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Column 102Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Neubert, Sir Michael
Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Porter, David (Waveney)
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Skeet, Sir Trevor
Spencer, Sir Derek
Spink, Dr Robert
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Twinn, Dr Ian
Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Tellers for the Noes :
Mr. Derek Conway and
Mr. James Arbuthnot.
Question accordingly negatived .
The amendment would improve the Bill by adding London Underground Ltd. to clause 1(3). It should be inserted for the sake of clarity. I anticipate that the Minister will say that London Underground is subject to the user agreements. I would welcome that clarification. This a probing amendment, as it seems that London Underground has been forgotten.
I am conscious of the fact that, unlike the other users which have been the subject of earlier discussion, London Underground is represented on the British Transport police committee. It would be appropriate, therefore, for its status to be reflected in the Bill. It is in that spirit that I have moved the amendment.
Mr. Freeman : I shall clarify the matter for the hon. Gentleman. The powers of the British Transport police in relation to London Underground are already covered by the London Regional Transport Act 1984, so there is no need for the amendment. I confirm that the British Railways Board appoints London Underground's managing director, who sits on the British Transport police committee. I am not aware of any proposals to change that. A sufficient number of British Transport policemen deal with the underground to warrant a representative of London Underground on that committee. The arrangements have worked well and I can therefore assure the hon. Gentleman that the amendment is not necessary.
Question proposed , That the clause stand part of the Bill. 9.30 pm
Mr. Wilson : I want to use this debate to explore the licence exemptions. The way in which information has trickled out tonight shows that the conduct of this Bill has been an affront. Many issues should clearly have been discussed in Committee. There is an awful lot of ground to be covered and many questions to be asked in this House and outside it by the people who will be affected by this legislation.
In something of a departure from his normal style, the Minister refused to answer my earlier questions and peremptorily terminated our discussion of the channel tunnel. As I said, a grave problem has to be settled. Where will the writ of the British Transport police run ? Perhaps we can have an action replay of the earlier stages of the debate when I started to probe the Minister on that subject. The hon. Member for North Devon, (Mr. Harvey) also mentioned exemptions. The Minister's replies could not have been more clear cut--exemptions were about the odd steam train here and there. He stated categorically that the tunnel was not covered by exemptions. I mentioned the relationship between the Bill and SI 606, the Railways (Class and Miscellaneous Exemptions) Order 1994. As far as I can gather from his reply on Second Reading, the Minister confirmed that the list of exemptions of operators who will not require licences contained in that order is relevant to the Bill. In other words, if one does not need a licence and one is therefore listed in the statutory instrument, one will not be covered by the obligation to retain British Transport police. If that is not an accurate summary, the Minister can correct me. If it is, it raises questions of major importance.
The list does not merely cover some trivial group of steam engine operators, but includes some important categories, and it needs at least some explanation to be given to the House. For instance, category (a) includes :
"any network, station or light maintenance depot, the operator of which immediately before the coming into force of this article was a person other than--(i) the Board, (ii) a subsidiary of the Board, (iii) London Regional Transport, or (iv) a subsidiary of London Regional Transport".
Category (b) gives a geographical description of a network that is to be exempted from the need for a licence. I am no expert on the geography of London, but the description reads suspiciously like the docklands light railway, or certainly parts of it. Is that the case ? The description is of
"the railway line running from the junction between Westferry Station and West India Quay Station, through Poplar Station, to the western end of Beckton station in London"
and so on and so forth. It also lists other stations. Is that the docklands light railway ? If so, it is not some old steam engine, run by enthusiasts. On that count, the Minister's answer appears to have been faulty.
Paragraph (l) is perhaps the most interesting. It reads :
Column 104"any network, station or light maintenance depot comprised in the Channel Tunnel system".
I am advised by the interpretation section that the "Channel Tunnel system" means that system defined in the Channel Tunnel Act 1987. That Act contains a lengthy description and it appears that the system includes not only the underwater link between the two countries, but also much infrastructure on this side of the tunnel. For instance, it includes the two terminal areas, the service and maintenance area, the inland clearance depot at Ashford, the necessary links with the road and rail networks and the fixed and movable equipment needed for the operation of the tunnel. Is that the extent of what is to be outside the remit of the British Transport police ? That is a straightforward question. Now that we have drawn out the information that the channel tunnel is affected by the legislation, I find the Minister's earlier answer extremely puzzling : I do not know why he said that exemptions had nothing to do with the tunnel, when that is clearly not the case.
Item "m" is also interesting. It refers to
"the light maintenance depots listed in Schedule 1".
Schedule 1 of the order lists 63 such depots. They are not trivial ; I would guess that they are some of the biggest British Rail depots in the country. Examples are Chester wagon shop, the traction maintenance depot at Crewe, the Eastleigh freight traction maintenance depot and Saltley fuel and maintenance point.
Let me truncate the question, and simply ask how many of those depots which are at present within the ambit of the British Transport police will not be subject to licence--and thus not BTP
responsibility--in the future. If the answer is "none", the Minister can give it very quickly, and it will be in line with his earlier answers. If, however, the list includes depots which are currently the responsibility of the British Transport police but which will be exempted from the licence system, that is clearly not consistent with what the Minister told the Committee earlier.
There is a vast chasm of conflicting interpretations. At the beginning of the debate, the Minister told us categorically that exemptions meant steam railways, and similar bits and pieces that were of no account to anyone. The British Transport police, however, believe that as a result of the exemptions they will be excluded from the Heathrow express, the docklands light railway, European passenger services and many other important segments of the railway, and I believe that the hon. Member for North Devon has been told as much. That, as I have said, represents a chasm of misunderstanding--and an eloquent comment on the Government's handling of the matter : as we enter the last minutes of consideration of the Bill, that is the belief held by people outside who will be affected by it. It would have been much more straightforward of the Minister not to ignore the existence of the list of exemptions, but to try to explain to the Committee its relevance, or lack of relevance. We would then have been given a statement of the position, rather than a dismissal of the idea in the hope- -probably--that no one would notice the connection between the Bill and the statutory instrument that the Minister himself tabled a few days ago.
I look forward to the Minister's answer.