|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The hon. Gentleman asked why there is no upper limit on financial penalties. The important point is that the penalty imposed must be reasonable in all the circumstances of the case. A serious contravention could attract a considerable penalty whereas a minor contravention could attract only a minor penalty. The concept of proportionality is central to the provisions on imposing financial penalties. Furthermore, companies will be able to appeal to the courts on the imposition and the amount of any financial penalty. The courts may quash the penalty or substitute a lower one if they consider the amount to be unreasonable. I say again that the penalties must be of a reasonable amount. Railtrack is appealing to the courts on penalties at present, but, again, I am not able to comment.
Amendment No. 417 would remove the regulator's power to direct the parties to an access agreement--perhaps between Railtrack and a train operating company--to amend an access or network installation contract to permit more extensive use of the railway facility or network installation in question. Clause 208 is necessary because, for the first time in many years, the railway is growing. The hon. Gentleman and I agree about and rejoice in that. We need to be absolutely sure that the mechanism exists to require facility owners to provide additional access rights where there is spare capacity.
Section 22(6) of the Railways Act 1993 provides that the regulator may not require amendments to be made to an access agreement to give additional access rights, and he may not undermine the intention of that provision by entertaining a new application for additional rights. Hence the need to be absolutely sure. I emphasise that this is not additional regulation. Clause 208 makes it clear that the regulator's powers in relation to applications for access apply equally where someone who already has access wants more.
At present, section 22(6) of the 1993 Act prevents a holder of access rights from using section 17 to secure rights to run more trains on reasonable terms. That is nonsense, and it shows how Conservative Members failed to legislate for a growing railway in 1993.
'.--(1) In the Railways Act 1993, after section 19 insert--
"Review of access charges by Regulator
19A. Schedule 4A to this Act (which contains provision about the review of access charges by the Regulator) shall have effect."
(2) After Schedule 4 to that Act insert, as Schedule 4A, the Schedule set out in Schedule (Review of access charges by Regulator) to this Act.'.--[Mr. Robert Ainsworth.]
'.--(1) In section 15 of the Railways Act 1993 (modification of licence conditions following report of Competition Commission), after subsection (4) insert--
"(4A) Where (after considering any representations or objections which are duly made and not withdrawn) the Regulator or Authority proposes to make or require the making of modifications under this section, he or it shall give notice to the Competition Commission--
(a) setting out the modifications he proposes to make or it proposes to require to be made; and
(b) stating the reasons why he proposes to make the modifications or it proposes to require the making of them.
(4B) The Regulator or Authority shall include with the notice under subsection (4A) above a copy of any representations and objections which have been considered.
(4C) If the period within which a direction may be given by the Competition Commission under section 15A below expires without such a direction being given, the Regulator or Authority shall make, or require the making of, the modifications set out in the notice given under subsection (4A) above.
(4D) If a direction is given by the Competition Commission under section 15A(1)(b) below, the Regulator or Authority shall make, or require the making of, such of those modifications as are not specified in the direction."
(2) After that section insert--
"Competition Commission's power to veto modifications following report
15A.--(1) The Competition Commission may, within the period of four weeks beginning with the day on which they are given notice under section 15(4A) above, give a direction to the Regulator or Authority--
(a) not to make, or require the making of, the modifications set out in the notice; or
(b) not to make such of those modifications as are specified in the direction.
(2) The Secretary of State may, if an application is made to him by the Competition Commission within that period of four weeks, extend the period within which a direction may be given under this section to one of six weeks beginning with the day on which the Competition Commission are given notice under section 15(4A) above.
(3) The Competition Commission may give a direction under this section only if the modifications to which it relates do not appear to them requisite for the purpose of remedying or preventing the adverse effects specified in their report on the reference under section 13 above.
10 May 2000 : Column 926 (c) in section 93B of that Act references to the functions of the Competition Commission under that Act were references to their functions under those sections.