Channel Tunnel Rail Link (Supplementary Provisions) Bill

[back to previous text]

Clause 5

Meaning of “development agreement”
Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Stephen Hammond: I want to have a small debate on the clause because, as I mentioned when I spoke to my amendment to clause 3, I have concerns about the wide-ranging impact of clause 5. I am grateful to the Minister and his officials who, during the suspension, clarified one of the points that I raised during the evidence-taking session about the rail link and rail services on it. I now accept that the clause deals with the rail link, rather than with the services.
None the less, I wonder if the Minister could provide us with a few more examples and explanations. Adding the words “or operation” to the development agreement will have a significant impact on every clause in the Act that relates to development agreements. Rights and obligations provided for in those clauses will be extended, so that they will apply not only during the construction phase but once the rail link is operational. I voiced my concerns about the possible implications of that change during our discussion on clause 3.
I would like to ask the Minister whether there are any other provisions in the 1996 Act which relate to development agreements, and which this measure would retrospectively change. Can he be clear what the impact of those changes might be? It is a wide-ranging change, and I wonder whether the measures in the clause might not have been obtained more prudently by making some specific, rather than general, provisions. The development agreement was supposed to deal with the construction phase, which is now complete. We are now into the operation phase. The clause could potentially be used extremely widely, and I wonder whether the Minister could give some reassurances about the intentions of its operation, perhaps give some examples, and indeed tell us where it will potentially impact on other provisions in the 1996 Act.
Mr. Harris: Further to the hon. Gentleman’s explanation of an earlier discussion during the evidence session, I gave an undertaking to report to the whole Committee and to clarify the issue raised by the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire and the hon. Member for Wimbledon on the development agreement. For the record, the 1996 Act defines a development agreement as
“an relation to the design, construction...or maintenance of the rail link”,
which is defined as the HS1 infrastructure. It does not cover train services. In that respect, the 2005 Act is irrelevant. I hope that that clarifies the matter for the Committee. I apologise that due to unusual circumstances, I have not been able to put it in writing for every Committee member.
I shall try to address the points made by the hon. Member for Wimbledon. He can seek further clarification if I fail to do so. The clause will amend the definition of a development agreement in section 56 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996. London and Continental Railways designed and constructed HS1 in accordance with the terms of the development agreement that it signed with the Secretary of State in February 1996. The development agreement contains the terms of the concession to operate the railway and will continue post-construction. To reflect more clearly the fact that the 1996 Act provisions referring to the development agreement apply where relevant to agreements relating to operations, the clause will amend the definition of a development agreement to include the word “operation”.
It is proposed to amend the current development agreement as part of restructuring so that it focuses on the railway’s operation. If the definition of a development agreement in the 1996 Act were not amended, it would be more uncertain whether the revised agreement fell within the definition. The effect of a court finding that the revised development agreement did not fall within the definition could be serious. Under the 2005 regulations, the Secretary of State is required to set a charging framework for access charges to HS1 through the development agreement as defined in the 1996 Act. If there is found to be no development agreement as defined, there will also be no effective charging framework, giving train operators greater scope to challenge access charges levied by the HS1 operator. I hope that that clarifies the matter.
Stephen Hammond: I think that the Minister is encouraging me to say, “Definitely.” I think that he has clarified the point, but after reading the Hansard report, I may come back to him. I think that he is saying that we need to amend the development agreement so that the charging regime can stay in place through the operational phase. If that is the short summary of what he said, it clarifies the point, and I am grateful to him.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 6

Interpretation, commencement, short title
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Mr. Knight: In the interest of fairness, and in the same spirit displayed earlier by the Minister, I thought it right and proper that I should rise to catch your eye, Mr. Atkinson. The Minister was criticised by the Opposition for the loose drafting of clause 4, and he said very fairly that he would be willing to consider it on Report. In the interest of balance, I therefore rise to praise him for the drafting of clause 6, which for once shows positive action. It gives a firm and definite implementation date, not one to be determined on some unspecified day. The Act will come into force two months from the day on which the Bill is passed. Well done, I say.
Mr. Harris: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for drawing my attention to that very worrying part of the Bill. [Laughter.] That was the Government’s intention, of course, and we do not intend to amend it.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Question proposed, That the Chairman do report the Bill to the House.
Mr. Harris: I hope that I have my timing right, Mr. Atkinson. During debate on the Crossrail Bill, I tried three times unsuccessfully to offer a vote of thanks to you as the Chair. It has been a short but delightful experience to serve under your chairmanship. The Bill may go down in history as having undergone one of the shortest periods of Committee scrutiny. It is probably equivalent in length to some delegated legislation Committees on which I have served. That is certainly due at least in part to you, Mr. Atkinson.
I also thank your Clerk, of whom I had experience when I was a member of the Select Committee on Science and Technology. He is a fine chap, and I am sure that he has done an excellent job for you. I also thank the Hansard reporters, the Doorkeepers, the police officers, my own officials, who have done an outstanding job, and my private secretary, Sandra St. Louis. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Wimbledon and the hon. Member for Richmond Park for adopting a very healthy bipartisan and constructive approach. Finally, as I forgot to do so last week, I must thank members of my own party on the Committee. I am grateful to them all for their sterling and reliable support during this very brief sitting.
12.15 pm
Stephen Hammond: I echo all the thanks that the Minister has expressed. It has been a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship in this short Public Bill Committee, Mr. Atkinson. It has been shortened by the Minister’s help to the Opposition in the form of a briefing, and by his answers to a number of our questions, and we are grateful for that. I echo the Minister’s thanks to the Clerk, the Hansard reporters, my researcher, who helped me tremendously with the construction of our amendments, and indeed to my hon. Friends for their support.
Susan Kramer: I, too, echo all the various thanks that have been expressed. My first experience of an evidence-taking session was quite useful in abbreviating our discussions in the clause-by-clause consideration stage of the Bill. I thank everybody for allowing us to go early to lunch.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill to be reported, without amendment.
Committee r ose at seventeen minutes past Twelve o’clock.
Previous Contents
House of Commons 
home page Parliament home page House of 
Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2007
Prepared 5 December 2007