E-scooters

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Excerpts
Thursday 20th January 2022

(1 day, 11 hours ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe for securing this debate, and I thank all my Conservative colleagues for turning up as well. In my five years as a Minister, I think this is the strongest showing, proportionately, that I have ever had. There were many valuable contributions from all Benches, and I am truly grateful.

Transport is always changing and, as my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe noted, battery e-scooters are a relatively recent invention, although there was an internal combustion engine scooter around 100 years ago—there is a fantastic photograph of one—so maybe they will just be a fad. Who knows? But the Government believe that, with the right regulations, there is potential for significant economic, social and environmental benefits from light, zero-emission vehicles such as e-scooters. E-scooters can help to reduce emissions, as noted by a number of noble Lords. They can reduce carbon, of course, and nitrogen oxide emissions and particulates, which both contribute to poor air quality. If users switch from cars, there will be environmental benefits—but if they switch from cycling or walking, I agree that there will not be, although there may be other benefits.

Mode shift will be a key part of our considerations going forward, as was asked about by my noble friend Lady Sanderson. Based on examples from across Europe, in a pre-Covid context, we could expect modal shift to e-scooters to be around one-third from walking, one-third from public transport, 15% to 20% from car, and 10% from cycling, with around 2% for new trips. As with all emerging technologies, however, we must be mindful of the risks, and noble Lords have set out many valid concerns today. We want to ensure a measured and evidence-based approach to our policy decisions, which is of course why we are running controlled trials. They are trials, not experiments.

Let me share a few facts about the trials from the period from July 2020 to the end of November. More than 66,000 e-scooters have been approved in 31 trials across 54 areas. At the end of November, there were 23,141 e-scooters available to rent across all areas. Roughly 13 million trips had been taken, over 18.5 million miles travelled, and roughly 3 million hours ridden in total across the rental trials. To date, around a million individual users have rented an e-scooter as part of the trials.

The current regulations for trials limit e-scooters to a maximum speed of 15 and a half miles an hour and a maximum power of 5 watts. Users must have a full or provisional driving licence, and the licence is confirmed by the trial operator. While helmets are not mandatory, we, local areas and trial operators recommend that people use them. E-scooters are able to use cycle lanes, but I can confirm that it is absolutely illegal to use them on pavements. All trial e-scooters have insurance, provided by the rental operator and confirmed by the department.

The department also sets out minimum vehicle standards, including a requirement to have lights and a horn or bell to warn other road users, plus there are data-sharing requirements. All users in trials are provided with training via apps, and in some cases in person, to instruct them on safe and considerate riding. Most trial areas have dedicated parking bays and/or docking stations to help to reduce the risks caused by additional street clutter, a point made by my noble friend Lord Shinkwin.

Where problems with trials have arisen—and I agree that there have been issues—we have worked very quickly to nip them in the bud. For example, we increased the level of driving-licence checks that trial operators must perform when a new user signs up and put systems in place to ensure that you cannot get multiple sign-ups from a single driving licence.

In October 2021, the trials were extended to the end of this November. This will allow us to continue to fill data gaps and make some small changes; for example, we have introduced uniform ID plates to ensure that we can recognise e-scooters and make sure that the trials are as safe and well run as possible. We have been monitoring and evaluating the trials all the way through. It is a very fast-moving area; substantial additional data has been generated since we received an interim report last June. This has come from direct data feeds from the trial operators and survey data from, and interviews and focus groups with, e-scooter users and residents, including those whose income derives from being able to get out and about—that might be local tradespeople or taxi drivers. The final report for the trials is due relatively soon and will include all this information; we are just figuring out how to compile and present it to provide a comprehensive picture of the evidence. We hope to publish it in spring.

I have heard from many noble Lords—and, to a certain extent, I agree—that enforcement is absolutely essential. We know there are occasions where trial e-scooters are not used as they should be. We also know there are similar offences and penalties we can use for privately owned e-scooters in the public arena. For the avoidance of doubt, for my noble friend Lady McIntosh and all noble Lords, it is absolutely illegal to use a private e-scooter on public land or a public highway. These offences are available to both trial and private e-scooter users and derived from the same offences as for motor vehicles. This means they might include driving on the pavement, which applies to those using a trial e-scooter and those naughtily using a private one; not having insurance or a driving licence—this would mostly apply to people with a private e-scooter; dangerous driving, which applies to everyone; and drink-driving. E-scooter users either illegally using a private scooter in the public domain or committing an offence on a rented e-scooter, such as riding on a pavement, can be fined up to £300 and have six points put on their driving licence, and the e-scooter can be impounded.

My noble friend Lord Holmes asked whether police forces have had advice. We have issued guidelines to the National Police Chiefs’ Council on general safety and rules for trial e-scooter users. We have also made sure that, before local authorities apply to set up for a trial, we need to see evidence that they have engaged with the local police to ensure that they are well aware of what is about to happen in the area. However, the level of enforcement within each local police force is an operational matter for that police force—I suggest, in consultation with the police and crime commissioner. Many noble Lords in London may wish to write to the Mayor of London about that. Local authorities and trial operators are also required to demonstrate that the vehicles used are distinctive so that you can tell they are legal, trial e-scooters that are allowed rather than privately owned e-scooters that are not.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked for further information on confiscations and fines and the use of e-scooters in other crimes. I will follow up with whatever I can find in a letter. We are aware that a large number of people have purchased an e-scooter in recent years. That is why we believe it is so important that we conduct these very large trials to gather evidence so that we can inform future policy and any legislative basis for e-scooter users in future.

It is not illegal to sell an e-scooter. However, there are protections for the general public: under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, retailers need to give sufficient information about goods and services to consumers. These regulations carry criminal penalties, so they can be used against individual retailers. Ministers from my department have written to retailers twice, in December 2018 and again in July 2021, to set out their concerns that retailers were not providing this clear, visible and consistent information that we need.

On the safety of e-scooters themselves—are these things actually safe?—at the moment there is not enough reliable international evidence on e-scooter safety to compare them accurately with other modes. Evidence to date suggests that the rates of injuries are broadly similar when compared with pedal cycles. The overall change in safety risk will depend on the mode shift. If we see a mode shift from cars, that would of course be a positive thing, because cars can be a significantly more dangerous mode, particularly for other road users. We will look at the impact on safety overall and in the context of the sorts of journeys that are carried out on e-scooters.

We are aware that a small number of fire incidents have involved e-scooters in recent months and we are liaising with the trial operators and participating local authorities. We are also co-ordinating with a number of government departments, including the Office for Product Safety & Standards, to ensure that such matters are considered as part of regulations around any electric vehicle entering the UK.

My noble friends Lord Holmes and Lord Shinkwin both eloquently raised the challenge of e-scooters to disabled people, and of course we are well aware that there can be challenges, although to some other disabled people they may be of benefit. We particularly take the point about those who are blind or visually impaired and therefore unable to see the scooters coming. We have had numerous discussions with disability groups and we require that all e-scooters have a horn or bell so that they can make others aware. We will continue to engage with groups that we have good relationships with, including the RNIB. We want e-scooters to be as inclusive by design as possible. Indeed, all transport should be inclusive by design. I was horrified to hear about what happened to my noble friend Lord Shinkwin earlier today.

We have looked at other European countries and we will take heed of the way that they have taken forward e-scooters. For the time being we have a regulatory landscape that we put in in June 2020 following a consultation. What does that look like for the future? I know that noble Lords are looking for certainty from me but I cannot provide that today. We are still gathering and analysing the data. We want a safe, proportionate and flexible regulatory framework if we decide that is our way forward. We have been gathering plenty of evidence: we have responses to the future of transport regulatory review, and there is further stakeholder engagement to do, including state engagement with the insurance industry. No decision has been taken about the future legal status of e-scooters. Much as I would like to give a response to my noble friend Lord Young about timelines, I cannot at this moment in time. However, if they are to be legalised, we would consider removing them from the motor vehicle category and instead creating a new bespoke category of vehicles with the appropriate regulatory regime in place.

I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords—

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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Before my noble friend sits down, to go back to her answer on the legislative framework, would that require primary legislation to ban or regulate? Would it be necessary to have another Bill? I am very sorry that we cannot have a timeline, but it would be good to know the legislative framework.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Of course, that will depend on what we decide to do. One might assume that there would be a route with a primary framework that would set out this new type of vehicle. We have to remember that this stuff moves quickly, and one could have a system where you would have a framework from which you would then regulate to ensure that things can be adjusted as technology moves on. As I say, that is just one of many options, as I am sure the noble Baroness understands.

Committee adjourned at 4.59 pm.

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act 2021 (Airspace Change Directions) (Determination of Turnover for Penalties) Regulations 2022

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Excerpts
Monday 17th January 2022

(4 days, 11 hours ago)

Lords Chamber
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Moved by
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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That the draft Orders and Regulations laid before the House on 2, 4 and 15 November 2021 be approved. Considered in Grand Committee on 13 January

Motions agreed.

Railway Timetables: Disruption

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Excerpts
Thursday 13th January 2022

(1 week, 1 day ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that full railway timetables are restored as soon as possible, following the disruption caused by staff absences.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) (Con)
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My Lords, the department has been working closely with rail operators to mitigate the impact of Covid-related staff absences on train services. Many operators have implemented temporary revised train timetables, which are providing passengers and especially the country’s key workers with certainty so that they can plan their journeys with confidence. The department will continue to work with operators to ensure that services meet demand as staff absence pressures ease.

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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My Lords, I regret that there was no absolute reassurance in that Answer that timetables would be restored. At the same time as reductions, the Government are requiring train operating companies to make 10% savings and imposing a 3.8% increase on fares for passengers. The Government found the money for freezing fuel duty and reducing domestic APD, but rail passengers face the double whammy of reduced services and higher prices. Does the Minister recognise that the Government should do everything they can to encourage us out of our cars and back on to public transport, but instead government policy is setting the railways up to fail?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I do not agree with the noble Baroness’s assessment that government policy is setting the railways up to fail. We are introducing all sorts of measures under the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail which will improve rail services and make them fit for the future. It is the case that demand is currently running at around 55%; because of Covid absences, we have a temporary timetable in place—I reassure the noble Baroness that it is a temporary timetable, which she will know expires on 26 February. We are working closely with the rail industry in relation to the progress of omicron and how timetables may look in the future.

Lord Haselhurst Portrait Lord Haselhurst (Con)
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My Lords, is not the more potent factor in this situation the lack of passengers, which is making train operators wary of introducing services across the country that are visibly empty?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Not entirely, my Lords. Clearly, the rail operators working with the Department for Transport want to provide the services. At the moment, they cannot do so because of Covid pressures on staff, but we will work in the longer term with the rail industry to streamline the passenger offer, to remove duplication of services and to ensure efficiency.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis (Lab)
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My Lords, we are obviously in the middle of a public health crisis and the Government have difficult decisions to take, but will the Minister repudiate the prophets of doom who somehow think that we are all going to stop travelling in the usual way once Covid has ended? Will she acknowledge that in the periods when we have opened up between the waves of the pandemic, passengers have returned to the railways very quickly—passenger usage on the Tube in London was up to two-thirds before we had the latest lockdown—and that it would be a huge mistake if the Government were to start cutting services, which would discourage people from returning to the railways after 20 years of massive investment in them, which has been a great good news story for this country?

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The Government are very keen for passengers to return to the railways. We are working closely with the industry as it supports demand and revenue recovery. However, we accept that there may be enduring changes in the way in which people travel, whether it be for work versus leisure. That is why the Rail Delivery Group is working closely with VisitBritain to establish a new domestic rail tourism product, so that we might perhaps go interrailing around our own nation.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, mentioned the 10% cut that the Treasury has asked all the rail industry to impose. Can the Minister confirm that the Night Riviera sleeper, which keeps Cornwall connected to London and the rest of the country, is safe from this, or will that be cut as part of the 10%?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, I cannot comment on the Night Riviera sleeper; I wish I could, but I will write if I can find out any information on it. However, we do need to look at our railways to ensure that they are financially sustainable for the future. The Government have committed £14 billion since the start of the pandemic to support our rail sector. We know that in future, we will be looking for workforce reforms and cost efficiencies. We want passengers to come back and, of course, overall, we want an excellent performance for all passengers and freight.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, the less than full railway timetables are not solely caused by Covid-related staff shortages. The hourly Chester to London and London to Chester direct trains have just disappeared. Whenever I make any queries about the return to the pre-lockdown timetable, I am met with an “It’s Covid, innit?” shrug. Can the Minister look at this cavalier establishment of the new normal as a cover for what are, effectively, cuts in services? Worryingly, it is not just confined to the rail network, but it is always at the expense of the public and it is happening without anyone discussing it.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I am not sure I agree with the noble Baroness. Clearly, we are discussing it today and we have discussed timetables in the past. Timetables are never static: they have changed twice a year for a very long time. It is true that we will be asking the rail industry to submit plans through the routine business-planning process, and it may well be that there are further changes to timetables. We do, however, ask all the rail operators to engage very closely with local communities to ensure that we are able to deliver the right services to the right places.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, the Government recently announced that 100,000 tests would be made available for key workers, but the Minister will be aware that the number of key workers available is many millions. Can she confirm how much of the 100,000-testing commitment will be designated for public transport, and what proportion of the workforce she expects that to cover?

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I do not have the figures with me today, but I can say that those 100,000 tests were actually for critical workers rather than key workers. These people are even more critical than key workers. The sort of places we will be using those tests for are places such as operation centres: you literally cannot replace one person for another when it comes to rail service operators. We are looking at those people without whom we cannot do. That is really important, because they are critical—more critical than some other workers.

None Portrait A noble Lord
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They cannot get to work.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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My Lords, can the Minister say—she did not really answer the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, fully on this—when we can expect to have a reasonably certain timetable? Those who travel by train regularly need to be able to plan carefully, and many of us feel that, although Covid has been a reason for much, it has been an excuse for many things as well.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I completely accept my noble friend’s point. It is the case that we want all passengers to be able to travel with confidence. At the moment, we are advising passengers to check first, but that is why the process that we put in place because of the Omicron intervention was two-phased. There was a reactive phase over Christmas, which necessitated some short-term cancellations. We knew that employee absences would possibly rise, so that is why we were proactive and put in place this planned timetable just for six to eight weeks until 26 February. That will provide some certainty until then. Then, of course, I would have to ask my noble friend to look at the timetable again.

Baroness Pinnock Portrait Baroness Pinnock (LD)
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Earlier, the Minister said that the Government were very keen for passengers to return to the use of rail. What would she say to rail travellers in Yorkshire, who are facing the insult of increases in rail fares totalling nearly 50% over the last 10 years or so, yet are also facing services in relative decline? There will be no HS2, no HS3 and no full electrification. Yorkshire folk like value for money and they are not getting it. What does the Minister have to say to them?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I just point the noble Baroness to the Williams-Shapps plan for rail. There is an enormous amount in there that will be beneficial to passengers in Yorkshire and beyond. We will be looking at ticketing, which is insanely complicated. Sometimes multi-leg ticketing is cheaper than a single leg and it is all slightly mad. Obviously, we will be very passenger-focused to make sure that the right services exist for people in Yorkshire and beyond.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, can the Minister confirm that those drivers of trains on shunter routes are paid less than those on, for example, the east coast main line route and the west coast main line route? Is there any evidence of an exodus of these drivers to earn higher salaries as lorry drivers?

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I am not sure that the skills are interchangeable, but it could be that some people have chosen to become HGV drivers instead. However, I reiterate that the rail services that we currently have are not financially sustainable without workforce reforms. That is going to be an absolutely essential part of the way we take forward rail services in this country. We need to make sure that we have the right people on the right trains on the right pay and with the right conditions.

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act 2021 (Airspace Change Directions) (Determination of Turnover for Penalties) Regulations 2022

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Excerpts
Thursday 13th January 2022

(1 week, 1 day ago)

Grand Committee
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Moved by
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act 2021 (Airspace Change Directions) (Determination of Turnover for Penalties) Regulations 2022.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) (Con)
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My Lords, these draft regulations will be made under the powers conferred by the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act 2021, which I will abbreviate as “ATMUA”.

Part 1 of ATMUA grants the Secretary of State powers to direct a person involved in airspace change to progress or co-operate in an airspace change proposal, or ACP, where doing so would assist in the delivery of the CAA’s airspace modernisation strategy. These powers are delegable to the Civil Aviation Authority, or CAA, as I have already mentioned. These powers will help deliver quicker, quieter, and cleaner journeys for the benefit of those who use UK airspace and are affected by its use. If the directed party does not comply with a direction, the CAA can issue them with a contravention notice, which may be followed by an enforcement order. If that enforcement order is contravened, this may result in a financial penalty consisting of a fixed amount, not exceeding 10% of the person’s turnover and/or a daily amount not exceeding 0.1% of the person’s turnover. A person’s “turnover” is to be determined in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State, which is the draft instrument being considered by the Committee today.

Airspace has to be managed so it can be used safely and efficiently. ACPs can include proposals to, for example, amend airport flight paths or change the classification of particular airspace. In 2018, the CAA published its Airspace Modernisation Strategy, which set out the ends, ways and means of modernising airspace. The CAA is currently consulting on a refresh of its strategy, and I encourage those with an interest to put forward their views. The programme of airspace modernisation is under way, and includes the wholesale redesign of the UK’s airspace to unlock the benefits of modernisation. It is being delivered by the aviation industry, with support from the Department for Transport and the CAA, which provide joint leadership and oversight of governance as co-sponsors of the programme.

Airspace change usually relies on individual sponsors, airports and air navigation service providers, or ANSPs, to bring forward their own proposals and choose when, if and how, they progress them. Previously, when a sponsor declined to participate in an ACP on a voluntary basis, neither the department nor the CAA had the powers to ensure co-operation and co-ordination. This meant that one sponsor could hold up another or several others, thereby delaying the modernisation programme and the benefits associated with it.

With the recent passing of ATMUA, the Secretary of State will have the power to direct progression or co-operation in an ACP, once Part 1 of ATMUA comes fully into force. Where there are difficulties for a sponsor to overcome, the CAA will seek to help it in finding solutions—for example, in terms of resources. Our intention is that the direction-making powers will be a last resort and will only be issued where they can be practicably carried out. Before any direction is made, consultation would take place as required by ATMUA. These regulations are required to ensure that the legislative framework can operate as intended, and therefore their commencement will be aligned with Part 1 of ATMUA, so far as that is not already in force.

The draft instrument enables the CAA to enforce directions effectively, when imposing a penalty, by setting out how a person’s turnover is to be calculated. The amount of penalty must in all cases be appropriate and proportionate. These regulations have been drafted to take account of the diverse nature of persons involved in airspace change. Maintaining an appropriate level of penalty for all organisations will deter non-compliance and support ACPs to take place in a co-ordinated manner, which will contribute to a more effective airspace modernisation programme. It will also ensure that, where penalties are imposed, they are both transparent and proportionate.

The department consulted on the enforcement powers within ATMUA in 2018. Respondents, including airlines and airports, were broadly supportive, provided that application is proportionate and used as a last resort. The CAA would, of course, have regard to the requirement of proportionality in using the power to fine, in accordance with its statutory duties and the better regulation agenda.

A person’s turnover is determined with reference to the sum of all amounts received in the course of their business, as shown in their published accounts. If the person has not published accounts, the accounts prepared by that person will be used. Turnover includes loans from public or local authorities, but it excludes capital receipts and loans made by a third party. The annual turnover considered is for the most recent business year, ending on or before the last day of the period specified in the enforcement order for complying with the requirement, the contravention of which is subject to the penalty. Only one year of turnover is used in the calculation.

The use of this 12-month period is in line with the Civil Aviation Act 2012 and Part II of the Transport Act 2000, which both specify calculations based on the “last regulatory year”. We are using the same period here to ensure consistency of regulation across the aviation and wider sectors. Amounts are to be calculated according to generally accepted accounting principles and practices in the UK. Provision is also made for situations where a person does not have 12 months of accounts. The turnover period to be used in determining the level of penalty is decided according to the compliance date for the relevant requirement in the enforcement order.

This instrument is being made so that the Government can ensure effective and proportionate enforcement by the CAA against airspace change sponsors who put the delivery of the airspace modernisation programme at risk. I commend these regulations to the Committee, and I beg to move.

Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton Portrait Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton (Con)
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I am grateful to be able to contribute to the debate on this statutory instrument, and I shall be very brief. I note that this is the first use of the power in paragraph 12 of Schedule 2 to the Act, and I simply want to ask my noble friend a couple of questions.

First, could my noble friend give some examples as to why it is felt necessary to bring this forward now, since this is the first use of the power in the Act? Equally, I listened carefully to what she said, and she said that the power would be used only in extremis, but I am not clear how the rate of fine will actually be applied. She talked about it being proportionate, but proportionate to what? Who will decide what that proportionality is? Crucially, what will be the appeal process for any fine that is imposed?

My real concern is about the relationship with the Ministry of Defence, and I would be grateful if my noble friend could outline that relationship. Clearly, the MoD operates a number of airfields across the United Kingdom, most of which happen to be out of the main flight paths in Lincolnshire, but of course some are not—such as RAF Northolt in London. As the CAA moves forward with the Airspace Modernisation Strategy, can she outline what the relationship with the MoD will be in the implementation of that strategy? Crucially, what will be the resolution process if there is a disagreement with the MoD about the implementation of that modernisation strategy?

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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, I welcome the introduction of these regulations, which help to determine the financial penalties for those who do not comply with airspace modernisation directions. The Minister will recall that during the passage of the Act, these Benches supported the aims of airspace modernisation; we therefore support these regulations, which assist that process. The aviation industry is critical to the UK economy, and it is in everyone’s interests that we redesign UK flight paths to deliver quicker, quieter and cleaner journeys. On this, can the Minister update the Committee more generally on the process of airspace modernisation and the timetable that is currently being worked towards?

On the specific legislation before the Committee, can the Minister explain why this formula for calculating turnover was not included in the original Act? Can she also confirm how the department determined this formula? The instrument has the support of the Opposition, but I would be grateful if the Minister could provide answers to these questions. I would be quite content to receive a letter in response. On my noble friend Lord Berkeley’s issues, I would be grateful to be copied in if there is to be a meeting or correspondence.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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That was a surprisingly short speech by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for which I am grateful. I hear his comments about wanting to be included in correspondence on any meetings with the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, about EGNOS. I also note the comments by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, on being included in that.

The noble Lord has raised a very important point and I am therefore pleased to take that forward. As he said, the UK’s participation in the EGNOS programme ended on 25 June 2021 and, since that date, no UK airports other than the three Channel Islands airports have any arrival procedures in place linked to the EGNOS working agreements or should be preparing to use them. The Government continue to assess the impact on the aviation sector of the UK’s withdrawal from the EGNOS programme but have yet to determine whether there needs to be a UK-led EGNOS replacement.

I am very happy for a meeting to be arranged for the noble Lord and others. I will go one better than a meeting with me and ensure that it is with the Aviation Minister, so that he can hear the concerns directly. I will be happy to attend too but he will be more useful than me on the topic, I fear.

I turn to other issues raised by noble Lords in the consideration of the regulations before the Committee—and I am grateful for all contributions. A number were raised around the airspace modernisation programme as a whole. It feels like a little while since we have discussed airspace modernisation, and it is quite good to return to the topic. The Government remain committed to the airspace modernisation programme; we believe that, despite the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the aviation industry and air traffic levels, the need to modernise the UK’s airspace design remains clear.

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Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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Before the noble Baroness sits down, will she clarify further how much progress the Government expect to be made this year on the public consultation? I ask that because I am very aware that there is pressure on airports and the services that they run at this time, and to expect them to be doing public consultation effectively and efficiently at the same time might be rather too complex.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I deliberately swerved that question, yet did not advise her of the fact that I was doing so, because I do not have the answer—it was also raised by my noble friend Lord Naseby—but I will respond precisely on that matter. How the public will be involved, which ACPs are going forward and where, and all those sorts of things, I will put in a letter. I beg to move.

Motion agreed.

Merchant Shipping (Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments) Order 2022

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Excerpts
Thursday 13th January 2022

(1 week, 1 day ago)

Grand Committee
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Moved by
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Merchant Shipping (Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments) Order 2022.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) (Con)
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My Lords, the purpose of this order, which was laid before the House on 4 November 2021, is to give the Government the powers to implement the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments—or “the convention”, as I shall now refer to it—into UK law. The order relies on powers in Section 128(1)(e) of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, which I shall refer to as “the 1995 Act”. This order, if approved, will contain powers to make a new statutory instrument under the negative resolution procedure this year.

As noble Lords will be aware, shipping is essential to our global economy. In fact, it is estimated that it transports around 90% of the world’s commodities. In doing so, it transfers 3 billion to 5 billion tonnes of ballast water every year. This makes ballast water one of the most effective vectors for the transport of species around the world. For example, noble Lords may well have heard of the Chinese mitten crab, which is native to eastern Asia but was first discovered in the Thames estuary in 1935. It is one of the most destructive examples of invasive non-native species, as it preys on native populations, burrows extensively, causing damage to flood defences and riverbanks, and causes commercial losses in fisheries.

I should like to give some background about what the Government have done regarding the convention and outline the Government’s reasons for wanting to ratify it. In doing so, I remind noble Lords that our purpose today is to discuss the use of this draft order as a mechanism to provide the powers for the implementation of the convention, rather than to discuss the detail and implementation of the convention itself, which remains in progress.

The convention was adopted at a conference convened by the International Maritime Organization, or IMO, in 2004, and it entered into force internationally on 8 September 2017. It aims to prevent, minimise and ultimately eliminate the transfer of invasive non-native species through the control and management of ships’ ballast water and sediments. It does this by prohibiting the discharge of ballast water and sediments unless they have been managed in accordance with the convention requirements. The United Kingdom has not yet ratified the convention.

Noble Lords will note that the convention entered into force internationally four years ago, and it is quite reasonable to ask why we are only now seeking powers to implement the convention. The reason is that the UK had concerns regarding the availability of the equipment required for the sampling and analysis aspects of the convention. Delaying the UK’s ratification of the convention has allowed for these concerns to be addressed.

Subsequently, the UK rescheduled ratification and implementation of the convention to wait for amendments to the convention to enter into force, thereby ensuring that the UK implementing legislation, which is coming down the track, reflects the most up-to-date version of the convention. The Government made a public commitment to accede to the convention in 2020. This was again rescheduled to avoid placing extra burdens on the industry during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Government consider that the implementation of the convention into UK law is an important step to ensure that UK waters are protected.

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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, I support the introduction of this order to implement the 2004 International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments. The convention ultimately aims to eliminate the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens, which is why the control and management of ships’ ballast water and sediment is so crucial. However, given that the UK played a pivotal role in negotiating the convention, it is a shame that it is only now being brought forward. I note that the Minister gave some explanation on this delay but, clearly, it is a matter of concern on all sides of the Committee. I hope that she will produce a full answer and, if there are areas on which she cannot answer today, write to us all.

On the legislation itself, I would be grateful if the Minister could answer three questions. First, are the Government already fully in compliance with the convention? Secondly, what engagement has the department had with the shipping industry over the implementation? Finally, how many countries have ratified the convention, and how many further are in the process of ratification?

We support the introduction of this order and the implementation of the convention, but this is only one step in cleaning up the seas. I hope that the Minister can offer the Committee a brief explanation of the other steps that are being taken by the Government.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate to consider this order. I shall provide a bit more information, if I can, on the timeline to getting to this stage. We probably all wish that we had got here earlier, but there were some reasons behind that. I hope that the next SI will cheer up noble Lords, because we are certainly ahead of the game on that one.

There are several reasons why the UK did not ratify the convention earlier. As the convention was new, equipment availability was limited both to treat ballast water management systems and to sample and analyse the discharged ballast water, which is integral to its enforcement. The industry was not confident in the equipment and was concerned that it would be unfairly penalised. Those concerns were eased by the development of the experience-building phase, which established a period of implementation and review during which ships would not be penalised due to non-compliance with the discharge standard if operating a type-approved ballast water management system.

Secondly, the UK’s ratification was rescheduled to allow time for the latest amendments to the convention to come into force and thereby ensure that the UK’s implementing legislation reflects the most up-to-date version of the convention. These amendments were adopted during the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee meetings held in April 2018, and accepted in April 2019. That introduced a phased approach to implementation, which also alleviated the concerns around equipment availability. At that point, it was very much full steam ahead until Covid arrived.

It is true, and noble Lords will have heard me say before, that we have had to delay some of our statutory instruments, which is not ideal. Although I do not think this SI falls under the definition of backlog as set out by Minister Courts when he went to see the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, it is certainly on our list of things to do, so I am really pleased that we are able to do it today. I reassure noble Lords that we are actually making quite good progress on our maritime backlog. I have a little note here to say that a couple of others with very long titles are also heading their way through Minister Courts’s office now, and no doubt we will be returning to this Chamber to debate them in due course. I reassure the Committee that we are very focused on our maritime SI backlog.

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Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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Before the noble Baroness sits down, could she write with a list of prosecutions that the MCA has done on these issues? She mentioned that, for non-compliance, the MCA would be the prosecuting authority. Has it done any yet?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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It would not have done anything against the convention, because, obviously, the convention is not implemented yet. So that would be a difficult list to compile at this stage. Perhaps I will send the noble Lord some nice information about the MCA and its enforcement, shall I? Excellent. We will do that. I beg to move.

Motion agreed.

International Organization for Marine Aids to Navigation (Legal Capacities) Order 2022

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Excerpts
Thursday 13th January 2022

(1 week, 1 day ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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That the Grand Committee do consider the International Organization for Marine Aids to Navigation (Legal Capacities) Order 2022.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) (Con)
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My Lords, this order will allow the UK to recognise the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities, or IALA, and assist in the completion of its transition from a non-governmental to an intergovernmental organisation. The IALA may not be familiar to some noble Lords, but its work is fundamental to maritime safety and, given that 95% of all of our import and export tonnage is transported by sea, the wealth and prosperity of our island nation. The IALA is and will remain a technical, not-for-profit body whose key aim is to co-ordinate

“improvement and harmonisation of marine aids to navigation and related services to the benefit of … navigation, efficiency of shipping traffic and protection of the environment.”

It brings together marine aids to navigation authorities, manufacturers, consultants and scientific and training organisations from all parts of the world, providing a vital forum for the exchange of views, expertise and experience.

The UK was a founding member of the current organisation when it was first established in 1957. Our illustrious maritime heritage and continued leadership on aids to navigation through the work of our general lighthouse authorities—Trinity House, the Northern Lighthouse Board and Irish Lights—means that we have played, and continue to play, a significant role in all its achievements. These include the introduction of a single buoyage system, which replaced the more than 30 different types in use worldwide as late as the 1970s. Many of these had confusing and, worse, often conflicting rules. As a result, many ships were wrecked and lives lost simply because there was no consistency and mariners were often unable to fathom intended meaning.

This represented a significant barrier to the improvement of navigation safety and was the biggest challenge faced by the IALA when it was first formed. Although there was a clear need for consolidation and an internationally recognised consistent method of marking and wayfinding at sea, agreement on the details remained difficult. The IALA managed to navigate a path through these problems and created the IALA maritime buoyage system in 1976, adopted by the IMO in 1977. It remains a fundamental cornerstone of maritime navigation today, and has had an immediate and long-lasting impact on maritime safety.

The IALA continues to set international standards for all marine aids to navigation, make recommendations and deliver guidance. It has been instrumental in facilitating the delivery of enhanced navigation safety—for example, in facilitating the introduction of purely electronic aids to navigation, the transition from filament bulbs to LED lighting and the delivery of new power sources, such as solar. It also advises on challenges to navigation safety, such as offshore windfarms, and new technologies, including autonomous vessels.

The UK’s maritime heritage, although at times painful and tragic, means we have an obligation to others to incorporate and share our learning regarding safety in all of the IALA’s outputs. This is vital if we are to prevent the reoccurrence of the mistakes and tragedies that litter our history. That is why this order is so important. It will facilitate the IALA’s richly deserved transition to intergovernmental status.

The order is a very simple SI that confers the legal capacities of a body corporate on IALA in the UK. Article 1 provides that the order may not come into force until the future intergovernmental organisation comes into existence for the UK. If the UK is one of the first 30 states to ratify, this will be 90 days after the date of the deposit of the ratification instrument of the 30th state. If the UK ratifies after the convention is already in force, it will be on the 30th day after it deposits its instrument of ratification. This article also provides that the order’s provisions extend to the whole of the UK.

The UK was a founding member of IALA when it was first established in 1957. We are very keen to be at the forefront of its transition to an intergovernmental organisation. As I have noted, there is a process that things have to go through, and we need this order for the process to really get going and for us to be able to recognise IALA. I commend the order to the Committee.

Lord Greenway Portrait Lord Greenway (CB)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for introducing this order. I declare a non-pecuniary interest as an Elder Brother of Trinity House, the general lighthouse authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar. As the Minister said, Trinity House has been closely involved with the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation since its formation in 1957 under its previous name, the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities, which is where the acronym IALA comes from.

At a meeting in Spain in 2014, IALA agreed that the best way forward to develop and improve marine aids to navigation for the benefit of the maritime community and the protection of the environment would be to seek international intergovernmental organisation status as soon as possible through the development of an international convention. Three subsequent diplomatic conferences were held to thrash out a draft convention, and it was finalised and adopted at a fourth conference held in Kuala Lumpur in February 2020. Just under a year later, the convention was opened for signature in Paris, where IALA is headquartered, and some 20 countries have now signed. Five of these—Singapore, Norway, Japan, Malaysia and India—have since ratified.

The convention will lead to increased international acceptance of standards, enhancing harmonisation, and will raise IALA’s status at the International Maritime Organization from merely consultative to equal partner, facilitating direct links with the experts working at the sharp end of research and development and thereby obviating difficulties that have arisen in the past when dealing with some governmental bodies.

Despite the huge technological strides that have been made in the aids-to-navigation sector over the past 20 or so years—here Trinity House has played a major role—the importance of such aids is as great now as it ever was, arguably more so due to the greater emphasis being given to environmental concerns. Bearing in mind our close association with IALA, I sincerely hope that the Government will see their way to ratifying the new convention at the earliest opportunity.

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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, I welcome the introduction of this instrument to help to facilitate and recognise the new International Organization for Marine Aids to Navigation. The Committee will be aware that this new organisation is a transition from the previous International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities, which has functioned since 1957. First, given that only five other nations have ratified the related convention, can the Minister provide the House with an estimate of when the transition will be completed? Secondly, can the Minister confirm whether the support and resources given by the UK to the new organisation will in any way differ from the support and resources given to its predecessor? Finally, can the Minister briefly explain the UK’s strategic aims for engagement in the organisation, as well as related bodies such as the International Maritime Organization?

We fully support the work of the new International Organization for Marine Aids for Navigation, and I am therefore pleased to welcome this order.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, once again, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this short debate on this order. I particularly welcome the expertise of the noble Lord, Lord Greenway. It is very good to have somebody in the Room who has such expertise.

I will give a little more information on the timeline from the UK’s perspective. All being well and subject to the agreement of your Lordships’ House and it being passed at the other end—I cannot recall whether it has yet—this order will go to the Privy Council in February. This would be the ratifying document that will then go off to Paris at the end of February or in early March.

I am really pleased that the United Kingdom will join a good list of people—indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, has already mentioned the countries that have ratified or accepted the IALA convention. The other point to note about that is that it has also been signed by 20 different countries, too. The process is therefore well on its way. Looking down the list of countries that have already signed it, there are a large number of heavy hitters—ones we would really want to be associated with. The EU does not really have a locus here. There is no impact of EU withdrawal on this. Looking at the countries that have signed, we have Belgium, France, obviously, the Netherlands, and all sorts of different countries. I do not think that is a fruitful or relevant area to discuss further.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, that we need to make sure we have an enthusiastic leadership role in the maritime sector. I know that the Maritime Minister is very keen that we do. We have a lot of expertise on maritime aids to navigation. The general lighthouse authorities will continue to represent the UK at the intergovernmental organisation when it is established. Any member state obligation, should it arise, will be met by the Department for Transport in the first instance with FCDO input. In essence, our involvement will not change too much in terms of resources. Indeed, we will save ourselves around £15,000 a year on subscription costs. That is clearly beneficial.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked whether the Irish pay for their own lighthouses. Yes, my Lord, they do. The Governments of the UK and Ireland have an agreement that all work by Irish Lights in the Republic of Ireland is paid for by the Irish Government.

If there is anything else I will write further, because I am at the end of what I have been briefed to say, but I will check back through Hansard to make sure that there is nothing else. Otherwise, I beg to move.

Motion agreed.

Global Traffic Scorecard: London

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Excerpts
Wednesday 5th January 2022

(2 weeks, 2 days ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the report by INRIX 2021 Global Traffic Scorecard, published on 6 December; and in particular, its findings (1) regarding the number of hours UK drivers spent in traffic, and (2) that London is the most congested city in the world in terms of traffic congestion.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) (Con)
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My Lords, although officials have noted the INRIX report, the department makes its own assessment of congestion using the metric of average delay based on seconds of delay per vehicle per mile. This is generally a more accurate way of estimating congestion in contrast to grossing up the total hours lost from a small sample to total driver population, as INRIX has done.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I assume the implication of that Answer from my noble friend is that there is no congestion for us to worry about. I was going to ask her whether the Department for Transport still holds to the assumption that vehicular traffic congestion has an economic cost, or whether it has, since Covid began, altered the methodology by which it applies that assumption, so that it is much less concerned about it.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I reassure my noble friend that we still believe that vehicular congestion has an economic cost; this can be a personal economic cost and a national economic cost. But we do not estimate a total cost of congestion on the road network as a whole; that is not routinely assessed by the department. We look at things such as journey time savings on road schemes appraisal, alongside many other impacts, be they economic, social or environmental, to make the right decisions.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that the three most congested roads in London are the A503, the A2 and the North Circular Road, which are multilane roads with no cycle lanes? Would she also agree that the Blackfriars north-south cycle route now carries five times more people per route than the carriageway next to it? Is there not an argument for having more cycle routes, in particular on the high street in Kensington, which Kensington and Chelsea council has removed illegally?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Oh, my Lords, not again. The noble Lord has clearly been looking at the INRIX report in some detail. It is correct that the roads he cites are some of the most congested in London, but that does not necessarily mean that they are ripe for a cycle path. What one does need is effective cycle networks running through long distances. He rightly mentions the one over Blackfriars Bridge, which is a huge success. It is up to the Mayor of London, working with the local highways authorities, to put these in place.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick Portrait Lord Lamont of Lerwick (Con)
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My Lords, following my noble friend Lod Moylan’s Question, does my noble friend the Minister remember that one of the main arguments put forward for HS2 was the economic cost of faster travel time by HS2, and that an economic calculation was made of the economic benefit caused by the faster travel? Will she use the same methodology to apply to traffic congestion in London?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My noble friend is exactly right. That is exactly what I was saying earlier about journey time savings. For example, a number of projects in London have been put forward by the mayor looking for funding from the Department for Transport. In order to appraise those schemes, we look at journey time savings and, as I said to my noble friend, a number of other metrics to ensure that we make the right decisions.

Lord Farmer Portrait Lord Farmer (Con)
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My Lords, in contrast to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, as a London resident and a cyclist, I regularly see cycle lanes which are more or less unused, particularly when they run almost parallel to park cycle lanes. Given London’s status as the most traffic congested city in the world, have the Government made any assessment of the contribution—including pollution—paradoxically made to congestion by the narrowing of roads to accommodate cycle lanes?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, well designed cycle lanes need not cause any additional congestion and can be a highly efficient way of moving many more people than the equivalent road without a cycle lane. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, mentioned, the cycle lane over Blackfriars Bridge is a fantastic example of this. But the key thing is for the design to be appropriate. In London, this is a matter for the Mayor of London and for local authorities.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Recently, one of the national newspapers—the Daily Mail, I think it was—reported that rail tickets in the UK cost up to seven times the amount as for similar journeys in Europe. If the Government are serious about reducing road traffic and congestion, they will need to make public transport a more appealing alternative. What steps will the Government take to reduce the cost of rail and bus journeys?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The Government have, of course, been extraordinarily generous to the rail system. Over the course of Covid, we have been able to keep services running to make sure that people can get from A to B as and when they have needed to. We are now entering a new phase for rail, where we will be looking at introducing the structures around Great British Railways in order to benefit passengers—it is all about putting passengers first. As the noble Lord knows, on buses, we will be allocating £1.2 billion of transformation funding. We hope to do that fairly soon. We would like that to focus on bus priority to speed up services, so that we can break the cycle of decline.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, on that issue of generosity, obviously, getting cars off the road would be the quickest way to decongest our roads nationally. But in London, bus passengers, through TfL, actually pay for all the road repairs, and therefore they subsidise motorists. Does that seem right?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I am not sure I understand the noble Baroness’s point. The point that I am able to respond to is about getting cars off the road. This Government do not want to take cars off the road: the whole point is that we need to provide the right type of journey for the right passenger. For some people, that will mean using private cars, and for others it will mean using buses. It also means decarbonising the private vehicles that we currently have.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine Portrait Baroness Falkner of Margravine (CB)
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My Lords, I wonder if I can ask the Minister about enforcement, particularly in relation to e-scooters. We have cyclists going the wrong way on pavements in one-way streets, and we now have the blight of e-scooters, which appear to be entirely unregulated, as they race down streets, incredibly silently. We have started to see the first fatal accidents. What are the Government doing about that?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The Government are very clear that the use of e-scooters outside trial areas on public property is illegal. It can lead to a fine of up to £300, six points on a driving licence and the scooter can be impounded.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Portrait Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con)
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My Lords, given that inflation is running at very high levels as measured by CPI, but even higher levels as measured by RPI, being some 7%, can the Minister assure us that the benchmark for setting increases in rail fares will be CPI and not RPI?

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My noble friend raises a really important point. This Government considered very carefully the extent to which we wanted to raise rail fares this year. Of course we will make sure that we take equal care when we look to raise fares, if at all, in future.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab)
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My Lords, the Minister referred earlier, in an answer to my noble friend Lord Rosser, to the Government’s generosity, both past and in prospect, to public transport. Can she say how much of that generosity is actually being spent on reducing the cost of travel?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I could, but I am afraid that I do not have the full briefing with me today in order to go through all the different elements where that is the case. But I can say to the noble Baroness that, for example, the national bus strategy very clearly sets out our ambition to be able to get a fair ticketing system for bus passengers and to enable services to be more frequent, and therefore for the entire system to operate more effectively.

Lord Bilimoria Portrait Lord Bilimoria (CB)
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My Lords, I am a member of the healthy cities commission at the University of Oxford, chaired by my noble friend Lord Best, where we are looking into the effects of commuting as well as congestion. If London is the most congested city in the world, what calculations have the Government made of the effect on the economy, the lost time, and the money and hours lost, as well as on pollution?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Again, that is a hugely complicated question, which probably goes beyond what I can answer today. The noble Lord is right; in terms of congestion and changes to commuting behaviour, the system has to adapt. That is why, in London, we have a very good integrated system, which comes under TfL and the responsibility of the Mayor of London. It is up to him to look at all the different modes that he has available, whether it is the Tube, overground, cycling or walking—all those different ways—to ensure that we get the maximum economic benefit for London. Only this morning, I spoke to the CEO of London First, and we discussed that in detail.

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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, no matter how much this is dressed up, there is no doubt whatever that congestion in London has got worse, and part of the reason for that is bad cycle lanes, as on the Marylebone Road, Park Lane and Lower Thames Street. Another reason is the closing of so many small back roads, so that the moment there is an accident, or something like that, everything clogs up. The journey that I do every day, and which I have done to try to avoid public transport and not give everyone in this House Covid, takes a third longer than it used to; it is getting longer and longer. We have to do something. Surely we must open up those side roads and get those bicycle lanes sorted out.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Well, I would very much encourage the noble Lord to use public transport. There is nothing wrong with public transport, and I think that even he would find it perfectly comfortable. He also might wish to talk to his colleague in the Labour Party, the Mayor of London, whose responsibility it is for London. But the noble Lord mentioned something that had not come up previously: low traffic neighbourhoods. They are really important for reducing rat-running, and we think that, where they are well introduced, following local consultation, they can be hugely effective in encouraging people to take up cycling and walking and for taking traffic off the streets.

Integrated Rail Plan: Northern Powerhouse Area

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Excerpts
Thursday 16th December 2021

(1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for this wonderful Christmas present on the last day of term: a debate about Northern Powerhouse Rail and the integrated rail plan. I am enormously grateful for the thoughtful contributions that have been made and to many noble Lords for coming to the briefing this morning. I am happy to arrange further briefings in due course, as obviously, plans will develop.

We know that this is an issue of huge importance to places across the north and the Midlands, as well as to the rail and construction industry. I understand that there are strong feelings about rail investment across the country. We all want to ensure a fair deal that enables economic growth, employment opportunities and better connectivity. We as a Government must also make sure that it offers value for money for the taxpayer.

I thank my noble friend Lord Horam for his warm words for the plan; they were few and far between from other contributors. I believe that this Government are taking the right action when it comes to the integrated rail plan. At £96 billion it is an enormous programme; indeed, it is the largest single investment in rail ever made by any UK Government. I believe that it will reshape our railways in the north and the Midlands.

The plan will provide those benefits quicker, which is really important when we are looking at timeframes of 10, 20, even 30 years. These are long timeframes, and we need to be able to bring those benefits to communities as soon as we possibly can. There is a boost for eight of the 10 busiest rail corridors. We will speed up journeys, increase capacity and run more frequent services, all much earlier than previously planned. I, too, hope to be alive when some of these benefits are felt.

Let me share a few examples of the transformation plans in the IRP. Journey times from Sheffield to London will be slashed by around half an hour, and we will more than double the number of seats on Sheffield to London services. Darlington will benefit from faster and more reliable connections to places on the east coast main line, with the potential to add additional seats as required as demand grows. The time it takes to travel from Leeds to Manchester will reduce over time from 53 minutes to just over half an hour. I do not think that is bad at all; in fact, it takes me half an hour to get from Norbiton to Waterloo.

The first of these big improvements, a reduction to just over 40 minutes, will be seen later this decade. Again, this comes back to the speed at which we can make these changes. Of course, there will also be significant increases in seat capacity. We will electrify the entire trans-Pennine route, install full digital signalling and add longer sections of three and four-tracking to allow fast trains to overtake stopping services. The IRP is absolutely focused on bringing communities in the north and the Midlands closer together, boosting intercity connections and improving east-west links.

Noble Lords will be aware that there are three high-speed lines coming: Crewe to Manchester; Birmingham to the east Midlands; and the £23 billion we are investing in Northern Powerhouse Rail, which includes the brand-new high-speed line from Warrington to Manchester. The proposals set out by Transport for the North—TfN—for NPR would have come at a cost to places on the existing main lines such as Huddersfield, which would have seen little improvement or a worsening in services. They would have made Manchester to Leeds journeys only four minutes faster than the option we have chosen, at a cost of an extra £18 billion.

We will upgrade the east coast main line. It is important to note that there will be a package of investment in track improvements and digital signalling to bring down journey times from Edinburgh, Newcastle, Darlington and Leeds to London. Again, these benefits will be available to communities much sooner than previously planned.

This debate was focused on capacity and regional connectivity, issues that were woven into comments from all noble Lords today. In many instances we will see very significant capacity improvements, particularly from Manchester to London, where there will be both capacity and journey time improvements. There is a potential to treble capacity between Manchester and Birmingham. The changes to the east coast main line have the potential to increase capacity.

Many noble Lords will want details and accurate descriptions of exactly what capacity will be provided for whom and when. We do not know that now. This is a plan, and there is an enormous amount of work to do to move from the plan to the next level down—to the detail about how this will actually work on the ground. While in some places we can be very clear about what capacity improvements will be available, in others there will be an enormous amount of designing to do and engineering options to look at, particularly when it comes to upgrading lines. So, service frequency, capacity and duration of journeys may be subject to change, but, of course, we always want to maximise capacity, increase service levels and reduce journey times.

I note that there was a cynical comment about “subject to stopping”. Trains have to stop: that is their job. How else do you get passengers on and off them? But, of course, we have to think about the best way to look at the frequency of services, particularly to intermediate towns between the large economic nodes. That is really important when it comes to planning journey times and the frequency of stopping.

On freight capacity, although an awful lot of work has been done on this, I think all of us in government would admit that we did not put enough of that into the integrated rail plan. I know we will work very hard to provide more information on this in due course.

The interesting thing is that west and east are not the same. There seems to be this feeling that if the west gets something, the east has to have exactly the same, but they are very different railway markets. Not only is the western leg of the route, from Crewe to Manchester, broadly agreed but we will be able to proceed with it much faster, and the benefits in terms of connecting significant cities are clear. But on the eastern leg, the market is more balanced. Unlike the western leg, there are far more credible choices to explore for upgrading existing sections of railway network, combined with new lines and longer trains. Those will bring the benefits that we want to see.

The underlying case for investment in the rail network in the north and Midlands remains very strong. Regional connectivity is at the heart of everything we do on rail improvements in the north. Again, integration is absolutely key. I have made the case before that plans were previously set out in isolation. They connected very large economic nodes, and kind of forgot about everywhere else in between. Many of the smaller places—although we are still talking about significant places such as Leicester, Kettering, Grantham and Newark—will benefit from the improvements coming down the track through the IRP.

At the heart of what we are doing—and this is why I think continued conversations will be beneficial—is the core pipeline. We have set out what it looks like, and any further schemes will be subject to affordability constraints and considerations. We also want to be able to deliver commitments on time and on budget. So, those are all the key things we will be thinking about.

So we have this core pipeline at the heart, and then there is this adaptive approach which sits around it. Noble Lords have mentioned, for example, Skipton-Colne. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, mentioned secondary lines. There is an awful lot of work to be done around how else, having gone with the core, we can maximise the connectivity into those harder-to-reach places which perhaps previously have not had good services.

I hear the concerns raised by some people from Leeds. We have looked extremely carefully and are very keen to keep working on what we can do there. We are spending £100 million on development work to look at the best way to get HS2 trains to Leeds from the east Midlands. Obviously, we will look at the current station and how it could absorb the additional capacity. I am as keen as anyone to see a mass transit network for west Yorkshire, and I am absolutely committed to working with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority on this. There was a comment about it perhaps taking decades, but that is probably not in the Government’s hands. The West Yorkshire Combined Authority is the sponsor of the project and we will look to it to bring forward plans that are well thought through and which represent good value for money for the taxpayer.

I was going to mention the electrification of the Midland main line, but perhaps I will not, because I would like to address the issue around Transport for the North and its role going forward. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, mentioned the letter from TfN and how it did not welcome the plan. Of course it did not welcome it; it was not TfN’s plan. We have made changes to its plan, but of course we do listen to what TfN has to say and any input that it has, as we do with all the sub-national transport bodies. I have a very close relationship with all of them. We want to work with TfN going forward in a collaborative way to ensure that we can maximise the benefits of our investment. Not everyone will always get exactly what they want. That is one of the huge challenges with planning transport networks. However, we can listen, and TfN will have a really important part, as it will be co-sponsor of the project and therefore will have a key role in providing that sponsorship to the project as it goes forward.

On the Leamside line, the north-east is eligible for a multiyear city region sustainable transport settlement. Unfortunately, we need the governance structures to be in place for it to have the CRSTS. We are working very closely to encourage the local area to form a combined authority, and then we will be able to think about providing funding, which may or not subsequently be used for the Leamside line.

There is a huge amount of opportunity for rail in the north and the Midlands. Many of the questions raised cannot be answered now, not because I do not have the answers to hand but because they do not yet exist. We have an awful lot of work ahead of us, which is why we are very keen to continue the conversations around the plan that we have and the proposals that may or may not augment that plan. However, from where I am at this moment, this plan, with £96 billion to be invested in rail in the Midlands and the north, to be delivered over the next 30 years, is a good one.

Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) (No. 5) Regulations 2021

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Excerpts
Wednesday 15th December 2021

(1 month, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Moved by
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 23 November be approved.

Relevant document: 23rd Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (special attention drawn to the instrument). Considered in Grand Committee on 14 December.

Motion agreed.

Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) (No. 5) Regulations 2021

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Excerpts
Tuesday 14th December 2021

(1 month, 1 week ago)

Grand Committee
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Moved by
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) (No. 5) Regulations 2021

Relevant document: 23rd Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (special attention drawn to the instrument).

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) (Con)
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My Lords, this statutory instrument is the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) (No. 5) Regulations 2021. Together with the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2021 and the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2021, which follows the negative procedure, these SIs are key parts of 32 measures that the Government are taking to address the current shortage of heavy goods vehicle, or HGV, drivers.

It gives me no pleasure to introduce these regulations to the Committee once again. Noble Lords will recall that they were originally laid under a slightly different name, and I shall call the original regulations the “No. 2 regulations”; they were laid on 16 September 2021. They were debated in some detail on 9 November, but they were not approved in both Houses in time to come into force on 15 November 2021, as set out in the SI. Since affirmative statutory instruments cannot be amended once laid in draft, we decided to re-lay substantially the same regulations afresh, which I shall call the “No. 5 regulations”. The No. 5 regulations replicate the No. 2 regulations already debated in your Lordships’ House, save for an updated title and coming into force provision.

I shall provide a bit of a reminder about the context, which has slightly fallen out of the media in recent weeks. The haulage sector has been experiencing an acute shortage of HGV drivers worldwide for some time. It has affected the industry for many years, but it has been further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which meant that driver testing had to be suspended for much of last year. During this time, the shortage increased further, as new drivers could not join the industry to replace those retiring or leaving. The shortage of HGV drivers affects the supply chains of not only fresh food but fuel, medicines and medical equipment across Great Britain.

I would like to acknowledge the publication of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee’s 23rd report last Thursday, which drew special attention to these regulations. I thank the committee for its hard work and continued scrutiny of these and other regulations. As the report highlighted, the impact assessments were not available at the time when the instruments were to be scrutinised by your Lordships’ House, and I offer my sincere apologies to noble Lords for this. I hope noble Lords understand that we were, and are, working at pace to deliver government interventions, including regulatory change, which could alleviate the HGV driver shortage problem, but I recognise the committee’s concern that the impact assessment was not able to be provided. I reassure all noble Lords that the Department for Transport takes very seriously its responsibilities with regard to evidence-based policy-making. I am pleased to report that the impact assessment has now been submitted to the Regulatory Policy Committee for its scrutiny.

I turn very briefly to the content of the SI. The overall aim of the No. 5 regulations 2021 is to increase the number of HGV drivers within Great Britain by increasing the number of test slots available to drivers wishing to pass a HGV driver test, while maintaining road safety standards. The regulations will remove the requirement for drivers who hold a category B licence—namely, for driving a car—to take a separate car and trailer—a category B+E—test before they can drive a vehicle combination in that class. Instead, category B+E entitlement will be automatically granted to car drivers and backdated to all valid category B car licences that have been obtained since 1 January 1997. I note that licences obtained before that date already have the entitlement to tow a heavier trailer, and that a licence is needed only for trailers over a specific weight, not for any trailer at all. Removing this test frees up about 2,400 more tests each month that can be allocated to those wishing to take an HGV driving test, which in turn will help ease the driver shortage. We know that these tests are being taken up by would-be HGV drivers.

The public consultation, which ran from 10 August to 7 September, showed support for the change, with 75% of people responding positively to the removal of the trailer test.

Road safety is, of course, of the utmost importance, and I understand why road safety concerns have been raised. Theory and practical training will continue to be recommended to help maintain driver safety on the roads. An accreditation scheme is being developed, with help from the trailer industry and training providers. This accreditation scheme will provide voluntary training opportunities for car drivers wishing to tow a trailer not only of a size that would previously have required a licence but of any size for either recreational or business use. It will also include training on trailer maintenance and other areas not previously specifically covered by the test. Essentially, training will improve.

My officials have met the trailer and towing safety advisory group to develop the outline of the scheme and to consider core modules that would be applicable to all drivers who tow, as well as sector-specific modules. These might cover activities such as safely managing livestock or breakdown recovery towing. We are also already working with trainers and those in the leisure and business sectors to develop the training package and, together with these groups and the police, will identify the additional data needed to monitor towing standards effectively.

The scheme is planned to launch early next year. We will recommend that all drivers wishing to tow a trailer of any size undertake training to safely tow and manage them. We will encourage drivers through our existing campaigns and via our work with a wide range of stakeholders, including leisure and towing groups. We have committed to review the legislation at regular intervals, initially after three years have passed and thereafter at five-year intervals. The impact assessment will be published early in the new year. Our commitment to reviewing the legislation after three years is earlier than the standard five.

As I noted previously, many drivers already have grandfather rights—about 16 million drivers who passed their driving test before 1 January 1997 can already drive a car with a heavier trailer without having to take a separate test. This change affords that same entitlement to drivers who passed their test after 1997. Furthermore, all car licence holders already have the right to tow smaller trailers. We will of course be encouraging all those who are new to towing, of any size of trailer, whether or not they would have previously had to take a test, to take up training.

We should be proud that the UK has some of the safest roads in the world. I reassure noble Lords that our support for the #towsafe4freddie campaign will continue, and we will draw attention to the importance of motorists doing safety checks of their trailer whenever they are towing.

The removal of the separate test for car drivers wishing to tow a trailer or caravan frees up 30,000 vocational test slots annually. This equates to an additional 550 tests per week, or a 37% increase in weekly tests, relative to pre-pandemic levels. This is a significant increase in available capacity. Furthermore, thanks to the great efforts of DVLA staff, the backlog of 55,000 driving licence applications for HGV drivers has been eliminated, and these are now being processed within the normal turnaround times of five working days.

These regulations are just one of the 32 interventions that the Government are putting in place to tackle this issue to help reduce the strain on our national supply chains, which is affecting every aspect of our daily lives. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for introducing yet another set of regulations, which we seem to have debated quite frequently over the last few months, as she said. They give me the opportunity to reflect, now that Covid-19 has been with us for the best part of two years, that the delays in DVSA activity seem to have been going on for that length of time. There are still reports of people being very delayed in getting driving licences back, which I know is not the same thing, but I sometimes question whether the DVSA is fit for purpose and whether it perhaps needs a major upgrade of its IT system or something like that so that it works well. I have never had a problem applying online—other people might do—but when I saw recent press reports about some excessive delays of many weeks I began to wonder.

It is still odd that we think that we can get people to pass a test to drive HGVs or other vehicles without reversing when it is such an inherent part of the HGV operation, in particular with semi-trailers. I tried to do it myself under supervision about 10 years ago—not on a highway, I hasten to add—and it was very difficult, probably because I am thick and stupid. You could argue that it does not really matter because most reversing will take place on private property, so if anybody has an accident then the Department for Transport is not affected in any way, but it is quite important that people should be able to reverse. The Minister said that this change would provide 2,400 more tests a month. I do not know how many that is as a proportion of the total number of tests a year, but how much money and time are saved by not reversing? It would be an interesting statistic, which she might or might not have.

There comes a time when you begin to reflect that tests are getting easier and easier. You could argue that you do not need tests at all. How many more people would get killed on the roads if there were no tests? That is a very stupid question and I do not expect a sensible answer from the Minister, but it is questionable how much drivers need to learn and know before they drive these very large 40-tonne trucks around. I worry that being unable to reverse might just make it difficult.

Driving around Cornwall, as I do occasionally, you meet a lot of people in cars who are obviously strangers, especially in the summer. Obviously, one of you has to reverse when you meet them on a narrow road. An enormous proportion of the people you meet who are not local cannot actually reverse their car. There are no trailers attached to them; it is just their car. On many occasions, friends of mine say to the other driver, “Why don’t you get out and I’ll reverse it for you?” It works, but I am not sure it is a way to go forward.

We will see what happens with this, and I trust that there will be no increase in accidents and no problems with it. It also comes with the safety checks that the Minister mentioned. One of the safety checks that clearly does not happen very often, as we debated last night, relates to the height of lorries when they hit bridges. We had a good debate. Sadly, it took place before the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, my noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester and I had a very helpful meeting with Network Rail today. One suggestion came under the category of driving tests, which is why I mention it now. Perhaps the Minister could look into it. When you do a driving test for an HGV there are various modules, some compulsory and some optional. One of the optional modules is on how not to bash your lorry against a bridge. It seems a bit odd that in this country that should be optional. When the next round of regulations comes to us on things like this, I wonder whether the Minister could look at making that bridge-bashing module into an obligation. There are many other solutions, which we can talk about on another occasion, but that one would be quite easy to do.

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We will not oppose this measure—although noble Lords might think, after what I said, “Why on earth not?”—because we recognise that there is a need to get more HGV drivers, but this is a long-standing shortage and there was no need to deal with it in this panicked way. The Government have said that they had 32 measures to address the problem of the shortage, so why is it that the other 31 apparently could not prevent the Government ending up in a situation where they have to produce this one regulation in such a hurry that it potentially compromises safety? There is no information from the Government on what the impact of removing the need for this particular test is likely to be, nor of allowing thousands of people who failed the test to put a trailer on the road and anybody who has passed the car driving test to do likewise.
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rosser: I sincerely hope that this is the last occasion that the SLSC has to write such a report and refer to me in that fashion. It does not make me particularly happy and, coming on the heels of another issue that we have had regarding our SI programme, I reassure all noble Lords that I will meet with the appropriate officials very early next year and we will sort it out. It is not acceptable, and I do not wish for my department to be seen in such terms by your Lordships’ House and its committees. It is not what I want to happen, and I will do everything I can to make sure it does not happen in future.

I thank all noble Lords for their further consideration of these draft regulations. I will focus on the areas on which I have additional information that I have not raised previously with noble Lords or with the SLSC, but, again, I will write to give a full account of the Government’s position to make sure we cover all the issues raised.

The first point is the need for speed and the urgency with which these regulations are being put in place, which was noted by noble Lords and the SLSC. Obviously, had the first debate gone as we had planned, they would already be in place. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned that the first consideration is the need to quickly free up test slots to get new HGV drivers qualified and on the road. Noble Lords have debated many times the length of the shortage, that it was a long time coming, and that it has got acute during the pandemic. I knew that there was a shortage prior to the pandemic, as people used to come and tell me, but there was no impact, or it could not be felt, because the industry was able to deal with it and the supply chain could cope. The pandemic has meant that the lack of resilience of the supply chain has been exposed. That is why we need to act urgently now. I could not have brought this to your Lordships two years ago and said that it was urgent because it absolutely would not have been, but it is now.

It is the case that we release a significant number of tests. We know that they are being taken up and that people are applying to be HGV drivers. They are entering the industry, which is exactly what we need to see. We removed the tests back in September. We basically said that they would not go ahead. That has obviously helped. It is worth noting that we will at some stage lose the extra testing capacity provided by the MoD. That obviously cannot go on for ever. Therefore, putting this in place is obviously very helpful.

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Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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I thank the Minister for her detailed response but there are huge inconsistencies in it. I draw to her attention the fact that the Government appear to have a limited approach to relevant data. She talks about the difficulties in obtaining data, but we have firm data on both the number of people who fail this test every year and the number of new drivers who have accidents in the first year or two of their driving careers. There are other approaches that the Government could have taken, such as doing away with the test and saying that you must have two years’ driving experience before you can tow a trailer as large as this. Did the Government consider other approaches? They seem to have gone for the extreme, riskiest option rather than looking at other things, such as increasing the capacity of driving test centres.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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This Government are increasing the capacity of driving test centres; it is one of the 32 interventions that we have already outlined. We could have put in a two-year requirement but that would not have achieved what we wanted because there is no reason why you would deny somebody who is a perfectly good driver, even though they have just passed their driving test, the chance to do the training and tow a heavy trailer. I am not sure that there would have been a good rationale for denying somebody that right when, quite frankly, old people like me can already drive a heavy trailer—and I have never been anywhere near any training. There are already inconsistencies in the system, so these regulations create a simple system that everybody can understand, with mitigations in place to ensure that it is as safe as possible.

Motion agreed.