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Mr. McNulty: We had an interesting debate on Report and I thank everyone who was associated with the Committee stage, where the Bill received excellent scrutiny. It is nice for the most minor party to be able reflect on Report the views that prevailed in Committee after its representative did not bother to turn up to the Committee proceedings. I repeat that I am deeply sorry that the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas), who represented Plaid Cymru on the Committee once in eight sittings, had a flood in his house on the day when his amendments were to be discussed and they were therefore not moved. Nevertheless, it is a shame that he managed to attend only one sitting.
The Committee took the proceedings seriously and its members, from all parties, including Government Back Benchers, considered a range of issues in depth. That, together with the discussions on Second Reading and Report, means that the measure, as part of the overall implementation of the rail review, is all the better for our deliberations. I urge the usual channelssince I am no longer a member of that fraternity and sororityto take lightly any urgent request from Plaid Cymru to serve on Committees because, in my experience, its members do not attend. None the less, Wales is important to the Bill, as are Scotland and the rest of the country, and the House lost the expertise that purportedly comes from Plaid Cymru.
Throughout our proceedings, I said that the Bill needed to be viewed in the broader context of implementing the rail White Paper and the overall rail review. There is therefore a wider backdrop, which must be considered, to each clause. The Bill consists of 10 main elements, including the winding-up of the Strategic Rail Authority. As was said in Committee, that is not a reflection of how bad the SRA has been. To
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be fair, it has got us to a stage where we can move on and make further progress on the railways. It has done a splendid job and will continue to do so until its demise.
However, we are now at the stage, given the assistance of the SRA, whereby we are marching from the complete bodge that was privatisation in 1994 towards something that has greater logic and integrity; something that no longer requires a body such as the SRA. Strategic elements of the Bill allow us to take it back into the Department for Transport. It is right and proper that the Government rather than the SRA make strategic decisions and determinations.
The same is true of not only safety regulation but the relationship between safety, economic regulation, the Office for Rail Regulation and the Government. It is right and proper that the Government should set the broad strategic context for our railways and also the parameters for resources. The Bill makes concomitant changes to the relationship between the Government, ORR, Network Rail and the industry to reflect the new settlement.
In shifting safety regulation from the Health and Safety Executive to ORR so that it is much more closely bedded into all the regulatory features of the railway industry, hon. Members should be assured that nothing will change the paramountcy that is afforded to safety throughout the industry. All the rail safety regulation functions that currently reside with HSE will move to ORR and will be locked far more firmly into the overall industry than has hitherto been the case. Because of that change in the nature of the relationship between the Secretary of State and the ORR, it has been important to make some changes in the Bill in relation to economic regulation.
One of the underlying features of the Bill is the Government's real desire to devolve decisions and functions as close to the local and regional areas as possible. The Bill provides for the most significant transfer of functions to the Scottish Executive since the Scotland Act 1998. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mrs. McGuire) said earlier that that is, at least in part, the reason why the Sewel motion passed so swiftly through the Scottish Parliament yesterday, not only unanimously and to great acclaim, but to a roaring round of applause, which is probably unheard of there. In terms of the transfer of functions and resources to Scotland, the settlement makes sense and is also quite historic.
We have explored many of the Welsh issues in the Bill. I do not want to dwell on the absence of Welsh Members when we met in Committee, but it is a shame that we had to have those discussions today rather than at that time. However, that is by the by. The Bill provides for a significant shift of functions, input and influence to colleagues in the National Assembly for Wales, as and when that is proper in relation to services that are entirely within Wales. There will also be a proper level of consultation and influence relating to services that go to and from Wales.
There has also been significant devolution in regard to the PTEs, and provision has been made for potential devolution in London, where appropriate. That is right and proper as well. Sadly, the geography of Wales, Scotland and London dictates that rail services are not
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contiguous with administrative or national borders. We have made no apology for saying that if the Mayor and Transport for London want to take a greater role in regard to heavy rail in the areas that surround London, that would be worth looking at. In the first instance, London's devolution settlement did not include any significant input in regard to heavy rail. TFL has been enormously successful. As the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) very fairly said, much of what it has done has been a real bonus for London. In the broadest sense, it is appropriate to consider how its influence can be extended to heavy rail, because there is a major lacuna in London's transport settlement in that regard.
The Bill makes provision for that in the wider sense, and in the first instance, such devolution could involve the Silverlink franchises, which are more or less wholly in London, save for a little sojourn about three miles north of my constituency, where the Silverlink service finishes at Watford Junction. Given that Silverlink is almost wholly within London, however, it might provide a starting point for considering a new role for TFL. Any further role involving commuter services outside London would need to be considered only with the highest regard for the regional assemblies and areas into which such control might extend.
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