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House of Lords Hansard
24 October 2016
Volume 776

    Report (2nd Day) (Continued)

    Amendments 50 and 51

    Moved by

  • 50: Clause 5, page 33, line 2, leave out “provide information required” and insert “comply with a requirement imposed”

    51: Clause 5, page 33, line 3, at end insert—

    “(7A) A franchising authority that have obtained information under this section may—(a) use the information for the purposes of their functions under this Part in relation to franchising schemes, and(b) supply the information to a person specified in subsection (7B) for use in connection with the same franchising scheme or the same proposed franchising scheme.(7B) The persons referred to in subsection (7A) are—(a) a franchising authority;(b) a person providing services to a franchising authority;(c) a person carrying out functions under section 123D.”

    Amendments 50 and 51 agreed.

    Schedule 2: Further amendments: franchising schemes

    Amendments 52 to 56

    Moved by

  • 52: Schedule 2, page 77, line 16, leave out “123J(6)” and insert “123J(3)”

    53: Schedule 2, page 77, line 20, after “with” insert “a requirement imposed under”

    54: Schedule 2, page 79, line 20, leave out “for any traffic area”

    55: Schedule 2, page 79, line 29, leave out “for any traffic area”

    56: Schedule 2, page 79, line 31, after “with” insert “a requirement imposed under”

    Amendments 52 to 56 agreed.

    Clause 7: Advanced ticketing schemes

    Amendments 57 to 59

    Moved by

  • 57: Clause 7, page 35, line 18, at end insert—

    “(ba) any other relevant local authority any part of whose area would, in the opinion of the authority or authorities, be affected by the proposed scheme,”

    58: Clause 7, page 35, line 18, at end insert—

    “(bb) the Passengers’ Council,”

    59: Clause 7, page 35, line 20, at end insert—

    “( ) For the purpose of subsection (3)(ba) the following are relevant local authorities—(a) local transport authorities,(b) district councils in England,(c) National Park authorities,(d) the Broads Authority,(e) London transport authorities, and(f) councils in Scotland.”

    Amendments 57 to 59 agreed.

    Clause 9: Enhanced partnership plans and schemes

    Amendments 60 to 62

    Moved by

  • 60: Clause 9, page 37, line 38, at end insert—

    “( ) An enhanced partnership plan must include a description of the authority’s or authorities’ plans for consulting such organisations appearing to the authority or authorities to be representative of users of local services as they think fit in order to seek their views on how well the plan and any related scheme are working.”

    61: Clause 9, page 38, line 46, leave out “138F to 138M and 138O, and” and insert—

    “(aa) sections 138F to 138J,(ab) section 138K(1) and (3) to (5),(ac) sections 138L and 138M,(ad) section 138O, and”

    62: Clause 9, page 39, line 4, at end insert—

    “( ) Subsection (5) is not to be taken as affecting the area indicated by references in the provisions mentioned in that subsection to the authority’s or authorities’ area or combined area.”

    Amendments 60 to 62 agreed.

    Amendment 63 not moved.

    Amendments 64 and 65

    Moved by

  • 64: Clause 9, page 39, line 42, at end insert “, and

    (b) requirements about emissions or types of fuel or power.”

    65: Clause 9, page 40, leave out lines 22 to 33

    Amendments 64 and 65 agreed.

    Amendment 66

    Moved by

  • 66: Clause 9, page 40, line 33, at end insert—

    “(9A) An enhanced partnership scheme must specify under section 138A(5)(b) that new vehicles delivering local services will meet the specifications of the low emission bus scheme as set out by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles in the 2015 document “Low Emission Bus Scheme: Guidance for participants” if the vehicle comes into service after 1st April 2019.”

    Amendment 66 agreed.

    Amendment 67

    Moved by

  • 67: Clause 9, page 40, line 37, at end insert—

    “( ) The requirements that may be specified in an enhanced partnership scheme must include requirements for operators to establish and publish policies to protect the interests of disabled people using its services and to facilitate such use.”

  • My Lords, in moving Amendment 67 in my name, I add my support for all the other amendments in this group, which will enhance bus accessibility for disabled people.

    Amendment 67 would require bus operators,

    “to establish and publish policies to protect the interests of disabled people”,

    and actively help them to use bus services. Companies that failed to comply would be subject to sanctions. This is intended to mirror the system of disabled people’s protection policies—DPPPs—in the rail sector, where train operators must set up and comply with such a policy as a condition of their licence. The Minister will remember that I proposed a DPPP-like system for the bus sector at Second Reading. I argued that it would aid consistency of service across local authority boundaries, thus encouraging a more coherent transport service for older and disabled people.

    The Minister kindly met me recently to discuss my proposal and has since followed up with a very helpful letter, which he hoped would address my concerns. I thank him for his efforts—they were good efforts—to ensure that disability access will be covered in government guidance for local transport authorities. That is a positive step, which I welcome. But—and it is a big but—it will not be enough to ensure that accessibility is delivered by bus companies. Guidance without statutory backing or any enforcement behind it can be ignored with impunity—and, let us face it, we have plenty of experience of public services doing just that. Guidance is fine, but we know that it can be left on the shelf and ignored. People may start with good intentions but, in reality, other priorities invariably get in the way.

    The Government set great store by an integrated transport system. That means integration not only across the piece so that buses connect with trains but between bus companies. Passengers should be confident of finding similar standards of service wherever they are. If this is tackled only through local transport authorities, it will leave a gap and quality standards will inevitably be patchy. The bus operators are an absolutely pivotal part of the equation. Bus drivers are the interface with the public. Their attitude makes all the difference to disabled passengers’ experience of a ride on the bus. Bus companies need to know what they have to do and, especially, what happens if they do not do it. Enforcement of the rules must be there as a disincentive to those who would flout them. That is why local transport authorities should impose requirements on bus operators under the schemes. Amendment 67 will make that happen. It will reinforce and complement the actions that local transport authorities take under government guidance. That will create a true partnership.

    I understand that the Government are concerned to avoid any increased financial burden on struggling bus companies but I really do not believe that that will happen. In any event, the Government agree that bus operators should be making their services accessible and must factor accessibility into their costs. The Bill creates a raft of new enforcement powers for traffic commissioners. They will have the opportunity to promote good standards of behaviour, such as inclusive policies, and attach conditions to licences which will be enforceable. Why not include the requirement for bus operators to publish their policies for protecting disabled people? It makes sense. Why not use traffic commissioners as the licensing and enforcement body? After all, that is their job.

    If these arguments still do not persuade the Minister to change his mind on this amendment, I propose an alternative solution. The Government have tabled Amendment 101 for a regulation-making power under the Equality Act 2010 to require accessible information—notably audio-visual announcements—on buses, backed by statutory guidance. That approach could equally apply to DPPP-like policies. Bus companies would have to comply with the requirements as a condition of their licence. If they failed to do so, a traffic commissioner could impose sanctions. It would also address the Minister’s concerns about the structure of the bus sector being different from that of the rail sector. The regulations would provide flexibility.

    Guidance is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough. I urge the Minister to reconsider Amendment 67. By accepting it, the Government will ensure that disabled people will enjoy the same right to travel as their able-bodied peers, and secure a truly inclusive bus network for all their citizens. Guidance simply will not do this. I urge the Minister to reconsider my amendment or to reflect on and contemplate the alternative solution that I have proposed. I beg to move.

  • My Lords, I support all the amendments in this group and shall speak to our Amendments 98 and 110. Before I deal with these, I thank the Minister for his welcome comments on these issues in Committee and for the subsequent proposals he has brought forward. There is no doubt that he has made a genuine attempt to improve the provision for disabled passengers. Of course, we would have liked him to go further, but we welcome the progress that has been made so far.

    We particularly endorse the amendment and speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, who has sought to underpin future partnership agreements with a policy commitment to protect the interests of disabled passengers. The Minister’s response in his recent letter suggests that this policy is best set out in guidance. While we welcome this as far as it goes, we remain convinced that it would be a bolder and clearer commitment if it was in the Bill. We also have a great deal of sympathy with the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, on wheelchair access and hope that this issue can be resolved speedily once the current court case is resolved.

    Amendment 98 covers disability training and would ensure that disability training is mandatory for all bus drivers and terminal staff from 1 April 2019. This amendment builds on the good practice that already exists among the better bus operators around the country, but which is not universal. Our amendment would address that inconsistency. That policy has wide support. When we debated this in Committee, and in subsequent discussions with the Minister, he stressed that in 2018 mandatory disability awareness training will come into force courtesy of an EU directive to this effect. We are not convinced by this argument. As the Brexit agenda unfolds, we have even less confidence that a directive due to come into force in 2018 will be listed as an existing obligation and written into a great repeal Bill, or whatever it is eventually called. Under the Prime Minister’s timetable, Article 50 will be tabled at the beginning of 2017, and therefore must be concluded by the beginning of 2019. We therefore believe that there is a real chance that this policy will fall through the crack and not be recognised as an existing obligation in the Brexit discussions. There is also a real chance that bus operators will fail to take the obligation seriously if it is rooted in EU legislation when we are due to leave a few months later. Therefore, why leave this to chance? If the Government believe that the disability training should be compulsory, the safest approach is to put it into our domestic legislation now, so that it can apply from 2019, as would have been the case if we had stayed in the EU. This is what our amendment seeks to achieve.

    Our second amendment in this group, Amendment 110, would require all buses to have audio-visual communication systems so that everyone travelling on the service is informed of the route being taken, the name of the next stop and any delays or diversions. As the noble Lord knows, these proposals have the support of more than 30 charities as well as several bus operators. However, only 19% of buses nationally are fitted with AV, so, as we argued in Committee, implementing these requirements would make a vital difference to the lives of more than 2 million people with sight or hearing loss as well as many elderly people, all of whom rely disproportionately on public transport for their independence.

    Since our debate in Committee, we have had fruitful discussions on this issue with the Minister. Since we tabled our amendment, the Government have issued a policy statement and their own amendments to the Equality Act to deliver the AV programme we are seeking. I am very grateful to the Minister for their understanding and support on this issue. It could genuinely be a transformative policy and make a huge difference to people’s lives.

  • The Government’s amendments to the Act specify that the changes will be brought about by regulations from the Secretary of State, following a period of consultation. I do not doubt the Government’s sincerity or their determination to introduce these regulations, but perhaps the Minister can give some clarification on these proposals. For example, the scoping paper suggests that the consultation would commence in spring 2017, with final regulations published in April 2018. Can the Minister confirm that that timetable is the case? Can he also confirm what date the Government have in mind for bus operators to comply with the new regulators and whether any vehicle exemptions would be temporary or permanent?

    Clearly, a lot more work needs to be done to spell out the details of the regulations. I am sure disability groups will be pleased to work with the Government on this. I can assure the Minister that we on this side of the House will continue to do what we can to work with him and to support this initiative. On this basis, I clarify that we will not press our Amendment 110 to a vote.

  • My Lords, I support all the other amendments in the group but I will focus in particular in Amendment 99, which is in my name. On the train this morning I was describing why we need the amendments in this group to a young man called Chris—I see him regularly although we are not quite regular commuters together. To his utter astonishment, he learned that the provision for disabled people on buses and trains is completely different. As a user of both buses and trains, he had no idea about that and was quite shocked. That is why disability charities across the board are supportive of the amendments in this group.

    Amendment 67, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, is particularly important because it strikes at the heart of the principle, which is what we need to establish. Many of the other amendments tackle specific regulations, and they are important too, but I hope that the Minister will take to heart the noble Baroness’s speech and will be able to take this further in due course.

    I echo the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, on Amendment 98 about the synchronicity of the Statement we have just heard on the most recent Council debate about Brexit and the great repeal Bill. The Leader of the House talked about that Bill and yet here we are, facing an amendment which the Government argue will come into force in March 2018. However, Amendment 98 would strengthen the provisions introduced by EU Regulation 181/2011 by requiring new drivers and terminal staff to complete training within one month of starting work and to undertake refresher training. If noble Lords have ever had cause to require the assistance of staff on buses or trains, it is instantly obvious whether they have been trained. For example, they may try to grab electric wheelchairs if they do not know that that is more dangerous to them than it is helpful to the person in the wheelchair.

    Amendment 99 is in a slightly different form to the amendment I laid down before. I am grateful for the Minister’s comments that we are awaiting the result of the FirstGroup Plc v Paulley judgment from the Supreme Court following its hearing in June. It is worth saying that we need to amend the conduct regulations and to do so in time. Following the comments the Minister made at Second Reading, the issue is of such importance that we should not wait for the Supreme Court judgment. It is particularly important for those of us who have disabilities to live independent lives, so we hope that Parliament will take the opportunity to address the issue, regardless of the outcome of the case.

    We believe, as does the Equality and Human Rights Commission, that the Government should commit to amending the conduct regulation no later than six months after the Bus Services Bill receives Royal Assent. Of course, the Government should consult passenger groups, disability stakeholder groups and relevant authorities when considering how to clarify conduct regulations and accompanying guidance. Given the support there has been for these proposals universally and throughout the House, I accept that I cannot change the Government’s mind on waiting on the court case, but I hope that we can persuade them to move swiftly as soon as we have a result. If the result is not as those of us who laid this amendment and others in the past would wish, we will be back with future ones pretty sharpish.

  • My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this important debate, and in particular I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, who I know has been through some personal difficulties—and I hope that her mother is now also on the mend. I welcomed our meeting.

    It is important to underline again that, as I said on Second Reading, the Government have very much listened and worked across the House on this important issue, and that will certainly remain our stance. It is important to get this element of the legislation right to provide the level of access we all wish to see.

    On Second Reading and in Committee, as several noble Lords have pointed out, powerful cases were made for using the opportunity presented by the Bill to improve the experience and access of disabled people who travel by bus. I indicated the Government’s willingness to give further consideration to the proposals and have subsequently had many useful and practical discussions with a number of noble Lords whom I thank for taking the time to meet with me.

    Perhaps I may begin with Amendment 98. I entirely support the principle of requiring bus drivers to undergo mandatory disability awareness training, and I know how important this training is to many disabled people. That is why we are currently finalising our disability awareness training best practice guidance and why we will support the bus industry to implement the European mandatory training requirement to the benefit of passengers.

    I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, was and remains concerned about the potential for the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union to result in the removal of those protections. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister confirmed, through the great repeal Bill the body of existing EU law will be converted into UK law when we leave. Once again, I reassure noble Lords that the provisions of Article 16 of EU Regulation 181/2011, which sets out the requirement for mandatory disability awareness training for bus drivers, will be the starting point for any future consideration of this issue.

    The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, was concerned that something could fall through the cracks on this. During the Leader’s Statement today, a question was asked about our engagement with stakeholders. The Department for Transport has been clear on that. I cover the wider transport brief in your Lordships’ House but, as the current Aviation Minister, I have also met various stakeholders—as have other Ministers in my department—on a raft of issues. We ensure that any stakeholder can directly access Ministers as they establish their priorities for the industry across the board, and I can certainly speak from experience regarding the transport sector.

    I reassure the noble Baroness that we will continue this conversation. It is right that Parliament should hold the Government to account in ensuring that the important provisions in certain directives are reflected as they are transposed into UK legislation. I assure her that a diligent approach is being taken to ensure that these factors are taken into consideration.

    I have taken up the practical element of what we are discussing not just with officials in my department but with officials across government. Given that, I believe that we can look forward to the availability and quality of disability awareness training continuing to rise across the bus industry. I therefore hope—and I have put on my best smile for the noble Baroness—that, based on the reassurances I have given and the practical steps I have outlined, she will be willing not to press her amendment.

    On Amendment 67, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, I am fully aware and agree with noble Lords that conveying information on the availability of services to assist disabled passengers can give passengers greater confidence in their ability to travel independently. I know too that this is an issue about which not just the noble Baroness but all of us across the Chamber feel very passionately.

    As I said at the beginning of my response to the amendment, I am truly grateful to the noble Baroness and other noble Lords for meeting me to discuss this very important issue. As I explained to her, we support the principle of establishing and publishing policies with a view to protecting the interests of disabled persons when using transport services, as demonstrated by our continued use of the disabled people’s protection policies for railway operators.

    I accept the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, about this issue vis-à-vis buses. However, the railway sector, with around 30 operators, is very different from the bus industry, which has over 700 companies providing services. As noble Lords have acknowledged, many of them are small or medium-sized enterprises and operate under a very different licensing regime. We must ensure that, in seeking to improve the accessibility of services—a commitment that we have made—we do not create a disproportionate bureaucracy or imperil the sustainability of marginal bus routes. There is a balance to be struck.

    However, we intend to include in guidance the expectation that authorities will produce statements specifying the policies, services and facilities that have been put in place to ensure an inclusive approach to bus network design and management, and to provide disabled passengers with the necessary information to make informed choices about their travel arrangements. I will of course be happy to share a draft with all noble Lords when it is available. In the meantime, I will continue to consider how we might further protect the interests of disabled passengers.

    In the spirit of the debate that we have had thus far, the noble Baroness offered me an option. I will certainly reflect on the option of Amendment 101 and come back to her. If she has time for a further meeting that would help our understanding in that regard, I would certainly welcome it. Therefore, I hope that she will consider how we might move forward together on this, because the Government and, I am sure, all noble Lords are committed to the principle. With that assurance, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able not to press her amendment.

    Amendment 99 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, concerns an issue that has been raised constantly, and rightly so, during the debates on the Bill. It is of great importance not only to wheelchair users but to others who rely on the use of the wheelchair space in order to access bus services. As I have said on a number of occasions, I am a father of three children. One has just stopped using a pushchair but one is certainly still doing so. Access and appropriate space for all users of bus services are important.

    Like other noble Lords, I continue to await with interest the Supreme Court’s judgment on the case of FirstGroup plc v Paulley. I am sure that the noble Baroness understands that I am constrained in what I can say until that judgment has been handed down. In any case, many factors will need to be considered properly before the Government can form a view on this issue and take any action that they might deem necessary. It will also be important to understand the needs and preferences of everyone concerned, including disabled people, bus operators and other passengers. Following the judgment, the Government will need to consider whether action is required and, if so, what form it might take. As with any policy, we will consider whether new legislation is required or whether existing secondary legislation can be used to achieve the desired outcome.

    I assure the noble Baroness that at all stages we will engage with our statutory advisers on transport accessibility and the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee. Following her interest in this issue, when this judgment comes to the fore I shall be pleased to facilitate appropriate discussions to ensure that we proceed on the correct basis. In my view, it would currently be difficult for the Government to take any steps without being seen to prejudge the outcome of the Paulley case, and I firmly believe that we should await the judgment before taking further action. The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, knows that I totally sympathise with her motives in tabling this amendment, but I hope that she and other noble Lords are assured that this issue will be given due attention by the Government once the Supreme Court has ruled.

    I now turn to Amendments 101, 115, 116 and 117 standing in my name and Amendment 110 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, which all relate to the subject of accessible information on board bus services.

    In Committee I agreed to consider the noble Baroness’s amendment further. I have considered this issue carefully over the summer and am pleased to propose an amendment to introduce an accessible information requirement. Ultimately, this will require operators to provide accessible information, using both audible and visible media, on board local bus services in England, Scotland and Wales.

  • We intend that information identifying the route and direction, as well as upcoming stops and points at which a vehicle is diverted from its scheduled route, should be provided on all the services covered, and that traffic commissioners will be responsible for ensuring compliance. Further detail on our thinking is set out in the policy scoping note, which was sent to noble Lords on 6 October.

    The noble Baroness proposed to amend the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations—the PSVAR—which provide physical accessibility standards for buses and coaches, and noble Lords may wonder why we have chosen not to take this approach. We believe that, by placing an information requirement on operators rather than a requirement to install specific equipment, we will ensure that the needs of passengers are met within years, not decades. I know that this will resonate with noble Lords across the Chamber. It will also mean that operators will be free to choose the method of delivery that meets the needs of passengers and suits their particular service and business. Although the industry as a whole is yet to embrace accessible information wholeheartedly, I believe that operators, not government, are best placed to select solutions that meet the requirements of their customers.

    Noble Lords will appreciate that, while we are clear about the core principles that should underpin the accessible information requirement, it is important that we develop the details in full consultation with both the bus industry and disabled passengers. We therefore propose to amend the Equality Act 2010 to provide the regulation-making powers required to develop the accessible information requirement. The regulations themselves and supporting guidance will be developed in liaison with affected parties, including the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, the Passengers’ Council and the devolved Administrations. I assure the House that we will work to progress these discussions as quickly as possible and bring forward regulations as soon as we are realistically able to do so.

    For almost a decade Londoners have benefited from “talking buses” across the Transport for London network. The accessible information requirement will extend this on-board information revolution across the whole of Great Britain, ensuring that every passenger can board a bus with confidence and alight at their intended location. Given that commitment, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, will be willing not to press her amendment.

    This has been an important area of debate on which we have spent a great deal of time in Committee and outside the Chamber. The Government have had practical, helpful and constructive discussions with noble Lords across the board and I believe that we have moved matters forward. I have a musical accompaniment from someone’s mobile phone; normally we would have a drum roll but I have the nice tinkle of a bell behind me. More seriously, as I said, this is an important issue on which I believe the Government have moved matters forward. Based on the assurances and practical steps put forward by the Government, I hope that the noble Baroness will be minded to withdraw her amendment.

  • I thank the Minister for his response to my amendment and for his offer to meet again. I enjoy our meetings—they are indeed very constructive. I am also pleased that he will consider my alternative proposal, and I would like to discuss that further with him. But he will understand that statements and guidance, however good and well intentioned, will never deliver the result that we need—that is, full, guaranteed access for disabled people. I will not divide the House today; alternatively, I will use my influence with the Minister and in the other place to ensure that Members have all they need to continue pushing forward the intention behind my amendment as the Bill continues its legislative passage—in other words, it does not end here. Disabled people should have the right now to travel on public transport in exactly the same way as their able-bodied peers. I hope that the Government will come to see the advantages of going beyond guidance in the next stage of the Bill as it continues its journey. Until then, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

  • Amendment 67 withdrawn.

    Amendment 68 not moved.

    Amendment 69

    Moved by

  • 69: Clause 9, page 42, line 40, at end insert—

    “( ) the Passengers’ Council,”

    Amendment 69 agreed.

    Amendment 70 not moved.

    Amendment 71

    Moved by

  • 71: Clause 9, page 42, line 46, at end insert—

    “( ) National Park authorities,( ) the Broads Authority,”

    Amendment 71 agreed.

    Amendments 72 and 73 not moved.

    Amendments 74 to 80

    Moved by

  • 74: Clause 9, page 51, line 2, leave out from first “references” to first “to” in line 3

    75: Clause 9, page 51, line 16, after “facilities” insert “or measures”

    76: Clause 9, page 51, line 22, at end insert “or measures”

    77: Clause 9, page 51, leave out line 28 and insert—

    “(a) section 138A(6) and (10),(aa) sections 138F to 138J,(ab) section 138K(1) and (3) to (5),(ac) sections 138L and 138M,(ad) section 138O, and”

    78: Clause 9, page 51, line 30, at end insert—

    “( ) Subsections (1) and (2) are not to be taken as affecting the area indicated by references in the provisions mentioned in subsection (4) to the authority’s or authorities’ area or combined area.”

    79: Clause 9, page 55, leave out lines 1 to 6 and insert—

    “(h) make provision for appeals against—(i) decisions to record or not to record requirements under paragraph (a);(ii) decisions to cancel registrations of local services under paragraph (c).”

    80: Clause 9, page 55, line 6, at end insert—

    “( ) Regulations made by virtue of subsection (4)(h) may in particular include provision about—(a) to whom an appeal may be made;(b) how an appeal may be made and dealt with;(c) further appeals;(d) who may be parties to an appeal or further appeal.”

    Amendments 74 to 80 agreed.

    Amendments 81 and 82 not moved.

    Amendments 83 to 86

    Moved by

  • 83: Clause 9, page 55, line 37, leave out “who made” and insert “operating”

    84: Clause 9, page 56, line 24, leave out “who made” and insert “operating”

    85: Clause 9, page 56, line 29, leave out “who made” and insert “operating”

    86: Clause 9, page 56, line 36, leave out “who made” and insert “operating”

    Amendments 83 to 86 agreed.

    Amendment 87 not moved.

    Clause 10: Information about local services

    Amendments 88 to 93

    Moved by

  • 88: Clause 10, page 58, leave out lines 26 to 30 and insert—

    “(2) A local transport authority in England that are party to an enhanced partnership plan may, in connection with any relevant function, require an operator of a local service in their area, or in the combined area of the authority and any other local transport authority in England that are party to the plan, to supply relevant information.(2A) If an enhanced partnership plan is proposed to be varied so as to include another local transport authority in England, that authority may, in connection with determining whether and how to vary an enhanced partnership plan or scheme, require an operator of a local service in their area, or in the combined area of that authority and any other local transport authority in England that would be party to the plan as it is proposed to be varied, to supply relevant information.”

    89: Clause 10, page 58, line 33, at end insert “, and

    (b) to provide the information before the end of such reasonable period as may be specified by the local transport authority.”

    90: Clause 10, page 58, leave out lines 37 to 44 and insert—

    “(4A) A local transport authority that have obtained information under this section in connection with a function relating to an enhanced partnership plan or scheme may—(a) use the information for the purposes of the function for which it was obtained, and (b) supply the information to a person specified in subsection (4B) for use for those purposes in connection with the same plan or scheme.(4B) The persons referred to in subsection (4A) are—(a) a local transport authority;(b) the Secretary of State;(c) a metropolitan district council;(d) a person providing services to a local transport authority, the Secretary of State or a metropolitan district council.”

    91: Clause 10, page 58, line 45, leave out “local transport authority must not disclose information obtained” and insert “public authority must not disclose information supplied to the authority”

    92: Clause 10, page 59, line 6, leave out “(5) or (6)” and insert “(4A)(b)”

    93: Clause 10, page 59, line 24, at end insert—

    “( ) determining whether to revoke an enhanced partnership plan or scheme;”

    Amendments 88 to 93 agreed.

    Clause 11: Registration of local services

    Amendment 94

    Moved by

  • 94: Clause 11, page 60, leave out lines 37 and 38

    Amendment 94 agreed.

    Clause 12: Cancellation of registration etc

    Amendment 95

    Moved by

  • 95: Clause 12, page 61, line 18, at end insert—

    “( ) If a traffic commissioner considers that the operator of a registered service has failed to comply with a condition attached to the service permit, the traffic commissioner may cancel the registration of that service.”

  • My Lords, this amendment is designed to ensure that when a franchise or an enhanced quality partnership is in place, it will not be undermined by an operator—probably operating across the borders of the franchise but maybe even within it—using vehicles that do not comply with the franchising agreement. Most of us know areas of the country where some of the buses that are in competition with the main operator fall well below the standards—the vehicles are noisy, dirty and probably do not conform to up-to-date emissions regulations. I am moving this amendment to ensure that a traffic commissioner’s powers will enable him to enforce the standards laid down by either the statutory partnership or the enhanced quality partnership. I beg to move.

  • My Lords, this amendment reflects the importance that we on these Benches believe lies in the role of traffic commissioners and the enforcement that they have the power to undertake. If you look at their annual report, you will see that the traffic commissioners themselves complain of being overstretched. It is important, therefore, that we give them an express requirement to enforce regulations at a time when we are likely to see bus companies with a lower quality of service possibly impinging on the better bus companies that provide the very best service. I simply wanted to briefly underline the importance that we see in this simple amendment.

  • My Lords, being a traffic commissioner, I had forgotten that we had very little training. I wonder whether, as part of this process, we need to train traffic commissioners much more.

  • My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for tabling his amendment. On the final point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, I say that training is incumbent on every element of this Bill. Where we can improve training, that should be the focus of how we move forward in this area.

    Administration of service permits are intended to be used to allow commercial services that do not operate under a franchise contract to operate in a franchised area. They are most likely to be used for cross-boundary services, but an operator can also apply for them to provide other services that a franchised network of services does not cover. Under the Bill, the franchising authority, rather than the traffic commissioner, will be responsible for dealing with applications for service permits, and new Section 123R of the Transport Act 2000 enables that franchising authority to attach conditions to service permits in certain circumstances.

    I totally agree with the noble Lord’s objective that there should be a sanction for operators who do not comply with such conditions. The Bill already achieves this by enabling local authorities to revoke or suspend a service permit if the holder has failed to comply with a permit condition. This can be found in the new Section 123S to the Transport Act 2000, on page 26 of the Bill.

    The amendment would also add a power for the traffic commissioner to cancel the registration of a service if the operator has failed to comply with its service permit. Under new Section 123J of the Transport Act 2000, no services that operate within a franchised area are registered with the traffic commissioner, including those operated under service permits, so this addition would have no practical effect. For services of this nature in a franchised area, the permit effectively replaces the registration and the local authority has the powers that it needs to deal with the issue that the noble Lord raises.

    I hope that the explanation I have given about the provisions already in the Bill reassures the noble Lord that the intent of his amendment, which I agree with, is already captured in Clause 4, and that he will be content to withdraw his amendment on that basis.

  • I am very grateful for what the noble Lord has said. It has clarified the situation: if any of these statutory partnerships come into effect, there will be means by which to make sure that people abide by the rules. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

  • Amendment 95 withdrawn.

    Clause 14: Traffic commissioner functions

    Amendment 96

    Moved by

  • 96: Clause 14, page 65, line 8, leave out “, 6E and 6F” and insert “and 6E”

    Amendment 96 agreed.

    Amendment 97

    Moved by

  • 97: Clause 14, page 67, line 4, at end insert—

    “(5) After section 6I (inserted by subsection (4)) insert—6J Community bus routes(1) Traffic Commissioners must keep a list of bus routes in their area which are of community value.(2) For the purpose of this section, a bus route of community value is one that has been designated by the traffic commissioner as furthering the social well-being or social interests of the local community.(3) Bus routes may only be designated by a traffic commissioner as being of community value in response to a community nomination.(4) A community nomination must be made by a community group which is based in, or has a strong connection with, an area through which the bus route passes, and on which community the bus route has a direct social impact.(5) A community group may be a local or parish council, a voluntary or community body with a local connection, a bus user group, a group formed for the specific purpose of maintaining the bus route, a church or other religious group, or a parent teacher group associated with a particular school or schools.(6) The traffic commissioner must consider the community nomination, and if—(a) the nomination is successful, the commissioner must notify the relevant parties of this decision in writing; or(b) the nomination is unsuccessful, the commissioner must notify the relevant parties of this decision in writing and give reasons why the decision was made.(7) A six month moratorium must be placed on the closure of any bus route which is designated as being of community value, in order for the community to—(a) work with relevant authorities to find an alternative operator;(b) set up a community transport group in order to run the service; or(c) partner with an existing not-for-profit operator to run the route.(8) The community may apply to the Secretary of State for financial assistance, training or advice during the moratorium in order to achieve any of the aims set out in subsection (7).””

  • My Lords, Amendment 97 designates certain bus routes as assets of community value. As we discussed in Committee, this amendment builds on the concept of a community asset as identified in the Localism Act 2011. It recognises that some specified services should have a special status that gives communities some protection from them being withdrawn without warning. This provision has particular relevance to isolated rural areas. It recognises that there are some areas where the local bus route is a lifeline for the local community, particularly for the elderly and low-paid residents who rely on the bus to transport them to the nearest shop and workplaces.

    Our amendment would allow a community group to apply to the traffic commissioner stating why a particular bus route should be listed as having specific community value. It would then have to make the case as to how the community depended on the service and what the wider social damage would be if the service was withdrawn. If successful, this would give the community some protection from the service being cut or closed without notice. At a minimum, it would give them six months’ notice of closure, which would allow space for alternative owners or service providers to emerge. It would also draw the community group to the attention of the council, which may be able to intervene on their behalf.

    When we discussed this in Committee, the Minister expressed some sympathy with the aims of our amendment and agreed that there was more that we could do to champion the community transport sector. He also emphasised the need for improved training for community groups so that they could better understand the options available to them.

    However, he and several other noble Lords raised concerns about a six-month delay in cutting services while the community consultation takes place. We have considered this again but do not think the timescale unreasonable. It is unlikely that bus operators make snap decisions on route profitability; it is more likely a long-term investment decision. All we ask for is the community to be alerted to a potential decision with enough notice to find an alternative supplier. I hope noble Lords will be sympathetic to our proposals and that the Minister will be able to support our amendment.

  • My Lords, I certainly agree with the noble Baroness that local bus services act as a lifeline to many and have a real community worth, as we have said previously.

    The amendment would, in effect, require operators who are planning to cancel a service to continue to operate that service for a period of six months. As I have said previously, this is likely to be to the financial detriment of the operator or the local transport authority. It would also require a traffic commissioner, whose primary role concerns road safety, to take a decision on the value of a service to the local community. A six-month moratorium on cancelling a service would apply only where a service is stopped rather than varied. An operator who wished to avoid the moratorium could reduce a regular bus service to one that operated very infrequently. Operators of registered bus services are already obliged to give at least 56 days’ notice of their intention to cancel or vary a bus service to a traffic commissioner.

    Clause 18 gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations which will enable local transport authorities to require certain information about a service from an operator who intends to vary or cancel the service. It is designed to enable local transport authorities to obtain information which they require and which will allow them to respond more effectively to the needs of bus passengers. The information they will be able to obtain can be used, for example, to inform the procurement of a replacement service by the authority or to assist community transport operators in designing new alternative services.

    It is the responsibility of a local transport authority—not a traffic commissioner—to determine what bus services a local community needs. That is why the Government cannot support the amendment.

    I appreciate that many local authorities are facing funding issues and have difficult decisions to make about the services they may be able to subsidise. However, there is more than one option open to them. The community transport sector already plays a vital role, as we have all recognised previously, in the provision of local bus services, often with little or no government funding. Community transport operators will be well placed to serve more isolated communities and my department continues to be extremely supportive of that sector.

    As noble Lords may be aware, we recently launched a second round of the community minibus fund to provide new vehicles for community groups. The first round of this initiative is providing new minibuses now to more than 300 local groups across England. I also remind noble Lords of the Total Transport initiative, which supports the integration of services commissioned by different agencies, allowing funding to be used more efficiently and better services to be provided to passengers.

    I hope it is clear from the case I have outlined that the Government believe in and understand the importance and value of community local bus services and are keen to find ways to ensure that vital bus links continue to be provided. Given the practical examples I have illustrated and the reassurance I have provided, I hope the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

  • The Minister referred to the new community transport schemes and the investment in new vehicles. Can he give an assurance that they will be of a size that is legally encompassed within the concessionary fares scheme? This would avoid the problem that we have in Mid Suffolk where the new community transport scheme is using vehicles that are too small to come within the concessionary fares scheme. We have many elderly people with concessionary fares passes but no vehicles on which to use them.

  • If the noble Baroness will write to me about that case, with which I am not familiar, I will respond in writing to both the specifics and the general point.

  • My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that response. We will have to agree to disagree on this one. I accept that more work needs to be done on this concept, but our amendment differs from the tone of his response. He said that information should be provided to local transport authorities and that that is the onus and tone of the Bill. Our amendment is more about empowering communities and giving them further rights—a bottom-up rather than a top-down approach.

    There is still more work to be done to give local communities more control over their local services and local bus routes. However, given the late hour and the need to debate other issues I shall not pursue this matter further at this stage but I hope it will be a part of an ongoing discussion. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

  • Amendment 97 withdrawn.

    Amendments 98 and 99 not moved.

    Schedule 4: Further amendments: enhanced partnership plans and schemes

    Amendment 100

    Moved by

  • 100: Schedule 4, page 83, line 8, leave out “section 143B(1) or (2)” and insert “a requirement imposed under section 143B”

    Amendment 100 agreed.

    Amendment 101

    Moved by

  • 101: After Clause 16, insert the following new Clause—

    “Information for bus passengers

    (1) After section 181 of the Equality Act 2010 insert—“CHAPTER 2ABUS SERVICES181A Information for bus passengers(1) The Secretary of State may, for the purpose of facilitating travel by disabled persons, make regulations requiring operators of local services to make available information about a local service to persons travelling on the service.(2) The regulations may make provision about—(a) the descriptions of information that are to be made available;(b) how information is to be made available.(3) The regulations may, in particular, require an operator of a local service to make available information of a prescribed description about—(a) the name or other designation of the local service;(b) the direction of travel;(c) stopping places;(d) diversions;(e) connecting local services.(4) The regulations may, in particular—(a) specify when information of a prescribed description is to be made available;(b) specify how information of a prescribed description is to be made available, including requiring information to be both announced and displayed;(c) specify standards for the provision of information, including standards based on an announcement being audible or a display being visible to a person of a prescribed description in a prescribed location; (d) specify forms of communication that are not to be regarded as satisfying a requirement to make information available.(5) Regulations under this section may make different provision—(a) as respects different descriptions of vehicle;(b) as respects the same description of vehicle in different circumstances.(6) Before making regulations under this section, the Secretary of State must consult—(a) the Welsh Ministers;(b) the Scottish Ministers.181B Exemptions etc(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for securing that the provisions of regulations under section 181A do not apply or apply subject to such modifications or exceptions as the regulations may specify to—(a) public service vehicles of a prescribed description;(b) operators of a prescribed description;(c) local services of a prescribed description.(2) Regulations under subsection (1)(b) may, in particular, make provision by reference to an operator’s size.(3) Regulations under this section may also make provision for securing that the provisions of regulations under section 181A do not apply or apply subject to such modifications or exceptions as the regulations may specify to—(a) a prescribed public service vehicle;(b) public service vehicles of a prescribed operator;(c) a prescribed local service.(4) Regulations under subsection (1) or (3) may make the provision subject to such restrictions and conditions as are specified in the regulations.(5) Regulations under subsection (1) or (3) may specify the period for which provisions of those regulations are to have effect.(6) Regulations under subsection (1) may make different provision for different areas.(7) Section 207(2) does not require regulations under this section that apply only to—(a) a prescribed public service vehicle,(b) public service vehicles of a prescribed operator, or(c) a prescribed local service,to be made by statutory instrument; but such regulations are as capable of being amended or revoked as regulations made by statutory instrument.(8) Before making regulations under this section, the Secretary of State must consult—(a) the Welsh Ministers;(b) the Scottish Ministers.181C Guidance(1) The Secretary of State must issue guidance about the duties imposed on operators of local services by regulations under section 181A.(2) The Secretary of State—(a) must review the guidance issued under subsection (1), at intervals not exceeding five years, and(b) may revise it.(3) Before issuing the guidance or revising it in a way which would, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, result in a substantial change to it, the Secretary of State must consult— (a) the Welsh Ministers,(b) the Scottish Ministers,(c) the Passengers’ Council,(d) such organisations representing disabled persons, including the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee and the committee established under section 72 of the Transport (Scotland) Act 2001, as the Secretary of State thinks fit,(e) such organisations representing operators of local services as the Secretary of State thinks fit, and(f) such other persons as the Secretary of State thinks fit.(4) The Secretary of State must arrange for any guidance issued or revised under this section to be published in a way the Secretary of State considers appropriate.181D Interpretation(1) In this Chapter—“local service” has the same meaning as in the Transport Act 1985;“public service vehicle” means a vehicle that is a public service vehicle for the purposes of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981;“stopping place” has the same meaning as in the Transport Act 1985.(2) For the purposes of this Chapter, a local service (“service A”) is a connecting local service in relation to another local service (“service B”) if service A has a stopping place at, or in the vicinity of, a stopping place of service B.(3) References in this Chapter to the operator of a passenger transport service of any description are to be construed in accordance with section 137(7) of the Transport Act 1985.”(2) In section 207 of that Act (exercise of power to make orders and regulations), in subsection (5), after “174(4)” insert “, 181A(5), 181B(6)”.(3) In section 208 of that Act (procedure for orders and regulations), in subsection (5) (statutory instruments subject to affirmative procedure), after paragraph (f) insert—“(fa) regulations under section 181A or 181B (information for bus passengers);”.(4) In section 26 of the Transport Act 1985 (conditions attached to PSV operators’ licence), in subsection (1), after paragraph (bb) insert—“(bc) the operator has failed to comply with a requirement of regulations made under section 181A of the Equality Act 2010;”.(5) In section 155 of the Transport Act 2000 (sanctions), after subsection (1ZD) (inserted by Schedule 4), insert—“(1ZE) Where a traffic commissioner is satisfied that the operator of a local service has, without reasonable excuse, failed to comply with a requirement of regulations made under section 181A of the Equality Act 2010, the traffic commissioner may make one or more orders under subsection (1A)(a) or (d).”(6) In section 39 of the Transport (Scotland) Act 2001 (penalties), in subsection (1)—(a) omit the “or” following paragraph (b);(b) after paragraph (c) insert “; or(d) failed to comply with a requirement of regulations made under section 181A of the Equality Act 2010,”.”

    Amendment 101 agreed.

    Clause 17: Power to require provision of information about English bus services

    Amendment 102

    Moved by

  • 102: Clause 17, page 68, line 38, at end insert—

    “( ) The information that may be prescribed is such information within subsection (2) as appears to the Secretary of State to be required—(a) in order to make information about relevant local services available to users or prospective users of those services, or(b) in order to facilitate the exercise of functions relating to the registration of relevant local services.”

  • My Lords, in moving government Amendment 102, I shall speak also to government Amendments 103 and 105 to 109, and to Amendment 104, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones.

    An important element of the Bill concerns the availability of journey planning information about bus services. This clause will facilitate the provision to passengers of information about timetables, fares, routes, tickets and live information about bus arrival times. The focus is on the provision of information that will be helpful to passengers in making informed decisions about their journey.

    Amendments 102, 103, 106 and 108 seek to address the concerns specifically raised by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. The committee recommended that the new Section 141A should be amended to specify in the Bill the following: the purpose for which the information can be used; the persons or description of persons to whom the information is to be disclosed; and a duty on the Secretary of State to consult before making regulations. Amendment 102 specifies that the information required is that which the Secretary of State sees as necessary to make information about local bus services available to users or potential users of those services, or in order to facilitate the registration of local bus services. As a consequence, Amendment 103 is necessary to accommodate the new text in this part of the clause. Amendment 106 specifies the persons or description of persons to whom the information is to be disclosed. Amendment 108 requires the Secretary of State to consult persons representing the interests of operators, users of local services and local transport authorities whose areas are in England.

    Government Amendments 105, 107 and 109 seek to clarify the intention of the Bill. Amendment 105 clarifies that live information includes information about the location of the vehicle, as well as information about its expected arrival time. This is to reflect recent comments made by some stakeholders that, in some instances, making the raw data on the location of the vehicle available may be a better option than requiring expected arrival times. Amendment 107 clarifies the ability for the regulations to specify that where the information provided in connection with an application for a registration is to be disclosed to a traffic commissioner, it can include applications to vary or cancel a service and not only applications to register a service. Amendment 109 reflects the fact that the Bill provides for bus registration powers to be delegated from the traffic commissioner to the local authority where an enhanced partnership is in place. It clarifies that references to the traffic commissioners are to be read as including references to any local transport authority which has been delegated the registration function under the enhanced partnership provisions.

    Finally, I turn to Amendment 104, proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, which would allow information that may be prescribed to include information about the environmental impact of bus operations and vehicles. I am sympathetic to her desire to ensure that operators and local authorities are aware of the impact of local bus services on the environment. Let me assure noble Lords that other parts of the Bill will give local authorities greater powers to influence the type of vehicles used by operators when providing services, and I have tabled Amendments 4, 15 and 64 to clarify that franchises and enhanced partnerships may include requirements about emissions, fuel and power plant. However, I do not believe that information on the environmental impact of bus operations and vehicles is crucial for journey planning purposes, which is what this clause is concerned with. Indeed, the type of vehicle used can vary from journey to journey, so the environmental performance of a particular journey if different modes and different vehicles are used can vary accordingly. I hope that, with this explanation, the noble Baroness will not wish to press her amendment.

    Again, these amendments underline how the Government have sought during the course of the Bill to reflect some of the concerns of the House and indeed those of the Delegated Powers Committee, which have also been incorporated into the government amendments. I beg to move.

  • My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation, and I should say at the outset that we support the government amendments on this issue.

    Amendment 104 in this group builds on our earlier debates on the need for buses to play their part in making towns and cities more healthy places in which to live and to work. On the first day of the Report stage, your Lordships passed an amendment requiring bus operators to deliver higher environmental standards and to meet the requirements for low-emission buses. I am grateful for the support of noble Lords around the Chamber on the issue. Our amendment is a consequence of that decision. We believe that we need to ensure that local transport authorities, bus users and communities have up-to-date information about bus emissions so that they can hold bus operators to account.

    When we discussed a similar amendment tabled in Committee, the Minister expressed some sympathy with it but raised concerns about the extra burdens on bus operators. We do not accept that that is the overriding factor in these deliberations. At the moment, some transport authorities collect this information, while others do not. The fact is that we need to have a national picture of our CO2 emissions in this area of transport policy so that we can make proper national policy decisions. As I mentioned during the earlier Report stage debate, this is in part necessary so that we can measure our response to the Paris agreement on climate change alleviation.

    However, I have listened to the comments of the noble Lord and I understand that the Government have gone some way to address the issue in their amendments and in other areas of the Bill, so at this stage I will not press Amendment 104 to a vote.

  • Amendment 102 agreed.

    Amendment 103

    Moved by

  • 103: Clause 17, page 68, line 39, leave out “that may be prescribed includes” and insert “within this subsection is”

    Amendment 103 agreed.

    Amendment 104 not moved.

    Amendments 105 to 109

    Moved by

  • 105: Clause 17, page 69, line 2, leave out “time at which vehicles operating the services” and insert “location of vehicles operating the services and the time at which they”

    106: Clause 17, page 69, line 10, at end insert—

    “( ) The provision made under subsection (4)(a) may not require the information to be provided to a person other than—(a) the Secretary of State;(b) a local transport authority whose area is in England;(c) a person prescribed in the regulations, being a person who provides or facilitates the provision of, or is to provide or facilitate the provision of, information about relevant local services to users or prospective users of those services.”

    107: Clause 17, page 69, line 20, after “registration” insert “, or for the variation or cancellation of a registration,”

    108: Clause 17, page 69, line 22, at end insert—

    “( ) Before making regulations under this section the Secretary of State must consult—(a) such persons or organisations as appear to the Secretary of State to represent the interests of operators and users of relevant local services,(b) such persons or organisations as appear to the Secretary of State to represent the interests of local transport authorities whose areas are in England, and(c) such other persons or organisations as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.”

    109: Clause 17, page 69, line 22, at end insert—

    “( ) The references to traffic commissioners in subsections (1)(d) and (6)(b) are to be read as including references to any local transport authority carrying out the functions of a traffic commissioner in accordance with section 6G of the Transport Act 1985.”

    Amendments 105 to 109 agreed.

    Amendment 110 not moved.

    Clause 21: Bus companies: limitation of powers of authorities in England

    Amendment 111

    Moved by

  • 111: Clause 21, leave out Clause 21

  • My Lords, we are back at Clause 21, which without doubt is the most contentious clause in the Bill. It is totally unnecessary; it is pure political dogma from the Government and despite the opposition expressed to it by noble Lords both at Second Reading and in Committee, it is still here. It is a clause that does not belong in this Bill. It does nothing whatever to improve bus services for people. That is a great disappointment. As I have said many times from this Dispatch Box, this is generally a very good Bill which we have been happy to support. The Minister has listened carefully to all sides of the House, to good points well made, and he has responded positively, which is much to his credit.

    Then we get to Clause 21 which runs against all that. As I said earlier, it is merely a piece of political dogma. Local authorities have powers under the Localism Act 2011 and associated powers under the general power of competence provisions. What is wrong with allowing a company to be formed and for it to compete on the open market and win contracts if it can demonstrate better value for money and a better service? Perhaps the noble Lord will tell us when he responds to the debate. We have heard that the present municipal bus companies often run some of the most competitive and best bus services in the UK. Nottingham City Transport has one of the highest number of passenger journeys per head outside London. It has been praised for its innovation, praised for its service delivery, and was awarded Bus Operator of the Year in 2012 and 2014. For many years I lived in Nottingham and the company runs a really good bus service. My reaction to that is “Well done. How can we learn from you because we want to be as good as you?”. Reading Buses, which won Bus Operator of the Year in 2015, has been praised for its,

    “combination of innovation, strong operational performance and award-winning marketing initiatives”.

    It goes on. UK Bus Awards gave Nottingham and Lothian gold awards in 2015 and 2013 respectively, silver awards to Nottingham in 2014 and Reading in 2012 and 2013, along with Reading again getting a bronze award in 2015. So what do the Government do; what is their response? It is this: “We had better put a stop to any more springing up then; we can’t have the public sector doing a good job, being recognised as delivering some of the best services in the country, winning awards and leading the way”. I hope that when the noble Lord responds to this debate he will pay tribute to the municipal bus companies for their innovation and service delivery.

    This clause goes too far and it does not belong here. I would like to meet the person who thought it up and understand their reasoning. For me it is certainly not about a sensible, improved service delivery or business case reason. If we want to improve passenger services and increase passenger numbers, all the options should be on the table at the very least. I hope that the noble Lord will agree to accept the amendment and remove this clause tonight. If he does not, I will divide the House and hope that noble Lords do it for him. I beg to move.

  • My Lords, many of the amendments to the Bill have dealt with issues of detail and degree, but not so with this amendment, which is appropriately numbered 111. It involves a fundamental principle. I am bewildered why the Government are clinging to this nasty and mean-spirited clause which is totally at odds with the purpose of the Bill as a whole. Indeed, earlier today the Minister reaffirmed to us that this is a devolutionary Bill.

    We on these Benches strongly support the principles behind the Bill. They will give local authorities more control over local bus services after three decades of decline since the deregulation of bus services in the 1980s. We have been fully supportive of the Government’s attempts to strengthen the role of local authorities in setting up both partnerships and franchise agreements. We believe that the structure being created through the Bill should raise the game of bus operators and at the same time should encourage local authorities to be much more proactive in recognising and supporting the role of bus services in their communities—local authorities will thus be able to raise their game as well to ensure that they are all as proactive as the best now are. We will have more Readings and fewer Oxfordshires, for example. So it is truly amazing and counterintuitive for the Minister to cling to this clause which takes away powers from local authorities in a Bill that is designed overall to give them more powers.

    I am not convinced by the Minister’s arguments so far on why the clause needs to be in the Bill. I have listened carefully to him and read Hansard to analyse the thinking behind the clause. As the noble Lord has just pointed out, municipal bus services actually do rather well. I say to the Minister: go with the evidence. Municipal bus services, of which there are approximately a dozen, consistently feature in among the 10 best-performing bus companies in Britain—I give him just two examples: Nottingham and Reading. There are also very good examples of municipal bus services which work in partnership with commercial operators, bestriding the divide between local authorities and commercial operators. Such municipal operators are the remnants of the system that existed prior to deregulation. I remind noble Lords that, despite still having the power to set up bus companies, local authorities have not rushed out in the past 30 years to set them up. Rarely has there been anything other than a gradual dwindling in the number of such companies. Why are the Government determined to intervene now?

    We have to bear in mind that bus services might need the intervention of local authorities in the future. Local authorities might want to set up new bus companies. For example, a rural authority, faced with the collapse of its local bus company, might want to run its own limited service, integrating specialist transport for schools and social services with regular bus services.

    What part of Conservative dogma does this clause serve? There is no doubt that we are legislating here for decades ahead—the previous Act was 30 years ago. The Government need to be flexible and far-sighted. On these Benches, we are certainly not in favour of large-scale renationalisation of bus services, but we are a devolutionary party which believes that local authorities should have ultimate responsibility for ensuring that local bus services are provided where they are needed. For that, they need all the powers in their armoury, so I ask the Minister to let them retain them by deleting Clause 21.

  • My Lords, despite the passion shown by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, I am afraid that I am still not convinced by the renewed arguments for removing this clause. No one denies that existing locally owned bus companies are by and large a success story—I said as much in Committee. They have a great track record of securing awards and a very high satisfaction rate among their passengers. I can see nothing in this Bill that would change that and I wish those municipal bus companies every success as they continue to deliver for their customers.

    The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, asked: “What is wrong?” The only reason why a local authority would wish to set up its own bus company now would be to put it in prime position to win a franchise contract, a contract that its parent company, the local authority, was awarding. That would make something of a mockery of that franchise competition. Why would another bus operator go to all the expense, in both time and monetary terms, of submitting a bid for the franchise knowing that it was up against another company that was owned by the awarding authority? It would be a done deal from the start, so other operators in that area might as well shut up shop straightaway. I therefore disagree with the suggestion of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, that Clause 21 is not consistent with the objectives of the Bill. It is necessary to make the Bill work properly. Of course, a local authority company would also have to invest resources in submitting a bid, but those resources would come from the local authority, so the body awarding the franchise would have paid for its own company to bid. That does not seem right.

    I have a final point which I believe is very important: there is nothing new in this clause. All it does is extend the bar on establishing a bus company to types of local authority that did not exist when the Transport Act 1985 was passed; for example, unitary authorities. The UK bus market has coped very well for the past 30 years without district councils being able to set up their own bus companies, so why the outcry now? I think that I have answered my own question: a combined authority or unitary authority, having secured the necessary powers, would want to establish its own bus company now only to gain a foothold in the franchise process and wipe out the competition. That is not an acceptable way of proceeding. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will vigorously resist the amendment and support Clause 21.

  • I rise to support the amendment and to rebut utterly what the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has just said. I think he has a rather narrow view of the sort of situation that can arise. I spoke only today to a Green Party councillor from Cannock Chase in Staffordshire who told me that several private bus companies have dropped their less profitable routes, so communities are now stranded. People who do not have cars have no option for travelling apart from begging lifts from neighbours who do.

  • Is it not open to local authorities to subsidise the route in question?

  • Why not run them more efficiently in the first place? Public ownership can be very cost effective and much more so because it caters to the needs of the people that it represents. People are saying to councils, “This is what we want”, and private bus companies often do not give it to them.

    Limiting the power of local authorities to help their communities, as the noble Earl suggests, is a very undemocratic thing to do—perhaps that is not surprising in an undemocratic House. Clause 21 spoils what is a laudable and well-intentioned Bill. I beg the Minister to ignore what he has heard from behind him and to listen to this side of the House. It is a case of representing people and giving them fuller lives, which private bus companies, because they are in it entirely for profit, just do not see. I beg the Minister to accept the amendment.

  • My Lords, I agree with those who have spoken in support of the removal of Clause 21 from the Bill. The Bill is 83 pages long and the relevant paragraph is two lines long. It says simply, in a clause headed “Bus companies: limitation of powers of authorities in England”:

    “A relevant authority may not, in exercise of any of its powers, form a company for the purpose of providing a local service”.

    The Minister needs to explain to the House—I agree with my noble friend Lady Randerson that he did not do so satisfactorily in Committee—why this clause needs to be in the Bill, what its purpose is and what problem it seeks to solve or prevent. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, gave us one reason. He forecast wholesale competition through the franchising route from local authorities; I remind the House of my vice-presidency of the Local Government Association. He was good enough to say that local authorities run bus services extremely well in the limited number of cases where that occurs.

    I hope the Minister might explain what the problem actually is that the Government are trying to solve, because five years ago, the Localism Act 2011 increased the powers given to councils alongside their general power of competence, and they have a right to undertake new duties and introduce new policies that are not excluded by existing legislation. Of course, that explains why these two lines are in the Bill; otherwise, councils would have the power to form those companies to provide a local service.

  • My concern—my reason for supporting the deletion of this clause—is that there might be circumstances in which it becomes essential for a local authority to take action. That would be as a consequence of market failure, where a bus service should be run but nobody is able to run it. In that situation, why should a local authority be prevented by the statutory requirement in the Bill that it will never be able to form a company to provide a local service? I think that is wrong.

    The Government have had a very good record on devolution over the past six years. However, to be successful, devolution means giving power away to others to make decisions on their behalf. I see this not really as an issue of competition between local authorities and bus companies but as a means of addressing market failure where it might occur. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will look very carefully at this, because we have tried, in recent stages of the Bill, to challenge the Government’s thinking on this point; and that, even at this late stage, the Minister might be willing to indicate that the Government will have a change of heart.

  • My Lords, we have had several groups of amendments this afternoon, and I am sure that the respective Whips feel like the Grand Old Duke: you march them up to the top of the hill and you march them down again. I fear from the debate thus far that this might not be the case as far as this amendment is concerned, and I acknowledge that many noble Lords have demonstrated a strength of feeling about the effects of Clause 21.

    Let me at the outset answer a question that was asked of me. I have said this before and I will say it again: there are existing municipal bus companies, such as Reading Buses and Nottingham City Transport—which the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, mentioned—that deliver a high standard of service. They can expect to continue to do so. Their ability to do that will not be affected by this clause; nor will it prevent local authorities working in partnership with a bus company. That is an underlying thread of the Bill.

    The introduction of smartcards, the installation of wi-fi, the co-ordination of timetables, and the great strides that have been made in improving accessibility have all been delivered through local authorities working with private sector investment. These innovations benefit passengers and drive up patronage. I have been asked about this several times, and I thank my noble friend Lord Attlee for his intervention in once again emphasising the reasoning behind the Government’s position. As a principle, the commissioning and provision of bus services are generally kept separate, helping to ensure that we retain the strengths of the private sector in this important market. It is about striking a balance between local authority influence and the role that private sector bus companies can play. The Government’s proposal will help ensure that both are incentivised to deliver the best services for passengers.

    We want to see local authorities and bus operators working together to improve local bus services for the benefit of bus passengers. I know that this is a sentiment that all noble Lords share. I am sure that many noble Lords also agree—particularly those who have participated in discussions and debates on this Bill—that the Bill as a whole will improve things for passengers. However, as I have said, we have reached that part of the afternoon—or early evening—where there are clearly points of disagreement on Clause 21, but I implore noble Lords to accept that, from the Government’s perspective, it needs to remain part of the Bill.

  • My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this short debate. I do not accept the arguments from the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, that there is going to be a stampede of councils trying to set up municipal bus companies. I note that no one from local government—

  • I do not remember saying that there would be a stampede. I just suggested that there might be a problem.

  • I think the noble Earl said that a lot of councils will set up bus companies to tender for all these routes, and I do not believe that for one minute. I also note that no one from local government on the Government’s own Benches came to their defence or supported their arguments. The only way a bus company would be set up is in the situation outlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Lord, Lord Shipley. To prevent that is very regrettable. It is disappointing that the Minister is not prepared to move on this. In that case, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

  • Division 1

    24 October 2016

    Division on Amendment 111

    Content: 192
    Not Content: 180

    Amendment 111 agreed.

    View Details

    Amendment 112

    Moved by

  • 112: Before Clause 22, insert the following new Clause—

    “Bus safety

    (1) An operator of a local service may not participate in any scheme, and an authority or authorities may not approve the participation of an operator as part of any scheme, unless the operator has given a written undertaking to the applicable authority or authorities that—(a) it has subscribed to the Confidential Incident Reporting and Analysis System (“CIRAS”), and that it has made all possible efforts to ensure that all staff of the operator have been made aware of their right to use CIRAS as a confidential reporting channel in respect of any safety concerns,(b) it will collect and monitor bus casualty data in a manner to be prescribed by the applicable authority or authorities from time to time, and(c) it will make its bus casualty data available to the applicable authority or authorities by way of a report on at least a monthly basis.(2) The authority or authorities must publish on their own website, every quarter, the bus casualty data that they have collected from operators.”

  • My Lords, this amendment is about bus safety. I would like to think that it is so sensible that it will be accepted. Statistics released by the Department for Transport show that 5,381 collisions of buses and coaches were recorded last year, of which 64 resulted in fatalities and 638 in serious injuries. This amendment would help to address this worrying safety record by requiring all bus operators to subscribe to CIRAS, the Confidential Incident Reporting and Analysis System, and for bus operators and their contracting local authorities to collect and publish casualty data for public scrutiny every quarter.

    CIRAS is standard across the rail industry and began in 1996, when a team from Strathclyde University was asked to introduce a confidential reporting system for UK rail company ScotRail. It allows employees to report any health, safety, security and environmental concerns they might have. All employee information is kept confidential. Introducing CIRAS to the bus network would give employees an extra way of reporting any concerns, complementing the proven methods that are already in place for reporting and investigating incidents. Under huge pressure from one campaigner who was a victim of a bus crash, Tom Kearney, and with a little help from Green Party elected people, Transport for London adopted this policy on 31 July last year and subsequently incorporated it into its bus safety plan, published on 1 February this year. Due to the bus safety reporting practices we won in London, the Department for Transport has confirmed to us that we know the names of the bus operators involved in only 14 of those 64 fatal bus collisions; that is 22%.

    According to a report published by CIRAS in July, since going live in January 2016, safety reports from TfL bus employees constituted 25% of all safety reports during the first half of the year. Since TfL bus operators are fewer than 2% of CIRAS members nationwide, that is a key indicator of the desire for bus sector employees to be proactive in reporting their operational safety concerns. It also means that the DfT has no idea which operators were involved in well over 5,000 bus collisions and 50 deaths last year. TfL knows every single one in over 27,000.

    Operators in London carry more than half the passenger journeys in England and, including their services outside London, account for more than 80% of the market. Those operators already subscribe to the CIRAS scheme and will not incur any further cost as a result of the amendment. The cost to other operators of subscribing will be negligible: between £300 and £25,000 per annum depending on turnover and representing no more than 0.03% of their turnover. The amendment would also require operators to collect bus casualty data and provide it to the applicable authority. It would require those authorities to publish quarterly casualty data on their websites.

    I am sure noble Lords know this already, but a death on the roads comes to nearly £2 million when the entire cost to public services is taken into account. Money could be saved massively, not only for the NHS, but also for councils and others who have to provide social services to bereaved families. Since 2014, Transport for London has provided more transparency for the public on both the extent of the problems and the very varied safety records of different operators. There is also a slightly concerning fact that this amendment could represent the only language in the Bill that addresses the operational safety performance of the bus services covered by this landmark legislation.

    As has already been proven in the air, maritime and rail industries, public reporting and scrutiny of operator safety performance and access to confidential and independent incident reporting can do much to catalyse the formation of a self-reinforcing safety culture within companies. I believe that the amendment represents a proportionate measure to improve bus safety, learning from the progress made in the rail industry and in the bus market in London. I hope that the Government will support the amendment. I beg to move.

  • My Lords, I very much support this amendment. My noble friend has set out very clearly why it is necessary. It is useful to reflect on the continuing difference in the way road and rail accidents and injuries are considered. I recall a few years ago when the Government were forming Highways England—I think that is the name of it now—several of us tabling an amendment which stated that the Office of Rail and Road, as it became, should be responsible for road safety. It was soundly rejected by the Government because it would have shown up just how unsafe the roads were, are and probably will be in the future.

    I think my noble friend said that were 64 fatal bus collisions; I cannot remember whether it was last year or in a year. That compares with none on the railways, or maybe one in some years. Yet nobody even seems to think the subject worth collecting statistics on. She mentioned £2 million for every fatality, which is a figure that has long been used in the transport industry, be it in rail or road. It usually means that if the cause of the fatality can be identified and avoided from happening again for less than £2 million, you would spend the money on it, and if it was more than that you might not. If the value is the same, one’s only conclusion can be that the Government think that the value of a bus passenger’s life is less than the value of a rail passenger’s life when they die in a bus accident. This is a very dangerous situation to get into. We are not going to have an Office of Rail and Road looking after road safety tonight, but this amendment is a very good start to a debate that will probably go on for many years. I fully support it.

  • My Lords, this is a new issue raised at a late stage in the process, but nevertheless it is extremely important. This is a critical point for confidential reporting. It is no good just very thoroughly investigating serious, fatal accidents but not looking at the near misses, because there are many more data to be extracted from near misses. Today’s near miss is tomorrow’s very serious accident. Sometimes when things go horribly wrong, there are little things leading up to it; it is not just an out-of-the-blue serious incident.

    On the previous amendment, the best argument of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, was the need for localism. While the Minister should take on the principle and the need for confidential reporting and strongly encourage it, under the principle of localism he would be better to leave local authorities to decide whether they need to put this into their franchise agreement or not.

  • My Lords, I fully support Amendment 112. Ensuring the safety of passengers and the general public must be a paramount concern and this amendment places three obligations on operators and one on the relevant authorities.

    The Confidential Incident Reporting and Analysis System is an independent reporting system that helps to bring high standards to industry and allows staff to report matters of concern confidentially, with the assurance that they will not have their identity revealed. Operators will be required to sign up to the scheme and confirm that they have advised their staff of the right to use the confidential reporting facility. Secondly, the operators agree to collect and monitor the bus casualty data in a manner set out by the authority. Thirdly, they agree to make this data available to the authority. The obligation placed on the authority is to publish the data collected on a quarterly basis on their website. This will ensure that safety data from operators are in the public domain and, where there are safety issues, actions can be seen to be taken to deal with it. I hope the Government will support the amendment.

  • My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for tabling this amendment and the very informative meeting we had with regards to the background to this proposal. The amendment would require bus operators to subscribe to the Confidential Incident Reporting and Analysis System, known as CIRAS. The system would enable them to collect and monitor bus casualty data and make data available to the relevant authorities for publication.

    Let me make it clear at the beginning that road safety is a matter of national importance. The DVSA in particular plays an important role, with traffic commissioners, in seeking to ensure that drivers and vehicles are licensed and safe. In that regard, I would say to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, that we have had quite a detailed discussion on the role of traffic commissioners and their importance in this particular piece of legislation. The department collects and publishes data on reported road accidents which provide detail on the type of vehicle involved and the consequent casualties. I am pleased, but far from complacent, that we have seen a fall in the number of accidents involving buses and coaches in 2015 compared to the previous year.

    I turn to the amendment. An efficient reporting system captures health, safety and security concerns raised by employees and can also, I accept, help resolve any issues that have been raised. I also agree with the sentiment behind this amendment. However, the amendment as currently drafted raises a number of challenges. Bus operators may already have a well-established and efficient reporting system in place. Mandating a subscription to CIRAS, or any other independent reporting system, may therefore result in duplication and additional processes, which could be confusing for employees. Secondly, there is a further issue of naming a specific organisation such as CIRAS in primary legislation. That could raise issues of competition and procurement challenges, and might require frequent changes in future as technology changes.

  • As the noble Baroness pointed out, London buses are held up as the exemplar for the use of CIRAS across the bus network. As I have said many times in the debates on this Bill, the provisions in the Bus Services Bill are essentially enabling ones. Any authority wishing to implement franchising, as my noble friend said a few moments ago, could mandate the use of operational safety monitoring and reporting policies and arrangements such as CIRAS through its contractual arrangements. Just as local authorities can take other decisions relating to road safety, they can decide on this issue, too. That is exactly what has happened in London.

    Given the importance of road safety, and based on the fact that this issue has come to us at this time during the passage of the Bill, at this juncture I would be happy to consider a specific reference to confidential reporting systems in the guidance that will accompany the Bill. I assure the noble Baroness and your Lordships’ House that I fully understand the importance of ensuring that bus travel is safe for all, but I do not feel the amendment as currently drafted would necessarily achieve its desired outcome. I anticipate working with the noble Baroness on this matter as the Bill progresses, perhaps in another place.

  • I want to be comforted by what the Minister is saying, but I am curious about whether I could bring this back at Third Reading. I feel very strongly about this issue. We know about only 20% and it seems logical to roll this out for the other 80%. I just cannot see the problem. What about my bringing it back at Third Reading?

  • That is very much for the noble Baroness to consider. As I said to her during the meeting we had on the discussions around the amendment, we must ensure that we have covered all the elements and implications of what this amendment would mean. My concern would be to allow sufficient time to ensure that we had looked at every element of it. The decision whether to bring it back at Third Reading is for the noble Baroness herself.

  • To clarify that point, is the Minister saying he is happy for the noble Baroness to come back with this at Third Reading?

  • I am generally a very content person. I am saying that the decision is very much for the noble Baroness. I have made it quite clear where the Government stand. As I said, I accept that this is a principle we need to include. I have also said the way the amendment is currently drafted, by naming a particular organisation, has implications, and we wish to consider what the full implications of introducing such a measure would be. All the legal issues pertaining to such an amendment need to be considered carefully. The issue of whether something can be brought back at Third Reading is very much a matter for the House; it is not for me to dictate or suggest otherwise.

  • I know the Minister is trying to be very helpful here, and I am also trying to be helpful. This is indeed a matter for the House but the Minister has accepted that the noble Baroness has made a very valid point, albeit late in the day. If he was reasonably content for her to come back at Third Reading, it would help the House in deciding whether to get it back on the agenda.

  • I have indicated to the noble Baroness the timelines behind this. Let us not forget that the Bill is going through its first iteration, as it was introduced in the Lords. Looking at this from where I am standing, I think that it would be better to allow full consideration of this issue by allowing it to be considered in the other place. If that is so, then as we move this legislation through it may be something to consider in the other place as well. What I am trying to say is that, as this is an amendment from the noble Baroness, it is not for me to instruct or direct her as to what she wishes to do at the next stage of the Bill.

  • I am grateful to the Minister for his reply and his promise not to try to direct or instruct me. That could prove difficult in any case, but I am always interested to see how people try.

    I thank the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Kennedy, for supporting the amendment. It is very logical, when this system is already in place in London and is working so well there. I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, on his comments on near misses. Of course there is no such thing as a near miss; what it is is a near hit. Quite honestly, we are very lucky that those near hits are not real hits; many of them are a matter of pure chance. If he had talked to the campaigner Tom Kearney, who has talked to me about the impact his being in a coma for two months had on his family and how much worse it would have been if he had died—as so many people have already died—he might feel a bit differently about it.

    I would be happy to supply any more information to the Minister that he felt he needed. Personally, I feel that a lot of the bus companies in London that are using the system could use it outside London but choose not to. That is a bit of an indicator that this has to be in legislation and compulsory. If we are trying to understand companies’ safety records then we have to have the data, and what is lacking in the Bill is an instruction for companies to submit safety data.

    For me, this issue is about whistleblowing. It is noble and honourable for employees to alert their companies secretly to the problems that they see. It is difficult for them to do so openly but much easier when they have confidentiality. This would be a natural extension of what happened in London so, very sadly, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

  • Amendment 112 withdrawn.

    Amendment 113

    Moved by

  • 113: Before Clause 22, insert the following new Clause—

    “National strategy

    The Secretary of State must, within 12 months of the day on which this Act is passed, issue a national strategy for local bus services setting out the objectives, targets and funding provisions for rural, urban and inter-urban local bus services over the next 10 years.”

    Division 2

    24 October 2016

    Division on Amendment 113

    Content: 72
    Not Content: 174

    Amendment 113 disagreed.

    View Details

    Amendment 114

    Moved by

  • 114: Before Clause 22, insert the following new Clause—

    “Rural bus services: concessionary travel

    (1) A local transport authority must—(a) in making a scheme under Part 2 of the Transport Act 2000 (local services), or(b) in carrying out any functions related to the provision of local bus services,ensure that, in making provision for the reimbursement of operators of local services in respect of concessionary bus travel, rural areas are given greater weighting over urban areas.(2) In this section, “rural areas” and “urban areas” are distinguished with reference to the Rural Urban Classification.”

  • I return to the subject which we have spoken about throughout the Bill: how deep rural bus services might be saved from the way they are being reduced in present circumstances—and, with the various threats to local government funding, are likely to be further reduced in future. I do not intend to press my amendment to a Division, but I would like to have the Minister’s views on it.

    The concessionary fare money that the Government dispense, which is a large sum of money—we are talking about hundreds of millions of pounds—is divided up among transport authorities in such a way that it generally comes down to a sum of money spent on concessionary fares in each area. This means that many busy rural routes, profitable routes, attract concessionary fare revenue; whereas deep rural routes, which are mostly used by concessionary fare holders, pass holders, receive the same sum as the authority gives to its urban routes. Of course, a lot more people use urban routes, and I suggest a small top-slicing of the concessionary fare revenue granted to urban routes, so that a little bit is instead devoted to the rural routes. Because far more people travel on urban than rural buses, a small top-slicing of the money for urban buses would amount to a huge increase in concessionary fare revenue earned by operators of rural services.

    I am mindful that there are a number of EU rules about state aid. We have to be careful that we do not leave anybody with a profit as a result, but many of the rural routes are not the sorts of routes from which anybody makes very much money. My object in moving the amendment is to ask the Minister—he and I will meet fairly soon—whether this might not be a way of supporting the rural routes in this country. The Government would not have to find more money; they would simply have to redistribute the money that they are already spending. I beg to move.

  • My Lords, my noble friend has devised a very neat way of assisting bus services in rural areas. The problem that rural bus operators face is the demography of those areas, as they almost always have a very much older profile of bus passenger, which means that those routes rarely carry large numbers of fare-paying passengers. The concessionary recompense given to bus operators is cumbersome and inadequate, and that makes it very difficult for rural operators to make a profit. There is a long record of rural operators going out of business. We are suggesting a weighting towards rural areas that would hardly be felt by operators in urban areas because the actual number of rural passengers is very low as a percentage of the total. For rural operators this scheme could be the difference between survival and going out of business. I urge the Minister to respond positively to the efforts made by my noble friend Lord Bradshaw to suggest a mechanism to support bus services in rural areas.

  • I thank noble Lords for their brief contributions to this short debate. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has tabled an amendment on rural bus services and concessionary travel. As I have said before during the progress of this Bill, rural bus services play a vital role in helping people to get to work and school and in ensuring that they can access a wide range of services and leisure opportunities. Indeed, this issue has been raised in the House before. I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Scott—who is not in her place at the moment—raised it on Second Reading.

    I think we all accept that the loss of a local bus service, particularly in rural areas, can leave people isolated or dependent on friends and family to help them travel. However, commercial services in rural areas can be the most difficult to provide because of the need to achieve the critical mass of passengers required for a regular service. As I have said before, we are confident that the Bill provides significant opportunities for rural areas, and I again draw the noble Lord’s attention to the specific guidance which the Government have now published in which those opportunities are set out.

    I turn specifically to the amendment. It would perhaps be useful to remind noble Lords that reimbursement by local authorities to operators is made on a no-better, no-worse-off basis. That means that operators are already fairly compensated for the cost of providing concessionary travel in both urban and rural areas. I believe that the reimbursement mechanism that is now in place is fit for purpose, as evidenced by the large decrease in reimbursement appeals that we have seen over the last few years since the new reimbursement guidance came into force.

    If the noble Lord is seeking greater reimbursement for operators for their rural as opposed to urban services, we would be concerned that the amendment would lead to a distortion in the concessionary travel scheme because it is reimbursed on the principle of “no better, no worse off” to which I alluded a few moments ago. It is for that reason that we cannot support this amendment.

    I finish by saying that the Government provide, as I indicated previously, significant funding for local bus services. We have talked before about BSOG and the £300 million to local authorities. The Department for Communities and Local Government intends to increase support for more sparsely populated rural areas by more than quadrupling the rural services delivery grant from £15.5 million to £65 million by 2019-20. That again underlines the importance of rural services—a sentiment which I know we all share. On the basis of my explanation, I hope the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

  • I thank the Minister for that. I am not sure that I fully accept his logic. The no-better, no-worse-off rule is a fairly crude one because it is very difficult to tell. It is based on using large numbers of figures from all over the country and ignores the plight of the rural areas, which need more money. It is not coming from local authorities; it is decreasingly coming from them. The people who have these concessionary fare passes wish to be able to use them and the whole structure of the concessionary fare scheme needs to be revisited because it is clumsy and does not take account of the great differences there are in the nature of bus services in different parts of the country.

    I have stressed that these rural services will never be run by anybody who expects to get very rich. They will always be marginal services. All I am trying to do is to move them up to a better status than they now have under the concessionary fare scheme so that far more of them might survive. The Minister referred to other things that have been done to support rural services but those are only small amounts compared with what could be done if the concessionary fare scheme were revisited. I heard the Minister but I would like to talk to him about this in some detail later, because it is a very technical subject and I do not want to bore people. On the understanding that we will have a meeting, I shall add that to the agenda if I may, so that I can explore the matter further. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

  • Amendment 114 withdrawn.

    Clause 22: Power to make consequential provision

    Amendment 114A

    Moved by

  • 114A: Clause 22, page 73, line 20, leave out subsections (4) and (5) and insert—

    “( ) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”

  • My Lords, Amendments 114A and 114B in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch seek to improve the level of parliamentary oversight in connection with the powers of the Secretary of State to make regulations under this Bill. In Clause 22 and Clause 23, they are subject to the annulment procedure alone, with the exception of those regulations that amend or appeal a provision of the Act.

    The clauses give wide-ranging powers to the Secretary of State that must be subject to a higher level of parliamentary scrutiny than the Bill presently provides. I am firmly of the opinion that all the regulations referred to in the two clauses should be subject to the affirmative procedure. The amendments will require that the matters proposed by regulation in connection to the Bill will have to be debated at least in Grand Committee and the Government will have to explain clearly what the intention is and answer questions on the proposals. The annulment procedure does not provide the level of scrutiny required and I hope that the Government will be able to accept the amendments. I beg to move.

  • My Lords, your Lordships set up the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee to look at precisely this issue. These are transitional and consequential provisions and it is not clear to me why there should be any matter that needs to be looked at in Grand Committee. I am also not clear whether the committee recommended that we should resort to the affirmative procedure. It would be very helpful if the noble Lord, in responding to my noble friend’s advice on this matter, could say whether the committee advised the affirmative procedure. Furthermore, if the party opposite won the next general election so that the noble Lord was the Minister and I was the opposition Front Bench spokesman for transport and I thought that a similar amendment was appropriate on a piece of transport legislation, would he accept my amendment to go to the affirmative procedure?

  • My Lords, Clauses 22 and 23 give the Secretary of State the power to make, by way of regulations, consequential, transitional, transitory and saving provisions. Clause 22 provides that the power conferred by that section includes the power to amend, repeal, revoke or otherwise modify both primary and secondary legislation. The clause also specifies that regulations must be made by way of statutory instrument and any regulations that amend or repeal primary legislation must follow the affirmative procedure. Any other regulations under this clause which, for example, amend secondary legislation are subject to the negative procedure.

    The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee referred to Clause 22 in its report about this Bill, but only in the context of the power to “otherwise modify” primary legislation by way of making regulations that are subject to the negative procedure. As the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Andrew Jones, explained in his letter of 1 July to the chair of the DPRRC, the Government’s starting point is that regulations which make textual changes to Acts should be subject to affirmative procedure. However, when non-textual modifications would be made by the regulations, the Government continue to believe that the negative procedure is appropriate. The DPRRC did not raise any issues with negative procedure being used for regulations that make consequential changes to secondary legislation, or indeed for regulations made under Clause 23.

    Amendments 114A and 114B, which would require all regulations under Clauses 22 and 23 to follow the affirmative process, would introduce a disproportionately burdensome mechanism for changes of the sort which would be made by the regulations to be scrutinised. The Government take the view that it would not be an appropriate use of parliamentary time to require all regulations that make consequential, transitional, transitory or saving provisions to follow the affirmative procedure.

    I shall give a quick example. Clause 23 provides that regulations may, in particular, make transitional provision about ticketing schemes under Section 135 of the Transport Act 2000 which exist before the Bill comes into force. Clause 7 contains provisions that introduce advanced ticketing schemes in England. Through our discussions in Committee and Report, these provisions received rigorous parliamentary scrutiny. Any provisions made under Clause 23 would only make provision about how existing ticketing schemes in England are dealt with when the new advanced ticketing schemes provisions come into force. To resolve this issue, regulations may provide that existing schemes can be treated as advanced ticketing schemes. The intention of Amendment 114B is that such regulations would be subject to affirmative procedure. As I said already, I believe that this would be disproportionate. The Government take the view that regulations dealing with such provisions are eminently suitable to the negative procedure. The Government will continue to argue that the current level of parliamentary scrutiny set out in Clauses 22 and 23 is appropriate. I hope that with that explanation the noble Lord feels minded to withdraw his amendment.

  • I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. In answer to the noble Earl, if the tables are turned and I am standing there one day at some point in the distant future and the noble Earl is standing here, I promise him that I shall accept his amendment if he moves something similar. He can quote me on that one.

    I have heard the comments from the Minister, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

  • Amendment 114A withdrawn.

    Clause 23: Power to make transitional, transitory or saving provision

    Amendment 114B not moved.

    Clause 24: Extent

    Amendments 115 and 116

    Moved by

  • 115: Clause 24, page 74, line 2, at end insert “, subject to the following subsections.”

    116: Clause 24, page 74, line 2, at end insert—

    “( ) Section (Information for bus passengers)(1) to (4) extend to England and Wales and Scotland.( ) Section (Information for bus passengers)(6) extends to Scotland.”

    Amendments 115 and 116 agreed.

    Amendment 117

    Moved by

  • 117: Clause 25, page 74, line 9, at end insert—

    “( ) Section (Information for bus passengers) comes into force on such day as the Secretary of State may by regulations made by statutory instrument appoint.”

    Amendment 118 (to Amendment 117) not moved.

    Amendment 117 agreed.

    Bill reported with amendments.