|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I was talking about the Health and Safety Executive and its health and safety responsibilities. That has nothing to do with vandalism, as far as I can see. This is a safety risk inherent in rail operation. On the principle I have enunciated, which is comparable though not identical to the "polluter pays" principle, it is right that those whose activities cause safety risks should contribute to the cost of their regulation. That is the general principle behind, first, the British Transport Police and, secondly, the Health and Safety Executive.
I turn to the specific points raised. The first was on heritage railways. We do not require them and tramways to enter into a public service agreement to fund the British Transport Police where they operate away from the national rail network. I cannot promise that that will always be the position, but we currently have no intention of changing it. We have no intention of requiring heritage or tramway operators who do not operate on the national rail network to take part in the funding of the British Transport Police.
The next specific point is about the nature of the levy, particularly for the Health and Safety Executive. The HSE has a most extraordinary charging system on an hourly basis; in other words, it charges for approving a safety case on an hourly basis. I do not know whether it includes training, but the whole point is that we are getting rid of that system. We are having a much simpler levy system, which I cannot specify in detail. It will not be specified in detail on the face of the Bill, but it will be specified in regulation after proper consultation. I can say that it will be simpler, more rational and more economical both to the HSE and ultimately the rail industry.
I can give the kind of figures we are talking about. The income from charging in 2001-02 was £5.25 million. That is not a large amount of money. It is the intention that the proportion of the total costs of the HSE which can be ascribed to railways and which will be charged to the railway industry will be the same in future as it is now; that is, 55 per cent. There is no intention of raising extra money from the railway industry for the work of the HSE.
The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, asked about the HSE budget and gave the analogy of the police authority budget. Yes, the HSE produces and will continue to produce a budget, but with a levy system it will be simpler for the rail industry to see what it is getting for its money.
The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, asked what other industries had a levy charged in the same way by the HSE. I know that there are some, but I do not have them to hand. I will have to write to him about that and I apologise for not having the information before me.
We are making minor and entirely positive changes to the regime. We are carrying on the regime for British Transport Police. We are simplifying and improving the regime for the HSE and we do not believe that these amendments are desirable.
Viscount Astor: I am grateful to the Minister for saying that he will write to me. Perhaps in the letter he could explain the basis of charging for Network Rail as opposed to the train operating companies. How is it broken down and on what basis is it made?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I can certainly do that. There are analogies with other industries at which I shall just hint now. The HSE makes charges for regulatory work in potentially high hazard areas of industry such as the nuclear and off-shore oil industries or any on-shore major hazard industries. It is generally accepted that that is a proper way to behave. Safety risks are created by rail operation and they should be paid for.
Lord Bradshaw: I rise to express disappointment with what the noble Lord has said. I shall look closely at the Health and Safety Executive because it is an area which in my opinion, having visited the place, has considerable scope for economy. I shall look at its budget closely and see whether suitable economy is being exercised. No doubt we will raise the matter at another time if there is not. It is a huge burden on the industry and one of the reasons why costs are so high.
Lord Berkeley: I am grateful to my noble friend for his reply. I shall read with interest his response to the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and to know the other industries which do or do not charge. I am always interested in why the Health and Safety Executive call the railways "high hazard industry". On the roadswe shall discuss the HSE role in a future amendmentthere have been at least eight fatalities in the past year on motorways and workmen have been killed. That is very serious. If the railways are a high hazard industry, I suggest that the roads probably were. As I said, I do not see much sign of the polluter paying for the work that the HSE or equivalent agencies undertake on the roads.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|