Debates between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 27th Apr 2021
Mon 30th Nov 2020
High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage (Hansard) & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report stage
Thu 12th Nov 2020
High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill
Grand Committee

Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting : House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard)
Mon 9th Nov 2020
High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill
Grand Committee

Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard)
Wed 9th Sep 2020
Thu 5th Mar 2020
Tue 25th Feb 2020
High Speed Rail (West Midlands– Crewe) Bill
Lords Chamber

Motion to revive Bill & Motion to revive Bill
Wed 12th Feb 2020
Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 10th Feb 2020
Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee stage

Railway Timetables: Disruption

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Thursday 13th January 2022

(1 week, 1 day ago)

Lords Chamber
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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.

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

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Thursday 13th January 2022

(1 week, 1 day ago)

Grand Committee
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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.

Global Traffic Scorecard: London

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Wednesday 5th January 2022

(2 weeks, 2 days ago)

Lords Chamber
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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.

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

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Tuesday 14th December 2021

(1 month, 1 week 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, 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.

Electric Vehicles (Smart Charge Points) Regulations 2021

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Monday 6th December 2021

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate, including the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for the opportunity to outline the Government’s position on interoperability. I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, that the letter is coming his way; it will pick up all the points raised in in that debate and any raised from today’s debate—of course, today, I am focusing on interoperability, but I note comments made by other noble Lords on wider EV infrastructure. They will be aware that the EV infrastructure strategy will be published soon, which will set out the vision and action plan for charging infrastructure rollout, but I am aware that some more specific comments have been made.

There are many different types and forms of EV charge point interoperability, relating to both public and private charge points. Some forms of interoperability are already delivered by the market. For example, most private charge points sold in Great Britain are compatible with all EVs. Work is also under way within government to consider whether further action on interoperability is needed to deliver the best outcomes for consumers.

I turn first to private charge points. These regulations will embed further interoperability by mandating electricity supplier interoperability in law for the first time. This new requirement will ensure that consumers will retain the smart functionality of their charge point. The Government also considered including requirements for charge point operator interoperability in the regulations. This would have required all charge points to be compatible with any operator, but the Government’s view is that this type of interoperability would not be appropriate for such a nascent market. It would not materially affect the consumer experience and would be an unnecessary burden on the industry. Therefore, we are not bringing forward such requirements.

Further work is under way to consider other types of interoperability in the smart energy system, including for private EV charge points. This could include requirements to allow consumers to switch the provider of specific smart charging services. That is another type of interoperability, very similar to that enjoyed, for example, by smartphone users, who can change their mobile network provider without needing to purchase a new device. Crucially, consumers would be able to seek out new deals or better services, but that would not detriment the industry’s ability to innovate and develop new products and services. These are the sorts of things that the Secretary of State for Business aims to consult on in 2022. I have no more specific date today, but, as I said, I will write to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser.

Turning to public charge points, in 2017 we mandated that rapid charge points must have CCS connectors to ensure interoperable charging. There are now only two EV models available to buy in the UK with CHAdeMO sockets, and one of those providers has indicated that future models will provide CCS—96% of rapid chargers come with both connectors.

In addition, in February 2021 we consulted on proposals to ensure that UK charging networks offer seamless consumer experience, and considered a range of different types of interoperability. This includes proposals on payment interoperability, which would mandate a minimum payment method, such as contactless, and explores whether we should intervene to ensure interoperable payment apps. The government response to that consultation on public charge points will be published shortly, with regulations being laid next year.

EV charge point interoperability is a critical policy area for this Government. As I hope to have portrayed today, there is not just one type of interoperability; there are several, some of which the Government are very willing to get involved in; others we will leave to the market. We are committed in our smart charging government response to explore those forms of interoperability, and then we will lay regulations.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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I am very grateful to the Minister for that answer and for the comments of other noble Lords: the noble Baronesses, Lady Deech and Lady Randerson, and my noble friend Lord Rosser. Of course, I am aware that there are many different types of interoperability, but I recall, about 20 years ago, when I—probably like other noble Lords—was travelling around Europe on business, you had to have a bag of about 20 different plugs to plug in your phone, charge it and make the phone work. This will not work unless there is some reaction and force from consumers to have something that is simple and easy-to-use. I wish it well, and I look forward to what the Minister will send to us in the next few months but, on that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Isles of Scilly: Ships

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Tuesday 23rd November 2021

(1 month, 4 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether their award of £48 million from the Levelling Up Fund to the Council of the Isles of Scilly for the purchase of new ships requires the Council to demonstrate value for money by arranging competitive tenders for the (1) procurement, (2) construction, and (3) operation, of the ships.

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 Council of the Isles of Scilly submitted a full application, which included an economic and a commercial case. The Department for Transport reviewed these documents through a detailed assessment process, including assessing the value-for-money of the application. The process is set out in the fund’s technical and explanatory notes. Officials from the DfT will be writing to the Council of the Isles of Scilly to set out further business-case requirements.

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Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that response. However, she did not say whether the council would be required to go out to tender for the supply of the ships or operating the service. At the moment, the application is to give the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company—the monopoly supplier of services—a free gift of something like £48 million to operate a service, with no conditions. Does she think that is the normal way to conduct public sector financial business?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I am pleased to be able to reassure the noble Lord that, of course, the current status of the bid is that it is in its very early stages. As I said, we will be writing to the sponsor setting out further requirements for the business case. By the time this comes for ministerial sign-off, we will have had not only an OBC but also an FBC, and it will be done with the five different businesses cases. That would be normal, according to the Treasury rules. It will be a very rigorous process, during which we will, of course, assess the commercial elements of the bid. The noble Lord should just follow the process carefully; the bid would appreciate his support and guidance in getting it through the government systems.

Temporary Cycle Lanes in London

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Thursday 4th November 2021

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Ah, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea—that well-known hub and hive of interest in cycling. Indeed, it has about 100 miles of road in the borough, but not a metre of cycle lane. But it is the case that the Active Travel Oversight Group, to which my noble friend refers, has discussed the issue of cycle lanes in that particular council. It is also the case that TfL has thus far not provided any active travel funding from the latest settlement to that council.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, I congratulate the Minister and TfL on these temporary cycle lanes. As other noble Lords have said, they are really good. Will the Minister confirm that as many of them as possible will be made permanent and that, where there are missing links, which are so important for safe cycling, she will discuss with TfL some cycle routes to link them, which are also safe and will therefore encourage cycling?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Of course, we have discussions with TfL on what the network looks like as a whole. It is, of course, the decision of the local borough, in many cases, as to whether it puts a cycle lane in place, and it must consult the local community. But I am pleased to say that the surveys that we have done to date show that twice as many people support increased cycling and walking as oppose it.

Railways: Bridge Strikes

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Tuesday 7th September 2021

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to reduce the risk of vehicles hitting railway bridges in order to improve rail passenger safety and reduce disruption.

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, reducing bridge strikes involves interventions from the owners of bridges—usually Network Rail—highways authorities and the owners and operators of vehicles. Network Rail raises driver awareness and offers advice on avoiding low bridges. It has published Prevention of Bridge Strikes: A Good Practice Guide on GOV.UK.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that Answer and I commend the work that Network Rail has done, but my Question arises from an incident in Plymouth, on bank holiday Monday, which closed the west of England line for three days and affected tens of thousands of passengers, when a Tesco lorry hit a bridge. According to Network Rail, 43% of drivers do not know the height of their lorries. That is pretty frightening. According to Network Rail again, there are something like five bridge bashes every day, and clearly there will be occasions when there could be very serious accidents. Will the Minister, in addition to supporting Network Rail’s work, encourage it to claim all the costs from every bridge bash, including the cost of delays to trains, the cost of rebuilding and of course the cost of the delays to passengers? At the moment, it is costing the taxpayer £23 million a year, which seems rather a lot of money.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I am not wholly sure where the noble Lord got the figure of £23 million a year, but I would point out that costs are not necessarily met by the taxpayer; it depends on the circumstances. If liability rests with a vehicle driver, the costs will be recovered through insurance, and Network Rail has been successful in recovering large amounts for both infrastructure repair and compensation in the past.

Railways: East Coast Main Line

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Thursday 15th July 2021

(6 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con) [V]
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As my noble friend will know, there will be some service changes. She has outlined what they are, as have many other noble Lords. Other areas will see an increase in services. I reiterate that there is an opportunity to respond to the consultation. I know that my colleague in the department is pressing Network Rail, the train operating companies and our officials very hard to make sure we can retain as much regional connectivity as possible.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, following the remarks of my noble friend Lord Rosser, is the Minister aware of the comment from Transport for the North in Rail magazine, which states that the east coast mainline revisions mean that the north-east is losing trains to Leeds, Manchester and Edinburgh in favour of trains to London, and that this does not reflect the levelling-up agenda? Does she agree it is important to focus on the local and regional services, where the demand is greatest?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con) [V]
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Unfortunately, I did not see that comment, as I do not read Rail magazine; potentially, I should. We have to reach a balance here. We cannot focus on only one type of travel. What we and LNER have tried to do is get the right balance to ensure we are meeting customer demand and providing value for money for the taxpayer.

Historical Railways Estate

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Monday 5th July 2021

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My noble friend has once again raised the issue of permitted development orders. I restate that they are used only in emergency circumstances. I would just like to remind noble Lords that a couple of decades ago, at the Clifton Hall/Black Harry tunnel in Salford, the shaft collapsed, a house was demolished and the residents were killed in their beds. This is a serious issue we are talking about here: sometimes there are emergency circumstances when permitted development orders are required. But, as I have said, in the majority of cases they are not required, and planning permission is sought and given.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, given the concerns noble Lords have raised on this Question, and the fact that the Minister said it is very important that there is local involvement, surely the answer is to require all such changes to these structures to be the subject of a full planning application.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Well, I think I have now answered that question three times, but I will give it another go. There is a full planning application except in cases where there is likely to be an emergency.

International Travel

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Thursday 1st July 2021

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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As I have set out previously—I agree with my noble friend—the travel industry is having a very difficult time, but we can see a light at the end of the tunnel. We have to make sure that we act with public health as our priority. We must have a cautious approach, because we cannot risk everything that we have been able to do with the vaccine programme by importing variants of concern from overseas.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, in the Financial Times yesterday, Ministers are quoted as saying that any businessman coming into this country who could offer £300 million—I think that was the figure—of investment in the country could be exempted from quarantine. Can I ask the Minister whether that would have applied to Mr Greensill and Mr Gupta, who have been saving the British steel industry for decades? How does this work, in terms of the medical reasons for doing it? Is this not a case of double standards for those that Ministers like?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Let me explain to the noble Lord exactly what is going on here. There is an exemption from the requirement to quarantine, and it applies to a very limited number of specific business activities where these cannot be undertaken remotely or by anyone other than the exempt executive and would serve to create or preserve very large numbers of UK jobs—500 plus. So, that is potentially where his number came from. This exemption has been very significantly tightened since a version of it was in force in December. The qualifying threshold has been increased tenfold, and its scope has been reduced to permit only the most critical activities.

North of England: Rapid Mass Transport System

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Monday 28th June 2021

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The absolute priority for this Government is to get it right. Endless amounts of pressure—questions such as “When will it be published?”—is probably not particularly helpful and leads to an awful lot of speculation. As I have said previously, we are taking due consideration of what stakeholders are saying and we are working very hard to come up with a robust, deliverable plan. That is exactly what this Government are going to do.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, the Minister is right about the Shanghai maglev, which I have been on. It is very fast and very noisy, but the technology, and therefore the costs, are very tight, because the track has to be kept within plus or minus half a millimetre in both directions, vertical and horizontal. She is absolutely right to reject it and I hope that the Government stick to their promises.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Now we are all very jealous—I too would love to go on that maglev. The noble Lord makes an important point: it is not just about the cost of infrastructure, but of operation, because it has a very high electricity consumption and can therefore be more costly to operate. I know that the Japanese system will be using superconducting electromagnetics, which should be cheaper but, although maglev has some great applications, it is not applicable everywhere.

Great British Railway Plans

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Tuesday 22nd June 2021

(7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to integrate (1) HS2, and (2) the East West Rail project, into their Great British Railway plan.

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, HS2 Ltd and East West Rail Ltd are currently separate from Network Rail and are delivering important additions to our rail network. The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail is clear that they will retain their current roles and work closely with Great British Railways as it takes over responsibilities for integration.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that clarification, but it seems that the statement in the Williams report that it will bring together the rail

“network under single national leadership”

is not correct. The report also states that there will be “a new focus” to deal with

“escalations in cost, gold-plating and over-specification”,

which clearly applies mainly to HS2 as the worst offender. Can the Minister explain why there are plans to remove funding from Northern Powerhouse Rail and give it to the bottomless pit of HS2?

Human Rights at Sea

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Tuesday 22nd June 2021

(7 months ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Oh, my Lords, with modern standards for lifeboats and search and rescue, I would very much hope that such a situation would not arise today. The shipwrecked seafarers would be rescued long before any decisions would need to be taken on who to eat. Modern-day search and rescue services are equipped with an astonishing range of technologies that aid both in alerting the rescue services that there is an issue and in locating persons in distress or potential distress.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab) [V]
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Nautilus International has stated that some crews in ships registered under flags of convenience, including Panama, are having their internet access restricted to maybe 25 megabytes a month. Does the Minister agree on the importance of internet access to the welfare of effective and motivated crews, especially when they have been away for a very long time? What action will the Government take to ensure that all ships entering UK ports provide unlimited broadband on their ships all the way through their voyage?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for raising this issue. I will write to him with any further details of conversations that are ongoing where limits on broadband might be detrimental to a seafarer’s mental health.

BA and Ryanair: Customer Refunds

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Tuesday 15th June 2021

(7 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, this issue of refunds applies to holiday lets as well as airlines and other travel providers. Does the Minister agree that if members of the public book a service in good faith and the Government subsequently change the law so that using the service becomes illegal, surely the Government should compensate those who are out of pocket—or is it only for those who have shouted loudest?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I think we can all agree that the travel industry has been fundamentally changed by the Covid pandemic. There is no doubt that travelling now is very different from what it was a year ago. We are encouraging all consumers to be as flexible as possible. They must read the terms and conditions because in certain circumstances, guidance from the Government may change and a refund may not be due. However, as I said previously, if something is cancelled, a refund should be given.

Hitachi Rail: Rail Travel Disruption

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Wednesday 19th May 2021

(8 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I reassure my noble friend that of course Hitachi has the experience to undertake these repairs. It comes with a good track record of safety and a high-quality engineering pedigree. I reassure my noble friend that LNER will do whatever it can to keep the timetable going, potentially by using slightly shorter trains to ensure that services continue, as much as they can.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, two weeks ago, all the trains were stopped for safety reasons, with serious reports of long cracks in aluminium. Now most have started again; presumably they are safe. Will the Minister commit to producing an urgent report on the cause of this, what has been done to put it right and how the longer-term safety of these trains will be assured?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I commit to the noble Lord that the ORR will produce a report on the safety lessons from this incident and on how passengers have been impacted.

Rail Disruption: Social and Economic Impacts

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Thursday 13th May 2021

(8 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, the agreements in place to use the affected trains contain provisions that protect the taxpayer. We expect those who have contractual performance and train availability obligations to fully compensate the taxpayer.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for asking this Question. I understand from the technical press that 86 out of 93 of these affected trains have either a failure of the yaw dampers, which connect the bogie to the body shell—they are quite important parts—or the lifting points, with cracks of up to one foot long. On the routes affected this clearly means that there are very few, if any, trains. These are trains designed and procured by the Government—

Viscount Younger of Leckie Portrait Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con)
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I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but could he keep his question succinct?

Cycling: Bells

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Tuesday 27th April 2021

(8 months, 4 weeks ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I agree with my noble friend that perhaps a little more could be done around making sure that motorists do not stop in those boxes because they are really key for cyclists. It is about educating the drivers of motor vehicles as well. I reassure my noble friend that this goes back to the hierarchy of road users, about which we have consulted. We have got 21,000 responses on that. That has the capacity to fundamentally change the way we think about fellow road users, in whichever mode they choose to travel, and how we keep ourselves—and them—safe.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that the biggest hazard for cyclists is actually unsafe drivers? They may be anti-social and some of the cyclists are anti-social, as other noble Lords have said. Does she agree that the common problem is the silent approach, be it by cyclists or electric cars? Surely the answer there is to make people use bells. Personally, I use a horn when I can because it is even better. It wakes up people who are probably on a mobile phone in their car.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I very much hope that they are not on their mobile phone in their car; otherwise, I shall have words. The noble Lord makes some incredibly important points. It is a question of making sure that the balance is right between the actions of the motorist and the actions of the cyclist. I think I have been able to set out what the Government are doing. We are focused on ensuring that the right balance is achieved and we need to make sure that motorists as well as cyclists behave in the way that they should.

Transport: Zero Carbon Target

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Tuesday 27th April 2021

(8 months, 4 weeks ago)

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Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the electrical power requirements needed to enable reliable (1) hydrogen, and (2) battery, availability, in order to meet their zero carbon transport sector target.

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 recent energy White Paper, published in December, considered the potential future reliance of transport on electricity and clean hydrogen. It also included nearly £500 million of funding that will be made available in the next four years to build an internationally competitive electric vehicle supply chain.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply and the energy White Paper is certainly a contribution. Does it include all the power needed not only to produce batteries but to source the raw materials? The demand for lithium, one of the main contributors, is forecast to go up by 10 times, I think, in five years. Manufacture of hydrogen takes double the amount of electricity than it would it if you just drove a train or anything else directly by electricity. Then there are all the changes to the grid required. Can the Minister confirm that all this is included in the White Paper?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I can confirm that all these things are under consideration at the current time. It is a complex picture and there are many uncertainties as to what we will need our energy for. We are absolutely committed to ensuring a sufficient supply of low-carbon electricity. We need to ensure that the grid can cope and that we make the best use of smart energy solutions that are able to make use of plentiful renewable supply.

Transport for London: Financial Settlement

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Tuesday 2nd March 2021

(10 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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As transport in London is devolved, the Government have not assessed the usefulness or otherwise of the River Thames. I suggest that the noble Lord takes that up with the Mayor of London.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, Crossrail’s budget has been under pressure recently, and one of the stations that has not yet been started is Old Oak Common. Can the Minister tell the House what the budget is for Old Oak Common station, and how it is broken down between Crossrail, HS2 and Great Western Railway? If she cannot tell me, can she please write me?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Had the noble Lord given me fair warning of that question, I would have been delighted to answer it for the Chamber. However, I will discuss very briefly the amount of funding that the Government have been able to support for Crossrail. Back in August 2020 the board of Crossrail said that it would need another £1.1 billion, which was probably about the P70 budget. The Government have announced £825 million so that the GLA can borrow further funds to get Crossrail over the line and open to passengers.

Rail Freight: Channel Tunnel

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Wednesday 24th February 2021

(11 months ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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We continue to work with the French Government on seeking arrangements for the longer term. This will include recognition of operator licences, safety certificates and train driver licences. We expect the impact of the longer-term arrangements on operators, when they are agreed, to be minimal.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady McIntosh and Lady Vere, for their kind words. However, is one solution to increasing the volume of rail freight traffic through the tunnel not in the Minister’s hands, because of the reduction in passenger traffic and therefore the greater capacity that is available on many parts of the network? She has talked about gauge enhancement, but we need more terminals and capacity. That would attract the just-in-time deliveries that I am sure she would be very keen to see.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The noble Lord is right to say that there are things that we can do; indeed, we are doing them. Network Rail is working with the freight operating companies on timetabling to ensure that we can prioritise freight, in particular in these times of lower passenger numbers. Of course, passengers will come back to the trains one day and we need to make sure that whatever solution we put in place now is for the longer term. However, I reassure the noble Lord that we will leave no stone unturned and that we greatly welcome his input in these matters.

Rail Fares: Flexi-season Tickets

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Thursday 4th February 2021

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the report by Transport Focus Fairer fares: the future of rail commuting, published on 18 August 2020, in particular the recommendation to trial flexi-season tickets and other marketing initiatives to encourage rail travel as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted; and what discussions they have had with railway operators about conducting such trials.

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 Government welcome the Transport Focus report on the future of rail commuting post Covid. We are working closely with the industry on a range of initiatives to benefit the passenger, including looking at solutions that offer better value and convenience for those who commute flexibly.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that response, but to press her a little further, has the Department for Transport actually received proposals from the train operating companies to promote flexible fares to encourage passengers, including less frequent commuters, to return? Will the department allow any of the train operators which want to implement trials of such options to do so?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The Government proactively asked the train operating companies to come up with ideas for fares and other innovative passenger-led solutions as we come out of Covid. At the moment, we are building the evidence base to support the proposals—for example, on flexible season tickets—and assessing the potential commercial impact of these new products. How they are to be implemented will be published in due course.

UK Logistics Industry

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Monday 1st February 2021

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I am struggling to understand the evidence behind the noble Baroness’s question. On the funding side, the Government have made available up to £200 million from the Port Infrastructure Fund, which was set aside and given to ports specifically for the things that she has outlined. On the customs side, the Government have made available up to £80 million of support for IT training and recruitment. She talks about delays for hauliers but there are very few such delays at the moment, as the empty car parks in Kent will attest.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Minister has just said that there are very few traffic delays at the moment going to Dover, so when did the Government decide to build a third inland border facility—called White Cliffs, although of course it is nowhere near the white cliffs—on a 100-acre greenfield site on the A20? Why were residents only told about this by a ministerial letter on 31 December? Will the noble Baroness confirm that the Government will commission a full environmental impact assessment before submitting a planning application—to themselves, in this case? Why is it necessary to have a third one when there are two already apparently empty ones on the M20?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, the site to which the noble Lord refers is indeed called White Cliffs. It is not a traffic management site and is not intended to be so. It will have capacity for up to 1,200 HGVs for maybe up to five years and will serve two functions: first, for customs checks, and, secondly, for sanitary and phytosanitary checks, which are undertaken by Defra. At the moment there is a statutory engagement period for the site: it started on 13 January and closes on 10 February, and I encourage all members of the local community to respond to it so that they can have their say.

National Bus Strategy

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Wednesday 16th December 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The Government absolutely want to encourage more people on to buses and that will be a key part of the national bus strategy, which will be published next year. This is about two things: getting people who used to travel by buses back on to them, but also trying to entice those people who have not been on a bus for a while to try it. Buses are significantly different from what they used to be. In many circumstances, they are an extremely comfortable way to travel.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, there is much evidence that many statutory undertakers abuse the system of emergency roadworks and leave holes in the road which block bus lanes and other traffic for many weeks. Could the Minister confirm that local authorities do have the power to enforce the urgent closure of roads while statutory undertakers may be looking for parts for them? Will the local authorities receive the money? Will the Minister encourage the Government to increase the fines for this?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Local authorities can already fine statutory undertakes up to £10,000 if they overrun. We have no evidence that emergency works are causing undue delay. In any event, a local authority can define how long such works should have to take. In certain circumstances, the works can be plated or there can be a temporary repair and they can return to make the permanent repair in due course.

High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Tuesday 8th December 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, I recognise that transparency is a key issue in relation to HS2. It enables oversight by Ministers and Parliament, and provides accountability to the public on how we are spending taxpayers’ money and on how the project is being delivered. This amendment is trying to get to the heart of this issue of transparency. However, I do not recognise that it is of any aid in this endeavour. I am not sure that I can add much more to what I already said in Committee or in subsequent meetings, but I will happily go round the track again to put the Government’s position on record.

HS2 enters into two types of agreements—confidentiality agreements and settlement agreements. Confidentiality agreements enable the exchange of information between HS2 and other individuals or organisations, including local councils and businesses. With such an agreement in place, HS2 Ltd can have open and frank conversations with the other party about a range of plans and proposals, some of which may not come off. These could include early considerations of different design options that, if made public, could cause unnecessary alarm and blight local properties.

Confidentiality agreements also enable those other parties to share information with HS2 Ltd without it being made public. These agreements are being made not because HS2 Ltd wants them, but because the other party does. For example, a small local business could share its accounts to determine the compensation available to it. This could not happen if confidentiality was not ensured.

As a number of noble Lords have noted, in the history of HS2 since 2011, 339 confidentiality agreements have been signed. Not all will have been required by HS2; some will have been required by the other contracting party. I know that some feel this is too many. I have to disagree. Thousands of landowners, businesses and councils are involved with the project, so I do not think this is disproportionate. I have the feeling that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, does not think it is disproportionate either.

Confidentiality agreements are not entered into with staff members at HS2 Ltd. There are confidentiality obligations within staff members’ employment contracts, but this is standard business practice, consistent with that in other public sector organisations.

Settlement agreements are a completely separate form of legal undertaking. They are entirely voluntary and include confidentiality provisions in line with the guidance set out by the Cabinet Office. These agreements can be signed only when an individual has taken independent legal counsel and fully understands their rights and obligations. Settlement agreements are entered into with a small minority of staff who are leaving HS2 to document mutual actions that avoid tribunal claims, or to keep private the sums involved in certain redundancies.

Neither confidentiality agreements nor settlement agreements can be used to gag those who wish to raise concerns about HS2. Whistleblowers are protected by law and none of HS2 Ltd’s business practices contravenes or frustrates this. HS2 Ltd has a whistleblowing procedure called Speak Out, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, noted. This provides a route for staff, contractors and members of the public to raise concerns. The operator of this line is independent of HS2. Queries or concerns raised through this process are investigated by HS2 Ltd’s counterfraud and ethics team, and any necessary action is taken. Where necessary, suitable independent third parties will be brought in to investigate the issues raised. Updates are provided regularly to senior HS2 leaders, including non-executive directors, who act within the seven principles of public life: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.

A number of noble Lords have noted that there may be one or two deficiencies in the amendment. It states that an independent third party should have control over how HS2 Ltd uses what it refers to as non-disclosure agreements—NDAs—which are those two previous agreements I spoke about. We do not feel that this is appropriate, necessary or, indeed, helpful. This issue was considered by the Secretary of State for Transport during the passage of this Bill in the other place, including whether it might be pertinent to appoint further observers or implement new complaints processes. The conclusion was that the use of these standard agreements should not be constrained by the imposition of a third party. There is simply no evidence that such an imposition is necessary or in the public interest.

If a party wishes to enter into a confidential agreement with HS2 Ltd, they should be free to do so. Indeed, they should also have the option for the very existence of that agreement to be private. I tried to follow the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, earlier, and I thank him for it, but I was a little confused. On the one hand, he said that he wanted an assessor for the public interest and to look at all the agreements that have happened in the past—which, as the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, pointed out, is slightly problematic—but on the other hand he noted that the use of a third party should be voluntary between the two parties. I could not figure out how that would work or, certainly, what problem it would solve.

I do not believe that the amendment has merit but I recognise that transparency is important. HS2 Ltd already publishes the number of settlement agreements it has signed in its annual report. In addition, HS2 Ltd will begin reporting the cumulative number of confidentiality agreements it has signed in that same report. I believe that HS2 Ltd is using these agreements in the public interest, and I therefore hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate, particularly the Minister, for the meetings, the letter and other comments she has made. I shall respond very briefly to some of the comments made by noble Lords.

I say to my noble friend Lord Rooker that this amendment started in the House of Commons probably two years ago. As the Minister said, it was rejected at that stage, but there seemed to be quite a lot of support in some parts of the House, which I thought was interesting.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, mentioned balance. I think that goes to the heart of what I believe is necessary. Of course, there have to be NDAs. My point about NDAs being voluntary was that companies or individuals did not have to sign an NDA if they did not want to—that was the voluntary bit. On the question of balance, we have talked about more than 300 NDAs that have been listed, but I suspect there are very many more among landowners that we have not discussed. Of course, it is perfectly reasonable that they should sign NDAs as part of their negotiations.

This is an issue that will go on. It is helpful that the risk assurance committee set up in HS2 will look at some of these things. I am not actually suggesting that we go back to square one and look at every NDA that HS2 has signed, but one could say that one would look only at new ones signed after the Bill gets Royal Assent. However, this has been a very useful debate and I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, for her support. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Report stage (Hansard) & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report stage
Monday 30th November 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Act 2021 - Hybrid Bill Page View all High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Debates Read Hansard Text
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 spoken in this short debate—an hors d’oeuvre to the main course yet to come. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and other noble Lords are aware, the Bill has already been carefully scrutinised by a Select Committee of this House. That committee was convened under the rules for private and hybrid Bills and was chaired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, to whom we are very grateful and who unfortunately cannot be with us today.

In its report, the Select Committee discussed whether such a committee can make an amendment to the Bill that extends the powers of the promoter—in this case, HS2 Ltd—such as powers to compulsorily acquire land. Such an amendment to a private Bill is known as an additional provision. The Select Committee report states:

“As a matter of practical reality, almost every additional provision which solves or mitigates difficulties for one group of residents along the line raises new difficulties for another group.”


The Select Committee therefore concluded that amendments that extend powers would not be appropriate.

Those adversely affected by an additional provision in the first House have the opportunity to petition against it in that House and in the second House. As both HS2 Select Committees in this House—for this Bill and for phase 1—have noted, it would not be fair to allow amendments in the second House, unless those affected by it could also petition in both Houses. The consequence of this, however, would be that hybrid Bills would be for ever doomed to travel from a Select Committee in one House to another Select Committee in the other and back again in never-ending ping-pong.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, acknowledged all that in Grand Committee, yet here we have an amendment to send the Bill off to another but different type of Select Committee. This proposed Select Committee would have no powers at all to amend the Bill and the process would cause many months of delay to the Bill and create even more uncertainty for residents and businesses along the proposed route. At some point this must stop, a line must be drawn and a decision taken about the construction of this railway. I urge him to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. I did not get wholehearted support; I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, for her support. I do not think this has been in vain because some noble Lords, such as the noble Lord, Lord Randall, and my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe, in particular, have recognised that perhaps the system needs to be looked at, but not in the environment I started this afternoon. I apologise for that. I wanted to have a debate on Transport and Works Act orders, which we have not had, but we can follow that up some other way.

Several noble Lords have told me that I oppose the HS2 project and that this is only a delaying tactic; I want to put that on record. It would not be a delaying tactic if we had been allowed to talk about Transport and Works Act orders, which we are not under the current procedures. I have said many times that I am in favour of new railways, pretty obviously. My problem with HS2 is that it has turned out over the years to be overspecified and the costs have got completely out of control. The money could be much better spent on the regional railways in the north and the Midlands.

Also for the record, I am not criticising the Select Committee. I have said before that it has done a great job. I am not criticising its selection or its chair. My advice from the clerks certainly is that the second House on the occasion of a hybrid Bill is not a revising Chamber; it is a second Select Committee equal to the first one in its ability. If, by any conceivable chance, a hybrid Bill on a railway started in your Lordships’ House, the House of Commons would become the second House. That could be an interesting discussion and probably would not go down very well.

However, my main concern has been and still is that the Transport and Works Act order process is included in Clause 49 of this Bill but the extent to which it may be used appears to be in the Government’s hands rather than those of the committee, in spite of what has been said. I hope we can continue this discussion in your Lordships’ House on an occasion less time-constrained than this Bill and try and get it right for the next one. I hope there is another one coming. My noble friend Lord Adonis thinks it is going to come within the next six months. We will see whether that is the case. Whether it is or not, I think we need to resolve this and the many things we have discussed.

I did threaten to divide the House but, in deference to the amount of work we have to discuss this afternoon, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think that the Minister has demonstrated how much consultation there has been over the years. I do not want to go into that, other than to say that most of it has been good. However, I go back to paragraphs (2)(c) and (d) proposed in the amendment of my noble friend Lord Rosser. Once the Bill receives Royal Assent, people will start to think, “Okay, it’s being built. What’s going to be the end result?” I can see my noble friend’s concerns: it gets built but the connections to it by rail, with or without extra stations, either have not been thought through or nobody will know who is responsible for them. Will that satisfy the consultees? I am not sure that having an annual report is the right thing, but I hope that the noble Baroness will consider what should be done to satisfy people that, when the line opens in 10 years’ time or whatever, all these things will have been addressed. If there are changes that people think are desirable, they could have started so that there is not another 10-year gap before something happens.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for raising that point. It is really important, so I will ask my honourable friend Minister Heaton-Harris, the Rail Minister, perhaps to write to him setting out his ambitions for rail nationwide, particularly how his ambitions for rail interact with the ambitions for HS2 and how that then produces greater rail connectivity.

High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting : House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting
Thursday 12th November 2020

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for that intervention, but what he notes are the counterfactual opportunity costs of not having to do those upgrades. I am not sure how they would factor into a standard cost/benefit analysis, but it is certainly the case, as he pointed out, that they would be fairly costly and that HS2 brings not only speed but capacity.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken to this group of amendments, and I will try to be as quick as I can, because I know we have a lot to get through today. The comments by the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, about the need to have an effective HS2 board are absolutely right; that may well be one solution. As the Minister said, things are improving—we must see how it goes, but it is a good start.

It was interesting that my noble friends Lord Snape and Lord Adonis talked about having too many reports on railways. They are quite right but, as they both said, the Minister is undertaking one at the moment on the east side of phase 2B. That follows the Oakervee recommendation; paragraph 3.7 says that the Government should

“establish a further study to be completed by summer 2020”—

well, it is a bit late—

“to develop an integrated railway plan embracing 2B alongside an integrated railway investment programme for the Midlands and the North”.

That is a really good idea, but now to expect to have one enormous hybrid Bill covering the whole lot, as my noble friend Lord Adonis is suggesting, is not really sensible. It would be double the size of the phase 1 Bill, and that took long enough anyway.

I also respond to my noble friend Lord Snape—or perhaps it was my noble friend Lord Adonis—about the people on the Oakervee review. It is worth reminding ourselves that we had only two months to do this, and the terms of reference were slightly unusual for such a study and did not include anything about the environment —we added something, probably at my suggestion. That was one reason for suggesting that another review, done independently, might be a good idea to cover those matters. I will not go into the likely or actual opinions of the members of the review panel, because, as a result of their diaries, they were unable to spend a great deal of time on it, although they contributed a lot. Anyway, we are where we are, and the Oakervee review got published. There is always an issue with independence. A couple of people who I suggested should join or provide evidence to the review said, “If we do that, we might get blacklisted by the Department for Transport for future studies”. I will not name names, but that was a fear that people had.

It is all over now, and we have had a good discussion. Of course, I will not press the amendment and I look forward to continuing discussion on reports and information, cost/benefits and the environment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 9th November 2020

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Act 2021 - Hybrid Bill Page View all High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Debates Read Hansard Text
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I think my comments still stand. What the noble Baroness has outlined highlights the importance of a constructive and productive relationship between all environmental NGOs, including the Woodland Trust, and HS2. Building large-scale transport infrastructure is never easy. It is always a very challenging time. People with different interests will want different things and compromises have to be reached. I hope that the noble Baroness will join me, Minister Stephenson and other noble Lords when we go into environmental matters in a bit more depth after Committee stage and before Report. Perhaps I will be able to reassure noble Lords that HS2 is learning lessons and will take them forward into phase 2a.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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I am grateful for the opportunity to wind up the debate on these amendments. I thank all noble Lords who have spoken. The debate has ranged widely from those who, frankly, do not trust HS2 further than they can throw it and others who say that it is doing fine on reporting.

It is certainly true that the Government are trying to produce more reports, which many noble Lords think is a good start while others are less trusting—I suppose that in the end it comes back to trust. The environmental effect of a railway could be massively mitigated if the speeds of the trains were reduced so that it could go around ancient woodlands and avoid so many deep cuttings and embankments. That is something which the French learned 30 years ago, and I suspect that it is being learned for phase 2b—certainly for the east side, maybe the west side as well—but my noble friend Lord Adonis will then complain that the trains are not going fast enough. That can be debated.

Some regular reporting is needed to provide the transparency that many noble Lords believe is necessary, me included. It needs to cover each phase, as well as the whole thing, and must cover all the things which are in my amendment and probably a few others as well. Yes, there is an independent construction commissioner, but to some extent that is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, although the commissioner does a really good job.

If we were to sit around the table and the Minister was prepared to do it, I am sure that some amendment or addition to the existing reporting could be achieved. However, the real question is this: is there sufficient trust among noble Lords for it to be done without some independent scrutiny, which I shall discuss when we come to Amendment 6? That is something to reflect on and it all comes back to trust. We have had a really good debate on it. The Minister said that she would be happy to talk between now and Report and we should take her up on it. I am sure that we can reach some compromise on reporting not just what has happened but what will happen in the future, or what is planned to happen, and any issues that may come alongside it.

I again thank all noble Lords who have spoken. We have heard a wide variety of opinions, which is great. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Network Rail’s Enhancements Pipeline

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Wednesday 21st October 2020

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley
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To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the purpose of the review of rail schemes in Network Rail’s enhancements pipeline; whether that review includes consideration of (1) the viability, and (2) the business case, of each scheme; when the review will be completed; whether the outcome will be published; and whether the High Speed 2 project will be subject to any such review.

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, our flexible pipeline approach to funding rail infrastructure enhancements means that we continually review our portfolio of projects, including the impact of Covid, to ensure that they are making the best use of taxpayers’ money. The High Speed 2 project was subject to a rigorous, independent review this year and was comprehensively reset with a revised budget and schedule.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer. However, it is now six months since the coronavirus lockdown started. Surely the Government have done some work on demand for travel given the continuing trend for working at home and the likely long-term effect that this might have on rail travel, whether it is commuter services or HS2. Is it not time for the Government to produce some initial thoughts on this?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The noble Lord is quite right that there may well be long-term effects on the way that we travel in the future. However, at the moment, we are at the stage where there are many different forecasts and scenarios. As we continue through the pandemic, no single scenario is coming out as the most likely. However, we will consider the future demand requirements for rail on all the enhancement projects in the pipeline.

Trains: East Midlands

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Monday 19th October 2020

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, the Government envisage a number of further improvements across the wider area that the noble Lord mentions, particularly on the Newark to Nottingham stretch. Midlands Connect and Network Rail are looking at a feasibility study which may see an improvement in times by three minutes. As the noble Lord will know, the issue there is the flat crossing at Newark, where it crosses the east coast main line. More broadly, the Government are doing an awful lot of work in the Midlands as they develop HS2.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for the interesting answers that she gave the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. Do the Government intend that the upgrades in timing, which will need infrastructure improvements between Birmingham, Nottingham, Newark and the flat junction for freight, and beyond, will be part of the integrated rail plan recently announced by the Government? They would bring local and regional benefits much sooner than the construction of HS2 East, which apparently has now been paused.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The integrated rail plan announced in February 2020 will look at the delivery of high-speed rail alongside all the other rail enhancements across the Midlands, including the Midlands rail hub. Network Rail is already developing work in this area, including connectivity improvements between Birmingham and Nottingham.

Railways

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Wednesday 9th September 2020

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I pay great tribute to my noble friend and his time as Transport Secretary. I had the opportunity to go back and look at some of his words in Hansard from when he was Transport Secretary—I think it was 1995 to 1997. There were also some interesting photographs, which noble Lords might want to have a look at, at some stage. My noble friend is absolutely right that we must retain the benefits of private sector involvement in the railways. That is at the heart of how we can make sure that our railways are as effective as possible. Of course, Keith Williams has looked at all these issues and very much recognises that point. The new model that we are developing will ensure that the railway benefits from all that the private sector has to offer in innovation, customer centricity, investment and so on.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, the Government’s message on transport at the moment is a bit confusing: get back to work, commute but do not use public transport, and do not work at home. In addition, there are an awful lot of people disregarding this and working at home. Are the Government looking very seriously at the future demand for rail travel, because of both the coronavirus changes and their zero-carbon commitment?

Covid-19: Walking and Cycling

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Monday 8th June 2020

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking (1) to encourage walking and cycling, and (2) to discourage car use, in cities as the restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) (Con) [V]
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My Lords, on 9 May the Government announced a £2 billion funding package for cycling and walking. This is the largest ever investment in active travel. It includes £250 million to be spent in the current financial year on measures to get people cycling and walking, such as pop-up bike lanes, wider pavements, safer junctions and cycling and bus-only corridors.

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Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer and I congratulate the Government on their commitment to cycling at this time. It is really good. However, although some local authorities are doing very well, there is a big problem with one in Manchester. The Mayor of Greater Manchester and Chris Boardman are launching 200 kilometres of temporary cycle lanes—tomorrow or this week, I believe—which has one big hole in the middle, because Manchester City Council will not co-operate. Can the Minister please encourage Manchester City Council to take part and work with other local authorities to create this potentially fantastic new facility for cyclists?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V]
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I thank the noble Lord for his warm words of welcome for this funding, which will make a huge difference to cycling. I take what he has said about Manchester City Council. I am in regular contact with the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and I will raise it with him next time we speak, to see whether something can be done. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority has initially been allocated £15.8 million, and it would be good to see that money spent wisely.

Flybe

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Thursday 5th March 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, several years ago the Government agreed a PSO for the service between Newquay and London, as other noble Lords have said. That means guaranteeing four flights a day, in my book. What will the Government do now to find another operator? How long will that take? It is easy to say that there is a train and a bus—you can even cycle, I suppose—but the Government agreed this PSO because they thought it necessary.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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I hear completely what the noble Lord is saying. The route from Newquay to London is clearly incredibly important, which is why it has attracted a PSO, so we are looking at a replacement operator. We hope one will be able to step up. The local authority can select a new provider for seven months, then re-tender.

High Speed Rail (West Midlands– Crewe) Bill

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lord, can the Minister tell the House a bit more about the review that the Government published last week, I think, about HS2 and the northern powerhouse—the Williams Rail Review? I believe it answers some of the questions posed by my noble friend Lord Adonis about the review that is to be led by the Government—perhaps she can tell us who in the Government—but with input from the National Infrastructure Commission, to cover not only the whole of phase 2b but the northern powerhouse and possibly Midlands Connect. Can she also explain why the National Infrastructure Commission has been asked to look at this bit of HS2 but the Infrastructure and Projects Authority has been asked to look at phase 1? It seems a bit odd that two separate government organisations are looking at different bits of the same project.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and his new friend, the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, for their interventions in this very short HS2 debate—which I feared was going to turn into a much larger debate; but I am sure there will be many of those to come.

First, I will address the comments about the integrated rail plan—which I point out is a rail plan, not a rail review. Obviously, it is being led by the Secretary of State for Transport, and he will have assistance from the National Infrastructure Commission, as well as from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, which, as noble Lords will know, is taking a much closer look at the way that large projects are being run in government; indeed, this afternoon I have a meeting with it on roads.

The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, will be relieved to know that the terms of reference for the plan have already been published—they were published last Friday—so he can look at them and I will be happy to answer any further questions he may have. We aim to publish the integrated rail plan—IRP—by the end of the year to ensure clarity on how best to proceed with HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, the Midlands rail hub and all the other major projects in the Midlands and the north, because it is essential that these projects work well together in order that we can maximise the opportunities they provide.

The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, asked whether China will be building the railway. China’s involvement has not come to my attention, apart from some stuff in the media, but if I can find anything out, I will write to him.

As for Crewe, services on HS2 will run into Crewe station. I have visited Crewe station and it is undergoing significant redevelopment, which I think will be hugely beneficial to Crewe and the services that will be coming into it.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, mentioned the location of stations. I fear that at this point we get into the whole HS2 debate and I might just leave that one for another day: I am sure there will be many more opportunities to discuss that.

As I said, passing this Motion will give a lot of closure to those who are affected by the Bill.

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard)
Wednesday 12th February 2020

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, there is a remarkable similarity between the discussions on this amendment and the discussions we have had over the years on self-driving, autonomous cars. The only difference is that this is three-dimensional and the other one is generally two. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, and the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, both gave examples of a question I have long had. The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, mentioned two drones meeting over a pipeline or something, but the problem remains: how does a constable identify the person who is in control, or whatever? He is sitting in his car with his machine—or however he is going to do it—but how will he identify that? He cannot really arrest either the drone or the person unless he can identify them first. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to explain this rather simple bit of logic which has escaped me so far.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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My Lords, I thank the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, for introducing this small group of amendments and giving us the opportunity to probe this wording, because it is incredibly important that we understand that the wording is fit for purpose. While I understand the intention behind his amendments, after careful consideration the Government believe that the existing wording in paragraph 1 of Schedule 8 regarding a person or persons controlling an unmanned aircraft is fit for purpose in relation to both manual and pre-programmed operations.

On Amendment 24, regarding the power for a constable to require a person to ground a UA—unmanned aircraft—a constable could exercise this power in relation to a UA performing a manual or pre-programmed operation if they had reasonable grounds for believing a person or small group of persons to be controlling that aircraft. Where this reasonable belief exists, the constable could require a person to ground the UA regardless of whether it was pre-programmed or not— hence the existing wording is sufficient for the power to be effective in the circumstances envisaged by the noble and gallant Lord.

A similar issue arises in Amendment 26; again, “controlling” refers to the UA when it is being flown either manually or in a pre-programmed mode if it is capable of that. It is therefore our view that the distinction that the amendment seeks to make would have no discernible benefit, since the description implies a person controlling a UA in line with the existing wording in the Bill. However, the Government recognise that UA technology is constantly evolving, and we will continue to keep our policies under review to ensure that they remain fit for purpose.

On the point made by my noble friend Lord Glenarthur about helicopters and pipelines, he is quite right that unmanned aircraft will increasingly be used for tasks such as patrolling pipelines, railways and all sorts of other things. However, under the current regulations drones should not fly over 400 feet and must remain within line of sight—to go beyond line of sight is against the regulations. They must have permission to do either of those two things. To get that permission, one would assume that those operating the helicopter would be aware that there might be drones operating in that area.

On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, about identifying the person, the constable must have a reasonable suspicion that the person is controlling the unmanned aircraft. That is not infallible, but a reasonable suspicion is not certainty. Therefore, given that the drone must remain within line of sight, a person will probably be able to be seen.

I hope that, based on this explanation, the noble and gallant Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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I am afraid I do not have that information to hand. I would be remiss if I tried to remember, so I will write to the noble Baroness. I think that was a consultation for all aircraft. She will be aware that the Government are looking at general aviation and, as we move forward, the interplay between unmanned and manned aircraft in a unified traffic management system. That is some way off but we have to start thinking about it now. The electronic conspicuity of drones comes from EU regulation and is now in domestic law. We are in the three-year period during which all drones will have to have conspicuity.

My noble friend Lord Goschen mentioned other penalties and I hope I have given him some idea of their level. I will send this note around because it is useful in setting out exactly what happens if you contravene certain of the regulations.

As for getting people to understand what is required of them, we work with the retailers and the manufacturers—the CAA has the drone code—to make sure that we get the message out as much as possible. This is particularly important around Christmas, when there is a great deal of activity, so that when people get a drone—are given one or buy one—they know that it is not a responsibility-free activity and exactly what their rights and responsibilities are.

I feel a letter coming on on this one. There is quite a bit to cover about proportionality, deterrence and the different levels of penalty for different offences.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am pleased that the noble Baroness will write a letter. It might be a long one, but that is good. In this debate we have swung between saying, “Most people are just doing it in the garden. They might have the drone under their bed. If they go up, they do not fly hard, it is not going high and it won’t hurt anyone much,” to the other extreme when it could bring down an aeroplane or worse. My noble friend and others commented on the number of drones that may be flying and wondered how many will be flying illegally—in other words, without notification, without a licence or whatever. The question of proportionality is therefore quite serious; for some offences confiscation may be too strong a penalty and for others nothing like enough. In her letter, will the Minister give us some idea of how many constables or whatever we are to call them—the enforcement agency—will be trained to do this work and how many offences might they have to follow up each year? I have not a clue. You can think of every policeman in the country being able to do this—which is stupid—or of it all being done centrally. However, it would be good to have some idea of how enforcement might take place so that people like me, who have no great experience of this, can compare it to what happens on the roads or anywhere else. I will be glad to hear the Minister’s comments.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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I thank the noble Lord for that intervention. I hope he will be able to stick around until we get on to later amendments dealing with police resourcing and how the training will work.

Let me go back to first principles. The Bill is about giving the police the powers they need to put in place the penalties that already exist. It is very much about filling in that gap. We are working closely with the police and this is what they have asked us to do to give them the powers to clamp down on illegal drone use. The situation is in flux as people register but, for people who have not registered and are flying illegally, the police now have these powers. Without the Bill, they would not have the powers. With that, I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Transport Infrastructure

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Tuesday 11th February 2020

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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I thank my noble friend for raising that issue. It is of course critical that where tracks already go into major towns or cities—some might be Beeching line closures—the opportunity for reopening those lines may not take the form of heavy rail; there are many new and innovative ways. I know that the one my noble friend referred to is from 40 years ago, but nowadays there are some lightweight, low-cost alternatives to building heavy rail, which could effectively, and with good value for money, get people to where they need to be.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, a long time ago the Government made a commitment that, before construction started on HS2, they would produce a new cost-benefit analysis and business case. That was confirmed to me in a letter from the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, when she was Minister, on 18 December 2018. Has that cost-benefit analysis and business case been published, and if not, when does she expect it to be, and can she confirm that it will be published before permanent construction starts and the formal go-ahead is given?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
- Hansard - -

Yes, the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, will be well aware that we are due a final business case, which will set out the benefits and costs for the phase. The notice to proceed will be published alongside it.

Air Accident Investigation

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Monday 10th February 2020

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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The noble Baroness is quite right that levels of carbon monoxide in the body of Emiliano Sala were higher than they should have been. I am sure she will have read the second report from the AAIB, which was issued last August and provided information to general aviation and others on the risks of carbon monoxide making its way into the cockpit. I cannot say anything further at this time, because the AAIB’s final report will be issued shortly. I am fairly sure that it will include recommendations on carbon monoxide.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, from the answers that the Minister has given to questions this afternoon, there seems to me to be a serious lack of enforcement of any of these regulations, whereas the Air Accidents Investigation Branch has done a great job. When we debate the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill, will we find that the enforcement on drones is better than the enforcement on light aircraft?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
- Hansard - -

I am delighted that the noble Lord has made the connection between my two workstreams of the day. However, I deny that there is a lack of enforcement. We have a very good safety record in this country, and part of that is due to the fantastic work that the AAIB does in investigating accidents and promoting action to prevent recurrence.

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Berkeley
Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee stage
Monday 10th February 2020

(1 year, 11 months 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, Amendment 1, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, seeks to clarify the phrase in Clause 2(2)(c)

“another person with functions relating to air navigation.”

I shall start by addressing that phrase and then move on to the other parts of airspace modernisation and how the powers to which it refers might be used.

To give a little background, Clause 2 gives the Secretary of State the power to direct any person involved in airspace change, following consultation. Consultation will come up a number of times today; this is a very consultative process, as indeed it must be to work. After consultation with that person, the Secretary of State can direct them to do three things: first, to prepare or submit an airspace change proposal, an ACP, to the Civil Aviation Authority, the CAA; secondly, to take steps to obtain approval to an ACP that has already been submitted; and, thirdly, to review the operation of an ACP after it has been approved. Those are the three things that the Secretary of State can direct.

In Part 1 of the Bill, any

“person involved in airspace change”

is defined as, again, three things. First, they could be an airport operator, and one might expect that in most cases the airport operator would indeed be involved in putting forward the ACP or making sure that it progresses; secondly, they could perfectly well be an air navigation service provider; and then there is that third term to which this amendment relates—it is a probing amendment to understand what sort of person

“another person with functions relating to air navigation”

could be. For example, they could be part of an existing body such as an industry association or an airspace change consultancy brought in after the consultation, perhaps, to look at how the process of the ACP is working. Or they could be from a new body set up to deal with a specific ACP or a group of ACPs. One might imagine a circumstance in which a group of airports set up a new ACP in order to help another airport to deal with its airspace change.

The reason behind the third part of Clause 2(2) is to provide flexibility, because it may be—and one can imagine circumstances in which it would be—that the person involved who was the subject of the direction was not an airport operator or an air navigation service provider. In all this, though—and again I hope that noble Lords will recognise this today—these powers are to be used only as a last resort. We hope that the process will be collaborative and involve various elements working together in order to achieve the positive change that we need. I hope I have explained the reasons why this flexibility is needed. It is that that third person may not be one of the other two but may nevertheless be quite capable of taking forward an airspace change.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very interested in what the Minister said about who might be involved in seeking changes. Yes, it could be done to help a small airport to get better access to its flights or controls, but it could be done to keep someone away. In other words, it could be done to prevent competition. My worry would be how much it would cost for a small airport to oppose or indeed promote these things if those circumstances arose.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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I think we will get into the detail of how airspace change proposals work in the next group of amendments. It is the case that there is a master plan that is overarching—I think hand gestures are needed to describe this—and covers the whole of the south of the country. Within that, there are then 17 airports that may need to make airspace change proposals to a greater or lesser extent in order to fit the master plan. When an airport, be it small or large, puts forward its airspace change proposals, those are considered by the CAA according to the criteria as set out in Section 66 of the Transport Act 2000.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley
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Section 70.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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The noble Lord has just corrected me that it is Section 70, and he is absolutely right.

Within all this, it is the CAA that will ensure that airspace change proposals are appropriate. It is not the case that one airport will be capable of coming along to try to duff up another, because both airspace change proposals will be considered as they move through the system. The CAA will look at them, and equity between the two will be one of the important considerations that it will look at.

I turn back to the reasons why this change is possibly not needed. Airspace modernisation, as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, mentioned in her opening remarks, is a complex and multifaceted programme. There is the master plan, which will sit over the entire new airspace design, but that makes up just two of the initiatives out of the 15 that comprise the airspace modernisation strategy that has been set out by the CAA. For example, one of the initiatives, as is rightly also set out in the Transport Act, is that the use of airspace has to be equitable for all users. The Government are looking to ensure that airspace is not controlled—I do not want to say “unnecessarily” because I do not think it would be fair, but there might be controlled airspace that could become uncontrolled and therefore allow a greater number of users to use it. I am thinking particularly about the general aviation field, and I certainly know that gliders have sometimes had difficulties because for them uncontrolled airspace is much easier to use.

However, any change in airspace will always go through a process, and that process will have safety as its absolute priority. I think noble Lords will be aware that the number one thing that we have to do when we look at airspace is ensure that planes are safe to fly. It will also take into account the airport’s particular growth plans, so an airport could not turn around and say “No, I’m really sorry—I need that back”. These are fairly long-term decisions and, as I am sure the noble Baroness is aware, the process takes a significant time. However, it is also consultative so there will be a consultation process not only with the general aviation sector but with the airport itself; it will be able to give its reasons why it would like to maintain that airspace as controlled, if indeed that is what it wants to do.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, also mentioned the costs of airspace change proposals. I believe that they can be quite costly, and we will come on to them in a later group so I probably will not address them now. However, I hope that on the basis of my explanation she will agree that Clause 2(2)(c) should remain part of the Bill and feel able to withdraw her amendment.

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Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley
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My Lords, I support the views of my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, on this amendment. It is extraordinary that the air sector is the only one that does not pay any kind of fuel duty. I think that goes back to the Chicago convention a very long time ago. Air passenger duty was introduced as a way of trying to compensate. We can see how important the Government think that is, because they have given Flybe—which I keep going on about—a holiday from it, to enable it to survive. For me, the policy implications of this are all wrong. The Government do not really care about the environment. They want to keep this company alive because Virgin would not be able to save it and it would be a disaster. This might not be the right place to cover this important issue, but this is an aviation Bill and we need to see it addressed on a consistent basis, so I support the amendment.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for tabling the amendment. I agree with him—and, I am sure, with all Members of your Lordships’ House—that the fight against climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. It is absolutely right that we continue to highlight emissions, to publish data on them and to plan for their ongoing reduction. The Government already publish emissions data for domestic and international flights. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy reports annually on these greenhouse gas emission statistics. The statistics cover all sectors of the economy, including transport. Those for 2018 were published just last week and are readily available online. I will happily share a link so that all noble Lords can see them.

Within the statistics, individual transport modes—including aviation—can be identified. Domestic aviation is reported on separately from international aviation, because the methodologies used are different. The data is obtained from the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, produced by Ricardo Energy and Environment. It is also available online. The amendment referred to the 1998 Aarhus convention, the three pillars of which are already implemented in domestic legislation. Article 5, which relates to access to information, has been implemented through a number of measures, including legislation such as the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

Measures in the Bill, as many noble Lords have noted, can help tackle emissions by reducing the amount of fuel burn that will come from aircraft, because they will be making more efficient journeys into airports. We are also moving into circumstances now where new technologies will allow for steeper climbs and steeper descents into an airport: again, this reduces the amount of fuel needed. It will also reduce the need for holding stacks, a big user of fuel. Early analysis suggests that modernisation in the south-east could reduce the amount of fuel burn by 20%, which would be a 20% reduction in carbon.

However, I will go away and look at the data. I am as interested as anybody in making sure that the data is correct, that it is published correctly and that it is available for all to see, because only then will we be able to really see the impact of our actions. If the noble Lord has any further details of the sort of data he would like to see, I cannot guarantee to put it the Bill but I may be able to make sure that it is published by colleagues.

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Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley
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The Minister will be aware that one of the consequences of Brexit is a lot more work heading towards the CMA, something that our EU Internal Market Sub-Committee, chaired by my noble friend Lady Donaghy, is looking at. Is the Minister happy that the CMA will be able to recruit more people to cover the civil aviation issues as well as everything else, or will they be constrained by the usual Treasury financial limits?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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We have been discussing the Bill with the CMA. We are talking about appeals to modify the conditions in the licence of the single air navigation service provider which is dealing with the upper airspace. Therefore, we do not expect to keep the CMA particularly busy and are not aware that it would have a shortage of resources.