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Road safety issues are essential, particularly when vehicles have to be driven on a different side of the road. I think that I am right that at the ports vehicles are fitted with wing-mirror extensions to ensure that they can be driven on the road safely. I have to ask about this because there have been a number of incidents-sadly, too many-when cyclists are not seen by drivers because of the lack of vision by driving on a different side of the road. What efforts are being made under road safety standards to deal with that?

Finally, does the Minister have any idea of where the cost of implementing these regulations will fall; whether that be the transport commissioners, the vehicle owners or the Government? The order was welcomed in the other place and these questions remain outstanding.

4 pm

Lord Bradshaw: I shall take up two or three of those issues. The noble Baroness referred to "cabotage", which is the conveyance of goods in the UK by a vehicle not registered in the UK. The order appears to expand the scope of cabotage by foreign-registered lorries in the United Kingdom. Do we gain any reciprocal benefit from any other country where lorries registered in the United Kingdom can undertake cabotage, or is this a case of us, but nobody else, giving up something?

On the issue of enforcement, I draw the noble Lord's attention to the number of questions I have asked about the flagrant abuse of the law by lorries

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registered in the Republic of Ireland travelling on the A55 in Wales. Several Written Questions to the department have elicited the response, "We are in negotiation with the Government of the Republic of Ireland". However, this has not prevented the same lorries and the same drivers repeatedly carrying out illegal haulage while no action is taken against them in their country of origin. That is particularly serious because Ireland at least uses English-perhaps to its regret-as its main language, so there are no communication difficulties. Can the Minister give us an assurance that other countries will enforce the law as it is observed in this country? We would take away people's operating licences if they were found to be abusing the measures. Will the Minister give an assurance that the same would apply in, say, the Czech Republic, Greece or Finland? Are the laws being applied fairly and evenly, or is this another case of us tightening up a little further and others doing nothing?

Finally, foreign lorries do not pay to use our roads. That is a lacuna in the Government's tenure as they have allowed that situation to continue for so long and have failed to provide any reasonable remedy.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: As is generally the case when the two noble Lords question me on transport issues, they have asked a series of detailed questions that I shall do my best to answer. We have answers for most of them but if I miss anything, I shall of course write to noble Lords with the complete answer.

I shall start with a sort of concluding comment that the order makes the necessary changes to Article 5 of the Motor Vehicles (International Circulation) Order 1975 to update references to Community legislation in respect of two of the regulations that form the road transport package. Article 5 of the 1975 order exempts from vehicle excise duty certain categories of vehicles engaged in international operations, including cabotage, brought temporarily into the UK that are regulated by EC rules. The new rules on cabotage are much clearer than the existing ones and will be more enforceable with enhanced road safety as a result. They will also help to reduce the number of "empty runs" as hauliers will be able to undertake work on their return trip to their home country. Neither noble Lord referred to the regulation of international bus tours, so I assume that they are content with that. I assure both of them that these rules will be changed without compromising road safety.

The noble Baroness asked about the cost of implementing the road transport package. The impact assessment that accompanied the order is for all regulations which form the EU road transport package as they were published by the Commission in May 2007. The estimated cost of full implementation, £15 million, was based on European proposals at that time, if we had to implement them without any changes arising from EU negotiations. However, because the UK was successful in resisting a number of the proposals in the EU negotiations-we managed to negotiate the exclusion of the voluntary sector from tour operator licensing requirements-there is a net benefit of around £40 million, closer to the figure given in the partial implementation option in the impact assessment. However, I must stress that this is an estimate for the benefits

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arising from the full implementation of all three regulations which make up the road transport package, which goes beyond the scope of the measures in this order. The effect of the changes brought about by this order is cost-neutral as it simply updates references to EU legislation to exempt non-domestic road haulage and passenger service vehicles from vehicle excise duty.

Both noble Lords referred to safety and to the fact that foreign vehicles have a higher failure level than UK vehicles under road worthiness checks. It is reasonable to ask whether the change to the cabotage rules will result in more defective vehicles and, indeed, more tired drivers on our roads. The answer is no. The new rules are arguably more stringent than the current ones and are easier to enforce. They should mean fewer defective vehicles and tired drivers undertaking cabotage on our roads. The new rules mean that a non-resident haulier can do three domestic deliveries in seven days only if he has brought goods into the country. At the moment, hauliers from other member states can come in with an empty lorry and undertake cabotage work for up to 30 days. Cabotage operations that are permanent or continuous-in other words, on a contractual basis-are prohibited. This will ensure that cabotage cannot be used to provide an alternative to setting up a road haulage business here and circumventing the UK's stringent operator licensing regime. The new rules are easier to enforce as the burden of proof now falls on the haulier rather than on the enforcement authority, so it should be easier to take action against hauliers who break the rules.

The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has asked me about enforcement on a number of occasions. VOSA has already significantly increased enforcement activity against non-resident hauliers. In 2006-07, there were 27,017 roadside checks for traffic offences; in 2008-09, this had increased to 46,335. VOSA also has an extra £24 million over the next three years to target unsafe and overloaded heavy goods vehicles on international journeys. This will fund 75,000 heavy goods vehicle checks per year and the employment of 97 additional enforcement staff; 24/7 enforcement checking, which is already in place on the M6, M25 and in north Wales, will be extended to other sites over the next three years.

The noble Lords asked whether we would bring up European Union countries to our standard as a result of these changes. This is not relevant to this order because we are discussing Regulation 1071/2009 on access to the occupation which forms part of the road transport package and is referred to in the impact assessment. However, measures in that regulation should help to improve safety standards across the EU. For example, all member states will have to keep standard records on the safety and performance of their operators, such as those that are maintained in the UK. All member states have to establish a national electronic register of operators, which will be interconnected by 1 January 2013. This will improve enforcement and co-operation between all EU licensing and enforcement authorities.

Our own enforcement agency, VOSA, will from 2013 have direct access to information about foreign operators and how often they have committed offences. This will let us target checks on the highest-risk hauliers and make our roads safer.

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The noble Baroness asked about mirrors. Indeed, we had a small debate on mirrors when we discussed cycling safety in the Chamber last week. The Fresnel lenses-the mirrors that are intended to ensure that the driver sees a cyclist who is coming up on his inside, or on his offside if he is a foreign driver-should be fitted to all foreign vehicles as they arrive at United Kingdom ports. The answer to the noble Baroness's question is therefore definitely yes.

The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, asked about charging for using our roads. The Government have no current plans to introduce either a time-based user charge scheme or a toll scheme for foreign lorries as fees that can be charged are capped under the legislation and the costs would far outweigh the benefits of the scheme. I am quite certain that the noble Lord will return to this issue and that we will have another opportunity to debate it again in the future.

The noble Baroness kindly referred to the support for the order from organisations in the industry such as the Road Haulage Association, the Freight Transport Association and the Confederation of Passenger Transport. It is very widely supported, and the fact that the industry participated so widely in the consultation means that it feels real ownership of it. I therefore very much hope that the Committee will support it this afternoon.

Baroness Hanham: I asked a question which the Minister might not be able to answer this afternoon. If he cannot, may I have a written reply? I asked what progress had been made on the graduated fixed penalty, financial penalty deposit and immobilisation schemes. They are not wholly relevant to the order, but as they were introduced relatively recently, in May 2009, does anyone have any experience of how effective they have been?

Lord Bradshaw: Will the Minister also turn his attention to the fact that we really want the penalties that are being enforced here now to be imposed on the drivers of lorries from other countries? Without proper enforcement action, drivers from the same countries come back again and again and offend. Do the Government have any concrete evidence of what, for example, the Republic of Ireland is doing about lorry road safety? It is not a matter for the Minister, but he presides over the arena in which these offences take place.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: I thank the noble Lord for his intervention, because it allowed me to get the answer to the noble Baroness's question, at any rate. The new graduated fixed penalty, deposit and immobilisation schemes were introduced in May 2009, and she asked how they were going. The time that has passed since the introduction of the financial penalty and deposit schemes is too short for us yet to be able to draw any conclusions.

4.15 pm

My right honourable and honourable friends in another place in the Department for Transport have given an undertaking that the effectiveness of the

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scheme will be reviewed after 12 months. We shall be doing so in April, after we have accumulated a year's worth of information from the operation of the scheme.

On the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, there are measures in the regulation that should help improve standards across the UK. All member states will have to keep standard records of the standard performance of their operators, such as those that are maintained in the UK, and I made the point that all member states will have to establish a national electronic register. The noble Lord referred specifically to the Republic of Ireland, and I shall write to him about that, as I do not have an answer about it.

I hope that that answers the questions from the noble Lord and the noble Baroness.

Motion agreed.

Overhead Lines (Exempt Installations) Order 2010

Overhead Lines (Exempt Installations) Order 2010
4th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Considered in Grand Committee

4.17 pm

Moved by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, I beg to move that the Committee consider the draft Overhead Lines (Exempt Installations) Order 2010. By way of introduction, I should like to outline why the Government are bringing forward this order. In simplest terms, it is to ensure that when the installation of electric lines of 132 kilovolts and above becomes subject, from 1 March, to the development consent process under the Planning Act 2008, the retention of Better Regulation streamlining procedures will continue to apply to electric lines that will fall within the Planning Act threshold. These current procedures, under Section 37 of the Electricity Act 1989, allow electricity network operators to benefit from an exemption to undertake certain minor repair and refurbishment works to existing network infrastructure without the need to apply for a new consent.

The Planning Act 2008 established the Infrastructure Planning Commission-the IPC-to consider applications for development consent for nationally significant infrastructure projects. The Act defined overhead electric lines of 132 kilovolts and above, as set out in Section 16 of the Act, to be nationally significant infrastructure projects. These are major transmission lines that effect long-distance transfer of electricity through 275 kilovolts and 400 kilovolts lines and 132 kilovolts distribution lines that are lower voltage and carry power from transmission substations to the end user.

At the moment, the responsibility for considering applications and consent for these electric lines rests with my department for approval. This approval is

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made by the Secretary of State under Section 37 of the Electricity Act 1989 and for planning permission under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. These can be applied for and given together by the Secretary of State. My department will retain its responsibility for applications for consent for electric lines below 132 kilovolts.

Ever since the Electricity Act was passed, it has been recognised that there are classes of work on overhead electric lines for which it would be inappropriate to require ministerial consent. Exemption regulations defining those types of work have been in place since 1990. The 1990 regulations were revised in April 2009, and replaced with the Overhead Lines (England and Wales) Exemption Regulations 2009. The revision to the 1990 regulations was made following an energy review consultation in December 2006 that sought views on proposals to introduce a more proportionate and flexible approach. The improved resilience measures for the electricity networks followed the storms that created widespread damage to the electricity distribution network in 2002.

The update in 2009 largely replicated the 1990 regulations, and extended further the works that could be carried out by network operators, without the need to apply for a new Section 37 consent, to national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, bringing them into line with existing practices already undertaken by network operators in areas outside these sensitive areas for similar modest changes to existing lines.

The latest change to the regulations was made to introduce a more streamlined and proportionate approach to handling minor changes to maintain, replace or strengthen overhead lines within the existing consents regime for the purposes of improving the resilience of the networks. Works exempted by the 2009 regulations include the replacement of worn or damaged components such as old conductors with new, more technologically advanced, insulated ones; installation of additional supports such as wooden poles to improve safety; and modest repositioning of existing lines for operational purposes. For most works, the local authority must be notified; and if it has concerns, for instance on environmental grounds, it can insist that the network operator applies for a full fresh consent.

Importantly, the 2009 regulations also introduced provisions for emergency works under which network operators can undertake urgent and essential works without prior notification of the relevant planning authority. Notification must be given as soon as practicable after the commencement of such works, but the provision allows operators to instigate corrective measures quickly to reconnect supplies. If provision in respect of the new regime were not made, network operators would no longer be able to start these works on electric lines of 132 kilovolts and above without applying for fresh development consent from the IPC. This would add a regulatory burden where it does not presently exist, and would also mean that essential and urgent emergency works that are currently exempt under the 2009 regulations could not be commenced without a full examination by the IPC. In our most recent experience of severe weather conditions-and we experienced similar conditions last year-many lines were brought down

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by the weight of snow and heavy rain, leaving thousands of homes without electricity for more than 24 hours. Without the same exemptions being applied to the Planning Act regime, not only would homes, schools and businesses be off-supply for weeks or months but, more importantly, should any network operator undertake immediate repairs, they would be falling foul of the law and undertaking their statutory duties illegally, which of course would be a nonsense.

The proposal to transfer Section 37 Electricity Act exemptions for overhead power line consents to the Planning Act regime was consulted on during November and December last year. This was a shortened consultation period of four weeks. The reason was, first, that the Section 37 exemption provisions that we proposed to extend to the Planning Act regime had been consulted on in the 2006 energy review exercise and had been, as I indicated earlier, the subject of new, revised regulation in April last year. Secondly, it was important to ensure that the order to extend the provisions to the new regime would be made by 1 March, when the Government intend that the Communities and Local Government Order that directs planning applications to the IPC under the Planning Act regime should commence.

What is more, this is largely a technical area of interest, with the consultation being primarily targeted at industry, the IPC, the Local Government Association and other statutory undertakers such as Natural England. The responses received are all from industry sources and the IPC. All fully supported the proposals and agreed that the new planning system should provide an identical regime for exemption of the specified categories of work for electric lines that will transfer from my department to the IPC. Many commented that this was a very workable solution. I would hope noble Lords will agree that this will prevent unnecessary delays being introduced to essential works for existing lines and, as I have said, in the case of emergency works will not prolong the period customers would be off supply.

I should also mention that it has been necessary to make a small adjustment to the 2009 regulations, as these are based on the concept of "an existing line" which is defined as a line that has already been consented under the Electricity Act 1989 or its predecessor legislation. The Overhead Lines (Exempt Installations) (Consequential Provisions) Order 2010 makes sure that the drafting of the 2009 regulations takes account of the fact that in future, high voltage lines will be subject to development consent, not Section 37 consent, by amending the definition of "an existing line" so as to include lines that have been the subject of development consent under the Planning Act 2008.

It is important that improvements and a steady stream of work are carried out to renew ageing infrastructure and to improve the resilience of existing overhead lines against adverse weather conditions. This work is and continues to be vital to ensure future reliability and security of our electricity supply and its quality to meet increasing demand. I commend the order to the Committee.

Lord Marland: I thank the Minister for his explanation of the order because, for a simple soul such as me, the Explanatory Note was as clear as mud. We agree that

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upgrading is essential to electricity lines, given that so much power is lost in transmission and in coping with adverse weather conditions. Overhead lines are not the most popular form of transmission, so could the Minister confirm and amplify what consultation-apart from that with Natural England, to which he referred-has taken place, particularly with rural organisations? Will he assure the Committee that local communities, particularly those that are directly affected, will have the ability to express concerns, and influence proceedings, and thereby let their voice be heard? It is a very sensitive issue for those communities. Subject to satisfactory answers to those questions, the order meets with the approval of these Benches.

Lord Teverson: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his enthusiastic and bouncy explanation of the legislation, which I thought that it was completely inverse to its interest in particular to the general public. I want to ask a couple of questions. First, why is the order necessary? Is it because the 2009 order did not do what it was supposed to do? Did this just turn up? That would be interesting to know.

I am particularly interested also to understand from the Minister what a 132 kilovolt line might look like, given the emphasis on that. I do not have an understanding of it. Is it a massive pylon and would I know one if I saw one? Can the Minister give us an idea of the scale, because the legislation gives us no clue?

4.30 pm

In the Explanatory Memorandum, I found the local authority aspect interesting, about which I think that the Minister said a little. The memorandum explained that local authorities could for environmental reasons call them in-that is not the technical term that we normally use-to be considered. Will the Minister explain whether that would be solely for environmental reasons, and how does the process work? In terms of local communities and local authorities, if something does not look right but falls within this aspect, what powers do they have?

Finally, the Minister mentioned that all representatives from industry who were consulted were positive. I, too, should like to understand the responses and to know which non-industry organisations the Government approached. Clearly, from our side, we want this order to do what it is trying to do in most respects. In particular, we understand the need for transmission lines to be repaired quickly and without hindrance when supplies have broken, whether they are supplying communities, individuals, private residences or businesses.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am most grateful to noble Lords for their general welcome for this order, which is sensible stuff. One should always be enthusiastic about statutory instruments and your Lordships' extensive scrutiny of orders. I am sure that we all look forward to coming to the Moses Room on a regular basis to debate them. Given the excitement of the previous two orders, I felt that I had to step up to the plate to match the intensity of the debate led by my noble friend Lord Faulkner.

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On the impact on local authorities, essentially the order makes no difference to their powers. They will have the same role in the application of the exemption regimes as they have now. Local authorities have to be consulted where a new development involves alterations or additions to existing structures, or where they believe there to be significant environmental impacts. Developers do not need to consult the local authority where the very minor works involve wires or cables, such as the connection of an underground supply to a pole or structure, the attachment of a telecommunications wire to an existing OHL support or the attachment of a line to a building which crosses a road, railway or watercourse.

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