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Those are very wide powers indeed, and I am concerned that their use by some future Secretary of State could negate the welcome advance, despite having to refer the regulations to the Disabled Persons
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: In this respect, I share the doubts of the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen. It hardly seems necessary. The authority or the person who provides a service has to do so only in so far as it is reasonable and practical. I suppose that covers the situation where the service is not set up for a period of months or there has been an accident or some special unpredictable event that has happened during the course of a journey. We have enough flexibility there for people to do their best, and my experience is that in those situations railway operators do their best.
The exemption under subsections (4)(5) and (6) are a different matter altogether. That is obviously intended to be a permanent exemption because it can be annulled only by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament. It relates to something that will be set up over a much longer period and applies to all sorts of people falling into a certain class. I rather agree with the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, that it does open the possibility for people to mistreat this piece of legislation in order to avoid the responsibilities that we are all grateful to see. In other words, it seems rather contradictory.
Lord Berkeley: While accepting, to some extent, what the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, and the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, have said, there is another side to the matter. I welcome the fact that this clause is flexible, but again I worry as to the way in which it may be interpreted. Any noble Lord who, on a hot day, has been on a train that has developed problems--last week I was stuck on a train without air-conditioning for two-and-a-half hours--would accept being taken away by horse and cart. He or she would be less concerned with whether or not the bus provided for their journey was easily accessible. Those with mobility problems would be happy to have a rather uncomfortable lift into the coach rather than having to sit around for any length of time.
My concern is that somebody will say that there should be a park of accessible buses all the way round the country waiting for an accident to happen. Somebody in a train operating company's legal department will interpret the matter in that way. That would be an enormous extra cost, and I hope that there will be flexibility in its implementation in both directions, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, said. When there is an accident you want the first available transport that can take you home in whatever discomfort; it is better than staying out all night.
Lord Brabazon of Tara: I too welcome this clause in principle, though I would in a way like to leave out the word "disabled" where it occurs. I do not see why all passengers, not just those who are disabled, should not be able to undertake their journeys safely and in reasonable comfort if there is a rail substitution service. However, perhaps that would be taking the matter a little too far.
Following on from what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said, I assume that not all vehicles used for a substitute service will have to be wheelchair-accessible; for example, if a fleet of half a dozen buses is required they will not all have to be wheelchair-accessible. It will perhaps be possible for wheelchair passengers to go in a licensed taxi; after all, they will shortly all have to be wheelchair-accessible. Would that be sufficient to comply with the regulations?
I wish also to mention the point raised by my noble friend Lord Swinfen and the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, in relation to the exemptions under subsection (4). I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say in answer to the point made on that particular aspect. However, in general terms we welcome this amendment.
The Earl of Mar and Kellie: Part IV of the Bill relates to Scotland, but I am a wee bit concerned that we are talking about substitute road services at a time when road transport is almost wholly devolved. I wonder whether we will have a different form of accident--that is, a turf war with the Scottish Parliament--if we try to make this kind of road transport legislation. It is more the prerogative of the Scottish Parliament. It is important that we do not have any unnecessary clashes with the Scottish Parliament; they will happen, but I do not want any extra ones. I therefore ask what is fast becoming a characteristic question from me about this as a devolution issue.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: To answer the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, while roads in Scotland obviously are a devolved matter, there will be no turf war here on the duties of rail companies, because the rail companies' duties are not devolved.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, went to the nub of the matter, and in a sense echoed what had been said earlier in the discussion by some of the contributors who welcomed the amendment. It was tabled in a spirit of trying to find the appropriate compromise in what can be an expensive area for train operating companies, and yet clearly a dismaying experience for disabled people when provision is not made for them. We have tried to reach a happy medium and to ensure that we consult widely on any exemptions.
I mentioned the heritage railways as a specific example. But Members of the Committee can be assured that the exemptions will be limited and could be revoked. I stress again that the new clause provides for statutory consultation on exemptions with the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee. I feel it highly unlikely that any Secretary of State in future would attempt to behave in a callous way by disregarding such consultation and causing distress to disabled people.
On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, my understanding would be that those passengers who find themselves stranded will have help available to them. The concern is that too often that help would not be suitable for disabled people. We want to try to ensure that there is a suitable substitute vehicle available to transport disabled people home in an appropriate manner.
I hope that that covers most of the issues that have been raised. I end as I began, by echoing the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, on the need for flexibility in both directions. We are introducing a potentially onerous and expensive duty, although I hope not a harsh one. Trying to ensure that a suitable alternative is available for the individual is a very honourable advance for us all to make.
The noble Lord said: I rise to move Amendment No. 111 and speak to Amendments Nos. 112 to 124 to Schedule 26 and Amendment No. 133 to Schedule 27. The amendments to Schedule 26 are minor, clarificatory amendments to the tax provisions of the Bill which ensure tax neutrality on transfers to the authority and the Secretary of State from the British Railways Board. As well as tidying up some drafting, they ensure that transfers of loan relationships and trading activities are tax neutral and that transfers of assets held on lease and similar transactions do not change the tax position.
Amendment No. 133 is a consequential amendment to the Finance Act 1994. It deals with transfers under the Railways Act 1993 and ensures that it takes account of the establishment of the authority. I beg to move.
("( ) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (2) the transferor (and accordingly the transferee) is to be taken to have accounted for the loan relationship in accordance with an authorised accounting method corresponding to that in accordance with which the transferee accounts for the loan relationship in the accounting period in which the transfer takes effect.").
Page 290, line 9, after ("is") insert ("or forms part of").
Page 290, line 17, leave out ("any period beginning with the time the relevant transfer takes effect") and insert ("the time when the relevant transfer takes effect and any later time").
Page 290, line 31, leave out ("any period beginning with the time the transfer takes effect") and insert ("the time when the transfer takes effect and any later time").
Page 291, line 37, leave out ("a disposal of machinery or plant") and insert ("machinery or plant which is treated for the purposes of the Capital Allowances Acts as disposed of").
Page 292, line 35, after ("is") insert ("or forms part of").
Page 294, line 23, leave out ("a disposal of machinery or plant") and insert ("machinery or plant which is treated for the purposes of the Capital Allowances Acts as disposed of").
Page 295, line 20, after ("is") insert ("or forms part of").
Page 295, line 28, leave out ("any period beginning with the time the relevant transfer takes effect") and insert ("the time when the relevant transfer takes effect and any later time").
Page 297, line 24, leave out ("disposal") and insert ("acquisition of the relevant interest by the transferee").
Page 297, line 27, leave out ("a disposal of machinery or plant") and insert ("machinery or plant which is treated for the purposes of the Capital Allowances Acts as disposed of").