Railways and Transport Safety Bill

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Mr. Spellar: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The clause is fairly straightforward. It will allow the London Underground public-private partnership arbiter to receive information from bodies, such as statutory regulators, to help him meet his statutory duties. At present, section 235 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 allows the arbiter to share information that he has gathered with bodies such as the statutory regulators, and to assist them to meet their statutory duties, but interestingly enough it does not give him reciprocal rights to any information that they have gathered. Both the arbiter and the Government believe that that oversight is likely to weaken the effectiveness of the arbiter's office.

The officer of the arbiter is vital to the integrity of London Underground PPP arrangements, which we discussed at some length earlier this morning. For that office to be effective, the arbiter must have access to good-quality, specific information about relevant businesses. It is usual legislative practice that a new statutory authority, such as the regulator, may both release specific information to other authorities and receive relevant information from them. The new clause will put the PPP arbiter on a par with other regulators in that respect.

Miss McIntosh: I am most grateful for that information. The fact that the new clause has been drafted is an admission by the Government that there may be circumstances in which the arbiter and official regulator will be called on to act. Will the right hon. Gentleman explain the circumstances in which the arbiter has a role to play?

I am not familiar with all the regulations and Acts listed in the new clause, so perhaps he would be good enough to share with the Committee what information it is envisaged would be passed to the arbiter, as set out in the enactments. I imagine that most of the information would relate to companies and that it would be of a commercial and sensitive nature. Presumably, the confidentiality and sensitivity of that information would be guaranteed. It would be helpful if we understood precisely the circumstances under which the arbiter would act. What would be the consequences if the Committee were not minded to approve new clause 23? What is the role of the arbiter vis-à-vis the Office of the Rail Regulator? How would they work together?

Mr. Spellar: The hon. Lady invites me to speculate on the possibility of the Committee's not voting in favour of the clause. I am reminded of Damon Runyon's dictum that in life the race may not always go to the swiftest, nor victory to the strongest—but that is the way to bet.

The hon. Lady asked about different kinds of information. The Greater London Authority Act 1999 allows the arbiter to release information about specific individuals and their businesses to regulators of other industries to help them fulfil their statutory functions. Unfortunately, it does not allow him to receive such information from them. That relates to costs. For the arbiter to make comparisons with costs in other industries is a crucial part of his role in seeking to

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deal with disputes between the parties to the agreement.

The PPP contracts allow for seven-and-a-half-year periodic reviews, under which the arbiter would judge the appropriate price for any adjustments to the contract. The clause would enable him to make the appropriate judgment.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New clause 25

Seat belts: delivery drivers

    'The following shall be substituted for section 14(2)(b)(i) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c.52) (seat belts: exceptions: delivery drivers)—

    ''(i) the driver of or a passenger in a motor vehicle constructed or adapted for carrying goods, while on a journey which does not exceed the prescribed distance and which is undertaken for the purpose of delivering or collecting any thing,''.'.—[Mr. Jamieson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Jamieson: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 24—Requirement for adults to wear adult seat belts—

    '.—A person driving or riding in the front or rear seat of a vehicle constructed or adapted for the delivery of goods or mail to consumer addressees, as the case may be, while engaged in making local rounds or deliveries or collections shall wear an adult seat belt.'.

Mr. Jamieson: I understand the intention behind the proposal to remove the exemption for drivers and passengers in vehicles undertaking deliveries. However, new clause 24 would completely remove their existing exemption. We do not believe that that is

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right. An exemption for travel over very short distances is justified. The current exemption in section 14 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, is intended for the users of goods vehicles undertaking local rounds of collections and deliveries—for example, making frequent stops on household rubbish collections or doorstep milk deliveries. It would be unreasonable to require seat belts to be used every time such a vehicle moved a few yards to its next stop. That part of the existing legislation is not well understood and there are some van and goods vehicle drivers who are unclear about the intention behind the exemption.

That is why we have put forward new clause 25, which proposes a suitable change in the wording of the 1988 Act. If it becomes law, a new regulation will follow setting a maximum distance that may be travelled in goods vehicles before users are required to use their seat belt. The distance will be established after consultation with interested parties, and we envisage that it will be quite short. Apart from providing clarity for users, that would also provide clarity for the police, making it easier for them to enforce exemptions. I hope that the hon. Member for Uxbridge will not press new clause 24.

Mr. Randall: Perhaps I should declare an interest. The company of which I am a director has delivery vehicles—

It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Hurst, Mr. Alan (Chairman)
Brake, Tom
Cairns, David
Clapham, Mr.
Foster, Mr.
Hopkins, Mr.
Jamieson, Mr.
McIntosh, Miss
Murrison, Dr.
Perham, Linda
Randall, Mr.
Ryan, Joan
Spellar, Mr.
Watts, Mr.

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