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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, there are different kinds of public inquiries under different remits and some of them involve subpoenas to witnesses and some do not. I shall have to write to the noble Viscount on that point.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I assume that if this matter comes to court, the department will fight the public interest case with all vigour, including the precedential point that would be set if something is disclosed, as people will consider that future accidents will result in disclosure. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 [Regulations]:

Lord Bradshaw moved Amendment No. 6:

"( ) The Secretary of State shall make regulations concerning the management of a site being investigated to ensure that the Chief Inspector has overall management control of the site while his investigations are in progress."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment seeks to provide that the regulations are made with the consent of chief police officers, the British Transport Police and the Health and Safety Executive and that the regulations will make it very clear to everyone that, in the investigation of an accident, the RAIB will have precedence. When investigating rail accidents—I imagine that I am the only person here who has done so—it is extremely important that one arrives at the site very quickly so that one is able to take the brake pressure in the cylinders before it has been destroyed, which will happen within half an hour or a couple of hours. If one does not arrive at the site quickly the evidence starts to leak away. Rust marks and matters of that kind are extremely important, but a shower of rain will take them away. If such places are declared scenes of crimes or if the precedence lies with a health and safety inspector who keeps people away for several hours, useful evidence can so easily be destroyed.

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In moving the amendment I seek to ensure that protocols are agreed with the people concerned, clearing the way for rail accident inspectors to arrive as quickly as possible at the scene of the accident—not at the perimeter of the site—although they cannot be everywhere. I beg to move.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, in supporting Amendment No. 6 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 7 standing in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Faulkner. Both amendments seek to achieve the same point. Amendment No. 7 is designed to cover the same matter as Amendment No. 6 but in cases where the chief inspector has decided not to become involved in an accident.

As we have discussed at previous stages of the Bill, it is likely when there is an incident or an accident that the local police force will arrive first. The amendments are designed to encourage the local police to put a fence around the accident, if that is appropriate, to protect the site and as I believe they are required to do for air accidents. The instruction is to rope off the site and to wait. They should rope it off and not fiddle with the evidence inside. If the RAIB is to be involved its inspectors will be there and, as the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said, they will have the expertise to deal with it. If it is not to be involved, the British Transport Police have an enormous amount of expertise in such matters, and they would say, "Right, we can start the trains running again; it is not a problem", or they would look at the situation with their particular railway experience.

The worst example of which I am aware is that a year or two ago a Virgin train in Scotland was diverted onto a branch line where it was moving at about five miles per hour when it derailed because the track collapsed underneath it. No one was hurt, but of course the train could not move. Virgin was very quick to get buses to take the passengers away, but unfortunately the local police took about five hours to interview every passenger on the train in case a crime had been committed. That is probably the worst example, from which I believe we have all learned. It is important that those who are not specialists should confine their activities at the scene of an incident or an accident to putting a fence around the site, protecting it and waiting for the specialists.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I support the two amendments and as my noble friend Lord Berkeley said, I have put my name to Amendment No. 7. He has shared with your Lordships a story about an incident in Scotland. Another incident in Scotland also makes the point. It was a minor case—sadly not minor for the one individual concerned—but it proves why it is important that there is a proper hierarchy of who is responsible when something happens on the railways.

On 29th April this year, sadly there was a suicide on the line at Dunbar. The deputy chief constable of the British Transport Police happened to be travelling on the train from Edinburgh to London when the train struck

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the unfortunate person. The emergency brakes were applied, the train came to a halt, and the driver confirmed to the deputy chief constable, Mr Tony Lake, that it was indeed a suicide. There was no suggestion that the person had been tied to the track or was in any way the victim of a crime.

However, as the matter was being sorted out on the spot, two officers from the Lothian and Borders police turned up and declared it a scene of crime and were proposing to bring in SOC officers. The implications of that, as my noble friend Lord Berkeley said, would have been a very serious delay. Happily, because Mr Lake insisted on taking control of the occasion, he said that he was in charge. He put a tarpaulin over the body, moved it 300 yards and told the driver to move the train. That avoided a delay that could easily have lasted many hours, which in today's penalty regime on the railways would have incurred huge costs for a number of people .

The purpose of the story is that when an incident takes place on the railways, particularly if it does not involve the RAIB, it is important that the BTP, with all their expertise, should be given primacy. That is the purpose of the amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I entirely agree that it is essential that the RAIB should have control of the accident or incident site, which is exactly what the Bill provides.

Clause 8(5)states:

    "Subsection (6) applies where—

    "(a) the Rail Accident Investigation Branch is conducting an investigation by virtue of section 7 in respect of an accident or incident, and

    (b) a question arises as to the desirability of action which any other person proposes to take for the purpose of investigating the accident or incident".

Subsection (6) then applies that the question of the desirability of action by any other person,

    "may be determined by-

    (a) the Chief Inspector of Rail Accidents, or

    (b) an inspector of rail accidents acting on behalf of the Chief Inspector".

We have exactly the provision when it is an issue of whether to move a train, fence things off or to do anything which anyone else may wish to do for other reasons. Any question which arises as to the desirability of action is determined not by anybody else, but by the rail accident investigation branch.

I do not believe that that meets the case of the deputy chief constable of the British Transport Police because I presume that in the case to which the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, referred the RAIB had not actually reached the scene by that time. However, it meets the thrust behind these two amendments.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, my noble friend has given a very lucid explanation of subsections (5) and (6). It could happen that if the chief inspector or a representative takes an hour or two to get to the scene, the local police will not only have placed a barrier around the site but will also have started poking

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around. Are any instructions to be given in regulations, or by some other means, to the local police forces around the country not to do that?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, there will be a protocol between the chief inspector and the Association of Chief Police Officers. The chief inspector is due to meet ACPO shortly to discuss these practical issues which will arise during an investigation.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, I thank the Minister for what he has said. It goes a long way to meet the concerns which I have expressed. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10 [Requirement to investigate]:

[Amendment No.7 not moved.]

Clause 21 [Chief Constable]:

Lord Bradshaw moved Amendment No.8:

    Page 9, line 32, at end insert—

"( ) Regulations under subsection (4) shall not come into effect before 31st December 2004."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is meant to be helpful and touches on the fact that there is quite a lot of work to do both in the recruitment and training of railway accident inspectors and on the agreement of the various protocols which will surround their work.

I am very mindful of the fact that once a chief inspector is appointed, many people, including the press, will expect a kind of all-singing, all dancing organisation to be there the day after. We all know that it takes quite a long time for an effective organisation to be built up. My purpose in moving this amendment is to allow sufficient time for the protocols and people necessary to be put in place. I do not want a case next week of a bad railway accident and the Daily Mail screaming "Where is the rail accident investigation branch?" As far as I can tell at the moment, it consists of one person who is designate and no protocols, staff or training. I realise that this is probably a point for discussion. I beg to move.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I support this amendment. In discussions with the Marine Accident Investigation Branch we were told that that organisation came into being two days before the "Bowbelle" disaster on the Thames. There was great expectation that it would be able to look into that accident. There have been suggestions that the RAIB might come into effect, if that is the right word, on 1st April next year. I hope that the Government will give the chief inspector the necessary time to get the protocols and everything else into line, as the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said. It is desperately important that the RAIB starts off on a high note with maximum

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credibility, a properly trained staff, and the capability to do this work. In the meantime there has to be some interim arrangement in which I am sure that everyone will co-operate to ensure that everything goes well. It is desperately important that the organisation starts off in the right way.

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