Midlands Rail Hub

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Tuesday 15th November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I will happily write to my noble friend with all the details of our recent investments and, in due course, we will set out our investments for the future.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I hope the Minister will send a copy of that letter to me as well. Thank you.

Can the Government update the House on the timescale for improvements to the Wolverhampton to Shrewsbury line, including electrification, which a Transport Minister in the Commons gave a commitment nearly eight months ago to look at “as soon as possible.” If, for this Government, “as soon as possible” is apparently not within the next eight months, within what timescale is it?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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As the noble Lord knows, there are a number of planned investments across the country, and it is right that the Government take time to review them to ensure that they meet the needs of the post-pandemic travelling public. That is why we will be reviewing the RNEP. There will be a timeline for publication after the Autumn Statement.

Swing Bridges

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Tuesday 15th November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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There are other bodies potentially involved with swing bridges, apart from local authorities. One is the Canal & River Trust. Its current grant agreement with the Government is fixed until 2027 and is now declining significantly in real terms as a result of rising inflation, putting a considerable strain on the trust’s finances. In the light of this, how exactly do the Government think that the long-term resilience of our waterways can be sustained and their decline averted—a decline that will have an adverse impact on the trust’s ability to cover a wide range of risks, statutory obligations and legal liabilities, including the specific issue referred to in the question from the noble Lord, Lord Palmer of Childs Hill?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I am not aware that the Canal & River Trust has an interest in the Faversham swing bridge, but I would be very happy to hear from it about its work and the funding it receives.

Jet Zero Strategy

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Monday 14th November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I do not have the specifics on the exact investment in ATI, but I can tell the noble Lord that, in total, it is £685 million for aerospace R&D. He mentioned working in partnership with industry; that is what is so important and what underlies the jet zero strategy. It is not just the Department for Transport having a think all on its own. We are working with industry and academia, and we have done a consultation that drew 1,500 responses. We will look at the technology; some of it is nascent and some is more developed than that.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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For the aviation industry to become net zero, passengers need to be able to access airports through active or public transport. What recent steps have the Government taken to support the building of new rail, bus and cycle links to UK regional airports in particular, and what form has that support taken?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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As the noble Lord will know, connectivity to regional airports would be the responsibility of the local transport authority, but the Government have invested significantly in active travel and, in addition, in buses. When it comes to rail, I have just come out of a meeting with Manchester Airport, for example, and it is looking in great detail as to how rail services going to and from Manchester Airport will be able to support its development in the future.

Drivers’ Hours, Tachographs, International Road Haulage and Licensing of Operators (Amendment) Regulations 2022

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Tuesday 8th November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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My final point is about the lack of an impact assessment. The DPRRC wrote a report recently about the decline of impact assessments, and this is a matter for which we should have had an impact assessment.
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I, too, thank the Minister for her explanation of the purpose and content of these regulations, and for her kind words, as well as those of my noble friend Lord Berkeley, in the previous debate.

We are not opposed to the SI, since the regulations are based on existing requirements made under the trade and co-operation agreement. My noble friend Lord Berkeley has spoken to his amendment to the Motion, which is in line with views expressed by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee to the effect that:

“The industry has expressed concerns about the cost and availability of the ‘smart tachograph 2’ which is currently in short supply”.


If the Government are opposing my noble friend’s Motion, I assume that in response they will provide evidence of the availability and cost of the new tachograph equipment, what steps they are taking to ensure the required availability of the new tachographs and why they believe that the concerns expressed by my noble friend and the industry will not materialise.

The Explanatory Memorandum reminds us that

“There were availability and timing issues with the implementation of the smart tachograph 1 in June 2019”,


so this is not a new or unexpected issue. The Government’s Explanatory Memorandum states that they came up with a pragmatic solution then, and that:

“If there are difficulties on this occasion, the Department would again work with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and industry to come up with similar pragmatic solutions.”


Would not the best solution, having had prior warning at least three years ago, be to make sure in the intervening period that there would be no similar availability issues? Who makes the new smart tachograph 2, and where? Is it the same organisation that made the smart tachograph 1?

The Explanatory Memorandum also says:

“If there is a supply issue it would be apparent at European level not just in the UK and action at the EU level might be taken.”


That is interesting. The Government went for a hard Brexit to be able to make their own decisions, unencumbered by having to have regard to what the EU thought, wanted or was doing.

The regulations implement parts of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement in relation to international road transport provisions in the TCA, including international haulage access to the UK, drivers’ hours rules and the requirement for specific new tachograph equipment—the smart tachograph 2 —in goods vehicles and coaches on international journeys. Some smaller vehicles over 2.5 tonnes, and used on international journeys, are brought into the scope of the drivers’ hours and tachograph rules from July 2026.

On the issue of cost, the Explanatory Memorandum states that

“industry sources have raised concerns about the cost of installing a tachograph for the first time into smaller vehicles by 2026 and the lack of knowledge by some smaller operators of this new requirement.”

The Government’s Explanatory Memorandum is, frankly, a bit dismissive of the concerns about availability and cost, stating that they would not affect the content of this instrument that we are discussing, and that the concerns will be discussed with industry. If that is the case, I hope that it will not be in the same way as the Government clearly have not already.

The new tachograph equipment records a vehicle’s position, including when it crosses borders and when it is loading or unloading. It also allows for the down-loading of data without stopping a vehicle. What will be the cost of this new tachograph equipment? To pursue other points made by my noble friend Lord Berkeley, have the Government assessed what impact these new costs will have on the industry? The impact assessment states:

“There is no, or no significant, impact on business”.


On the basis of what figures and other evidence did the Government reach this conclusion?

One final point that I would like to make relates to what was said when this instrument was debated in the Commons Committee a week ago. We raised the issue of driver welfare. In response, the Minister in the Commons said that it was right to focus on the issue. Continuing, he said that

“the Government have now topped up to £52 million the investment that we have been making in the industry to support better facilities for drivers”.—[Official Report, Commons, Third Delegated Legislation Committee, 1/11/22; col. 6.]

That tends to be the Government’s stock response across the board to any query about inadequate facilities or services—that is, we have spent, or are spending, X millions of pounds. Could I therefore please have a breakdown in writing of exactly what improvements, in what facilities and where, that £52 million is meant to deliver; the extent to which it will or will not actually deliver those intended improvements; and the total amount of money that would need to be invested by the Government to bring the level of all facilities for drivers up to the standard which, presumably, it is intended the £52 million will deliver in the locations in which it is being spent, and for the purposes for which it is being spent?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I am grateful to all noble Lords who took part in this relatively short debate. I will try to answer as many questions as possible, and will certainly write. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for tabling his amendment; it gives noble Lords the opportunity to delve a little further into some of the issues that these regulations raise.

The trade and co-operation agreement commits the UK to the requirement that small goods vehicles weighing more than 2.5 tonnes used commercially for hire or reward for international journeys need to comply with the EU drivers’ hours rules. I stress that “international journeys” is one of the important factors here, because it means that the requirement does not apply to the vast majority of commercial vehicles, which operate only domestically. The number of smaller goods vehicles operating internationally is very small, and even for HGVs, it is not particularly large; most movement across the short straits, for example, is done by EU hauliers. However, some vehicles will need to comply with the EU drivers’ hours rules and to install and use a smart 2 tachograph from July 2026.

This gives the industry, particularly small vehicles weighing more than 2.5 tonnes, four years to prepare for this transition. It will have known about it for some time and will have four years to think about how the cost can be borne over that period. Regardless of this statutory instrument, UK operators of the vehicles concerned must install a smart 2 tachograph by 2026 if they are to operate legally in the EU. If they fail to do this, they will be subject to roadside stops, fines and other enforcement when abroad. The statutory instrument enables UK enforcement authorities to check and enforce against relative non-UK light goods vehicles—I suspect there will probably be more coming across than there are UK vehicles going abroad.

Noble Lords will remember that we have already discussed in your Lordships’ House the issue for vehicles of more than 2.5 tonnes. It is important that we continue with this. For example, larger vans sometimes come from Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, and they often have sleeping compartments in them. It is therefore very important that UK enforcement authorities are able to check drivers’ hours records contained in those tachographs.

The number of small vehicles that this is likely to cover is very small. There are 554 operator licences in place, but of these licences a total of 1,701 vehicles are authorised for international operation. That is out of a total of nearly 2 million in the UK, so we are talking about 0.09% of small vans, et cetera.

Obviously, the matters under discussion today were already obligations under the trade and co-operation agreement. This is very much a tidying-up exercise to make sure that our legislation is clear for enforcement. We have engaged with industry over a long period, particularly after the TCA was agreed, and therefore it well understands the changes that are coming down the track.

A number of noble Lords asked about awareness campaigns. We are working with the industry constantly on such matters. The traffic commissioner often sends out regulatory updates which advise those with operator licences about these sorts of changes that are coming down the track, and of course we publicise these on GOV.UK.

On impacts and costs, I believe these tachographs are likely to cost around £1,200 each—that is for buying and installation. As I mentioned, that can probably be borne over a number of years, and it is needed only for those vehicles that are travelling internationally.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked about enforcement. Of course, the DVSA has long been enforcing these matters. It is difficult to separate matters that are raised in this SI from the DVSA’s day-to-day enforcement activities because it is always enforcing against drivers’ hours infringements, whether for UK hauliers or EU hauliers, as well as all other infringements. I will include in my letter to the noble Lord some interesting stats around the amount of enforcement that the DVSA does; I have been incredibly impressed by the work that it does.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, both raised cabotage. Your Lordships will recall that, when the Government relaxed the cabotage rules, we had a number of debates in which noble Lords tried to convince me that it was a terrible idea. Eventually, I agreed with them and thought that we should stop doing extended cabotage, because the impact on UK hauliers was quite significant—but only in very localised places, particularly around the short straits. Relaxing cabotage did its thing when we were at the height of the challenges around not having enough HGV drivers, but I believe that we are now right to make sure that regulations in the UK mirror those of the EU, particularly regarding truckers arriving without a load and then going on to do cabotage. That should not be allowed: it is not allowed for UK hauliers and it should not be allowed for EU hauliers.

Merchant Shipping (Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships) Order 2022

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Tuesday 8th November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her explanation. Clearly, we welcome any steps to prohibit the use of harmful chemicals in anti-fouling systems. The sooner those steps are taken, the better.

As the Minister said, this relates to a convention and decisions taken some considerable time ago. It gives the Secretary of State powers to make regulations to implement the 2001 convention and subsequent amendments. I have two brief questions for the Minister. First, she gave an explanation that related to the need to use different powers at this point because we have now left the EU, whereas we relied previously on EU legislation. I therefore wish to quibble about paragraph 8.1 in the Explanatory Memorandum, which says:

“This … does not relate to withdrawal from the European Union”.


It does relate to withdrawal from the EU, as so much does, and it is worth explaining how.

Secondly, the Minister referred—I think, though I might have misheard—to getting the regulations on the statute book by next year. Is that what she was saying? I very much hope that that is the case and that the department is being ambitious on this. I would not like to see this legislation—which should surely be uncontroversial—going to the back of the maritime queue. The sooner it can be done, the better. Having made those brief comments, I support the SI.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I too thank the Minister for her explanation of the purpose and objectives of this SI, which enables the Secretary of State to make regulations to give effect to the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships, 2001. The objective of the convention is to protect the marine environment and the health of human beings from the adverse effects of anti-fouling systems. It does this by prohibiting the use of certain substances in these systems, or at least prohibiting their use on the outer coating of the hull of a ship.

As has been said, the convention was adopted in 2001 and came into force internationally in 2008. It was implemented by the UK through the adoption by the European Commission of a regulation of the European Parliament and the Council of 2003, and by a further regulation in 2009. An annexe to the convention prohibits the use of specified substances in anti-fouling systems, including an additional new specified substance which is prohibited from the beginning of next year.

According to the Explanatory Memorandum,

“the Convention will protect United Kingdom waters from harmful effects of the use of prohibited substances on United Kingdom ships and non-United Kingdom ships visiting the United Kingdom.”

I assume that this is the case, but could I check that the convention applies equally in international waters?

As has been said, on the face of it, the provisions of the convention have taken a long time to be brought into effect. Although the Minister did go some considerable way to answering the point, it would be helpful to have it confirmed again, so I will repeat the question: is that the reality, and if so why? Or is the reality, as I believe it to be, that the terms of the convention have been applied in UK waters for some years, and that the reason this SI is needed relates to our withdrawal from the EU, despite, as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, pointed out, paragraph 8.1 of the Explanatory Memorandum maintaining that this instrument does not relate to withdrawal from the European Union?

The fact that the instrument appears related to our withdrawal from the European Union is strengthened by the fact that the Explanatory Memorandum states that no impact assessment has been prepared because the instrument

“has no impact on the cost to business”,

including small businesses. That presumably means that no expenditure is considered necessary by any party affected to meet the terms of any regulations the Government might make to give effect to the convention. Or is the argument that it is the regulations the Secretary of State will make that will incur additional costs and not this instrument, which enables the Secretary of State to make such regulations, which is why the Explanatory Memorandum says that there is no impact on the cost to business?

Highway Code (Rule 149)

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Wednesday 6th April 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, I also congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, for spotting these errors, one might say, in the government legislation. I agree with a lot of what she says, but obviously not always. Personally, I do not have any bad feeling about e-scooters and e-bikes as, so far, touch wood, I have not actually been run over or come close to being run over by them—but I have been run over twice by cars. If we look at those killed or seriously injured, it is cars that are the biggest threat. During lockdown, those killed or seriously injured fell massively, and cyclist casualty rates decreased by a third. So it is cars on our roads that are really the biggest problem.

I do not join in this criticism of cyclists; it is a tiny minority who do not obey the law, and I shout at them just as much as anybody else would here. I was coming into work, to your Lordships’ House, the other day, and a cyclist on the junction of Parliament Square went through a red light, cut across the pavement and went straight through the gates into the Commons. Without running, I followed him and caught him locking up his bike. I pointed out what he had done was very dangerous, asked who he was and could I speak to his boss—that sort of thing. Of course, he would not give me any information and I did not feel up to grabbing his pass. There are people who break the law absolutely everywhere if they think they can get away with it and, clearly, this person, who works in this prestigious establishment, thought he could get away with it as well.

If we are going to be serious about stopping people breaking laws such as using hand-held mobile phones, we need more traffic police. The traffic police in London do the most incredible job, but their numbers have been systematically cut over the years. They need more funding and they need more officers, basically.

Perhaps I may just say—this is completely off the point—please do not use the word “accidents”. That presupposes, and prejudges, that whatever happened was a genuine accident. “Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to do that.” Actually, no, because these crashes, these collisions, these “incidents”, as the Met Police call them, actually happen mostly because people are using their phones, they are not concentrating, they are picking something up from the floor, they are drunk or they have drugs in their system. So, please, these are not accidents. Those in the road safety community get really upset about it, because they do not think what has happened to their loved ones was an accident most of the time.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, for securing this debate. The Government have recently broadened the scope of the Highway Code’s rule 149, which now makes it an offence to use a hand-held mobile device for almost any purpose while driving, and not just to make and receive calls and texts. The offence caries a fine of up to £1,000 and six penalty points on the driver’s licence. So, if they commit the offence twice, the number of penalty points could lead to a disqualification.

The regret Motion raises concerns about the scope of changes to the Highway Code, and the “piecemeal” way in which it has been amended. More specifically, the Motion highlights the fact that the latest changes to the Highway Code, to which I have referred, do not extend to hand-held devices used by people on bicycles, e-bikes and e-scooters.

It would seem to me that the happy relationship between some cyclists and e-scooter users and motorists —and who does or does not get more favourable or preferential treatment—clearly remains in fine fettle. It must add an exciting additional dimension to the Minister’s ministerial role. The changes to rule 149 were implemented through the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2022 that came into force on 25 March 2022. Since 2003, it has been an offence to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving if the device is being used for “interactive communication” —that is, receiving a call or sending a text.

In 2019 the High Court upheld the quashing of a conviction of a man who had taken a video on his phone of a road traffic accident while driving. The court accepted the argument that using a stand-alone feature on the phone—recording a video, taking a photo or searching for music stored on the phone—was not an interactive communication within the definition of the regulations. In response to the judgment, in 2020 the Government launched a consultation on expanding the offence of using a mobile phone while driving. Following the consultation, the Government said that

“all use of a hand-held mobile phone while driving is reckless and dangerous, and not just when being used for the purposes of a call or other interactive communication.”

The Government also said that more than 80% of respondents “agreed with the proposal” to broaden the offence to cover the use of stand-alone features on a phone.

The original consultation document, though, did not make any reference to extending the offence to include other road users, such as cyclists or users of e-scooters. The Government’s response to the consultation stated that some respondents had raised the issue of extending the proposals to those road users, but the Government made no commitment to do so. Why did the Government make no such commitment? Does the lack of such a commitment mean that changes will not be applied to cyclists, e-bikes and e-scooters at any stage in the foreseeable future, or is there a possibility that they will be? That would add strength to the point in the regret Motion about making changes in a piecemeal way.

As I understand it, the Highway Code—I think it is rule 66—already states that cyclists should

“keep both hands on the handlebars except when signalling or changing gear”.

To what extent do the Government think this rule already prevents cyclists exercising the functions that rule 149 outlaws?

The regulations create a new exemption for contactless payments in certain circumstances. This is presumably to allow for drivers to use toll booths and drive-through restaurants—it is an interesting exemption. In recent months road traffic accidents have been reported at both, hopefully not—I say this not too flippantly—because someone took the words “drive-through” too literally. Do the Government believe that learner drivers should be taught how to safely use and negotiate toll booths and drive-through restaurants in light of the fact that road traffic incidents have recently been reported at both?

The Government say in the Explanatory Memorandum that changes to the Highway Code reflect the changes in the statutory instrument. They say:

“The government will also expand the advice contained on gov.uk to address some common misconceptions about the law on mobile phone use while driving which became evident through the consultation process.”


However:

“For those responsible for enforcement (police and courts), the government will rely on them to alter their guidance as necessary to reflect the changes to the law.”


Reference has been made to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, which noted that more information had been given in the Explanatory Memorandum this time about plans to publicise the changes. The committee also stated that this House had

“made clear the strength of its concerns about the Department for Transport’s piecemeal approach to changing the Highway Code”

and that the committee remained

“concerned that the hard copy version of the Highway Code is so out of date.”

A question has already been raised on that issue, and no doubt the Minister will respond to it. I too ask what the Government’s response is to the comments made by the SLSC.

In the context of changes and whether they are piecemeal, how many more changes to the Highway Code are already in the pipeline, reflecting statutory provisions either already determined or currently going through the legislative process? Perhaps the answer is none, but it would be helpful to hear from the Government what it is. How many changes have there been to the Highway Code over the last five years? Is it the Government’s policy to make changes to the code immediately those changes have been decided, or does the department seek if possible to make changes to the code, say, only once a year?

Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Disabled Persons) Bill

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McLoughlin, on his sponsorship and advocacy of this Bill in this House. First, I declare an interest as vice-chairman of Level Playing Field, an organisation that promotes, protects and seeks to further the interests of disabled supporters of football and other sports. In that regard, I certainly support the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Mann, about stadia and accessibility. There are also issues inside stadia which can be significant, but I have to say that, overall, the position has improved in recent years.

I congratulate my noble friend Lord Boateng on his comments. I hope this comment will not be misinterpreted, but it was nice to hear a speech in this House about electric vehicle charging points and the necessity for them which went somewhat beyond provision on the Parliamentary Estate.

This Bill amends sections of the Equality Act 2010 relating to disabled people’s use of taxis and private hire vehicles. Its purpose is to reduce discrimination against disabled people by addressing the barriers, which have been set out all too clearly, that they face when accessing taxi and private hire vehicle services. The Bill creates new offences related to drivers and operators of such vehicles in Great Britain. In saying that, we, like the noble Lord, Lord McLoughlin, recognise that the clear majority of drivers and operators treat disabled people with the respect and care that they deserve and, indeed, are entitled to expect in a civilised society. Unfortunately, a small minority do not always do so, as has been said during the course of this debate.

The Bill completed its passage through the House of Commons some two weeks ago. It had our support in the Commons and has our support in your Lordships’ House. Only wheelchair and assistance dog users currently have specific rights and protections under the Equality Act 2010 in respect of taxis and private hire vehicles. The terms of the Act exclude wheelchair users who can transfer into a non-wheelchair accessible vehicle and fold their wheelchair from the protections and provisions of mobility assistance when using a non-designated wheelchair accessible vehicle or private hire vehicle. The Act also excludes all other disabled passengers who do not use a wheelchair from such protections when travelling in any taxi or private hire vehicle.

The Bill remedies this deficiency by creating a new duty to ensure that drivers of taxis and private hire vehicles do not refuse carriage to a disabled person who could reasonably travel in that vehicle at no extra charge and a new duty to make every effort to ensure that the disabled passenger feels comfortable and safe while travelling among other related duties, including duties particularly geared to the needs of visually impaired passengers and those with learning difficulties or cognitive impairments. As we know, disability can come in many forms, and that is often overlooked or not fully understood or appreciated.

The figures show that people with mobility difficulties made more than twice as many trips by taxis and private hire vehicles than those with no mobility difficulty in 2020. The Department for Transport’s September 2021 data on transport accessibility and mobility indicated a similar pattern over the past decade, with people with mobility difficulties making more trips by taxis and private hire vehicles than those with no such difficulty.

Disabled people are not a small minority group and, frankly, even if they were, it would not affect the necessity for legislation. Some 14 million people in the UK, about 22% of the overall population, report having a disability. As I understand it from the figures, of those around 1.2 million use wheelchairs with two-thirds of them being regular users.

I want to make some points and ask some questions, to which I imagine the Government will wish to respond since they rightly support the Bill. According to a 2019 survey by Scope, the disability charity, 30% of disabled people said that

“difficulties with public transport have reduced their independence.”

Four in five said they felt

“stressed or anxious when … planning or carrying out a journey.”

Frankly, that situation will not have been helped by the above-inflation increases in public transport fares and the reduction in bus services and routes which, as I understand it, has contributed to a reduction of some 25% in the number of elderly and disabled passengers.

The shortfalls in public transport mean that a taxi is the only realistic option for getting around for many disabled people. As the Conservative MP for West Dorset put it at Third Reading in the Commons a fortnight ago,

“the dependence on taxis, because of the absence of rural bus services, particularly for disabled people, is an ongoing concern. For the past two and a half years, or just under, since I was elected, we have seen a considerable reduction in rural bus services. That has put undue pressure on those who do not have their own car, particularly those who are disabled, who need to get to the hospital, who need to go to the doctors and the dentists, who need to go shopping—the most basic of things.”—[Official Report, Commons, 18/3/22; col. 1178.]

The need for this Bill, giving people with disabilities more rights when travelling by taxi and private hire vehicle, is clear, although the Government should perhaps reflect on the reality that the need is even greater because of the shortfalls in public transport that have occurred—not least in more rural areas, as the MP for West Dorset said.

Putting new and much-needed rights on the statute book is only part of the equation, though. Unless those rights result in a real improvement in the experience of disabled people, they will not have any impact. To do that, they have to be applied and enforced. As has already been mentioned, it will be mandatory for local authorities to make and maintain a list of wheelchair-accessible taxis—an issue on which the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, raised pertinent questions. How big an exercise do the Government think maintaining the lists will be for cash-strapped local authorities, which have seen their funding slashed since 2010? The lists will be meaningful and able to be relied on only if they are kept up to date. I do not know what workload that will constitute for local authorities. Maybe the Government will be able to assure me that it will not be a significant workload, but it would be helpful to hear the Government’s view on that. How big a job will that be for local authorities that, frankly, are short of resources?

What action will the Government take to ensure that taxi and private hire drivers are aware of the terms of this Bill, and their responsibilities under it, before its provisions come into effect? That will be quite crucial. Advice and training on the full range of disabilities and the nature of the help and assistance required in each instance will be needed. The point has already been made, not least by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, about the consequences if the training is not meaningful, not understood and not then applied. Who will provide this much-needed training, and who will pay for it? Disabled people will also need to be made aware of their rights under the Bill. Who will be responsible for ensuring that this is done, and how? Who will pay the cost? I assume it will be a bit more than just the production of a few leaflets to be handed around.

Finally, at the beginning of this year the Department for Transport said it would

“develop a new Disabled Persons Passenger Charter for bus, coach, taxi, private hire vehicle and rail”

travel in England that would provide disabled people with

“a clear explanation of their rights”.

I am sure that everybody would support that. I ask this question not knowing the answer: where are we with this new charter, which obviously is very relevant to the Bill?

I reiterate that we support the Bill and hope it delivers on its worthy and much-needed objectives.

P&O Ferries

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Tuesday 29th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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A week ago, I asked the Government what had happened to the two commitments given on 25 June 2020 to

“consider other options in regard to these operations”—

that is, low-cost employment models on some ferry routes—and to

“consider whether further changes are required when the Equality Act regulations are reviewed towards the end of this year”,—[Official Report, 25/6/20; col. 431.]

that is, the end of 2020, in relation to nationality-based differential pay in the maritime sector, the only sector where this operates. Last week the Government conceded that the review had not been completed. In other words, the Government have known about the issues over differential pay levels, which are at the heart of this dispute, and have done nothing about them over the past year and three-quarters. As a result, we now have this unacceptable crisis situation with P&O Ferries and DP World: 800 people are losing their jobs and P&O Ferries is taking unacceptable profit-maximising or loss-reduction action that was wholly predictable, as the Government have known for at least one and three-quarter years. Why have the Government failed to act over that period?

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 share the outrage expressed by the noble Lord at the behaviour of DP World and P&O Ferries. When they are developed and ready, which I expect to be shortly, we will update the House on a package of measures to ensure that P&O Ferries cannot see through its plans. We will address the immediate challenges faced by those affected and include measures to strengthen legal protections, including coverage of the national minimum wage.

P&O Ferries

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Tuesday 22nd March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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The Statement is remarkably laid back. The decision

“is fundamentally a commercial decision for the company”.

So that is all right, then.

“I have asked my Department to liaise closely with counterparts in the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that workers are being signposted to the most relevant support”.


The Government have accepted that 800 people have abruptly and probably unlawfully lost their jobs—and everything is hunky dory.

“I am intending to call the trade unions immediately after this statement to discuss the situation with them”.


Perhaps we could now be told what the outcome of that discussion was, how long it lasted, which trade unions were involved and how many subsequent discussions there have been between Government Ministers and the trade unions?

Finally, on P&O, the Statement meekly says:

“Their finances are matters for them, and them alone”.


Forget the furlough money it claimed from taxpayers; forget the wealth of its owners, DP World; and forget the approximately £140 million it splashed on sports sponsorship, despite the pension fund being saddled with a deficit of a similar amount.

In a nutshell, the Government’s Statement says that this a commercial decision by the company, its finances are nobody else’s business, and they will tell the 800 sacked seafarers which website or body to go to in order to inquire about job prospects. But yes, the Commons Minister also said:

“I would have expected far better for the workers involved”.—[Official Report, Commons, 17/3/22; cols. 1140-41.]


That Statement really will have shaken the company to the core, as will the demand from the Secretary of State that P&O rename its vessels to remove any suggestion of a link with Britain.

Beyond the ritual wringing of hands there is a deafening silence from the Government about what they intend to do now—yes, now—to pull this company up short, get this instant sacking decision reversed and send a loud and clear message to other companies to not even think of going down a similar road themselves. Doing that, though, is just not what this Government do when faced with a company treating its employees almost like criminals. A certain amount of wringing of hands, yes, but action, no.

Let us look what the Government’s priorities have been recently on industrial relations. The other week they forced through secondary legislation on compelling trade unions to fork out for the cost of certification officers, who have precious few complaints to deal with. Before that they had been opposing a Private Member’s Bill from a Labour MP to bring an end of the insidious practice of fire and rehire on inferior terms. There was no priority, one notes, for levelling up the playing field between employer and employee, as exposed by this episode, where in most situations the need of the employee for a job is greater than the need of the employer to employ that employee.

What the Statement reveals is the lack of any meaningful legal redress for the sacked 800. If there was clear and effective legal protection against the kind of action we have just seen, it would have been taken. But there is not, and the company knows that, which is why it carefully planned this far from spontaneous action over a period of time in the secure knowledge that what it was doing—even if in breach of the law—would be far more financially advantageous than abiding by recognised and established procedures.

A decisive majority of employers behave decently towards their employees, but there are still too many who do not, and one of those is clearly P&O Ferries and its owners DP World. The company refers to its losses as being unsustainable, but presumably this situation will now improve as the adverse impact of Covid on business and travel diminishes—or was the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee spot on in its recent report showing how our trade with the EU has declined following Brexit? Does P&O Ferries know that its traffic lost by Brexit will not return, with this abrupt mass sacking and employment of cheaper labour being an early example of the Brexit “dividend” we have heard so much about from the Prime Minister?

The abruptly sacked employees appear to have been offered an enhanced redundancy payment with a deadline of 31 March to accept, otherwise it will be withdrawn. It would appear that P&O is hoping that it will be difficult to advise the sacked employees that they have reasonable prospects of recovering more in an employment tribunal from an unfair dismissal claim.

The Government have been aware of this issue of sacking and then employing cheaper labour for some time. In a debate in this House on the National Minimum Wage (Offshore Employment) (Amendment) Order 2020 on 25 June 2020, the Minister responding said:

“We are aware that … ferry routes are largely not covered by the amendments and that some ferry services may be using low-cost employment models … We are committed to improving standards here and will consider other options in regard to these operations … The noble Baroness moved on to discussing differential pay. Maritime is the only sector in the UK that continues to permit this … The industry will still state that differential pay is the necessary requirement and that seafarers are paid a competitive rate when considered against the average salaries they could receive in their own countries. I acknowledge that this remains a difficult argument to accept when it would not be accepted in any other sector. The Government will consider whether further changes are required when the Equality Act regulations are reviewed towards the end of this year.”—[Official Report, 25/6/20; cols. 430-31.]


So, two commitments were made in June 2020: first, to

“consider other options in regard to these operations”—

that is, low-cost employment models—and, secondly, to

“consider whether further changes are required when the Equality Act regulations are reviewed towards the end of this year”.

Can the Government now say what the outcome was of those two commitments? Can they also say whether P&O Ferries had ever told them prior to last week that moving to what is euphemistically called a low-cost employment model was an option it was considering?

We now know that the Government were told by P&O Ferries and DP World of their actual intention the day before the 800 staff were abruptly told they were no longer required and that the Government took no action to try to stop it happening. What we want to hear tonight from the Government is what action they will take, first, to see that the 800 staff abruptly sacked are reinstated and, secondly, to ensure that a similar episode of abrupt mass sacking cannot happen again because the law will be tightened up as a matter of urgency and penalties for breaching it reviewed so that, financially, it would be a non-starter for any company to behave in the way that P&O Ferries and DP World have behaved towards their employees. The Secretary of State’s apparent priority of renaming ships as a remedy just will not suffice.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I want to talk about business culture, the culture of an organisation that takes action like this, the culture that led the management of P&O to turn these people out of their jobs with no notice because they could, or thought they could—Zoomed out of work after years, decades, of service to that company. There was no empathy or self-awareness in this action, and there was no understanding that it was wrong. The fact that the management was unwilling or unable to see this speaks volumes about the culture of P&O and that of its owner, DP World.

But how about closer to home? It is clear that government officials were warned about this act of corporate brutality, so can the Minister confirm to your Lordships’ House who knew in advance? Can she tell your Lordships why this knowledge rang no alarm bells? That it was apparently waved through also reveals the culture of this Government: they had time. If the Government allow this sort of behaviour to go unchecked, what sort of precedent does it set or reinforce? Will others, yet more in the shipping industry, argue that they are compelled to follow suit in order to remain competitive?

Speaking on the BBC’s “Today” programme on Friday 18 March, the spokesperson for the UK Chamber of Shipping, Peter Aylott, said at the end of an interview that he was content and very confident that P&O had acted properly. Does the Minister agree with the trade body?

Despite their knowing in advance, since the announcement, the Secretary of State and other Ministers have wrung their hands, as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, pointed out. These displays of remorse are mere crocodile tears unless the Government actually do something. Ideally, the Government should cause P&O to think again. They should use their leverage on the parent company to make it make its company change its mind.

Assuming that that is not possible, here are a few ideas for the Minister and the Government. First, can the Minister say here and now that the Government will make sure that not one penny of the settlement to which these employees are entitled is withheld by P&O using legalistic threats and wrangles? Secondly, has the Minister spoken to the Pensions Regulator and can she assure your Lordships’ House that the pension fund it safe and will not need to be topped up by the Government or under the pension guarantee support scheme? Can she confirm that the huge amount of money P&O owes to the rating pension scheme is still on the hook and it will still pay it?

Thirdly, can the Minister undertake to ensure that every one of the new employees, if this has to go ahead, is reviewed for their qualifications? I fear that unqualified people will take these jobs, and that is a safety issue. P&O Ferries has obligations under the International Safety Management Code, which requires each vessel to have a safety management system. That system is then audited by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which produces a document of compliance. Can the Minister explain how on earth P&O can still comply with that vital safety certification if it has made a 100% change of crew?

Then there is the role of the corporate owner of P&O in the UK economy. Please will the Minister undertake to give a list of all the public contracts that are held by DP World, and can she explain how, on the one hand, her Secretary of State can say what he did about P&O and, on the other, those contracts can possibly be retained by its parent company?

Finally, there are freeports. DP World is at the forefront here. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, personally opened the DP World-backed Thames Freeport. Speaking at the commercial launch, at the Saudi Arabian owned Savoy Hotel in London, the Chancellor said he was “thrilled” by DP World’s involvement. His level of thrill will no doubt have been doubled by the fact that DP World Southampton has also been awarded freeport status for the Solent Freeport. There is an inherent danger with freeports. They hold huge potential to be hotbeds of tax evasion and money laundering. For that reason, it is vital that organisations leading such ventures have an impeccable moral compass. After the events of last week, we now know that DP World presides over a culture that fails to understand the moral implications of its actions. It has a wonky moral compass. Is that really the sort of company that we want running our freeports?

Motor Vehicles (Compulsory Insurance) Bill

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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As the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, said, the aim of this Private Member’s Bill—introduced in the Commons by the Conservative MP Peter Bone—is to reverse a 2014 decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union that expanded the types of vehicles required to have compulsory third-party motor insurance. It received government support and, indeed, the Minister has written to me—for which I thank her—confirming the Government’s support for this Bill in the Lords and encouraging me to support it likewise.

Judging by the length of the list of speakers, I think that it could hardly be described as a Bill which has got the pulses racing in your Lordships’ House. Three speakers are listed and all three of us are here because we have to be here. This Bill appears, so far, to have been met with one long yawn in your Lordships’ House.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 limits compulsory insurance to drivers of vehicles on roads and in other public places. This legal position, as has been said, was altered by a decision in 2014 by the Court of Justice of the European Union which extended the requirement for compulsory motor insurance to include vehicles used on private land and to vehicles not constructed for road use. The ruling continued to have effect after the UK left the EU as part of retained EU case law.

According to the Government, the ruling would have led to a rise in motor insurance premiums because claims resulting from the expanded range of vehicles specified in the ruling are admissible by the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, the MIB being a statutory body that operates a compensation scheme for victims who have suffered injury or loss as a result of uninsured or untraced drivers. The scheme is funded by a levy on motor insurance companies, with the costs of the levy ultimately capable of being passed on to motorists through increases in insurance premiums. The MIB is also responsible for meeting claims made by victims of accidents arising from the use of vehicles on private land, hence the significance of the ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union as far as the MIB is concerned. As a result, an increase in the scope of claims payable by the MIB, such as that brought about by the ruling we are discussing, could increase insurance costs for motorists.

In her response, can the Minister clarify whether—and, if so, from when—the 2014 CJEU ruling has been applied in the UK? If it has—I am not sure it has—what has its impact been on insurance costs? If it has not, from when would it have become applicable had we not left the EU? The Government say that the ruling could lead to an average increase in premiums of £50 for each motorist.

In the Commons, the mover of the Bill stated that the CJEU ruling had led the EU to revise its European directive but that:

“The revisions it has made will fail to protect motorists in the EU from the associated costs of the compulsory insurance requirement on private land.”—[Official Report, Commons, 28/1/22; col. 1209.]


As the Government are supporting the Bill, can the Minister confirm that the EU’s recent revisions to its European directive do not affect the Government’s assessment that the ruling could lead to an average increase in premiums of £50 for each motorist—in other words, that the £50 figure relates to the EU directive as now revised and not as it was at the time of the CJEU ruling?

The Association of British Insurers has stated that the additional insurance cover brought about by the CJEU ruling was not necessary in the UK because the claim would already have been covered by other insurance policies, such as compulsory employers’ liability and public liability. The Minister’s letter to me states that the Bill

“provides only positives: savings for motorists without any real reduction in consumer protection due to existing protections such as employers’ and public liability”.

What is the significance of saying “any real reduction”, as opposed to the completely unambiguous “any reduction”?

Would the CJEU ruling have led to greater protection for vehicles covered by the ruling—that is, vehicles used on private land; and a potentially greater range of vehicles, including non-roadgoing vehicles—than is provided at present by compulsory employers’ liability and public liability? In the context of that question, I refer to paragraph 19 of the impact assessment, which states:

“Bespoke insurance arrangements exist in the GB (and predate the Vnuk decision), such as employers’ liability and public liability insurance policies that cover some of the risks on private land. However, these do not provide as much cover as the Vnuk decision, but we consider that these are more appropriate forms of insurance to cover these risks, rather than motor insurance.”


Maybe I am misinterpreting it, but to me that paragraph suggests that the CJEU decision would provide greater cover than the existing arrangements under employers’ liability and public liability insurance. I would be obliged for a government response on that point.

This Bill will not reduce insurance premiums for motorists. The argument is that premiums will not go up as much as would otherwise have been the case if the CJEU ruling was implemented and that the additional cover provided by the CJEU ruling is already covered in this country by other insurance policies. If that is the case—and I have asked questions on that and on other points—we are not opposed to the Bill, and that stance is in line with the position we took when the Bill went through its Commons stages.