Clause 24

Crossrail Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:00 pm ar 22 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Directions specifying matters for purposes of section 23

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move amendment No. 42, in clause 24, page 15, line 36, at end insert—

‘( ) such passenger groups as he considers appropriate.’.

Following a number of amendments that I have proposed today, with which I have so far failed to tempt the Minister, I feel quite strongly about this one in particular. We have looked a number of times at what many people might regard as not necessarily being the fullest provisions for proper consultation. A proper consultation process ought to be incumbent on a Secretary of State when they are making certain provisions and orders.

Clause 24 allows the Government to set up minimum operating levels for principal Crossrail services. Subsection (4) of the clause obliges the Secretary of State to do so, having consulted Transport for London, passenger services providers, and anyone else whom he “considers appropriate”.

I would suggest that we need to include a significant group of people whom the Minister may well consider appropriate, but who are missing from the Bill and who ought to be included and place an absolute obligation on the Secretary of State to consult them. That is the people who will use the service—the passengers themselves. As those who will be profoundly affected by the minimum  operating levels for Crossrail, it seems obvious that, if service levels are to be set or altered, passenger groups should be consulted regardless, and not only if the Secretary of State considers that appropriate.

I know that there are a number of excellent regional and national passenger organisations that the Minister will have met in his role as rail Minister; I certainly have in my role as shadow Minister. They include Passenger Focus, London TravelWatch, and various groups in the midlands. Those groups have much to say about the quality and operating levels of services. It would be a gross oversight not to recognise the value of the contribution that they make. To ignore them and not to put an obligation for them to be consulted in the Bill would be a great mistake.

Photo of Susan Kramer Susan Kramer Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Transport, Shadow Secretary of State, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport)

I very much support the inclusion of passenger groups as has been proposed in the amendment. In my days on the board of Transport for London, advice from passenger groups was crucial to understanding how to get the service right. It is important particularly at a time when we need to ensure that there is joined-up thinking and that we deliver what is properly integrated and responsive to passengers’ needs. When a sum of about £16 billion is being invested, it seems that not to give those groups the high-priority profile that would be provided by including them in the Bill would be to miss an opportunity. The amendment would show that thinking has changed and that passengers are recognised as part of the system in a railway that, too long, had the reputation of being an arrangement that would work beautifully if people never bothered to get on the trains. That change in thinking that needs to be incorporated.

Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I will preface my remarks by pointing out, as I will repeat later on, that there is absolutely no prospect of the Government ignoring passenger groups’ views simply because that obligation is not in the Bill.

However, the clause that the amendment seeks to affect is linked to clause 23. It is an advanced planning measure that enables the Secretary of State, after consulting, to specify minimum operating levels to establish principal Crossrail passenger services from a specified date. Those services will make use, for at least part of their journey, of the new tunnel under central London. That direction, which must be published, sets the basis for the Office of Rail Regulation’s overriding duty under clause 23.

Before the Secretary of State specifies the minimum operating levels, she must consult Transport for London, the provider of any railway passenger service likely to be affected by the direction and any such other persons that she considers appropriate. The Secretary of State must give due consideration to who, if anyone in addition to those specified, needs to be consulted. If she did not do so, she would be open to challenge in the courts. It is likely that rail passenger groups would be included in the consultation.

The hon. Member for Wimbledon has not specified any particular organisation. However, the danger of the amendment is that other groups may start claiming that they, too, need to be specified or included in the long list of consultations and the list could become long and ill-defined.

The amendment is not necessary. The Secretary of State will act as she considers appropriate, taking account of her general policy and the Department for  Transport’s general record in relation to passenger group consultations. This is not a bad amendment, but it does not add a great deal to the Bill. I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw it.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I listened carefully to the Minister. Let us examine his logic. He has just said that we should not include in the Bill the most important people, because doing so may bring in a load of other people. If he wanted me to specify passenger groups—if he would accept my amendment and if they were included—I would be happy to ask leave to withdraw it and allow him to bring it back as a Government amendment next week. However, if he is telling me that that creates too wide an opportunity, why is he including passenger services providers in the Bill? The Minister cannot have it both ways, but that is what he is trying to do. He is wriggling, because he does not want to be tempted into accepting one of my excellent amendments this afternoon.

Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I should point out that passenger service providers are there: they can be counted and identified and there is no question about who they are. There may be a question about which passenger groups—they are many and diverse— should be included in the list.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am afraid that the Minister is trying hard but failing to convince.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Ceidwadwyr, Cities of London and Westminster

I very much agree. Would not my hon. Friend agree that he included in his amendment the words “as he considers appropriate” to give the Minister the opportunity to suggest that it may not necessarily be appropriate to include some newfangled or unrepresentative passenger group? I cannot understand why, other than simply to hold the line, the Minister does not accept the amendment. I hope that my hon. Friend agrees that he should do so forthwith.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I certainly agree. I cannot see why the Government will not accept the amendment and include in the Bill this requirement to consult, which is sensible. It is important that this group be consulted. I take the Minister’s point, which is that he thinks that any reasonable Secretary of State would consult that group. However, why not put that on the face of the Bill? I have heard no argument not to do so. I am afraid that I would like to test the will of the Committee on this amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 9.

Rhif adran 4 Nimrod Review — Statement — Clause 24

Ie: 6 MPs

Na: 9 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 24 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 25 ordered to stand part of the Bill.