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31 Mar 2003 : Column 682continued
Mr. Clapham: My hon. Friend alluded to the relationship between overlapping bodiesfor example, the rail accident investigation branch, the Health and Safety Executive, the Health and Safety Commission, Her Majesty's rail inspectorate and the new rail safety and standards board. Does he agree that the role that the rail accident investigation branch will play, as an independent body, may act as a catalyst in pulling together the other bodies to facilitate greater co-operation in relation to the way in which their work overlaps?
Mr. Hopkins: If the investigation branch discovers that those other organisations are perhaps not doing their job, I hope that it will be able to report to Government so that something can be done. From my own inquiries and discussions with many who work in the railway industry, I know that some of those
I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. Clapham) mentioned the transport police. The transport police do an excellent job. Hon. Members who saw the recent documentaries on the rail transport police will know that they are a first-class body that does a good job and should be listened to and supported. When the transport police find things that are not right, the Government ought to take them seriously and, if necessary, introduce further legislation to strengthen the existing arrangements.
Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington): I want to speak in favour of new clause 12, which is in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Foster). The new clause relates to contacting or sub-contracting matters that were discussed in the Standing Committee. Hon. Members who were present will remember that we tabled a straightforward amendment, which was slightly shorter than the one that we are considering today. It said simply:
In Committee, the Under-Secretary gave us an example in relation to the marine accident investigation branch. He said that he received lots of reports about marine accidents after which salvage experts were used to lift wreckage from the sea bed. Clearly, it is entirely appropriate for salvage experts to be used in that capacity. However, did not give the example of a ship manufacturer working as a consultant in an inquiry into a vessel that had been split in half in bad weather but that had been manufactured by the same ship manufacturer. It is exactly that sort of conflict of interest that we want to avoid. That is the purpose of new clause 12.
Mr. Hopkins: I endorse the hon. Gentleman's concern about the plague of contracting that has overtaken the industry since privatisation. Does he accept that a problem has been that many people with skills are now
Tom Brake: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. Clearly, there is a role for contractors and sub-contractorsthat will always be sobut I agree with the point that he makes. Indeed, Network Rail has recently announced that it is bringing back in-house some contracting work, to enable it to develop not only expertise, but a point of comparison with contractors working in the private sector so that it can find out whether the costs quoted are appropriate.
As I have said, we have concerns about contractors who have a dual role in investigations and in carrying out work. Although the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins) did not believe that sub-contractors would never be asked to work on investigations, he argued that they should not lead them and only assist in them.
I should like to give the Under-Secretary some time to consider our proposalperhaps he will do so in the next few daysso we do not intend to press new clause 12 to a vote. We will listen carefully to his response, and I hope that he will recognise the need to do away with the possibility of any conflict of interest.
Mr. Jamieson: May I thank the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) for the broad welcome that she gave the Bill? I shall not join the discussion between the Liberal Democrat and the Conservative parties about which was the most supportive, but I dare say that a reading of Hansard would indicate that to anyone who had an interest.
If the hon. Lady wants to visit my constituencyto go on the chain ferry or otherwisenothing that she has said so far now or in Committee has negated that invitation, and she is always very welcome. I saw the chain ferry in my constituency on Friday, and I can assure her that it is working well.
Mr. Don Foster: I am grateful to the Under-Secretary for giving way given that, from a sedentary position, the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) says, "What about the workers?"[Interruption]as did the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody). The crucial thing is that I hope that the Under-Secretary will tell his hon. Friends that, in light of amendments proposed by the Liberal Democrats, the Government now intend to ensure that the workers are properly represented on the various bodies that we have discussed today.
Mr. Jamieson: My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich has shown more interest in the workers over the years than the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) or the Liberal Democrats ever have.
Mr. Bercow: I recognise the hon. Gentleman's instinctindeed his thirstfor badinage, but may I simply advise him that, if he traduces my record on such matters in future, I will do my best, within order, to highlight that proportion of my 5,000 written questions that relate to the interests of the working people of this country.
Mr. Jamieson: The hon. Gentleman always looks as if he has bags under his eyes. He must have been sitting with the bedclothes over his head and using a flash lamp to read past copies of Hansard. He has done that too often and, these days, he reads his own contributions. I strongly recommend against that. He should get a life, go out at night and do something else. That might be of great benefit to him and give him a broader perspective on life.
The hon. Member for Vale of York suggested that we had changed our minds. However, when we concluded our debate in Committee on this part of the Bill, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Transport said that we would return to the issue. He said that we would take note of the debate in Committee, and that is why we have returned to the issue tonight.
The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) and my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins) raised important questions about the content of the annual report. I emphasise that it will show the progress of recommendations and take an overview of the