|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: This proposed new clause is--a splendid word for this time of night!--otiose. The authority does not have the standing to give permission to any person to construct or operate
The other provisions in the amendment are already incorporated in the Railways Act 1993. Section 6 of that Act requires the operator of a railway asset to have a licence or an exemption. Sections 17 and 18 cover the need for regulatory approval of contracts for access. The ruling of the regulator over access charges is already covered by Section 17 of the 1993 Act.
The new clause could not serve a useful purpose. There is already a well used procedure to allow persons to construct and use railway facilities. I hope that with that explanation the noble Earl will be able to withdraw his amendment.
The noble Earl said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 368 to 370. Paragraph 19 appears innocuous but it gives the Secretary of State the power to grant exemptions from licences at any time, whereas under the 1993 Act such exemptions could be granted only when the Act came into force and were a tool in setting the system up. An ongoing power as proposed in the clause could be abused. The amendment would remove it.
Amendment No. 368 would delete sub-paragraph (3), which removes the obligation on the Secretary of State to publicise any exemption granted from Sections 17 and 18 of the 1993 Act to those persons to whom it applies. It is difficult to see the point of removing that requirement.
On Amendment No. 369, if a rail operator has been substantially prejudiced by a failure to comply with the procedural requirements on making a penalty order, Section 57(2) allows a court to impose a lesser monetary penalty rather than quash the order. A schedule defect should not always lead to the voiding of the substantive action. The court should be able to decide when the operator has been so severely prejudiced by the procedural defects that the penalty should not be allowed to stand and when the prejudice is not so severe and a reduction in the penalty is more appropriate.
Amendment No. 370 would restore the provisions in Section 80(6) of the 1993 Act that anyone failing to provide information as required under that section is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine. The Bill would weaken the regulatory system by deleting that provision. Why should it not be an offence to fail to provide information to the authority? We would support protection against improper disclosure by the authority for the person being required to provide information and compensation if it is improperly disclosed. However, we see no point in having a requirement to provide information if there is no sanction for anyone refusing to provide it. I beg to move.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: By revoking Section 7(10) of the Railways Act 1993 we are restoring to the Secretary of State the power to grant licence exemptions. That power originally ceased on the coming into force of Section 6 of the Railways Act. Under that power the Secretary of State made the Railways (Class and Miscellaneous Exemptions) Order 1994 which gave a broad range of licence exemptions.
While the rail regulator has the power to make exemptions, he does not have the power to make whole classes of exemptions. There may well be cases in the future in which class exemptions are appropriate. An important feature of the Secretary of State's power--as opposed to the regulator's--is that he must grant exemptions by way of an order made by statutory instrument subject to parliamentary scrutiny and a negative resolution procedure under the Railways Act 1993.
Amendment No. 368 would reinstate a requirement on the Secretary of State to publish facility exemptions. The publication requirement in Section 20 is being revoked because it is considered to be otiose.
When the Secretary of State makes an exemption, he does so by way of a statutory instrument. All public general statutory instruments must be published and sold under Section 2 of the Statutory Instruments Act 1946. That contrasts with the position when the regulator produces an exemption other than by way of a statutory instrument and where a specific duty to publish is necessary. So the removal of a Railways Act provision does not relieve the Secretary of State of the obligation to publish any exemptions which he makes. I hope that the Committee will be reassured by that.
Amendment No. 369 is unnecessary. Provisions relating to financial penalties are now wholly consolidated in new Sections 57A to 57F as introduced under Clause 224 of the Bill. The power of the court on appeal to substitute a lesser amount for a penalty imposed by the regulator or the SRA has been moved to Section 57F(4)(b) and the old power in Section 57(2)(b) is a necessary consequential repeal.
Amendment No. 370 would remove criminal liability for a failure to provide information to the SRA in response to a request. In the interests of better regulation we always look closely at whether it is
We consider this to be a more appropriate sanction than criminalisation. That should be kept (as it will be under Section 87(7)) to cases where the person may have deliberately falsified the information which is provided to the SRA. This is a gentle deregulatory measure, therefore, and does nothing to weaken the ability of the SRA to seek information that it needs under Section 80.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|