Debates between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton

There have been 42 exchanges between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton

1 Thu 10th September 2020 Electric Vehicles
Department for Transport
3 interactions (229 words)
2 Wed 9th September 2020 Railways
Department for Transport
3 interactions (278 words)
3 Mon 7th September 2020 Highway Layouts
Department for Transport
3 interactions (262 words)
4 Thu 23rd July 2020 Stonehenge
Department for Transport
3 interactions (168 words)
5 Wed 8th July 2020 Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020
Department for Transport
2 interactions (2,387 words)
6 Tue 7th July 2020 Covid-19: Public Transport
Department for Transport
3 interactions (215 words)
7 Thu 2nd July 2020 Public Service Vehicles (Open Data) (England) Regulations 2020
Department for Transport
2 interactions (911 words)
8 Wed 1st July 2020 Public Transport: Social Distancing
Department for Transport
3 interactions (284 words)
9 Mon 29th June 2020 Covid-19: Airline Sector
Department for Transport
3 interactions (293 words)
10 Thu 25th June 2020 Public Transport: Face Coverings
Department for Transport
3 interactions (297 words)
11 Thu 18th June 2020 Civil Aviation (Insurance) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
Department for Transport
2 interactions (2,166 words)
12 Wed 17th June 2020 Air Traffic Management (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
Department for Transport
2 interactions (2,273 words)
13 Mon 8th June 2020 Covid-19: Walking and Cycling
Department for Transport
3 interactions (186 words)
14 Tue 2nd June 2020 Covid-19: Public Transport
Department for Transport
3 interactions (254 words)
15 Wed 13th May 2020 Motor Vehicles (Tests) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020
Department for Transport
2 interactions (2,243 words)
16 Tue 12th May 2020 Covid-19: Public Transport Safety
Department for Transport
3 interactions (268 words)
17 Tue 5th May 2020 Aviation and Tourism: Cancellations
Department for Transport
3 interactions (327 words)
18 Wed 29th April 2020 Passenger Train Services
Department for Transport
3 interactions (217 words)
19 Thu 13th February 2020 Smart Motorways
Department for Transport
2 interactions (2,673 words)
20 Wed 12th February 2020 Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]
Department for Transport
19 interactions (2,962 words)
21 Mon 27th January 2020 Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]
Department for Transport
2 interactions (3,428 words)
22 Tue 7th January 2020 Hammersmith Bridge
Department for Transport
3 interactions (167 words)
23 Wed 30th October 2019 Railways (Safety, Access, Management and Interoperability) (Miscellaneous Amendments and Transitional Provision) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
Department for Transport
5 interactions (2,060 words)
24 Tue 29th October 2019 Electric Scooters
Department for Transport
3 interactions (201 words)
25 Mon 7th October 2019 Air Services (Competition) (Amendment and Revocation) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
Department for Transport
2 interactions (914 words)
26 Mon 7th October 2019 Draft Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 1) Order 2019
Department for Transport
7 interactions (2,433 words)
27 Mon 7th October 2019 Railways: Trans-Pennine Freight
Department for Transport
3 interactions (233 words)
28 Thu 26th September 2019 Passenger and Goods Vehicles (Tachographs) (Amendment etc.) Regulations 2019
Department for Transport
4 interactions (1,485 words)
29 Wed 25th September 2019 Thomas Cook
Department for Transport
2 interactions (3,238 words)
30 Mon 9th September 2019 High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill
Department for Transport
6 interactions (3,240 words)
31 Mon 22nd July 2019 Egypt: Suspension of Flights
Department for Transport
7 interactions (383 words)
32 Tue 16th July 2019 Buses: Rural Services
Department for Transport
3 interactions (341 words)
33 Mon 24th June 2019 Railways: Newcastle and Edinburgh
Department for Transport
3 interactions (293 words)
34 Thu 13th June 2019 Brexit: European Union’s No-deal Continuity Arrangements
Department for Transport
3 interactions (280 words)
35 Tue 4th June 2019 Bus Services
Department for Transport
3 interactions (373 words)
36 Mon 20th May 2019 Connecting Europe Facility (Revocation) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
Department for Transport
2 interactions (962 words)
37 Mon 13th May 2019 Rail Safety (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
Department for Transport
4 interactions (2,908 words)
38 Tue 7th May 2019 Electric Vehicles: Charging Points
Department for Transport
3 interactions (244 words)
39 Wed 1st May 2019 Brexit: No-deal Ferry Contracts
Department for Transport
4 interactions (412 words)
40 Thu 25th April 2019 Railways: Midland Main Line
Department for Transport
3 interactions (283 words)
41 Mon 16th October 2017 Equality and Human Rights Commission 3 interactions (159 words)
42 Mon 9th October 2017 Fracking: Policing 3 interactions (277 words)

Electric Vehicles

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Wednesday 8th July 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for Transport
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

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Thursday 2nd July 2020

(2 months, 4 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for Transport
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

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

(2 months, 4 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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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

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

(3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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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

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

(3 months ago)

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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

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Thursday 18th June 2020

(3 months, 1 week ago)

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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

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Wednesday 17th June 2020

(3 months, 1 week ago)

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Department for Transport
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

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

(3 months, 3 weeks ago)

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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

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

(3 months, 4 weeks ago)

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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.

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

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Wednesday 13th May 2020

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

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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

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Thursday 13th February 2020

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Department for Transport
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)
Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Wednesday 12th February 2020

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for Transport
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.

Break in Debate

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?

Break in Debate

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.

Break in Debate

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.

Break in Debate

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.

Break in Debate

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)
Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Monday 27th January 2020

(8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for Transport
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

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

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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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

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Wednesday 30th October 2019

(11 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Department for Transport
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

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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.

Air Services (Competition) (Amendment and Revocation) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Monday 7th October 2019

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

Once again, I thank the Minister for her explanation of the content of this SI, its purpose and objectives. As she said, it revokes and replaces an SI already passed by this House and it is necessary because the EU has revoked and replaced its own regulations on this issue. This SI makes the necessary changes to the new version of the EU regulations.

I, likewise, only have a couple of points to raise. The first relates to paragraph 7.8 in the Explanatory Memorandum, which says:

“In Regulation (EU) 2019/712, it is the Commission that both conducts the investigation and then, if appropriate, pursues redressive measures. The effect of the changes in this instrument is that the CAA will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State following its investigation, and the Secretary of State may then decide to adopt redressive measures. Such redressive measures will be adopted by regulations in a Statutory Instrument, subject to the affirmative procedure in Parliament”.

Does the reference to the regulations being adopted in a statutory instrument refer to the form that the redressive measures can take that will be adopted by an SI, or should the redressive measures be imposed in a particular case that will be adopted by the statutory instrument referred to in paragraph 7.8?

Secondly and finally, the “Consultation outcome” paragraph, paragraph 10.1, is not terribly specific about whether the consultation resulted in support from those consulted for this SI or not. For the purpose of clarity, will the Minister say whether any objections or issues were raised about this SI by the aviation industry, the travel industry and consumer representatives, or were they all happy with its content as it stands?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

I thank both noble Lords for their contribution to this short debate. I hope I will be able to answer all the questions that have been raised. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, asked about the CAA. I agree with her—at the moment the CAA can do no wrong in my eyes, quite frankly. It brought our people home without fuss or nonsense and mostly without error—all credit to it for its work on Operation Matterhorn. However, it has the expertise in this area. It is a substantial organisation with a lot of people with expertise in a range of areas and it understands the air services markets particularly well.

The noble Baroness was concerned about resourcing. That is always my concern with the CAA as well. Section 11 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 permits the CAA to make a scheme for determining charges. These charges would be met by those airlines that would be harmed by the anti-competitive practices. In essence, resources for the CAA would be met by those airlines that would be harmed by this action. Officials have worked very closely with the CAA in the development of this instrument and we believe it is content.

The Department for Transport might have a role in the investigatory stage. It will get involved only if it has the relevant expertise and, as importantly, only if its assistance is requested by the CAA. It is not as though the department will get in there and stick its nose in where it is not welcomed. We do not envisage a proactive role in the investigation. There will be a specific request. For example, sometimes the CAA can feel that it is more appropriate for the DfT to request information from third-party Governments. That sort of request comes better from the Government than from the CAA. But as I said, the department would very much be there in a supporting role.

I turn to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about the SIs that might be tabled in the unlikely event that the CAA recommends that redressive measures should be adopted. I point out to noble Lords that we do not expect that the provisions in this SI will be needed—it is very much a safety net just in case—but if that happens the Secretary of State will put forward regulations in the form of a draft statutory instrument. If there was one airline involved, it clearly would be a single airline instrument that would set out the redressive measures proposed. It would be up to Parliament to decide whether it was appropriate. If there are multiple airlines, they could be within the same SI or they might not be. It would really depend on the circumstances. As I said, it is slightly uncharted territory because these sorts of issues rarely get to the stage where one would use an SI such as this. Usually they would be sorted out in air services agreements much in advance of getting to this stage.

The noble Lord asked about the engagement we have had with industry stakeholders. I reassure him that we meet the aviation industry very frequently. Indeed, I was the Aviation Minister for a while and I had the honour of meeting the industry on many occasions. At each of the groups we had—for example, the round-table meetings we had on 18 February, 10 July and 16 September—we put forward where our future legislative programme might impact the industry to ensure it responds appropriately where it has concerns. I have to be frank: I have found the aviation industry to be extremely responsive. It is represented very well by various trade bodies. For that reason, we believe that there are no concerns, since none was raised with us.

I thank noble Lords for their consideration of these regulations.

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

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Monday 7th October 2019

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

I am sorry if I phrased that incorrectly. I know that the noble Baroness welcomed the local consultation. The point I was trying to make is that this was more than the Government just going to Kent and saying, “What do you think of this?”. This was more about Kent saying, “Actually, given what happened with Operation Stack, we’d really like these powers, and if the Government could sort it for us, that would be great”. So that is what the Government are trying to do today. As has been mentioned by a number of noble Lords, these powers are available in the event that there is congestion at the border caused by a no-deal Brexit, but they can also be used for bad weather and/or industrial action.

The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, noted the use of Operation Stack in 2015. I, too, was unfortunate enough to drive through Kent at the time, and it was a nightmare. It caused great trouble, so we are well aware of the issues that can happen, and they do not have to be Brexit-related. Having said that, however, these powers are limited to 31 December 2020. That is right, in that we would not want to extend powers then leave them hanging for a long period of time if they are not needed in future. Certainly, should we or a Government in the future decide that they are useful and benefit the people of Kent, I would expect similar legislation to be passed again in future, once these powers have fallen away on 31 December 2020.

As I have mentioned, these powers are very much for the benefit of businesses, residents and people who—like me—travel through Kent. They are being made under a variety of different Acts, which is why—I am sure noble Lords understand—one is draft affirmative, one is made affirmative and one is negative. They stem from different parts of our legislative scope and the different things we have available to us. They are a series of instruments and will not come into effect without Parliament’s approval, so the negative does not come into effect on its own.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, mentioned the SDOs and referred to three different sites. The SDOs are in place for Manston, which has been in place since January 2019; Ebbsfleet, which has been in place since September 2019 and will be used as an HMRC transit site; and Ashford, which has been in place since September 2019 and is an HMRC transit site and turnback site so that HGVs that arrival at Eurotunnel and are found to be not compliant will have somewhere they can go that will have facilities for them to try to get themselves compliant, so that they can be border-ready and can head across to the border.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned empty lorries. These will be treated the same as other lorries. I will be honest with noble Lords: we looked at whether we could treat empty lorries separately, but there are various issues around, for example, packaging. Some packaging, although it is empty, must have the relevant certification with it because obviously there is no way of making sure that that packaging is empty. Therefore things such as beer kegs need some customs documentation. An empty lorry that does not carry beer kegs will not need it.

This brings us on to the general discussion about the documentation needed, who is checking it and how qualified these people are. There are levels—layers—to this entire system. The traffic officers, whether they be temporary or permanent, will look for the existence of certain documents. This is not a shadow French or EU customs operation; they are looking for the existence of the documents. If those documents exist, they assume that that HGV is compliant; it will get a permit and continue. They do not have to be experts. However, I take the point: training is under way and is being done in order that the traffic officers, whether permanent or temporary, recognise the documents that we will require when they get to the border.

The classes of documents we are looking for are fairly straightforward: for travel documents, it is a passport or ID card, and for customs, it is the movement reference number from two different types of document. Only in the case of phytosanitary certificates, export health certificates or export licences for chemicals and drugs will we look for additional documents. The training is under way and will continue. To do the checks, the traffic officers will have screens. It is done online. The software is translated into 11 different languages so that if the traffic officer speaks to somebody who does not speak English but perhaps speaks one of the languages in front of them, we can make sure that the person has the documents and can be on their way with a permit as quickly as possible. To help noble Lords’ understanding, the traffic officers are doing the checks; they are also responsible for traffic movements. We are looking to the police for enforcement, not checks, and to the DVSA, which has similar powers.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, went on to talk about the contraflow. We are very seized of the issue that the contraflow brings to the M20. We completely understand that it is not a permanent solution. I can give the noble Baroness some hope. I have seen some proposals for what the permanent solution may be. We are getting to the bottom of them, and I very much hope that in the not too distant future we will be able to share with noble Lords what the permanent solution will be. I do not believe it will be as terrifying—as the noble Baroness mentioned—as driving down that stretch of the M20 can be at this moment in time.

Turning to the local lorries, I suppose there are two issues here. First, there are lorries that need to do a delivery or pick-up within Kent before they proceed to the border. I would expect them to have all the appropriate documents because they are heading to the border. In all this there is an overarching assessment of reasonableness. They should have the right sort of documents. We spoke to the Kent Resilience Forum about the other local lorries, and the police are well aware of the rat-runs that HGVs trying to get to the border might use. They know where people are going. They will not be covering every single road in Kent. Most of the local traders in Kent will be able to get from A to B with no trouble. Many noble Lords have recognised that a lot of these hauliers—well over 80% —will be operating businesses based out of the EU. I suggest to noble Lords that the number plate might be a bit of a giveaway anyway, but of course it is clearly not 100% fool-proof.

I turn to the impact assessment or lack thereof. A de minimis assessment was undertaken with these SIs about the actual or potential imposition of this contingency plan. We followed the approach agreed with Defra advice. The more general issue of potential disruption in Kent in the event of no deal has been assessed by the Kent Resilience Forum with input from the border delivery group and DfT.

I turn to points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. I have what I hope are some helpful numbers that will put his mind at rest about the additional staff. If operational, it is true that this will need a significant number, but remember that these powers are only needed if Operation Brock is in. We are probably looking at 125 temporary traffic officers. They will do the traffic checks on the M20 and will be on three-month contracts extendable by three months. We will be looking at about 130 DVSA enforcement staff, 60 of whom will come from outside Kent. There will 120 Highways England traffic officers. There will be 350 police officers, 160 of whom will come from outside Kent, given the very well understood structures that exist for when police forces need to help one another. Any deployment from outside the Kent area will be time limited. Appropriate arrangements will be put in place to ensure that roles are covered as people move to different responsibilities.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser - Hansard

The Minister made reference to 125 traffic officers and three-month contracts that could be extended. Does that indicate that problems may arise immediately after 31 October that the Government think will diminish—not disappear—sufficiently over the three-month period so as to not need 125 traffic officers?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

The noble Lord is right: if there are impacts from a no-deal Brexit, we expect them to fall away. The issue here is the readiness of traders and hauliers—the former obviously being more important, as they are responsible for the documentation. If a haulier is caught by this system and has to go back to the end of the queue—for not being trader-ready and not having ready the right documents—he or she is unlikely to do that again. I suspect not only that the jungle drums between the different hauliers will be saying, “You need to have your documents ready if you’re going to get out of the UK in one piece”, but that, because of the work that we are doing with traders to make sure that they are ready as possible, we will see a significant decrease over the three months in the number of hauliers approaching the border who are not ready.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked how the £300 penalty was built up. He was quite right: it is for every contravention for which that person is caught. However, again there would be a test of reasonableness. If a haulier was consistently breaching the regulations and taking routes that they should not, I suspect that being penalised many times would probably be appropriate, because we have to stop the behaviour. At the end of the day, the hauliers do not want to get to the border without being border ready—so, to a certain extent, this is for their benefit. When the noble Lord asked whether one could look in the back of empty lorries et cetera, it is for the haulier to benefit from getting the permit, so that they can crack on and get to where they want to be. It is not really in their interests to act against what the traffic officers are trying to do.

I turn to communications and guidance. We are in an active programme of communications at this time. As noble Lords will know, communications with traders have already started, as have those with hauliers. We have pop-up stands throughout the country encouraging hauliers to get ready for a potential no-deal exit on 31 October. Guidance for the hauliers will be available shortly, subject to these SIs going through—once that happens, guidance will be available. It will be sent to the haulage associations, with whom we have a very good relationship. As the noble Lord mentioned, we will send it to unions as well. I am not sure of the extent to which this is a highly unionised industry. To the extent that it is, we will make sure that the unions have those documents.

On that subject, we have not specifically spoken to unions about this. We have a good relationship with Unite, for example. In normal circumstances, we find that it generally comes to us if it has specific concerns—we have not heard about any on this. However, at the noble Lord’s prompting, we will make sure that they are looped into the information as it is available.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser - Hansard

I appreciate that the Minister has not had a chance to get around to answering this point. I am sure that there are a number of areas that unions representing drivers will be interested in. I am sure that they would be interested if it turned out that the working time directive went for a fourpenny one—to use that expression—immediately the severe disruption powers were activated. If the Government’s answer is that that will be the situation, have the trade unions been advised of that?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

It is not the Government’s intention to suspend the regulations on drivers’ hours or any other regulations around working time. We would do it only if we needed to. The noble Lord asked whether they had been suspended before; I am not aware that they have been. I think the issue arises where the rest times for hauliers are often required to be spent outside of the cab et cetera. When they are in a long queue of trucks that is not moving, they will have the opportunity to get out of their cab—although I understand that it might be winter and they may not want to.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser - Hansard

The context in which I asked whether the powers had been used before—bearing in mind that there is now a reference to severe weather or industrial actions—was about whether they had been used in the context of severe weather or industrial action. If they have not, the power in these SIs is not related purely to Brexit; it is, in fact, a new provision being brought in. In other words, you can use these powers if you want to, in relation to severe weather or industrial action. I do not think that the Minister understands my point. The Government have said that these powers to suspend the working time directive have not been used before. But we have a reference here to the possibility of them being suspended in relation to severe weather or industrial action—which is not something necessarily related to Brexit.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

I am doing my best, but I might have to go back through Hansard to try to understand the noble Lord’s exact point. To my mind there are two separate issues here. The first is whether these powers—the operation block enforcement powers—can be used in circumstances of industrial action or severe weather: yes, they can. Secondly, and entirely separately, there is the issue that we might get to whereby drivers’ hours or working time directive regulations might need to be suspended. We do not want that to happen, obviously. I thought that the noble Lord had asked whether that had happened before; I am not aware that is has and will have to write to the noble Lord on that. In doing so, I will ask whether those circumstances arose.

I believe that I have covered as much as I am able to today. I will certainly go back through the notes—

Railways: Trans-Pennine Freight

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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.

Passenger and Goods Vehicles (Tachographs) (Amendment etc.) Regulations 2019

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Thursday 26th September 2019

(1 year ago)

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

I once again thank the Minister for explaining the purpose and effect of these regulations. As has been said, the obligations and requirements in relation to the construction, installation, use, testing and control of tachographs are set out in EU Regulation 165/2014, with the enforcement provisions for these obligations and requirements in the Transport Act 1968 and subsequent regulations made under those provisions.

EU Regulation 165/2014 also provided for detailed provisions relating to new smart tachographs, to be set out in further implementing Acts. Those implementing Acts were adopted via Commission implementation regulation, which came into force on 2 March 2016 and provided for the new smart tachograph requirements to apply in respect of relevant vehicles first registered in member states from 15 June 2019.

As the Minister said, in domestic law, where a vehicle is required to be fitted with a tachograph, that tachograph must have been installed, comply with or be used in accordance with EU Regulation 165/2014, with a person using a vehicle in breach of any one of those requirements having committed an offence. As has been said, these provisions need to be updated so that they may also apply to breaches of the new smart tachograph requirements applicable from 15 June 2019.

I want to raise one query, which may show that I have not really understood the regulations particularly well. Why was this SI not approved prior to 15 June 2019? If the new smart tachograph requirements apply in respect of relevant vehicles first registered in member states from 15 June 2019, and we have not had the enforcement mechanism, does that mean that it has not been possible to take action for breaches of these new smart tachograph requirements in respect of such vehicles in this country? Have I understood that correctly? Could vehicles registered in this country have breached those requirements because the powers were not there to do anything about them? Is that what this is saying, or have I misunderstood, which I accept is quite possible? I would be grateful if the Minister could clear that one up. Obviously, it would be fairly significant if we had been unable to take action in respect of certain vehicles because this SI was not brought forward in time. As I said, I may have misunderstood the documentation that we received.

I also have a couple of other points. In the event of these arrangements coming in, what additional resources, if any, will be provided by the Government to ensure that the new regulations in relation to smart tachographs are actually followed? Will there be a need for additional resources? After Brexit, if the EU expands the types of vehicle that must be fitted with tachographs, will the Government follow suit and adopt those changes to EU regulations?

On my final point, and once again, my information may prove wide of the mark, I understand that the new smart tachographs can communicate remotely with roadside enforcement officers. Has the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency developed the technology required to remotely monitor data gathered by smart tachographs? I ask that because there are suggestions—I choose that word specifically—that the DVSA has not developed this technology. If that is the case, what is the point of smart tachographs if we do not have the technology to collect the data they create?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

I thank both noble Lords for their contributions today. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, mentioned wax cylinders, which was very interesting; I did not know that they were used in that way. Obviously, tachographs nowadays are incredibly smart and can link into the transport system. They can tell people where vehicles are at any time.

They will make a difference to road safety in our system. The noble Lord also raised the question of standards and whether the Government intend to change the standards for drivers’ hours. We have no intention of changing those standards; we have some of the safest roads in the world and we wish to keep it that way. We believe that we are in a good position at the moment. I take his point about the new type of delivery vehicles that we see, often delivering from companies such as Amazon. There has been an explosive increase in those. We have no plans to introduce tachographs into those vehicles at the current time, because they would significantly increase the weight range of the vehicles covered. However, we are of course working with the employers to do what we can to make sure that those drivers not only have good working conditions but are encouraged to keep the roads safe.

I turn to the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about the timing and powers and whether we have been able to enforce them. This is quite an interesting situation, in that when the European Union introduced this requirement, there was some suggestion that the date might be delayed, as a number of other EU member states and trade associations wanted a delay. They chose not to delay it in the end, but one issue that has now arisen is that there is a supply shortage of these new smart tachographs. This has happened all across the European Union and, therefore, the reality is that not a huge number of these things have been able to be installed because they have not been available. Apparently, there is just one company that makes one component for these tachographs.

What the UK has done is to say that new vehicles that are first registered from 15 June may use the old tachographs. An old tachograph can be put into the vehicle and then, when the new ones are available, they will go in. This has had the effect that the majority of newly registered vehicles still have the traditional—though I assume they are not that traditional—tachographs and these will be switched out when the new ones become available.

I accept that there has been a delay in the timing, which has been caused by the uncertainty over the start date of 15 June and the legal background and context of the SI taking some time to sort out. I reassure the noble Lord that the main reason for these tachographs is drivers’ hours, which are covered under other regulations. The deficiency of powers in this instrument relates simply to not having the new tachographs properly fitted, sealed and calibrated—they have to be calibrated every two years—and using print-out paper that is not approved. Those are the powers that we have not had but will have when this SI has been made. However, we are able to enforce the more significant power on the drivers’ hours as it is.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser - Hansard

Is the Minister saying that we could have vehicles that have been first registered since 15 June that only have or choose to operate the new smart tachograph requirements and that, until now, we have not had any statutory means of enforcing the regulations because this SI had not yet been put before Parliament? I appreciate that the noble Baroness has said that the numbers will be very small, but am I right in saying that there could be vehicles running around with the new smart tachographs for which powers do not exist to enforce the requirements, because this has been delayed?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

There are certain powers that the Government hope to have, after this SI has been made, which we will then be able to use but the reality is that we are talking about very few tachographs. The second issue is that if the DVSA picks up a contravention, it is unlikely to be much broader in terms of the drivers’ hours. There will be reasons for that. The contraventions that the new powers give us are relatively minor, compared to the really significant ones on drivers’ hours contraventions. I will admit to the noble Lord that there are deficiencies in powers, which is what we are trying to rectify today. However, we already have the most significant powers anyway, and it is unlikely that any particular vehicle would be doing just one of these things. It would probably be doing a number of them, otherwise why would they bother not to have it fitted properly unless they were trying to do something untoward?

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned resources. In our opinion, it is likely that no additional resources will be needed on the introduction of these new powers as they will be included in the checks which the DVSA already carries out. It does hundreds of thousands of checks a year; I think it is 200,000. It is incredibly busy in looking at HGVs and making sure that everything is appropriate. The noble Lord also mentioned the technology to monitor the data from the new smart tachographs. Unfortunately, I do not have that information but I will write to him shortly after this debate and give him what information I am able to.

Thomas Cook

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Wednesday 25th September 2019

(1 year ago)

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

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport in the other place. The Statement is as follows:

“Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement about the steps the Government have been taking to support those affected by the collapse of Thomas Cook, in particular the 150,000 passengers left abroad without a flight back and also the 9,000 people here who have lost their jobs in the UK.

This is a very sad situation. All parties considered options as to how this company could avoid being put into administration. Ultimately, however, Thomas Cook and its directors took the decision themselves to place it into insolvency proceedings, and it ceased trading at 2 am on Monday 23 September. I recognise that this is a very distressing situation for all involved, and I would like to assure Members that the Government are committed to supporting those affected, including by providing repatriation flights free of charge for all those people.

We have been contingency planning for some time to prepare for this scenario, under Operation Matterhorn. The Government and the Civil Aviation Authority have run similar operations in the past and have been working hard to minimise disruption for passengers and to try to assist Thomas Cook’s staff. Even with our preparations and previous experience with Monarch, the task before us represents the largest peacetime repatriation ever undertaken in the UK. Some disruption and delay are inevitable, and we ask for understanding, particularly for Thomas Cook’s staff, many of whom are still working alongside the Government to help ensure the safe return of customers.

For example, the situation in Cuba has been reported in the media. The aircraft left this morning, and all passengers from Cuba scheduled to come home today are on that flight.

Normally, the CAA’s responsibility for bringing back passengers would extend only to customers who are covered by the ATOL scheme. However, there would have been insufficient capacity worldwide in the aviation market for non-ATOL customers to book tickets independently and bring themselves home. Some passengers would have had to wait for a week or more and others would have suffered financial hardship while they waited for an available flight. This would have created further economic problems, with people unable to return to work or be reunited with their families. With tens of thousands of passengers abroad with no easy means of returning to the UK, I instructed the CAA to ensure all those currently abroad were able to return, ATOL or non-ATOL.

Due to the size, complexity and geographical scope of the Thomas Cook business, it has not been possible to replicate its exact airline and schedule. In the case of Monarch’s collapse in 2017, the CAA was able to source enough aircraft of the right size and type to closely match the airline’s own operation. Thomas Cook was a much bigger airline, however, and also provided a global network of package holidays. As a result, this operation is much more challenging. Some passengers will be travelling home on commercial flights where other airlines have available seats. I am sure that the whole House would like to thank all the airlines and ground staff who have offered assistance to Thomas Cook passengers in this difficult situation.

I would like to update the House with the latest information and give honourable and right honourable Members a sense of the scale of the operation that has been going on. We have put in place arrangements to bring back more than 150,000 people to the UK across 50 different locations. This requires more than 1,000 flights by CAA-chartered aircraft over a two-week period. Passengers will be able to complete their full holidays, so they should not be leaving early and should be able to return on the day they were intending to.

So far, in the first two days of the operation, nearly 30,000 passengers were returned to the UK on more than 130 dedicated CAA flights, with a further 16,500 passengers whom we hope to repatriate today on something like 70 flights—I checked before I came into the House. So far, 95% of people have been repatriated on their original date of departure. We have not been able to bring everyone back from the airport they went to because of the different sizes and shapes of the aircraft available. In the first two days, we provided onward coach travel to over 2,300 passengers and arranged an additional flight from Gatwick to Glasgow to relocate passengers who had flown back to the wrong airport. The CAA has reached out to over 3,000 hotels to issue letters of guarantee to ensure that British holidaymakers can remain in their hotels. That has been followed up with calls and contact from FCO officials.

There are over 50 overseas airports involved— around the Mediterranean, in north Africa and in North America—and 11 UK airports engaged in this programme. There have been over 100,000 calls to our customer service centres and over 2 million unique visitors to the CAA’s dedicated website. There were close to 7 million page views on the first day alone. In total, 10 government departments and agencies have been involved, including the DfT, FCO, BEIS and DWP in London, and our extensive diplomatic and consular network in the affected countries worldwide.

I have been hugely impressed as the programme has rolled out in the last few days. The response from Thomas Cook passengers has generally been positive, with many praising the CAA, local staff and government officials, even though there has been considerable disruption. For example, people have not been able to use advance check-in, as they are used to doing, instead having to queue—therefore causing the queues as seen on television screens. Despite these robust plans and their success so far, this is a distressing situation for all concerned. One of my top priorities remains helping those passengers abroad to get back to the UK and to do so safely.

In addition to supporting passengers, we have been working across government to ensure the 9,000 former Thomas Cook employees in the UK and those overseas receive the support that they need. The decision by the Thomas Cook Group’s board has been deeply upsetting for employees, who are losing their jobs. DWP’s Jobcentre Plus rapid response service is in place, helping workers to get back into employment. The Jobcentre Plus rapid response managers across the UK are ready to engage with the liquidators to start that vital work. There are special arrangements for UK employees who are owed redundancy and notice pay by their insolvent employer. The redundancy payment service in the Insolvency Service can pay statutory amounts owed to the former employees from the National Insurance Fund.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is establishing a cross-government task force to address the impact on employees and local communities. This will help to overcome barriers to attending training, securing a job or self-employment, such as providing childcare costs, tools, work clothes and travel costs.

My colleagues and I have also been in contact with those Members whose constituencies will have been hardest hit by those job losses and given assurances that we will work with the industry to offer what support we can. In fact, all honourable Members’ constituencies have been affected in some way, even from working in a shop location.

My colleague the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has also written to the Financial Reporting Council to ensure that it prioritises, as a matter of urgency, an investigation into both the causes of the company’s failure and the conduct of its directors and its auditors.

I am also aware of the duty of this Government to the taxpayer. While affected passengers have been told that they will not have to pay to be flown back to the UK, we have entered into discussion with several third parties with a view to recovering some of the costs of this large operation. Around 60% of passengers have ATOL protection and the CAA’s Air Travel Trust fund will contribute proportionately to the cost of the repatriation as well as refunding future ATOL bookings. We will also look to recoup some of the costs from the relevant credit and debit card providers and travel insurers, and we will look to recover costs from other travel providers through which passengers may have booked their Thomas Cook holiday. We are also in discussion with the official receiver to understand what costs can be recouped through the company’s assets. The final cost of Monarch back in 2017 was about £50 million, including ATOL contributions. The repatriation effort for Thomas Cook is now known to be about twice the size and is more complicated, for the reasons explained.

It has also been suggested in the press that the Government could have avoided the collapse with a bailout of up to £250 million for the company and its shareholders. Given the perilous state of the business—including, as reported, a £1.5 billion half-year loss in May, followed by a further profit warning in November—that was simply not the case, with no guarantee that such an injection would have secured the future of the company. In effect, our concern is that we would have put in £250 million and would have been throwing good money after bad. And then we would have had to pay the repatriation costs anyway. It is clear that in the last few years the company ran into several problems, trying to expand through investing in the high street while the market moved online.

The loss of an iconic British brand, which was 178 years old and one of the world’s oldest travel companies, is an extremely sad moment. However, this should not be seen as a reflection on the general health of the UK aviation industry, which continues to thrive. Passenger numbers are up, and more people are travelling more. The truth is that the way people book their holidays has changed an enormous amount, but it did not change as much within the company. None of that should detract from the distress experienced by those businesses reliant on Thomas Cook passengers and also Thomas Cook employees, who, as I have already said, have worked above and beyond in recent days, during this distressing situation.

We have never had the collapse of an airline or holiday company on this scale before, but we have responded swiftly and decisively. Right now, our efforts are rightly focused on getting passengers home and looking after employees, but we also need to understand whether any individuals have failed in their duties of stewardship within the company. Our efforts will then turn towards working through the reforms necessary to ensure that passengers do not find themselves in this situation again. We need to look at the options, not just ATOL, but also whether it is possible for airlines to be able to wind down in an orderly manner. They need to be able to look after their customers and we need to ensure that their planes can keep flying, so that we do not need to set up a shadow airline for whatever period of time. That is where we will focus our efforts in the weeks and months ahead. In order to do that, we will need primary legislation in a new Session of Parliament.

In what has been a challenging time, I put on record my appreciation for the work of all of those involved in this effort, and in particular Richard Moriarty, CEO of the CAA. His team, and my officials at the Department for Transport, have done an extraordinary job so far. I am also grateful for the support o others, including the Mayor of Manchester, who has acknowledged the Government’s repatriation efforts and their work with other agencies to help get those affected home. This has been an unprecedented response to an unprecedented situation, and I am grateful to all parties who have stepped in to support these efforts. I commend this Statement to the House”.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made earlier in the Commons.

The collapse of Thomas Cook is a tragedy for the 178 year-old iconic business, its customers and its staff here and around the world—many of whom are still working to assist those who are seeking to return home to the UK. I note the inquiries that the Government have initiated. I have a number of issues to raise with the Minister about the background and lead-up to the demise of Thomas Cook.

Last year, the company was urged by its auditor EY to stop using an accounting method that could have been used to flatter its financial performance and, in the process, improve the pay of the top executives, since their bonuses were linked to performance. Given that the Government would have known that the collapse of Thomas Cook would involve taxpayers’ money to bring stranded passengers home, and since the Secretary of State said in his letter to MPs and Peers two days ago that,

“We have been contingency planning for some time to prepare for this scenario”,

what action did the Government take in the light of the auditor’s clear warning about the accounting method being used by Thomas Cook and its impact on flattering financial performance and improving the pay of the few at the very top?

The Times also reported the criticism, including from the Prime Minister, of the top executives of the company for paying themselves large sums of money—a combined total of more than £20 million over the past five years. The only people in Thomas Cook who seem to be coming out of this with plenty of money in their pockets would appear to be those who have been at the top of the company. In the light of the auditor’s concerns on the issue of accounting methods, what pressure, if any, did Ministers put on the directors of Thomas Cook to change their ways?

We certainly know of one area where the Government have done nothing. The previous Secretary of State had said that he would introduce a new levy-funded regime to keep bankrupt airlines flying temporarily, but no legislation has appeared. A review called for changes in the law to enable airlines to continue flying for sufficient time to enable them to repatriate their passengers. However, as I understand it, the Government have not even formally responded to this review. The Minister will know that a similar system exists in some other countries, including in Germany, where Condor, Thomas Cook’s sister airline, operates. I understand that the Government have provided funds to help that company survive. I note that the Minister is looking at whether it is possible for airlines to wind up in an orderly manner without a need for the Government to step in. However, the truth is that the Government have done nothing since the failure of Monarch Airlines two years ago, which the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, referred to earlier.

Regarding the Government’s approach over the demise of Thomas Cook, did the Government receive a request for financial support to help tide the company over for the next few months? If so, what exactly was the request, when was it received, what was the Government’s response and what were the reasons for that response? Is it the case that Thomas Cook had reached an agreement or understanding to secure around £200 million with the assistance of the Turkish Government and Spanish hoteliers backed by the Spanish Government but that, when the UK Government indicated they would not act to support a British brand, that effectively killed any such agreement or understanding?

What is the Government’s estimate of the final potential or likely cost to the taxpayer, both direct and indirect, of Thomas Cook’s demise? Can the Minister provide a breakdown of how that estimated or potential cost is made up?

We know that some will benefit from the misery of the 9,000 people losing their jobs in this country, as well as from the disruption and worry experienced by up to 150,000 Thomas Cook customers. For a start, people who have already lost their anticipated holiday due to the decision to let Thomas Cook go to the wall are likely to have to pay considerably more to book another one. The cost of flights is now reported as doubling or trebling—or, to put it euphemistically, as one airline did:

“Our pricing, as is common practice in the travel industry, is based on the principle of supply and demand. As supply reduces, an inevitable consequence is that prices increase”.

There is no doubt that the increased income for the other airlines who are now putting their prices up dramatically will be reflected in substantial increases in the bonuses of those in their boardrooms—paid for by people who had their anticipated holiday with Thomas Cook snatched from them. Do the Government find this acceptable, or do they intend to take any action to ensure that people who have lost their Thomas Cook holiday will be able to secure an alternative, equivalent holiday at no further expense to themselves?

With high streets up and down the country having now lost yet another major name, will the Government be taking any new action to assist our already pressured high streets?

We have also read in the press that international hedge funds which bet against Thomas Cook have made substantial profits from its collapse and the misery of staff and holidaymakers. Apparently, nearly 11% of the travel company’s shares were shorted ahead of its collapse. Hedge funds will also apparently benefit from credit default swaps as a result of the collapse, with payouts expected to reach £201 million. This seems a very similar figure to that which Thomas Cook was seeking and with which the Government declined to assist.

Coming back to the Secretary of State’s letter and his statement that

“We have been contingency planning for some time to prepare for this scenario”,

why is it, then, that some Thomas Cook holidaymakers and staff have apparently been locked out of, or even in, their hotel rooms until they have settled any outstanding bills? The Minister helpfully confirmed that the CAA has taken initial steps to resolve a number of incidents, but are the Government satisfied that this action will be sufficient to avoid any repeats in the days and weeks ahead?

The Government have indicated that they are seeking to help those made redundant to find other jobs. Bearing in mind that Thomas Cook shops are found throughout the country, including in areas where appropriate jobs are in short supply, what timetable have the Government set for finding suitable alternative employment for redundant Thomas Cook staff? Are they guaranteeing that that employment will be at least at or near their current salary levels? Will they ensure that all staff affected receive the compensation and other payments to which they are entitled in full and without employment tribunals?

Like the Minister, let me finish by paying tribute to the team at the Civil Aviation Authority and those in government departments for the work that they are doing to repatriate Thomas Cook passengers. They are displaying a sense of public service and duty. Just as in the case of Monarch Airlines two years ago, their hard work and dedication is highlighting that, when the private sector fails, the public sector has to step in to pick up the pieces.

High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill

(2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords)
(2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords)
(2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords)
(2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Monday 9th September 2019

(1 year ago)

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

My Lords, not only does High Speed 2 get delayed but even this debate on the Government’s latest High Speed 2 Bill has had to be rescheduled to today from last week. This Second Reading debate is taking place in something of a vacuum. The Government are inviting us to support the Bill, which gives statutory powers to enable the construction and maintenance of phase 2a of High Speed 2 from the West Midlands to Crewe, yet they apparently do not know whether they will be pulling the plug on the whole project in a few weeks’ time. We await the outcome of the review, which is considering whether or not HS2 should still proceed, and if so on what basis, or whether it should be cancelled.

There must be a real prospect of the Government cancelling HS2, first, because the Prime Minister, as with the third runway at Heathrow, has a direct constituency interest and is neither project’s number one fan, and secondly, because the Government have a noteworthy track record of cancelling projects extending railway electrification which they have previously promoted or supported. As recently as 15 July the Government were fully committed to HS2. In the Commons during the final stages of this Bill, the Minister said of HS2:

“It will be transformative not only because it will increase capacity and reduce the time it takes to reach eight of our top 10 cities, but because, along the way, it will smash the north-south divide, creating jobs and opportunities for people in the midlands and the north”.—[Official Report, Commons, 15/7/19; col. 646.]

Earlier, in a Written Statement on 6 February this year, the Government described HS2 as,

“a transformational infrastructure project that will improve people’s journeys, create jobs, generate economic growth and help to rebalance our country’s economy. HS2 is more than a railway and the project’s vision is to be a catalyst for economic growth. It has cross party support and support from councils, LEPs, Metro Mayors and businesses who can see the transformational potential”.—[Official Report, Commons, 6/2/19; col. 15WS.]

Cross-party support includes us, but does that reference to HS2 having cross-party support include the Government? If it does, why was the inquiry set up with a remit that included looking at whether HS2 should proceed at all? This was a point raised by my noble friend Lord Adonis and we expect an answer from the Government when they respond to this debate.

What have the Government just found out that led them to set up the review last month, but of which they were presumably unaware when they were extolling the virtues of HS2 so enthusiastically in the Commons the month before? Will they say by when they expect to receive the findings of the review and when they expect to announce their decision on the future or otherwise of HS2? I ask that in the context of contradictory statements from the Government. On 25 July, in response to a Commons Question on constructing from the north, the Prime Minister said:

“I have asked Doug Oakervee, the former chairman of Crossrail, to conduct a brief six-week study of profiling of the spend on HS2, to discover whether such a proposal might have merit”.—[Official Report, Commons, 25/7/19; col. 1476.]

Which is right about the purpose of this review: the Prime Minister’s statement that it is,

“a brief six-week study of profiling of the spend on HS2”,

or the terms of reference referring to,

“whether and how we proceed with HS2”?

What is the truth, as opposed to confusing statements, about the timescale of the review? On 25 July, the Prime Minister spoke of a “brief six-week study”. That six weeks is already up. Or is it meant to be six weeks from when the Secretary of State for Transport announced the review, on 21 August, in which case the review report will be ready at the beginning of next month? Yet the Government now say it will be completed in the autumn. Is it a six-week review, as the Prime Minister so clearly said? On the assumption that it is, when did the six-week period start?

It is to be expected in a Second Reading debate on a Bill enabling a further stage of HS2 that the Government would say something about not only the costs and benefits of the further stage, but the extent to which the quoted costs and benefits expected for the first stage were or were not still on track. On 15 July the Government told the Commons,

“there is only one budget for HS2, and it is £55.7 billion. The bit we are talking about today, phase 2a, is £3.5 billion. The benefit-cost ratio is £2.30 for every £1 spent”.—[Official Report, Commons, 15/7/19; col. 647.]

Recently, though, the Secretary of State for Transport said in a Written Statement that the chairman of HS2 did not believe that the current scheme design could now be delivered within the budget of £55.7 billion, set in 2015 prices. Instead, the Government said, the chairman of HS2 now estimated that the current scheme required a total budget, including contingency, of £72 billion to £78 billion, again in 2015 prices; and in 2019 prices, £81 billion to £88 billion, against a budget equivalent of £62.4 billion. On the basis of those revised figures for the cost of completing all stages of HS2, will the Government indicate what percentage of those figures is to cover contingencies?

The Government went on to say that HS2 no longer believes that the current schedule of 2026 for initial services on phase 1 was realistic, and that instead there should be a range of dates for the start of the service. The recommendation of the chairman of HS2 was now 2028 to 2031 for phase 1, with a staged opening, starting with initial services between Old Oak Common and Birmingham, followed by services to and from Euston later. HS2 Ltd now, it seems, expects that phase 2b to Manchester and Leeds will open between 2035 and 2040. Significantly for this Bill, the chairman of HS2, according to the Secretary of State, now considers that phase 2a, from the West Midlands to Crewe, should be delivered to the same timetable as phase 1. Furthermore, the chairman was now of the view that the benefits of the current scheme were substantially undervalued. All these views from the chairman of HS2 Ltd would, said the Secretary of State, be assessed by the review panel, which would provide,

“independent recommendations on whether and how we proceed with the project”.—[Official Report, Commons, 3/9/19; col. 7WS.]

I hope the Government can tell the House today that they had no inkling that the costs were rather higher than previously stated and that HS2 would not be delivered within previously announced timescales when, in asking for support for the Bill, they told the Commons on 15 July,

“there is only one budget for HS2, and it is £55.7 billion”.—[Official Report, Commons, 15/7/19; col. 647.]

Even the £3.5 billion the Government quoted for phase 2a, to which the Bill relates, is now apparently £3.6 billion to £4 billion. Will the Government indicate how much has been spent so far on HS2, including the value of contracts that have been signed but for which the work has not been completed?

In the light of the view of the chairman of HS2 that the benefits of HS2 are substantially undervalued, can the Government say what the current figures are for the benefits arising from HS2 and whether they include the potential wider economic impact of changes in land use and values as a result of HS2 and the transformative effect that it can have, both on the locations directly benefiting from the improved transport links and locations on other rail routes where capacity would be released for new or additional services?

Could the Government also say for how many years into the future are the economic benefits, including wider economic benefits, accruing from HS2 currently calculated and taken into account in assessing the overall benefit and value to the nation of the project? Are those overall benefits taken into account only for a specific fixed period—and if so, what is that period—or are they calculated and assessed as delivering effectively permanent wider economic benefits resulting in a higher overall value figure, since presumably, for example, the favourable impact HS2 already appears to be having on regeneration in Birmingham is very much of long-term value and permanent benefit to the city?

We now have the HS2 chairman’s recent report, or stocktake, on the current status of the project. It has been quite extensively redacted. In the Commons on 5 September, the Secretary of State said:

“I am unhappy about having any of that report redacted. I have read the rest of it. It is not hugely exciting. I pushed back on that with the Department, and apparently it is just that the lawyers are saying that it is commercially confidential stuff that I cannot force to be released”.—[Official Report, Commons, 5/9/19; col. 354.]

Could the Government say who determines whether something in a report is commercially confidential and who determines that commercial confidentiality outweighs the public interest in knowing about the information that is being withheld? Could they also say what would be the consequences, and for whom, of the Secretary of State releasing information that the lawyers had deemed commercially confidential? What contracts, if any and with whom, would be broken or breached by releasing such information as is in the HS2 chairman’s report? Who are the signatories to those contracts?

Phase 2a is the first step to delivering the whole of phase 2, which extends HS2 north from Birmingham. It is intended that the opening of phase 2a will result in further west coast main line services transferring on to the HS2 route, freeing up capacity on the existing west coast main line between Lichfield and Crewe. With the completion of phase 2a, the journey time from Crewe to London would be cut from 90 minutes today to under an hour by 2027, while HS2 journeys north of Birmingham would be up to 13 minutes faster than they will be following the construction of phase 1 of HS2.

HS2 has the support of the chief executive of the South Cheshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who has already made clear its beneficial impacts for Crewe. It has the support of the Mayors of Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region, local authority leaders in Leeds and Newcastle among others, and Transport for the North. It is also important for the delivery of northern powerhouse rail, which requires HS2 infrastructure to provide 50% of the new lines it needs for key parts of its services in and around Leeds and Manchester.

HS2 says that it is one of the most scrutinised organisations in the country, with oversight from the Department for Transport, the Treasury, the Cabinet Office and the Infrastructure and Projects Authority. It is clear from the sudden announcement a few days ago of delay and significant increases in costs that that extensive oversight has proved less than adequate, as something major has emerged for the first time about the HS2 project which could and should have come to light much earlier.

My noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe has indicated the issues that we will be pursuing: accountability and transparency, connectivity and the quality of links between HS2 and other relevant parts of the existing network, and compensation for tenants. I do not intend to repeat them in any detail.

It was a Labour Government who were the driving force behind HS2 and it was my noble friend Lord Adonis who, as Secretary of State for Transport, got it off the ground. This Government appear to have failed to exercise proper control over the progress of the project in all its aspects and thus failed to deliver proper accountability to Parliament. Now they look as though they could be getting cold feet and are looking to the recently appointed review panel to bail them out. What we do not know is whether, for the Government and the Prime Minister, bailing out means providing a justification to proceed, a justification to emasculate, a justification to abandon or simply a case for kicking the whole matter of the future of HS2 into the long grass during the run-up to a general election.

We continue to support the HS2 project because of the extensive and wide-ranging economic and other benefits it will deliver for the nation as a whole, in addition to addressing major capacity problems on the west coast main line, which would only get worse if HS2 is abandoned. We thus support this Bill giving the statutory go-ahead to enable phase 2a to proceed. The question is whether the Government still fully support their own Bill and the project, after more than nine years of actively supporting and progressing with the construction of HS2. Or, incredibly, will today be the last we will see of this Bill or any further Bills providing for the completion of the construction and development of HS2? I hope the Government can clearly and emphatically indicate now that they intend to proceed with this project.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton - Hansard

I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this wide-ranging debate. I am heartened by the amount of support that this project still has across the Chamber. I recognise that I will never be able to make my noble friend Lord Framlingham happy on this one. I will work on the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and might get there in the end—we are going to keep trying, because it is a very important project.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, made some particularly important points about these large critical infrastructure projects and the difficulties this country faces in the way that we are set up and do our budgeting, scheduling and timetabling. Certainly, over the longer term some changes will probably happen in those areas. It is the same in rail as in roads, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Birt, who spoke about roads being vital. As Roads Minister I completely agree with him. The Government are committing vast sums of money to improvements in both roads and rail, which are absolutely essential. The next RIS2 will have £25.3 billion to spend. On rail, we are spending £48 billion in the next control period, which is significantly more than we have spent on our railways for a very long time.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, that this has pretty much always been about capacity—it just happens to be called High Speed 2. If I could have one wish in my life, it would be to change the name of this project. Calling it High Speed 2 has caused so many problems. It is a high-speed railway, I completely get that, but it is about capacity. Although it might be possible to slow down the railway, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, suggested, that would cut capacity. However, that is one of things that the Oakervee review will look at.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, stated that this project was transformative and mentioned many other times when Members both in the other place and in this House, from the Government and beyond, talked about its transformative nature. It is very difficult to disagree, but “transformative” can mean many different things. We must be absolutely clear—this is what Oakervee will do—that the benefits and costs are appropriate for this project. That is the reason for the review.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser - Hansard

Can I take it then, in the light of that comment, that the Government are not prepared to rule out this project being cancelled?