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

Tue 26th Oct 2021
Tue 26th Oct 2021
Wed 7th Jul 2021
Thu 22nd Apr 2021
Mon 8th Feb 2021
Thu 28th Jan 2021
Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 3rd reading
Thu 21st Jan 2021
Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage (Hansard) & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report stage
Tue 5th Jan 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)
Thu 10th Sep 2020
Wed 9th Sep 2020
Mon 7th Sep 2020
Thu 23rd Jul 2020
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

Global Traffic Scorecard: London

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

(2 weeks, 2 days ago)

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

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

Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 2) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2021

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Tuesday 7th December 2021

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I take this opportunity to say how nice it is to see the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, back in action again. As usual, he made some interesting and relevant comments, even though he often sought to say that they were not strictly relevant to the order. Indeed, some of my questions are geared to the extent to which we need this order, though we certainly do not oppose it.

I think I have understood the reason why we are here today. I thank the Minister for her explanation. If I have understood it correctly, this order corrects an error in a previous order, since the words in the order we are now discussing between “means all” and “other than” at the top of page 2 were left out from the definition of,

“the relevant class of road.”

That meant that the police did not have the powers to impose a fine of, I think, £300 on drivers who were not using the roads specified in the order. When Operation Brock is in force, the 2019 order restricts cross-channel heavy commercial vehicles from using local roads in Kent, apart from those on the approved Operation Brock routes.

How often have the provisions of the order had to be brought into effect since it was first put in place, because of bad weather and industrial action causing serious delays at the cross-channel ports? I think these were the two specific instances which the Government previously gave to justify the order. I say that bearing in mind that the Operation Brock arrangements—which replaced Operation Stack—are now permanent rather than temporary. If the answer is that the provisions of the order have never, or very rarely, been used, do the Government expect the Operation Brock arrangements to be brought into operation more or less frequently in future? For what reasons might this happen—over and above bad weather and industrial action, to which the Government have previously made reference?

If these arrangements have never been brought into operation, how close have we ever been to that happening? Do the Government think it would ever be necessary to bring the Operation Brock arrangements into effect because of disruption at the ports, following a breakdown in our new trading arrangements with the EU, or could such a breakdown never result in a level of disruption that would reach the threshold for bringing the Operation Brock arrangements into effect?

What is the definition of “serious delays or disruption” at the cross-channel ports that might lead to the Operation Brock arrangements being brought into effect, and who makes the decision on whether the serious delay or disruption threshold has been reached? For example, have the arrangements had to be brought into operation recently because of any blockading of French ports by fishing vessels?

Finally, is there a cost to making the Operation Brock arrangements permanent? If so, what is that cost, including how much per day and per week on each occasion that the Operation Brock arrangements are brought into effect? How much does it cost per day and per week to have the Operation Brock arrangements on standby, ready to be brought into effect as and when required?

I do not think the Minister will be wondering why I am asking these questions, but they are similar to those raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. How often, frankly, will these provisions be needed? Are we justified in having them on a permanent basis? I am sure she will respond on that issue.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I thank both noble Lords for their contributions to this short debate. I hope to answer as many questions as possible, although I admit that some of the topics are slightly beyond what I had prepared for today. I will write an additional letter. I note that I have already written one which, I believe, covers some of the points raised, but I will read them out from the letter none the less.

I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw—I too welcome him back to his place at transport SIs—that traffic with the continent is on a firm footing already. The visa issue he raised will not make any difference at all to the traffic going to and from the continent, but I can tell him that details of the number of temporary work visas granted for HCV drivers in food distribution —that is the narrow band allowed to take up these visas—will be published in the usual way via the Home Office’s quarterly immigration statistics.

In general, the issue here is not necessarily what the business-as-usual traffic in Kent is but whether the scale of disruption happening at the short straits is necessary to protect the people of Kent from extreme congestion as people suddenly decide to rat run through the villages, create havoc and basically stop its economy and social life. That is what we are trying to do with Operation Brock. It is critical to have it on standby so that we can deploy it when needed.

Before I turn to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, I might as well mention HCV parking, an incredibly important point that the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, raised. The Government are well aware of the issues around drivers’ working conditions. I was in Kent only last Friday, at Ashford International Truckstop, which I had the honour of unveiling a plaque to open. I think it was my second plaque, and I was very pleased with it. It is a very high-quality facility; it has space for 650 vehicles and is located very close to the M20, so will really help people using the short straits. If I can replicate that standard in all the hot spots across the country for HCV parking, I will be happy, but first we have to find where those hot spots are. There is much work to be done; we have a pot of £32.5 million, which we will use to work with the private sector to ensure that our truckers have safe, secure, warm, comfy places to stop.

I turn to the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, who described the minor change to the order very well. It occurred because of circumstances that conspired against us; nevertheless, the system should have made sure that the right SI went to the final place. It did not, and we are reviewing our procedures yet again to make sure that that cannot happen again in future. It is a very minor change.

The usage of Brock is a decision for the Kent Resilience Forum, because it understands its local community best; it understands traffic flows and how disruption would spill over into local communities. The Kent Resilience Forum is made up of all sorts of stakeholders, including the police, the council, National Highways and people who have the interests of Kent at heart and are able to get Brock on to the M20 as quickly as possible to ensure that we coral the HCVs and manage the flow carefully.

Some of what the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned is already in the letter that I sent on 1 November. There is a lengthy section about costs, which I hope will reassure him. I am happy to answer any further questions he has on that, but the letter sets out the costs to Kent County Council and National Highways of the barrier either being in place or sitting around waiting to be put in the place, in the event of disruption.

Of course, it is for the Kent Resilience Forum to decide what serious disruption looks like and the circumstances in which it might occur. We can probably think of all sorts of cases. We do not know what future weather conditions will be like. Storms in the English Channel may be more frequent; who knows? If I were to stand here three years ago and say that we would need it in the event of a massive global pandemic, you would have laughed at me, so I am not now going to think of a list of situations that would lead to serious disruption. It suffices to say that this decision is not taken lightly; it is resource-intensive and creates disruption. Nobody wants a queue of truckers on the M20, but it is necessary to protect the people of Kent. That is the balance that needs to be struck in the deployment of Brock.

We deployed the QMB at the start of 2021, when we were not sure what the arrangements at the French border would be and whether they would cause delays. It was stood down in April and then deployed again in July. Noble Lords will recall that there was some uncertainty back then as to what would happen at the French border over testing and how long it would take people to get through at the French side. Certainly our numbers were not looking great, even for very small levels of traffic going to France. It was deployed on a precautionary basis for a further two weeks in July, but was subsequently removed when the disruption was not as significant as we thought it would be.

I will write with any further insights I have on that but, in the meantime, I commend these regulations to the Committee.

Electric Vehicles (Smart Charge Points) Regulations 2021

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

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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We had a discussion on interoperability when we debated these regulations last Tuesday in Grand Committee. There were questions asked; the Government were asked to say in their response whether the wording in the Explanatory Memorandum—to which my noble friend Lord Berkeley has referred—in paragraph 7.6 constitutes in reality a requirement for all charging points to be interoperable. I expressed the personal view that it did not, but I asked for clarification on that point.

Later in the Explanatory Memorandum, the Government say that they have

“chosen not to mandate device-level requirements”

relating to demand-side response interoperability

“at this time … because the smart charging market remains nascent, and because delivering interoperability would require broader powers than those set out in”

the Automated and Electric Vehicle Act 2018. That comment was despite the fact that the Explanatory Memorandum states:

“The ability of consumers to freely switch energy supplier is a fundamental principle in the energy market”,


which makes it rather surprising that we seem to have this delay over interoperability.

The Government, in the Explanatory Memorandum, also went to say that they

“intend instead to consider how best to deliver interoperability as part of a second phase of legislation, by looking at placing wider requirements on the entities … which could deliver DSR through charge points. Government aims to consult on this second phase of policy measures in 2022.”

I suggested that that was a somewhat vague timescale that contained no target date for actually legislating. I asked the Government whether they could be more specific in their response. The noble Baroness the Minister was good enough to say—which I appreciated—that she could not give specific answers to these questions when we were debating this last Tuesday and that she would write to answer all questions that had been asked. Irrespective of what the Minister intends to say in response now, I hope that we shall still be getting that written reply to questions that were not responded to last Tuesday.

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.

Drivers’ Hours and Tachographs (Temporary Exceptions) (No. 4) Regulations 2021

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

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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The noble Baroness made reference to the driver hours relaxation and gave some figures, for which I thank her very much. Is not the real explanation of why those figures are low that, in the consultation, the proposition was opposed by the Road Haulage Association as well as Unite the Union? Clearly they were not going to queue up to use it, because they did not agree with it anyway.

I notice as well that the noble Baroness said that the cabotage extension is limited, so that is two of the 28 items down here where the Minister herself has admitted that they have had a fairly limited impact. I suggest that it is not the Government’s 28 items—or indeed 32, if that is what it is now. The biggest one so far as far as road haulage drivers are concerned has been the increase in pay that has happened. I do not think that this featured too highly in the 28 courses of action to which the Government referred.

Finally, what is the significant proportion of drivers stopped in roadside checks who are breaching the drivers’ hours legislation? I gather that it is not the 27% that was quoted in one survey, so what is the figure? Why was it that the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee repeatedly asked the Department for Transport to provide evidence that would allay its concerns but the responses indicated that the department does not have information either way. Why did not the department provide any information then?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I could possibly give an entirely new speech on this but I would probably not be popular if I did—my Whip agrees with me.

The RHA wanted something entirely different—we know that. It always wanted us to open the floodgates and allow EU drivers to come in. Indeed, I am looking at the noble Lord and trying to remember whether any good ideas have come from the Benches opposite as to how we solve the HGV crisis. I believe Keir Starmer wanted to open the doors to 100,000 EU drivers—that was the Labour way of solving this crisis. We have taken a very different stance. As the noble Lord will know, no EU drivers are willing to come flooding in anyway, as I have said many times. We have set out a range of short, medium and long-term actions. Some are very substantial; for example, we removed the HGV levy. That saves hauliers lots of money, and from that money they can pay their staff more. We have also frozen VED. As I have said right from the outset, there is not one thing that will fix this; it is a whole succession of things. Some are short, medium and long term, some are big and others are little; that is why we have 32 actions. I am proud of those 32 actions and I believe that they are fixing the crisis.

Isles of Scilly: Ships

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

(1 month, 4 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Yes, the Government are keen to uphold the highest environmental standards. This is one of the attractive things about this bid. We will be funding the building of three vessels and harbour improvements. Part of the harbour improvements will involve improving the electricity supply, which will allow hybrid and electric vessels to use the harbour very effectively. Funding this bid aligns with the Government’s decarbonisation strategy and the Clean Maritime Plan.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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The Minister has referred to the bid. Will the new vessels under that bid mean that fewer crossings will be cancelled due to bad weather? Will they result in more crossings made, and throughout the whole year?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I certainly hope that both those things will be true. As the noble Lord will know, there is at the moment a very ageing vessel that chugs back and forth. It is very dirty, it keeps breaking down, the cost of maintenance is very high and it has to be taken out of service for maintenance to take place. It is also the case that, to fund that maintenance, passenger fares go up and demand therefore goes down. There is so much about this bid that is very attractive. We would hope that, out of all of this, we will see better services to the Isles of Scilly.

Rail Infrastructure: North of England

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Thursday 18th November 2021

(2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Bradford—ah, when the noble Baroness has been able to read the documents that are about to be published, she will see in there that we will be electrifying the route from Bradford to Leeds. The journey time will be hugely more reliable—it will take 12 minutes.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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The economy of the West Midlands, and Birmingham in particular, has been boosted by the construction and pending completion of the fast new rail service that is HS2. Despite what the Minister has been seeking to say, it appears that Leeds and the local West Yorkshire economy will now be denied the estimated full £54 billion of economic benefits of their HS2 link. Leeds, for example, will be a less attractive venue than it would have been for new and expanding businesses without its promised high-speed rail links. Northern Powerhouse Rail delivered in full was also set to deliver £22 billion for northern economies, including Bradford, by 2060, according to a report by Mott MacDonald. What is the Government’s estimate of the loss of projected economic benefits to Leeds and the West Yorkshire economy of the decision to backtrack on previous promises on the HS2 high-speed rail link to Leeds and on full delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail? What is the loss of those economic benefits that were projected?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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As the noble Lord will see when he gets to read the documents that are being published today, a huge number of projects are being brought together, and so many of those are around Leeds. It is the case that the core part of Northern Powerhouse Rail will be constructed, and that will provide those fast links through to Manchester. It is the case that there will be significant upgrades to the east coast main line and, of course, there will be electrification of the Midlands main line. Combining that with the construction of a mass transit system, I think, somehow, that Leeds is going to be all right.

Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2021

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Tuesday 9th November 2021

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, most of my comments will be directed towards the (Amendment) (No.2) regulations and to the report of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, which homed in particular on that order.

Under these regulations, the obligation is removed for some car drivers towing a trailer to have to take the additional test. As the Minister said, that is to free up capacity and enable more test appointments to be fitted in each month for heavy goods vehicle licences in a bid to address the current shortage of HGV drivers. No doubt the Minister in her response may wish to comment on the extent to which that shortage has been eased or the extent to which it continues.

The regulations also remove the requirement in relation to the staged access route to licence acquisition for heavy goods vehicle and bus licences, which will also free up driving examiner time and shorten the amount of time that it takes for a driver to become qualified to drive the largest heavy goods vehicles.

I understand that the category B towing test will not be abolished, because it is still needed by anyone wishing to drive a trailer in the EU. The regulations simply remove the obligation to take the test before towing in the UK, and will be reviewed after three years and then every five years after that, which frankly suggests that the Department for Transport see these changes to all intents and purposes as being permanent, rather than being a short-term measure to address the current heavy goods vehicle driver shortage—unless, of course, the Department for Transport envisages that shortage going on for years and years.

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has drawn the attention of the House to the regulations, not least in respect of the potential safety implications. There are, apparently, about 1,000 collision injury accidents or incidents involving trailers each year. It is not clear whether the Government do or do not expect that figure to be affected by the removal of the towing test. Frankly, at the moment, I do not think the Government even have a view, since the Department for Transport has indicated that a risk assessment on road safety will form part of the impact assessment, which is fine, apart from the fact that the impact assessment will not be cleared for publication until the end of this month at the earliest. I note what the Minister said at the beginning, and that the regulations were intended to come into effect this coming Monday.

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee said:

“We view this as poor practice.”


It is right. Once again, the Department for Transport has been slow to react, caught out by a driver shortage that it did not address in time, despite it being in large measure of the Government’s own making, thanks to their own particular brand of hard Brexit. The committee commented:

“It is part of the purpose of an IA”—


an impact assessment—

“to provide information on what options, including non-legislative options, were considered and why they were not adopted. Because the IA has not been made available to the House alongside the instrument, we are unclear about why possible alternatives were rejected … From the date this instrument comes into effect, any car driver will be able to tow a trailer but DfT has provided no estimate of the additional numbers that that might attract or the likelihood of incidents that might follow.”

However, the department asserts:

“There is not currently any statistical evidence to suggest that competence and skills will worsen if drivers do not take a statutory test to tow a trailer … it is therefore difficult to identify how much the car trailer test … has made a difference since it was introduced in 1997 or that there is a causal link between road safety and the test.”


I do not know for how many years that has been the Department for Transport’s view—perhaps the Minister could respond to that point in the Government’s reply—but if the Government do not know whether there are any safety benefits to the statutory test to tow a trailer, and have not taken any steps over the past 11 years to find out, that does not appear to say much for their much-vaunted campaign to reduce bureaucracy and unnecessary red tape.

Safety was, however, a concern of a significant percentage of those responding to the consultation on the amendment to the regulations: a third of the 8,750-odd respondents expressed safety concerns. As I understand it—I am sure that I will be corrected if I am wrong—the DVSA advises that anyone intending to drive a car with a trailer for the first time should still first take training from a driving instructor. What steps are being taken to publicise this advice?

Moving on, is it not the reality that the Government hope that people affected by these regulations will, either individually or through their firms, still undertake the aspects of the required training that these regulations will remove? This was indicated frankly in the Minister’s response to the chair of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, in which there was a reference to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency

“exploring industry-led accredited training that could offer a standardised non-statutory testing approach. The DVSA has received strong support for an accreditation training scheme which is also generating considerable interest from companies who tow as part of their business and we are progressing discussions urgently.”

That letter also stated:

“We know through DVSA’s stakeholder engagement, that there is a strong indication from professional business users that they will continue to undergo Category B+E training to ensure staff are safe and competent and that their corporate responsibilities are fulfilled.”


This certainly indicates that, as far as professional businesses are concerned, they regard the B+E training as necessary to ensure that staff are safe and competent. The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee concluded:

“The Department failed to provide any indication of the instrument’s wider effects when the instrument was laid and, in response to our follow-up questions, DfT was unable to explain what effect the removal of the BE licence will have on road safety.”


I conclude by simply asking whether the Government will in their response comment on the recommendations of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee in its report on the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021. The first was,

“We recommend that the DfT should review the current complex arrangements for what car and van drivers are permitted to tow and, if needed, replace them with a simpler licensing system. That decision should be based on evidence rather than the current experimental approach”.


Secondly, it said that the department should

“provide an annual Written Statement setting out towing accident figures as a reassurance that it will be in a position to undertake remedial action swiftly if a problem emerges”

and, thirdly, that the Minister should provide “more specific details about” the “wider safety implications” of the instrument, since the House

“has insufficient information to enable proper assessment of the policy”.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords for their contributions today and for enabling this debate to go ahead in the circumstances. I am very grateful, and I have appreciated the input of all noble Lords. I have listened to their concerns and suggestions very carefully, and I will write, as there is a bit of extra detail that I will give.

Returning to the overall driver shortage, the Government have been aware of it since 2010, but the issue is that it so is multifaceted that it is very difficult to pin down. We estimate the size of the acute shortage to be around 39,000, but there are numbers out there of 70,000 and 100,000, so what is not being delivered if those drivers are not available? I have asked the sector many times. The reality is that the lack of those drivers is about sector resilience and ensuring that people who are in the sector are not feeling that their shifts are too long, or whatever. We believe that the acute shortage is around 39,000. I am not going play EU bingo with the various shortages in the other countries. Suffice it to say that there are shortages in other countries, and they are something we are all dealing with.

To briefly pick up on the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, about visas, I will check that, because we do not do late parliamentary questions. I think it is because it might have gone to Defra, and that will be the reason—not that it does late parliamentary questions, but there is the transfer, if you know what I mean.

There is an international shortage. We sort of know the size of the shortage, but I would love firmer data on it. It is incredibly difficult to assess a precise number in this fast-moving environment. It has got better. One of the things that I have been following very closely is the number of people asking for application forms from the DVLA to apply for an HGV provisional licence, which has gone up massively, as has the number of licences and provisional licences going out of the other end. Now we have to get those people into the training system and then into the testing system. Having sorted out DVLA and testing, I am now turning my attention to the bit in the middle, which is obviously a private sector affair, but we will be working with it so that it increases its capacity as much as possible.

I am so sorry to hear about my noble friend’s issue with his driving licence. I have some good news: my daughter passed her driving test a couple of days ago, and she received her licence like that. I am happy to take up any concerns noble Lords have about their treatment by the DVLA, but I am pleased to say that on HGV licences it is back to normal processing times. That also applies to buses.

On the road safety aspect of this, it is incredibly complicated and we are working at pace. I appreciate that we do not have an impact assessment that noble Lords can point to, so I will do what I can to assuage noble Lords’ concerns.

Again, there is a significant challenge with data here. People will often come up with anecdotes about how they saw a trailer doing X, Y, Z—I have seen cars and buses doing all sorts of dreadful things—but actual data is one of our big challenges. As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, pointed out, in STATS19, 865 incidents involved a car or vehicle with a trailer, which is 0.45% of the total incidents in the entire year. That is a very small amount, but it does not matter; it still has to be considered.

Railways: East Coast Main Line

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Wednesday 3rd November 2021

(2 months, 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, we are currently in the fairly early stages of the very complex discussions around the consultation. The noble Lord is quite right: when you ask the British public a question and for their feedback, they rightly give it. We have had over 10,000 responses to the consultation. While the feedback was balanced, views were polarised, and I am afraid that it is impossible to keep absolutely everybody happy. The discussions continue—as I said, they are on a weekly basis—and proposals will be coming to Ministers in due course.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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There appears to be a conflict here between increasing services from Scotland and the north-east to London and the potentially adverse impact this would have on trans-Pennine services from Newcastle to Manchester and Liverpool due to track capacity constraints in the north-east. Why have the Government failed to address these issues—which do not spring up overnight—over the last 11 years, particularly bearing in mind that they now also impact on Northern Powerhouse Rail, about which the Government to date have said so much and done so little?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The Government have invested £4 billion in the east coast main line and are planning to invest a further £1.2 billion in issues such as capacity at Stevenage, the King’s Cross track remodelling and the Werrington grade separation works. These upgrades will deliver better journey times, reliability and capacity improvements.

HGV Drivers

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Tuesday 26th October 2021

(2 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 not sure we will necessarily follow the French example, but I accept that we need to improve the quality and quantity of facilities for our drivers and the availability of lorry parking for rest breaks. Obviously, I am working very closely with the owners and operators of the 114 motorway service areas we have. Of course, there are countless other providers of facilities that are away from the strategic road network. I agree that we need to improve them and perhaps there might be something more about that in the spending review.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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No one should object to heavy goods vehicle drivers being paid a lot more for the valuable work they do, but now we read that some local authorities are facing shortages of drivers of refuse collection vehicles and gritters because they are leaving for newly substantially higher-paid driving jobs for supermarket chains, among others. Since this is a direct spin-off from the Government’s own hard Brexit, will the Government commit to reimbursing cash-strapped local authorities for the cost of paying drivers of refuse collection vehicles and gritters more to retain their services and ensure the maintenance of these vital public services this winter?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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As the noble Lord knows, there is a shortage of lorry drivers across Europe so we would not necessarily have been able to rely on cheap EU labour in the current situation. I accept there will be a transition from where we were previously to where we are now. Some people will move jobs and I accept that the key to that is to increase training for HGV drivers. We are providing the tests and working with the training sector to provide training so that people can come through and drive our garbage disposal trucks and gritters.

Insulate Britain

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Tuesday 26th October 2021

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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It certainly has nothing at all to do with COP 26. Obviously, certain matters are operational matters for the police, but the noble Baroness is right: we all know of good protests. Getting a million people out on the streets on a Saturday afternoon where the police have been told in advance, where there is a good level of public support and where you do not destroy any statues is a good protest. Insulate Britain members are not good protesters.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Climate change is the major challenge of our time, and winning public support for the cause is critical. Blocking roads and antagonising people is not going to achieve that objective.

This week, the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has significantly extended London’s ultra-low emission zone. The Evening Standard yesterday said that it backed Sadiq Khan in

“taking steps to clean up our city’s toxic air and cut our carbon emissions in the process.”

Do the Government also back Sadiq Khan on this, regarding it too as an effective example of how the ballot box can prove to be an effective way for people to respond to the climate crisis?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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As the noble Lord will know, we probably have a much closer relationship with the Mayor of London than we would ordinarily have at the moment. Although transport is devolved in London, owing to a substantial hole in TfL’s finances we have to provide it with quite significant funding every now and again. Indeed, the last deal we agreed with the mayor included that there would be no change to the extension of ULEZ.

Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 1) (Amendment) Order 2021

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Tuesday 19th October 2021

(3 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Again, I too thank the Minister for her explanation of the purpose and content of the orders we are discussing.

The Department for Transport has said that Operation Brock was originally created to deal with disruption caused by our exit from the European Union and then in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. As I understand it, Operation Brock creates, among other measures, a contraflow road layout on the M20 and the setting up of concrete barriers so that lorries heading for mainland Europe can queue on the coast-bound carriageway if there are disruptions or delays at Dover or the Channel Tunnel. Any decision to put out or remove the concrete barriers involves the Government.

The Government now want to remove the sunset clauses from Operation Brock on the basis of the argument that this will mean the Kent Resilience Forum will be better prepared to respond to any type of traffic disruption in the area not related to our EU exit, including industrial action and severe weather. I do not know whether the industrial action reference is to possible action by heavy goods vehicle drivers, who have sought unsuccessfully to get a better deal following the Prime Minister’s assurance that they should be paid more.

This Government claim to be averse to ratcheting up regulation, yet here we have a regulation that was brought in on a temporary basis to address the chaos of the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal and his inadequate response to the Covid-19 pandemic—as set out in the recent joint report from two Commons Select Committees, both chaired by two of his own MPs—now being made permanent, despite the fact that the Government have removed most Covid restrictions and tell us that the PM’s Brexit deal has only upsides and no significant downsides. Can the Government explain why, if disruption at Dover and the Channel Tunnel from industrial action and severe weather is such a threat that these temporary orders must now be made permanent, it was not considered necessary to bring them in in the nine years from 2010 to 2019?

The striking thing about the two Explanatory Memoranda is that they offer no evidence or explanation why making these orders permanent is necessary or what the consequences, based on past experience, would be if the sunset clauses were applied to Operation Brock. In essence, the Explanatory Memoranda—and thus the Government—are saying that these powers would be nice to have in perpetuity, even though we have no clue how frequently and for how long they would be needed, even based on past experience. In the absence of any proper case being made, this appears to be an example of a government desire to have powers for the sake of it.

The other possible explanation for making these powers permanent is that the Government know that the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal has significant downsides and are expecting significant disruption or delays at Dover and the Channel Tunnel if relationships with the EU in general, and the French in particular, deteriorate still further. In that situation, the Government would attribute the need to make these orders permanent primarily to delays for some other reason—such as industrial action or severe weather—rather than admit that the Prime Minister’s brand of hard Brexit is not all sweetness and light for Britain. The Explanatory Memoranda slip in a reference in paragraph 8 to

“delays from customs checks at the international borders in Kent”,

which may refer to the continuing problems associated with the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal.

I ask the following questions, to which I would like a full government response, either today or subsequently. As far as I can see, although I may be wrong, none of these questions is addressed in the Explanatory Memorandum. First, what happened before Operation Brock when there were delays at Dover and the Channel Tunnel unrelated to our EU exit or Covid? Once again, if those delays were so bad that the Operation Brock powers now need to be made permanent, why did the Government allow that position to continue for nine years from 2010?

Secondly, on how many occasions since 2010 has disruption caused by severe weather been such that Operation Brock would actually have been brought into operation, and for how long, had the now proposed permanent powers been available?

Thirdly, on how many occasions since 2010 has disruption caused by industrial action been such that Operation Brock would actually have been brought into operation, and for how long, had the now-proposed permanent powers been available?

Fourthly—as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, asked—on how many separate occasions since the present regulations first came into effect has Operation Brock been brought into operation in full, for what reason, and for how long on each occasion? As has been said, we have not had an evaluation of the effectiveness or otherwise of Operation Brock to date, yet these powers are being made permanent.

Fifthly, what is the cost of building and removing on each occasion the Operation Brock contraflow barriers on the M20? Have there been any occasions when the barriers have been put up and then removed without being used?

Sixthly, how many additional traffic officers have already been required in connection with Operation Brock and it being brought into effect, and how many will be required if the sunset clauses are removed and the order becomes permanent?

My seventh question relates to the Explanatory Memoranda, which refer to a national consultation between 26 May and 20 June this year, and say that key affected stakeholders in Kent were

“made aware of the consultation when it launched”,

whatever that phrase means in practice. We are then told, as has already been pointed out, that the consultation received 14 responses, which the Government admit was “low”, but that it included “members of the public”. Has any other national consultation received just 14 responses? Were the views of local residents actively sought? In some quarters, Operation Brock has proved controversial, with complaints from some local residents affected about disruption caused during work to install the required infrastructure.

I hope that the Government in their response will, not only today but subsequently, provide answers to the questions that I and others have raised, but also provide a rather better argued case than is contained in the Explanatory Memoranda as to why this order must now become permanent, contrary to what we had been told would be the case up to now. Clearly, something of some significance must have happened or come to light, which could not have been known or appreciated before, to justify the Government’s change of mind over bringing into effect the sunset clauses. We are entitled to be told exactly what that something is and the detailed case for the Government’s U-turn over the sunset clauses. I await the Government’s response.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their considered contributions today. I hope to put their minds at rest—but also I shall write, because I do not quite have all the answers to the questions. That always annoys me a bit, but I shall do my best.

Briefly, I would like to take noble Lords back, although I am afraid that my memory is a bit dodgy, to what is probably just over 10 years ago, when I remember spending many hours with my children in a hot car in Kent trying to get across the short straits. It was dire. I sat on a local road in Kent for hours. I think it was due to industrial action—it was a sunny day, so it probably was not bad weather. But we know that, when there is disruption at the short straits, Kent stops. What we are trying to put in place today is something to help the people of Kent. I shall endeavour to set out the rationale behind that and how the interventions that we have put in place to deal with a potential no-deal exit and Covid turned out to be good things—progress, so to speak. That progress should be grasped on this occasion, and not left to rot.

Looking at where we are, the whole point of these regulations is to put in place a permanent framework around a temporary traffic management solution. My noble friend Lord Naseby asked whether it had been successful. I would say that the proof of that is in the pudding. It has been successful; we have not had great big tailbacks in Kent. We also know that it is more effective than the previous intervention, Operation Stack, which really did not go down very well with the local community.

The whole point of Operation Brock is that it allows HCV drivers to be stationed on the M20 and stops them rat-running through local roads and blocking them, as happened on my very unfortunate journey many years ago. It will only ever be used in the event of significant disruption at the short-strait crossings. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, read an awful lot into that, which I am afraid is simply not there. All sorts of things could cause disruption at the short straits. The whole point of what we are trying to do today is that, if there is any disruption, the county of Kent does not come to a standstill, because that is not good for people trying to cross the short straits and certainly not good for the people of Kent.

Transport: Hydrogen

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Monday 13th September 2021

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Actually, the focus at the moment is on making sure we have the right data and information from R&D to further develop and commercialise large-scale hydrogen refuelling systems. I mentioned previously the £23 million Hydrogen for Transport programme, which is looking at refuelling infrastructure alongside the vehicles themselves. We also have the zero-emission road freight trials, which are trialling hydrogen among a group of vehicles—it is not only about the infrastructure but about making sure that the range is appropriate for the vehicle in which it is going to be used.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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The Minister has made reference to rail and funding. Trains powered by hydrogen are already in traffic in Germany, and successful trials have been undertaken in at least four other mainland European countries. What are the Government’s objectives, and what are the timescales for that funding for the development and introduction of hydrogen trains in the UK?

HGV Driver Shortages

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Monday 13th September 2021

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. The Government have known for months and months that driver shortage issues would be exacerbated by the terms of the Brexit deal and their handling of Covid. Government Ministers are just now telling the industry to increase pay and improve conditions to recruit and retain more drivers, a much-needed step. However, how will that, or shortening the test process, or changing safety-driven driving regulations now address the immediate threat of worsening and widespread supply chain shortages this autumn? Or are the Government still sticking to what appears to have been their stance until now—which would explain the lack of timely government action—that the industry has been crying wolf over the impact of driver shortages this autumn?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, there is so much to respond to in that question. I am sure the noble Lord knows it is the case that this issue has been around for a very long time. I was talking to a colleague in the other place only recently and he said that one of the first things he did when he was elected in 2010 was go to an RHA reception at which they complained about the driver shortage. So the reality is that this has been a long time in coming. We absolutely will work with the industry to put in place all the things that they need to do.

The other thing to recall is that there are hundreds of thousands of qualified HGV drivers in this country who do not currently work in the sector. The industry must focus on getting those people back. By doing so, we have to focus on improving pay—there is anecdotal evidence that is coming through—and terms and conditions: my goodness, how simple is it to provide a clean loo, a vending machine and a comfy place to wait? Distribution centres need to absolutely step up and make sure that HGV drivers have at least those very simple things to make their day slightly easier.

There are lots of things that can be done. I do not take the point that the Government have been slacking. We have done an enormous amount and will continue to work with the industry to make sure that we keep goods flowing.

Railways: Bridge Strikes

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

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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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.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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The Road Haulage Association promotes the use of specialised lorry satellite navigation devices, which give bridge heights. Do the Government plan to take any steps to help promote their use more widely, or even make it a requirement that they be fitted and used in a similar way to tachographs? If they do not do so already, could such devices not also be adapted to give a warning to drivers approaching bridges that are lower than the height of their truck and trailer?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I agree with the noble Lord that technology will provide at least some of the answers to the problems we currently face. As he will know, Network Rail often installs special technology on some of the more bashed bridges that measures the height of the approaching vehicle and then flashes up “Turn Back” signs. Of course, we are very happy to work with the freight associations—and indeed we do—on ensuring that HGV drivers are fully aware of the technology available to them both in their cab and on the roads.

International Travel Rules

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Thursday 22nd July 2021

(6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, it is not possible to travel to France without the need for quarantine and all the costs and upheaval that involves, as France, following a sudden decision, is now in a separate subcategory of amber-list countries. As one Conservative MP put it when this UQ was discussed in the Commons,

“public confidence in going abroad is now in a ditch”.—[Official Report, Commons, 19/7/21; col. 679.]

Another Conservative MP said,

“the further restrictions for France stretch both the credibility of the system and the patience of the travel industry. The whole industry … continues to watch as its reserves are dried up”.—[Official Report, Commons, 19/7/21; col. 685.]

The travel industry was promised a rescue deal, which has never materialised. When do the Government intend to give this important industry the support that it needs, as we have called for, and as the shadow Secretary of State demanded again in the Commons on Monday, to which there was no response from the Minister?

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 noble Lord, Lord Rosser, talks about the decision that we had to make on France, which of course was not made lightly. We have in place a good traffic-light system which enables us to categorise countries according to risk and, therefore, travel can happen accordingly. However, we have also reduced requirements for people who have had double vaccinations in order to travel to amber countries. That is of great benefit to the travel companies and I am sure that they will take advantage of that opportunity.

Railways: East Coast Main Line

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

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con) [V]
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The Government have already invested, and are investing, billions of pounds in the railway system, including in the north-east. The noble Baroness mentioned once again the changes to the services in Berwick, and I will not dwell on that because I believe I have covered it, but I will say that there always difficult decisions to make. For example, Edinburgh gets more services out of this, which improves union connectivity. Edinburgh will have additional, faster trains to London. There will be a four-hour journey time. That will be highly competitive versus taking an aircraft.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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As part of these proposed timetable changes, which LNER says

“involve a series of trade-offs,”

services on the TransPennine Express between Newcastle and Manchester will be reduced from twice an hour to once an hour, and an increase in the frequency of services between Teesside, Sunderland and Newcastle will be postponed. Given that Northern Powerhouse Rail has still not been confirmed, is this not further evidence that the Government are backing off from increasing direct interconnectivity of northern cities? Is it not unfortunate that, in the trade-offs, local and regional services would lose out to increase services to London and the south-east?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con) [V]
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I am not entirely sure that the evidence supports the noble Lord’s last comment, but I accept that there are difficult trade-offs. Railway capacity is not expandable immediately, so one always has to work with the capacity available. We have spent £4 billion on upgrading the infrastructure and the rolling stock. We must make sure that we use that capacity to best effect. As I have already said, there would be a significant increase in revenues from these proposals.

Lorry Drivers

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Wednesday 7th July 2021

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I agree that they have been some of the heroes during the pandemic, and ensure that I frequently tell them so. I think they have done a fantastic job, but it is time for the industry to step up just a little more. On 1 August last year, we suspended the HGV levy. This has saved the industry hundreds of millions of pounds. For each truck, it costs about £900 a year, so if you are a haulier with 3,000 trucks, you save £2.5 million. That could train 800 new drivers. I ask the industry to recruit those people and train them.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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Finding effective solutions means first identifying the cause. Driver and other staff shortage problems could lead to higher food prices. I get the impression from the Minister’s answers that the Government do not accept any responsibility for the present situation, but may I seek clarification on that? Do the Government think that the staff shortage problems are due to the end of free movement and the way they are now implementing border controls, or due to the effect of repeated Covid lockdowns, or do the Government think they have no responsibility and that the staff shortages are due to low pay and poor terms and conditions of employment, inadequate manpower planning or a failure by the industry to invest in proper training programmes to meet future manpower needs?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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All of the above; those are the issues we are facing. I have been Roads Minister now for two years, and I had this conversation with the haulage sector two years ago. It was very clear then that foreign labour would not be available to it. It has known that this was coming down the track. The TSC issued a report in 2016, pointing out exactly what the sector needed to do to address the shortage it had then, and yet still not enough has been done. I would accept that the Government stand ready to help. We have listened to the industry and work alongside the it. For example, on HGV testing, I have doubled the number of tests every week from the pre-Covid level. We are doing everything we can, and we need the industry to work in partnership with us.

Historical Railways Estate

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

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My noble friend is well aware that the Restoring Your Railway fund is available, and that any proposals put forward are given a fair hearing.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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Attempts are being made to progress some of these Highways England demolition and infilling schemes under permitted development powers, which avoid the need for explanation and the challenges and objections that often accompany normal planning processes—including the need to seek permission from local councils. How is a declared policy of reopening former railway lines or encouraging walking and cycling tracks over disused railway lines consistent with Highways England blocking or severing potential routes by demolishing or filling in currently disused railway structures through a back-door process using permitted development powers, which stifles challenges and objections from local communities and organisations?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I would like to reassure your Lordships’ House that those structures that are potentially going to be infilled over the next five years—again, I say “potentially”—or be subject to other action, are fewer than 2.6% of all assets. Permitted development orders exist to prevent an emergency from occurring. Therefore, Highways England uses permitted development orders only where there is an emergency situation. I reassure noble Lords that to date Highways England has usually managed to get planning permission for any changes.

International Travel

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

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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Tourism and other transport industries need a clear plan and clarity now over timings for easing restrictions on international travel, and the Government failed to provide that in the Commons on Tuesday. Passenger numbers for UK aviation are down by nearly 90% compared to 2019—far more than in our major European competitors. UK airlines have announced over 30,000 job cuts so far, without taking account of the impact on the wider supply chain. ABTA has said that 44% of its members expect further redundancies as furlough tapers off. The aviation and tourism industries need help now. All the Government do is repeat figures from the general schemes from which they have received support, but the aviation industry—the hardest-hit sector—was promised sector-specific support. When are the Government going to deliver what they promised?

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 are working extremely closely with all parts of the travel sector, and we recognise that it has been a very difficult time for it. Significant support has already been given to the sector, and indeed there has been sector-specific support for airports. We will, of course, continue to work closely with them in the medium term.

North of England: Rapid Mass Transport System

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Monday 28th June 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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I, too, am extremely excited by technology. The noble Baroness said that there has been widespread take-up of maglev technology across Asia, but that is not the case. The high-speed system is up and running in Shanghai at the moment, but China has now decided to invest in conventional rail rather than rolling out a large number of high-speed maglev systems. As I have mentioned many times, the Government are considering connectivity across the north and this will be set out in the integrated rail plan.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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Can the Minister confirm in the light of her earlier answers that the Government do not know when the Northern Powerhouse Rail project, first promised by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2014, will be approved, when its route plan will be made clear or when its promised infrastructure work will actually start? Assuming that is so—I think the Minister has been telling us that—can she at least assure us that work on the construction of Northern Powerhouse Rail will take priority over the start of work on the Prime Minister’s latest project: the construction of a new royal yacht?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I think that that is a rather extreme assessment of what I have said so far. I reiterate that the integrated rail plan must come first. Without it, it is pointless having a plan for Northern Powerhouse Rail because, of course, the whole point is that everything has to be integrated. As I said previously, we will work with Transport for the North, which will submit the business case for Northern Powerhouse Rail. Once we have received that, we will be able to set out how the project will go forward.

Great British Railway Plans

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

(7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I am grateful to my noble friend for advance notice of this question, because I too had to get my head around how the existing track and the new track all work together. There are three connection stages. The first one will rely on existing track, which will be upgraded, and the second two will be either small sections of existing track or mostly new track. The cost of connection stage 1 is currently £1.288 billion. We do not know the cost of future connection stages at this time, as of course the new track has not yet been fully scoped.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, assuming that the Northern Powerhouse Rail project, HS3, is not going to be scrapped—some parts of the media have suggested that it will be—will the Minister confirm that HS3 will be part of the integrated railway and Great British Railways, in the same way as other private companies are contracted to run the trains for the service and fares that Great British Railways sets?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Goodness—I think we are a little early in the game to be discussing those sorts of arrangements, but I have answered the question about Northern Powerhouse Rail. The integrated rail plan will be published soon.

BA and Ryanair: Customer Refunds

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

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I point out to the noble Lord that the Government are taking a cautious approach to international travel. We realise that circumstances will change in different countries, at different times. The traffic light system in place works as well as it can, in the circumstances; it looks at case rates, positivity, genomic surveillance and the risk from variants of concern. I also make the noble Lord aware that lifting restrictions domestically does not necessarily mean changes to international travel.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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It was not clear from the Minister’s response whether the Government were supportive of the suggestion put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, which came from Which?, about payments for fares being held in a trust. Perhaps we could have a direct response to that. On this whole issue of refunds, the rights of the consumer seem to be protected somewhat tardily. I am not clear, but are the Government satisfied with the speed at which consumer rights to refunded fares during lockdown were fully addressed and, where applicable, enforced? Surely all are equal under the law and all are bound by the law, whether a financially strong airline not offering a refund or a financially stretched passenger in need of a refund.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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As I have said numerous times, consumers are getting their refunds back and this is happening more quickly than it was earlier in the pandemic, as policies and practices have been put in place at the behest of the CAA and the work that it has done with UK airlines. I did not respond to the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, because we are considering it among many other suggestions about how to get our international travel industry back on its feet. The Government also have ongoing work on airline insolvency following the Thomas Cook insolvency in the year before last.

Railway Industry Association Report

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Tuesday 18th 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 agree, and I refer the noble Lord to the answer to my noble friend’s question just now. But I also point out that this is not just about electricity and electrification; there is huge potential for hydrogen in the mix. The Government are very clear that we should invest in various new technologies. Indeed, we have now invested up to £3 million on various alternatives to straightforward rail electrification. On hydrogen, for example, we have invested £750,000 in HydroFLEX, the UK’s first hydrogen-powered train. These trains may be particularly useful for freight in the future.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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In light of the Government’s commitment to decarbonisation, when will the Great Western main line into Bristol Temple Meads and from Cardiff to Swansea and Didcot to Oxford now be electrified? What will be the additional costs of now doing so at a later date, arising from the earlier decision to defer electrification of these key parts of the Great Western main line?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The Great Western electrification programme is now substantially complete. However, I recognise that some parts of the network will still need to be electrified. As with all projects within the rail system, each one is looked at from the bottom up, and analysis is undertaken and development work done. If it meets value for money and is affordable, it will go into the RNEP system and therefore be done in due course.

Rail Disruption: Social and Economic Impacts

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

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, in general, Hitachi trains have an incredibly good track record. Hitachi built the bullet trains in Japan, which, as noble Lords will know, have an exemplary safety record, and it has a very high engineering pedigree. While it will of course be up to Hitachi’s customers to decide where they make their purchases in the future, I for one believe that that sort of pedigree will not be diminished by these events.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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What is the estimated likely total revenue loss following the withdrawal from service for repairs of the Hitachi trains? Who will foot the bill for that loss of revenue? I hope it will be neither the taxpayer nor passengers, and I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm that that is the position.

E-Scooters

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Thursday 22nd April 2021

(9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I can certainly guarantee the latter: we will be consulting all sorts of people, when we make the final decision on the trials. As I noted, the trials are in place. I cannot go into the hypothetical of what might happen if the Government might do something in the future. However, at the moment, users of the trials get instructions from the app about their use. There are stickers on the scooters reminding people to stay off the pavements and about the areas where the scooters can be used. Some operators have advanced training modules and incentives for users to complete them.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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The Government have provided for a number of e-scooter trials around the country, as the Minister has indicated. What will constitute positive and negative outcomes of an e-scooter pilot exercise?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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That is a very specific question, to which I probably cannot provide an answer. As the noble Lord knows, when it comes to road safety, there are always benefits and significant risks to be carefully looked at together. As we go through these trials, evidence will come forth, which we will look at and make a decision accordingly.

Transport for London: Financial Settlement

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
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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My Lords, TfL has also received billions of pounds over the Covid pandemic. I am not sure where the noble Baroness is getting her information from about the differential between the conditions that are put on the train operating companies and on TfL. The Government make demands on the train operating companies. We work incredibly closely with them on, for example, what the level of services should be and whether engineering works should take place. We put significant conditions on our support for them. We put some conditions on TfL support, such as looking at the future of driverless trains and increasing efficiency targets. All these things are perfectly reasonable.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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Instead of levelling up the north, where the Government have cut £4 million from Transport for the North, clearly the Government intend to level down London’s transport network. Virtually every answer that we have heard from the Minister today has confirmed that this is the Government’s approach. Can the Minister confirm or otherwise that the Government are not seeking to force TfL into making cuts to its service level, which would be completely counterproductive and place at risk the economic recovery of central London, which, like it or not, is still the engine of the UK economy?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The Government will provide funding to TfL. We have already said that we will and that we want to keep the capital moving. That is essential. We can also agree that the forecast scenarios that are available for passenger demand will, quite frankly, resolve only over a period of time. The Mayor of London is going to have to think about his capital expenditure and service levels in the future. He may have to make difficult decisions, but there are a number of reforms that the Mayor of London should have done but has not done, and probably should do in the future, in addition to potentially looking at service levels.

Rail Freight: Channel Tunnel

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

(11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I am not sure about the delays to which my noble friend has referred, but it is the case that at the end of the year, freight flows decreased somewhat owing to both testing for hauliers, which had to be put in place quickly in December, and preparations for the end of the transition period in January. However, I reassure my noble friend that all freight is now flowing as it should.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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The Minister said that there has been a 34% increase in freight truck traffic through the Channel Tunnel in February compared with January. Can she say whether that is a 34% increase in volume or in value, and does it apply equally across all sectors of industry and services?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I would love to have the answers to those questions, but I am afraid that I do not, and I do not have a calculator with me at this moment. However, I will write to the noble Lord with the details he has set out. It is the case that, in January, we were looking at daily HGV traffic flows in the region of around 2,800 vehicles on average and that we are now up into the area of mid-3,000 vehicles. I will write to the noble Lord with the analysis that he would like to see.

HS2: Phase 2B

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Monday 8th February 2021

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The noble Baroness has been in this House long enough to know that I cannot possibly confirm that, because of course to have legislation, particularly a very complicated hybrid Bill, there are a number of steps that we have go through beforehand. One of those steps will be the publication of the integrated rail plan. It will be published in early 2021—so, very shortly—and in it we will set out exactly what we will do for the eastern leg and how we will integrate it with plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midlands Engine Rail.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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The National Infrastructure Commission’s report is clearly a further blow to the east Midlands and Yorkshire economies, the Government having already pulled back on the full electrification of the east Midlands main line. Reference has already been made to the 120 business leaders from across the north and the Midlands who wrote to the Prime Minister calling for the full delivery of the eastern leg of HS2. Is the Minister giving us a commitment that the Prime Minister will be restating his commitment to the eastern leg of HS2 in the integrated rail plan, within the existing timescale for the completion of that eastern leg?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I am not sure precisely what commitment the noble Lord would like me to give, but the Prime Minister recently spoke about

“the power of great infrastructure projects to deliver jobs, which is why we are getting on with both the eastern leg of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.”—[Official Report, Commons, 9/12/21; col. 839.]

Rail Fares: Flexi-season Tickets

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

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Train services and fares are, of course, devolved in Wales, but I recognise the noble Lord’s point about passengers who want to go from Wales to England for work, for example. I encourage him to raise this issue with Sir Peter Hendy in his union connectivity review, because it is really important for people who need to travel for employment reasons that the means of travel are there in terms of the services, but also that the fares fit as well.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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First, how will the pending increase in fares encourage people back on to our trains, bearing in mind that much passenger business is optional leisure travel, and commuter traffic will become more price-sensitive as home working for at least part of the week is likely to become a permanent option for many? Secondly, if cheaper fare promotions are going to be used to encourage people back on to our trains, who, under the present contractual arrangements between the Government and the train operating companies, will have the final say on what those cheap fare promotions will be: the Government or the train operating companies?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The recent increase in fares was 2.6%, 1% below inflation. This is the lowest increase for four years. In addition, the Government delayed the increase by two months to 1 March. But it is case that taxpayers have been spectacularly generous to the railways in terms of support over the Covid period. We must ensure that there is a good balance between the taxpayer and the passenger, so we are content with a small increase in regulated rail fares. On the potential schemes and other measures that may be put in place, the Government will be working very closely with the train operating companies. All ideas are welcome, and when it is time to get people back on to public transport, we will put those in place.

UK Logistics Industry

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
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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It is the case that some lorries return empty. The noble Baroness quoted a figure of 50% but the Government’s figures are actually 30%. That is a bit higher than it has been in the past but over the coming weeks and months the haulage system in general will readjust, particularly in terms of the requirements of the trade and co-operation agreement regarding cabotage and cross-trade. I would expect to see fewer empty lorries going back.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, there are repeated reports of UK companies switching and looking to switch at least part of their operations to countries inside the EU in order to overcome additional regulations, customs checks and costs of transporting goods to the EU following our departure from it. Is this a development that the Government are encouraging and supporting, despite the potential adverse impact on jobs, economic activity—including the logistics industry—and tax revenue in the UK?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I think the noble Lord is referring to some individual anecdotes. We are not aware that this is part of a systematic picture of a substantial shift. The vast majority of traders within Great Britain and Northern Ireland are ready to meet the new requirements at the border and are trading successfully.

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 3rd reading
Thursday 28th January 2021

(11 months, 4 weeks 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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In moving that the Bill do now pass, I shall make some brief observations and reflect on its passage. At the outset, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for his patience, focus and good humour in scrutinising the Bill, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for her very valued input. I also thank the cadre of noble Lords who showed a particular interest in this very important Bill and shared so much of their experience and wisdom in scrutinising it. Contributions and questions from all sides were thorough and searching. We listened to concerns and made changes where needed, and we have a better Bill for it.

The Bill has had a rather longer gestation than I would have liked, but that was to be expected in the circumstances. Having been introduced to your Lordships’ House in January 2020, it entered an unprecedented period which has thrown numerous challenges at the Bill and, of course, the aviation industry. However, the Government are clear that the powers in the Bill remain critical, even in the current Covid-19 context. The need to modernise the UK’s airspace has not changed, and the Bill will help reduce aircraft noise, reduce traffic delays and support the aviation industry’s recovery and growth. Additionally, there are emissions savings from modernisation.

It has been 20 years since the establishment of an economic regulatory regime for the provision of en-route air traffic control services. The Bill will modernise regulatory provisions relating to air traffic services, provided by NATS (En Route) plc, or NERL, and regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority, ensuring that the framework remains fit for purpose and continues to build on the UK’s excellent safety record. Following Report, the Bill now also enables the Government to continue to provide alleviation from the requirement to use slots at co-ordinated airports 80% of the time for them to be retained. These powers will be temporary, until August 2024, and I thank all noble Lords for their constructive engagement on these amendments. It was far from ideal to bring these amendments to your Lordships’ House before Report; however, Covid-19 has provided many unexpected twists and turns.

Finally, the Bill will give the police new powers to enforce the existing law surrounding unmanned aircraft to ensure the skies above us are safe without damaging the unmanned aircraft industry. There are, as ever, many people beyond your Lordships’ House who have helped shape the Bill—the CAA, NATS, the police and others across government—and, of course, we have a fantastic and more than a little patient Bill team who have had to shepherd the Bill through interesting times. I am very grateful for their hard work and persistence.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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Speaking for myself and my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe, I take this opportunity to thank the Minister and all her officials and colleagues involved with the Bill for their willingness to have informal meetings to discuss, in an open and helpful way, a range of complex issues relating to the Bill as a whole and Parts 1 and 2 in particular. This has greatly contributed to effective scrutiny, needed technical amendments and useful clarifications and amplifications, including those read into Hansard by the—

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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I am afraid that I have little alternative but to start again from the beginning, because I do not know at what stage I got cut off, so I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for that.

Speaking both for myself and for my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe, I take this opportunity to thank the Minister and all her officials and colleagues involved with the Bill for their helpful approach and willingness to have informal meetings to discuss in an open and constructive way a range of complex issues relating to the Bill as a whole and Parts 1 and 2 in particular. That has greatly contributed to effective scrutiny, needed amendments and useful clarifications and amplifications, including those read into Hansard by the Minister on Report. I know that my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe has been particularly appreciative of this way of working with the Minister and her team. It has undoubtedly resulted in a better Bill.

I also thank Ben Wood in our office for all his hard work, which has been of real value to me and to my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe on the Bill. Our thanks go, too, to all other Members of your Lordships’ House and outside organisations with whom we have worked, not least the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson.

As has been said, the Bill has not had the quickest of passages through the House. It started out in your Lordships’ House a year ago around the time when, as I remember it, I was temporarily out of action. It now goes to the other place for their consideration, and I am quite sure that the work that we have all done on the Bill will assist its passage through the Commons.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, once again, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. I of course note the points raised and look forward to further debate in the coming months on matters relating to aviation and unmanned aircraft. With that, I think we are done: the Bill is clear for take-off.

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Report stage (Hansard) & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report stage
Thursday 21st January 2021

(1 year ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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I will direct my comments to Amendment 14 but will listen carefully to the Minister’s response to all the points made in respect of Amendment 15.

Amendment 14, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, would require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a review of legislation relating to unmanned aircraft and whether it provides sufficient protection to individuals. The amendment also sets out a number of issues to which such a review should refer but to which it should not be restricted. The review would be required to make a recommendation on whether the Government should bring forward further legislation in the light of its findings.

Unmanned aircraft—drone—technology is developing fast, and the Government need to ensure that they are proactive, not reactive, when it comes to legislating, where necessary, to reflect developments in this technology and the expansion in the use of drones in the public services, by the Armed Forces and in both the commercial and leisure sectors, as well as by those whose priority may not be operating drones safely and responsibly.

As has been said, unmanned aircraft offer great benefits to society but can also lead to significant areas of concern. Emergency services are utilising drones to save lives, and parcel and freight companies, for example, look to use drones to deliver vital medical supplies as well as day-to-day purchases. Unmanned aircraft are now used in many industries to carry out work that is potentially hazardous for human beings or can be done much more quickly or thoroughly by the use of drones. They are also used by the police, as we have seen during the current Covid-19 crisis and the associated lockdowns—an aspect to which the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, referred.

However, there is another side, as we saw from the drone sightings at Gatwick Airport not so long ago, which resulted in flight cancellations and diversions affecting many thousands of passengers. It led, I believe, to a COBRA meeting being convened and the Army being called in, and it also highlighted the urgent need for this Bill, which nevertheless has been going through this House at a snail’s pace and still has to go through the Commons.

We have to be in a position to be sure that legislation keeps pace with developments in the increasing use, and, most importantly, potential misuse, of unmanned aircraft, as they become more sophisticated and powerful in what they can do and for how long—as well as in their range and areas of activity, not least the monitoring of civilians, and in relation to who uses them. As the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, also said, drones are used for criminal activity as well.

There is a need to ensure that legislation continues to provide sufficient protection to individuals and that this does not get overlooked in this developing field of technology. There needs to be a mechanism for ensuring the continued adequacy and appropriateness of existing legislation, including this Bill, in a field of activity that is expanding and moving forward and will continue to do so with some rapidity.

It is not sufficient to say that legislation will be kept under review: there are so many areas nowadays, across so many departments, where the Government tell us that legislation is kept under continuous review. We need something in the Bill to ensure that, in such a fast-developing field as unmanned aircraft and the uses to which they are put, regular reviews of legislation take place, covering, but not limited to, the specific points referred to in the amendment. It is equally important that Parliament has a clear role in the review process, which is also provided for in this amendment. Amendment 14 has our support.

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 today’s debate. I will take each amendment in this group in turn, starting with Amendment 14, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, which the Government believe is neither necessary nor appropriate.

The purpose of Part 3 is to attach police powers to offences in a separate piece of legislation—the Air Navigation Order 2016—and to other offences. Therefore, this Bill is not the appropriate place for a requirement to review unmanned aircraft legislation. Furthermore, a number of reviews are already due to take place. I hope this will satisfy the noble Baroness that her amendment is not necessary.

The ANO 2016 is the legislation that currently sets out offences that are specific to unmanned aircraft. Article 275 of the ANO 2016 states that it must be reviewed every five years, and its first statutory review is due to be completed by August 2021. This review will assess the extent to which the law surrounding unmanned aircraft, in so far as it is laid down in that instrument, is operating effectively to achieve its objectives. Of course, this may well be within the noble Baroness’s six-month timeframe.

As the impact assessment for the Bill states, this legislation will be kept under continuous review to ensure that it achieves its objectives: to address the key gaps identified from the 2018 consultation on the future of drones in the UK and to improve the ability of the police to respond to UA misuse, thereby reducing the irresponsible and malicious use of UA. This is in line with the Government’s practice of keeping all UA legislation under review, regardless of whether there is a legislative requirement to do so.

Moreover, ordinarily, a five-year timeframe applies to post-implementation reviews of legislation. This is recommended in the Government’s better regulation framework and the requirements of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015, in relation to new measures adopted in secondary legislation regulating business and the voluntary sector. Furthermore, the Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Strategy, published in October 2019, commits the Government to continuing to develop proposals for inclusion in future legislation, so that the legal framework within which operational responders must operate does not become obsolete or hamper their ability to respond to and investigate malicious drone activity. I am very much hoping that these forthcoming reviews will reassure the noble Baroness and other noble Lords that the Government take our ability to legislate for the fast-moving world of the unmanned aircraft sector very seriously indeed, and we have work ongoing to make sure that our legislation is up to date.

The noble Baroness briefly mentioned the use of drones by the police. We have had a few conversations about this issue. It might be worth reassuring her that the police have to abide by the same laws as everybody else. Drones are incredibly helpful to police forces and can often be used in places where there is risk to life or where a helicopter might be too expensive or not as efficient. The police have to act within the same laws as everybody else and have operational procedures that overlay those laws in terms of the right way and right circumstances in which to use drones. Decisions for their use are put into place by each police force, which has clear guidance on how they are to be used.

Responsible use is of course really important—for example, on the collection and use of video footage, again, unsurprisingly, the police have to follow the same laws as everybody else. There is also a legal position on public bodies’ use of video footage that is well regulated by directed surveillance authorities. The police are responsible for ensuring that data is collected, processed and stored in accordance with the law. In terms of the safe operation of a drone, the police must do so in accordance with the Air Navigation Order 2016 and, where needed, if the operation is slightly riskier, they will have to apply to CAA for operational authorisation —as, indeed, does anyone else. If any individual has concerns about the use of drones by police, of course they can make a complaint to the police and crime commissioner or the mayor, where appropriate.

I turn to the amendment tabled by noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, which generated an interesting and lively discussion on permissions for commercial operators. Now that the implementing regulation is in place, there is no difference in the requirement to obtain a permission for a commercial or a recreational operator. I will call them “recreational operators” but there are all sorts of different operators. That is absolutely right, because I do not subscribe to the view that “commercial” is good and “recreational” is necessarily bad. Creating that false dichotomy is not really helpful.

It is down to risk, rather than who the person is with their hands on the control. So the implementing regulation draws no distinction between commercial and recreational flights and the ANO has already been amended to reflect that. Of course, the offences that noble Lords are discussing today relate to that ANO but do not amend the ANO itself. So the need to obtain a permission for a purely commercial operation has now been revoked—but, of course, that could be a good thing. Many commercial operators will now be very pleased, because they will not need to apply for a licence to fly a drone which a recreational operator standing right next to them could fly without a licence.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Randall, for his amendment, which, as he said, provides us with an opportunity to debate aircraft noise. I am sure that in her response, the Minister will set out the Government’s position on that. I certainly would not claim to know what all their objectives are on aircraft noise, but I do remember one, although it is unrelated to the specific issue covered in the amendment.

Following the 2017 public consultation on Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, the Government said that their objective was to

“limit or reduce the number of people significantly affected by aircraft noise at night, including through encouraging the use of quieter aircraft, while maintaining the existing benefits of night flights.”

As we are discussing aircraft noise, it might be interesting if the Minister could provide some information on the specific certifiable progress that has already been made towards achieving that stated government objective, and what specific further objectives and targets the Government have set themselves for the next three years so as to deliver on the objective to which I referred.

On the specific issue raised in this amendment, I am sure that a great many people who visit national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty have, at times, been conscious of aircraft flying low overhead. An interesting point was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, about all the other types of protection that already exist for national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. In that context, she asked why the goal and objective set out in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, might not also offer a further protection, in view of how aircraft noise can, at times, diminish the enjoyment that people expect when visiting national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. The amendment refers specifically to civil aircraft, but presumably there could be an issue with military aircraft in this context as well.

I support the basic objectives that the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, seeks with his amendment. I hope that, when the Minister responds, she will set out the Government’s thinking on aircraft noise, not least on the specific circumstances covered by this amendment and the goals, objectives and targets that the Government have set in this regard.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Randall for tabling this amendment. When we debated this in Committee, noise did not particularly come up. I hope that one of the benefits of airspace modernisation is noise reducing. I am unable to set out in full the Government’s position on noise at airports; if there are any detailed questions, I will write.

However, I want to address the points made and the issues relevant to the amendment put down by my noble friend Lord Randall. He is absolutely right, and he read out lots of responses from the Aviation Minister to questions on airspace change proposals, which are covered by the air navigation guidance. Indeed, the guidance states that

“where practicable, it is desirable that airspace routes below 7,000 feet should seek to avoid flying over Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and National Parks”.

There was a question about sanctions. Obviously, some airports have no option but to send flights over AONBs and national parks. For example, Gatwick is surrounded by them. We are lucky in our country, in that there are a significant number of these things and they are wonderful, but it is simply not possible for them not to be overflown. One might narrow it down to those operating below 7,000 feet, but nearly all commercial aircraft operating below 7,000 feet are taking off or landing. Again, with airspace change proposals, we expect to see the trajectory of both landing and taking off become steeper, which will again reduce noise and limit their impact.

The amendment is unlikely to have a significant impact on the volume of such flights because they are taking off and landing, but it would have a significant impact on general aviation, which would be unable to overfly vast swathes of the UK. Noble Lords will have heard today support for general aviation in government and parts of your Lordships’ House. There is lots to consider about this. It does not mean that the Government want AONBs and national parks to be overflown; we certainly do not. We expect everybody to behave sensibly when flying over such parks.

Railways: Electrification

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Tuesday 19th January 2021

(1 year ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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As I mentioned in response to a previous question, the industry is well aware that emissions consist of not just carbon but particulates as well, and these will impact passengers and staff at large stations, particularly the enclosed ones, as the noble Baroness notes. I do not have details of the exact monitoring that takes place—I am fairly sure that it does take place—but I will write to her with further details.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the Minister said, Network Rail’s traction decarbonisation network strategy states that the UK rail freight sector will be largely diesel-free by 2050, but do the Government think that is an ambitious enough target? Will they be having discussions with Network Rail and the rail freight sector on how this target date of 2050—some 30 years away—could be brought forward?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The Government are in frequent discussions with the rail freight sector. This is an important element of our decarbonisation strategy, as it takes goods away from the roads and transports them with a far lower level of emissions. The Government would actually like to remove all diesel-only trains by 2040, so I hope that makes the noble Lord happy. However, we must be cognisant that we do not want to shift freight from rail to road to achieve that target, because that would raise emissions. We are monitoring the situation, but our ambition is to remove all diesel-only trains by 2040.

P&O Ferries

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Tuesday 5th January 2021

(1 year ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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As I explained to the previous questioner, there are already several—indeed, 19—routes that freight can take across the North Sea, and those will continue. I therefore do not see that the concerns of the noble Baroness have any merit at all. The Government also have government-secured freight capacity; as she mentioned, these ferries are for category 1 goods and will be needed if there are any problems at the short straits.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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It is clear from the Minister’s answers that the Government did nothing to try to persuade P&O’s owners in Dubai not to pull the plug on the long-standing Hull-Zeebrugge service. Will the Government take into account P&O’s decision to withdraw this service, and thus not back Britain and its employees at this critical time, when deciding in future whether to award any taxpayer-funded contracts or other financial support to P&O?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The Government did not do nothing; they had conversations with P&O, which operates many ferry routes in the UK. It reached its decision based on the factors I have set out. However, when we were at the height of the pandemic for the first time round, the Government supported this route to see whether it could be viable in the long term, funding it to the tune of £1,272,000. Despite this funding, it has become clear that the medium-term viability of this route is simply not there.

Freight Industry: Delays

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Thursday 17th 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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It is the case that traffic across the short straits is very frequent. There is a large volume of it and when small incidents occur, back-ups can happen. Actually, at this moment we are facing not only post-Covid freight movements but pre-holiday stock building, end of transition period stock building and increased spending on consumer goods. So, while we recognise that these factors will play an important role as we head into January, I believe that, if hauliers and traders are ready, we can minimise any delays.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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What is the Government’s estimate of the costs to date to businesses in the UK economy of current delays and congestion at our ports such as Felixstowe, Southampton and London Gateway, which together represent 70% of container freight coming into the UK? What is their estimate of the cost of these delays to businesses and the British economy?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I am not aware that the Government have done an assessment of that, because, of course, this is not a UK domestic problem but a global issue that is happening at the moment. What would normally happen is that the peak shipping time would be in October; what has happened this time is that it has extended well beyond October and is basically unprecedented. However, as I said to other noble Lords, we are working very closely with hauliers to improve container collection and working very closely with ports to make sure that there is sufficient capacity. A number of large container ships are changing their port of destination at quite short notice, so therefore there is a huge amount to be done. It is being done by private companies—it is a private sector—but the Government absolutely stand by, ready to help.

Heathrow Airport Expansion

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Thursday 17th December 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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Any airport expansion must meet stringent tests on air quality, noise pollution and delivering countrywide economic benefits, and must not hamper the UK’s ability to meet our climate change obligations. However, even at present, the way in which passengers reach Heathrow and other airports is often not the most sustainable. According to the Department for Transport’s most recent statistics, just published, 57% of passengers at Heathrow arrived by car or taxi. What steps are the Government taking to support better public transport provision for those travelling to and from Heathrow, to bring down that figure? What is the Government’s current target for a reduction in that figure for those arriving by car or taxi at the airport? What is their target for reducing that figure if capacity at Heathrow is increased through the construction of a third runway?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I recall that, back when I was Aviation Minister for about five minutes, traffic management around Heathrow, both now and in the future, was a very important consideration. As the noble Lord knows, investment is being made in public transport in London that will benefit Heathrow, including Crossrail. I believe that Heathrow is considering an access charge for certain vehicles. When I last looked at this, the plans in place seemed feasible and would lead to a reduction in the number of people using cars.

National Bus Strategy

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
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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My Lords, the Government take this issue incredibly seriously. The Government advise people to use public transport if it is safe to do so, which includes being able to wear face coverings, use hand sanitiser and maintain two-metre social distancing.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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Bus services are particularly important for people in rural areas who do not have access to other forms of public transport but, in cities, overreliance on buses and underinvestment in other areas can create traffic congestion. In some UK cities, there are currently no alternatives. Leeds, for example, is now the largest city in Europe without a rail-based public transport system, such as trams or a metro. Can the Minister confirm whether the Government have any plans for new, rail-based public transport systems in cities such as Leeds?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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As the noble Lord will be aware, Leeds and many other cities of its size and nature do have access to a significant amount of funding, first through the transforming cities fund and, secondly, through the £4.2 billion of intra-city funding which will be making its way to the metro combined authorities shortly. It will be for them to consider how to invest that money, but I agree with the noble Lord that it would be good to see Leeds have a greater variety of local transport.

High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill

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

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I do not intend to detain the House for long. I congratulate my noble friend Lady Young of Old Scone on achieving a positive result for her amendment on an issue that she has pursued with great tenacity and persuasiveness, not least during the passage of this Bill. I hope that the Government will also feel able to provide the assurances that my noble friend is seeking. It is very helpful that the Government are accepting the amendment in the name of my noble friend, with its requirement for the nominated undertaker to prepare and publish annual reports about the impact of the construction of each phase of High Speed 2 on ancient woodland. Hopefully, this will raise the profile of the actual adverse impact on ancient woodlands of the construction of HS2 and, by doing so, help achieve a better result as far as the protection of, or damage limitation to, such woodlands is concerned than would otherwise be the case.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, there are two amendments in this group, the first in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, to which I cannot agree, and the second in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, which, if she chooses to move it, I will be pleased to be able to support. Turning to the first amendment, this might at first glance appear to be very similar to the second amendment—indeed, some noble Lords have referred to it as being “soft” or “gentle”. I would like to reassure noble Lords that Amendment 13 is not in any way less good. From my perspective, I would like to highlight the important differences, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. In putting my perspective on them, I hope that noble Lords will agree—and I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, in particular will agree—that their fears are unfounded, and that Amendment 13 is certainly a very good amendment indeed.

First, Amendment 10 calls for the frequency of reporting to be every six months, whereas Amendment 13 proposes that it be annually. I will explain a bit later why that is appropriate. Secondly, the amendment restricts the reporting required to only those works authorised in this Bill—phase 2a—where we believe, and I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, believes as well, that all HS2 phases could be and should be included in this report.

Thirdly, in the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, the report required is narrowed by the definitions of direct and indirect impacts. Again, I will go on to explain how that will be covered in the report that we propose, because we believe that we can go broader than that. Finally, there is a difference with regard to the requirement for a mini-consultation associated with each report.

I do not believe that these differences augment the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb; rather, they restrict it and place limitations on the value that more reporting on the impacts on ancient woodland could bring. On this basis, and given the knowledge that I am able to support Amendment 13, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, will withdraw her amendment.

Turning to Amendment 13, one of the aims of the HS2 project is always to try to reduce its impact on ancient woodland. As has been said before, some impact is inevitable. The environmental statement gives an assessment of the reasonable worst-case scenario. Although impacts on ancient woodland cannot be fully compensated, losses will be addressed through a range of measures, as I have outlined previously.

Through extensive engagement on phase 2a, HS2 Ltd has already found ways to protect some veteran trees which were previously expected to be lost. Furthermore, through the redesign of embankments in the Whitmore Wood area, HS2 Ltd has been able to commit to some reduction in impact on the ancient woodland there. Wherever possible, the Government will continue to push HS2 Ltd to go further on this matter.

I am so grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, for her engagement on this matter; she brings vast knowledge and experience. I recognise that her amendment may not go quite as far as she would ideally have liked, but I hope she will agree that the outcome is a significant step forward. Her amendment places a requirement on HS2 Ltd to publish reports annually on the impacts on ancient woodland across the whole of HS2, not only phase 2a. This has the benefit of committing to reporting on phase 1 of the project as well as phase 2a, and, of course, on future phases. The annual nature of reporting fits well within the life cycle of trees, as the works undertaken follow the seasonal pattern of trees, as required by other legislation. But just because the reporting is annual, it does not mean that the monitoring is annual, or that lessons learned are put in place on an annual cycle—it can be more frequent than that.

Furthermore, by not defining the term “impacts”, HS2 Ltd will report on a wide range of issues relating to ancient woodlands, including those that could potentially be caused by non-compliance with the code of construction practice. The reporting will include measures undertaken relating to breaches of assurances for ancient woodland and lessons learned, should they occur—and, of course, we all hope that they do not.

The phase 2a draft code of construction practice sets out the management measures that HS2 Ltd will be required to follow during construction of the scheme. This includes measures designed to control and prevent the impacts on which noble Lords have raised specific concerns, including the protection of habitats such as ancient woodland, and the control of dust, water quality, noise, vibration and lighting. I believe that these are the sorts of indirect impacts sought by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb.

But, of course, there is more. There are also specific measures designed to minimise adverse ecological effects, including: developing a programme of ecological surveys to be undertaken prior to and during construction, including on bats; the relocation and translocation of species, soil and plants; the reinstatement of any areas of temporary habitat loss; restoration and replacement planting, for example of trees, hedgerows, shrubs and grassland; and using by-products of construction to enhance mitigation provisions, for example using felled trees to provide dead-wood habitats. There is also a requirement to consult with Natural England, the Environment Agency, local wildlife trusts and with relevant planning authorities prior to and during construction.

By committing HS2 Ltd to report on non-compliance with the measures set out in the code of construction practice, we are ensuring that all these impacts are captured and are not limited to the narrower definition of impacts in the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. Further, the reporting will include the variance between what ancient woodland the environmental statement has assessed will be lost or impacted by HS2 and what actually occurs. The environmental statement is a reasonable worst-case scenario; in effect, it is an educated estimate of the impact. I hope very much that reporting on the actual outcome in comparison to the baseline in the environmental statement will have a positive impact on helping future programmes and projects improve their assessments for their own environmental statements and reporting.

I will go further. I am pleased to commit HS2 Ltd to reporting on the volume of metres cubed of ancient woodland soils that have been translocated, and to reporting on the number of hectares of ancient woodland compensation and restoration that have been included in the detailed design of the scheme. I am also pleased to commit the company to reporting on the number of hectares of ancient woodland creation and restoration delivered through all HS2 funds that deliver woodland creation. The intention is to publish the ancient woodland impact reports in the annual environmental report. Ancient woodland mitigation and impacts are discussed in the ecology review group.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, tried her luck in seeing whether we could go further on wetlands and meadows. Of course we recognise the importance of those environments so, if she is in agreement, I will write to her on the steps being taken to make sure that those impacts are also minimised.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, for Amendment 13, and for taking me on a journey. I am not quite at the same point as she is on it, but I am not quite where I used to be. I hope that she will move her amendment when the time comes, and it will give me great pleasure to support it.

Belfast International Airport

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Wednesday 2nd 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, conversations around a deal or otherwise are ongoing, but trade with Northern Ireland will of course continue according to the “unfettered access” under the Northern Ireland protocol. It is worth noting that Belfast International Airport is a significant freight airport, and while it suffered a 79% reduction in passengers in October, it has seen an 8% increase in freight, so that is good news.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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During the pandemic, smaller airports such as Belfast International Airport have suffered most, as airlines have consolidated their operations to the larger hubs. Am I to take it from the Government’s responses to this Question so far that they actually think they have done enough to ensure that no further smaller airports in the United Kingdom will face the financial pressures that Belfast International Airport has?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I apologise if I have given the noble Lord that impression; that was not my intention at all. The Government are well aware that both large and small airports are experiencing significant difficulties at the moment, which is why the expert steering group has been established. It is working on a strategic framework for the medium and long-term recovery of the aviation sector in the form of a recovery plan. This group does engage with the DAs.

High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill

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

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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I do not intend to repeat all the points made so persuasively by my noble friend Lord Adonis and other noble Lords in support of his amendment. The Conservative Party manifesto for the 2019 election said that:

“HS2 is a great ambition”,


but, as we all know, great ambitions are not always realised in full. The manifesto went on to say that HS2,

“will now cost at least £81 billion and will not reach Leeds or Manchester until as late as 2040.”

Continuing, the manifesto said that:

“We will consider the findings of the Oakervee review into costs and timings and work with leaders of the Midlands and the North to decide the optimal outcome”.


In other words, there was no unambiguous commitment in the 2019 manifesto to complete HS2 via the East Midlands to Leeds, since the “optimal outcome” was dependent on government consideration of the findings of the Oakervee review into costs and timings.

In Committee, my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe invited the Government to commit to building HS2 phase 2b to Leeds in full. In reply, the Government said that:

“Plans to provide the benefits of high-speed rail to the east Midlands, Yorkshire and beyond will be confirmed following the publication of the integrated rail plan”,


and,

“that a properly connected line from the Midlands up to the North will be a key part of the HS2 project.”—[Official Report, 9/11/20; col. GC 351.]

As we know, that reply was not a commitment to build HS2 phase 2b via the East Midlands to Leeds in full.

It would thus be helpful if the Government could clarify in their response what the phrases,

“plans to provide the benefits of high-speed rail to the east Midlands, Yorkshire and beyond”,

and,

“a properly connected line from the Midlands up to the North will be a key part of the HS2 project”,

actually mean. Do they mean that the Government are committed to building HS2 phase 2b via the East Midlands to Leeds in full, or do they mean not that the high-speed line will be built the whole way from Birmingham via the East Midlands to Leeds but that HS2 services could, for all or part of that journey, run over existing routes calling at existing stations?

The indications are that the Government are either looking to abandon or scale back the eastern leg of HS2 through to Leeds or, at best, seriously delay its construction and completion. The lack of a clear commitment to the HS2 project in full calls into question the Government’s declared commitment to levelling up, since the eastern leg is just as vital as the delivery of the western leg. Levelling up cannot just mean levelling up the north-west and the West Midlands. It is just as vital to communities in the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber and the north-east. Indeed, only proceeding with the western leg would leave the cities and areas that would have been served by the eastern leg at a disadvantage.

The Government now have the opportunity to put to rest any concerns over their commitment to the eastern leg by saying, in their response today, that they are committed to the construction and bringing into operation of HS2 phase 2b to Leeds via the East Midlands in full, and giving the date by which they intend it will be completed. The Government can also accept the terms of this amendment. We will now have to see if they intend to take that opportunity. It will be for my noble friend Lord Adonis to decide whether he is satisfied with the Government’s response but, if he does decide to call for a vote, we will be supporting him.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, I did a tally the other day; there are currently nine former Transport Secretaries in your Lordships’ House and I appreciate the wisdom of each and every one of them, including the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. I thank him for his amendment and hope that I will be able to satisfy him today. I will go as far as I possibly can. I hope that he will listen carefully to my words and take as much comfort from them as he is able. All noble Lords will recognise his enthusiasm for and commitment to HS2. I have read the amendment extremely carefully, but suggest that there is no need for it, as I hope to explain. The Prime Minister has been very clear that the Government’s plans for the HS2 eastern leg will be set out in the integrated rail plan and that this will be laid before Parliament within the timeframe referred to in the amendment. I make that commitment to the House today.

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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.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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I thank the Minister for her response and indeed for her kind words. I also thank all other noble Lords who have participated in this debate.

My amendment calls for further consultation, seeking the views of residents and stakeholders

“who may be impacted by the scheduled works”,

including on whether there are

“sufficient transport provisions for the purposes of passengers connecting to”

HS2 so that they can benefit from it, with a report on that consultation to Parliament. Clearly, from that, the references are not to additional stations on HS2 itself but to whether there is a case for any additional stations, reopening of lines or improvements to stations associated with improving connectivity to and from phase 2 of HS2 for the people of the three counties mentioned in the amendment—namely, Cheshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire.

As one can see from the wording of the amendment, it is not about having another consultation on what the route should be or anything like that; it is about the impact of the works and about looking at transport links to and from HS2—that is, all transport links, not just rail links. The amendment specifically refers to “transport provisions” to enable better access for the residents of the three counties.

The amendment would not tie the Government’s hands to any specific course of future action or policy; nor would it delay progress on phase 2a of HS2, as it does not stipulate that there should be no further progress until the consultation has been completed and the report put before Parliament. The issue is that there is a need to make sure that local residents affected feel that their voice is being heard by HS2 and that their views are being listened to. They should not, as I said, feel that consultation is something of a tick-box exercise in which they are told what is going to happen rather than being engaged on a continuous, regular basis. They should feel involved in decisions affecting them and be aware of what is happening and when.

The Government appear satisfied with the consultation that has taken place with local residents on phase 2a of HS2. I have to say that that is not the message that I get. I do not think that the Government should be satisfied with what has taken place to date, albeit it may have been extensive. It comes back to the question of whether people feel that they are being told what is going to happen, as opposed to them having an impact on decisions affecting their lives.

I hope that he will not mind my doing so—if he does, I apologise in advance—but I refer to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, who said the following in Committee on 9 November. In relation to phase 1, in which the noble Lord was much involved, presumably at that time the Government were saying much the same thing as we have heard today about the extent and thoroughness of the consultation that there had been. The noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, said:

“HS2 does not listen to the concerns of NGOs, Members of Parliament or ordinary members of the public. As an example, when I ceased to be the Member of Parliament for Uxbridge, I was succeeded by no less than the current Prime Minister, but he has just as much trouble getting answers out of HS2 as I did.”—[Official Report, 9/11/20; col. GC 376.]


Clearly, if the Prime Minister cannot get answers out of HS2, what chance do the residents of Shropshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire stand without the help of this amendment and the helpful role that it will enable the new Minister for HS2 to play in ensuring that there is proper and continuing engagement by HS2 and progress on ensuring improved transport links in the three counties to and from HS2 phase 2a? I have listened carefully to what has been said, but I wish to test the opinion of the House.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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I think we have reached the stage at which noble Lords would like to hear the Government’s response to an interesting debate. A significant number of noble Lords has spoken on the basis of considerable experience and knowledge in this field. We have agreed an amendment today providing for consultation and a report to Parliament on the impact of HS2 phase 2a on the natural environment, including the impact on ancient woodland, which could enable local residents to be engaged in decisions affecting their environment.

As a general point, we could not support an amendment if the effect of it was—and I do not know whether this will be the case in this instance—to delay progress of HS2 phase 2a. I note the requirement in the amendment that scheduled works must not destroy any ancient woodland, either directly or indirectly, and I am not entirely clear what the impact of that would be on the progress of HS2 phase 2a.

I also note that my noble friend Lady Young has indicated she will not seek to push her amendment in this group to a vote. Like other noble Lords, I will listen with considerable interest to the Government’s response and the extent to which they can offer assurances acceptable to the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, and my noble friend Lady Young of Old Scone.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for what turned out to be a very interesting debate. I was interested in the observations of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, when she noted the complexity of these arguments put before noble Lords today. Many people do not agree on this, yet when one looks at it at face value, it is easy sometimes to reach an automatic conclusion that it must be a bad thing to cut down a tree, but people start talking about where the replacement tree would come from, and it is complex. I would like to reassure your Lordships’ House that HS2 takes its environmental obligations very seriously and follows the advice of the experts, recognising also that that advice may change as more scientific work is done in this area.

Phase 2a has been designed to avoid or reduce adverse significant effects on habitat, protected species and other features of ecological value, where reasonably practicable. However, it is not possible to build a major public transport infrastructure project without creating some adverse significant effects on the environment on or near the proposed route.

One of those effects is on biodiversity, the subject of my noble friend Lord Blencathra’s first amendment. Where adverse significant effects cannot be avoided, mitigation and compensation measures are included to reduce effects on species and habitats. These include the translocation of species, the provision of replacement habitats, and special measures, such as ecological underpasses and green bridges, to facilitate the movement of species across the route. My noble friend Lord Randall mentioned that rail corridors are often good wildlife corridors.

I am proud to say that HS2 was the first major transport project in this country to seek no net loss in biodiversity on a route-wide basis. The phase 2a Bill has been in Parliament since 2017 and, in that time, there has been a step change in our national ambitions to protect and enhance our natural environment. This has not passed HS2 by. During the consideration of the Bill by the Select Committee in this House, HS2 demonstrated greater ambition on the environment. A commitment has been made to enhance the phase 2a scheme’s no net loss objective, by identifying and implementing appropriate opportunities to move towards gains in biodiversity. HS2 Ltd’s green corridor initiative will create a network of habitats along the phase 2a corridor. The Government have also committed £2 million of funding for biodiversity improvements, £5 million for the community and environment and the business and local economy funds, the phase 2a woodland fund and two area-specific funds. These funds total £11 million and they will improve biodiversity.

The legislative commitment sought by my noble friend Lord Blencathra simply goes beyond what can and should be committed to at this stage of the Bill. Casting in iron a commitment to 10% net gain, when land take on the scheme has already been fixed, would be disproportionately expensive, would entail extensive redesigns of the scheme and may lead to significant delays. In all likelihood, further land purchases would be required, going beyond the existing boundaries of the phase 2a scheme and requiring the return of the Bill to the House of Commons.

I know that some noble Lords believe that land purchases may not be required and, as I said earlier, sometimes people disagree on this, but we believe that it would probably be one of the approaches we would have to ensure to reach this legislative goal. However, there are no assurances that we would be able to do this quickly, and the Government would have no alternative other than to get additional compulsory purchase powers to deliver this requirement—if it became a requirement.

I believe that the steps that HS2 has taken, the assurances that have been given and the funds that have been provided to improve biodiversity are the correct approach for the phase 2a scheme. I reiterate that the phase 2a scheme and HS2 as a whole are already committed to no net loss of biodiversity. I hope that, on this basis, my noble friend is able to withdraw his amendment.

The noble Lord’s second amendment is on ancient woodland. We will be returning to this topic further down the track, with some amendments on reporting. I am afraid—and I believe my noble friend knows this—that I simply cannot support his amendment. When designing a complex transport infrastructure scheme, such as HS2, it is necessary to balance competing priorities. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, made this point. Ancient woodland sites are fragmented and scattered across our countryside. They can be difficult to avoid without incurring substantial adverse effects to other environmental sites or local communities.

The phase 2a scheme has been designed to avoid or reduce impacts on homes, businesses and heritage sites, to reduce losses of our most valuable agricultural land and to prevent impacts to other protected sites. The scheme must also be mindful of wider issues, such as safety and affordability. Noble Lords understand that it is extremely challenging—it may be impossible—to design a scheme of this scale that avoids impacts to ancient woodland entirely, but this does not mean that we do not take this seriously. Where impacts to ancient woodland sites are unavoidable, HS2 Ltd has sought to reduce them by changing the scheme design to reduce the amount of woodland taken.

Although impacts on ancient woodland cannot fully be compensated, its loss can be addressed and somewhat mitigated through a broad range of measures, including planting native broad-leaved woodland to enhance linkages between current ancient woodlands and salvaging ancient woodland soil to be used in new sites.

I return briefly to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Snape, who asked me to define ancient woodland. It is quite a tricky beast. Ancient woodland is defined as an area that has been wooded since 1600, but a lot of other things go into that. It could of course be the case that an ancient woodland, as currently defined, consists almost entirely of new trees. They are not necessarily old trees; it has just been woods for a long time.

This returns us to the soil translocation measures. Again, there is some disagreement as to whether it will work, but you know what, my Lords? It is worth giving it a try because, if an ancient woodland can be new trees and it is all about the fungus and the soil—I am feeling like David Bellamy—perhaps it is worth looking at the soil translocation measures. HS2 Ltd has committed to translocating soil but then spending 50 years managing and monitoring in all locations where the translocation of soils has happened. In this way, we will actually know: we will be able to determine the effectiveness of these measures and learn lessons for future infrastructure projects.

The design within the phase 2a Bill is at a relatively early stage of maturity. The area of ancient woodland loss is currently reported in various documents and is set out as the reasonable worst-case assessment. We believe that there may well be improvements as detailed designs come to pass. As I mentioned in other places, more steep cuttings and so on can help to retain ancient woodland. All sorts of things that can be done will be looked at by HS2.

This amendment would result in lengthy delays and costs to the entire phase 2a scheme as, clearly, it would have to go back to square one. There would be a significant redesign. I reassure my noble friend that I will be accepting an amendment later on relating to reporting on ancient woodland, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone. I hope that he will take comfort from that, and I request that he does not press his amendment.

I have an answer to the question asked by my noble friend Lord Framlingham. HS2 trains will run at 360 kilometres an hour. The track is designed to a slightly higher speed of 400 kilometres an hour, but of course that is pretty much within the same ballpark.

I turn, finally, to biosecurity. I will address the amendments in the names of my noble friend Lord Blencathra and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, together. The amendments seek a commitment that all seeds, trees and shrubs planted on the project be sourced within the United Kingdom, due to concerns about biosecurity. That all seems fairly straightforward; various other noble Lords were then able in their contributions to provide some insight as to why it is not as straightforward as that. Biosecurity is an issue that we should, and do, take very seriously. We know the tremendous harm that can be wrought—we have heard about it today—however, it is not the only relevant concern. As some noble Lords have noted, we have to think about climate change and of other challenges that our woodlands may face. This balancing act was given detailed consideration by the House of Lords Select Committee, and I thank it for that.

Assurances have already been given that the nominated undertaker will grow all trees for the phase 2a scheme in the United Kingdom. It is not the case that HS2 Ltd will procure mature plants from abroad—only seeds. At least two-thirds of the required seed stock for phase 2a planting will come from Great Britain, with the remaining third being procured from an appropriate region of provenance within Great Britain and from non-British sources.

DfT officials agreed to consult with the Forestry Commission and Natural England, of which my noble friend Lord Blencathra is deputy chair, because these are the sorts of experts that we need guidance from. We are consulting with them to ensure that this seed stock is from an appropriate region of provenance and to secure stock from within Great Britain as far as is reasonably possible.

Railways: Fare Structures

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Tuesday 17th November 2020

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I refer the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, to my previous response to my noble friend Lord Moylan. However, the Government are very clear that we want punctual and reliable train services, and at a price that is fair to the taxpayer and to the passenger.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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In August, the Government provided the money to enable people to have cut-price meals, to help restaurants and similar establishments recover from the loss of business as a result of Covid-19 by getting people to eat out again. Do the Government have any similar plans for enabling people to travel at half price, or a significant discount, on our railways for a period of time, as a means of encouraging people to travel by train again after the end of the current lockdown?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The noble Lord must be reading our minds. Of course, there will be man things that we might want to consider doing once the course of the pandemic is clear and we have come out the other side, and once there are no restrictions on people’s travel. It may be that we introduce certain incentives, because we all know that the best way to travel is on public transport.

High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
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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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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My noble friend Lord Berkeley has spoken about the purpose of his amendment, calling for an independent peer review of the section of the HS2 project covered by the Bill; namely, the connection to phase 1 at Fradley in the West Midlands and to the west coast main line just outside Crewe in Cheshire.

The most recent review—and it is recent—was the Oakervee review, which started off with my noble friend Lord Berkeley playing a prominent role, which then appeared to be downgraded as time went on, until at the end he seemed to be treated as a somewhat peripheral figure. Presumably this was not unrelated to my noble friend’s views about the review and its conclusions.

My Amendment 8 requires the Secretary of State to publish a cost-benefit analysis of HS2 within three months of the Bill becoming an Act, and then to

“publish a revised assessment in each subsequent twelve month period.”

I imagine that the Minister will oppose that but, if so, I hope she will be able to tell me that that is because this will be covered in the new six-monthly reports to Parliament. Obviously, I await her response.

However, I want to raise some points about costs. Are the committed costs for phase 1 now some £10 billion, with that figure being about a quarter of the Government’s estimated total cost of phase 1? If that is an accurate or reasonably accurate figure, would the Government expect committed costs to have already reached some 25% of the total cost of the phase before the permanent works have really got under way? What is the Government’s estimated cost of phase 2a and how much has already been spent and committed? What is now the expected completion date of phase 2a? Are the Government confident that their latest cost-benefit ratio figure for HS2 could never worsen as the project continues—and, one fears, costs rise—to the point where there would be a serious question about the case for HS2? An assurance on that point would be helpful. Is it the Government’s unequivocal position that once the Bill becomes an Act, phase 2a will proceed—no ifs, no buts?

Our position is, and has always been, one of support for HS2. It was no wonder that my noble friend Lord Adonis sought unambiguous assurances on Monday, which he did not appear to get, of the Government’s continuing commitment to complete the eastern leg of HS2 in full, to plan, from Birmingham through the east Midlands to Leeds. It was a Labour Government who got this project off the ground, thanks in particular to the drive and determination shown by my noble friend. However, there needs to be a proper grip on costs once specific figures for expected costs have been announced, which also means that considerable hard evidence-backed thought needs to be given to what, realistically, those expected costs are likely to be, and the same should apply as far as the benefits are concerned.

I suspect that the Government recognise that. In a letter to me of 16 October the Minister said:

“The Government have strengthened the arrangements for governance and accountability for the HS2 project. There is now a dedicated Minister, a cross-government ministerial group and a six-monthly report to Parliament.”


Is the appointment of a dedicated Minister an admission that there has been insufficient ministerial involvement and oversight of the HS2 project and its costs by the Department for Transport for a significant part of the past 10 years? That is what it sounds like. If so, why did Ministers allow that to happen and to drag on for so long? Does the creation of a cross-governmental ministerial group mean an acceptance that there will have been no proper co-ordinated cross-government policy-making at ministerial level and oversight on HS2, including its costs, for a significant part of the past 10 years? Once again, that is what it sounds like. Again, I ask: if so, why did Ministers allow that to happen and to drag on for so long?

I would like to know why the Government think that these new arrangements will strengthen governance and accountability. In what way is governance being strengthened? What particular deficiency in the previous governance arrangements will be plugged by these new arrangements? What positive impact on the HS2 project do the Government expect to result from these new arrangements? In what way do the Government believe that accountability will be strengthened by these new arrangements? Who and what will become more accountable and to whom? What benefits do the Government expect to arise from this strengthening of accountability for the HS2 project? What will be the impact of the strengthened arrangements for governance and accountability on the costs of HS2? If it is expected to be positive—and I assume it is—why will these new arrangements involving Ministers enable costs to be better controlled than they have been under the existing arrangements?

The first of the six-monthly reports to Parliament has reported a further £800 million increase in costs over six months. Are the Government satisfied that the reasons given in the report for the increase in costs could not have been identified much earlier with more extensive preparatory work? If the Government’s answer is that they are satisfied that that is the case, that seems close to an admission that they really do not know what the final cost of HS2 will be since, presumably, further major unexpected developments or problems could continue to arise all the time. If that is the case, we can only hope that such developments and other potential issues affecting costs do not end up exceeding the contingency provision that has been made because, as we have seen and know, opponents of this project are reinvigorated every time there is an announcement of a further non-budgeted increase in costs. That is why controlling costs is important.

I hope that the Government will be able to give some clear answers to the questions I have asked and will explain why and what they believe the new arrangements referred to in the letter of 16 October will deliver in respect of strengthened governance and accountability and much better control over costs of a project we continue to support.

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, when I saw the first group for this second day in Committee I thought, “This is going to be Second Reading territory” and, lo and behold, it was the case. I thank all noble Lords for their contributions, which went slightly wide of the amendments in the group, which are essentially about reporting, not about whether or not HS2 should go ahead, although we had a little run around that track as well. I note that the last group on the Marshalled List today is about party walls, and I find that a very exciting prospect and very much hope that we will get there.

As I outlined in my previous responses about the Government’s recent changes to transparency and accountability, we are putting these at the heart of everything we are doing on HS2 because we believe that enhanced reporting measures and ministerial oversight will help. That is not to say that there was a significant deficiency previously, as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, but that with all these things good governance is very hard to achieve and incremental improvements to governance structures should be made when they are deemed appropriate.

On Amendment 6, about another report, I think I share the feeling of some noble Lords who have spoken: “Not another one.” There have been several reports on HS2. I believe it is now time to get on and get it built without having another report. Most recently we had the report from Doug Oakervee and his panel and the recommendations therein. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, mentioned some of the people involved in that report, and I think we all agree that they are people of very high calibre. Indeed, they include the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. He was on that panel and, as was and is his right, he published his own dissenting report, which of course the Government read and took note of. Is it time now to have yet another report on HS2? I believe that is not the right thing for us to do. We should be looking at the conclusions of the last report, which was written only recently, and putting them into practice. That is why we have Andrew Stephenson as the Minister for HS2 and why we have put in enhanced reporting requirements to Parliament.

The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, mentioned the HS2 board. It is already a strong board, but it has recently been enhanced by representatives from the Treasury and the Department for Transport. That is to make sure that HS2 remains absolutely focused on our priorities and the interests of the British taxpayer. We also have the integrated rail plan, of which the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is such a fan. That plan is in development and will make recommendations on how best to deliver high-speed rail in the north.

Therefore, the Government do not agree that we need a further report or review—call it what you will— into HS2 at this time. There will be a significant amount of scrutiny to come in any event, given the existing arrangements.

On the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, as I have explained, a new reporting regime has just been put in place that commits the Government to report every six months. The first one was published last month and updated the House on costs and schedule.

I will sidetrack slightly, if I may, on the issue of costs and schedule because I am doing a lot of work around this as there are quite a lot of major projects in my portfolio. In this country, we have a slight issue that we expect to know exactly what the cost and schedule will be on day one. That is not even day one of the build. We seem to want to know what they are going to be on day one when someone has only just thought of the project. That is absolutely impossible with these sorts of large engineering projects.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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I will be brief. As the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, said, this amendment is about the attitude and approach of HS2. I tried to make a note of some of the things that he referred to. I think he referred to a highly impersonal manner and to the level of control to ensure uniformity of approach when not all cases are similar. I think he referred to the shifting of the burden of proof, to the delaying of payments and to the challenging of decisions line by line. I think he also referred to how it seemed that the Treasury put pressure on the DfT, which put pressure on HS2 regarding finances, and to how eventually all that financial pressure being applied was reflected down the line in the approach to claimants.

I will listen with interest to what the Minister says in reply and, in particular, to whether she accepts that there is validity in what is being said. The noble Earl clearly believes that there is, and I imagine that he is far from the only one who thinks that that is the approach of HS2. I know the Minister will take what has been said seriously. However, I hope very much that she will be able to offer some words that will at least indicate that she will look at the issue and seek to address the concerns raised.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, before I turn to this amendment I need to apologise. There was an error in my speaking note on Monday which I need to rectify. The error was in the statement that I made in relation to Amendment 13, dealing with advance payments of compensation for temporary possession of land. I stated that the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 provides for advance payment of compensation in relation to the temporary possession of land and that the amendment was therefore redundant. While it is correct that Section 24 of the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 will provide for advance payment of compensation in relation to temporary possession, these provisions will not apply to temporary possession of land under the powers of this Bill. This Bill, like previous hybrid Bills and previous orders under the Transport and Works Act 1992, has a bespoke regime for temporary possession of land which does not provide for advance payments. In my detailed response to the noble Earl, which I have already promised to provide, I will give further details as to the practice of HS2 in respect of the timing of payments of compensation for the temporary possession of land. I will circulate this to all noble Lords who spoke in Committee and place a copy in the Library of the House. I reiterate my sincere apologies that that happened. It will not happen again.

I turn to the amendment. We have heard the underlying concerns which may have led to this amendment and I will set out what the Government are doing about them. Land is needed for the HS2 scheme to build the railway. Some of this land is purchased by agreement but most of the land is acquired through compulsory purchase. This is an unavoidable fact of building most new transport infrastructure and I recognise that, to those affected, it can be devastating. Most individuals affected will accept what the coming of this scheme means for them, come to terms with it and find a way to come to an agreement with HS2 as to when their land will be acquired and what compensation they will receive under the compensation code. For some, they will be happy with the arrangements and agree that their treatment by HS2 has been fair and proper.

However, a few landowners will feel that they have been unfairly treated. They may feel that there is inadequate compensation or that HS2 has not taken due note of their specific individual circumstances. The Government have taken note of those individuals and have been reviewing how they can improve the way in which the project is delivered for all those affected. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, asked if we would have a good look at the business practices in this area, and we have already committed to do so.

My colleague Andrew Stephenson has instigated a rigorous land and property review to assess the wider concerns that the amendment seeks to ameliorate. The letter provided by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, will form part of the evidence for that review, and I am pleased to be able to say that this review will be published very shortly. Of course, Sir Mark Worthington OBE, the Independent Construction Commissioner, deals directly with the complains of individuals affected by the project.

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Baroness Henig Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Henig) (Lab)
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There are no questions to the Minister, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Rosser.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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I first thank the Minister for her reply and all noble Lords who participated in the debate. I just comment that I made it clear when I made my contribution that it was at the junction of the A51 and the A525 in the centre of the village. I also said that what would be entailed was widening of those roads and other works at certain points and that that junction was right at the centre of the village.

I have perhaps made some progress. It was after all the Select Committee that said that there needed to be further discussion as soon as possible—because safety issues were involved—between HS2, Shropshire Council and the parish council. I was not asking the Minister—nor do I think she took it this way—to immediately intervene. I asked that, now we have a dedicated Minister for HS2 and a cross-government ministerial group, what would be their involvement in ensuring that HS2 engages properly.

This is not the first occasion that we have had local communities saying to us that in their view—rightly or wrongly—they do not feel that HS2 engages as well as it should. I also asked whether, if the discussion with the parish council was either delayed or not being entered into in the spirit and intent that the Select Committee envisaged, it could take its concern to the direct dedicated Minister for HS2. I think that, in her closing comments, the Minister referred to the role of the Minister for HS2 in making sure that there was community engagement. I appreciate that that was on a general basis—she was not talking specifically about this case—but I hope that this is one where, if the parish council still believes that the discussion is not being entered into with the right spirit and with the necessary intent, it would not be dismissed by the dedicated Minister for HS2 if it made an approach to him with its concerns. It is then obviously up to the Minister what he would or would not do in the light of that approach.

Having made those comments, I again thank the Minister for her reply and beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I just want to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, because I did not hear him mention the road names and now I feel very silly that I did not. I also want to say that in my role as Roads Minister, for example, if a local community feels that Highways England is not engaging with them, they bang on the door of their local MP, the local MP comes to see me immediately and tells me off, I go to tell off Highways England and something gets done. The HS2 Minister will play precisely the same role that I play in making sure that local communities are dealt with properly by whichever delivery body is working with them. We can obviously discuss this with Minister Stephenson shortly, but if I did not explain that particularly well, that is exactly the role I expect him to play.

Rural Bus Services

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Wednesday 11th November 2020

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My noble friend is right: an empty double-decker bus careening through narrow country lanes simply will not do. One of the solutions that may be appropriate for rural areas is demand-responsive transport. That is why in September 2019 we launched the £20 million Rural Mobility Fund. We asked for expressions of interest and have had 53. I take great heart from that and at the moment we are reviewing those. We probably do not want to launch them now, in the middle of the pandemic, but we hope that will go on to prove what kind of demand-responsive transport works and what does not, and then we will be able to roll it out more broadly.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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Half of households on low incomes and two-thirds of jobseekers do not have access to a car. Bus services are also crucial to rural economies and small local businesses. However, a study by Warwick University in 2019 found that over a decade the price of travelling by bus has risen by 39%, way above the level of inflation. Does the Minister accept that this has contributed to the decline in bus passengers and that it has been and is damaging, both socially and economically?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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What the Minister accepts is that we must always strive to improve our bus services. In February 2020 the Prime Minister talked about his view for the bus network, with more high-frequency services and better bus prioritisation. With those two things, one automatically gets lower fares. If we can put all those services on cleaner, greener buses, that will be all to the good.

Covid-19: Transport for London

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Thursday 29th October 2020

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The congestion charge is a matter for the mayor. He will make decisions in that regard.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the Major of London had reduced the TfL operating deficit by 70% and increased its cash balance by 13%, while maintaining fares income over the past four years—a much healthier situation than that left by his predecessor. It is also worth bearing in mind, in the light of what has been said, that London’s net contribution to the Treasury last year was £38.8 billion.

I return to the question raised by noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, which did not get much of an answer. Why are the Government playing awkward over funding for publicly owned TfL? They are providing all the money private train operators in London require through 18-month funding deals with a surplus element built in and few questions asked. Meanwhile, they are seeking to force the Mayor of London to make punitive policy changes affecting Londoners—who have done and continue to do the right thing on Covid-19—as the price for their necessary further financial support. It is not sufficient to say they are different cases; they are very similar.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The noble Lord mischaracterises the discussions under way concerning the train operating companies and TfL. Various conditions apply to the new train operating company deals—ERMAs—relating to punctuality, management fees and all sorts of things. Of course, that is just one step on the way to further reform. The Government will step in and support TfL to address the decrease in revenues resulting from the pandemic. However, there are elements available to people in London and to TfL staff that are simply not available to the rest of the country. It is not up to the UK taxpayer to pay for those things.

Network Rail’s Enhancements Pipeline

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Wednesday 21st 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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The noble Lord is quite right, and that is one of the reasons why we have investment periods for both rail and roads. This makes sure that the supply chain knows what is coming down the track, so to speak, and is able to respond accordingly. It also gives it certainty that if a project goes through its stages then it will actually happen. One of the biggest challenges we have had previously has been a lack of certainty that projects will happen. The noble Lord will also know that the spending review has been reduced to one year. However, for some of the long-term plans—for example, CP6 for rail—it will be a multi-year settlement.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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The Government’s HS2 six-monthly report to Parliament referred to £800 million of “cost pressures”. I think that is a euphemism for extra costs which will have to be paid for out of the contingency provision, which at this rate will be used up fairly rapidly. Eight hundred million pounds over six months works out at additional costs of just under £4.5 million every day, or £3,000 every minute. We support HS2, but when do the Government intend to get a grip on its costs? Setting up a ministerial task force chaired by the Secretary of State does not sound like much of an answer to that question.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The noble Lord is wrong to extrapolate quite as far as he did. We have a relentless focus on controlling costs. He is right that there are some cost pressures from the preparatory works, but we remain confident that HS2 phase 1 can be built within the target cost of £40.3 billion.

Trains: East Midlands

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
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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The Government are committed to making improvements to East Midlands commuter travel. The noble Baroness is absolutely right: if we are to get people out of their cars, we need them on the trains. Of course one of our priorities is improving the safety of staff and passengers on trains. We have extra staff to manage flows, extra signage and extra cleaning. I hope that she will agree that if people want to travel to work in the East Midlands by train, they should do so.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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First, what is government spending on transport overall in the East Midlands region per head of population, compared with the national average on transport per head of population? Secondly, what specific progress has been made over the last five months towards reopening the line from Leicester to Burton to passengers, following the government announcement last May of a fund for feasibility studies on the reopening of lines?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The last figures that I have for investment in transport are £268 per head in the East Midlands compared to £474 per head across England, so there is much more to be done. The steps that the Department for Transport has taken recently will aim to level up the East Midlands in the amount of investment in infrastructure. The line between Leicester and Burton—I believe it is known as the Ivanhoe line—is part of the Restoring Your Railway programme, so the reintroduction of passenger services is being considered. Development of these plans has been funded, and the Department for Transport and Network Rail are working on it with the promoters of the scheme to provide the guidance and support that they need to get a strategic outline business case.

Covid-19: Transport Industry

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Tuesday 6th 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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The Government have huge ambitions for the rail industry throughout the country, in both urban and more rural areas. As the noble Lord probably knows, we have entered into emergency measures agreements with the train operating companies to make sure that they can continue to provide those services. With regard to cut-off places— places that no longer have trains—the Restoring Your Railway Fund will support the reopening of railways where possible.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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May I return to the question asked by my noble friend Lord Snape? The Minister said that the 20% of the sector involved in school transport was getting support, but what about the other 80%? What additional support will be offered to that 80% of the coach industry, and with what objectives in mind? It includes small operators which, as small businesses, form the backbone of the sector and are really struggling. The Government have yet to tell us what they intend to do to support the great bulk of the coach industry.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The Government have already put in an unprecedented package of financial support, which has recently been extended through the winter economic plan to make sure that support is provided not only to coach companies but to all sorts of companies across the country. As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Snape, we are working with DCMS to try to open up tourism wherever possible, but coach companies are being innovative and getting business where they can. I recently visited York Pullman, in York, and was heartened to see that it is looking to find more innovative ways back into work. I know it is difficult, and we continue to engage with the coach sector as the pandemic progresses.

Covid-19: Aviation Sector

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Monday 5th October 2020

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Fowler Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord Fowler)
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I now call the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames. Lord Eames? Lord Eames, for the third time? I think I will move on, in the interests of time. I call the noble Lord, Lord Rosser.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Key asks from the airline industry are the implementation of testing for passengers arriving from high-risk destinations—not least New York—greater transparency on the Government’s methodology for determining travel corridors and restrictions, a temporary 12-month waiver of APD and the regionalisation of travel corridors, as I am sure the Minister knows. How many of those do the Government intend to agree to?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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First, I wish the noble Lord a happy birthday. The Government are taking all those key asks that he refers to extremely seriously. As he will know, very early in the process—in May—we set up the aviation restart and recovery expert steering group, which gave us an enormous insight into the amount of support and the sorts of things we could do for aviation. That has now moved on to become a recovery-only sort of group, looking at longer-term policy thinking, including regional connectivity, economic growth, skills and workforce and decarbonisation. We are well aware of all the issues that he raises, and we are working with the industry to do what we can.

Holidays: Cancellations

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Wednesday 30th September 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, I declare an interest, having had two holidays cancelled, both of which were refunded. The situation is incredibly difficult and we need to look closely at how we are going to get refunds back to consumers, but most businesses in the travel industry are doing their very best to refund.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I understand that the last time an airline operating in the UK faced a fine for breaking consumer law on refunds, delays or cancellations was 17 years ago. In the same period, as I understand it, the Civil Aviation Authority has applied for an enforcement order only once. In the light of that, is the Minister confident that all airlines have done everything they could to comply with statutory consumer rights this year, and does she think that they feel under sufficient pressure to ensure that they comply with statutory consumer rights?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I believe that airlines are feeling under great pressure from all sides at this moment. Of course, the CAA works very closely with the airline industry. Its review, which it launched at the end of July, looked in great detail at the refund policies and practices of each airline. There has been a significant improvement since that review. The CAA is taking a balanced and proportionate approach to enforcement for the time being.

Electric Vehicles

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Thursday 10th 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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My Lords, we work closely with the industry on charging points. While standardisation will be a good thing to achieve eventually, we must not stifle innovation.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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Perhaps I may come back to that last point. I fully support what the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has just said about complete compatibility in charging points, but I am getting the impression that there is a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Government to do anything on this, certainly in the short term. How long are the Government going to continue not seeking to insist on complete compatibility of charging points so that they can be used by all vehicles, and indeed also address the issue of greater compatibility in speed of charging? These are two issues which are off-putting to some potential owners of electric vehicles.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Of course we want greater compatibility in charging points, but what we are not going to do is set out in regulations right at this moment in time to define exactly what a charging point needs to look like. We need to let the market work together because, after all, it is in the interests of those supplying the charging points that the highest number of people can use them. We are working in a collaborative fashion in order to achieve the sort of compatibility that we want to see in the future.

Railways

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

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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As the noble Lord will know, on new railway lines, CP6—the investment period we are currently in—will see investment of £48 billion over the next five years. Over that period, and in the longer term, a lot of consideration will be given to improvements in capacity for the north, including east-west routes. On the issue of signalling, it is the case that some of our signalling systems are very old, and we are looking at various ways of investing in digital signalling. I will write to the noble Lord with further details, if I may.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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The Great Western emergency measures agreement has been extended until at least late June of next year. Have all the other EMAs been extended for a similar period, or will they be? What is the estimated total additional cost to the taxpayer of doing so, including the cost of the management fee? Secondly, the Minister has referred twice to the Williams review. Why are the Government now declining to publish in full the much-trailed root-and-branch Williams rail review, as opposed to simply publishing the outcomes of that review in a Government White Paper?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The outcomes of the Williams review are the most important part of the review, which is why we are publishing. On the future of the EMAs, we had to put them in place very quickly. They protected services for the people who needed to use them, at a significant cost to the taxpayer, and we had to ensure that the cost was justified. We are reviewing the approach to all the contractual arrangements which will come into place after the EMAs, and an announcement will be made in due course.

Highway Layouts

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Monday 7th 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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As my noble friend will be aware, this scheme is also with the Planning Inspectorate and I therefore cannot comment on it in great detail. However, she will know that the decision was delayed owing to an archaeological find and therefore further consultation will take place with all the relevant stakeholders within the particular field. This will enable all relevant matters to be considered and, as she rightly said, a balanced position to be reached. We expect a position to be reached by 13 November.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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As part of the Planning for the Future consultation, the Government are considering the relationship between infrastructure, including roads, and the planning system. With the White Paper asserting that decisions to grant planning consent should no longer be taken on a case-by-case basis but be

“determined by clear rules for what can and cannot be done”,

can the Minister give an assurance that the outcome under these future rules for what can and cannot be done will not result in diminished consideration of the environmental impact of proposed roadbuilding, bearing in mind that the environmental impact of roadbuilding and development, including on adjacent sites of ecological, cultural or scientific significance, varies considerably from case to case?

Stonehenge

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Thursday 23rd July 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V]
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I am sure that the noble Baroness is aware that zero-emission transport also needs roads, whether zero-emission cars, buses or HGVs. Investing in our road infrastructure is therefore important. The £27.4 billion—the RIS2 funding envelope—goes on enhancements but, as importantly, a significant amount of it goes on maintaining our existing roads.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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There is a delay in the Secretary of State making his decision in the light of a recent archaeological find. If the tunnel project does receive the go-ahead from the Secretary of State, what would happen to the project and the construction of the tunnel and its cost if there was a further significant archaeological find on the line of route or close to it, once construction had started?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V]
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Highways England uses ground- penetrating radar as part of its geophysical survey strategy and therefore it is confident that the route does not have any further elements in it. As I said, it employs archaeologists and, were anything to come to light, obviously appropriate arrangements could be made.

Covid-19: Public Transport

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Tuesday 7th July 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V]
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I would be very happy to receive further information about the scheme to which the noble Baroness is referring. I am not aware of it, but we are looking at all sorts of schemes to make it easier for people to travel on public transport. For example, those exempt from face coverings can get themselves an exemption card which can be very helpful to show people who might otherwise try to enforce their use.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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From yesterday, rail services were to be close to 85% of pre-Covid levels and more bus services are now running. As has been said, the problem is the severe shortage of passengers. Passenger numbers are well below even those allowed under current social distancing requirements. There may be very good reasons for it, but why is it that some airlines —with government acceptance—can apparently operate planes safely with potentially all seats occupied by passengers, but for trains and buses this is not only still not possible to do safely but apparently not anywhere near possible?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V]
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The Government are working very closely with transport operators in all modes to encourage them to do their own risk assessments, work out a safe configuration of passengers and make other interventions, such as cleaning and ventilation, so that passengers are carried as safely as possible.

Public Transport: Social Distancing

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Wednesday 1st July 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V]
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We are not lifting the restrictions regarding face coverings, nor are we doing so in respect of social distancing; they are being amended. I take the noble Earl’s point about local lockdown, which is a very important issue. Even in areas where there is local lockdown we still need public transport to function to get key workers to the places that they need to be to do their work in combating the pandemic.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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The Government’s continuing message even as the lockdown is eased that bus and rail travel poses a risk is resulting in high levels of car usage while many services currently carry far fewer passengers than could be carried while still observing the two-metre rule let alone the one metre-plus rule. The rail industry estimates that, at best, the railways will return to 50% to 60% of their pre-Covid passenger numbers in 2021. Do the Government have a plan for getting passengers back on our buses and trains—which I think was the point of the question from my noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester? Some airlines now operate with potentially all seats filled, so why can it be made safe to do this on planes but not apparently on trains?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V]
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I refer the noble Lord to the comments that I made earlier. We will be working on recovery plans for all transport modes over the summer. At the moment and at peak times in particular, many of our transport modes are operating at capacity. I take the point that we need to look at what will happen next year, the forecasts for it and how we encourage people back on to trains and buses, but that point has not been reached now.

Covid-19: Airline Sector

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Monday 29th June 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V]
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I thank the noble and gallant Lord for that question. The Government have worked, and continue to work, closely with the devolved Administrations throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure as coherent an approach as possible across the four nations. We will announce further details on the regulations, including a full list of the countries and territories from which arriving passengers will be exempted from self-isolation requirements, later this week.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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In response to my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe on 4 June, the Minister said that if a firm sought any bespoke financial support from the Government, it might be subject to conditions that included some of those which had been outlined by my noble friend, which were: protecting jobs, salaries and workers’ rights; taking steps to tackle climate change; maintaining their tax base in the UK; not paying dividends until doing so was liable; and fully complying with consumer law, particularly in relation to refunds. Can the Minister confirm that that remains the Government’s position, and say whether any discussions have taken place with airlines or air operators over bespoke financial support and what progress has been made on that support being subject to conditions?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V]
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I am not able to comment on any particular conversations we may or may not be having with individual companies. However, I can confirm that the Government stand ready to support individual companies seeking bespoke support if they have exhausted all other measures, either from the Government or through private sources—for example, their shareholders. It remains the case that such support might come with the sort of conditions that the noble Lord mentioned. However, I would not want to prejudge that and, as I have said, any ongoing discussions about support would be subject to all sorts of terms.

Public Transport: Face Coverings

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Thursday 25th June 2020

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V]
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The issue that the noble Baroness brings up is extremely worrying. We do not want people having to get GP letters. That is not what is intended. When we put these regulations in place, we did an equalities impact assessment and took advice from the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee to make sure that we understand fully the sorts of exemptions that are needed. We are working closely with operators to put in place exemption schemes, which may include badges, lanyards or cards that people can show to other individuals—and, just as importantly, to transport operators and police—to show that, for whatever reason, they are exempt from wearing a face covering.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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Despite the impending reopening of museums, pubs, cinemas and hotels, there has been no clear updated guidance on whether people can use public transport to reach these destinations. Can the Minister clarify the guidance? Will individuals and families be encouraged to or discouraged from using public transport to travel to leisure and hospitality facilities? If they travel, will they be required to wear a face covering? If they do not do so, will they be stopped from using public transport?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V]
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As I mentioned previously, wearing a face covering on public transport is mandatory. If a person does not have a face covering on, they can be denied service or removed from the service. On the reopening of various facilities on 4 July, the Department for Transport and broader government are continually looking at the demand for transport and our transport capacity to see whether we are in danger of demand exceeding supply. If there is capacity on public transport, the Government’s messaging may well change, but in the short term, we cannot suddenly open up public transport to everybody because there simply is not the capacity.

Covid-19: Walking and Cycling

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

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V]
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There are all sorts of things that we can do to make cycling a better experience for all, particularly those who are starting out on their cycling journey. They include actions by local authorities to make some streets cycling- and pedestrian-only. Work can also be done on improving cycling safety.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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Government figures indicate that, nationally, increases in cycling and walking in the light of Covid-19 will result in fewer journeys by public transport and not fewer journeys by car, which people now regard as a safer means of transport. What do the Government intend to do to promote cycling and walking as an alternative to the car, rather than it being an alternative to public transport, as is happening now?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V]
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This comes down to the actions that can be taken by local authorities. We have provided the guidance that they need to follow. What they put in place within their own areas will be key to reducing localised congestion. That might include speed restrictions, as previously mentioned; traffic light cycles can be changed; there can be car-limited areas; and there could be changes to parking charges.

Covid-19: Public Transport

Debate between Baroness Vere of Norbiton and Lord Rosser
Tuesday 2nd June 2020

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber