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Redundancy Payments Order

Volume 716: debated on Tuesday 26 January 2010

Question

Tabled By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the cause of the delay in adding the Traffic Director for London, abolished by the Greater London Authority Act 1999, to the list of bodies covered by the Redundancy Payments (Continuity of Employment in Local Government, etc.) (Modification) Order 1999 (SI 1999/2277).

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper on this Australia Day.

My Lords, responsibility for the redundancy payments modification order was formally transferred from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to Communities and Local Government in November 2009. Officials are considering the content of an amending order and I can confirm that the former Traffic Director for London will be one of a number of bodies or organisations to be included in a statutory instrument that CLG aims to make in the spring.

I thank the Minister for that half-encouraging answer. Will he say why it has taken so long, passing from department to department over all these years, and can he promise that the order will be laid before the general election?

My Lords, I cannot promise the latter because I do not know when the election is to be. The reason why the Traffic Director for London was not included in the original 1999 order is, I am afraid, shrouded in a bit of mystery and it seems to have been overlooked when subsequent orders were made, both in 2001 and in 2004. There is now a clear commitment to make sure that it is included and the proposal is for the order to be laid in spring. Timing is not very precise, but it is anticipated that it would be in late March or early April.

My Lords, one of the principal concerns of the Traffic Director for London when he was in post was congestion in London caused by roadworks, which Transport for London now estimates cause 37 per cent of disruption to traffic in London. The Minister will be aware that the Mayor of London has recently adopted Liberal Democrat proposals to charge utility companies. Can he say what more central government can do to get London moving?

My Lords, I will have another try. When the Traffic Director for London arrives, could he be invited to undertake a review of the PPG13 planning guidance from the Minister’s department, which requires councils to increase parking charges and reduce the number of parking spaces? Will the Minister confirm that his noble friend the Secretary of State for Transport, in a Written Answer on 7 December 2009, said that government chauffeurs had incurred £17,000 in parking fines last year? He added that parking restrictions in London make it impossible to avoid fines. Is this not precisely what councils and businesses have been telling the Minister and will he now act to review this damaging measure?

My Lords, I say to the noble Lord that his understanding of the Traffic Director for London seems to be profound. The Traffic Director for London was set up as a corporate sole in 1991. It ceased to exist about eight years ago. Some of the individuals who were employed by the Traffic Director for London—it was not a post but an organisation—have gone back to local councils. That is what this order and issue are all about. Therefore, it no longer exists as a body and has no responsibility for the areas that the noble Lord is probing.

The Minister’s answer to the last supplementary question was helpful. Is it clear to him and to the House that the Traffic Director for London was not just one person but something called a “corporate sole”? I understand that the Clerk of the Parliaments is a corporate sole, which is both an individual and a body of people. The number of staff members working for the Traffic Director for London whose rights might have been affected by this if they had been made redundant was 26.

The noble Baroness is absolutely correct. The inclusion of the Traffic Director for London in the next amending order means that all the staff members will be protected should they be made redundant at any stage in the future.

My Lords, in the light of an earlier answer, do the Government maintain a best estimate of how many other things lost in antiquity and the mists of time may suddenly rise up to surprise them?