Standing Committee D
Tuesday 4 February 2003
[Mr Jimmy Hood in the Chair]
The Minister for Transport (Mr. John Spellar): I beg to move,
(1) during proceedings on the Railways and Transport Safety Bill the Standing Committee shall meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8.55 am and 2.30 pm;
(2) 18 sittings shall be allotted to the consideration of the Bill in Committee;
(3) the proceedings shall be taken in the order specified in the Table below;
(4) the proceedings specified in the first column of the Table shall be brought to a conclusion (unless already concluded) at the time specified in the second column of the Table.
Clauses 1 to 13, New Clauses and New Schedules relating to Part 1
5 pm at the
Clause 14, Schedule 1, Clause 15, Schedules 2 and 3, Clause 16, New Clauses and New Schedules relating to Part 2
11.25 am at the
Clause 17, Schedule 4, Clauses 18 to 70, Schedule 5, Clauses 71 to 74, New Clauses and New Schedules relating to Part 3
11.25 am at the
Clauses 75 to 99, New Clauses and New Schedules relating to Parts 4 and 5
11.25 am at the
Clause 100, Schedule 6, Clauses 101 to 106, Schedule 7, Clauses 107 to 110, remaining New Clauses and New Schedules and remaining proceedings on the Bill.
5 pm at the
It is a pleasure, Mr. Hood, for the Committee to meet under your chairmanship, which I have not previously enjoyed. We look forward to the next few weeks. It is fair to say that Second Reading was conducted in a constructive and civilised atmosphere, and I am sure that that will continue in Committee. I am joined by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson). He has a heavy cold, so he is likely to be a silent partner today, but we shall hear more from him in subsequent sittings.
The Bill is important, containing a wide and diverse set of measures, including the creation of a new independent body to investigate accidents on the railways, restructuring the body responsible for economic regulation and introducing alcohol limits for shipping and aviation. The Second Reading debate revealed wide consensus about many measures in the Bill, but even where consensus exists, it is important for new legislation to receive proper scrutiny, and I am sure that the Committee will ensure that that happens. We shall doubtless have robust debates at various stages of our consideration.
The proposed order of consideration is straightforward. Schedules will be considered in tandem with the clauses to which they relate and the
Column Number: 4
same is true of any new clauses or new schedules. The programming motion provides generous time to examine the Bill, and knives have been set to ensure that all parts are properly considered. Eighteen sittings will provide ample opportunity to reflect on the full range of issues. Given the non-contentious nature of much of the Bill, scrutiny might be completed in even fewer sittings.
The Chairman: Under Standing Orders, debate on the programming motion may continue for up to 30 minutes.
Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge): On behalf of the official Opposition, I may say that it is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Hood. We still have problems with the concept of programme motions, but they are a fact of life and a reality. We have every intention of continuing the tenor of the Second Reading debate, but we want to flag up the fact that insufficient time may be available to examine certain elements of the Bill. Let us hope that we can get through it without any problem.
Mr. Don Foster (Bath): On behalf of the unofficial, but effective, Opposition, may I say how delighted I am to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Hood? I was sorry to hear that the Under-Secretary may be silent during our deliberations this morning, and we all wish him a speedy recovery. Many of us are concerned that his presence in Committee for several weeks will deprive hon. Members of opportunities to hear him in Westminster Hall, where he performs so effectively.
I was delighted by the Minister's approach in introducing the programming motion and kicking off our proceedings. He is right that agreement exists on both sides of the Committee in respect of many aspects of the Bill. Nevertheless, it is important to probe the details of the Government's approach and to table amendments to deal with any difficulties. That is why the programming motion is so important, providing us with sufficient time to achieve precisely that.
I have one question for the Minister. There is concern on both sides that much of the proposed legislation will rely on subsequent statutory instruments. Will we be able to see drafts of those instruments during the Committee?
I am delighted to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Hood, on what I believe to be an important Committee.
Question put and agreed to.
The Chairman: I remind the Committee that there are a money resolution and a Ways and Means resolution in connection with the Bill, copies of which are available in the Room.
I also remind hon. Members that adequate notice should be given of amendments. As a general rule, my co-Chairmen and I do not intend to call starred amendments, including any starred amendments that are reached during an afternoon sitting.
I should also say that I have switched off my mobile phone and that I hope that Committee members have done likewise.
Column Number: 5
Meaning of ''railway'' and ''railway property''
Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): I beg to move amendment No. 31, in
As ever, Mr. Hood, it is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. You excelled yourself in chairing another Committee on which we both served, and I look forward to serving under your chairmanship of this one.
I remind the Committee of my declaration of interest on Second Reading—[Interruption.] The Under-Secretary may wish to spare his voice for more important matters later. I am sure that he and I will also have at least one opportunity to cross swords in an Adjournment debate on a Wednesday afternoon while the Committee continues.
I have interests in Eurotunnel, Railtrack, British Airways, BAE Systems, BAA, First Group and the Royal Automobile Club. My husband is an airline executive. It may help the Committee if I indicate that, apart from the RAC, none of those declarations is worthy of registration. They are not important in terms of pecuniary value, but may be of interest to the Committee.
I hope that the Minister and the Committee will see amendment No. 31 as a helpful way of clarifying what we see as an omission. Clause 1 transposes a number of definitions adopted under Acts of Parliament passed by Conservative Governments. We will not, therefore, go over old ground, as we remain proud of that legislation.
As I represent Vale of York, I know that railways are important to my constituents and to those of many other hon. Members. I therefore believe that railway property should be defined before we adopt and implement the Bill. We believe that the definition given would be sufficient for the purposes of the Act if it also included
''premises owned by a railway company and occupied by an employee of a railway company.''
I hope that the Minister will think that that is sufficient of itself. There may be other properties that should be included, and the Government may want a broader definition. However, we believe that a serious omission has occurred, and that that follows through into later parts of the Bill, particularly clause 7 on the investigator's powers.
Clause 1(2) states:
''The Secretary of State may by regulations amend this section.''
I noticed, on another Committee on which I served, that provision of such powers seems to be part of a general trend. Does that mean that the Government may in future be minded to define what constitutes railway property in a statutory instrument? Does a railway property definition already exist? If so, it would be immensely helpful to the Committee if we were aware of it.
Column Number: 6
Mr. Foster: I will be particularly interested in the Minister's response, as the Government amendment to clause 2 would allow them change definitions by regulation, and they may have something in mind in that respect.
The hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) is absolutely right: it is important to understand the definition of what constitutes appropriate property. However, I have some concerns about the implications for the jurisdiction of the British Transport police. Why is it important to include the property of an employee in the definition? My understanding is that if there is a suggestion that an incident that occurred on the railway might be connected with apparatus or goods at an employee's property, the British Transport police could obtain appropriate warrants to conduct an investigation in the normal way.
Miss McIntosh: The hon. Gentleman touches on one of the most sensitive parts of the Bill, and we are pre-empting a later discussion. The founding Acts of Parliament and the subsequent amendments that set up the aviation accident inspection branch and the marine accident investigation branch referred specifically to the issuing of a warrant or summons. We are worried that the Bill does not define a dwelling or a property, as that may lead to huge controversy in later clauses.
Mr. Foster: I am grateful for the hon. Lady's intervention, and I share her concern, but my understanding is that we will have a later opportunity to consider the issuing of warrants in respect of premises owned by an employee. I have difficulty in understanding the need for the definition of property in clause 1 to include reference to an employee's property. Train operating companies have premises that are not directly related to running the railway. Those premises should be excluded from the purposes of the Bill, especially in relation to the work of the British Transport police. I do not criticise the hon. Lady, but she has not explained why the definition should include employees' premises, which could be covered in respect of the British Transport police by warrant, or those parts of premises owned by a train operating company that are not directly related to running the railway. We are minded not to support the amendment.