“La Reine le vault.” These Norman French words, meaning “the Queen desires it”, spoken by Clerk of the Parliaments Ed Ollard, was the final step in a 2 1/2 year process that, at 1725hrs on 27 April, saw the Bus Services Bill become law.
It was also the final action of the government and moments later Parliament was prorogued (suspended) pending dissolution today (3 May), and the official start of general election campaigning.
Crucially, the House of Lords dropped its amendment to empower councils to set up new municipal stage carriage bus operations, to enable the Bill to become law.
In many places the Act says “as directed by the Secretary of State” meaning that most of its provisions now require secondary legislation, in the form of Statutory Instruments, by the Transport Secretary.
The Act’s original aim was purely to give franchising powers to Greater Manchester, to enable then Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s devolution plan for the region to be delivered. At the heart of this is an elected Mayor, widely expected to be Labour’s Andy Burnham.
The tight deadline has been met; voters in the region go to the polls tomorrow (4 May).
From what could have been a simple bill grew to something more encompassing, putting partnership at the heart of the new way forward. It will also offer the new Manchester Mayor other options – potentially more politically and financially agreeable – than the blunt instrument of franchising.