After a dogged 2 years fight in which three citizen petitioners and the RMT Union joined forces to petition against Clause 5 of the Transport for London Bill, on the 8th February 2016 in the House of Lords, TfL through Tanni Grey-Thompson, withdrew the Clause.
It would have enabled TfL to enter into opaque, “Limited Partnerships” with developers, ensuring its deals on its extensive public land holdings would not be open to scrutiny. It would allow developers to minimise their tax obligations while putting all of the risks attached to any project's failure onto TfL.
The citizen petitioners and the RMT Union fought for TfL’s interaction with private companies to be transparent, ethical and in the interest of the public.
Clause 5 came to their attention due to TfL’s involvement with the ongoing development at Earl’s Court in its Joint Venture with Capital & Counties Properties Plc (Capco). A letter dated 6th May 2014 between Sir Peter Hendy and Mick Cash of the RMT showed that had a Limited Partnership option been available to TfL on the Earl’s Court Masterplan it would have been their preferred choice of vehicle.
Transport for London in its briefing document for the House of Lords debate on Lord Alf Dub’s motion relating to the Bill today stated:
“Clause 5 would have authorised us to form or join with others in forming limited partnerships. We took note of the strength of feeling in the House of Commons during the revival debate on 16 November 2015 about the clause. We recognise that, notwithstanding the amendments which were made to that clause by the Opposed Bill Committee, concerns remain about the possible future exercise of the powers which would be conferred by it. Accordingly, we have decided to amend the Bill and delete clause 5 and references to limited partnerships when the Bill is reintroduced in the Commons.”
The RMT Union in a press release stated: “RMT in conjunction with Andy Slaughter MP, John McDonnell MP, and numerous other labour MPs and the Save Earls Court Campaign combined together to petition against the Bill and try to prevent the most ill-conceived aspects of it from becoming law.”
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “We welcome that TfL has finally agreed to moderate its plans. TfL made a complete mess of the Earls Court development and was setting itself up to lose hundreds of millions of pounds by disposing of state assets far too cheaply.
“However, the story is not over yet. The proposals for commercially exploiting TfL land are coming in thick and fast. Accordingly, we will remain vigilant while the remaining provisions of the Bill return to Parliament for final scrutiny."
The Bill will now return to the House of Commons for further amendments.