which states that the membership shall include members of a particular class? Is that not the best way to ensure that the knowledge and experience of elderly or disabled persons are brought into the counsels of TfL and are not carried there indirectly by someone who merely represents the interests of those persons?

    I am not sure that the amendment would meet the point that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, now makes. I am not sure that I agree with his approach. If the interests and the experience he mentioned are represented, they can be represented directly or indirectly. It is a matter of judgment and acceptability as to how they are represented. If we start to prescribe on the face of the Bill precisely how any particular interests should be represented—in this case the interests of the disabled and others with mobility problems—I believe that we shall go down a far too prescriptive channel. One could possibly become more exclusive than inclusive by so doing.

    Schedule 8 requires the mayor to,
    "have regard to the desirability of ensuring that the … membership of Transport for London represents the interests"
    of those who require accessible transport. That leaves some element of flexibility as to how those interests are represented. However, it makes it absolutely clear that they should be represented. While I understand the concern that some provision should be included as regards the consultation side—although I do not think that is necessary—it could be counter-productive in terms of membership if we were to be too prescriptive here.

    I thank my noble friend for giving way. Am I right in thinking that before the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, he was telling us that he has it in mind to bring a government amendment before the House at the Report stage that will meet the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, and myself among others? I am quite sure he appreciates that all the signatories of these amendments genuinely feel that they have raised a point of real substance, but can we hope that he will bring forward a government amendment at the Report stage to try to meet our concerns?

    6.15 p.m.

    My noble friend has exaggerated slightly what I said. That is clearly one option, but I said that because I believe that as this matter has been raised two or three times there is obviously concern that what we think is a logical reading of the Bill as it stands is not sufficient to reassure people. I am prepared to consider whether there are other ways in which we can reassure people. That concern may be satisfied by people reading Hansard and feeling that I have made a more explicit commitment. It may be satisfied by means of an amendment to the Bill. All I said was that I would be prepared to consider the matter further. It will obviously be up to the House to decide whether I have taken sufficient action by the next stage of the Bill to meet the concerns that have been expressed.

    I thank those from all sides of the Chamber who have supported this group of amendments. I am delighted that the Minister said that he would consult on the matter. I did not hear him give a commitment to bring forward a government amendment. However, he may do so at Report stage; we do not know. If I recall correctly, some years ago at the time of the privatisation of the railways and the privatisation and deregulation of the national bus companies, I had the support of the party opposite for similar amendments that I moved at that time to both those pieces of legislation. Therefore I hope that the Minister will feel that he can move considerably to counter the concerns that I have raised on behalf of disabled and elderly people. It was not my intention to press any of these amendments this evening. I sought to find out the Government's view on this matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    moved Amendment No. 251A:

    Page 206, leave out line 34

    The noble Baroness said: This amendment seeks to allow assembly members to be members of Transport for London. It seems too prescriptive to say that no assembly members should be members of TfL. Although I can understand that the Government would not want members of what is supposed to be the scrutiny body to pack the TfL board, there are often advantages in having people who belong to one body at least being represented on another. Although I think it is in the Government's mind that the mayor will choose to be a member of TfL, that will not necessarily occur. There are several examples of cases where the Government have shown that they like such dual membership. I refer to the Secretary of State's recent appointments to RDA boards. It is noticeable that many council leaders, and certainly councillors, have been appointed to those boards.

    Further, leading members of authorities have been appointed to hospital boards. I realise the Minister will say that in the examples I have given one body is not scrutinising the other. However, experience shows that people involved in such bodies can bring their experience or expertise to other bodies. It is most unlikely that several assembly members would also be members of the TfL board. However, it seems a shame to exclude from membership of Tit an able assembly member who could contribute his experience when the mayor may choose not to be a member of that body. I beg to move.

    My Amendment No. 251AA has been included in the group that we are discussing although it addresses a rather different point. I merely want to know why Members of the House of Lords—I should emphasise straightaway that I am not looking for a job for myself—should not be allowed to be appointed members of the TfL board. There are many Members of your Lordships' House, including those on the Government Benches, who have wide experience of all the matters which are listed under Paragraph 2(3) to this schedule; namely, transport, finance and commerce, national and local government, trades unions and so on. We are described as an "amateur" House. Nearly all of us in this House—except, of course, Ministers—also have outside occupations.

    I can understand the reasons for not allowing the other people listed under sub-paragraph (4)—the Welsh will be in Wales, the Scots in Scotland and, hopefully, the Northern Irish in Northern Ireland; Members of the European Parliament will be in Strasbourg or Brussels; they will not be residents of London—but I cannot see why Members of the House of Lords should be barred from being members of the board of TfL.

    I will speak first to Amendment No. 251A, which would remove the bar on assembly members being appointed to the board of Transport for London. Here we return to the difference between the role of the mayor and the role of the assembly. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, gave the example of the boards of RDAs. Therein lies the difference. In that capacity the board is there to formulate policy; the role of members of the board of TfL is to implement the policy and strategy put forward by the mayor.

    The noble Baroness gave an example of an assembly member with ability. That person's contribution in the scrutiny role of the assembly would be vital and extremely valuable, but it is not the role envisaged in her amendment. The TfL board is not intended to include elected political representatives, whether local or national. It has a different role to that of the mayor and that of the assembly. The assembly will have a scrutiny role; it will have to focus the spotlight on the performance of both the mayor and TfL in implementing determined policy. The assembly will also have a role in the approval of the overall GLA budget. It is not for assembly members to get involved in the running of TfL.

    We cannot accept Amendment No. 251 AA, which was spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara. However, vie have worded the disqualification relating to the House of Lords so that hereditary Peers who cease to be Members of the House of Lords will be eligible for appointment to the TfL board. It is only Members of the House of Lords, rather than Peers in general, who cannot be appointed to the TfL board.

    I understand the reference of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, to the term "amateur" with regard to membership of the House of Lords. However, to imply that those who serve in other elected bodies—be they in Wales or elsewhere—will be too busy to serve on the TfL board but Members of the House of Lords will not be, is a very difficult proposition to convincingly put to the Whips' Office in the House of Lords.

    I hope that the noble Baroness and the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw their amendments.

    Before the noble Baroness sits down, may I say that I did not understand her last answer about membership of the House of Lords. I cannot see where the conflict of interest would be. I can think of lots of equivalent things that noble Lords do while being Members of the House of Lords; it has nothing to do with whether one is a hereditary Peer or not. I know the noble Baroness put that in as a light remark, but why should someone who knows everything about transport not be on the board just because he is a Member of the House of Lords? Can the noble Baroness explain where is the conflict of interest?

    My remark was not a differentiation between hereditary and non-hereditary Peers but a differentiation between those who are Members of the House of Lords and those who in the future may not be Members. It is our view that the process of appcintment should exclude people who are politicians, locally or nationally. Quite clearly that covers this point.

    My personal view is that it is possible to be political and to fulfil a highly political role without being party political.

    Before the noble Baroness decides what to do with her amendment, I really must come back to the Minister on mine. I know that the noble Baroness in her role as a Whip sometimes has difficulty in attracting some of her captains of industry to come to the House to support the Government in the Lobbies. Surely the point is that there are great and good Members of your Lordships' House who would be perfectly able to serve on the board of TfL. If they are able to be chairmen or main board directors of leading plcs in this country, which some of them are, they can just as well be members of TfL. I may very well return to this issue.

    The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, has missed the point. If the noble Lord does not remain in the House, he will be able to sit on the board.

    That is what I understand the Minister told us. On the other hand, I, who cannot escape from being a Member of your Lordships' House, will not be able to sit on the board. I think that was the point the noble Baroness was making.

    With respect, I was not trying to draw a discrimination between hereditary and life Peers. Obviously if a hereditary Peer is no longer a Member of the House he will be able to be on the board of TfL. My point is, why should not life Peers who have distinguished records outside this House be able to be on the TfL board?

    I wish to pass on to the Committee the comments, which you did not hear, of my noble friend Lord Avebury. He said that he regretted that Amendment No. 251AA will not be passed because that would secure certainly some elderly and disabled Members who would be able to serve on the board. I would not dare say that myself.

    I thank the Minister for her definition of the roles. We on these Benches still cannot accept the extremely sharp divisions the Government wish to make between scrutiny, policy making and so on. At this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [ Amendment No. 251AA not moved.]

    moved Amendment No. 251B:

    Page 206, line 46, after ("Mayor") insert ("and Assembly")

    The noble Baroness said: This is a very simple amendment. It seeks to remove the requirement that the mayor be the chair of Transport for London if he or she is a member of Transport for London. Not only do we think that the mayor will have quite enough to do without being chairman of Transport for London but the situation could draw one into unfortunate areas. When one reaches the section on appeals, one could get to the stage where the mayor is referring appeals to himself. We should perhaps look at some of the conflicts of interest which might arise if the mayor was automatically chairman of Transport for London. It does not suit very well the further construction of the parts of the Bill which deal with appeal processes. There may be other parts of the Bill which have the same problems attached to them. I beg to move.

    6.30 p.m.

    I think that we are slightly out of order. The Deputy Chairman of Committees called Amendment No. 251 B and not Amendment No. 252B, which has just been spoken to. It must be moved formally or withdrawn, as the case may be.

    It may assist the noble Baroness if we take as read her points regarding Amendment No. 252B.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [ Amendments Nos. 251C to 252A not moved.]

    moved Amendment No. 252B:

    Page 207, leave out lines 8 and 9.

    The noble Baroness said: I spoke to this amendment a few moments ago. I beg to move.

    I am not sure whether I understood the noble Baroness correctly, but the objections that she raised in relation to a possible conflict would apply—if they apply at all—to the mayor, whether he or she were Chair or an ordinary board member. As I understand it, this amendment would remove the requirement that the mayor—if he or she so chooses—would have to be Chair.

    The post of Chair of TfL is key and we think it is appropriate that the mayor, as the chief executive of London, should have the option of taking that position. If the mayor decides to be a member of the board, he or she should be Chair of the board. There would be an anomalous situation if the mayor were appointed as an ordinary member—or even as Deputy Chair. That would place the mayor in an odd situation whereby he or she would be subordinate to somebody who chaired a body that reported to the mayor. That would blur, rather than reinforce, the lines of responsibility.

    I could understand it if the noble Baroness were arguing that the mayor should not be a board member at all—I do not agree with that view, but it is logical. However, if the mayor is a member, we believe that he or she should have the option to be the Chair.

    I will look carefully at the Minister's remarks and I shall re-examine the Bill's various references to the mayor's interacting with TfL. I think there are moments when the mayor would interact with himself or herself if he or she were both mayor and the Chair of TfL. For the moment, I withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    The noble Lord said: With the leave of the Committee, I shall speak both to this amendment and to Amendment No. 254.

    These amendments deal with members' interests and the discussion of contracts. The Bill, as it is presently drafted, allows a member of Transport for London who has an interest to take part in discussions or even vote on any questions unless the mayor so directs. We, on these Benches, do not believe that a member who has an interest should be able to participate in discussions about these contracts or to vote on them.

    We believe also that giving the mayor the discretion to allow that to happen could give rise to a clear conflict of interest as far as the mayor is concerned. We believe that the Bill would make for better legislation if we said simply that members of TfL with a special interest should not be able to take part in discussions on contracts. I beg to move.

    It may assist the Committee if I say that we agree that the current provisions on interests are drawn too widely and must be tightened. We are currently considering our own amendments to the provisions, and will therefore take these amendments away to consider.

    It is important to say that these amendments may go a little further than we would wish to go. Therefore, it is not possible to accept them as they stand. There will always be a balance to be struck between ensuring that the board has sufficient experience to be able to make wise decisions and ensuring that it is—and is seen to be—sufficiently impartial to make fair decisions.

    There is a variety of different models from which to choose in seeking to achieve that balance. For example, we could follow the Environment Agency model. Members of the EA are prohibited from taking part in deliberation or discussion of any matters in which they have an interest, but the Secretary of State can disapply such a prohibition where the number of members of the agency disabled would be so great a proportion of the whole as to impede the transaction of business. This could be adapted so that the mayor, rather than the Secretary of State, had the power to disapply the prohibition. We believe that the power to disapply may be important and should be kept in reserve in order to ensure that a wide range of experience is represented on the board, making it most effective.

    On the basis of my remarks, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

    In view of her local government experience, I am sure that the noble Baroness does not need advice from me. When a person giving permission to someone who has an interest to speak and vote is in close everyday communication with that person and with the body, it would be very different from the Secretary of State disapplying the prohibition in the case of the Environment Agency. The mayor will be in constant communication with the transport people and a quite awkward situation could arise. I am sure that the noble Baroness will look carefully at this matter—and my noble friend will be glad of that. I think there will be a small problem if we do not make a total prohibition.

    My recollection of local government—I will, of course, write to the noble Baroness if I am wrong—is that the chief executive advises a member but the decision is taken by the member. Categories of people—for example, local authority tenants—may be excluded from being disbarred by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions. However. I shall read the noble Baroness's comments carefully.

    Before the noble Lord responds, I must say how much I welcome the response from the noble Baroness the Minister. There is a small gap in the Bill in the form of what one might call the codes of conduct or codes of probity that normally surround these sorts of bodies. I wonder whether the Government might be encouraged to consider the possibility of issuing guidance or of making secondary legislation—or using any other suitable means of achieving the desired outcome—to establish some guide posts for how the conduct of members of Transport for London should fit into the evolving code of good practice and good conduct for people in public life in general.

    I am grateful to all of those who have taken part in this short discussion—my noble friend Lady Carnegy and the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas. I also thank the noble Baroness the Minister for her reply. I am delighted that she has promised to consider my points and produce some amendments, presumably on Report.

    We got off to a good start today when I heard from the noble Lord, Lord Whiny, that he had added his name to my Amendment No. 294, and now I have gained a concession from the Minister regarding these two amendments. I am delighted about that, and I look forward to the outcome. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [ Amendment No. 254 not moved.]

    Schedule 8 agreed to.

    Clause 134 [ Directions etc by the Mayor]:

    moved amendment No. 254A:

    Page 72, line 14, after ("Mayor") insert ("and Assembly")

    The noble Baroness said: This amendment would allow the assembly a say in the issuing of guidance and directions to TfL, currently carried out by the mayor. I know that Ministers feel that there should be a complete separation between the exercise of the powers of the assembly and the exercise of the powers of the mayor. But in other legislation which is either before this House or on its way, the scrutiny power of the assembly is, in other sorts of local authorities, to be allowed to be a prior scrutiny of what is going on. For that reason, we believe that the addition of the assembly to the mayor's role in issuing guidance and direction to Transport for London might fit into the way in which the Government are currently looking at the question of the division between the executive and what is sometimes called the scrutiny part of local government. I reject utterly the term "legislative" when applied to a body such as a local authority or an assembly. I beg to move.

    The amendment would allow the assembly to take a major role in the day-to-day operations of TfL. We do not think that that is an appropriate role for the assembly. The assembly's role, as voted on by the people of London, is to provide a check on the major through its extensive powers of scrutiny.

    The roles to be played by the mayor and the assembly are complementary, but not the same; they should not be confused. The assembly will rightly be consulted on the overall transport strategy; however, the detailed information of the overall strategy is best left to the mayor and TfL. TfL is the mayor's executive transport body. It will be for the mayor to provide political direction to TfL, not the assembly. The assembly's task is to scrutinise the performance of both the mayor and TfL. It would not be able to do that with the necessary degree of independence if it were as closely involved in the running of Tfl, as the amendment envisages. I therefore hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

    Surely the amendment does not involve the assembly in the day-to-day management of these affairs. I do not know how often the Government envisage guidance being issued by the mayor as to the manner in which TfL exercises its functions. I should have thought that it would be issued at the beginning of the whole operation, and then, once guidance had been issued, TfL would be left to get on with the job, subject to observance of the guidelines that have been laid down. The mayor will not issue a fresh set of guidelines in the following week telling TfL how to conduct its operations in that second week. So to say, as the Minister did, that this involves the assembly in the day-to-day operations of TfL is, frankly, a distortion of what my noble friend is trying to do.

    My noble friend pre-empted me. I had also intended to point to Clause 134(1)(a):

    "guidance as to the manner in which it is to exercise its functions",
    and to sub-paragraph (b):
    "general directions as to the manner in which it is to exercise its functions".
    My noble friend has made a valuable point about the need not to see scrutiny as simply happening after the event. The Government have made great play of that in their promotion of new models for local government.

    The Minister said also that there would be a confusion of roles. But the mayor's role may also be confused: the mayor will be a part of Transport for London and will be issuing guidance to himself.

    I shall consider carefully the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. It is apparent to me that there are two issues: one is the overall strategy plan and policy; the other is the relationship between the mayor and the executive body carrying those out. The amendment as it stands would put the assembly between the mayor and that second part. However, I will consider the points raised.

    I thank the noble Baroness for her various replies. I do not accept that the assembly will be between the mayor and Transport for London. On the contrary, the role of the assembly as we envisage it in this amendment would be to assist the mayor in the drafting and creation of the pattern of guidance. However, I shall read the Minister's remarks. At present, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    6.45 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 254AA:

    Page 72, line 24, leave out ("perform") and insert ("exercise")

    The noble Baroness said: This is a short probing amendment. The amendment proposes that in Clause 134(3)(a) the term "perform" should be replaced with the term "exercise". In Clause 134(1)(a), (b) and (c), the term used is "exercise". I am unclear as to whether there is a distinction between subsection (1) and subsection (3) of the clause. I beg to move.

    I was somewhat puzzled by the intent of this amendment. If it is merely to obtain some lexicographical clarification, I think that I can give it. Normally, one "performs" duties and "exercises" powers. That is the distinction in these clauses. It is the normal terminology.

    I thought we might deal with this matter before the clock indicated one minute! I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    moved Amendment No. 254AB:

    Page 72, line 28, at end insert ("and if none is nominated then to the chairman, or if the Mayor is chairman then to the deputy chairman.")

    The noble Baroness said: Clause 134(4) provides for notification of guidance and issues to an officer who is nominated by Transport for London. I do not believe that it could, or should, be possible for Transport for London to avoid taking notice of guidance and directions by failing to nominate a person to receive them. My amendment, proposing a nominee if none is nominated by the chairman, is designed to add to this "hugely prescriptive" Bill—I have not used that description yet today—a further piece of prescription. I beg to move.

    This additional piece of prescription is unnecessary. As a statutory body corporate, TfL will be under a duty to act reasonably under the law. It could hardly be construed as reasonable for TfL to avoid nominating a person so as to evade formal receipt of a notification. The point is covered.

    I could argue the finer points for some time, but I shall not. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    moved Amendment No. 254AC:

    Page 72, line 28, at end insert—
    ("(5) In exercising his powers of direction over Transport for London, the Mayor shall be under a duty to ensure that Transport for London operates in a manner which represents value for money and therefore that Transport for London is not subjected to changes of policy from year to year of such a degree as to disrupt its long-term investment and expenditure planning, save in any case where continuity in policy would be manifestly unreasonable on grounds of economy.")

    The noble Lord said: Clause 134 deals with control by the mayor of Transport for London. This amendment seeks to place on the face of the Bill the need to recognise that the management, direction and control of Transport for London is too significant and important a matter to become a political football. That may seem a strange concept to put on the face of a Bill. However, I move this amendment with some deliberation.

    There was a time, back in history and before a large part of what was formerly Essex was taken into London, when political control changed at every election, which was interesting. That began after the Second World War. Following one election a good council took many actions which were promptly reversed as a result of the next election. Of course, in those days, county councils had greater executive control over their affairs than is the custom today. At the next election there was another reversal of power. That situation having persisted for a while, there was a realisation of the futility of what was happening.

    There is a danger, in the structure we are creating, that the business of managing London's transport could become a political football. The mayor has almost absolute control and the Minister has said that that is deliberate. The mayor will have the absolute power to determine the membership of Transport for London; he will be able to determine the terms under which Transport for London's members serve. Presumably he will also be able to determine when to terminate their membership. In theory a new mayor could terminate all those serving on Transport for London and install a new board to do his behest.

    London's transport is too important for that. I may not have succeeded in what I attempted in this amendment, but that is the reason that I tabled the amendment. We need to recognise the significance of that as an issue. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say in response. I beg to move.

    This amendment is two-pronged. The amendment would require the mayor to exercise his powers to ensure that TfL operates in such a way as to ensure value for money on the one hand, and not subject to policy changes on the other.

    On the first point, it is clear that TfL will be covered by the best value provisions of the Local Government Bill which we shall be discussing in the House shortly. That Bill will require TfL to make arrangements to ensure value for money in the broadest sense.

    It would be difficult for us to accept the other point raised by the noble Lord. We are all against political footballs unless we happen to be kicking them ourselves. The whole point of a mayor is that he or she will give some direction and strategy, but at times of elections that strategy may change. A number of putative mayors have been mentioned in Committee and it is conceivable that some of the most frequently mentioned could alternate in the same way as the noble Lord suggests that Essex alternated, no doubt for entirely different reasons. We hope that that does not happen. Nevertheless, if a mayor is elected with a different strategy, ihat will alter the investment priorities which he or she would expect of TfL.

    The constraint is that the mayor is required to act reasonably. Therefore, even in regard to a newly endorsed and different manifesto, he or she must act reasonably in dealings with TfL. Transport is, of course, such a central issue—and will be a central issue for many years to come, I suspect, in any election for mayor—that it will not be possible for us to write into the Bill a requirement that the mayor cannot change the direction given to TfL with regard to investment priorities. Perhaps the noble Lord, on reflection, will accept that that, in the relatively crude way expressed in the amendment, is not possible.

    I had the experience of presiding over a committee of both Houses at Westminster on a Bill connected with roads. The matter was a political football. There had been some 30 days of consideration in Scotland and 17 days of consideration at Westminster, with counsel on both sides. It was a very expensive operation. However, there was an election, the policy changed, and £10 million of ratepayers' money went down the drain because it was a political football.

    We all know that democracy can have that effect. Those who have been involved in such matters know the problems. However, I wonder whether the Government could do something to try to avoid what is at the core of my noble friend's argument. As he rightly said, London's transport is too important for there to be constant changes in policy because it suits politicians to swing matters around. Such matters can be expensive.

    Perhaps the Minister will consider whether the Government could table an amendment suggesting that policy change should happen only where there is economic justification. At least that would put a brake on the kind of thinking that we all know takes place at election times. Change for the sake of change is dreadful. It actually happened in the case that I have mentioned and it was very damaging. The traffic jams are still there and the money went down the drain, all because of not particularly high-minded local government politics at the time. It happened a long time ago, but it made me realise that waste on a large scale can happen. I wonder whether there is some way in which this matter can be dealt with.

    There should be some constraints to prevent the sudden disruption of long-term investment and expenditure planning over and above what is represented by the first part of the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said that the mayor will be under the obligation contained in the Local Government Bill to ensure that what he carries out represents value for money. Therefore, if a large investment project were cancelled half way through, as the noble Baroness has suggested may happen in local government, that would be very expensive for the people of London and a contravention of the Local Government Bill, as mentioned by the Minister.

    If there is no provision in the Bill, such changes are likely to take place in London. There could be a clean sweep of all the members of TfL. There would be nothing to stop the mayor getting rid of all of them, appointing new members, issuing a new set of general directions and embarking on a totally new investment strategy as long as he can satisfy himself that he is acting within the constraints that the Minister has mentioned.

    This point raises great anxieties, particularly when considering the vast needs for investment in the transport system in Greater London, such as the expenditure of huge amounts of money on the Underground system and many other aspects of transport. We need to take such matters into consideration, but I am not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, in framing the amendment, is correct. We need to consider how this problem can be tackled elsewhere in the Bill. I am not sure that this amendment provides the answer.

    I may be a little old-fashioned in this regard, but it seems to me that the conventional constraints of politics, married with the penalties that would be incurred—the compensation that may have to be paid if a major contract were cancelled—are two points that we should leave to be worked through as they are in other areas of government.

    I take the Minister's point about political footballs being footballs only when someone else is kicking them. We are all apt to think, "I am right; you are misguided; he or she is completely bonkers." None of that is addressed to any Member of the Committee. But that is politics. If the mayor takes the view that some project to which Transport for London was committed under a previous political regime was the wrong one, I think that, having considered aspects such as compensation which would be payable, the mayor should be able to take a view as to what would be right in all the circumstances. I am sorry to differ from my noble friend on this matter. It may be the result of different experiences. I share the concerns as to what might happen, arising no doubt in part from history. Nevertheless, I believe that democracy needs to have its day.

    7 p.m.

    I am grateful to those who have taken part in the debate. I am grateful particularly for expressions of support for the idea that we should be concerned about this area. I am absolutely satisfied that, if I were to be one putative mayor and the noble Lord the Minister were to be another, there would be no difficulty. Between reasonable people there is never a problem. That is the way of the world. But we should not attempt to anticipate or second-guess politics. Politics can be extremely strange and we need to think about what can happen if the nature of politics changes. I do not apologise for tabling the amendment. The matter was resolved in Essex by an unwritten convention that everyone who achieved executive office would recognise the actions of their predecessors and go on from there. That is essentially the tradition of government. But it is not on the face of the Bill. I shall study with care what the Minister and other Members of the Committee said. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 134 agreed to.

    Clause 135 [ Structure of fares and services]:

    moved Amendment No. 254B:

    Page 72, line 33, after ("level") insert (", affordability")

    The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 254B and Amendment No. 254BA, with which it is grouped, are straightforward amendments to Clause 135, which provides that the mayor shall exercise his powers in order to ensure that certain specified matters are determined. The first matter he is to direct his attention to is,

    "the general level and structure of the fares".

    We believe that that should be,

    "the general level, affordability and structure of the fares".

    The second matter is,

    "the general structure of routes of such services and the general level of provision to be made with respect to their frequency of operation".

    Amendment No. 254BA adds the words "and capacity" after "operation".

    While listening with interest to Members of the Committee talking about politics, it occurred to me that the drafting of paragraph (b) is extraordinarily clumsy. I think we could probably get rid of about half the words contained in it. Meanwhile, I beg to move Amendment No. 254B.

    I support the amendment. We need to look not only at absolute levels but also at relative levels. The question of affordability is important in fare structures. We think in particular of the socially excluded and the worst-off in that context. I believe that the addition of the word "affordability" would be valuable here.

    As to the addition of the words "and capacity" in subsection 2(b), to consider the question of frequency without considering capacity is rather like saying how many buses go by without saying what type of bus they are. One is talking about total volume and one can only reach that by considering frequency and capacity, not just frequency.

    Amendment No. 254B as drafted is ambiguous in relation to what is intended by the word "affordability", which could apply equally to affordability within TfL as to affordability by passengers. Clearly, as part of the overall strategy, affordability, that is the ability of the public to pay—and in particular sections of the public to which the mayor is bound to have regard—will inevitability figure in the mayor's considerations, as will a number of other matters. We have not specified them all on the face of the Bill because the mayor needs to exercise considerable judgment in this area. Clearly, the view that the mayor takes about fare levels will be influenced by affordability, the structure of the market, the relativities between different modes of transport and the need to promote public transport generally, all of which add up to a fares strategy which will have to be made politically and economically acceptable to the travelling public. Affordability is an inevitable aspect of that, but if we simply specified that it would not give a total picture.

    With regard to Amendment No. 254BA, capacity and frequency must inevitably go together. Judgments have to be made about whether one has low capacity, highly frequent buses and trains or high capacity, less frequent buses and trains. That depends on the market, the time of day and many other issues. Frequency subsumes the assessment of capacity. It is worth noting that the current duties on London Transport for setting the general level of provision of its services contain no reference to capacity, but capacity, as well as frequency, is obviously taken into account in London Transport's considerations of the size of buses and trains. Technically, we do not need a reference to "capacity". I ask the noble Baroness to consider withdrawing the amendment.

    I listened carefully to what the Minister said. I understand his comment that in a sense frequency implies that capacity has been considered. However, I wonder where that is stated in the clause. It seems to me that in talking about volume, numbers of carriages or size of bus, as well as about frequency, one is getting a total volume figure. But it does not seem to me that it is anywhere stated that one is obliged to look at that total picture. There is simply a reference to "frequency". Subsection 2(b) refers to,

    "the general level of provision to be made with respect to their frequency".
    There is no comma; it is not, "general level of provision of service, with respect to frequency.- It is much more limited than that. It seems to me that that subsection could be much improved, not just in terms of the syntax but by the addition of the words suggested.

    I wonder if I can help. I am slightly worried about this clause. I think the problem may be that the clause is general and applies "frequency" to buses, trains and probably other things as well. We have all talked about frequency of trains. It would be lovely to have frequent trains, especially when passengers have to stand like sardines in a cattle truck. To make the trains longer adds capacity, but there may be a problem with the network capability if there are not enough signals, lines or points. I wonder whether we could convince my noble friend the Minister to have another look at the clause to see whether we can find wording that is more applicable to buses, trains and undergrounds. That is only a slight worry and I hope that I have been constructive.

    I remain somewhat unconvinced that a reference to frequency does not imply making a judgment on capacity. As my noble friend Lord Berkeley says, capacity can apply to the track as well as the vehicle. The situation is complicated and I recognise the concerns. Without making any commitment, I shall see whether we can do anything about it.

    I can slightly alter what I was going to say. I thank those who have taken part in the debate, particularly the Minister for his last few remarks. When I introduced the amendment I said that subsection (b) was curiously clumsily drafted. It occurred to me—this might be helpful to the Minister if he is considering the matter—that the words could be changed to:

    "the general structure of routes of such services and the service levels provided".
    "Service level" is often used to encompass the various considerations of frequency, capacity and ability to serve public need. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [ Amendment No. 254BA not moved.]

    moved Amendment No. 254C:

    Page 72, line 39, after roperation;") insert—
    ("() the provision of interchange facilities between different passenger modes and cycling;")

    The noble Baroness said: The amendment would allow the mayor's guidance and direction to Transport for London to determine that provision is made for interchanges between different modes of transport. It is the first in a series of amendments that try in various ways to tackle the question of interchanges.

    If we want an integrated transport system, attention needs to be concentrated on where the different modes of transport meet and whether they work effectively. In the amendments we are particularly concerned that the bicyclist should be able to move his or her bicycle on other forms of public transport, particularly trains, over an entire journey.

    Amendment No. 258AZA amends Schedule 9 to include bicycles in the list of things that trains can carry. I am not moving Amendment No. 258AA and I shall leave it to the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, to introduce Amendment No. 259EB, which is also in this group and deals with interchanges and the opportunity to take bicycles on an entire journey. I hope that Ministers will take our approach seriously, because these amendments, small though they are, raise an important issue: the ability to make a continuous journey by bicycle and public transport. I beg to move.

    7.15 p.m.

    I have my name to the first amendment in the group and I support the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, but with a slightly different emphasis. Amendment No. 254C deals mainly with parking at interchanges. We have a long way to go to sort out that problem and we need to use various means of persuasion on the companies to encourage them to improve the parking that they provide. The current parking provision, particularly at London stations, is pretty shameful, although it has improved in recent years.

    I am not sure whether this is the right place in the Bill to insert the amendment. My Amendment No. 259EB, to which I shall come in a minute, invokes the help of the franchise director. His help may be needed on parking. I should like to give an example, because this is a serious issue. We need to encourage companies to take bicycle parking seriously at stations.

    In interviews conducted by the bikerail project—a DETR and Countryside Agency research study—25 per cent of those polled who commuted into London said that they would consider switching from their cars to bicycles for their journey to the station if sufficient, convenient and secure cycle parking was provided. That may appear to relate to stations outside London, but people need to be encouraged by the reassurance that there will be secure and safe custody for their bicycles. It is a matter of the culture of cycling.

    Amendment No. 259EB is slightly further on in the Bill, in Clause 137. It might appear slightly ambitious, but I am not trying to change existing contracts. Any change would happen only when new franchise agreements were being negotiated or existing franchises were being renegotiated. I have used the word "commuting" because the aim of the amendment is to make life easier for people who want to commute with their cycles. That is not a tradition in this country. Indeed, the current rules for the companies require them to carry bicycles,
    "so far as is reasonably practicable".
    In practice that excludes people who want to carry their cycle at commuting times.

    I am anticipating what may happen. I hope that the Government will give us some guidance on its thoughts for the future. Large government subsidies will be given on the new franchises. It is not unreasonable to ask for some account to be taken of the interests of cyclists. I hope that the Government will respond on that.

    I have one slight concern about the amendment on the interchange facilities, which relates to the carriage of bicycles on the Underground. I have seen a little map at our local station that shows on which services and at which times of day it is allowed to carry a bicycle on the Underground. It is possible only on the sub-surface lines, not the tube lines. Occasionally one sees someone bringing a bicycle on to a tube line. It is extremely inconvenient for the other passengers when the train is crowded. It is also potentially dangerous, particularly on escalators. I hope that the amendment does not push too far.

    In general, I agree that cycling should be encouraged. This morning I took my bicycle on the train from Oxford and pedalled here. By chance, I met the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, who is not in his place this evening—he wrote to me to say that he could not be here tonight—adjacent to the new pedestrian crossing and gates leading into Hyde Park which were opened yesterday by the Minister for Transport in London, Glenda Jackson, in a flurry of publicity. The gates were locked at 10 o'clock this morning. Perhaps my noble friend can assist as to whether, and to what extent, the regulations apply to the royal parks, which appear to have a mind of their own. The cycle lane that I followed until Hyde Park Corner stopped there. That is a very difficult area to cross on a bicycle. To leave gates like that locked does not seem to be a very good way of encouraging cycling in London.

    The provision of interchange facilities is terribly important. I suspect that it is much easier to encourage people to do that than to take bicycles on trains, especially in the rush hour. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, is absolutely right: to take bicycles on the Underground is very difficult. Train operators will say that it is also difficult to do that on surface lines because one bicycle may take up five or six seats and someone must pay for that lost revenue. I suggest that an alternative is to encourage the parking of bicycles at stations in London in a secure environment and also at other stations where people get on and off the train.

    Some of the stations in London have the facility to hire out bicycles for the day. I am informed that when the company concerned (whose name I do not know) tried to launch the idea at Victoria station neither the train operators nor Railtrack would give it any publicity in the timetables or anywhere else. Some encouragement for parking at stations and other interchanges, and perhaps coach stations as well, is very important. I support provision on the lines of the various amendments that have been tabled by noble Lords.

    I am grateful to the noble Baroness and the two noble Lords who have spoken for the opportunity to reiterate our position on cycling. We are in no doubt that cycling is within the term "transport" and that the provision of transport facilities includes the provision of facilitates for cycles. I repeat what my noble friend said at the previous sitting of the Committee on Monday night:

    "If we were to include a reference to cycling as an additional matter, as distinct from all other modes of transport, it would cast doubt on whether the term 'transport facilities' elsewhere in the Bill included cycling".—[Official Report, 28/6/99; col. 146.]
    I go further. If we add "cycling" specifically to any part of the Bill we risk calling into question the general understanding in transport legislation that "transport" includes cycling.

    I am fully supportive of the promotion of cycling by the noble Baroness and others as a healthy and environmentally friendly mode of transport. I understand why they raise this issue. I should like to refer to one other matter which it is important to place on record. On Monday of this week the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, said (at col. 145 of Hansard) that the Minister for Transport in London, Glenda Jackson, had undertaken to report back to the Committee in another place to confirm whether "transport facilities" included cycling. I take this opportunity to say that colleagues in another place confirmed that understanding. The Minister for London, Nick Raynsford, did this during the seventh sitting of the Committee in another place on 9th March.

    I turn to the amendments before the Committee. We fully support the idea behind the amendments, but I should like to speak to each in some detail. Our view is that they are unnecessary in view of the duties and powers that the Bill already gives to the mayor and TfL. Amendment No. 254C expands Clause 135(2), which relates to the mayor's duties in relation to the general level and structure of public transport fares and the routes and frequency of those services. An amendment that requires the provision of interchange facilities for cycling would not be appropriate here. The Bill gives TfL wide powers to provide incidental amenities and facilities, such as cycle parking. They can apply at any kind of transport interchange and are not limited to such provision at railway and Underground stations.

    Amendment No. 258AZA would add the words "including bicycles" to the power of Transport for London to carry luggage and other goods. The formulation "luggage and other goods" is the same as that used in the provisions set out in the operating powers of London Transport. The exact reference is paragraph 1(3) of Schedule 2 to the London Regional Transport Act 1984. There is absolutely no doubt that London Transport can carry bicycles on its services. I hope the noble Baroness agrees that there is no doubt that Transport for London will be able to carry bicycles.

    I understand that Amendment No. 258AA is not to be moved. Amendment No. 259EB in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, would impose a requirement for agreements between the Franchising Director and Transport for London to include at the time of negotiating new or extended franchises provisions to allow the carriage of cycles with London commuters. Her Majesty's Government have made clear to the Franchising Director that they are keen to promote the use of bicycles including, so far as possible, the provision of facilities at stations and suitable space on new rolling stock. There is a standard clause in franchise agreements which requires operators to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable and subject to the availability of appropriate space on its rolling stock, that facilities for the transport of bicycles on trains are made available to any passengers who use passenger services.

    My noble friend Lord Berkeley referred to the royal parks. We are discussing how to ensure that royal parks have regard to the mayor's strategy, and we hope to be able to report to my noble friend later. That will include the encouragement of cycling.

    In view of all that I have said, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment. I apologise to Members of the Committee for dealing with this matter at length, but it is important to place on record the details that noble Lords have sought.

    The Minister has said that the Bill gives TfL powers to provide interchange facilities, albeit in another clause and not the one now being discussed. We are talking here about something different: the power of the mayor to issue guidance to TfL on what it should do. It seems to me that to place on the face of the Bill the right of the mayor to give guidance on the provision of interchange facilities, to which my noble friend has referred, is very desirable. In that way one would tell the mayor that he had a specific right to give guidance on the provision of interchange facilities. If there is already power given to TfL elsewhere to provide such facilities, why should not the mayor have the right to give guidance on how Transport for London should do it?

    My understanding is that the mayor has the duty to provide a strategy for public transport and the responsibility to ensure that that is carried out. The terminology of the Bill includes provision for cycling.

    I thank those Members of the Committee who have spoken in this debate and added some interesting thoughts and contributions which have greatly increased the validity of at least part of the first amendment. The Minister has suggested that because bicycles are subsumed in "transport" there is no need to keep mentioning them. However, the main point of the first amendment is the provision of interchange facilities. Nowhere in the provisions of Clause 135 is there any mention of interchange facilities. Suppose one were to leave out the words "and cycling" and simply insist that the mayor, when he gives his guidance, should emphasise the importance of interchange between different passenger modes. It seems to me that in those circumstances we would still be adding precisely what we want to add and that it might be more acceptable to the noble Baroness the Minister.

    I return to the first point that I made. If we are talking about integrated transport systems, the places where those systems interconnect are among the most important areas to which attention should be paid. I shall withdraw my amendment at the present time. The Minister is going to respond. I shall allow her to respond.

    7.30 p.m.

    Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton