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

Tue 15th Nov 2022
Tue 15th Nov 2022
Mon 14th Nov 2022
Tue 29th Mar 2022
Tue 26th Oct 2021
Tue 26th Oct 2021
Wed 7th Jul 2021
Thu 22nd Apr 2021
Mon 8th Feb 2021
Thu 28th Jan 2021
Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

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

Report stage (Hansard) & Report stage (Hansard) & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report stage
Tue 5th Jan 2021
Mon 30th Nov 2020
High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill
Lords Chamber

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

Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting & Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting : House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard)
Thu 10th Sep 2020
Wed 9th Sep 2020
Mon 7th Sep 2020
Thu 23rd Jul 2020
Wed 12th Feb 2020
Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Midlands Rail Hub

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Tuesday 15th November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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

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

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

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

Swing Bridges

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Tuesday 15th November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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

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

Jet Zero Strategy

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Monday 14th November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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

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

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

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

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Tuesday 8th November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I, too, thank the Minister for her explanation of the purpose and content of these regulations, and for her kind words, as well as those of my noble friend Lord Berkeley, in the previous debate.

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

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


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

The Explanatory Memorandum reminds us that

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


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

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


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

The Explanatory Memorandum also says:

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


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

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

On the issue of cost, the Explanatory Memorandum states that

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P&O Ferries

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Tuesday 29th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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

“consider other options in regard to these operations”—

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

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

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

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) (Con)
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My Lords, the Government share the outrage expressed by the noble Lord at the behaviour of DP World and P&O Ferries. When they are developed and ready, which I expect to be shortly, we will update the House on a package of measures to ensure that P&O Ferries cannot see through its plans. We will address the immediate challenges faced by those affected and include measures to strengthen legal protections, including coverage of the national minimum wage.

Payments to Train Operating Companies

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Tuesday 15th March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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In the broader scope of things, Great British Railways will be developing the whole industry strategic plan; the call for evidence for that has now closed. We are also asking each train operating company to produce annual business plans, which will streamline the passenger offer, make sure demand is actually met and in balance with the supply, remove duplication, as I said, and ensure that operations are as efficient as possible.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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It is clear that government demand in savings running into many millions of pounds will result in cuts in Network Rail’s maintenance budget. We have already seen what a casual approach to Network Rail and the use of outside contractors can lead to in the light of previous accidents at Ladbroke Grove and Potters Bar, and a recent report into the train crash at Stonehaven in 2020 found that a drainage system wrongly built by Carillion, which subsequently went bust, and left unchecked by Network Rail led to the crash. The Rail Accident Investigation Bureau said that the tragedy was

“a reminder how potentially dangerous Britain’s volatile weather can be.”

How did the Government come to the conclusion that now is an appropriate time to make major cuts in maintenance roles on our railways, and will they now reconsider their decision in the interests of safety, which should be the paramount consideration, rather than financial considerations?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Safety is, of course, the priority for everybody who works in the railways, and the tragedy at Stonehaven is deeply regrettable. The Government have no intention of diminishing the work we do on safety and maintenance—it is extremely important—but we must look for efficiencies within the system, because we have seen this significant reduction in demand, we must make sure that we protect the taxpayers’ investment, and that is what we are doing.

Electric Vehicles: Charging Points

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Monday 14th March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Sadly there are not enough. I understand that there are some available in the car park for another place. As I have said previously, it is not for the Government to install charging points in the Palace of Westminster, although I encourage the authorities to do so.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, about a third of households have no access to off-street parking or a personal garage and miss out on lower costs from charging cars using cheaper overnight electricity. While 76% of the richest households have access to off-street parking, the same is true for only just over half of the poorest fifth of households. Put another way, only 51% of private renters, 38% of housing association tenants, and 26% of local authority renters, have access to off-street parking, compared with 81% of homeowners. What do the Government intend to do, and by when, to address this charging divide which works against the less well off, and to reduce the disparity in prices across the charging network? We have heard a glowing picture from the Government just now about what is happening. They say that they have spent a lot of money. It seems to have been a lot of money that has created a charging divide, and from what the Minister has said, it is largely the fault of local authorities. I think that it is the fault of the Government.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, the Government have already taken action—

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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What is it?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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One moment; the EV home-charge scheme, which the noble Lord will know was previously focused on single-unit owner-occupied households, is now being closed to those households and is focusing entirely on those people who are in rented or leasehold accommodation, specifically without their own designated parking. We are switching that very important source of funding to ensure that those who do not have the luxury of off-street parking and home ownership can get a charger.

Bus Improvement Plans

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Tuesday 8th March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I absolutely agree with my noble friend, and there is an awful lot that we will work together on with the local authorities, versus what they have in their BSIPs, to encourage those who do have concessionary passes to come back to bus, because we miss them terribly. Regarding concessionary payments, we published concessionary travel recovery guidance—late last year, I think, but definitely pre-omicron—that looked at how we are going to get concessionary fares matched up to passholders. At the moment, there is a discrepancy because we are paying concessionary amounts out in full. We are looking at that again to make sure it takes omicron into account, but I agree with my noble friend that concessionary passholders are welcome back to bus any day.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Last week I asked for confirmation that

“none of the emergency support or recovery grants for buses has been taken out of the £3 billion for buses and bus services by 2025 announced under the Bus Back Better strategy, and that all the emergency support and recovery grants are in addition to that £3 billion”.

The reply was:

“The Government have committed to spend £3 billion over the course of this Parliament, so I suggest to the noble Lord that, when we get to the end of this Parliament, we do a totting up.”—[Official Report, 1/3/22; col. 681.]


For the benefit of the less academically gifted, like me, did that answer mean that all the emergency support and recovery grants are or are not in addition to the £3 billion under the Bus Back Better strategy—or is that a question to which the Secretary of State also has no idea of the answer?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, we committed to £3 billion of new spend over the course of this Parliament, and that is what we will deliver. In addition, the noble Lord will recall that my noble friend Lord McLoughlin asked a question about other parts of funding within the system. There will be a letter in the Library, which I will also share with noble Lords who have spoken in today’s debate, setting out exactly all the different funding streams available for buses. They are significant. Some are very long standing, some came from Covid and others will be part of the funding from BSIPs and CRSTSs, et cetera.

Bus Services: Covid-19 Emergency Funding

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Tuesday 1st March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My noble friend is quite right. It is extraordinary how many different streams of funding go into the whole bus network system. This can be to the operators directly, or to local authorities—some of which comes from the Department for Transport and some from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. I will respond to my noble friend with a letter which draws this all together. It is a substantial sum of money. Combined with some of the money we are putting into the infrastructure of major urban centres—for example, CRSTS—there is a lot of money going into buses, and we need to ensure that we make the best use of it.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Will the Minister confirm that none of the emergency support or recovery grants for buses has been taken out of the £3 billion for buses and bus services by 2025 announced under the Bus Back Better strategy, and that all the emergency support and recovery grants are in addition to that £3 billion?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The Government have committed to spend £3 billion over the course of this Parliament, so I suggest to the noble Lord that, when we get to the end of this Parliament, we do a totting up.

Railway Stations: Facilities

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Tuesday 1st February 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Unfortunately, I do not have the figures to hand. As the noble Baroness points out, 60% of stations currently have tactile paving and we are very keen to move that to 100%. One of the key elements of The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail is a national accessibility audit that will look at every single station across the network. It will have a detailed look at the facilities and the standards to ensure that everywhere is accessible.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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There is huge regional disparity in disability access at railway stations across the country. As part of the new stations fund, a small number of railway stations have opened in recent years. Can the Government give a commitment that at least all new stations, opened or reopened, will always have full disability access and full access to all facilities for disabled passengers?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising that. Although I would love to make that commitment at the Dispatch Box, as it is completely reasonable, I will have to write to him so that I can 100% confirm that that is the case. It is also important that we look at retrofitting the stations that we have. The Government have extended to 2024 the Access For All programme and provided £350 million-worth of funding.

Electric Vehicle Charge Points

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Wednesday 26th January 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I would be a little cautious about that. It may look as though the Government were feathering the nest of Parliament, and I do not think that would be a good idea.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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The Competition and Markets Authority reported last July and urged the Government to intervene in the electric car charger market to prevent what it described as “charging deserts” and increase availability in locations outside London that remain underserved. As I understand it, across the UK there are huge regional inequalities in the number of available charging points. In London, there are 80 charging devices per 100,000 people, but in Yorkshire, for example, there are fewer than 20 per 100,000. What steps are the Government taking to support new charging points in areas that are currently lacking? If the answer is “not very much”, it just shows that the Government’s levelling-up slogan is just that—a slogan—and no more.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The Government encourage every local authority to look at its local needs. We have a fund of £20 million per year to which 135 local authorities have already applied. That fund is there to put chargers in local areas where there are fewer publicly available chargers and there will be a local EV infrastructure fund launching soon.

Transport Act 2000 (Air Traffic Services Licence Modification Appeals) (Prescribed Aerodromes) Regulations 2022

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Tuesday 25th January 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I start by saying that I will probably end up making the shortest speech so far—I hasten to add that that is in no way a criticism of any speeches made, but simply a statement of fact. Like others, I thank the Minister for her explanation of the content and purpose of these regulations. Although I have in front of me a statement on the background and what the regulations do, I will not wade through it; the Minister and others have already outlined that.

I raise one issue only, but say before that that I await with great interest the answers to the questions raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Foster of Oxton and Lady Randerson, the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Gower, and my noble friend Lord Berkeley. I refer to the statement by Robert Courts MP, which is in the EM:

“The intention of this measure is to ensure that airports which receive an approach control service from the licence holder through its licence are able to appeal decisions relating to modification of licence conditions”.


The EM goes on to say that:

“The number of expected licence modifications over a 20-year period is expected to be between 8 and 16 modifications for major modifications such as price controls, and between 6 and 18 modifications for minor modifications such as procedural changes.”


Like others, I am not sure what workload or otherwise that would generate, so some clarification would be helpful.

I ask that in the context of paragraph 12.4 of the EM, which has already been referred to. It says that:

“In allowing prescribed aerodromes to appeal decisions there is the potential that a greater number of appeals will be launched. However, during the consultation phrase, no aerodromes requested appeal rights, which suggests they may be unlikely to appeal modifications to licence conditions.”


Bearing in mind that the more major modifications may relate to price controls, are there any criteria for changing those price controls? If it is confidently expected that there will be no appeals, presumably, when the changes are made, if they are, they will be relatively limited as far as the prescribed aerodromes are concerned. The Minister has already mentioned which aerodromes those are.

I therefore seek further information about modifications to price controls, the criteria for making them, how frequently they are made—it appears to be fairly infrequent—and whether they have ever proved controversial before in relation to prescribed aerodromes. That is the only point I wish to raise. The subject matter covered by the SI seems straightforward and desirable, but I await the answers to the other issues that were raised with interest.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I am grateful to noble Lords for their contributions today. It has turned into a general debate on air stuff, so noble Lords will not be surprised that I came here with 49 pages of briefing to answer detailed questions on the SI and am therefore unable to answer issues that have been raised that, frankly, are not even close to the scope of what is before noble Lords today.

Noble Lords mentioned EGNOS to me recently. I have confirmed with the office of the Aviation Minister that he is happy to meet with you. All noble Lords with an interest may pop along to that meeting and I hope to get there as well.

My noble friend Lady Foster asked about unmanned aircraft. I am sure she would have appreciated being in the House for the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill. We had lots of fun. It took a long time, but we talked a lot about drones and the role of the CAA. I remain reassured that the CAA has a grip on the situation. In that Bill, we gave the police extra powers to ensure that drones are appropriately enforced, where needed. I will try to get a response for my noble friend Lord Davies of Gower about American licences.

I turn to the contents of this SI. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, will recall the challenges of getting the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill through, which is where these powers very much came from. But it was not necessarily the case that there was a great big gap between that and some of the failures that happened before. There were just two failures, which were obviously both very carefully investigated by the CAA, working very closely with NATS to establish exactly what happened. That work took quite a long time, and we know that, on 25 February last year, for example, following an investigation under the Transport Act 2000, the CAA published its final decision confirming that NERL had contributed some of its statutory and licence duties and obligations in the period January 2019 into 2020 in relation to the provision of sufficient staffing resilience in the London approach service for users of Stansted and Luton airports. In making its findings, the CAA took account of the very difficult circumstances faced by the aviation sector and the significant reduction of air traffic volumes following the Covid-19 pandemic. It strikes me that, prior to those powers being available, the CAA has historically had a firm grip on NATS and its activities, and continues to get very involved wherever there may be failings.

What is under discussion today is actually a very small and narrow element of the world of licences and the provision of air traffic management services. The CAA, as is stated in the Explanatory Memorandum, rarely updates the licence—but it does, and when it does, as I set out in my opening speech, it does it by consultation with everybody who is likely to be affected. Therefore, it is not a surprise to us, and I believe should not be a surprise to the industry either, that we expect appeals to be relatively rare, because an enormous amount of consultation will go on beforehand. We know that people will be able to put forward their views—and I believe that we discussed this during the passage of the ATMUA Bill, now the ATMUA Act, as to the appeals process, how likely the appeals were likely to be, and whether there were resources at the CMA. We went through all those things, and I believe that, when the Bill was passed, we had reached a pretty good assessment about how we felt the appeals process was going to be.

We know that no airports have actually asked for these powers, but the Government have, out of an abundance of caution, given them the ability to appeal, just in case they need to. The reality is that it is only going to be about a modification that is about a change of price, because essentially everything else is not really related to the airports. The airlines and owners of the aircraft have far more beef with it. For the airports, it is really about the hand-off between up there and down here, and the charge for that hand-off that they might want to challenge, but they have never given us any indication that they would do so. The chances of getting an SI passed if they wanted to do so in future is, quite frankly, probably not huge.

That is why we are doing this—just in case they want to. We are not expecting them to do so, and they have given us no indication that they will. But we said that we would do it in the Bill; we felt that it was the fair thing to do, and that is why we are here today. The figures that we put in the EM explain that there may be a 10% increase in the number of appeals. We feel that that may be high, but we have to put something in there. In general, that is why the impact assessment is de minimis, because from this SI there will be almost no impact at all. I have some figures for costs somewhere, and I might put it in a letter afterwards, but our estimated costs are very small.

To that end, we do not see that this SI will cause the CAA to have any resource implications at all. As we know, modifications are fairly infrequent and we expect appeals to be rare. Appeals for this particular thing are possibly like hens’ teeth. I very much hope that it does not have a full-time member of staff on it. However, I will write with information on the number of people who look after NERL licensing. That is a very good challenge and I will find out exactly how big that group is.

I note that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, made a very short speech; I thank him for being here because I know that he has had an incredibly busy day in the Chamber as well. However, the points he raised about whether there is likely to be an appeal and what has to happen in order for that change to happen have been covered.

I have run out of things to say from the questions that I was asked. As ever, I will look through Hansard and write if necessary.

Train Driving Licences and Certificates (Amendment) Regulations 2022

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Monday 24th January 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I will try to be brief otherwise the Minister will not have a chance to respond. I thank her for her introductory comments and my noble friend Lord Berkeley for his amendment. In line with what the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said, I too appreciated the Library briefing. Before I go any further, can I express the sincere hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Vere, will not be following the latest ministerial fashion and departing the Chamber earlier than anticipated.

The EU stopped recognising British-issued train driving licences on 1 January 2021, and European-issued train driving licences will no longer be valid in Great Britain after the end of this month apart from within the Channel Tunnel zone once the regulations are in force. The Government have stated in the Explanatory Memorandum that operators have already obtained European train driving licences

“for their drivers to ensure they are able to continue driving their trains”

through the Channel Tunnel because of how late these regulations have been brought before us. What has been the cost to train operators of having to obtain those European train driving licences for their drivers? Do their European train driving licences enable British drivers to drive throughout the EU, and for how long are these licences now valid?

The Government have confirmed that a cross-border driver holding a European train driving licence would also need to hold a British train driving licence to drive beyond the Channel Tunnel zone—for example, up to St Pancras International station. Drivers who are driving trains in Great Britain using an EU-issued train driving licence will need to apply for a British train driving licence from the ORR before the end of this month, and current holders will be considered as new applicants. Why will current holders be considered as new applicants?

I come back finally to the questions that virtually everybody else has asked. I think I noticed the Minister say that under EU provisions it would not have been possible for us to agree with France to be able to drive a train to Paris. I think she was saying that it had to be confined to the Channel Tunnel zone area. If I have misunderstood that, I am sure I will be corrected. Can the Government confirm that under the common European regime we had for certifying and licensing train drivers, British drivers could drive a Eurostar passenger train to Paris or Brussels, and indeed into Germany, and a French or Belgian driver drive a Eurostar train to St Pancras? The bilateral agreement with France would appear to apply only to the Channel Tunnel zone. Does that mean that British train drivers will not be able to drive a Eurostar passenger train or a freight train from Calais to Paris or Brussels or beyond and a French or Belgian driver drive a train to St Pancras? The answer may be, as others have suggested, that another licence is needed to do that. No doubt that is what the Minister will say in reply if that is the case. I can say only that, if that is correct, this would hardly appear to represent progress, bearing in mind what we previously had.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for enabling us to discuss it in slightly more detail than perhaps we might have done otherwise. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, was sincere in not wishing me to depart. If he was not, it is not going to be his lucky day.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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I was sincere.

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

I turn first to the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. I can see where he is coming from. Noble Lords will recall from when we discussed operator licensing that there is this Channel Tunnel zone, the bit that France was allowed to reach an agreement with the UK over. It is the same for train driving licences as it was for other elements that we have discussed in the past.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked why we cannot go further. We have been very clear on this. The European Commission knows exactly what its rights are, and they are quite extensive. It has said that France cannot negotiate with the UK to go further. Indeed, the European Commission did not convey any interest in including train driving licences in the trade and co-operation agreement. In any event, if mutual agreement had been sought at this level, it would likely have been conditional on dynamic alignment of train driving licensing regulations and possibly a continuing role for the Court of Justice of the European Union. That would have broken the UK’s red lines during negotiation.

All is not lost, however, and it is potentially a little more positive than some noble Lords fear. There will not be one train and two drivers; it is more the case that there will be one driver and two licences. Drivers for many of the operators already have both the European and GB licences. For the Channel Tunnel zone, they can also have the certificate of competence, or whatever the certification is called. They just need a single one of those, but if you are driving beyond that you need the relevant certificate covering the rolling stock and the infrastructure of whichever routes you are driving on; that is normal.

This does not seem to have held back the people who run the trains. I have some stats that I will not read out, but it strikes me that drivers for all the major operators have stepped up and got an additional licence where needed. Train driving licences issued by the ORR are free; there is no cost to the applicant, so it does not really matter if they are new applicants. It should also be noted that the existing training has not changed since we left the EU, so somebody trained in the EU has received the right training to get a GB licence.

We expect there to be a system in which people will simply have two licences. We do not see a future in which there would be a single licence. Do I think it will be a massive hurdle to the future of a fantastic vision for international rail travel? No, I do not. I am just pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, no longer has his companion pass, sucking up taxpayers’ funds in first class going to Europe—but I am sure he enjoyed it. I think all noble Lords will agree that travelling by train in Europe is a pleasurable experience, but one often has to change trains because the trains do not automatically go to where you are going—so you need another driver to get another train to go to a different place. Of course, we want the trains to be as good as possible. That is why Eurostar goes to Amsterdam, and obviously we continue to have Eurostar services into London and through to Paris.

I do not know that there is really much more I can say. The system, operators and drivers have managed to cope, the trains are still running and we expect them to run in future. There will be no legislative hiatus, as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, feared. On the timeline of the regulations, the Government have been negotiating a number of elements with the French Government—the train driving licence element, the operator licensing element and the safety issues—and we did not get the train driver licensing element signed until 22 December because it had to be cleared by the European Commission. Together with the technical and complicated nature of these negotiations, this meant that January was the earliest these regulations could be debated. As I said, the agreement has been signed and therefore there should be no hiatus at all.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked me a couple of curveballs about how long a licence is valid for, and I do not know that answer, but I shall of course write, as I shall on other issues that I have not been able to cover.

I come briefly to the issue that the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, raised about HGV drivers working in the EU. She is right to pay tribute to the House of Lords Library. I read that in the Library briefing and thought, “Oh, I didn’t realise that.” It is true. The current requirements for obtaining drivers’ certificates of professional competence in the EU and the UK are the same. However, the EU has decided not to recognise the UK qualifications post Brexit for use by drivers based in the EU working for companies established in the EU. Of course, it will recognise a UK driver working in Europe, from a cabotage perspective—all those things remain the same—but the EU has taken a slightly different tack. Clearly, we think that we have taken the better tack, but who are we to argue?

As noble Lords will know, we are looking at the driver certificate of professional competence to see how well it works for the UK. I am not convinced that stating that you must have 35 hours’ training is useful: training in what? Beekeeping? We need to make sure that HGV drivers are studying what is useful from a continuing professional development perspective. So that is the situation for a DCPC in the EU.

Operators can register in the EU and get an EU operator licence; otherwise, if they have a UK operator licence, they are restricted by the cabotage arrangements that we have in place. That has not changed. I am not aware of any change to UK HGV testing that has had an impact on C+E drivers in France—that would be for HGV lorries. They are still able to drive in France.

The noble Baroness then went slightly off-piste by mentioning the queues at Dover. I appreciate that she knows she went off-piste, and I know that she was very keen to ask me a Private Notice Question today on it. I will write with more information on that. For the time being, I commend the regulations.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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May I just confirm that, after the regulations come into effect, after the end of this month, a British driver driving a Eurostar train from London to Paris and to Brussels will require two licences to make that journey?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Correct, but, as I mentioned, the training is the same on both sides and there should be no barrier to the driver getting that second licence.

Global Traffic Scorecard: London

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

(2 years, 5 months ago)

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

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

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

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

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

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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

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

“the relevant class of road.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Electric Vehicles (Smart Charge Points) Regulations 2021

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

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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

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

“chosen not to mandate device-level requirements”

relating to demand-side response interoperability

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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

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

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

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

I could possibly give an entirely new speech on this but I would probably not be popular if I did—my Whip agrees with me.

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

Isles of Scilly: Ships

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

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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

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

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

Rail Infrastructure: North of England

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

(2 years, 7 months ago)

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

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

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

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

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

(2 years, 7 months ago)

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

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

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

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

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

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee said:

“We view this as poor practice.”


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

“It is part of the purpose of an IA”—


an impact assessment—

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

However, the department asserts:

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


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

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

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

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

That letter also stated:

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


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

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


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

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


Secondly, it said that the department should

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Railways: East Coast Main Line

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

(2 years, 7 months ago)

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

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

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

HGV Drivers

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

(2 years, 7 months ago)

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

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

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

Insulate Britain

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

(2 years, 7 months ago)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(2 years, 8 months ago)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“made aware of the consultation when it launched”,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transport: Hydrogen

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

(2 years, 9 months ago)

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

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - -

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

HGV Driver Shortages

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

(2 years, 9 months ago)

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

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

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

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

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

Railways: Bridge Strikes

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

(2 years, 9 months ago)

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

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
- Hansard - -

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

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

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

International Travel Rules

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

(2 years, 11 months ago)

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

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

Another Conservative MP said,

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

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

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

Railways: East Coast Main Line

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

(2 years, 11 months ago)

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

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

“involve a series of trade-offs,”

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

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

Lorry Drivers

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

(2 years, 11 months ago)

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

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

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

Historical Railways Estate

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

(2 years, 11 months ago)

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

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

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

International Travel

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

(2 years, 11 months ago)

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

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) (Con)
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My Lords, the Government are working extremely closely with all parts of the travel sector, and we recognise that it has been a very difficult time for it. Significant support has already been given to the sector, and indeed there has been sector-specific support for airports. We will, of course, continue to work closely with them in the medium term.

North of England: Rapid Mass Transport System

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

(2 years, 11 months ago)

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

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

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

Great British Railway Plans

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

(2 years, 12 months ago)

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

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

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

BA and Ryanair: Customer Refunds

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

(3 years ago)

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

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

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

Railway Industry Association Report

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Tuesday 18th May 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

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

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

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

Rail Disruption: Social and Economic Impacts

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

(3 years, 1 month ago)

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

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

E-Scooters

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

(3 years, 1 month ago)

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

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

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

Transport for London: Financial Settlement

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

(3 years, 3 months ago)

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

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

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

Rail Freight: Channel Tunnel

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

(3 years, 3 months ago)

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

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

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

HS2: Phase 2B

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

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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

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

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

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

Rail Fares: Flexi-season Tickets

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

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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

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

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

UK Logistics Industry

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

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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

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

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

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in today’s debate. I will take each amendment in this group in turn, starting with Amendment 14, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, which the Government believe is neither necessary nor appropriate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Railways: Electrification

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

(3 years, 5 months ago)

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

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

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

P&O Ferries

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

(3 years, 5 months ago)

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

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

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

Freight Industry: Delays

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

(3 years, 6 months ago)

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

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

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

Heathrow Airport Expansion

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

(3 years, 6 months ago)

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

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

National Bus Strategy

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

(3 years, 6 months ago)

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

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

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

High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill

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

(3 years, 6 months ago)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belfast International Airport

Debate between Lord Rosser and Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Wednesday 2nd December 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

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

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

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

High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill

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

(3 years, 6 months ago)

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Read Full debate High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Act 2021 View all High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Act 2021 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 142-R-I Marshalled list for Report - (25 Nov 2020)
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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I do not intend to repeat all the points made so persuasively by my noble friend Lord Adonis and other noble Lords in support of his amendment. The Conservative Party manifesto for the 2019 election said that:

“HS2 is a great ambition”,


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

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

Continuing, the manifesto said that:

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


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

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

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


and,

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

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

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

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

and,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“who may be impacted by the scheduled works”,

including on whether there are

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Railways: Fare Structures

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

(3 years, 7 months ago)

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

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