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Lord Cope of Berkeley : I have sympathy with the amendments. They emphasise the imbalance in regard to these matters between the different modes of travel. That is most starkly indicated if one compares subsection (4) with subsection (5). Subsection (4) states that no charge is payable in respect of any person shown to have produced the required document on a ship or an aircraft, and it clearly covers ships and aircraft in addition to road and rail vehicles, while subsection (5), for some reason which no doubt the noble Lord, in his reasonable way, is about to explain, does not include them. It seems only fair that, in addition to subsection (4), subsection (5) should also apply.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am grateful for all the contributions that have been in support of the amendments. They concern the carriers' liability provisions in Clause 32. Much of Clause 32 is a repetition of existing carriers' liability legislation. Subsection (5) inserts a new defence against the imposition of a charge under the carriers' liability arrangements. The new defence will apply to a train operator or the owner of a road passenger vehicle. It has

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been inserted specifically to take account of the specific circumstances of those two forms of transport. I shall develop that in a moment.

Amendments Nos. 61A and 61B seek to extend the application of subsection (5) to aircraft and ships respectively. That does not put right an imbalance in the way the noble Lord, Lord Cope, outlined, but forgets the present circumstances.

Under the existing carriers' liability legislation, no charge is payable in respect of a person who is shown, by the owner or operator of the transport, to have produced the required travel document or documents to him or his representative when embarking for the United Kingdom. This defence is reproduced in subsection (4) of Clause 32. We believe that that has worked satisfactorily for a number of years for ships and aircraft. In France, in relation to trains, buses and coaches only, there are legal limitations on the ability of the staff of the company concerned to check travel documents. The position in Belgium is not quite so clear. It is therefore not possible for the owners or operators of train and bus or coach services in France to benefit from the defence, as can the airlines, under subsection (4) of Clause 32. Therefore, we are not perpetuating an imbalance. We are giving owners or operators of train, bus or coach services in France the opportunity to benefit from the defence.

Carriers' liability already applies to Eurostar services by virtue of an order made under the Channel Tunnel Act; but there is still doubt about the services from Belgium. We have therefore devised the defence contained in subsection (5)--which is narrower than the existing defence for trains--in order to cover the specific circumstances of passenger train and bus and coach services, but in a way which assists them in complying so far as possible. The defence for a train operator or the owner of a bus or coach is to demonstrate that it had satisfactory arrangements in place to prevent the carriage of inadequately documented passengers and had done everything practicable to carry them out.

The Government are determined to continue to use carriers' liability legislation in respect of passenger train services and bus and coach services from mainland Europe. If there is a legal limitation on the ability to check, we recognise this and that is why we have inserted subsection (5) as a new defence.

However, in the case of passengers travelling by aircraft or ship, there are no legal obstacles, in France, or elsewhere, concerning the checking of travel documents. In the case of air travel, international obligations require carriers to check documents. There is, therefore, no difficulty. We do not think that the extension which is attempted is needed because different circumstances obtain for airlines in terms of international obligations and in terms of the other carriers which are presently protected by subsection (4).

4.30 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis: I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way. Have the Government, and his department in particular, engaged in consultations with

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shipowners and airline operators which must have explained their concerns to his department? A number of noble Lords have reiterated them today. If there has not been consultation on these matters, will my noble friend undertake that there will be during the Recess?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am always happy at any time for officials, or myself as appropriate, to receive any representations. I think that we have a reasonable track record for listening to them. I take my noble friend's point.

My noble friend Lord Hacking asked about the operation of paragraph (c). I repeat: that is designed to reflect the fact that in France, and possibly Belgium, train operators and bus and coach operators cannot check documents but they may be able to determine whether or not travel documents were properly issued.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, asked about subsection (6). It relates to subsections (4) and (5). The noble Lord, Lord Hacking, asked whether or not the saver in subsection (6)(a) was new or simply recent. I believe that his recollection is right: it is recent. It repeats a provision in the Immigration (Carriers' Liability) Act 1987. However, in response to his further question, subsection (6)(b) is new. I hope that that is of further benefit.

Our approach comes from this: we want to have co-operative arrangements with all carriers. I endorse what has been said by the noble Lord who spoke first; namely, that the carriers have their own interest which they have sought to discharge in consultation with us. I am happy to reciprocate that. I repeat: a carrier's staff are not expected to be immigration officers but they are expected to make checks. As the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, said, they try to do that.

The immigration service is always ready on request to train carriers and their check-in staff abroad. We have already had well over 500 training trips for over 150 carriers in 90 countries. Our evaluation shows that the average reduction in the number of such cases can be as much as 30 per cent once the carriers are trained. I repeat: we are more than happy to continue that, so I think that our interest is a common one.

On the questions raised by the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, and my noble friend Lord Hacking, we have airline liaison officers abroad. We do not have enough at the moment, I agree, but we are planning to increase the number of airline liaison officers abroad to about 20 by the end of the year. I think that it is generally true to say that all the Schengen countries have carriers' liability laws. In total, over 50 countries have such rules and regulations.

In summary, the reason that we have drawn the distinction is not to discriminate against one class of carrier or another, but simply to say that there are international obligations which bind the airlines. There are legal provisions in Spain which disentitle the other carriers. We have simply sought to deal in a balanced way with both sets of carriers.

Lord Clinton-Davis: I am grateful for the care with which the Minister has responded to this interesting and

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short debate. I am not totally convinced at present, but I appreciate that my noble friend said that, through his officials, he will entertain representations from those who feel that they are being prejudiced by the operation of the current situation and that involved in the Bill.

I do not want to exacerbate the situation of my noble friend. He is suffering enough already! I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 61B not moved.]

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 62:

Page 23, line 43, leave out ("more than eight").

The noble Lord said: In comparison with the amendments we have discussed, this is a modest amendment. It enables me to make some inquiries about the definition of "road passenger vehicle". The Bill states that it is a vehicle,

    "adapted to carry more than eight passengers ... being used for carrying passengers for hire or reward",

or carrying fewer than eight passengers but being used,

    "for carrying passengers for hire or reward at separate fares"

--it is an interesting distinction--

    "in the course of a business of carrying passengers".

It is a further distinction for small vehicles. I cannot understand why a smaller vehicle--whether a car being used as a taxi, or a people carrier which may not seat eight individuals but may seat six or seven--should be treated differently from a coach. It seems to me that we might dispense with one or other of these subsections, either by the amendment, or by some more ingenious and better drafted provision with similar purpose. I beg to move.

Lord Renton: I hope that I am not being pedantic when I point out that the clause deals with,

    "Charges in respect of passengers without proper documents".

It seems artificial that they should depend on the size of the vehicle. I therefore gladly support the amendment.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We are sometimes criticised for dealing with dangers that do not exist. We are trying to avoid making provision for issues that we have not found a problem with. We are extending carriers' liability to buses and coaches because of the significant increase in the number of inadequately documented passengers arriving here by bus or coach. We have not found a similar problem with taxis. It is very rare for taxis to carry fare-paying passengers to the United Kingdom. If they did, they would be subject to the normal checks made by ferry companies.

Clause 32 has been cast wide enough. From experience we see no need to extend the scope of the definition of road passenger vehicles contained in subsection (9). When my noble friend Lord Berkeley pointed out that we had not dealt with a particular type of rail freight operator, we beetled off immediately to include them, but this is not a problem that we have encountered.

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