Lord Rosser debates with Department for Transport

There have been 90 exchanges between Lord Rosser and Department for Transport

Thu 10th September 2020 Electric Vehicles (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (110 words)
Wed 9th September 2020 Railways (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (93 words)
Mon 7th September 2020 Highway Layouts (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (114 words)
Thu 23rd July 2020 Stonehenge (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (69 words)
Wed 8th July 2020 Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020 (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (778 words)
Tue 7th July 2020 Covid-19: Public Transport (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (95 words)
Thu 2nd July 2020 Public Service Vehicles (Open Data) (England) Regulations 2020 (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (852 words)
Wed 1st July 2020 Public Transport: Social Distancing (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (129 words)
Mon 29th June 2020 Covid-19: Airline Sector (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (125 words)
Thu 25th June 2020 Public Transport: Face Coverings (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (80 words)
Thu 18th June 2020 Civil Aviation (Insurance) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (622 words)
Wed 17th June 2020 Air Traffic Management (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (710 words)
Mon 8th June 2020 Covid-19: Walking and Cycling (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (70 words)
Tue 2nd June 2020 Covid-19: Public Transport (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (64 words)
Thu 14th May 2020 Covid-19: Transport (Lords Chamber) 2 interactions (983 words)
Wed 13th May 2020 Motor Vehicles (Tests) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 (Lords Chamber) 7 interactions (1,683 words)
Tue 12th May 2020 Covid-19: Public Transport Safety (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (123 words)
Tue 5th May 2020 Aviation and Tourism: Cancellations (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (145 words)
Wed 29th April 2020 Passenger Train Services (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (74 words)
Thu 13th February 2020 Smart Motorways (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (803 words)
Wed 12th February 2020 Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 27 interactions (2,818 words)
Mon 27th January 2020 Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (2,068 words)
Tue 7th January 2020 Hammersmith Bridge (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (17 words)
Wed 30th October 2019 Railways (Safety, Access, Management and Interoperability) (Miscellaneous Amendments and Transitional Provision) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Grand Committee) 5 interactions (996 words)
Tue 29th October 2019 Electric Scooters (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (68 words)
Mon 7th October 2019 Railways: Trans-Pennine Freight (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (54 words)
Mon 7th October 2019 Draft Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 1) Order 2019 (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (804 words)
Mon 7th October 2019 Air Services (Competition) (Amendment and Revocation) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (279 words)
Thu 26th September 2019 Cableway Installations (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 2 interactions (139 words)
Thu 26th September 2019 Passenger and Goods Vehicles (Tachographs) (Amendment etc.) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 5 interactions (653 words)
Wed 25th September 2019 Thomas Cook (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (1,226 words)
Mon 9th September 2019 High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill (Lords Chamber) 7 interactions (2,245 words)
Mon 22nd July 2019 Egypt: Suspension of Flights (Lords Chamber) 7 interactions (119 words)
Tue 16th July 2019 Buses: Rural Services (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (121 words)
Mon 24th June 2019 Railways: Newcastle and Edinburgh (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (94 words)
Thu 13th June 2019 Brexit: European Union’s No-deal Continuity Arrangements (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (54 words)
Tue 4th June 2019 Bus Services (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (153 words)
Mon 20th May 2019 International Road Passenger Transport (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 2 interactions (560 words)
Mon 20th May 2019 Transport Act 1985 (Amendment) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 2 interactions (304 words)
Mon 20th May 2019 Connecting Europe Facility (Revocation) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 2 interactions (455 words)
Mon 13th May 2019 Rail Safety (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 4 interactions (1,354 words)
Tue 7th May 2019 Electric Vehicles: Charging Points (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (59 words)
Wed 1st May 2019 Brexit: No-deal Ferry Contracts (Lords Chamber) 5 interactions (272 words)
Thu 25th April 2019 Railways: Midland Main Line (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (151 words)
Tue 26th February 2019 HS2: Electricity Supply (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (73 words)
Mon 25th February 2019 Aviation Security (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 6 interactions (543 words)
Mon 25th February 2019 Air Traffic Management (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 5 interactions (1,207 words)
Mon 25th February 2019 Maritime Transport Access to Trade and Cabotage (Revocation) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 4 interactions (711 words)
Wed 20th February 2019 Road Vehicles and Non-Road Mobile Machinery (Type-Approval) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 8 interactions (1,579 words)
Wed 20th February 2019 Drivers’ Hours and Tachographs (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (456 words)
Wed 20th February 2019 Motor Vehicles (Compulsory Insurance) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (830 words)
Wed 20th February 2019 Merchant Shipping (Marine Equipment) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 4 interactions (948 words)
Wed 13th February 2019 Commercial Air Routes: United Kingdom and East Africa (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (104 words)
Mon 11th February 2019 Seaborne Freight (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (239 words)
Wed 6th February 2019 Railways: Dawlish (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (146 words)
Wed 21st November 2018 Operation of Air Services (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 (Grand Committee) 9 interactions (435 words)
Tue 6th November 2018 International Road Transport Permits (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (894 words)
Tue 30th October 2018 Railways: East Coast Main Line (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (145 words)
Mon 29th October 2018 Railways: Fares (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (125 words)
Wed 24th October 2018 Civil Aviation (Insurance) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 (Grand Committee) 8 interactions (612 words)
Wed 24th October 2018 Merchant Shipping (Monitoring, Reporting and Verification of Carbon Dioxide Emissions) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 (Grand Committee) 2 interactions (250 words)
Wed 17th October 2018 Department for Transport (Fees) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 (Grand Committee) 11 interactions (1,133 words)
Wed 11th July 2018 Railways: Train Timetables (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (90 words)
Mon 9th July 2018 Stonehenge Tunnel (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (110 words)
Tue 3rd July 2018 Govia Thameslink (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (171 words)
Wed 10th January 2018 Local Congestion: Investment (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (142 words)
Tue 9th January 2018 Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 7 interactions (2,134 words)
Wed 20th December 2017 Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (Science and Technology Report) (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (1,370 words)
Mon 18th December 2017 Sub-national Transport Body (Transport for the North) Regulations 2017 (Lords Chamber) 7 interactions (1,336 words)
Tue 12th December 2017 Railways: Fares (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (115 words)
Wed 29th November 2017 Railways: Update (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (825 words)
Tue 28th November 2017 Space Industry Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 7 interactions (343 words)
Tue 21st November 2017 Drones (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (80 words)
Mon 20th November 2017 Brexit: Tourism (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (149 words)
Thu 16th November 2017 HS2: Economic and Environmental Impact (Grand Committee) 3 interactions (1,006 words)
Tue 14th November 2017 Space Industry Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 43 interactions (2,954 words)
Mon 13th November 2017 Road Safety: Hand-held Devices (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (160 words)
Tue 31st October 2017 Railways: Reliability (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (1,065 words)
Wed 25th October 2017 Air Travel Organisers' Licensing Bill (Lords Chamber) 8 interactions (1,541 words)
Mon 23rd October 2017 Space Industry Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 19 interactions (2,474 words)
Mon 16th October 2017 Space Industry Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 30 interactions (3,662 words)
Wed 11th October 2017 Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing Bill (Grand Committee) 22 interactions (3,395 words)
Mon 9th October 2017 Monarch Airlines (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (772 words)
Tue 5th September 2017 Roads: Congestion (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (109 words)
Tue 5th September 2017 Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing Bill (Lords Chamber) 7 interactions (1,531 words)
Thu 20th July 2017 Transport: Remote Island Communities in England (Lords Chamber) 5 interactions (1,798 words)
Wed 12th July 2017 Electric Car Ownership (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (89 words)
Wed 12th July 2017 Space Industry Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 9 interactions (2,347 words)
Tue 27th June 2017 Southern Rail: Gibb Report (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (150 words)
Mon 26th June 2017 Aviation (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (147 words)

Electric Vehicles

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Thursday 10th September 2020

(2 weeks, 4 days ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for Transport
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con) - Hansard

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] - Hansard

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) - Hansard

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

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Wednesday 9th September 2020

(2 weeks, 5 days ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for Transport
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con) - Hansard

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) - Hansard

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) - Hansard

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

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Monday 7th September 2020

(3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for Transport
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con) - Hansard

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) - Hansard

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?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con) - Hansard

On a case-by-case basis, each road scheme must comply with the national policy statement on national roads, which states that a DCO applicant must show, for example, how the project has taken advantage of opportunities to “conserve and enhance” biodiversity and geological conservation interests. There are many other issues in that national policy statement which will apply to roads now and in future.

Stonehenge

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Thursday 23rd July 2020

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for Transport
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V] - Hansard

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] - Hansard

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] - Hansard

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.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Wednesday 8th July 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for Transport
Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, this SI is the outcome of a long saga about the efficacy of wearing masks. Early in the pandemic, controversy raged over the Government’s failure to provide adequate supplies of PPE. The daily news featured scientists and clinicians explaining how vital decent masks are. If doctors and nurses are protected by wearing masks, then ordinary people are too. But the Government took the position that masks were of no benefit. The strong suspicion is that their main consideration in maintaining this position, after it ceased to be credible and the WHO advice was clearly changing, was to avoid a surge in demand for masks when there was already a shortage.

When government advice changed on 11 May, it was carefully scripted so that any face covering would be helpful. The clue is in the title of this legislation: face coverings, not masks. Government representatives were even claiming that the use of masks by the general public could give people a false sense of security. I have used a mask since the very early days of the pandemic. It is uncomfortable and I have no chance of forgetting it is there, so it constantly alerts me to the hazards of my shopping trip.

Confused government messaging has undoubtedly had an impact on our ability to fight this virus. Evidence on the wearing of face coverings on public transport shows a steady increase in compliance. If compliance was low in mid-May that is probably because, the week before, the Government were telling us that masks were not necessary. All social change takes some time to bed in, to create a new normal for behaviour. I have recently used both trains and tubes, and almost all passengers were wearing masks, albeit there were not that many other passengers at all.

On 4 June, the Secretary of State announced that face coverings would be mandatory from 15 June, when this SI was laid. The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has drawn attention to the fact that these regulations were laid long after they had taken effect and too long after the initial announcement. This is government by decree, and we must not get used to it, because it is a long way from acceptable democratic process. Can the Minister explain why, having advised us to wear face coverings on 11 May, the Government did not consult the industry at that point but left it until after the announcement that it would be compulsory on 4 June? Consultation after the decision—even this debate is being held at the very last possible minute.

The debate has now moved on to who should enforce this, and I agree with those noble Lords who say that bus drivers, for instance, should not be expected to do this job. There are quite strong enforcement powers in here for the police but, in practice, enforcement will largely be via the court of public opinion. There are dangers of a vigilante approach.

Several categories of people do not have to wear face coverings, many of them in vulnerable groups. They are not expected to provide written evidence, but it would help them a lot if they could carry a certificate, or even wear a badge if they wish to, so they can easily explain their situation. Do the Government have such a scheme ready and waiting? If not, I hope that one is in preparation. The regulations use both the terms “exemption” and “reasonable excuse” for those not required to wear a face covering. Can the Minister explain the difference between the two?

As my noble friend Lord Roberts has illustrated very cleverly, there are differences between this English legislation and the situation in Wales. Can the Minister assure us that there have been thorough discussions not only with the Welsh Government but with all cross-border transport operators?

Finally, I wear a mask to protect other people, rather than to protect myself. But those who object to wearing a mask often say that they, personally, are not afraid of the virus. As my noble friend Lady Jolly has pointed out, these are often young men. They have missed the point. Can the Minister assure us that the Government will hold a communications campaign to raise public awareness of both why and how masks are important?

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

My Lords, I will try to avoid repeating too many of the questions that have already been asked.

We support the instrument, which provides for the mandatory wearing of face coverings on public transport by passengers without exemption or a reasonable excuse. As has already been said, the regulations came into force over three weeks ago. At the moment, the issue for most public transport is not the lack of services but the lack of passengers, who have been deterred from using buses and trains by continuing government messaging that such journeys should be made only if they are essential or unavoidable. In most cases, the number of passengers is still below the level allowed, even under the social distancing requirements. Station car parks, usually full, continue to remain largely empty. The pubs may now be open, but presumably the Government do not support the use of public transport to get to and from the pub. Perhaps the Minister could confirm that while this is the Government’s position, it is apparently okay to journey to the pub for a drink in your own car.

The Explanatory Memorandum says that while face coverings are not a substitute for distancing and hand hygiene, they can offer some limited protection to others, particularly where distancing is difficult to manage. Yet there is some difference of view over the extent to which face coverings are actually being worn, or appropriately worn, particularly by young men, between some of those who are travelling on buses and trains—such as my noble friends Lady Primarolo and Lord Triesman—and the Government, who say that there is very high compliance. Maybe there is a difference between the percentage of passengers wearing a face covering when going through the barrier, or getting on a train or bus, and the percentage of passengers continuing to wear a face covering appropriately once they are on the train or bus.

The Minister in the Commons made reference to more people being on duty across the railway network to encourage compliance, but the instrument provides public transport operators with discretion over whether they choose to use their powers; they do not have an obligation to do so. Does the Minister know what percentage of bus and train operators intend to use their powers to deny someone access to a service if they are not wearing a face covering, or to direct them to leave a service if they do not wear a face covering when asked to do so? Presumably, compliance and enforcement are crucial to achieving the purpose of this instrument. Do the Government accept that an operator’s staff should not be expected to enforce denial of access to a station or service, or eviction from a service or station?

The Explanatory Memorandum seems to accept that social distancing cannot always be enforced on public transport, stating that:

“Social distancing is likely to be increasingly difficult to manage … as restrictions are relaxed and demand for transport services increases.”

According to the Explanatory Memorandum, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser has noted that

“face coverings would offer some benefit in crowded transport environments, such as the London Underground … where distancing is not possible … in which people are potentially crowded for more than 15min”.

Mandatory wearing of face coverings will, says the Explanatory Memorandum, “provide greater confidence” to the public and will “benefit business”,

“as people will be more likely to use the public transport network and will be more likely to travel to shop.”

Does that mean that, with mandatory face coverings, the Government now encourage the use of public transport to travel to a city or town centre to go shopping for non-essential items? The Government’s messaging on when and for what purposes they encourage or support the use of public transport appears to be becoming a little confused.

The messaging is also less than clear in another way. This instrument provides for the mandatory wearing of face coverings on aircraft. Some airlines are apparently booking 100% of their seats on an aircraft, which presumably means that, with the wearing of face coverings, social distancing requirements are not being applied. If this is being done with government acceptance, why do the Government regard this as safe for passengers on aircraft but unsafe on buses and trains? There must be a good reason, and it would be helpful if the Minister could spell out what that reason is.

I repeat that we support this instrument, which we hope will encourage more people to feel that travelling by public transport will now be much safer. However, I and other noble Lords would like a response from the Government to the many questions and issues that have been raised in the debate today.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate today, and particularly those who forewarned me of the issues they were going to raise; that is incredibly helpful when there are so many speakers in a debate. I will try to cover everything, but, if not, I will of course write.

The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, seemed a little irritated by the Government on this one. However, engagement with the transport operators has been continuous since the start of the Covid pandemic, and of course we discussed face coverings with them. We announced the policy on 4 June and then talked about how it would be put into operation with the transport operators and the devolved authorities, which I will come back to a little later.

Noble Lords will recall that 15 June was the date on which non-essential retail was opened. Prior to that, there was very little demand at all on public transport. We therefore felt that 15 June was the right time to put this in place. However, given the urgency of the situation, we felt that it was necessary to use the “made affirmative” procedure; it has been used before, in particular for some of the Brexit SIs, but it is not used lightly by the Government. In this case, we felt that it was entirely appropriate, given that it was a rapidly changing situation.

As noble Lords will have heard many times before, the Government are guided by the scientific advice as it develops—and the scientific advice has developed. Unfortunately, that may mean that, with hindsight—hindsight is a marvellous thing in a pandemic—one could say that communications were confused, but actually, it is that the scientific advice has developed. SAGE now advises that using a cloth face covering, as a precautionary measure, could be at least partially effective in enclosed spaces, such as public transport, where social distancing is not always possible, in particular where there is a risk of close social contact with multiple people who a person does not usually meet. Of course, we looked at the advice from SAGE and at academic articles when making the decision that we have now reached.

My noble friend Lady Altmann asked whether or not we should have standards for face coverings. We deliberately wanted to avoid being prescriptive about the form that a face covering should take, because it should be easy for people to put something over their nose and mouth and get on public transport. I reassure her that wearing, for example, a visor that covers the mouth and nose, and which might be made out of plastic, would be in scope. We expect people to buy or make face coverings, and there is guidance on the government website as to how to make them. I know that cheap face coverings are widely available. I bought mine on the internet. They appear to be made of offcuts from ladies’ underwear, but they cost very little and they do the trick.

I return to the devolved Administrations. I have had many conversations about the devolved Administrations in my time as a Minister, and, if I may say so, most of them are complaints that the devolved Administrations are not being allowed to diverge. Now, we are in a situation where a number of noble Lords are incensed that the devolved nations have been allowed to make decisions for themselves. I remain confused.

The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, talked about Wales. I absolutely understand the issues in Wales, and it is the case that there are different regulations in England and in Wales. But that is devolution. However, the Government strongly encourage passengers to wear face coverings for the entirety of their journey. Of course, we have continual conversations with the devolved nations on these sorts of matters, but I reassure all noble Lords that, as yet, no significant issues have arisen on cross-border services.

Exemptions are a critical part of this face covering regulation. Noble Lords will understand that we will never get to 100%—if we did so, we would have done it wrong, as it would mean that people were not making full use of the available exemptions. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, wanted a definition of the difference between an exemption and a reasonable excuse. I think an exemption is something that would apply all the time, as a person would be exempt for a certain reason. A reasonable excuse, however, could involve someone who is fleeing violence or in another situation that may not apply all the time but meant that, at that moment, that person had a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering.

The list is not exhaustive; for example, there are exemptions for children, and the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, raised a very important point about people who rely on lip reading and facial expressions. We want people to take a pragmatic approach where, if they feel that they should be exempted, they should be. We are working closely with the transport operators. We have been talking to them about the amount of training that staff will have to make sure they are aware that these exemptions are in place. A number of operators have a badge, lanyard or card scheme—one such scheme was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner. I believe that these help and I am encouraging transport operators to put them in place, but their use is entirely optional. Certainly, it is not expected that people should have to wear a lanyard to get an exemption; we have to be pragmatic.

I want especially to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, for sharing the work they have seen on identifying symbols for those who might benefit from extra protection; this was very interesting and I was extremely grateful. I reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, that we are working to get the message out—particularly to those who can help us to target specific groups which may not be fully aware of the exemptions.

A number of noble Lords commented on children under 11. Our equalities impact assessment found that it would be difficult and impractical to require primary school children to wear and keep on a face covering. However, we still recommend that children between the ages of three and 11 should wear a face covering. The noble Baronesses, Lady Watkins and Lady McIntosh, talked about transport for schoolchildren. This will be really important, particularly as schoolchildren return in September. We are following scientific advice; in many circumstances—particularly for children who use local-authority procured coaches or other vehicles—they will be travelling in bubbles, either within their own year group or, at least, within their own schools or a couple of schools in the area. They will therefore not be mixing with a vast number of people with whom they do not usually have contact. That is the difference between schoolchildren and other people, and why we do not feel that children on school transport need to wear face coverings. We did an equalities impact assessment on this, which included considerations relating to BAME groups and advice from the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, to ensure that we understand what exemptions and other issues might arise.

I am pleased to say that the current level of compliance between 22 and 28 June was 91%. There will always be circumstances where noble Lords have seen people who are not complying—I completely agree. The noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, mentioned young men. I too am concerned about young men. Perhaps they are enjoying the new-found freedoms of the pub and, on leaving, find it all too easy to forget to put a face covering on. Perhaps the mantra for young men should be, “spectacles, face covering, wallet and watch” before leaving the house; we will have to see whether that catches on.

On enforcement, this is an incredibly delicate balance. At the moment, we are looking at engagement rather than enforcement, although we are ramping up enforcement because we feel that people have had time enough for this message to sink in. We will also continue to work with transport operators; on the point raised by my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft, any abuse of transport operators or staff will not be tolerated. Some transport operators are changing their conditions of carriage to make sure that they can apply these face covering regulations as broadly as possible. Children between the ages of 11 and 18 cannot be given a fixed penalty notice; I do not feel that that would be right. However, they can be asked to leave a service just as anyone else can be—that is how this will be enforced.

On the question of why the regulations apply only to public transport, I have talked about why this is particularly important for public transport. However, the Government recommend the use of face coverings in all enclosed settings where social distancing is not possible, which would include shops, and, of course, we are keeping this policy under review.

I will have to write to noble Lords on taxis and PHVs, as well as on aviation, as I am running out of time. However, let me reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, about the availability of face coverings, which is incredibly important. We have already distributed over 2 million face coverings to local transport operators. Network Rail has been installing vending machines at Network Rail-managed stations. I am sure that all noble Lords have seen the availability of face coverings online and in local shops.

I once again thank all noble Lords for their contributions. There will be a follow-up letter to this debate with further information. I beg to move.

Covid-19: Public Transport

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Tuesday 7th July 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for Transport
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V] - Hansard

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] - Hansard

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] - Hansard

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 Service Vehicles (Open Data) (England) Regulations 2020

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Thursday 2nd July 2020

(2 months, 4 weeks ago)

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Department for Transport
Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, the Bus Services Act 2017 gave the Government powers to require operators and transport authorities throughout England and outside London to publish, free of charge, a comprehensive set of data including fares, timetables, bus-stop location and real-time data on bus location, hence allowing expected arrival time. For some mystifying reason, some operators seem to believe that this sort of information is commercially confidential. So, these regulations are greatly to be welcomed.

If you travel by train, you take this type of information for granted. As the Minister pointed out, if you travel in London, you take the availability of this kind of bus information via an app for granted. It is regarded as an essential part of the efficient use of public transport in the capital city. Yet, most of England lags badly behind. This is yet another example of the major damage done to bus services by deregulation in 1985. To put that into perspective, that legislation was passed when I was a very young councillor on my first council committee. It is therefore in great need of modernisation. Deregulation opened up a gulf between the quality of bus services in London and the rest of the country, and the decline of bus services almost everywhere else has had major social and environmental implications.

I hope that the regulations may start to address these problems because passenger surveys consistently show that a lack of information is a substantial barrier to getting new customers on the buses. The Explanatory Memorandum reveals the extent of the problem. Despite the bus industry and local authorities having had three years’ notice that they would be required to provide this information, only 40 out of 87 local authorities currently do so. The EM refers even now to a “phased implementation”. The Minister gave us some dates. Are those dates are set in stone? Does she regard them as being soon enough? Can she foresee anything that that might delay further the introduction of these regulations? I am getting pretty impatient for progress, and that is what we need as a result of the regulations.

The 2017 Act was very modest and in many ways it was a missed opportunity, but, as I said, we are now three years on, and it is two years since the DfT’s own consultation on the detailed requirements for this data finished. The Explanatory Memorandum’s reference number suggests that that was written in 2018 as well. Where has it been all this time? Is it yet another casualty of the long Brexit saga? Unfortunately, it has finally made its way here at a very difficult time for expanding bus usage. I spent some time in the last 48 hours using public transport in London, and it was obvious to me that things cannot carry on like this for very long. It is important that everything possible is done to get people back on to the buses and tubes as soon as it is safe to do so.

Paragraph 13.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum refers to user research that was due to conclude this spring. Can the Minister confirm that that actually happened and was not interrupted by the pandemic?

Given the disparate nature of the bus industry and the financial plight of local authorities, I am glad to see that the Government have decided to bear some of the costs of processing this data. I also welcome the additional assistance to small operators, which tend to serve rural areas, where information on when the next bus is due is crucial. Various noble Lords have given an estimate of how long you wait in rural areas. I am aware that in many cases you can wait until the next day if you miss the bus, and sometimes you can wait until the next summer season.

I have a couple of other questions. The regulations apply to England only, but bus services go across the Wales-England border. Were there any discussions with the Senedd or the Welsh Government about the provision of information?

This could be a small revolution but only if potential bus users know how easy it will be to find information on their local bus services. Existing passengers will find out pretty quickly because bus companies will tell them about apps and further information, but buses need new passengers. What resources do the Government intend to put into raising public awareness of these regulations?

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

I thank the Minister for her explanation of the content and purpose of this draft order. I add my support to the words of the noble Lords, Lord Holmes of Richmond and Lord Blencathra, about the important role and work of staff in the bus industry, particularly during Covid-19.

As the Minister said, the Bus Services Act 2017 amended the Transport Act 2000 to provide for the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring bus operators and local transport authorities to make data available regarding timetables, fares, stopping places, vehicle location and the time at which buses arrive or are expected to arrive. Information on historic punctuality data is also included. These regulations now make that provision, to allow for the development of bus information applications for use on mobile and other devices to help passengers in England to make informed decisions about their journeys, although I suppose that in the current situation it is a moot point whether it is less a case of passengers wanting to find out where the buses are than the buses wanting to find out where the passengers are.

The objective of the regulations is to be achieved by requiring operators of local bus services, and local authorities outside Greater London, to make their bus data available, including on timetables, fares and location, through the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State will in turn publish it on a website for developers of bus information apps to access so that they can create applications, products and services for passengers’ mobile and other devices. As has been said, that already happens in Greater London for buses, and across the rail industry, enabling passengers to plan journeys, find the cheapest fares and obtain real-time service updates and information.

The Minister has already answered in her opening contribution some of the questions that I was going to ask so I will try to avoid repeating them, at least in some cases. She said that the order was essential to encourage the travelling public to use their local bus services and to make the switch to public transport, in order to reduce congestion and improve air quality. I know the Minister will acknowledge that more than the provisions of this order will be needed to get people back on to buses. So, in addition to this order, do the Government intend to provide bus operators and local authorities, including Transport for London, sufficient long-term assistance, particularly financial funding, to ensure that their income from running buses is maintained at at least at pre-Covid-19 levels until passengers return in sufficient numbers to achieve this objective without financial support? If that is not the Government’s intention, the anticipated and hoped-for favourable impact of this order on buses, which we support, will be somewhat diminished.

Under the order, any operator of a local bus service across England must publish its timetable, fares and location data for the bus open data service before that service comes into operation. The new rules will be enforced by the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency, which will be able to conduct checks to ensure that the operator is complying. How will those checks be conducted and what form will they take? Will that require additional resources for the DVSA?

Punctuality data will also be legally required, and local transport authorities will be legally responsible for maintaining data about bus stops and stations. As has been said, the regulations will be brought in in phases: timetables and stop data requirements from the end of this year; basic fares and location data from early January; and complex fares from January 2023. Why is such a timescale deemed necessary in respect of complex fares? What is the definition of a complex fare? As far as the two much earlier deadlines are concerned, are the Government satisfied that these much shorter timescales can still be delivered in light of the disruption resulting from Covid-19?

The order does not appear to cover the provision at bus stops, as opposed to via mobile devices, of information for waiting passengers on when the next bus or next few buses will actually be arriving, on which routes and to what destinations. Is that the case? If so, what is the reason for that? Such information, where already available at bus stops, can be very useful for passengers who may not have any other means of finding out how long they will have to wait for their bus to arrive.

What growth in bus use are the provisions of this order expected to generate? Paragraph 12.1 of the Explanatory Memorandum refers to it being “assumed” that this will

“lead to increased bus patronage.”

There is also a reference, I think in the same paragraph, to greater profits for bus operators of £0.8 million to £5 million per year. What percentage increase in profits does that represent? Would it also mean a reduction in the level of subsidy that local authorities pay to operators for running local authority-subsidised services?

As I have indicated, we support the provision of more comprehensive information, including real-time information, about bus services to passengers. We hope that the order achieves its stated objectives.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in today’s short debate for their generally warm welcome for these regulations, and for the bus open data service as a whole. I will respond to as many points as I possibly can in the allotted time, but I will of course write on the points which—[Connection lost.]

Public Transport: Social Distancing

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Wednesday 1st July 2020

(2 months, 4 weeks ago)

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Department for Transport
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V] - Hansard

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] - Hansard

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] - Hansard

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

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Monday 29th June 2020

(3 months ago)

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Department for Transport
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V] - Hansard

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] - Hansard

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] - Hansard

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

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Thursday 25th June 2020

(3 months ago)

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Department for Transport
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V] - Hansard

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] - Hansard

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] - Hansard

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.

Civil Aviation (Insurance) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

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Thursday 18th June 2020

(3 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, there could not be a more appropriate time to discuss aviation insurance. When we eventually could hear the Minister I was pleased that she set out very clearly the SI’s intention. The EU regulations establish minimum insurance requirements in respect of passengers, baggage, cargo and third parties, but they also require carriers to have insurance that covers acts of war, terrorism, sabotage, unlawful seizure and civil commotion. As other noble Lords mentioned, I am sure that many people wish that that list covered pandemics as well. As the Minister said, this SI replaces the European Commission’s powers regarding this with those of the Secretary of State. Like others, I regret that the SI has to be brought and the causes of it, but I will take the opportunity to discuss some of the specific issues within it.

We have discussed insurance and consumers’ rights several times here in the last few years, but always in the context of the financial failure of an airline, and questions have been put on consumers’ rights in relation to payment methods. This SI puts the spotlight instead on the basic obligations of the airline operators.

The pandemic has placed huge stresses on the aviation industry in general and, as other noble Lords have said, some airlines have resorted to extreme delaying tactics to avoid repaying their customers for cancelled flights. Many consumers are waiting very long periods to receive refunds—the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, being one. Airlines are resorting to devious tactics to make it very difficult even to claim a refund; for example, by removing the refund request option from their website, so customers have to phone to request a refund but then find that the number is continuously busy. There is pressure to accept vouchers instead, but in the current uncertain situation is not surprising that customers consider that a risky option, and they may not wish to travel anyway. There are adverts tempting the public to purchase cheap flights in the near future, when it is highly unlikely that that flight will actually operate. The suspicion here is that this is a device to bolster short-term income for the airline. While all this is understandable at this difficult time, it is certainly not acceptable. Therefore, the level of guarantees and consumer rights provided by the EU regulations have proved valuable and the public will expect them to continue. They will expect Brexit to provide improvements to their rights—that is what those who supported Brexit thought would come. Certainly, they will not expect the EU to provide any improvements that are not immediately adopted in the UK.

Consumers who book linked travel arrangements, such as connecting flights, are often not fully aware of the national registration status of the airlines they choose to use. They might well start off with a UK airline but change planes midway on to an airline from another country. The official national status of airlines is often not obvious. Despite its appalling behaviour towards its employees, BA, for example, trades on its status as the British flag carrier, but it is Spanish-owned. Sometimes, one books with airline A and ends up flying with airline B, its so-called agent. All these uncertainties emphasise the value of a co-ordinated system of insurance and consumer rights, so my question to the Minister is: will the system guarantee the same level of co-ordination and ease of use for consumers in future?

Paragraphs 14.1 and 14.2 of the EM cover monitoring and review and make it clear that no systematic review process is planned. However, paragraph 7.2 shows that the EU regulations have a five-year mechanism for review built in, so there is surely the danger that our regulations will become outdated by default. I would be grateful for the Minister’s comments on this. Finally, on the issue of consultation raised by others, paragraph 10.1 states that the CAA “has been consulted” and was happy with the changes proposed. It does not refer at all to the insurance industry. It goes on to say:

“The devolved administrations and the aviation industry have been informed”

of the Government’s intention. That is a new choice of words to me. It sounds very high-handed. It is against all the usual courtesies of the devolution settlements and it puts us back at least 30 years in the way that, by convention, government works with business. I ask the Minister to address this specific point: is this just a one-off or is it the way the Government intend to do business in future? A very long time ago it was accepted that good government relies to a great extent on partnership and consultation with those within each sector, which leads to a more effective way of doing things. I hope that that will not be abandoned.

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

I thank the Minister and her officials for the virtual meeting on these regulations on Tuesday, and the Minister specifically for her explanation of the content and purpose of this draft SI, to which we are not opposed.

EU regulation 785/2004 establishes minimum insurance requirements for air carriers and aircraft operators in respect of passengers, baggage, cargo and third parties. It also requires that air carriers and aircraft operators have insurance which covers specific risks, including acts of war, terrorism, hijacking, acts of sabotage, unlawful seizure of aircraft, and civil commotion. The regulation will be retained in our law at the end of the transition period and the Minister has already been asked more than once about insurance cover for Covid-19 type pandemics—I am sure she will respond to that point.

As a result of recent amendments made to EU regulation 785/2004, these further draft regulations are needed to ensure that the terms of that regulation, as amended, continue to operate effectively in our domestic law after the end of the transition period. This is achieved by replacing Commission powers with powers for Secretary of State for Transport to amend the minimum insurance requirements by regulations which will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. As I understand it, the 1999 Montreal Convention provided for airlines to be responsible for compensation in the case of death and injury to passengers, and to be adequately insured to cover any liabilities, and the EU minimum insurance requirements stemmed from that. First, I ask the Government to confirm, as I believe the Minister said, that these regulations make no changes in the present minimum insurance requirements that apply in the UK on the day after the end of the transition period, apart from replacing Commission powers with powers for the Secretary of State.

I wish to raise a couple of other points. Will UK air carriers and aircraft operators have to have, at all times in the future, minimum insurance levels that are not below EU minimum requirements in order to be able to fly to EU countries? If we wanted to, could we have minimum insurance requirements that are below EU minimum requirements and not put in jeopardy the ability of our air carriers and aircraft operators to fly to EU countries? The Government’s mantra is that at the end of the transition period we will have taken back control and be able to do what we want to do and not, as a member of the EU, be a party to EU legislation. What does this draft regulation enable us to take back control of, in practice and not just in theory? What have we been wanting to do but have been unable to do on minimum insurance requirements for air carriers and aircraft operators because we have been a member of the European Union?

The insurance requirements covered by these draft regulations are about providing cover for airline operators rather than consumers, including passengers. Can the Government say whether the minimum insurance requirements provided for in these draft regulations cover airline operators against legal proceedings for failing to reimburse fares for flights that were cancelled? On the face of it, these regulations offer no good news for passengers, of whom I am one, waiting far too long for such refunds. Nevertheless, I hope that the Government, in their response to this debate, will also take the opportunity to say what actual progress they have made in ensuring that airlines make the necessary arrangements to refund these fares promptly and not leave it for several months.

I will listen with interest to the Government’s response to the points made in the debate, including the issues raised by my noble friend Lord Blunkett and the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who took part in the debate today, and once again I apologise for my technology. It is the first time that that has happened to me and it is a Minister’s worst nightmare. I will certainly be in the Chamber next week and possibly in the future. Some of the debate has reached far beyond the scope of the statutory instrument. I will do my best to respond today but if not, of course I will write. It might help if I start by outlining the underpinning of the EU regulations in the Montreal convention 1999.

The convention was brought in to update and bring together existing international conventions on air carriers’ liability. The main change was to set maximum standards of strict liability in claims against airlines for loss of life or injury and damage to or loss of baggage in cargo. The limits are refreshed every five years, most recently in December 2019. I can tell my noble friend Lord Blencathra that the liability amounts for passengers and baggage will remain in place.

Prior to the Montreal convention, passengers were required to prove that an airline had been wilfully negligent for all claims. Nowadays, passengers are still able to claim above the strict liability limits set out in the Montreal convention, but need to prove negligence on the part of the airline. The convention provides that air operators should have adequate insurance to cover any claims but it does not set out insurance requirements beyond that, so the EU regulations—and in consequence the UK regulations in the future—build on the convention but do not replace it. Instead, the regulations will set out the requirements for minimum insurance levels for air operators flying to, from, within or over a particular state. This sets the definition of minimum insurance standards, rather than the convention’s requirement for adequate insurance.

The regulations’ minimum insurance levels are broadly based on the convention’s strict liability limits, but in general the EU requires insurance levels—and therefore we will require insurance levels—significantly above, in some cases, the strict liability limits set out in the convention. For example, for a liability in respect of passengers, the minimum insurance cover in the EU is 250,000 Special Drawing Rights, which is about £275,000 per passenger. That is about twice as much as the strict liability limit in international law. While strict liability limits are set by the international treaty, if the country is party to it, minimum levels of insurance are set by country, or pan-EU in this case. Minimum levels of insurance for different countries can of course change, and any operator flying into, over or within a country must have such minimum levels of insurance in place.

Part of this is about demonstrating compliance, which is where the Civil Aviation Authority comes in. In the case of the EU, EEA, EFTA and the UK, an air carrier has to be able to demonstrate its compliance with the insurance requirements by providing evidence of valid insurance to the member state that granted its operating licence, or if it flew into that country. In the UK, operating licences are granted by the CAA, which already performs that role. The noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, asked about compliance. The CAA monitors compliance by carrying out spot-checks on aircraft. Non-compliance is a criminal offence. Therefore, we do not anticipate that this SI will have a financial or practical impact on the CAA as it already performs all of those functions and is content with the proposals. I am a little disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said that he did not believe me when I said that. His words were perhaps a little strong.

A number of noble Lords mentioned the scope of the insurance, which is an important issue as it applies to all carriers and operators flying into or out of various countries. The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, asked whether insurance could be extended to cover pandemics and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, mentioned business interruption insurance. Of course, carriers are free to make their own insurance arrangements. The insurance under consideration today specifically refers to loss of life or injury to a passenger, and loss of or damage to property, but given how few flights there are, it is not immediately clear how a pandemic could cause these outcomes; the implications are not clear. But I believe that the relationship between the aviation industry and protections for passengers will receive an enormous amount of scrutiny as we come out of this crisis. The Government had already announced an aviation insolvency Bill in the Queen’s Speech and when this crisis is over and done with and planes are starting to fly again, we will be able to look at this in more detail.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked whether an insurance policy includes the refunds of payments made by passengers for services not received. Again, that would be a contractual matter if the aviation supplier wanted to get that insurance from an insurer. I know that noble Lords are aware of this, but refunds to passengers where they have been denied boarding or suffered a cancellation are covered by EC regulation 261/2004, which requires compensation within seven days. It will continue to apply. I recognise that in the current circumstances, some passengers are not receiving their refunds within the specified time. The Government are absolutely clear: where a passenger is due a refund, it must be paid.

The noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, and my noble friend Lord Blencathra raised the incredibly important issue of protections for wheelchair users and other passengers with reduced mobility when their wheelchairs and other belongings are damaged. The EU regulations we are discussing today give the minimum insurance cover of 1,131 SDRs for baggage per passenger. I am aware of the case of Ms Stevens’ damaged wheelchair and I sympathise with her situation. Wheelchairs that cost thousands of pounds are subject to the same damaged baggage legislation that limits compensation to around £1,000. A number of UK airlines already voluntarily waive that limit, and the Government will call on all airlines to adopt that practice. We will certainly return to this issue very soon. It is a complex one, given the wide variety of wheelchairs available and their values, and the fact that there are no standardised tether points for safe stowage in the holds of aircraft. We have discussed this with the industry in great detail and we continue to do so. We are looking at testing different storage solutions and improving training. We will continue to work on this.

The noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Kennedy, asked about divergence in the future. The UK cannot diverge from the requirements of the Montreal Convention. We are obliged to follow it, given that we are a party to the convention. The Government have no plans to diverge from the minimum insurance levels which currently exist in the UK and the EU. However, as with all these things, changes may be required in the future as a result of inflation. Any changes made by domestic legislation, rather than by EU legislation as now, would require an affirmative resolution by your Lordships’ House and the other place, and we will of course be consulting the industry.

The Government discuss matters relating to EU exit with the aviation industry, the travel industry and with consumer representatives. The last round-table meeting was on 16 March. No issues were raised in relation to this instrument, because it keeps all elements of the current system in place. Regarding the insurance industry, there is no change to the insurance requirements, so there will be no practical impact on the industry, but we will have ongoing discussions with the industry on EU exit and other matters.

The Government maintain a close and ongoing relationship with the devolved Administrations. Perhaps the word “inform” is not right, because we rightly discuss matters relating to EU exit, even where they are reserved matters. No concerns have been raised in relation to this instrument.

As for the changes made by this instrument, the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, mentioned the change from “empower to” to “may”. I assure the noble Lord that there is no difference in this regard. Both confer a discretionary power as opposed to a duty, and “may” is simply more often used in UK legislation. The changes in the SI are very minor, as I said in my opening remarks. They relate to a change in the power of the Commission to do with the legal framework of the treaty of Lisbon. We transferred that power to the Secretary of State in the first SI, which was approved by your Lordships’ House.

Finally, the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, raised the European Commission’s power to object to the continuation of these powers on a five-year basis. We looked at this and considered it already inherent in our system, as Parliament may, at any time, legislate to remove a relevant power—or powers—from the Secretary of State.

I am aware that this was rushed, that I have not covered everything and that I must write, but this instrument ensures that legislation on aviation insurance requirements—an important part of the regulatory framework for civil aviation—continues to work effectively. I commend the regulations to the House.

Air Traffic Management (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Wednesday 17th June 2020

(3 months, 1 week ago)

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Department for Transport
Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD) [V] - Hansard

I thank the Minister and her officials for their time yesterday to discuss this SI. Effectively, it amends amendments to bring us in line with EU regulations on the single European sky. It is the latest in a long line of SIs necessitated by the Government’s decision to take the hardest of all possible Brexit routes. Once again, there is no plan to change how things operate; they just want to delete ECJ oversight.

The industry itself, in response to the Government’s consultation, referred to in paragraph 10.1 of the Explanatory Memorandum, stressed its strong support for continuity. It will now be the role of the CAA effectively to oversee itself, answerable to the Secretary of State. The CAA is an excellent organisation but, along with other Members of your Lordships’ House, I am worried about the lack of transparency and rigour in these processes. Can the Minister give us more detail about how the Government will ensure that we remain right up there with the world leaders on aviation safety, and that UK aviation significantly reduces its environmental footprint?

The EU’s single European sky project is designed to improve safety, increase capacity and improve efficiency, and hence reduce the environmental impact of aviation. It includes a programme of research designed to develop new operating technology and systems. It is a success story, in which the UK has played a leading role. However, it is not just an EU club. Norway and Switzerland are members, despite not being in the EU. Indeed, soon after the Brexit referendum I was reassured by Ministers that they did not want to leave the single European sky. If Norway and Switzerland feel it is important to be part of it, why not us? What are we gaining by withdrawing, to balance against the undoubted disadvantages of leaving?

This is yet another step in the reduction of our international status. Our large aviation sector has taken an international lead, but we are voluntarily withdrawing from that influential position. The coronavirus pandemic has illustrated the significance of international aviation and its interdependence on what is happening on the other side of the world. It makes a massive contribution to our economy, providing well-paid, highly skilled jobs. The sector simply cannot cope with any unnecessary hurdles. Leaving the single European sky will also make it more difficult for the UK to tackle the environmental challenges of aviation, which are difficult enough without the Government tying one of their hands behind their back.

I have some specific questions for the Minister. Paragraph 12.1 of the EM says that this instrument makes no change to the policy intent of the EU regulations. I therefore understand that there will be no great impact on businesses, but what are the cost implications for the CAA and NATS? Can the Minister tell us how much additional funding they will be allocated and how many new staff they will need to employ? Can she assure us that they will be adequately funded? How do the Government intend to keep in step with changes to EU regulations and procedures, which we need to do to maximise safety and efficiency?

Finally, can the Minister tell us about the implementation of these regulations on the island of Ireland, which has been raised by other noble Lords? In the future, there will be two separate systems on a small land mass. Overlaid on this are the implications of the political agreement made by the Prime Minister relating to the future of Northern Ireland, which will remain part of EU regulations in many respects. Does that agreement impact on the control of aviation—the control of the skies? It has an impact on shipping and ports, so does it affect aviation?

I look forward to the day when we see the end of the legislative contortions that the drafters have had to go through to reinstate the system we had decades ago, while seeking to keep systems operating in a modern manner. The cost of all this at a time of national emergency is less and less defensible.

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

I thank the Minister for the explanation of the provisions and purpose of the regulations, to which we are not opposed. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, I also thank the Minister and her officials for the virtual meeting yesterday.

The regulations follow an earlier set of air traffic management regulations and are needed to make legally operable, in the light of our departure from the EU, further EU air traffic management legislation that has come into being since the 2019 air traffic management EU exit regulations were made. This is being done, where relevant, by transferring to the Secretary of State for Transport or to the Civil Aviation Authority roles that are currently undertaken by the European Commission and EU bodies.

Could the Government confirm what I believe the Minister has said: these regulations change nothing relating to air traffic management practices, procedures, regulations or standards on the day after the transition period ends, apart from the transfer of roles to which I just referred? Could they also say what the regulations enable us to do that we are likely to want to consider doing after the end of the transition period that we cannot do at present? I ask that in the context that air traffic management, which covers organisations, operations and procedures, is the subject of international agreements as well as EU regulations, for fairly obvious reasons—namely, that it is an international activity or industry where considerable commonality of practices and standards is vital.

The Government’s mantra is that we will take back control, so to revisit a point made by my noble friend Lady Kennedy of Cradley, what is it that these regulations enable us to take back control of in practice, not just in theory? What is it that we have been wanting to do but have been unable to do in respect of air traffic management because we have been a member of the European Union? I hope the Government will be able to provide some specific examples, because the Explanatory Memorandum does not appear to address that question.

I will also raise a safety issue, to which the Minister referred in her opening speech. As the Explanatory Memorandum says, the EU’s single European sky legislation supports the EU initiative to enhance air traffic safety standards, contribute to the sustainable development of the air traffic management system and improve the efficiency of air navigation services within the European air traffic management system.

When we leave the EU, there will presumably be a more obvious border, air traffic-wise, between France and ourselves, for example—a border with a very high density of air traffic crossing it in both directions. If the Secretary of State is to take over the role of the European Commission and other EU bodies for air traffic management, does that not run the risk of potentially compromising the current EU-wide safety arrangements and their oversight? Aircraft might be in the process of climbing or descending at that air border between us and France—for example, if they are starting their descent into the airport for which they are heading. Contact between controllers is crucial, since aircraft collisions at other border points have occurred, including when communication over aircraft movements between controllers are temporarily not as effective as they should be, for one reason or another—perhaps frequency changes. If there was an incident at the air transport border between France and ourselves once we have left the EU, which single body or organisation would be responsible for investigating it, and which single body or organisation would be accountable for ensuring there were safe practices and procedures for aircraft traffic management at that border point?

Finally, on our departure from the EU, work that the European Aviation Safety Agency currently undertakes will, in our case, be transferred to the Civil Aviation Authority. I shall pursue once again a point made by my noble friend Lady Kennedy of Cradley. What impact will that have on the workload of the authority, or is the Government’s position on that that it is largely the transfer of a responsibility or a duty rather than a workload?

I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to the points that I have made and to the variety of points made in the course of this debate.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate on these minor and technical changes to these ATM regulations. Given the allotted time, I fear that I will not be able to go into all the issues that are beyond the scope of these regulations, but I will certainly write, in particular on the future of the aviation sector and the implications of Covid for it, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie. I will also address her specific point about the impact on Northern Ireland.

I should like first to confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, that there is no change in policy as a result of these regulations and that, in practical terms, they will have very limited effect. The CAA will continue to play the role it has always in, for example overseeing the work of NATS, with oversight of that work transferring from the European Aviation Safety Agency to the Secretary of State. We do not anticipate that this will have a financial or significant practical impact on the CAA or NATS and both are content with the proposals. The CAA will take on a number of new tasks after the end of the transition period, but that is a direct result of EU transition rather than of this SI. The Government are working closely with the CAA to ensure that it is sufficiently resourced to take on any additional roles. Further, the CAA has been preparing for the possibility of leaving the EASA system since the EU referendum in 2016, which is four years ago now. It has already started recruiting new staff across the organisation, and I reassure noble Lords that it has the funding to do so. I hope that this will also reassure the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy and Lady Randerson, as well as my noble friend Lord Blencathra. He was right to say that the CAA is a great British asset. In respect of this SI, the requirements on the CAA and NATS will be the same as they are at present, and the oversight will be transferred somewhere different.

The reference period for performance targets started this year. To meet our obligations, we have produced and submitted an EU-compliant plan that takes us to 2024, so until at least then, all performance targets will remain the same. Beyond that, we envisage looking at the EU targets and using them as a benchmark for our own performance targets. However, we may decide that we want to do better than that, although that decision is for some years hence.

Turning to the charges, the costs of air navigation and its regulation tend to fall on the users of the service. In this case, that is the aviation industry.

A number of our other existing arrangements will stay the same or transfer to the CAA. Noble Lords raised a number of these different arrangements and I shall try to cover some of the most important. The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, mentioned Eurocontrol. It is incredibly important and the UK will remain a member of it. It is an intergovernmental organisation of 41 states across Europe that pre-dates the single European sky and is not an EU body. This will ensure our continued co-ordination on air traffic management with other European states. This was brought up by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, and my noble friend Lord Balfe.

Through our membership of Eurocontrol, NATS will be able to co-ordinate with other air navigation service providers on, for example airspace change proposals arising from the UK modernisation programme, and there are established bodies within Eurocontrol that allow that to happen. NATS is also remain a member of the Civil Aviation Navigation Services Organisation, which represents ANSPs covering 90% of the world’s airspace. We are plugged in and we do have leadership.

We are also members in our own right of ICAO, an incredibly important organisation in aviation. We will continue as a contracting ICAO state after the end of the transition period. Much European regulation originates in ICAO and the UK already plays a leading role in its structure. Currently, the UK complies with some ICAO standards and recommended practices via the implementation of EU legislation. Following the transition period, the UK will comply with SARPs using domestic legislation. That is all in place and ready to go.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned cross-border arrangements and what will happen at borders. The UK has a number of cross-border agreements with neighbouring countries, such as France and the Benelux nations, in respect of air traffic management, particularly in contiguous airspace where an aircraft is handed over between two different airspaces. I reassure the noble Lord that these arrangements will continue as they are not predicated on EU requirements.

A number of noble Lords mentioned the importance of Ireland. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, did so, as did the noble Lord, Lord Empey. This is important because we work very closely with Ireland because both have been delegated responsibility by ICAO for air traffic services over a proportion of the North Atlantic, which as noble Lords will know is a busy route. Again, this is an international agreement. There will be continued co-operation with Ireland to ensure the safe passage of air traffic over the North Atlantic, given that 80% of air traffic entering or leaving the EU flies through UK airspace.

A number of noble Lords mentioned air service agreements and how they have been constructed. The UK was involved in 17 air service agreements by virtue of its membership of the European Union. Over recent months and years, the Department for Transport has undertaken an intensive programme of work in this area, supported by the CAA, which many noble Lords had questions about. We now have new bilateral agreements, or effective mitigations, in place for all 17 non-EU countries where market access is currently provided for by virtue of our EU membership. These arrangements ensure that there will be no disruption going forward. The UK also has agreed bilateral air safety agreements with the US, Canada and Brazil, which will help our aerospace manufacturers.

The UK’s future relationship on ATM with the EU will be negotiated as part of a comprehensive air transport agreement, known as CATA. The CATA will include provisions on market access for air services, close co-operation on aviation security, and collaboration on ATM.

A number of areas under the umbrella of the Single European Sky project, mentioned by the noble Lords, Lord Foulkes and Lord Bradshaw, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, are being considered as we look at how we might continue to be involved in that area; for example, through membership of the Single European Sky air traffic management research programme, which was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Naseby. We will of course be bound by various elements of legislation from the Single European Sky project, where it has been retained, and as amended.

The rules for safety assurance are currently set out by EASA, and these will be retained. No divergence is anticipated at the current time, as safety is of course an absolute priority. However, it is also an area which is always developing, and so the UK may need to make changes in the future; for example, to accommodate new technology to suit airline operators, in line with international practice. I hope that this reassures the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, as to what we might want to do in the future.

Noble Lords will have heard it confirmed many times that the UK is not seeking to participate in the EASA system. Our ambition is to agree bilateral aviation safety arrangements with the EU, and the EU’s negotiating mandate mirrors this approach. A bilateral aviation safety agreement will facilitate the recognition of aviation safety standards, maintain high safety outcomes, and enable regulatory co-operation between the two areas.

Overall, I reassure all noble Lords that the UK continues to press for reciprocal, liberalised aviation access between and within the EU and the UK. In the event that we do not reach an agreement, the UK previously published a policy statement allowing for EU carriers to operate to the UK, and the EU adopted a continency regulation to provide UK carriers with the rights to operate in the EU. These measures were unilateral and work on the basis of reciprocity. Similar arrangements were put in place with regard to safety, and they too will need to be looked at in the event that there is no deal.

My noble friend Lord Naseby mentioned consultation. There has been extensive consultation on elements relating to aviation, and of course on the UK’s exit from the EU. This is ongoing.

The noble Lord, Lord Empey, is right that aviation is reserved. However, as a courtesy, and to understand the issues, we always try to engage with the devolved Administrations on an ongoing basis.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, mentioned “shall” changing to “shall endeavour to”. I reassure her that that relates to the network management part of the SI, and is about operators taking account of EU documents, which we have no obligation to do.

In closing, I once again thank all noble Lords for contributing to the debate today. These changes are minor and technical, and do not represent a major change in policy. They follow in a similar vein to the SI already approved by your Lordships’ House. I beg to move.

Covid-19: Walking and Cycling

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Monday 8th June 2020

(3 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Department for Transport
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton [V] - Hansard

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] - Hansard

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] - Hansard

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

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd June 2020

(3 months, 4 weeks ago)

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Department for Transport
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

I agree that the wearing of face coverings will be a very important element in restoring confidence in our public transport, not only for the passengers and the workforce but, in the longer term, for the industry. It is really important that people should wear face coverings on our public transport; that is the message that we are putting out there at the moment. Of course, any changes such as mandating the use of face coverings is an issue for the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, which is considering this.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

Given that, at least in the short to medium term, the economics of public transport are likely to be altered by lifestyle changes resulting from Covid-19, such as more people working from home and less international travel, will the Government provide financial support to public transport operators while they adjust to lifestyle changes of this kind once the pandemic is finally brought under control?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

The Government are already providing financial support to a range of transport operators to make sure that they can operate as good a service as possible in the current environment. This will include funding for buses and light rail—and of course we have the Emergency Measures Agreement for all our heavy rail services. The situation is being kept under review. As demand changes over time and as the country comes out of lockdown, clearly, demand for public transport will go up, but it is not clear exactly when it will become commercially viable to operate public transport without government support.

Covid-19: Transport

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Thursday 14th May 2020

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Department for Transport
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

I begin by expressing our thanks to all involved in the transport industry, and in particular all those key workers on the front line who have kept this vital sector up and running during the pandemic for the use of other key workers and for the movement of essential supplies. I do not know the exact number, but certainly over 50 transport staff have died with Covid-19, the majority in London. We express our sincere condolences to their families and friends.

The devastating consequences of Covid-19 make this Statement on government guidance all the more important, as people are now being actively encouraged to go back to work if they cannot work at home. Indeed, some people who have been able to work from home are now being told by their employer to return to the workplace. Those going back to work are being told to avoid using public transport where possible and, instead, to travel by car, by bike or on foot.

However, this guidance is not a directive and contains a lot of “shoulds” and “coulds”. I am concerned about how practical implementing the guidance will be, in particular in respect of social distancing and maintaining a two-metre distance on public transport. Transport for London has said that, given the national requirement to maintain social distancing wherever possible, capacity on the Tube and buses will be reduced to around 13% to 15%, even once services are back to full strength.

Some 80% of those coming into central London to work come in by public transport. Even if that figure is halved by people still working from home and by more people coming in by car, there will not be the required capacity on public transport if social distancing is to be maintained, as indeed we have already seen. At times, the position will be the same in our other major cities, even though the percentage travelling to work by public transport is nowhere near the level in London.

How will social distancing be maintained? For example, a suburban train, bus or tram coming into the centre of London or another major city will start its journey from the outer terminus with a limited number of passengers. As more passengers join at each station or stop on the inward journey, the train, bus or tram will become more crowded. Under these guidelines, will the operator be expected to have staff at each station or bus stop deciding how many passengers can still be allowed to get on each arriving train, bus or tram, consistent with maintaining social distancing, and preventing passengers joining if maximum capacity still enabling social distancing to be maintained has already been reached? Will the operator, under these guidelines, be expected to stop passengers entering at each station if the platforms already have the maximum number of people on them waiting for a train, consistent with maintaining social distancing?

Are these examples of what is meant by maintaining social distancing wherever possible under these guidelines? If not, how will social distancing be maintained in reality if it is entirely a matter for each passenger whether or not they choose to get on a train, bus or tram that already has more people on board than is consistent with maintaining social distancing? What can the Government tell us today about the extent to which it has been possible to maintain social distancing this week on our trains, buses and trams as they have got nearer on their inward journeys to the centre of London and our other major cities?

For public transport staff, the train or station, bus, coach, ship, plane or taxi is their place of work rather than a means of getting to work. I am not clear how much guaranteed protection these guidelines provide them with. There is no provision for PPE to be provided for front-line staff. The Statement also says that wearing face coverings when using public transport could help protect other travellers, and presumably also staff, from coronavirus—but having said that, the guidance then only advises people to wear face coverings.

If a bus driver, for example, feels that more people have been regularly getting on their vehicle than is consistent with maintaining social distancing, and that their employer has not done as much as could have been done to prevent that situation arising, which they feel puts their health at risk, is it clear in the Government’s view whether the driver has the right to decline to continue working, without penalty, until the situation is resolved, whether by the employer or the intervention of an outside body?

I turn to the Government’s 14-day quarantine proposals, which cover apparently everyone coming from anywhere in the world unless via France or from Ireland. Will the Government publish the advice that says we need 14-day quarantine now but there has been no case for it previously? Why is France excluded and why, just as one example, does Gibraltar find itself included when it has had no deaths from coronavirus? How will the 14-day quarantine period be enforced? More than 18 million passengers have entered the UK since January. Will it be against the law for an individual not to be present at the address they have given? Who will ensure that they are, and which organisation or body has the resources to do this in the current situation?

I have real doubts about the practicality of applying some of these guidelines, in particular in relation to social distancing on public transport, and I suspect that many in the Government do too, unless the vast majority of people returning to work simply choose not to travel to work in this way, and particularly in London. Time will tell, but we can only hope that the guidelines do their job and we do not end up with a second spike in coronavirus cases which could affect anyone, including those of us taking part in this debate today.

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD) - Hansard

I echo the thanks to all those key workers in transport industries who have kept vital supplies and vital workers moving during the last two months. As always, our economy sits on the shoulders of the transport sector. Like the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, I want especially to mention bus drivers and others who died, who were particularly exposed to the virus in their work.

I start by reminding everyone that last Sunday’s broadcast by the Prime Minister was essentially for England only. New rules and advice were announced, but they were for England. The situation is different in Wales and Scotland, so it is now a complex picture. That matters, of course, because transport crosses borders.

I very much welcome the investment announced in cycling and walking, specifically the emergency and temporary measures. While I am delighted to see the speed of response, I seek assurances from the Minister that this first tranche of money will be followed by long-term investment in improving the infrastructure for active travel. Indeed, the Department for Transport itself has estimated that it needs £5 billion to nearly double the number of trips using cycling from 2% to 4%. This announcement was of course for £2 billion. Can the Minister give us some detail on how the Government will work with local authorities to ensure that the money is indeed spent well and quickly?

I was also pleased to see the announcement about trials of electric scooters on public roads. Can the Minister tell me a little more about this? Will it involve only scooters for hire or include privately owned scooters?

For me, the peace and quiet in recent weeks, due to the lack of transport noise, has been wonderful. So too has been the improvement in air quality. The reduction in harmful emissions has allowed us to glimpse a view of how to tackle climate change. However, on Sunday, the Prime Minister fired the starting gun on the return to old habits when he advised people to get back in their cars and avoid public transport. I accept that there is an impossible conundrum with public transport. It is not possible to socially distance on most buses and trains; it is therefore essential that every other possible safety measure is taken seriously.

I was disappointed that the guidance issued by the Department for Transport to public transport operators was essentially a series of suggestions. There are many bus operators across the country, many of them small operators with limited capacity. Early in this crisis, the Government recognised the need to take centralised control of train services. I am not suggesting for a moment that they should nationalise bus services, but I am surprised that they have apparently not established a national forum for sharing good practice and providing guidance to bus operators. Will the Minister consider that?

On issues such as screens, frequent cleaning, going cash free and the availability of hand sanitiser, the guidance was very laissez-faire. It was merely a series of suggestions, which I fear can—and in some cases, will—be ignored. As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, pointed out, the advice to passengers on face masks states:

“There are some circumstances when wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial”.

It goes on to emphasise that it is “optional” and “not required by law”. The lesson of the past few weeks is that although we, the public, like to know why we are being told to do something, we also like clear instructions. That instruction on face covering would have been much clearer if it had simply said, “You are advised to cover your face in crowded places.”

I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Motor Vehicles (Tests) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Wednesday 13th May 2020

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Department for Transport
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser - Hansard

To move that the Virtual Proceedings do consider the Motor Vehicles (Tests) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020.

Relevant document: 11th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Break in Debate

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, this is a take note Motion. I am not opposed to the principle of the regulations, which introduce a one-off, six-month exclusion from the requirement for light vehicles to hold a valid MoT test certificate, but I have a number of points and questions to raise with the Government.

To start, what were the key factors behind these regulations? The Explanatory Memorandum states that

“given the widespread impact of COVID-19 there are likely to be local difficulties in obtaining testing imminently, with more widespread difficulties as the pandemic develops.”

That suggests that the basis of the regulations is an assumption, rather than hard evidence, about local and more widespread difficulties.

The Explanatory Memorandum goes on to state that without the regulations

“many people may have to unlawfully use their vehicle without an MOT, to reach work or do essential shopping, which is a particular concern for vulnerable people”

and:

“The lack of a valid MOT may also mean that vehicles cannot be taxed and using a vehicle unlawfully may also invalidate insurance cover.”

These last two points depend on the accuracy of the assumption that Covid-19 has led to difficulties in obtaining testing. However, I hope the Government can confirm that they have ensured that the DVLA has updated its records and systems so that people in the six-month exemption period will not have problems renewing their car tax or over insurance cover.

Returning to the point about difficulties of obtaining testing, which would presumably be caused by garages being closed or short-staffed due to the incidence of Covid-19, my local garage was shut for three weeks in April, but it then reopened, since after another month there might not have been a business left at all. The Government did not say that garages had to close. Indeed, they encouraged them to remain open, and I assume they have issued appropriate advice on maintaining social distancing at work for garage mechanics.

There are 23,500 test stations, and in normal times there is a surplus of capacity, according to the Explanatory Memorandum. Can the Government say what that level of spare capacity in normal times actually is? What is the maximum number of MoT tests on vehicles covered by these regulations that can be carried out per six months in a normal year compared with the number actually carried out per six months in a normal year? How many MoT tests on light vehicles covered by these regulations were carried out in the four weeks prior to the announcement of the lockdown, and what was the maximum number of MoT tests that could have been carried out in the four weeks prior to the announcement of the lockdown? By how much has the maximum capacity for testing been reduced so far during this pandemic, and what do the Government estimate that maximum capacity to be at present?

Presumably the Government wish to see the terms of these regulations, with their one-off, six-month exemption from an MoT test, brought to an end as soon as possible. If the principal reason for these regulations is concern about present testing capacity, the Government must surely have their finger on the pulse of changes in the maximum available testing capacity.

The continuation of these regulations ought surely to be reconsidered as soon as the required level of testing capacity is available. Unless the Government are going to argue that the MoT test is actually somewhat unnecessary—in which case, why do we have it in the first place?—there must be potential safety issues in allowing light vehicles that would not pass their next scheduled MoT test to remain on the road for a further six months. It is not good enough for the Government simply to say, as they do in the Explanatory Memorandum, that

“vehicle users are still required by the Road Traffic Act 1988 … to ensure vehicles are in good working order.”

There will apparently be millions of light vehicles on the road that would have failed their scheduled MoT test had it taken place. The Explanatory Memorandum says that around 16.6 million relevant MoTs are due to expire over the first six months of these regulations. It also says that 29% of those tested, around 4.9 million vehicles, would have received a dangerous or major MoT failure over the same six-month period. That is then shrugged off in the Explanatory Memorandum with the statement that

“however the maintenance requirements and low risk of incidents occurring from vehicle defects mitigates this risk”,

followed by

“but, the risk remains low during the ‘stay at home’ rules as trips are made for essential purposes only.”

Three days ago, that position changed. Rather than stay at home, we are now told by the Government to “stay alert”, which I suppose is pretty good advice for all road users and pedestrians with 4.9 million vehicles that would have failed their MoT with a dangerous or major failure allowed on the roads under the six-month exemption.

I recognise that a decisive majority of road accidents or incidents are the result of human error rather than vehicle defects, though it would be surprising if a vehicle defect did not increase the likelihood of human error, but nevertheless the six-month exemption increases the likelihood of accidents or incidents due to vehicle defects. An impact assessment would have addressed that point, but there is no impact assessment due to lack of time. What, then, is the Government’s estimate of the increase in the number of incidents due to, in whole or in part, vehicle defects that would have been picked up in an MoT test, but were not, as a result of the six-month MoT test exemption?

I also understand that vehicles are being sold on the basis of up to six months still left on the MoT when that period is the six-month exemption, and does not mean—as implied—that the vehicle passed an MoT test between six months and up to a maximum of a year ago.

The DVSA has separately issued certificates of temporary exemption from the requirement to hold a test certificate for goods vehicles and public service vehicles. What is the MoT failure rate for these vehicles, and how many such vehicles were due an MoT test in the six months to the end of this September? Returning to the non-existent impact assessment, will the Government now produce one, since impact assessments often provide helpful and illuminating information not otherwise readily available?

The importance of MoT tests in the present situation has also been further emphasised by the Government’s announcement on Sunday that they are actively encouraging people to return to work if they cannot work at home, and that they should avoid travelling by public transport if they can travel by other means, including by car. In other words, the Government are now encouraging people to use their cars rather than public transport—perhaps the first Government ever to do that. People are also now being told they can use their cars to drive as far as they like to an outdoor space.

In other words, one of the key risks to which I referred a few moments ago—of 4.9 million vehicles that would have received a dangerous or major MoT failure over the six months to the end of this September being on the road—is no longer being mitigated to the same extent by the “stay at home” rules, under which trips are made for essential purposes only.

The Government say:

“This instrument is being introduced to address the ongoing pandemic and will be revoked if it no longer serves a useful purpose.”

Do they envisage revoking the regulations early, taking into account that there would be a backlog of MoT tests to be carried out for a few months as well as the normal number of such tests? I have heard it suggested that 20% of garages may not survive the pandemic as viable businesses. Do the Government have any estimates of how many of the 23,500 testing centres may not survive the present situation, and the impact this could have on testing capacity?

Do the Government have any figures for the percentage of eligible people who already could have availed themselves of the six-month test extension facility for light vehicles and who have done so by not having their MoT test done by their scheduled date, as opposed to the percentage who could already have availed themselves of the facility but have chosen not to do so, perhaps preferring to have the assurance that their vehicle is not one of the 29% that would have received a “dangerous” or “major” MoT failure? The answer to that question must also be a factor in determining when the testing capacity exists to enable the order to be revoked, and a return to a situation where MoT tests are undertaken at the time laid down.

Six-month MoT test extensions will start to terminate at the end of September. Are there any circumstances under which the Government would continue that extension period beyond the six months, or will vehicles that have had that six-month exemption definitely be required to pass an MoT test after then in order to be driven lawfully on our roads?

I hope the Government will be able to provide the answers, today or subsequently, to all the questions I have raised. We must by now have a clearer picture of the situation in respect of testing capacity. If the Government can provide the evidence that it is insufficient, the order should continue, but when the evidence indicates the testing capacity is available, then the Government should seriously consider revoking this order, since deferring the need for an annual MoT test by six months or 50% must represent a potentially significant road safety issue. I beg to move.

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for raising this issue, but I think that the order is a sensible precaution. I believe that the Minister and her department are operating magnificently. For instance, last week she and her officials sorted out a problem I had raised about abnormal load movements within 24 hours from start to finish.

It is important to recognise that having an MoT testing regime is not just about the direct safety benefit of detecting vehicle faults but much more about keeping our vehicle fleet operating at a very high standard, without a race to the bottom under economic pressures. Also more important nowadays is minimising environmental harm by means of emission testing. The good news is that the standard of our private car and commercial vehicle fleet is far higher than it was a few decades ago. I have a somewhat technical interest to declare, in that I currently operate a heavy goods vehicle exclusively under an order made under Section 44 of RTA 1988, but might want to operate it under C&U rules. Lack of goods vehicle testing capacity may cause me some inconvenience at some point in the future.

In effect, the order extends an existing MoT certificate but does not allow a vehicle to be operated without a recent certificate at all. That is fine for cars, but not necessarily for goods vehicles. There may be sound reasons why it is necessary to bring a goods vehicle back into operation; for instance, after a significant overhaul or refurbishment. I understand that the Minister has the power to relax testing requirements for an individual vehicle, but officials are using it only sparingly, for vehicles involved in combating the coronavirus, but not generally, even for reliable operators. Before noble Lords get too excited about my suggestion, I point out that goods vehicle operators are already obliged to inspect their vehicles for safety about every six weeks, so my proposal would have a limited adverse effect on road safety.

Break in Debate

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for providing the opportunity to consider these regulations and to probe the Government’s intentions around vehicle testing for light vehicles, known as the MoT. The testing of HGVs and public service vehicles, such as buses, is covered in other regulations, but I will try to touch on these if I have time, and if not I will write.

The MoT market consists of a network of around 23,500 privately owned and operated test stations. Many of these garages combine both MoT testing and maintenance and repair work, as was noted by my noble friend Lord Carrington.

As the outbreak of Covid took hold, it became clear that temporary changes would need to be made to the MoT testing regime. The reasons were threefold. Prior to 23 March, the date on which the Government announced the lockdown, there was a noticeable drop of about 10% in the number of cars brought in for testing. This suggested that drivers did not want to risk infection. By then, elderly people certainly could have been choosing not to use their cars. Furthermore, the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency, the DVSA, which oversees MoT testing, started receiving reports of vehicle dealerships, MoT testing stations and repair garages closing or reducing staff numbers. Drivers also noted that they were unable to get tests. Finally, on 23 March, the Government issued “Stay at home” guidance, which specified essential travel. Getting an MoT was not regarded as essential travel.

We recognised that, although car use would fall dramatically, most people would still need their car for short essential journeys, and key workers, particularly in the NHS and the care sector, would still need to get to work. We also recognised the ongoing need for roadworthy light vehicles, so that home deliveries of food could continue, for example.

There is also the issue of those not using their car at all. They of course have the option to make a statutory declaration when it is not in use on the road, but that is feasible only for those who will not use their car at all and have an off-road place to store it. For those who must use their car very infrequently or have to park their car on the road, the vehicle must have an MoT, so this action helps them too.

With around 8.3 million vehicles due for a test over a three-month period—about 92,000 a day—the department took the decision to reduce the risk of people being exposed to Covid-19 and enable them to comply with the stay-at-home guidance by introducing the changes under these regulations. Our actions, including discussions with insurers, also avoided difficulties with insurance policies, some of which required MoT tests to remain valid. The effect of the changes is that all light vehicles due to be examined between 30 March 2020 and 29 March 2021—a one-year period—are or will be excluded from the requirement to hold a test certificate for six months. The duration, namely to the end of September 2021, was set to cover the potential extent of the outbreak, as we saw it then—it is great to have hindsight—plus a grace period, which would allow the testing industry to recover and ensure that it is not immediately overwhelmed by a bow wave of cars coming to be tested.

Our decision to extend the MoT validity of affected vehicles by six months was taken after very careful consideration. We balanced the need to provide a sufficiently long extension to deal with the immediate impact of the epidemic with the need to avoid an unnecessary impact on road safety. We felt that the six-month period was appropriate; it is unlikely to change in the current circumstances. The duration of the changes remains under review and, if no longer required, this instrument will be amended to bring forward the last day on which a six-month exclusion can begin. A six-month exclusion that has already begun will not be curtailed. I repeat: we are looking at bringing forward the date for the period under which one gets this extension, but that decision has not been taken for the moment.

On tax and insurance, vehicle excise duty remains due on those vehicles eligible for this extension. The DVSA is updating its records as these extensions are added to people’s vehicle records and is then feeding this information through to the DVLA, which collects excise duty. Once that has been updated on the DVLA system, anyone can tax their vehicle as normal. We consulted the insurance industry when we were drafting this legislation. It should be noted that the Association of British Insurers said:

“In this unprecedented situation, insurers will not penalise you if you can’t get an MOT. Safety is paramount so check your brakes, tyres and lights before driving.”

The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, mentioned fines. The department has been in touch with the police and the DVLA and they have reassured us that they will take a pragmatic approach to enforcement during this time. No one wants to see fines levied on vulnerable people who are simply unable to drive their car at this time.

In the event that a vehicle is involved in an accident—an important point raised by my noble friend Lord Blencathra—the attribution would be to a vehicle being unroadworthy rather than not having an MoT. This is very important: the vehicle would be unroadworthy; it is not simply the fact that it did not have an MoT. A vehicle may become unroadworthy at any time, even if you have an MoT, so it is vital that drivers fulfil their legal responsibility that their vehicle is safe to drive, whether or not it has been tested.

As I have noted, even though many vehicles will be excluded from the requirement to hold a test certificate during this period, users are required under the Road Traffic Act to ensure that vehicles are in good working order. An MoT covers only certain things and is not the same as taking your car for a full service down at the garage. Drivers can be prosecuted if their vehicles are found to be in an unsafe condition when driving on the road.

The department has estimated that over the six-month period covered by the exclusion, approximately 29% of vehicles would have received a “dangerous” or “major” MoT failure. However, this increased risk is significantly mitigated by the reduction in trips; the current data shows a 58% drop in the amount of traffic on the roads. Although traffic is increasing at this time, particularly given the changes to government guidance, we expect a continued depression versus pre-Covid levels. I reassure noble Lords that, in the current environment, if one chose to get an MoT to get a car roadworthy for essential journeys, that in itself would be an essential journey.

Road safety is incredibly important to all of us. That is why the roadworthiness caveat exists in the regulations and why the Government have urged garages to remain open where possible. We are actively encouraging garages to remain open because we want to make sure that there are places for people to go to get their essential maintenance and repairs carried out.

Furthermore, the DVSA has issued guidance to drivers on what to do to keep a car safe and roadworthy. We are of course in regular contact with the AA and the RAC. Those organisations are repeating and reiterating these messages about getting cars on the road and getting your car back on the road when it has not been driven for a period.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, asked why 30 March. We were working at pace, as I am sure noble Lords will understand. Given that regulations could not be made retrospectively and we had to have a certain date from which they would be valid, that date necessarily had to be the short period after the imposition of the lockdown because the regulations had to be drafted and laid in Parliament. There had to be due process. There are vehicles whose MoT fell due before 30 March. These vehicles cannot have their MoT extended because it is not available to us using existing legislative routes. This is a second reason why the Government have urged garages to remain open where possible and we are very pleased that around 60% have done so, although some have a significant reduction in capacity.

MoT testing is still taking place and it is possible to find somewhere to get your car tested if it needs to be. The DVSA has published guidance on how to conduct tests while adhering to social distancing measures. As some noble Lords pointed out, some centres have just one person working there and certainly often fewer than five. It is possible to continue to carry out tests. Other measures recommended by the DVSA include enhanced cleaning, using contactless payment where possible and not issuing a paper copy of the MoT certificate, which can be printed or downloaded at a separate time. Our records indicate that the overall testing levels for vehicles with tests due before 30 March were normal, so we believe that there is no significant change in the levels of compliance.

Many noble Lords noted that these changes are quite significant. We recognise that. They were made following extensive consideration and consultation, required by the Road Traffic Act 1988. We consulted a wide range of different organisations, including the AA and the RAC, the Association of British Insurers, the Independent Garage Association and the SMMT, which represents new car manufacturers, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Rennard. We consulted all these organisations and 15 responses were received, which expressed broad support for the proposals. As raised by noble Lords today, concerns included the financial impact of the proposals on the testing industry, as well as difficulties relating to the reintroduction of testing. We recognise that there will be challenges and we will have to overcome them.

The Government have consulted and continue to engage with the devolved Administrations, as requested by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, primarily on a day-to-day basis at official level on these matters, but Ministers in my department have ministerial-level discussions with them. Vehicle testing in Northern Ireland is devolved and Northern Ireland has taken its own approach, as noted by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, by exempting both light and heavy vehicles for 12 months outright.

Given the urgency of the situation, we were not able to undertake a formal impact assessment. However, we did a proportionate analysis, looking at the impacts on things such as the ability of key workers to be able to get to work if they do not have an MOT, the road safety implications, effects on congestion, and financial losses to both the DVSA and garages. The financial impact on businesses has been estimated to be significant, possibly around £650 million, and a loss to DVSA will need to be considered.

Tests are going on at the moment. We are looking at 20% to 25% of normal test levels—the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, shared his success in booking one, so I am pleased that that there is availability out there. Some 60% of garages are open, and we believe that that number will continue to rise. It looks like between 75% and 80% of people are taking advantage of the extension.

We recognise the financial impact on garages, and the Government have done an enormous amount to support businesses during these difficult times. There is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which garages can use, and the coronavirus bounce- back loan will be particularly suitable for some of these smaller businesses. Given that financial support, we anticipate that there will be no issue with a significant reduction in capacity in MoT testing stations as we pull out of the current crisis.

As regards pulling out of this crisis, the situation is being kept under review. The regulations may be revoked or altered, and we will bring back further proposals to the House. However, we will absolutely make sure that we do not reintroduce the MoT test unless it can be conducted safely, with the least possible risk to people’s health, both MoT staff and those going in for the tests. We will also make sure that there is capacity within the sector. At the moment, on average, an MoT tester does only nine tests a week, so we believe that there is significant capacity within the system.

I am aware that I have now run out of time, and I have not covered HGV and PSV testing, which is separate to the regulations under consideration today. With the forbearance of noble Lords, I would therefore like to write in more detail and will also cover matters that I have not been able to consider—for example, the details around taxis and PHVs and how that interacts with local authorities and taxi licensing, and so on.

At times like these it is important that legislation is enacted quickly, in this case to protect the health of drivers and those working in garages. I am extremely grateful for the input of all noble Lords today, and these deliberations will be taken into account as we consider future changes.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser - Hansard

I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. It has been useful, and I thank the Minister for her response, which certainly provided answers to a number of the issues that have been raised. Obviously, I do not intend to proceed any further on this Motion.

Covid-19: Public Transport Safety

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Tuesday 12th May 2020

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Department for Transport
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

I reassure my noble friend that we are in close contact with Transport for London. I speak to it probably every few days to assess exactly where it is on its restart plans—I have a call with it later on today. We are absolutely clear that the Mayor of London needs to ramp up services as quickly as possible and put in place protections such that transport workers and passengers feel safe.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

First, while public transport is a devolved issue, railway services and bus routes cross the borders between UK nations; I think that a few stations in England are also managed by Transport for Wales. It is therefore vital that the different UK nations develop public transport, passenger and staff safety guidance together and in line with each other. Can the Government give an assurance that the guidance that has been announced has also been agreed with the Governments of the devolved nations? Secondly, I am not sure that the Minister answered my noble friend Lord Berkeley’s question about existing benefits being maintained for bus drivers; for example, those who decline to continue to work because they feel that their safety is being compromised.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

Each devolved nation is responsible for its own guidance. However, I reassure the noble Lord that we are of course in contact with the Administrations in the devolved nations to make sure that our guidance is appropriate. Where there have to be changes or where they are desired, local considerations can be taken into account but without confusing passengers. I will have to write to the noble Lord on benefits for bus drivers.

Aviation and Tourism: Cancellations

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Tuesday 5th May 2020

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Department for Transport
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

My Lords, the Government appreciate the frustration that consumers are feeling. We have made it absolutely clear that the customer should get a refund if they ask for one. However, we also recognise the enormous challenges that businesses face. They have very large volumes of such requests, and staff may not be available—they may have been furloughed. There may be capacity constraints because of social distancing, or an increase in staff absence due to illness. The regulators are working very closely with the industry to find out what the problems are and to ensure that customers get their money back.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

Which? magazine has reported that a quarter of those with a cancelled flight in April were not offered a refund, and 19% were waiting to hear back, with figures much the same for those who had a holiday cancelled. Indeed, I was given an example this morning of British Airways still not having delivered on a promised refund, a month later. The Government decide what financial support to give our key travel and tourism industry to keep firms afloat, but the Government and the Civil Aviation Authority should not be allowing consumers’ clear statutory rights to be ignored by some parts of the industry. I return to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra: when will the Government and the CAA act to protect the rights of consumers whose financial position may now be critical, as opposed to simply talking about doing so?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

I do not accept that we are just talking about it. The CAA is in close contact with the industry; it recognises the current issues, and that there may be some delays. A consumer should not be told that they cannot have a refund. If they have been, they must contact the CAA with the details to find out exactly what is going on. We are working very hard to minimise the delays and to ensure that consumers get their money back.

Passenger Train Services

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Wednesday 29th April 2020

(5 months ago)

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Department for Transport
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

I reassure my noble friend that we are doing absolutely everything we can to put in place the plans we need to restart the railways. They are operating a significantly reduced service at the moment. The challenges are fairly significant, but we are working very hard to make sure that drivers are available on Thameslink, and indeed on all lines, to make sure that when we can restore services, they can be restored fully.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

First, can the Government confirm when the Williams Rail Review will be published? Is the publication date being put back by Covid-19? Secondly, do the Government share the view that the present divided responsibilities, for track and signalling on one hand and train operation on the other, cannot continue and that these divided responsibilities should now be brought together, or at the very least be brought together under an overarching holding company or authority?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

On the latter part of the noble Lord’s question, I would not want to pre-empt the Williams Rail Review by giving any indication as to what is in it—mostly because I do not actually know, not being the Rail Minister. On the publication date, I will take that back to the department to see if I can get an updated date for him, and I will write to him.

Smart Motorways

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Thursday 13th February 2020

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I also congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, on securing this debate. It is a very important subject and we do not seem to be getting very far with our concerns. I share the fear and worry of many other noble Lords: with no hard shoulder, driving is quite a frightening experience because everywhere, not just on the hard shoulders, people are driving too close. They do not seem to see parked vehicles until it is too late and they cannot stop or divert. In the old days—I suppose when I started to drive, 100 years ago or so—you were always told to keep enough distance from the vehicle in front of you so that you could stop if it stopped suddenly. That certainly does not happen nowadays.

What can be done? The noble Baroness mentioned the Swedish experiment, which is very interesting. It has achieved a significant reduction in the number of deaths. But there has been a curve between the deaths when it started, in 2000, and now: there was a significant drop in the first three years, then it levelled off. That is exactly the same as has happened here, according to the latest Road Safety Statement for 2019. That rather indicates that the low-hanging fruit has been picked already and we have to do something more radical.

In this country we have around 1,770 deaths each year on the roads, and 26,000 people are killed and seriously injured. That is a terribly high figure. As noble Lords have said, every one is a serious personal tragedy. What are we going to do about it? We can debate ad nauseam whether motorways are riskier or more threatening than other roads. What would happen if the smart motorways were abolished and speed limits introduced? There would probably be more delays, but is a delay not better than a death or a serious injury? We all think it will not happen to us until it does.

I suppose this is a bit of a refrain of mine: we need to enforce the law. Speeding is one thing—the law is easy to enforce, but that does not happen as often as it should. However, we need a step change. I have suggested for a number of years that when you compare the legislation for other safety activities, including on the railways, which is led by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, it means that you all have to operate in a manner that is as safe as is reasonably practicable. That means that as the driver, you have the responsibility for acting safely, and if you do not, the enforcement is pretty high and pretty heavy. It applies in many parts of industry, and on the railways, and I cannot see why it cannot apply on the roads as well.

The easiest way would be for the Office of Rail and Road to be given responsibility for road safety. On rail, if you contravene the railway legislation, which is based on the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, you will get into serious trouble. The statistics bear it out. Last year, on the railways there were 17 passenger fatalities on the main line and on the Underground. We can leave suicides to one side, sadly, because that is a difficult subject. However, there were no train accidents involving fatalities, whereas, as I said, there were 1,770 road deaths and 26,000 people killed and seriously injured. I know that if you measure the fatalities per mile travelled, you can come up with all kinds of things. However, the ORR’s approach to road safety puts the responsibility for avoiding accidents and driving safely on the person driving. They are often at work—many usually are—and Ministers should seriously look at that as a way of dramatically reducing road deaths.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I add my congratulations to those expressed to the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, on securing this timely debate.

The Government have obviously been aware that there is a problem for some time; the Secretary of State announced last autumn that they would be conducting a review, or evidence stock-take, of smart motorway safety as there were concerns that people were dying on them. What precisely were the figures on deaths and injuries on smart motorways that led the Government to institute the review, and when will we know its findings?

The Oakervee review into HS2 was also started last autumn and has already been completed, with some consequential decisions taken by the Government. Why then has this review into smart motorway safety not also been completed by now, bearing in mind that people’s lives could be at stake? Just how independent is a review led by the Department for Transport, which is hardly an impartial bystander on this matter? A review, if it is to be credible, has to look at the role and decisions of the Department for Transport and Highways England.

Last month, as a number of noble Lords have said, a freedom of information request told us that 38 people died on smart motorways in the last five years and that, on one section of the M25, since the hard shoulder was removed in April 2014, near misses had increased from 72 that year to 1,485 in 2019. A letter published recently in the Times read:

“In 2003 I was the police service’s national operational lead for the implementation of the M42 active traffic management scheme. The M42 scheme is 11 miles long and has emergency refuge areas (ERAs) sited approximately 500m to 800m apart, with more than 50 signage gantries. It has virtually total CCTV coverage, with more than 200 cameras monitoring all running lanes. When smart motorways were being planned I and a few others expressed our concerns about safety, particularly the expansion of the gaps between ERAs, but to no avail. Fatalities might have been avoided had the design of smart motorways not strayed from that of the M42 active management scheme. Smart motorways should be urgently reviewed and compared against the M42 scheme still in operation.”

Could the Minister say whether the in-house Department for Transport review is taking the advice of the Times letter writer, and reviewing and comparing smart motorways against the M42 scheme opened in 2006 and still in operation?

Smart motorways are not all the same. On some, the hard shoulder is opened at busy times; on others, it is permanently converted into a traffic lane. Regularly spaced refuge areas are used for emergencies. Smart motorways are intended to relieve congestion by increasing road capacity faster and at less cost than traditional road-widening schemes. New technology is being introduced to mitigate risks to road users, with a stopped- vehicle detection system operational on the M25.

Highways England and the Department for Transport say, in the Road Safety Statement 2019 published in July 2019:

“Early indications suggest that the more recent all lane running smart motorway schemes are also delivering a safety benefit.”

Could the Government say why, if that is the case, just three months later the Government, through the Secretary of State, announced a review into smart motorway safety?

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Roadside Rescue and Recovery published a report into all-lane running smart motorways. The group concluded that the rollout of these smart motorways should be stopped until safety measures are put in place on all existing stretches of all-lane running motorways, including retrofitting smart motorways with stopped-vehicle detection systems. The RAC says that two-thirds of drivers tell it that the permanent removal of the hard shoulder compromises safety in the event of a breakdown.

An earlier report, from the Commons Transport Select Committee in 2016, stated that it was unable to support all-lanes running due to fundamental safety concerns. The Committee said:

“The All Lane Running design has been chosen on the basis of cost savings, and it is not acceptable for the Department to proceed with a less-safe design, putting people’s lives at risk, in order to cut costs.”

On 22 January, the Minister of State at the Department for Transport said, in a Commons debate:

“The Secretary of State is, as we speak, putting the finishing touches on a serious package of measures”,—[Official Report, Commons, 22/1/20; col. 111WH.]

and that the package of safety measures would be “announced imminently”—obviously not that imminently, since it is now three weeks later and, as far as I know, we have heard nothing more. I hope the Government, in their response today, will be able to tell us more about the current position on addressing the safety of smart motorways than the Minister of State, who accepted there was a problem, did just over three weeks ago.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, my noble friend Lady McIntosh has provided an opportunity to debate a very topical subject and for that I thank her and all noble Lords who have contributed. I take this opportunity to share my deepest condolences with the families of those who have tragically lost their lives, and of course with the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, who has shared her story with us today. I have had the honour of meeting Meera Naran, the mother of Dev, who died last year. To honour his death and those of many others, we must redouble our efforts to make all our roads as safe as they can be.

Being in a vehicle is risky and dangerous. Although we have some of the safest roads in the world, nearly as safe as those in Sweden, around 1,500 people die every year. Motorways are the safest type of road. The fatality rate on an A road, for example, is four times higher than that on a motorway. But any death on our roads is one too many and where changes can be made, they should be. Furthermore, I recognise, as do many people in my department, that some drivers feel less safe on a smart motorway than on a conventional one, and we understand that. That is why the Secretary of State asked the department to carry out an evidence stock-take to gather the facts about the safety of smart motorways and to speak to a wide range of families and stakeholders to understand what could be done to make people feel safer. The stock-take will be published shortly.

Smart motorways increase capacity by around a third and help tackle congestion on some of our most busy roads. They help people get from A to B as well as keep our freight moving. They enable us to increase capacity while minimising the amount of additional land required. This has environmental benefits and it means that capacity can be added more quickly. But safety must be a priority. Highways England’s objective is to ensure that a stretch of road that is converted to a smart motorway is at least as safe as it was previously, and that is what the evidence stock-take is looking at.

It is worth reflecting on the conversion of a hard shoulder to a running lane—a key feature that increases capacity on smart motorways—and then looking at the provision and spacing of the emergency areas that essentially replace the hard shoulder and which can cause concern. It is worth noting up front that the hard shoulder on a traditional motorway is not a safe place to stop. One in 12 fatalities on a motorway happens on the hard shoulder. In contrast, there have been no fatal collisions in emergency areas on smart motorways. Furthermore, research shows that approximately 90% of stops on the hard shoulder of conventional motorways are unnecessary; they are simply not emergencies, and they involve putting not only the drivers themselves at risk but their passengers. We will come back to this again and again: public information and public awareness are key to road safety, and that is just one example of where it really would make a big difference.

In today’s schemes, the emergency areas on smart motorways are spaced at a maximum of 2,500 metres, which is about every mile and a half, so at 60 mph, a driver can get to one in under 90 seconds. A number of noble Lords have mentioned the closeness of the spacing of the ERAs on the M42. I will write in more detail about that because it is very important to understand that the M42 did not have the same system as we have now. It was a proof of concept and it is not the same system, so it is not comparable. However, as I say, I will write to explain.

Highways England undertook a review and found that there was no consistent correlation between the number of live-lane stops and the spacing of emergency areas, while the improved reliability of modern vehicles means it is rare that drivers are unable to reach an emergency area if they need to stop. Although there is no consistent correlation between the number of live-lane stops and the spacing of emergency areas, it is important that users feel as safe as they should. Highways England is therefore making a number of changes to the design of emergency areas, so where my noble friend is concerned that cost is given priority over safety, it is a fact that safety—or more specifically, the perception of safety—is in this circumstance being prioritised over cost. The specification for the maximum spacing of emergency areas on new schemes has been cut by a third from 1.5 miles to 1 mile, so a driver travelling at 60 mph would get to one within 60 seconds. This will help drivers feel more confident that they can find a safe place to stop in an emergency. All emergency areas will be fitted with orange surfacing to make them more visible and better advance signing to give information on exactly how far it is until you reach the next one.

One concern noted by many noble Lords is the risk of a live-lane breakdown. I hear and understand concerns about these breakdowns. Some of the images and telephone calls from smart motorways highlighted in the media were utterly heart-breaking. But it is also worth recognising that live-lane breakdowns can and do happen on any road. They happen on smart motorways, yes, but also on conventional motorways, dual carriageways—which often do not have a hard shoulder—and blind corners in country lanes. They happen, so what do we do about them? We must do what we can to minimise their risks in the circumstances in which they occur. On smart motorways we have technology that can help reduce that risk. In all those other circumstances, we do not.

A regional traffic control centre is usually made aware of a vehicle stopped on a smart motorway either by an alert from a traffic flow system—they monitor the cars as they pass under the gantries—then verified by CCTV, which there is along the entire stretch of smart motorways, or by the driver themselves or a member of the public calling the police, who then immediately notify the system. On a smart motorway the red X is then activated to shut the lane, alerting drivers to the incident, and speed limits are put up to slow the approaching traffic. The system can also be used to create an emergency access lane, if needed.

This goes back to education again, does it not? Observing the red X is a key part of motorway safety. In partnership with the police, Highways England has issued more than 180,000 warning letters to drivers who incorrectly drove along a lane with a red X in a number of smart motorway locations. These letters are having a positive effect, but we need to get the red X up as quickly as possible. We need to reduce response times in setting the red X and the other traffic management systems that work with it.

Highways England has installed stopped-vehicle detection on two sections of the M25 and will shortly install it on part of the M3. I point out to noble Lords that stopped-vehicle detection is very useful but is not a silver bullet. As noble Lords will know, radar was built to detect moving vehicles—things that move either through the sky or along the ground. If something is stopped, radar is not necessarily 100% accurate. It can help, but more technology is coming down the track. Highways England is looking at image-based technology, which may also be able to help.

What does one do if a vehicle is stopped on a live lane? What happens next? I noted reports in the media that the AA will not let its patrols stop in live lanes to help stranded motorists. That is very good, because they are absolutely not expected to. Highways England worked closely with the entire recovery industry to develop guidance on safe recovery from smart motorways. Vehicle recovery operators are never expected to work in a live lane on a motorway—not just a smart motorway—unless the scene has already been made safe by traffic officers or the police. Throughout the design and development of smart motorways, there has been extensive consultation with the emergency services to ensure that they have safe and effective operating procedures. This includes getting a vehicle off the road and to a place of safety.

I note the comments from the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, about electric vehicles. When I first heard this, I was absolutely astonished. Quite frankly, this is applicable not just to smart motorways but to every single road. We will need to be able to move electric vehicles, wherever they happen to stop or end their days. I assure her that I will now look into it with great gusto, provided I keep my job. Work is under way to look at short-term measures to make sure we can get electric vehicles off to places of safety as quickly as possible, on whichever road, because that certainly would be a large drawback to the introduction of electric vehicles.

Highways England signed a national agreement with the police, fire and ambulance services setting out the principles of operating smart motorways and responding to incidents, along with other regional operating agreements to cover the individual schemes within their areas. Even in heavy congestion, some traffic is usually able to pass the scene of an incident, creating enough space for drivers to pull over and allowing the emergency services to pass. If that does not work and there is a significant blockage, the police can access the incident from the other side.

A number of noble Lords mentioned near-misses. These figures have been bandied around. I wonder whether any noble Lords have looked into what these near-misses mean, what they are or where those figures came from. They are raw data and are probably correct, but there has been such an upturn since 2015 because there has been a massive increase in proactively reporting things that are called near-misses but might be very minor issues along the side of the road. None of the 1,485 incidents recorded on the M25 in the report resulted in any injuries at all.

I do not have long, so I will touch briefly on awareness. This all comes back to awareness. There is so much we must be doing to help our drivers drive safely—not just on smart motorways. I want our drivers to be driving more safely on every single road in our country. Anecdote and gut feel cannot be the main drivers of the critical decisions we face when it comes to road safety. We need to analyse the evidence.

As I mentioned, the evidence stock-take will serve as a significant measure to inform the public on how the Government will proceed with smart motorways. Safety on our roads is critical. We have an excellent record on road safety and our motorways are the safest roads, but still people die—around 1,500 a year. For as long as I am Roads Minister, that keeps me up at night.

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]

(Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
(Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Lord Rosser Excerpts
Wednesday 12th February 2020

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Transport
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, there are three matters in this group: Amendments 28 and 29 and whether Schedule 8 should stand part of the Bill. I shall address Amendment 28. Paragraph 2 of Schedule 8 sets out the powers of a constable to stop and search persons or vehicles and includes the conditions that have be met in order to do so. This amendment would require the Secretary of State to publish details of the demographics of those who are stopped and searched. The purpose of the amendment is to find out what the Government intend in this regard.

The amendment refers to the Equality Act 2010 and the nine protected characteristics: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race, religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. At Second Reading the Government said that stop and search demographics would be available for those subject to a stop and search under these powers, and that

“they will be published by the Home Office in the usual way.”—[Official Report, 27/1/20; col. 1295.]

What does “published by the Home Office in the usual way” mean in relation to this amendment and the nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010?

How did the Government come to the decision to enact these stop and search powers under Schedule 8? In autumn 2018, the Home Office ran a public consultation on

“Stop and Search: Extending police powers to cover offences relating to unmanned aircraft … laser pointers and corrosive substances.”

The Government indicated in the Explanatory Notes to the Bill, if I have read them correctly, that responses to the consultation were broadly unsupportive of proposals relating to unmanned aircraft, with many respondents feeling that the intrusive nature of stop and search powers would be disproportionate to the likely threat.

Since that consultation, we have had the incident at Gatwick Airport at the end of 2018. Following that incident, in response to the consultation, the Home Office committed itself to developing a stop and search power for offences related to flying an unmanned aircraft in the flight restriction zone of a protected aerodrome. The Home Office also indicated its intention to keep the further expansion of stop and search powers in relation to other unmanned aircraft offences under review.

The Bill now provides the police with the power to stop and search any person or vehicle, subject to certain conditions. At Second Reading, in response to the point that the Home Office consultation was completed before the Gatwick incident, the Minister said:

“I reassure noble Lords that we have of course been in touch with members of the police force around Gatwick and, indeed, all over the country to make sure they are content with the powers in the Bill. We believe that they are. We have a close relationship with them, so they have been involved since Gatwick in making sure these powers are appropriate. Of course, we still meet with the police and other stakeholders to discuss these matters in general.”—[Official Report, 27/1/20; cols. 1291-92.]

Bearing in mind that, in the public consultation prior to Gatwick, responses were broadly unsupportive of proposals on stop and search powers in relation to unmanned aircraft, were any meetings or other forms of contact had with those who had been broadly unsupportive of the proposals, to check that their views had changed since the Gatwick Airport incident? Did the Government make an assumption that views would have changed, or did they not intend anyway to take any notice of the broadly unsupportive responses to the stop and search proposals, so that it did not really matter whether views had changed as a result of the Gatwick incident? A government response on this would be helpful.

The second item in this group relates to Schedule 8 standing part. I want to talk about paragraph 5(11) of Schedule 8, which inserts a power at new subsection (4B) into Section 93 of the Police Act 1997. This enables the Secretary of State, by regulations, to add or remove an offence from the definition of “relevant offence” set out in subsection (4A), also inserted by this Bill. Paragraph 5 of Schedule 8 deals with

“authorisations to interfere with property”

or interference with wireless telegraphy. This is a Henry VIII power. In their memorandum to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, the Government said that it was necessary to ensure that the list of relevant offences remained up to date

“if the evolution of technology results in unmanned aircraft being used in new or different types of offence.”

I note that they used the word “if”, not “as”, in relation to the evolution of technology; clearly the Government do not actually know whether they will need this power to add, by regulations, additional or even completely new offences.

In the same memorandum, the Government say:

“The power to interfere with property or wireless telegraphy is a significant power which entails the possibility of interferences with, for example, people’s property rights.”

Further on, the Government refer to

“any expansion of the power to interfere with property and wireless telegraphy”.

Yet the Government want to have this “significant power” and this “expansion of the power to interfere” with “people’s property rights” by adding additional new offences that they do not know they will need and appear unable to describe, and to do so not by primary legislation but by regulations that cannot be amended.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser - Hansard

I thank the Minister for her response to the amendments on which I and others have spoken. I will of course withdraw my amendment, but am not entirely convinced on her point about police resources. I asked some fairly specific questions about the percentage of police officers who would be required to have the training; I still do not know whether it is envisaged that all police officers will have this knowledge or whether it will be a much smaller grouping. I also asked about the tactical advisers; I suspect on that one it will be a case of waiting to see what happens—whether the Government’s view of the extent to which it will involve an additional responsibility or duty on the police materialises or whether it will prove somewhat greater than the Government anticipated. But for now I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser - Hansard

I have written down an item about Schedule 10 and I will speak in particular to paragraph 6 of Schedule 10, which allows for supplementary provision to be made by regulations with respect to fixed penalty notices, including to the extent of amending or repealing provisions by an Act of Parliament. Paragraph 6(1)(b) of Schedule 10 also states that the Secretary of State may by regulations make

“provision about the consequences of providing false statements in connection with fixed penalty notices, including provision creating criminal offences.”

In their memorandum to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, the Government’s justification for this power to create criminal offences through regulations, which cannot be subject to amendment, appears to be at least in part that there is a precedent in Section 54 of the Space Industry Act 2018. That Act was in essence a skeleton Act, which the Government told us was needed on the statute book before it could be properly fleshed out—hence so much being left to subsequent regulations—to provide assurance or comfort to the emerging UK space industry that the Government were prepared to give it the legislative backing and certainty it required. I suggest that the same consideration hardly applies here in relation to fixed penalty notices and the creation of criminal offences.

The Government say that the powers in paragraph 6(1)(b) to create criminal offences are needed to ensure that provision can be made for the consequences of providing full statements in connection with fixed penalty notices. But what kind of criminal offences are we talking about which are apparently so unique that the Government cannot formulate them now and put them in the Bill? Alternatively, since the Government refer only to the

“possibility of creating criminal offences in relation to false statements,”

why not first determine what those new criminal offences are that need creating and then include them in the next suitable Bill, where they can be fully debated and amended?

The Government clearly regard this Henry VIII power to be of some significance, since they state in their memorandum to the DPRR Committee that

“the regulations may create criminal offences and make provision about the process around appeals, and there is therefore the potential for significant impact to the public, police and judicial system.”

However, despite that potential for significant impact, the Government think it appropriate to use Henry VIII powers and regulations rather than primary legislation, which is invariably more fully debated and which, unlike regulations, can be amended. So can the Government give a somewhat fuller explanation of why having the powers to which I have referred in Schedule 10 is so crucial and, in their view, unavoidable, as opposed to them being powers, frankly, of administrative convenience to the Government?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for introducing a specific part of Schedule 10: notably, paragraph 6, which gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations for the provisions about fixed penalty notices, the form of and the information included, and the consequences of providing false statements in connection with fixed penalty notices, including the provision of creating criminal offences, as the noble Lord noted. It is important to note that within all this there is the affirmative resolution, and the consequences need to be proportionate and appropriate to the fixed penalty notices themselves. So proportionality will certainly come into this.

Should the regulations be used in future, the key consideration will be whether they are proportionate. The noble Lord mentioned that the consequences could be put in other legislation, but there could be no other suitable legislation coming down the track. As he noted, there is precedent for making regulations in the manner set out in the Bill. This would be a perfectly reasonable way to provide the flexibility that the Government need in this area as the entire sector develops. We need the flexibility not only for the information required in fixed penalty notices; it must therefore be the case that the consequences of providing false statements in relation to fixed penalty notices must also be needed. That is why we have taken this power in the Bill.

I hope that, with that explanation, the noble Lord will feel able not to oppose the schedule.

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Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, unnecessary conflict has developed in this debate. I declare that I am the vice-president of BALPA, whose position, broadly speaking, is to support this Bill as far as it goes and strengthen it where we can, but also to recognise that there will be subsequent information and knowledge, and that regulation will be required as the impact of the technology changes. The noble Baroness’s amendment—building into this legislation the fact that we continuously review the specifics that she outlines, but also any other changes in technology—is the most sensible way to do it. We are not going to complete in the next few days a Bill that will last very long in its totality.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, with whom I sat on the same committee, knows that five years ago the technology was very different. Some of the concerns were the same; some have been overcome. Hopefully, we can develop a situation in which we have a continuous review, but the request that that should be built into this Bill does not seem to me unreasonable. For the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, and my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours spelled out, and as I spoke about at Second Reading, we already know about the lack of testing on the effect of drones going into jet engines. We need that testing before we can effectively legislate. It is a potentially serious issue. We need a next stage built into the legislation. If the noble Baroness’s amendment is not accepted in total, I hope that its spirit will be taken on board by the Government.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser - Hansard

My Amendment 35 in this group is on much the same theme as the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, except that it calls for the Secretary of State to,

“prepare a strategy for reviewing legislation relating to unmanned aircraft.”

At Second Reading, my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe, referring to the rate at which technology surrounding drones has developed, said:

“It is possible that this legislation already falls behind recent developments. It seems to ignore the dangers that could arise from drones that fly beyond lines of sight. Ultimately, this legislation must be prepared to deal with the drone technology of the future”.—[Official Report, 27/1/20; col. 1270.]

My noble friend Lord Whitty referred at Second Reading to the Select Committee report from 2015 on drones—or, as I think they were known then, remotely piloted aircraft systems—and said that a range of issues raised in the report had “not been fully addressed” and were not really addressed in the Bill. Some related to the safety of other users in the air and on the ground, but there were also issues of insurance, licensing, privacy and liability and the question of how far the multiple operation of drones by one programme and one operator is compatible with our current regulations. He also spoke about changes in the air traffic control regulations to ensure adequate separation; strengthening the enforcement and checking system; removing built-in safety features from drones; the deliberate weaponisation of drones; and licensing of individual machines. The Airport Operators Association has called for mandatory geofencing software in drones and the mandatory identification of drones to help airports to identify genuine threats to safety.

I am sure that the Government recognise the need to keep reviewing legislation relating to unmanned aircraft. The incident at Gatwick Airport in December 2018 and other incidents and the subsequent emergence of the Bill suggest that someone or somebody had not kept their eye fully on the ball regarding the relevance of legislation by ensuring legislation continues to reflect current realities and technological developments. It is not unreasonable to suggest that a strategy should be drawn up for reviewing legislation to ensure that that does not happen again. At Second Reading, the Minister, speaking for the Government, said:

“Of course, the world of drones and airspace change never stops, so we will continue to review the legislation to ensure it remains fit for purpose, particularly for drones.”—[Official Report, 27/1/20; col. 1292.]

As I said, I am not sure that that has been the case in the light of the Gatwick incident in the sense of updating the legislation in time.

Will the Government’s strategy for reviewing legislation relating to unmanned aircraft be conducted in a piecemeal manner, responding to problems and issues as they come to light, or will we have a comprehensive review of all aspects of legislation relating to unmanned aircraft, as some have called for? The Airport Operators Association says in its briefing—which I am sure a number of noble Lords will have received—on Part 3 of the Bill on unmanned aircraft: “We are, in addition, disappointed that the Government have not taken the opportunity to include other elements called for by the majority of the industry and achieve one comprehensive piece of legislation on drone safety and usage.”

The piecemeal approach would appear to be in vogue at the moment. Even with this Bill, the Government have taken the line—and it has been repeated today—that this is about police enforcement powers and that, in their view, it is inappropriate to use this Bill for further unmanned aircraft regulation. There are also the Henry VIII powers in the Bill, which we have discussed. They provide for the creation of new offences by the Secretary of State, by regulation on an ad hoc basis, and for the addition of offences by the Secretary of State by regulations on an ad hoc basis. That again suggests a piecemeal approach by the Government to their continuous review of the legislation on unmanned aircraft to ensure that it remains fit for purpose. If legislation affecting unmanned aircraft is reviewed on a piecemeal basis, then when a problem or deficiency is exposed, we risk the equivalent of a second Gatwick incident.

This amendment calls for a strategy for reviewing legislation relating to unmanned aircraft—a strategy which, based on the evidence, frankly, is needed—and for that strategy to be prepared by the Secretary of State. I await the Government’s response.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to what has been a very interesting debate. It has been more wide-ranging than I anticipated.

The Government are listening to everybody contributing to this debate—within this Chamber and beyond—about what they should be doing. Something needs to be done, but there is no silver bullet. Standing here now, I can absolutely say that there is no magic bullet, no single solution. We cannot legislate our way out of the issue facing us unless we completely ban drones. There was mention that perhaps we should have had a registration system at the outset, but we have had model aircraft for years. They have not had anything, and they too have been involved in incursions over airports. We cannot lull ourselves into a false sense of security. We cannot say that the Government are not doing enough, that something must be done and that this is all so terrible, because what in this Bill would have prevented Gatwick, for example?

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

I thank my noble friend for his additional data, to be added to the information I will be collecting before too long.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser - Hansard

It is a sobering thought that, as I understand it, the Government have said that no legislation could prevent what happened at Gatwick happening again or even reduce its likelihood. That seems to be the Government’s stance. I apologise for my ignorance in advance, but can the Minister confirm that there is a report into the incident at Gatwick Airport in December 2018, and can it be made available?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

What I said about Gatwick is that there is no silver bullet; there was not one piece of legislation that would have stopped Gatwick.

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Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson - Hansard

My Lords, Amendment 32 follows similar lines to Amendment 31 but is much more specific. It amends the Air Navigation Order 2016 to introduce an obligation for geofencing equipment to be up to date and working. It provides that persons in charge who have electronic identification must not switch it off, and must have that identification on a register linked to their name. Currently, we still have drone users without registered drones. As I said earlier, there are good reasons why some people do not, and should not, have to register; the amendment allows for exceptions.

Basically, I have selected some simple steps that can be taken now. They do not anticipate future technological developments; they deal with what exists now. I accept that one might debate many things about how we control and use drones in the most sensible way, but these are simple, basic improvements to the control of drones by government legislation which benefit the whole of society, as I stated in my previous amendment. I do not wish to repeat what I said then. I beg to move.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser - Hansard

My Lords, I have an almost identical amendment to that moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. I am sure that nobody wishes to hear me deliver virtually the same speech as the one delivered by the noble Baroness. I support what she has said and hope we will find that the Government do too.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

I am very pleased that this group came immediately after the previous one because I too will probably be saying pretty much what I said before. Obviously, geo-awareness and electronic conspicuity are important parts of the delegated regulation. Even though the noble Baroness would perhaps like these to be introduced sooner, I am sure she would accept that, while we are in our transition period, we have to follow EU law. The two items identified in this amendment are already in UK law; there is a three-year transition period in which they will come into effect. The noble Baroness mentioned that new drones can be purchased with all these things. There are people in the model aircraft community who will be very quick to write to all noble Lords to tell them why the transition period of three years is required. I have been at the receiving end of one their campaigns; it involves a lot of letters.

There are many reasons for the three-year transition period. While we were a member of the EU we could not change it, as the noble Baroness, being a Liberal Democrat, well knows. Those two requirements are already there so, from the point of view of the amendments, we can put them to one side. I have been through the registration issue several times: there is an operator and there is a remote pilot; the remote pilot is under the responsibility of the operator and can be under 18. It is nobody’s interest to stop people under 18—a 16 year-old, for example—flying these vehicles.

On remote identification, once electronic conspicuity is ubiquitous, we will be able to link the identifier to the registration system. At the moment, there is literally a physical number on a drone; that will change over to electronic conspicuity once the transition period is over. The model aircraft people will have put electronic conspicuity into all their aircraft by then and the entire system should be ready to go. I hope that, given this explanation, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser - Hansard

This amendment is primarily to ascertain whether the Government believe that there is a risk arising from unmanned aircraft operated from overseas and, if they do, what their strategy is for dealing with it.

At Second Reading, I referred to the power, which we know is in the Bill, allowing a police officer to require a person to ground an unmanned aircraft if they have reasonable grounds for believing that the person is controlling the unmanned aircraft. I asked if there were powers available if the unmanned aircraft were being controlled by a person operating it from outside the United Kingdom or, indeed, from within our coastal waters. It would be helpful if the Government would say whether there is a strategy for managing risks arising from unmanned aircraft operated from overseas. Do they consider there is a risk from this source at all?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for raising this very important point. Certainly, the Government are well aware of a wide range of risks relating to unmanned aircraft and the fact that they may, in due course, be operated from overseas. That is one of the risks we are considering.

The Government published the UK Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Strategy in October 2019. That strategy aims to safeguard the potential benefits of unmanned aircraft—because they can bring substantial benefits to the UK—by setting out our approach for countering the threat posed by their malicious or negligent use. I stress that this is very much work in progress. As all noble Lords have commented today, this technology moves very quickly, but the focus of this strategy is on keeping the UK public safe and protecting our critical national infrastructure, prisons and crowded places, irrespective of where the threat originates, in the UK or externally. It is therefore not necessary to prepare and publish an additional strategy specifically for managing a threat from overseas; it is something that is under consideration and was considered as we prepared the strategy.

As I have said many times today, the strategy recognises that there is no silver bullet: we must look at all the threats and at mitigating them all, both through the Bill before your Lordships today and through more practical elements, such as training the police, making sure that airports have access to the technology, as I explained earlier, and making sure that everybody using the technology or putting these powers in place has the training and guidance needed to respond effectively to the threat. I hope that, based on that explanation, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser - Hansard

I thank the Minister for her response, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser - Hansard

The two amendments in this group would require the Secretary of State to consult those involved in or affected by the incident at Gatwick Airport in December 2018 and to report on the consultation to both Houses of Parliament. What has driven these amendments more than anything else is that I am still not clear about the extent to which the Government went back to consult those who took part in the original consultation, to see whether they had anything useful to add in light of their experience of what happened at Gatwick in December 2018 that might have had relevance for what appears in the Bill we are considering today. As we know, two public consultations took place prior to this Bill and, indeed, prior to the incident in December 2018.

My noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe referred to this at Second Reading, when he asked whether there had been any consultation on the legislation with those involved in the Gatwick incident. The Government’s response was less than explicit. They said only that there had been contact with the police force

“around Gatwick and … all over the country”

and meetings with

“other stakeholders to discuss these matters in general.”

The Government also said that

“a cross-government working group … looked at stop and search powers”

and

“agreed that the focus of the powers should not only be directed towards aviation and airports but be applicable to other areas such as prisons”.—[Official Report, 27/1/20; cols. 1291-2.]

In conclusion, they said they could not “delay any longer”. One might draw an inference from that comment that few of those organisations or individuals involved or affected by the Gatwick incident were consulted so that their potentially useful recent information or experience could be taken into consideration when determining the provisions that should be in this Bill or what provisions of a non-legislative function might be taken.

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

The noble Baroness has hit a particular nail on the head. That is why the catalogue of equipment is being developed by the CPNI. It is encouraging the leasing of equipment. Airports are responsible for safety and security within their boundaries, so they are being encouraged, where they feel it is appropriate, to lease appropriate equipment. Not all airports are the same, because of different sized sites and all sorts of different reasons. There is always ongoing engagement with the Ministry of Defence and the police. Every incident is dealt with on a case-by-case basis because, interestingly, no two incursions are the same. Some can be dealt with extremely easily and others require a different approach. We are well aware of the difference.

It is not just the different sizes of airports. There are various other bits of critical national infrastructure that fall under this entire threat picture. We are cognisant of that; it is part of the work on the strategy to make sure that we have the appropriately flexible response to make sure that we can deploy resources in the best way.

We have also been engaging with the Ministry of Defence. Along with the Home Office, my department works closely with the Ministry of Defence to share learning from its military work overseas and how best to work with the counter-drone industry. We work closely with the Civil Aviation Authority, including on the development of the drone code and drone registration scheme. Since Gatwick, the code has been reviewed and the drone registration scheme has come into existence.

We have regular meetings with BALPA, which is always a pleasure, and we are very interested in what it has to say. We also see a wide range of other bodies, either regularly or on an ad hoc basis, which includes the drone and counter-drone industries, regulatory bodies, airports and other critical national infrastructure sites, academia, and in particular international partners— this is not just a UK issue, and we speak to our international colleagues about it. I had a meeting with people from the States just a couple of weeks ago; they are facing the same problems, and we should not think that we are behind the curve, because we are certainly not.

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

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser - Hansard

I thank the Minister for her response, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]

(2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords)
(2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords)
Lord Rosser Excerpts
Monday 27th January 2020

(8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Transport
Lord Campbell-Savours Portrait Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I want to speak briefly on Part 3 of the Bill, entitled “Unmanned Aircraft”.

I understand that the Bill makes new provisions

“for constables to allow them to better enforce UA provisions in the ANO 2016”

and includes

“powers to require an unmanned aircraft to be grounded, powers to stop and search persons or vehicles in specific circumstances, powers to enter and search premises under warrant, and powers to issue Fixed Penalty Notices”.

However, there is one thing it does not do. It does not appear to give the authorities the power to confiscate equipment. I would have thought that critical in making the Bill work. I would have thought it would concentrate the minds of people using equipment irresponsibly or illegally to know that their equipment, some of it quite expensive, could be confiscated in certain circumstances. The Government should issue guidelines on the circumstances in which equipment could be confiscated in the event that they are prepared to move an amendment to deal with this issue in Committee.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I appear unique in being able to speak in the debate without having any direct specialist knowledge or experience of the issues in the Bill.

The Bill confers new government powers on changing the design of airspace, alters the licensing framework for air traffic control and provides new powers for police and prison authorities to deal with the unlawful use of unmanned aircraft, including drones and model aircraft. As I understand it, the terms of the Bill apply to the whole of the United Kingdom, with the unmanned aircraft provisions being subject to legislative consent from the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In February this year, there were approximately 5,000 permitted drone operators in UK airspace. The Department for Transport predicts that there will be some 17,000 commercial drone operators in the United Kingdom by 2024, and another study predicts that there could be 76,000 drones operating in UK airspace by 2030.

Unmanned aircraft are being used to great positive effect across a range of industries and sectors. However, on the downside, unmanned aircraft are also being used more and more in a negative or potentially dangerous way. There has been an increase in incidents of unmanned aircraft coming within unsafe distances to manned aircraft, with six such incidents in 2014 and 126 in 2018, as the Minister said.

There was a significant such incident which caused major disruption at Gatwick Airport in December 2018, although it appears that the consultation in the run-up to the formulation of this Bill all took place prior to that incident. Can the Government confirm if that was the case—a point raised by my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe—and, if so, does that mean that they consider that no further useful information or experience could be or was gleaned as a result of the incident at Gatwick Airport by any major party affected or involved that should be reflected in the provisions of this Bill?

My noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe has set out the basis of our position in support of the Bill in principle, not least in relation to Parts 1 and 2. Most of my comments will be directed at Part 3, on the new powers in relation to the use or misuse of unmanned aircraft. The current regulatory framework for unmanned aircraft is provided for in the Air Navigation Order 2016 and the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990. The use of an unmanned aircraft in a manner designed to cause disruption or harm is, not surprisingly, prohibited, and it is currently also an offence to endanger aircraft with an unmanned aircraft, for drone pilots to fly drones near people or property, and for drone pilots not to keep drones within line of sight. Since July 2018, all drones have been banned from flying above 400 feet across the United Kingdom and within 1 kilometre of protected airport boundaries. Since the end of last November, it has been a legal requirement for all drone operators to register themselves with the Civil Aviation Authority and for drone pilots to complete an online pilot competency test. 1 am not clear whether the not flying within 1 kilometre of protected airport boundaries has now been extended; perhaps the Government could clarify the point, at least for my benefit.

Unmanned aircraft offences under the 2016 Air Navigation Order are mainly summary-only offences, which also means that the existing entry and search powers applicable to indictable offences cannot be used. Part 3 of the Bill develops the regulatory framework for unmanned aircraft to address the issue of misuse of such aircraft. The police are to be given powers to ground unmanned aircraft, to stop and search in specific circumstances, to enter and search under warrant, and to issue fixed penalty notices in certain situations. My noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours has just raised the issue of powers in respect of confiscation and has asked a question on that score. Powers are also given to enable the use of counter-unmanned technologies to prevent the use of unmanned aircraft to commit certain offences under existing legislation.

The Bill contains 28 delegated powers, nine of which are Henry VIII powers, to which my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe referred. Five of these Henry VIII powers concern the provisions in Part 2 regarding air traffic services and four relate to the provisions in Part 3 regarding unmanned aircraft. The Government have stated that these delegated powers, including all the Henry VIII powers, are necessary and justified. That may of course be the case, but at this stage it would be helpful if, prior to Committee, the Government could give their reasons for saying that the use of Henry VIII powers in each of the nine cases is unavoidable or is essential to avoid unacceptable and unnecessary delay or difficulty.

I mentioned earlier the increase in the number of incidents of unmanned aircraft coming within unsafe distances of manned aircraft. What Government evaluation has been carried out of the outcome of a collision between a drone and a manned aircraft —an issue raised by my noble friend Lord Whitty? Further, what steps have been or are being taken in the light of that evaluation? How serious is such a collision likely to be and how serious could it be? Likewise, what evaluation has been made of the likelihood and consequences of a drone being sucked into a jet engine of a manned aircraft? Aviation law provides for a minimum separation distance between aircraft to address the risk from wake turbulence. What is the minimum wake turbulence separation between drones and aircraft? Do the terms of this Bill apply to a greater or lesser degree to all unmanned aircraft or only unmanned aircraft within specified weights and sizes?

The Airport Operators Association has called for mandatory geofencing software in drones and the mandatory identification of drones to help airports identify genuine threats to safety. What is the Government’s response to the AOA on this?

The Bill gives a police officer the power to require a person to ground an unmanned aircraft if the officer has reasonable grounds for believing that the person is controlling the unmanned aircraft. Is it the Government’s view that any unmanned aircraft that is off the ground must, by that very fact, have a person controlling it at all times while it is off the ground, and thus fall within the terms of this provision in the Bill? Are there any circumstances in which it could be argued—as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, mentioned—that, at a particular point in time, nobody is controlling an unmanned aircraft that is off the ground?

In addition, what powers are available in this regard if the unmanned aircraft is being controlled by a person operating it from outside the United Kingdom or from within our coastal waters? Does this Bill, as I assume, not address that situation in view of the requirement, which I believe remains, that an unmanned aircraft must always be in the line of vision of the operator?

Schedule 10 deals with fixed penalties for offences relating to unmanned aircraft, but then states:

“The Secretary of State may, by regulations, prescribe offences as fixed penalty offences for the purposes of this Schedule.”

I believe that the Government have already said that one such offence might be operating a drone too close to a building without realising it. Can the Government, prior to Committee, give some further examples of the kind of offences that it is intended should be dealt with by a fixed penalty notice rather than by the alleged perpetrator being brought to court?

Schedule 10 refers to lack of intent. Does that mean that under the Bill a person endangering an aircraft, manned or unmanned, through carelessness or lack of knowledge or training could be given a fixed penalty on the basis that there was no evidence of any intent to endanger an aircraft? If that is the case under Schedule 10 —at the moment I assume that it is not—that would appear to go against existing general aviation rules that apply to everyone, which provide that:

“A person must not recklessly or negligently act in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft, or any person in an aircraft.”

Will all police officers be trained to be competent—the key word there is “all”—to apply the terms of this Bill in relation to unmanned aircraft? What additional resources do the Government consider that the police will need to be able to use the powers conferred by this Bill to maximum effect?

On the subject of additional resources, what impact do the Government consider that this Bill will have on the responsibilities and workload of the Civil Aviation Authority? Will it be provided with additional resources and, if so, what resources—or is it the Government’s view either that the Civil Aviation Authority already has slack or that, while some parts of the Bill increase workload and responsibility, other parts reduce the workload and responsibility of the Civil Aviation Authority?

The Police Act 1997 enables named public authorities to authorise property or wireless telegraphy interference where it is considered necessary to prevent or detect serious crime. Serious crime is defined in the Act in a number of ways, including by reference to offences for which a person

“could reasonably be expected to be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three years or more”.

In reality, various offences involving unmanned aircraft have not involved sentences of imprisonment for three years or more. Other offences, including offences under prisons legislation relating to conveying articles into prisons, have maximum sentences of less than three years. As a result, unmanned aircraft may be used to commit offences that would not constitute a serious crime as defined in the Police Act 1997, with its reference to

“reasonably be expected to be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three years or more”.

Consequently, the statutory power of named public authorities to authorise property interference or interference with wireless telegraphy that would otherwise be unlawful is compromised.

To overcome this, the Bill provides, through an amendment to the relevant section of the Police Act 1997, for the authorisation of property interference and interference with wireless telegraphy when certain offences have been committed using an unmanned aircraft. Why have the Government proposed dealing with the matter in this way? Why have they, in effect, either said that unmanned aircraft offences are not actually serious offences as currently defined under the Police Act 1997 with the expectation of imprisonment for three years or more, or, alternatively, decided that for authorising property or wireless telegraphy interference in respect of offences using an unmanned aircraft, the definition of serious crime has been so lowered that it does not apparently include any reference to a reasonable expectation of a certain term of imprisonment for the offence which the interference being authorised is designed to prevent or deter?

Since offences involving the misuse of unmanned aircraft can have potentially very serious consequences, why have the Government decided that the threshold for authorising property or wireless telegraphy interference should be lowered in this way to include apparently minor offences involving the use of unmanned aircraft as well? Surely the Government’s efforts should be directed towards more appropriate terms of imprisonment being applied than appears to be the case now, at least for offences involving the use of unmanned aircraft which constitute a threat to air safety.

Likewise, the provisions of Schedule 8 on the power of a constable to stop and search people or vehicles would appear to cover suspicion of not just serious crime but non-serious crime. Could the Government say whether that is the case, and indicate in specific terms the lowest level of offence, or suspected offence, against which the stop-and-search powers in Schedule 8 could be exercised by a police officer? That information would be helpful prior to Committee.

My noble friend Lord Whitty raised a number of further measures that could be included in the Bill, such as a criminal offence of weaponising a drone; an offence of modifying a drone to disable built-in safety features; bringing drugs and alcohol rules in line with those for manned aviation; a minimum age for operating a drone; and a requirement to register each unmanned aircraft, as well as the operator. Similar and other points and questions have been raised by other noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe. I hope that the Government will be able to respond to them all, either now or before Committee.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in today’s wide-ranging debate. The Government will respond to all the questions raised—unfortunately, probably not all today, but I will endeavour to get a communal letter out to all noble Lords who have participated so that, in advance of Committee, we have provided the correct information. The quality of contributions has been significant, and I will try to rattle through as many of the issues raised as I possibly can.

The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, my noble friend Lord Naseby and other contributors wondered whether the Government have been too complacent about drones and whether the timetable was sufficient to get the legislation to your Lordships’ House. There has of course been an election, and various other hiatuses in the progression of legislation through Parliament. However, that relates only to this Bill, and the Government have been absolutely on top of making sure that appropriate changes have been made to the Air Navigation Order 2016 and to previous air navigation orders. Legislatively, the Aviation and Maritime Security Act has been in place for many years, so regulations have been in place. The Bill before your Lordships’ House today gives the police powers to enforce regulations that have been in place for some time.

If that were not enough, we now have more regulation coming from the EU in the form of a delegated Act and an implementing Act. The delegated Act deals with product specifications for drones and the implementing Act deals with drone registration and operator elements, such as we in this country have already put in place. I therefore believe that the regulatory framework is there for us to use. Now, as a Government, we need to make sure that the police have ability to take that forward.

A number of noble Lords noted that the police powers were originally consulted on in a Home Office consultation that came out and was completed before the Gatwick incident. I reassure noble Lords that we have of course been in touch with members of the police force around Gatwick and, indeed, all over the country to make sure they are content with the powers in the Bill. We believe that they are. We have a close relationship with them, so they have been involved since Gatwick in making sure these powers are appropriate. Of course, we still meet with the police and other stakeholders to discuss these matters in general.

Stop and search was noted by some as being in the previous Home Office consultation. Not only have we been discussing this with the police; a cross-government working group also looked at stop and search powers. It is also worth noting that the cross-government working group agreed that the focus of the powers should not only be directed towards aviation and airports but be applicable to other areas such as prisons, which should lead to greater security. Of course, the world of drones and airspace change never stops, so we will continue to review the legislation to ensure it remains fit for purpose, particularly for drones. However, we cannot delay any longer and I believe that the Bill is a good way to take this forward.

There are important elements of the product standards that came in with the EU regulations on 1 July, for which there is a three-year transition period. They are electronic conspicuity, meaning that each drone will be discoverable and identifiable, which will help as unified traffic management progresses; and geo-awareness, which is already in legislation and therefore does not need to be added to the Bill.

A number of noble Lords have talked about the important issue of aviation and the environment. It is all very well talking about quicker, quieter and cleaner journeys, but not if the latter is not the case. If we can sort out our airspace, we believe that fuel burn from aircraft will be reduced by 20%. That is already a 20% reduction in carbon. More broadly, aviation needs to play its part in the UK reaching its net-zero target. We are carefully considering the recent aviation advice from the Committee on Climate Change, and we will shortly publish for consultation our position on aviation and net zero. That builds on the work we did with the aviation strategy 2050: we consulted and gained an enormous amount of feedback on what we should be doing with our aviation sector. We will take that forward.

It is not just carbon that is important; it is also about air quality. The industry is looking at reducing airport-related emissions, given that airborne emissions account for a very small percentage point of air quality concerns.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, and my noble friend Lord Davies of Gower mentioned noise, an incredibly important and much-underappreciated element of the airspace modernisation programme. Modern aircraft can take off and land using much steeper angles of departure and arrival, so we can reduce the overall amount of noise experienced by householders. Airports are also beginning to use performance-based navigation, which means there are ways to direct planes to at least give respite to certain communities during the day. The Government take noise very seriously. We set up ICCAN at the beginning of last year to look more carefully at what we must do about airport noise and its impact on communities.

Turning to the Bill itself, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned the number of delegated powers in it. I agree with him: when I saw it, it fair took my breath away. However, I have been through each of those powers with a fine-toothed comb and I am convinced that this is the most effective way to provide these powers. I say to all noble Lords who are interested in the delegated powers that, following the Government’s report, the DPRRC did not have any issues to raise with the House after reviewing those powers. I would be very happy to set up a specific briefing: the Bill puts new schedules into other Acts—for example, the Transport Act 2000—so the entire framework is a little complicated. I am convinced that even the Henry VIII powers have a rightful place in the Bill, but I am very happy to help wherever I can.

With reference to the devolved Administrations, the section of the Bill relating to activities around prisons is a devolved matter in Scotland and Northern Ireland. My department has written to both nations and the officials are currently liaising with their counterparts regarding the next stage of the process. We will continue to work very closely with them.

Turning to airspace change, mentioned at length by my noble friends Lord Goschen and Lord Naseby, and the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, this is a complicated area. I will commit here and now that I am very happy to organise a briefing on airspace in general, to provide the context required to properly understand the powers that are being asked of your Lordships’ House throughout the passage of this Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked whether airspace change was nationally controlled. It is nationally mandated and nationally organised. The point about airspace change is that there are many layers, a little like an onion. Various people will be involved at various stages, but it is critical that given the change to the structure of CAP1616—the CAA’s process for airspace change—the amount of consultation and the number of stakeholders that are consulted within airspace change proposals has increased. I reassure the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, that the military is at the heart of that. We have commercial aircraft, civil aircraft, military aircraft and general aviation, and local communities also have a significant part to play in responding. When I was—for at least five minutes last year—Aviation Minister, I chaired the Airspace Strategy Board. That was always a pleasure, because it brings together at a ministerial level civil aviation, general aviation, the military, the airports and the airlines. It is a good forum for discussing airspace change and how to make it as effective as possible. I reassure noble Lords that there is an over- arching control at the top in terms of getting people’s feedback in.

Hammersmith Bridge

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Tuesday 7th January 2020

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Department for Transport
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

I am sure many noble Lords know and love the Chiswick flyover. A more serious point is that the Government are already investing in a number of bridges in London. We are considering bids from TfL to help with improvements to Kew Bridge, the Croydon flyover and the bridge at Gallows Corner. The Government are investing in bridges in London; we rely on receiving requests for funding in the first place.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

What percentage of the cost of repairing Hammersmith Bridge do the Government believe they themselves should bear?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

I cannot answer that question, because I have not received a proposal. At the moment, the costs for repairing the bridge are estimated to be £120 million but this is a very early stage of the process. We should recognise that TfL has already stepped up to the plate and committed £25 million to make sure that the early work can start. It is its intention to go to award of contracts for the next stage in the spring.

Railways (Safety, Access, Management and Interoperability) (Miscellaneous Amendments and Transitional Provision) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

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Wednesday 30th October 2019

(11 months ago)

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I too thank the Minister for explaining the content and purpose of this draft statutory instrument, which relates to a no-deal scenario. I also thank the Minister and her officials for the meeting yesterday. I do not think that anything I am going to say will come entirely as a surprise to the Minister and I am afraid that I will repeat some of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson.

I have a number of questions about the content of the Explanatory Memorandum, some of which will, no doubt, relate to issues about which I am still not entirely clear. First, how does an EU portable Part A safety certificate currently differ from a Part A safety certificate from the Office of Rail and Road, if at all, and how will they differ in the future? When introducing this SI, the Minister said that the two-year period to which this SI relates,

“provides an appropriate amount of time in which industry can prepare and align themselves with the Great British domestic certification regime”,

before going on to talk about it giving Great Britain “appropriate control”. In the light of that comment about giving time for the industry to prepare and align itself with the British domestic certification regime, what will the industry have to do in the two-year period to achieve that preparation and alignment with the British domestic certification regime? What actions will it have to take, because there has been talk of there being similarity between the two? It would be helpful if that comment could be clarified; it was also made by the Transport Minister in the Commons when the SI was debated there. I am not entirely clear about what the industry will have to do in that two-year period to prepare and to align itself with the domestic certification regime.

Will operators of services travelling from mainland Europe to the UK require both a UK Part A safety certificate and a Part A certificate issued in an EU member state? Clarification on that point would be helpful. Will a mainland Europe operator with a Part A certificate issued in an EU member state have to acquire a UK Part A safety certificate before bidding for a rail franchise, or will it have to acquire such a certificate only if it is successful in its franchise bid?

What is the position for a train operator in Northern Ireland? What Part A certificate will it require? Will it be a UK one or an EU member state one? Paragraph 4.1 of the Explanatory Memorandum, headed “Extent and Territorial Application”, suggests that, in Northern Ireland, an operator will have an EU member state-issued Part A safety certificate because, as I understand it, it is not covered by the part of the SI that relates to the Part A safety certificates. Once again, some clarification of that issue would be extremely helpful.

In addition, if an operator in Northern Ireland has an EU member state-issued Part A safety certificate, who will issue it and who has issued the current Part A safety certificate? Who has issued the current one and who will issue a future one if the train operator in Northern Ireland had an EU member state Part A certificate rather than one issued by the Office of Rail and Road?

I want to make two points on the Explanatory Memorandum, one of which is exactly the one made by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, about paragraph 2.5. I know that I am repeating what has already been said but, to recap, it states:

“The UK notified the Commission on 29 November 2018 that it intended to transpose the recast Railway Safety Directive by the later permitted transposition deadline of June 2020, though this will depend on the nature of Brexit on 31 October 2019”.

My question is slightly different from that posed by the noble Baroness and is simply to ask what the current position is on transposing the recast directive. Since the memorandum refers to it being dependent on the nature of Brexit, how will the nature of Brexit affect the transposition?

Finally, paragraph 2.11 of the Explanatory Memorandum states that, once the UK has left the EU:

“There will be an opportunity for the UK to shape its own railway to meet the needs of our passengers and freight shippers”.

What will we be able to do in the future to shape our own railway that the Government are in effect saying we cannot do at the moment under the present arrangements? I am not entirely clear on the answer to that question.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for this short debate on the SI before us. A number of issues have been raised and I look forward to trying to answer as many questions as possible. As ever, I will write if I miss out anything.

As I would expect from a leading Liberal Democrat, we heard the usual question: “What happens if we don’t leave the EU?” It is quite right for the noble Baroness to pose that question. That is obviously not government policy, so not a huge amount of work has gone into it—but the noble Baroness will know that, in the event that the UK does not leave the EU, all the work that we in government are doing at the moment on no-deal preparations, including these SIs, could be revoked. The SIs would simply fall away.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about the recast of our safety directive. That point is very important and is in flow at the moment; we will certainly need to consider it at some point next year. The recast Directive (EU) 2016/798 on rail safety repeals and replaces the previous rail safety directive, and forms the basis of the regulations that we currently have in place. The key aims of the new directive are: to streamline the application process for rail vehicle authorisations and safety certificates through a single EU one-stop shop; to achieve consistency of regulatory approach between national safety authorities; to achieve much clearer alignment with the European Union Agency for Railways; and to progressively eliminate technical and operational differences between member states’ railways, including through the gradual elimination of national safety rules.

As noble Lords mentioned, the UK has applied for an extension to be in place until 16 June 2020, which has been agreed. Regarding the terms of our departure, if we are in an implementation period at that stage, the recast safety directive will be brought into our legislative framework. I suspect that, if we are still in our positions, we will be back in place to debate it at that time. If there is no deal, the Government of the day can look at the changes that have happened in Europe and decide whether to bring those changes into UK legislation. If the directive is implemented in whole or in part, a consultation with industry will take place, as with any new legislation. Officials have already done much of the work to ensure that the directive could be implemented if it is necessary and desirable.

Moving on to the ORR and its ability to charge a fee, the instrument makes fixes to EU tertiary legislation that allows the ORR to charge a fee. It was clear that the ORR wants to retain that fee-charging ability should it need to in future; essentially, we are retaining the status quo. However, the ORR has advised that it does not currently charge a fee in its role in determining applications for access to the rail network but that it wishes to retain the ability to charge a fee should it need to—which is the status quo. However, if a fee were to be charged in future, it would be subject to consultation with the industry.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, also mentioned the “made affirmative” procedure and asked whether it was still appropriate for this instrument to be brought through your Lordships’ House under that procedure. I suspect that it is. The debate taking place today is happening prior to the date on which a no-deal exit would otherwise have happened. Therefore, the significant difference between the “made affirmative” procedure and the normal affirmative procedure is not substantial in this case. Had we done it the other way, we may well have had the debate on the same day—but it was absolutely clear to us that we needed to make sure, had this debate not been able to be scheduled, for example, that certainty would be available to the industry. That is why we used the “made affirmative” procedure. We could have gone back and withdrawn the SI, then tabled it again under the new procedure—but, in practical terms, I am not sure that it would have made any real difference.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, brought up the subject of safety certificates in future and asked whether there would be divergence. We may want to diverge in future; one of the benefits of Brexit is being able to take control of the sorts of regulatory systems that we might find beneficial. Safety has always been a priority for this Government and for Governments before us, and it may be that, in future, we diverge from the EU in certain areas with regard to the safety framework. We are definitely not going to lower our safety standards, but we might do things differently. But things may change and, in future, EU operators wishing to operate in the UK will have to get a safety certificate from the UK, and that will be under the new regime. Obviously, this would have to go through your Lordships’ House and there are many steps to be taken in that process.

Break in Debate

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser - Hansard

Paragraph 2.11 of the Explanatory Memorandum states that,

“once the UK has left the EU we will have the flexibility to diverge from EU rail law where it is in the UK’s interest to do so, whilst maintaining our excellent safety record. There will be an opportunity for the UK to shape its own railway to meet the needs of our passengers and freight shippers”.

The inference is that we do not have that opportunity under the current arrangements. What are these opportunities to shape our own railway to meet the needs of our passengers and freight shippers that we do not have at the moment because of current arrangements?

Also, on the bit about alignment with the British domestic certification regime, I think that was something the noble Baroness the Minister said in her introduction, but it was certainly something the Minister of State said when this matter was being discussed in the House of Commons. Those were the words he used—so it is hardly the Explanatory Memorandum; it was actually what the Minister said when he referred to,

“an appropriate amount of time for the industry to prepare and align itself”,

with what he described as,

“the Great British domestic certification regime”.—[Official Report, Commons, 21/10/19; col. 4.]

I get the impression from the Minister’s answer on behalf of the Government that maybe that was some slightly flowery wording and perhaps he got a bit carried away with himself.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

I could not possibly comment on the words of my honourable friend in the other place, and I will go no further on that, but if I can shed any light, I will happily write to the noble Lord.

The words missing from the Explanatory Memorandum are “future needs”. Needs that might come to light will be in freight, for example. In my view, rail freight is an area where we should be looking to expand and improve the volume of goods that travel by rail. Improving gauge clearances or making all the other slight changes that one has to make to a railway to improve the ability of rail freight to, for example, get through tunnels, may have a knock-on impact on the safety certification. I do not know for sure, but these are the sorts of things that we will need to look at if we are to get more freight on to our railways. Therefore, we feel that, in future, divergence is a possibility. It is by no means a certainty. It would not happen without full consultation with the industry, and it would happen only if it is in the interests of the industry.

Electric Scooters

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Tuesday 29th October 2019

(11 months ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

I cannot guarantee for my noble friend that that issue will form part of this specific review because, as I said, it is about the future of mobility and urban strategy, and the micromobility types of transport that will come forward in future.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

Can the Minister tell us the extent to which people are being fined or charged for using an e-scooter contrary to the law? I ask that as one gets the impression, rightly or wrongly, that that is rarely the case. Are the Government of the view that it is probably better for such action not to be taken against those using e-scooters, pending the outcome of the review?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

The noble Lord will know that enforcement is an operational matter for the police but I reassure him that over a one-week period in July, 100 people were stopped on the streets of London and were issued with fines; some of them had their e-scooters confiscated. I disagree with the noble Lord that, pending the regulatory review, we should not enforce. We do not know the outcome of the review; it is certainly our view at this time that we cannot guarantee that any changes to regulations will be made.

Railways: Trans-Pennine Freight

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Monday 7th October 2019

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

We are deeply aware that there are a number of freight routes for rail and are doing what we can to improve their usage. For example, I am not sure whether the noble Lord is aware of the W7A gauge clearance project, which is going on at the moment. We are building a business case with industry to develop a W7A gauge clearance which would run along the trans-Pennine rail route via Huddersfield and Stalybridge. I hope that meets with his approval. If there is a positive business case, we will proceed with it forthwith; it could be in place by late 2020.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, capacity for rail freight is a key priority. Will the Government show that through an undertaking that that they will give the same priority, with the same timescales, to increasing capacity for rail freight across the Pennines as they say that they intend to do for rail passenger traffic across the Pennines?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

I thank the noble Lord for his question but, of course, it is not either/or; the two must be developed together. We often end up looking at a single mode for freight; what we must do is look at all the options, which will include road and, obviously, rail. But he brings up an important point. We will look very closely at cross-modal freight across the country in a strategy for the future starting this autumn.

Draft Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 1) Order 2019

Lord Rosser Excerpts
Monday 7th October 2019

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

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