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Line 15, leave out paragraphs (c) and (d).

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 57, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 58 to 61 inclusive. I am in an odd situation as my noble friend has already given his answers to these amendments before I have had a chance to move them. However, that does not really matter.

I do not have a problem with the principle of apprehending criminals in railfreight wagons or anything else. My noble friend is right to seek to bring forward regulations to cover that. My problem with Amendment No. 56 is that it does not say how that will be done. It just says, "At some stage in the future we will introduce regulations--they might be workable; they might be unworkable--and we will consult whoever we think it is a good idea to consult".

As my noble friend said, I went into this matter at some length at Second Reading; I shall not repeat my arguments today. My amendments seek to probe what are the likely circumstances and methods by which these criminals and the owners and operators of the trains will be apprehended.

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Perhaps I may refer the Committee to page 26, line 13 of the Bill and the definition of "train operator". It is,

    "the operator of trains who embarked that person on that train for the journey".

That person could embark in Italy, Romania, Sweden or anywhere else. I do not know whether my noble friend expects to fine Italian Railways several million pounds a year--because that is where much of the problem comes from--or how the provision will be enforced. The contract between any operator in this country and an operator on the Continent is to pick up the train when it arrives at the Channel tunnel and to deliver it here. I do not think that there is any obligation to do anything else. For example, EWS is not the main contractor; how it will persuade Italian Railways to bring in a security system if the Government are unwilling or incapable of doing so, I am not quite sure.

Perhaps I may go into a little more detail about my various amendments. Amendment No. 57 seeks to remove paragraphs (c) and (d) from subsection (2) of the new clause until we have seen the real detail of my noble friend's proposals. As to Amendment No. 58, my noble friend said that if one inserts a clause about reaching agreement with the industry it would, in effect, make the Secretary of State a hostage to fortune. I remind him that similar proposals were introduced for railfreight through the Channel tunnel. Every railfreight unit which does not start off from a kind of Fort Knox terminal, which has cost several million pounds to make secure, has to pay approximately £30 for a security check when going through the Channel tunnel. When the regulations were debated in your Lordships' House many years ago, no one mentioned that. But now one has to pay an extra £30 per unit unless one has spent several million pounds on security before one gets there.

In the other direction, Her Majesty's Customs and Excise has a habit of delaying trains. Even if it wants to examine just one wagon, that delays the whole train, usually by 24 hours. That also costs the customer extra. As a security regime is in place for the Channel tunnel--operated on this side by the British Government's officials and on the French side by French officials-- I cannot see why the French security people, when they examine wagons for security clearance, cannot examine them also for illegal immigrants. That is my concern about reaching agreement. I may be going over the top, but that is as a result of a bad experience.

In Amendment No. 59, I seek to insert, after the word "affected", the words "directly or indirectly" because of the nature of the industry. There are a lot of people out there who are not train operators or terminal operators; they are customers. What do customers do when life gets too tough? They send freight by road.

Amendment No. 60 relates to many of the points I have mentioned. As to Amendment No. 61, I feel that until a code of practice has been seen by your Lordships and we have had an opportunity to comment on it, the affirmative resolution would be a good stop-gap. My noble friend kindly put in your Lordships' Library last week a copy of the code of practice for road freight which had been discussed with the industry. We debated it in Committee a week ago. I hope that he will be able to also put in the Library in good time before we reach Report stage a draft

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code of practice on how the railfreight operation will work. Otherwise, this will be a good example of a Henry VIII clause. I am no expert on that but it seems a matter of, "We want to do something. We are not quite sure what it is, but we hope that you will agree with it and we will bring it in later".

All these things may not seem serious in themselves but they all add up to one result: a reduction of railfreight through the Channel tunnel at present. I speak as a chairman of a railfreight group. The clause is not a nail in the coffin, but it is one more thing that will make railfreight less economic. If that is what the Government want, so be it. I beg to move.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: In order to save the time of the Committee and given that many of us have much sympathy with the Minister's situation and want to be as helpful as we can--none of us enjoys having flu--I shall address the amendments one after the other. With regard to Amendments Nos. 58, 59 and 60, I have much sympathy with the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. It seems to many of us on this side of the Committee that we are seeing an attempt to deal with a situation in which the discussions on the Schengen agreements have not been completed and, therefore, much of the provision that might be made commonly throughout the single market area has to be dealt with by individual member states. That is an unsatisfactory situation.

As I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, I could not help wondering whether the Government might not find themselves in endless litigation with other countries whose freight wagons had been detained, to which they had taken exception. I strongly urge support for the suggestion in Amendment No. 58 that attempts be made to reach agreement with the relevant interests in the railway industry in what is a complex area in which it would be easy to get things wrong.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, made a strong case for Amendment No. 61. At least until there is a code of practice--it may be that the Minister can tell us that one is forthcoming soon--it would be helpful to have an affirmative resolution procedure. The Home Office cannot, by the nature of things, have full expertise in the area of transport regulation, especially in the organisation of railway freight. Therefore, reaching agreement or at least seeking full consultation with railway interests seems an essential part of getting the law right.

With regard to Amendment No. 61, therefore, I should like to press the Minister on the code of practice and to ask him to reconsider his view that the affirmative resolution procedure is not necessary, especially given that basic civil liberties are involved in the retention of property. We have much sympathy with those who are affected by such regulations.

Subsection (1)(b) of Amendment No. 56 repeats the Government's assertion that the very seeking of asylum in the United Kingdom is regarded on an equal basis with illegal immigration. We have raised that point before and shall raise it again, but I should like to flag up again our real concern that people seeking asylum seem to be put on

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all fours with people who are attempting to evade or have evaded immigration control. That is not acceptable, given our commitments under the refugee convention, the European Convention on Human Rights and other international regulations. We shall return to that issue later.

Lord Cadman: In speaking in support of the amendments, it seems to me that it is inappropriate to treat a railway vehicle, the ownership and operation of which is complex, as someone's private conveyance that is knowingly being used illegally. It may also be against international and European law to dispose of such vehicles and loads in the manner suggested in the Government's amendment. Some railway wagons consist of up to five or six permanently coupled vehicles. Are they all to be impounded under the regulations, and at what point in their journey?

I hope that Amendments Nos. 57 to 61 would prevent any adverse effect that the imposition of the regulations would have on the general conditions of the carriage of freight into this country by rail. I reinforce the request made by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for a rail freight code of practice to be deposited in the Library.

People who arrive in this country concealed on a train comprising freight vehicles give rise, of course, to an offence and the possible prosecution of the vehicle operator or owner. Presumably, in enforcing the regulations, immigration officers will have to have powers to check vehicles of all descriptions for the presence of people at an appropriate point in the journey. Many of the regulations seem to be passing the responsibilities of the immigration authorities on to the vehicle operators and owners who will have to ensure that they do not get into trouble.

In an earlier amendment, I tried to draw attention to the demands of the immigration service for the provision of services at controlled ports of entry and to ask that some responsibility be recognised for additional costs. In some cases and by some people, the immigration service's working practices are seen to be somewhat inefficient. If so, it would be unfair for the consequences of an over-stretched inefficient service to be loaded on to businesses and operators.

The code of practice that I have seen appears to be heavily loaded against vehicle operators, many of whom are in no position fully to comply. Although I have no quarrel with our desire effectively to retain our island status within a common market or free trade area, the consequences of that and the lack of attention by the authorities of other nations to the presence of unauthorised people aboard vehicles of any description should not ultimately be the responsibility of people such as drivers and operators. It should be the responsibility of the immigration police before transit to our shores.

I support the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, in his amendments and I suggest that much more consultation needs to take place on this subject before the Bill is finally enacted.

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