Railways and Transport Safety Bill

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Mr. Spellar: I hope that I have dealt with the issues raised by amendment No. 21. Damage consequential to the accident is a slightly different matter from the causes of the accident, which is the focus of the accident investigation branch.

I thank the hon. Lady for saying that she will not press the amendment to a vote. I hope that I can help by looking at the definition of serious accidents in the directive. There will be nothing to stop member states widening the scope of mandatory investigation in their territory, as long as it complies with the minimum scope defined in the directive. That is open to us under these provisions, and could be done by regulation. A difficulty would be created, however, if we wrote into the Bill definitions that were incompatible with the directive. We would then need to amend primary legislation, and do so quite soon.

Miss McIntosh: I hope that any such regulation would be subject to the affirmative procedure of the House, providing the opportunity further to investigate and amend. Consensus is emerging in Committee, and it would be regrettable if we could not develop it further. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Miss McIntosh: I beg to move amendment No. 19, in

    clause 2, page 2, line 7, at end insert—

    '(3A) Regulations under subsection (2) must be laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendments Nos. 23 to 26.

Amendment No. 20, in

    clause 12, page 7, line 18, leave out from 'be' to end of line 19 and insert

    'laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.'.

Miss McIntosh: Before I speak to the amendment, I want to make a point of clarification. I am moving amendment No. 19, which deals with clause 2, but is it in order to speak to clause 12? Having agreed a programme resolution, we were not expecting to take provisions out of order, but we now seem to be in the Government's hands. We are already talking about clause 12.

As was clear on Second Reading, hon. Members are concerned about the extent to which the Government have empowered themselves to amend

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provisions. Clause 2(2) empowers the Secretary of State, through regulation, to

    ''make provision for what is to be or not to be treated as an accident or incident for the purposes of this Part''.

I repeat that the regulations should be approved by resolution of both Houses of Parliament.

I note that the Government amendments leave out reference to orders, so I presume that regulations will be subject to the affirmative resolution of each House. Now would be a good opportunity for the Minister to answer the question to which he earlier failed to respond: will the regulations on what constitutes a serious accident, a less serious accident or an incident be subject to proper scrutiny?

Clause 12 set alarm bells ringing for Opposition Members because of the wide powers it confers on the Government to make regulations. Will the Minister explain why the Government decided to delete the reference to orders in the Bill at this early stage of proceedings? Am I right in assuming that an order is a statutory instrument? The Minister could nod his head and Hansard would enter it into the record.

Mr. Randall: He is waiting for guidance.

Miss McIntosh: Perhaps the guidance could come from a provenance that cannot be recorded, but it would be helpful to understand what constitutes a regulation and what an order. We hesitate to empower the Government. My preference is always for primary legislation, whenever possible. The Minister said that it would have been regrettable to adopt amendments Nos. 22 or 1 and have to review and repeal a part of the Bill. Would this be a good moment for the Minister to respond to my question whether a statutory instrument constitutes an order?

The Chairman: Order. I can advise the hon. Lady that I shall decide who is going to speak. If the Minister wants to intervene, he is welcome to do so. It is not for her to call Members to speak.

9.45 am

Miss McIntosh: That is most helpful, Mr. Hood. My question was just for clarification.

I repeat that it is our sincere wish—I hope that the Minister will grant us co-operation and assistance—that as much legislation as possible will be in the Bill and as little as possible left to regulation. Can he assure us that Government amendments Nos. 20 and 23 to 26 relate specifically to the definition, which would avoid the eventuality of having to be specific in the Bill, which would not sit comfortably with, and would perhaps contradict, the definition agreed at European level? In a spirit of co-operation, we have agreed a programming motion this morning. I hope that we will still be allowed to consider later in the Bill the implications of clause 12 for clauses 3 to 11.

Any regulations made under clause 2(2) should be kept to an absolute minimum. We seek confirmation from the Minister that that will be the case. The definition that he seeks, which he generously explored with us this morning, will at least touch on some of the points discussed under amendments Nos. 22 and 1.

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Mr. Spellar: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for explaining the issues that the amendments seek to address. As she said, the group of amendments includes four Government amendments. Government amendments Nos. 23 and 24 seek to correct typographical errors. The clause presently provides for regulations and orders created under part 1. Part 1 does not provide for any orders, and the reference to such ''orders'' should therefore be removed.

Mr. Randall: I am interested in the concept of typographical errors that recur regularly. To my mind, a typographical error occurs only once. Perhaps the Minister could say that his Department found that it had made a mistake rather than a typographical error.

Mr. Spellar: Typographers have to take responsibility for a number of areas under all Governments, as the hon. Gentleman will be aware.

As the hon. Member for Vale of York said, Government amendment No. 25 changes the parliamentary procedure for regulations under clause 1(2) from negative resolution to affirmative resolution. Clause 1(2) allows the Secretary of State to amend the definition of ''railway'' or ''railway property'' by regulation. That is a Henry VIII power, allowing secondary legislation to amend primary legislation. As hon. Members may be aware, the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has recently recommended that Henry VIII powers should generally be exercised by affirmative resolution, and the amendment will accomplish that. Government amendment No. 26 confirms that other regulations under part 1 will be made by negative resolution.

The amendments are being proposed to ensure that the part of the Bill relating to the RAIB works well and that it is consistent throughout. However, the other amendments in the group would damage the smooth operation of the RAIB.

Amendments Nos. 32, 19 and 20 would mean that other regulations made under part 1 could be made only by affirmative resolution. The regulations for the RAIB will set out detailed working arrangements for the branch in the same way as civil aviation regulations and merchant shipping regulations. Both the equivalent air accident regulations and marine regulations are made by negative resolution. Lord Cullen recommended that the RAIB should be modelled on the aviation investigation branch. We agree, and can see no reason why the RAIB regulations should not be made in the same manner. As I have said, we intend to publish regulations soon after Royal Assent.

The regulations will need also to reflect the forthcoming European Union safety directive, which will place its own requirements on what accidents and incidents need to be investigated. We shall have to comply with its terms. With that assurance, I hope that the hon. Member for Vale of York will withdraw the amendment. I beg to move formally amendments Nos. 23, 24, 25 and 26.

The Chairman: Order. The Minister will have the opportunity to move those amendments formally later in the proceedings, not while we are on this clause.

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Mr. Randall: Given the Minister's assurance, can he give a further assurance that all other typographical errors have been checked and that we will not have to come back to such matters later?

Mr. Spellar: I take the hon. Gentleman's point. We always make examinations to ensure that we have the best possible legislation, and I am sure that both sides of the Committee desire that.

Miss McIntosh: As my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) has suggested, the question is raised of what is a typographical error and what is a mistake. I should hate to be a typographer in the Minister's Department at this time.

Mr. Foster: Does the hon. Lady believe that clause 103 is the result of a typographical error, or a straightforward mistake by the Government?

Miss McIntosh: I hesitate to speak for the Government, but I think that we shall have plenty to say on clause 103 when the time comes.

Mr. Spellar: I think that the hon. Member for Bath meant a mistake by the previous Government.

Miss McIntosh: We admit to having made mistakes, although we did not make too many typographical errors.

I have great difficulty in seeing the difference between amendment No. 20 and Government amendment No. 25. Apart from about two words, their content, drafting and aim are identical. Will the Minister see fit to withdraw amendment No. 25 and instead to accept amendment No. 20?

The Chairman: Order. I should advise the hon. Lady that if she wants to be a member of the Chairmen's Panel, and invite people to withdraw amendments, she should see Mr. Speaker.

Miss McIntosh: That is an ambition beyond my wildest dreams at the present time, Mr. Hood. I shall store it away for the future. I hope that the Minister, in a spirit of generosity, will accept that the two amendments are very close.

The Minister has inspired me with no confidence whatever in amendment No. 26. Amendments Nos. 25 and 20 seek to address the Henry VIII situation—Henry VIII was a man of many wives, and I am a lady of many dreams. Given the Minister's points on amendment No. 25, I am shocked and stunned by amendment No. 26, which opens a whole can of worms. He failed to specify precisely what other regulations the Government will want to introduce under the negative procedure.

The Opposition are always deeply uneasy at any reference to the negative procedure. I remember how many statutory instruments were passed in the hazy days of 1973, when I was a humble law student, studying constitutional law at Edinburgh university. If one reads a constitutional law book now, some 30 years later, one sees that the number of statutory instruments introduced, especially by negative resolution, has become unacceptable. I hope that the Minister will agree, in a spirit of compromise, to move forward by means of affirmative resolution.

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