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Lord Higgins: We are grateful that we are making progress on an important issue, on which there seems to be a degree of flexibility on the Government's part. One aspect that we have not fully considered is the question of the competition between the various parts of the transport system. The requirement on the bus companies will come into operation in 2017, so if we go for an end date of 2020 for the railways, things are not exactly in line. The Minister referred to coachesI suppose that he was distinguishing between buses and coaches. Though that is a fairly subtle distinction, the coaches are more in competition with the railways than buses are and there may be a case for having the two in line. I imagine that the normal lifespan of a coach is probably significantly less than that of a normal railway carriage.
I understand that quite a number of the requirements to meet the standards set down for slam-shut doors on trains have still not been met. Perhaps we may return to that matter under a later amendment. What is emerging very clearly is that, if there is a deal on 2020, we have to be absolutely sure about the enforcement and monitoring side of things. But subject to that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: If my understanding is correct that the Government are accepting the proposals of the Delegated Powers Committee, I do not propose to move Amendments Nos. 30 and 31. I do not believe that I need to.
Lord Higgins: No! If that is so, I believe that we need rather more implication than we have had. I do not believe that that is an appropriate way in which to proceed. The Delegated Powers Committee makes recommendations, in very strong critical terms of the Government. Indeed, the chairman of the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee also did so. Instead of in the course of debates in this Committee replying to the various points made, because the function of the regulatory committee is to help this Committee in its deliberations, we are told that there has been some concessionwe know not what. The amendment under which we were going to debate the matter in detail is suddenly not moved, and we do not know what the answer is. We will really not know what the situation is if we proceed like this.
Lord Carter: The whole or main purpose of Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 was to remove the blanket exemption by Order in Council and suggest that it should be replaced by the procedure in the 1995 Act, which is the negative resolution procedure. We have heard from the Minister that the Government are going to do that; they are going to remove the Order in Council proposal and revert to the negative resolution procedure, which will enable them to deal with heritage vehicles, and so on. That was the proposal that I was going to make on the basis of the undertaking that the Minister gave. There is no need for me to make it, because he has accepted it.
Lord Carter: The amendment would ensure that the blanket exemption for heritage railways will be enacted through statutory instrument. That will ensure that an appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny will apply to the exemptions procedure. The report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee said that they recommended that,
Lord Higgins: I do not wish to delay the Committee longer, but both the Regulatory Reform Committee and the chairman of the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee took very strong exception to the way in which the Government proposed to act. They argued in simple terms that the arrangement
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whereby a Minister could act not by order but by diktat, effectively, was not satisfactory because we did not get the parliamentary scrutiny required.
If the noble Lord is right in what his amendment does, no doubt in the light of the earlier exchanges the Government can simply accept it and we will then all know where we stand. I am not sure whether that is what the Minister will do, but it is at least worth examining the arguments that the Regulatory Reform Committee put forward, which were that the Government gave two reasons. The first was that the provision was not consistent with Section 43 of the 1995 Act, so their argument that it was helpful in that respect was wrong. The second was that the current procedure was a burden, in terms of both cost and time.
If the Government believed that last week, they clearly would not accept the amendment this week. I am not the least clear about the question of costs of time. We are suddenly told that to have a negative instrument procedure would result in an increase in cost compared with the Minister acting by diktat. Somehow that would save the railway industry expense, we are told, but I am not clear how. If that argument was made before, why is it no longer valid?
The argument is also made in terms of time. Given that we are talking about whether everything should happen by 2020, the amount of time taken up by the statutory instrument procedure is unbelievably trivial. The noble Baroness laughs; she is right. We are talking about six weeks as against 20 years, and we are suddenly told that that was a pressing reason why the Government thought that they could avoid parliamentary scrutiny. If the Minister is going to accept the amendment, I hope that he will tell us so. If he is not going to do so, I hope that he will tell us why and, in particular, why the Government have changed their mind.
Lord Davies of Oldham: I shall ask my noble friend to withdraw the amendment; I would have preferred it had he not moved it. The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, is somewhat unchivalrously looking a gift horse in the mouth. The Government have recognised the strength of the argument put forward by the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee on the issue. We accept the arguments that have been put forward. The action will need to be taken with great precision.
With the greatest respect to my noble friend, he has made an early shot at the issue, as he is fully entitled to do. We intend to bring in an amendment on Report. That will also be the occasion for the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, to challenge the Government yet again on our competence. I suppose that we just had five minutes of ritual comment on that but, on this occasion, the Government are on the side of the angels, if I can define the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee as being angelic; I certainly can the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee. We are all on the side of the angels, so goodness and light will come out of the developments when the Government table their amendments for Report. I hope that, on
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that basis, my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment. That will be followed by a suggestion that we adjourn.
Lord Carter: It would give the Committee a nasty shock if I did not withdraw the amendment. We seem to work on the basis that the Government accept a proposal that has been made, but that the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, correctly thinks that they should have a really good kicking before we accept their proposal. On the basis that the Government will suggest a correct amendment and accept the proposal of the Delegated Powers Committee, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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The Committee adjourned at five minutes past seven o'clock.
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