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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Part 2 of the BillClauses 15, 16 and 17is very simple. The effect of these clauses is to change a single rail regulator to the office of rail regulation in accordance with practice being adopted in a number of regulatory cases. There is no intention whatever to change the function or duties of rail regulation. Those are set out fully in the Railways Act 1993, as amended by the Transport Act 2000. The functions are broad, flexible and enable the office to be adaptable. For example, because they were flexible, the office was able to accommodate the change in infrastructure manager from Railtrack plc to Network Rail.
Surely, as the office of rail regulation is the licensing body, it has that responsibility. It is not the safety authority; the Health and Safety Executive is. But it has a responsibility of taking these matters into account when considering licensing decisions. It cannot be entirely economic.
The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is going back to the Transport Act 2000, then going back to the Railways Act 1993. He is suggesting a rather fundamental change which is inappropriate within the very limited terms of Part 2 of the Bill. If the regulator's duty were narrowed in the way suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, he would not be able to take into account the health and safety record of an operator when making a decision on whether to grant a licence or a licence exemption. He would not be able to consult the Health and Safety Executive to establish whether it had accepted the applicant's safety case or granted a safety case exemption. That surely is an undesirable restriction on the proper responsibilities of the office of rail regulation.
On Amendment No. 17, the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, is attempting to rewrite in this Bill something which he is not proposing to repeal in the Transport Act 2000. In other words, there would be two conflicting definitions of the functions of the office of rail regulation. Under the Railways Act 1993, the regulator does not set the contractual framework within which Network Rail works to retain, renew and expand the network. It is Network Rail's licence that requires it to maintain and renew the network. Paragraph (a) of Amendment No. 17 would confuse this as it interferes with the existing licensing regime.
Paragraph (b) of Amendment No. 17 would require the office of rail regulation to manage Network Rail's expenditure. That cannot be right. Day-to-day management should rest with Network Rail within the regulatory framework established under the Railways Act 1993. Paragraph (c) of Amendment No. 17 is unnecessary; it just reflects the existing function of the office. I cannot be supportive of either of these amendments.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Strictly speaking, that is not a matter for this Bill. Part 2 makes a change from a rail regulator to the office of rail regulation. Neither the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, nor I, is expert in the rail industry, unlike some other Members of the Committee. The noble Viscount is asking a specific question which does not need to be answered for the passage of this Bill, but to which he is entitled to have an answer. I shall write to him and send copies to Members of the Committee.
Lord Bradshaw: While I appreciate the impatience of the Minister to get this Bill onto the statute bookI would want the same thing if I were in his position because it contains clauses concerning the accident investigation branches and the British Transport Police, which are very importantI think he might concede that there are few opportunities for the House to debate any matter relating to transport. The chances in the near future seem fairly remoteI believe my noble friend Lady Scott is waiting for a road safety Bill and has been waiting for a long time. Parliamentary time, apparently, never seems to be sufficient to allow these issues to come forward.
Perhaps the Minister will grant me that this is an opportunity to raise the issue of some of the duties of the Rail Regulator. While I accept that these were part of the Railways Act 1993 and were referred to in the Transport Act 2000, in this Bill we have an opportunity to change this enormously complicated structure. If a railway operator has a safety case from the HSE, that is a matter that the regulator may note, but he does not have to do anything about it. Unfortunately, the Rail Regulator's office does do things about it. It is this complicated overlapping of duties to which I am trying to put an end and to simplify the tremendous cost and machinations which go on within the railway industry.
Therefore, I trust that the Minister might allow me to return to this matter. I shall study carefully both pieces of legislation of which, of course, I am well aware, and perhaps make some suggestions.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Before the noble Lord withdraws the amendment, I hope that he will allow me to object to some of his languagein the nicest possible way. I do not accept that I am impatient. I hope that I answer all the points made in Committee. I hope that my desire to see the Bill completed does not put me in the position of trying to curtail proper parliamentary scrutiny. At the same time, I hope that the noble Lord will recognise that it is not up to me what amendments he puts down on Report.
My point is simple. Part 2 of the Bill makes a change in the constitution of the Office of the Rail Regulator rather than in its functions. Within the extraordinarily lax procedures of this Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is free to use that as a peg on which to hang any amendments that he likes. Virtually nothing can be stopped within the Long Title of the Billand that is not an invitation.
Lord Berkeley: I should like to put on record that I oppose both these amendments for the same reasons as my noble friend Lord McIntosh. I believe that the role of an independent regulator is absolutely fundamental. I shall fight any demise or reduction of the role to the bitter end. He has a big role to play on competition issues, on access rights and on regulating charges for using the infrastructure. The regulator also deserves some credit for setting up the railway safety and standards board. It could have been done by regulation by the Government, but it was not. It was done by the regulator who headed up, as we said in a previous amendment, an independent body.
That is a tremendous advantage. I hope that the regulator will not necessarily spend too much time on safety issues. Just changing the structure is all we need. Leave the rest and I think matters will resolve themselves and improve.
The noble Lord said: In speaking to Amendment No. 18, I declare my interests. I am vice-chairman of Thames Valley Police Authority and have been for some time and I am a member of the Association of Police Authorities. On looking at the proposed composition of the British Transport Police authority, it is lacking in two or three areas. First, Transport for London pays a very large sum of money towards the upkeep of the British Transport Police force. Indeed, a large number of police are deployed in the capital and during the past 18 months their presence has been very evident.
I think that the Bill should reserve some places for Transport for London. As a big contributor, it should be accorded that position. I have taken two of the four people away from the number who are described as having,
As a member of one of the 43 police authorities for the past 10 or 11 years, I have seen five chairmen. They are elected by the members of the police authority. In appointing a chairman, we are not seeking some nominee of government or a county council or someone else. We are looking for a person who can bring together a fairly disparate group of people to work as a co-ordinated whole as an authority for the police. Preferably, we do not want a person who represents the magistracy or political parties or an independent member, but someone who can actually weld those people into a team. In turn, the team will be subdivided into sub-committees which will examine, for example, personnel policy, property policy, finance and general purposes and police complaints.
Therefore, one is looking for someone who exhibits leadership qualities. We have changed the chairmen of police authorities, as county councils and other bodies change their chairmen. The person selected is often a person who has shown the ability to secure a co-ordinated response to issues. That is what is wanted.
I look forward to what the Minister says in reply to the amendments. I am particularly concerned that we do not have a chairman and a deputy chairman appointed by the Secretary of State. I am afraid that what we may get are just placemen and not people who have a genuine interest. I beg to move.
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