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Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe: My Lords, as someone who has worked with the UK Border Agency to try to improve the system, I declare an interest as chief executive of Universities UK. Does my noble friend agree that the system risks failure across the board if the IT system that is due to support the student immigration route is not comprehensively tested
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Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, I probably need to write to my noble friend to give her a comprehensive answer. I certainly agree that we need the system to be as effective as possible. As I said, we do not want to deter genuine international students from making visa applications or making genuine applications to study here.
The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): My Lords, the Government welcome any initiative which helps local authorities and other potential promoters of rail services to understand whether the reopening of closed lines is a feasible way of improving links to places not on the rail network.
Lord Grocott: In welcoming both the report by ATOC and my noble friend's response, perhaps I may ask him two questions. First, is the report not yet further evidence of the importance of protecting at least the track bed of closed railway lines and perhaps the structures as well, such as bridges? If old lines are to be reopened, it makes the reopening much easier. Secondly, when local authorities have an interest in possibly reopening a particular line, such as the line from Stafford to Wellington, might support and help be forthcoming from the Department for Transport with looking at business cases? I suppose that I should declare a tangential interest as the honorary president of the Telford Steam Railway.
On reopening closed lines, my department is happy to work with promoters where there are strong business cases, and we have a set of rules in place for how that work can be taken forward. I commend my noble friend's commitment to the Wellington and Stafford line. However, having secured a copy of the 1961 timetable for that line before it was closed, I would point out that it was not a paragon of good service. There were eight trains a day on that line, and the 18.75 miles managed to take the steam locomotives of the day 45 minutes to complete, which represents an average speed of 24 mph. As my noble friend may know, I am passionately committed to high-speed railway lines and I rather hope that they go a bit faster than 24 mph.
Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, will the Minister join me in congratulating Parry People Movers on introducing rapid lightweight trains between Stourbridge and Stourbridge Junction which successfully carry lots of people, and much better than the railway to which he has just referred? Will he look particularly at the list of potential lines which that company has put forward for using this railcar, particularly as regards enthusiast and freight railways?
Lord Adonis: My Lords, I am very happy to do so. The application of new ways of running railway services much more economically than has been the case in the past is something to which we should pay a good deal of attention. As the noble Lord will know, a tram train trial is about to start, building on very positive experience in Germany of using tram technology on the railways, which makes it possible for trains to run off the classic network and into town and city centres. Again, this could be an important development for the future and I am very keen to see it piloted in the UK.
Lord Mawhinney: My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships' House will be grateful to the Secretary of State for the positive nature of his initial response. Experience suggests that when people wish to extend new lines the business plans seriously underestimate the annual recurrent cost. Could his department publish guidance which would help people have a more realistic assessment of the cost that they are entering into when they wish to extend new lines?
Lord Adonis: My Lords, I would be very happy to do that and to look further at the experience of the Welsh and Scottish devolved Administrations in reopening lines which has been fairly positive in recent years. England may be able to learn from that. However, I note that the Association of Train Operating Companies' report, which led to my noble friend's Question, notes that since 1995, 27 new lines, totalling 199 track miles, and 68 stations have been opened. Therefore, there has been a lot of positive development in this area in recent years.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I welcome my noble friend's statement about new lines. Would he consider encouraging the private sector and voluntary groups to be responsible for developing and operating the
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Lord Adonis: My Lords, my noble friend raises a much wider issue than that raised in the original Question. As he knows, in all these matters I am bound by the law, which I am afraid does not allow for the benchmarking which he has in mind.
Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, in the light of the noble Lord's encyclopaedic knowledge of the United Kingdom's rail network, is he likely to favour the reopening of the Leamside Line in Durham county, bearing in mind the fact that the Nissan plant in Sunderland has now been chosen to build the new generation of electric cars, and that that line would be invaluable for freight traffic in the area?
Lord Adonis: My Lords, I am afraid that my encyclopaedic knowledge is not coming to the fore sufficiently fast in respect of that line. It is in here somewhere because I looked at it earlier. All I can give is some general encouragement to promoters who are interested in taking that line forward to see if they are capable of generating a good business case, but I do not think that I am allowed to offer any greater encouragement than that.
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, when a new railway line is opened, could the railway line and the rolling stock be under the control of the same company; in other words, the track would not necessarily be a part of Network Rail but it could be like in the old days when southern railway owned the track as well as the rolling stock?
Lord Morris of Handsworth: My Lords, the Minister will be aware that the test of a good transport system is whether it integrates one mode with another. What plans exist within the department to ensure that we move towards an integrated transport system of road and rail?
Lord Adonis: My Lords, that is a very large question which could occupy me for a great deal more than the next two minutes. We are keen to see much greater integration that includes much better facilities for buses interchanging at rail stations. I am keen to see much more car parking at stations, too. The new south central franchise requires there to be at least an additional 1,000 car parking spaces at stations so that it is much easier for motorists to interchange. As my noble friend may be aware, I have been making something of an issue recently about bike parking at stations, which is lamentably inadequate at too many of our stations. As my noble friend may have noticed, I came back from Holland recently, having noted that at the station in
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The Dutch do not cycle because it is in their genes, but because it is made easy for them to park at stations and they are given significant encouragement. I hope that that gives my noble friend some flavour of the activity that we have under way to ensure that we have a more integrated transport policy.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it might be helpful to the House if I say a few words about the arrangements for Report and Third Reading of the Parliamentary Standards Bill today. After the Report stage the Bill, the House will debate the Second Reading of the Finance Bill together with the report of the Economic Affairs Committee. Once Report stage of the Parliamentary Standards Bill has been completed, the Public Bill Office will produce a new print of the Bill as it has been amended on Report. That will be made available in the Printed Paper Office as soon as possible and the message will be displayed to this effect on the annunciators around the House.
There will then be a period of time for any Member who wishes to do so to table Third Reading amendments. The deadline for Third Reading amendments will also be displayed on the annunciators. If necessary, the Public Bill Office will then produce a Marshalled List of such amendments for Third Reading. It is hoped that all of that can be completed during the Second Reading of the Finance Bill to allow the House to move straight onto the Third Reading of the Parliamentary Standards Bill. I hope that that was clear to all.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the reports of the Perpetuities and Accumulations Bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
Lord Brett: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 1 to 8. We have listened to the debate, both here and in the other place, and have amended the Bill in order to assure the House on some of the key areas of disagreement. I am also assured that the Bill is better for this.
Before I introduce group 1, which relates to Part 1 of the Bill, I would like to echo the theme of consensus that has accompanied the Bill both in this House and in the other place. The Government have put on the face of the Bill transitional arrangements on earned citizenship, as requested by this House. They have also brought forward amendments on nationality law and trafficking, having sought agreements with the opposition parties, and proposed a new clause on judicial review in order to meet the concerns expressed in this House. There has been one issue-the common travel area-on which we have not been able to gain the House's consensus, which is unfortunate against a background of great agreement both here and in the other place. Indeed, the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, the right honourable Keith Vaz, described the Third Reading debate in another place as a wonderful consensus. I hope, of course, that we can continue that in this House today.
The amendments on Part 1 that the Government proposed in the other place were a result both of listening to the debate that took place in this place about the definition of customs functions and of internal discussion. Clause 1 enables the Secretary of State to exercise the function of the Commissioners of Customs and Excise concurrently with them in relation to general customs matters. The term "general customs matters" may draw in certain functions already exercisable by the Secretary of State. There was therefore a need to ensure that the other provisions in the Bill-such as the information provisions in Clauses 14 to 20-apply only to the functions of the commissioners that the Secretary of State will be able to exercise under the Bill. Further, the changes made in the other place make it clear that these general customs functions include functions under Community law. The amendments also ensure that adjustments are capable of being made by order under Clause 2 to exclude or include, as appropriate, particular functions from the definition of "general functions of customs".
Amendments 1 and 2 to Clause 1 have clarified the meaning for the purposes of Part 1 of the Bill of the general customs functions that will be exercisable by the Secretary of State and by general customs officials. Amendment 3 is related to Amendments 1 and 2 and ensures that particular functions can be included or excluded from the definition of general customs functions as appropriate. Amendment 4 reflects the new definition of a general customs function in Clause 1, while Amendments 6, 7 and 8 are consequential on the new definition of a customs revenue function in Clause 7. Taken together with Amendment 5, which clarifies the customs revenue functions under the Bill, they ensure that the information protection regime established in Part 1 applies to all relevant functions, including those under Community law.
Amendments 11 and 14 are also related. Amendment 11 clarifies the scope of Clause 26, which provides for the making of transfer schemes by HM Revenue and Customs. Amendment 14 defines the new term "Community law" using Clauses 1 and 7. Amendment 9 will insert a new Clause 25, the original of which will be removed by Amendment 10. It will create a revised definition of a short-term holding facility in the new clause. This
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Amendment 25 makes a necessary change to the schedule consequential on Amendments 9 and 10. Amendments 12 and 13 to Clause 28 are technical amendments to meet the stated policy intention, namely to allow the independent chief inspector to scrutinise the full range of UKBA functions, including whether the Secretary of State and the Director of Border Revenue are exercising their customs functions appropriately. I beg to move.
Lord Henley: In the unavoidable absence of my noble friend Lady Hanham, I hope that the noble Lord will not object if I briefly comment on these amendments. We accept that these amendments, which the Government made in another place, clarify the extent of the customs functions that may be exercised by the Secretary of State and the Director of Border Revenue. This, as the noble Lord will remember, was the subject of much debate in this House earlier this year, and these amendments appear to go some way towards making sure that the remit of the UK Border Agency in respect of the exercise of its new customs functions is clear. However, we on this side believe that there is still not enough coherence between the many agencies that currently operate at our borders. The Government appear to be inching towards where it should be-that is, recognising that we need a unified border police force. At this stage, however, I do not wish to reopen debates that we had at another stage. I limit my remarks merely to accepting this group of clarifying amendments.
Lord Avebury: I do not quite understand how this works, but our Amendment 9A is grouped with these amendments, despite the fact that the noble Lord has moved a Motion relating only to Amendments 1 to 8.
The Lord Speaker (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, it might be of assistance to the House if I suggest the formality of dealing with Amendments 1 to 8 en bloc. I will then call Amendment 9, which I assume the Minister will move formally, and then call Amendment 9A to give the noble Lord the opportunity to speak specifically to that amendment. Did the noble Lord wish to speak to Amendments 1 to 8?
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