Monday, October 27, 2008

Labour rolling back devolution?

Today's Local Transport Bill, now in its third reading, is a mixed bag in terms of devolution.

On the one hand, new powers regarding Quality Contract Schemes for buses are being devolved to the Assembly, on the other hand, Wales is losing a 'Traffic Commisioner', as noted by Stuart Cole of the Welsh Transport Research Centre, back in July.

Traffic Commissioners' responsibilities include the licensing of Heavy Goods Operators and the registration of local bus services, amongst other powers.

Under the present system, Wales has its own Traffic Commissioner, albeit based in Birmingham, where the post is joined with Traffic Commissioner for the West Midlands.

The new system suggested by the Government in this Bill would end this post, with the role being replaced by a team of ‘roving’ commissioners across the UK.

The exception to this would be Scotland where they would keep their commissioner.

Plaid have tabled a series of amendments that would ensure that there is a Welsh Traffic Commissioner based in Wales, as recommended by the Welsh Affairs Select Committee and the National Assembly's Economic Development and Transport Committee when this was last discussed in 2004.

When so much of transport policy is devolved to the Assembly, it makes no sense to have a commissioner based in London who has no knowledge of Welsh transport.

He or she should be in Wales where they would be closer to the issues and the policies with which they have to deal.

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