Schedule 3 — Transfer schemes

Infrastructure Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 9:00 pm on 26 January 2015.

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Amendments made: 115, page 92, line 5, at end insert—

“(1A) Where in accordance with a scheme a person employed by a transferor becomes an employee of a transferee, the scheme must provide for the transfer of all the rights and liabilities relating to the person’s contract of employment.”

This amendment requires a transfer scheme to provide for the transfer to the transferee of all of the transferor’s rights and liabilities relating to a person’s contract of employment, where the person becomes employed by the transferee as a result of the scheme.

Amendment 116, page 92, line 19, at end insert—

“(3A) No damages are payable by virtue of a constructive dismissal occurring under sub-paragraph (3) in respect of unpaid wages relating to a notice period which the employee has not worked.”—(Mr Hayes.)

This amendment provides that, where a transferred employee claims constructive dismissal as a result of a substantial detrimental change made to the employee’s working conditions, no damages are payable in respect of any unpaid wages relating to a notice period which the employee has not worked.


Amendment made: 108, line 15, leave out

“to make provision about the electronic communications code;”. —(Mr Hayes.)

The explanatory statement for amendment 92 also applies to this



Third Reading

Queen’s consent signified.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Department for Transport) 9:13, 26 January 2015

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

This is a Bill for the long term. As I said on Second Reading, Governments of all persuasions neglect the long term. Perhaps that is only human—[Interruption.]

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. Perhaps Members leaving the Chamber could do so quietly. Secretary of State, that means you as well—we want to hear your eloquent Minister move the Third Reading.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Department for Transport)

It is bewildering, Madam Deputy Speaker, that Members do not want to stay and hang on my every word. It is bizarre. I know you agree.

On Second Reading, we said the Government were determined to put in place a strategy, backed by statutory changes, that allowed us to invest in this nation’s future. I was about to say that it is only human nature to focus on the immediate, on the imminent. It is easy to forget that the present is an illusion, as now becomes then in an instant; it is the past that matters and the future. As I said a few moments ago when we were debating the Government amendments, it is easy for Governments to neglect infrastructure investment for just that reason. This Bill looks beyond short-term political expediency to a future of greater investment—a future of more jobs, more opportunities and more growth. This Bill improves the funding and management of our major roads, streamlining the planning process, particularly for major projects, and so facilitating investment. It also supports house building; introduces rights for communities to buy a stake in new, commercial renewable electricity schemes; boosts our energy security and economic growth by making the most of North sea oil and gas reserves; and facilitates shale gas and geothermal development. This is a bold Bill, introduced by a far-sighted Administration.

A few moments ago, we debated some of the measures we will introduce to act on the road investment strategy—the exciting strategy I was delighted to be part of, alongside the Secretary of State for Transport, who is here, adding glamour and insight to our consideration today. He was its architect and under his stewardship it has come to pass. This is the most exciting road investment strategy for a generation, and this Bill makes the statutory changes necessary to deliver it. We have committed to Highways England remaining in the public sector. Let me repeat that this is not about privatisation; it is about a public sector organisation fit for purpose. We will not diminish the fundamental accountability to parliamentarians, which I am so keen will allow us to gauge, monitor and, if necessary, alter things over time, but without compromising the essential role of the new body to deliver the plans we have set in motion.

In addition, as the House knows, we have amended the legislation further to ensure better integration between local and national networks through route strategies. As has been celebrated throughout the House this evening, we have also committed to setting and reporting upon a cycling and walking investment strategy, acknowledging the strategic importance of those things for the first time. We have had more tributes tonight than a ’60s pop band for that change. In total, this paradigm shift to a longer-term vision for transport infrastructure will give the construction industry the certainty and confidence it needs to invest in people and skills for the future. That clear vision, with the confidence it breeds and the investment it will bring, is crucial to the health and well-being of our nation.

In planning we have a number of measures designed to help get Britain building. The Bill makes changes to speed up the approval of nationally significant infrastructure projects and to the discharge of planning conditions that will ensure planning applicants can get on and build without unnecessary delay. The small changes in the Bill will have an important cumulative impact: they will send a clear message to investors and developers that the steps to deliver these transformational schemes are as simple, sensible and straightforward as possible. We have responded to concerns and shared the draft statutory instrument on deemed discharge in advance. Our Land Registry reforms will enable proper record keeping and modern digital efficiency, with the aim of making dealings with property quicker, cheaper and easier.

On zero-carbon homes, the “allowable solutions” approach is cost-effective and practical, and it has been welcomed by the Home Builders Federation, the UK Green Building Council and Federation of Master Builders. We have also introduced new legislation related to planning. The abolition of the Public Works Loans Board removes—

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Conservative, Sutton Coldfield

Before my right hon. Friend leaves the issue of planning, may I ask him about new clauses 12 and 20, tabled by my right hon. Friend Nick Herbert? Obviously, there was no possibility for a Minister to respond to the points he and I made on those clauses, but if the Minister has a moment to say a word or two on them, I am sure my constituents in the royal town of Sutton Coldfield would be grateful.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I am delighted to amplify the remarks that I made in an earlier intervention and say that we do take very seriously the remarks made by my right hon. Friend and the amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend Nick Herbert. We will take the necessary steps to ensure that the spirit that underpinned those amendments is realised in respect of Government policy. I must say that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield has been a doughty champion of the interests of the people in his constituency in this regard. He is right that development needs to enjoy community support, to be proportionate and, in my judgment, to inspire and to elevate. Is that too much to ask for in our age? I say that it is not.

The introduction of mayoral development orders will allow the Mayor of London to assist local authorities to regenerate London. Across the nation, these planning reforms will help kick-start a new era of construction that is fit for purpose.

Tonight, we have also debated energy. Some of the measures that we have introduced are designed to assist our current and future energy needs. We will take a lead in improving global transparency in the extractive sector by participating in the extractive industries transparency initiative. Our country has an enviable record on the regulation of extractive industries. We have listened carefully to concerns about new forms of extraction and have put in place additional measures to reassure Members across the House. The House will have seen tonight that, because we are sensitive to those concerns, because we are responsive to arguments, and because we listen and learn, we will take on board the perfectly proper considerations of those who are as determined as we are to ensure that these things are done safely and securely and in tune with local interests.

Photo of Mark Menzies Mark Menzies Conservative, Fylde

As a Minister, my right hon. Friend has genuinely listened to the concerns of Members on both sides of the House. I wish to put on the record my thanks to the Government for taking on board some of the issues that I have raised, particularly in allowing the British Geological Survey to play a role, thereby ensuring closer, independent monitoring, which is very important for me in Fylde. Will he give me an assurance that this is not the end but a continuum of the process and that we will continue to see calls for rigorous on-the-ground inspections delivered by this Government?

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Department for Transport)

This is an iterative business. No one has made the case more forcefully for their constituents than my hon. Friend. I was pleased to visit Fylde with him to look at these matters in some detail. He has worked tirelessly throughout this Parliament to represent the views of his constituents and to improve shale gas regulation. I commit to working with him to ensure that we take further the matters that he has raised.

That determination means that we will issue statutory direction to the Environment Agency on a minimum of three months baseline monitoring—that was an issue raised by the shadow Front-Bench team when we debated the matter in Committee. We will publish information on chemicals that the agency requires operators to disclose; require operators to monitor and report fugitive emissions for each onshore hydraulic fracturing site; and issue statutory direction to the Health and Safety Executive to ensure independent well inspection and public reporting for each onshore oil and well. The industry has committed to produce an annual report of shale sites and an environmental impact assessment.

We will seek advice from the Committee on Climate Change on the likely impact on carbon budgets and report each carbon budget period on the conclusions reached as a result of the advice given. Making water companies statutory consultees in respect of planning applications for shale oil and gas development via secondary legislation in this Parliament, subject to consultation, will also form part of our determined effort to ensure that these things are done properly, safely and securely. We have introduced new legislation to help with the sharing of costs for connecting to the electricity distribution network and to help strengthen competition in the connections market.

This Bill has been broadly welcomed by Members across the House. As I said earlier, Opposition Front-Bench Members have scrutinised the Bill in a mature and measured way because they understand, as we do, that infrastructure investment is about not a single Government or a single party but the future of our nation. Of course there are debates to be had, differences to be aired and arguments to be made, and of course scrutiny should improve and enhance thinking, and that is precisely what has happened in relation to this Bill. I am grateful for the conciliatory approach to the scrutiny of this Bill. Even when we have disagreed, it has been in a considered way. I therefore thank the Opposition Front-Bench team—the hon. Members for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden), for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex), and for City of Durham (Roberta Blackman-Woods)— for their challenge and understanding.

I wish to express my deepest thanks to my fellow Ministers, the Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, my hon. Friend Amber Rudd, and the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend Stephen Williams, for their constant hard work throughout Committee and again in the House today. That work is not just about what happens on the Floor of the House or in Committee; it is about the dialogue that takes place outside the Chamber to ensure that we get the provisions right, and my hon. Friends have played a full part in that dialogue with Members from all parts of the House.

During the passage of the Bill my colleagues and I have listened carefully, and where appropriate we have changed or added to its detailed provisions, but on its fundamental purpose we have stood firm, because we are absolutely convinced of the necessity of a step change in the way we approach infrastructural investment, its planning and delivery. This Government, with this Bill, confirm their courage and their willingness to put long-term thinking before short-term expediency. This Government, with this Bill, corroborate their confidence and their confident vision of a bold, ambitious nation.

Governments are of two types: timid and reactive, or bold and proactive. Politics needs to be confident. In the words of the great Conservative philosopher Edmund Burke—the Opposition will be delighted that I am ending with Edmund Burke—

“When the leaders choose to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents, in the construction of the state, will be of no service. They will become flatterers instead of legislators; the instruments, not the guides, of the people.”

This Government are ambitious not for themselves, but for Britain; not just for now, but for the future; not for piecemeal advantage, but for the people’s well-being, for the common good, in the national interest, driven by virtue, gauged by our determined successes, inspired by the people’s will. This is a Bill of which to be proud, a Minister honoured to articulate its strength, and a Government marking their place in history.

Photo of Richard Burden Richard Burden Shadow Minister (Transport) 9:26, 26 January 2015

Toward the end of his remarks, the Minister praised members of the Bill Committee and adopted a consensual approach, so perhaps I shall start in the same vein. I, too, thank all those who have contributed to debate on the Bill as it has gone through its various stages. In particular, I add my thanks to Labour’s team in the other place for the improvements they sought, and in some cases secured, and to my hon. Friends the Members for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex) and for City of Durham (Roberta Blackman-Woods), with whom I led for the Opposition in Committee and again today.

I also thank all members of the Committee on both sides who scrutinised the Bill, but two in particular: my right hon. Friend Mr Raynsford and my hon. Friend Andrew Miller. For both, this will have been their last Bill Committee, I suspect, unless they do something dreadfully wrong in the next few weeks. Both have given great service to the House. In fact, when we were both new in this place, the first Bill Committee I served on was also my hon. Friend’s first Bill Committee, so it is great that we have shared his last.

Finally, I thank the Minister and his colleagues, and all those who have contributed to today’s debate. We all know that infrastructure is critical to the UK’s future, from affordable energy in our homes to a modern communications system, or a transport system connecting people to jobs, opportunities and each other. Good infrastructure is vital to our economy and our quality of life. That is why it was so important to give the Bill the thorough scrutiny that it deserved. Given its wide-ranging nature, it should have had more than one day for Report and Third Reading; the way debates today have been truncated underlines that fact.

It is of course even more wide-ranging than what the Library briefing described as a “portmanteau Bill”, when it was introduced in this place. The Bill has had a new long title, and it has two more parts and many more clauses than when it was introduced. It ranges from the abolition of the somewhat mysterious Public Works Loan Board commissioners to invasive non-native species to the British Transport police, and everything in between.

Constructive criticism has strengthened the Bill, ensuring that a rushed and badly drafted reform of the electronic communications code governing mobile telephone infrastructure will be rethought. We have new requirements to support apprenticeships and training in road construction, and we have a walking and cycling strategy which is welcome and must be built on. Important actions that will follow from the Bill include the Wood review, whose implementation will be vital. If we needed reminding of that, the current situation in the North sea is such a reminder. In a victory for wildlife groups, communities in Devon and Scotland and the Opposition, we have protected the European beaver.

For making some of those changes and changes in other areas, including some of the roads clauses, I pay tribute to the Minister for the way that he has approached these matters. We still disagree on some key points, particularly on converting the Highways Agency into a Government-owned company, but he understands the need for scrutiny of Bills and he has made changes to the Bill in response to issues that we and others have raised. That shows how legislation can be approached. Sadly, that is the part of proceedings in this place that the public all too seldom see.

However, as we approached today’s debate, some things went badly wrong, starting with the timetable and the fact that we had only one day on Report. We have seen far too many last-minute changes to the Bill and things being tagged on without time for parliamentary scrutiny, despite the Minister’s best efforts. We saw it in the rushed electronic communications code, which ended up pleasing nobody and had to be rethought. It was not in the Bill in the other place; it came in more than halfway through the Committee stage and had to be withdrawn today. It was not necessary for that to happen. The issue should have been approached in a more measured way.

In relation to new regulations regarding planning and pubs, we tabled a thought-through amendment, but the response was a last-minute rushed statement to try to head off that amendment, instead of Ministers looking at what was being said, responding to that and enshrining it in the Bill. Most notable today has been the issue of shale gas extraction. I am pleased that the Government accepted our new clause 19, which introduces 13 conditions as vital protection if shale gas extraction is to be taken forward. The matter should not have had to be resolved today at the last minute with the Government finally accepting an Opposition amendment, presumably because they thought they would lose unless they did so. These issues have been raised in Committee and elsewhere, and they could have been resolved elsewhere. My hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West has been raising them for three years. We now know that new clause 19 has been accepted and I welcome that.

I have to say to the Government that one or two comments made today suggested that although new clause 19 was being accepted today, when the Bill went back to the other place, there could be attempts to tinker with it—take a bit out here, put a bit in there. If the Government go down that road, they will be asking for trouble. That new clause was thought through. It is a package, not a pick and mix. I hope the Government will respect that as we go forward.

As the Opposition have continued to state throughout proceedings on the Bill, we face major infrastructure challenges—a population rising to 73 million in just 20 years’ time, the challenges of energy security, a chronic shortage of affordable housing, airports, roads and railways all straining under demand, and the threat that climate change presents to us all. There is a cross-party consensus on the need to address these issues, but all too often decisions are not taken, public support is not achieved and projects are not delivered.

We may be one of the world’s leading economies but we lag behind other countries that take a more strategic and long-term approach to infrastructure investment. As the noble Lord Adonis said last week, infrastructure investment

“will not happen on the scale required unless it is better planned, better led and better financed.”—[Hansard, House of Lords, 22 January 2015; Vol. 758, c. 1392.]

During the Committee stage, the Institute of Government published a booklet called “The Political Economy of Infrastructure in the UK”, which concluded that we need to change the “institutional architecture” for infrastructure decision making. Labour Members completely agree. That is why my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham called for this House to back the proposal by Sir John Armitt, chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority, for a national infrastructure commission that would look three decades ahead and consult across all sectors to provide an evidence-based assessment of infrastructure priorities in the UK. Parliament would be able to vote on these, and Governments would be held accountable for delivering them.

For me, the debates on this Bill have crystallised why that kind of evidence-based approach is needed so badly, from controversy about the priorities in the road investment strategy, to disputes about rushed electronic communications regulations, to the need for robust environmental and regulatory safeguards in relation to energy security. We need a more rigorous and independent look at infrastructure needs in energy, transport, telecoms and many other sectors. It is a travesty that the Government continue to oppose such a common-sense reform, which is backed by the LSE Growth Commission, EEF, the Institution of Civil Engineers, 89% of businesses surveyed by the CBI, and many more. By establishing that commission, the Bill could have set the UK on course for the challenges of the 21st century, but it has failed to do so. The repeated failure of the Government to address these issues in a sufficiently planned-out way is not good enough.

This could all have been very different. With a shared national purpose, long-term planning, proper public engagement and cross-party support for our world-leading engineering and construction sectors, we can deliver the improvements our country’s infrastructure needs. The 2012 Olympics were a model of that kind of approach. We urgently need the same framework for decision making and planning across national infrastructure. This Bill could have delivered that, but it has not done so, and we have a Government who are not going to do so. That is why it will take a change of Government in May to deliver the change that is needed.


I would wish Richard Burden to know that airports are not "straining under demand". In fact we have at least 10 major international airports in the UK only one of which is full.
It is important to realise that if Heathrow or Gatwick are allowed to build another runway it will be at the expense of other airports that already have a great deal of unused capacity. Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow could provide holiday flights to the many people who presently drive to Heathrow and Gatwick. And Luton and Stansted also have unused capacity. The airlines want more capacity at Heathrow so they can abandon the other airports and make greater profits at the expense of passengers and the environment.
The Government needs to return to the policy of NO MORE RUNWAYS - make use of the spare capacity at airports throughout the coutry.

Submitted by John Byng

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster 9:37, 26 January 2015

The development of an electronic communications code in part 7 has been closely followed in my constituency. because all too often the standard of infrastructure in the City of London and surrounding areas as regards mobile telephone coverage and broadband lags behind that which commercial tenants nowadays expect to find in a world-leading business district. It is vitally important that this situation be improved if London is to keep up with its global rivals in established sectors and in the emerging tech industries. In particular, we cannot allow the business heart of the capital to be left behind in state-of-the-art technology such as fibre optics and 4G—and eventually 5G when that arrives.

New rights to upgrade and share communications infrastructure could play a very important part in improving that situation. Could we introduce a simpler procedure for landowners to require the removal or repositioning of equipment, where necessary, in order to enable redevelopment to proceed? That might sound counter-intuitive, but at present, especially in areas such as the City of London with very high rates of development, there is a strong incentive for landowners to resist the installation of equipment such as telephone masts in the first place if they fear that the presence of that equipment will obstruct future redevelopment of the site.

I entirely understand the reaction by the shadow Minister, Tom Greatrex, to the late tabling of amendments dealing with the communications code, now removed by amendment 91, and the fact that further time is required to consider the new code. That is necessary; let us get the code right if we can. It is also important to ensure that the code strikes an appropriate balance between landowners and network operators, because only by so doing will it be effective in bringing about the expanded coverage that we all so desperately require. I hope, however, that the process will not take too long, and that we can move forward swiftly with the introduction of a new code, having taken account of the views expressed by industry representatives.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Department for Transport)

Just for clarity, the Government will move ahead with the reform of the communications code. We will begin a full consultation in the next few weeks, with a view to bringing forward draft legislation, for exactly the reason that my hon. Friend gave: to ensure that we have the agreement of all those who are most directly involved or affected and to ensure that there is agreement across the House.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster

I am very encouraged by the Minister’s words and I know that that will be true of many of my commercial constituents, as it were.

I ask the Government to consider two other things as this important work continues. The first is the position of infrastructure that has been installed before the new code comes into force, whenever that is. As I understand it, the new rules will not apply automatically to such dated infrastructure. Although I understand the reluctance of the Government to interfere in pre-existing legal relationships, I suggest that it would be beneficial to find some means of encouraging existing infrastructure to be brought under the new code as swiftly as possible.

Secondly, there are numerous cases in the City of London in which lengthy wrangling between freeholders and network operators over the terms and conditions for the grant of the necessary consents has delayed the installation of mobile masts or broadband facilities by several months. In the most serious instances, that has prevented business tenants from taking possession of new offices on time or forced businesses to occupy new office space with no functioning communications. Naturally, this is principally a matter of negotiation between private parties, and I would not expect any Government to interfere in such issues, so there are rightly limits to the extent to which they can furnish a solution.

However, when the Bill is enacted, there will be an opportunity under the code for the relevant industry bodies, which have been referred to, to encourage the adoption of model terms and conditions to deal with the issue. Although that is not a complete answer, it would be a constructive step and I hope that it is taken. The City of London corporation has held positive meetings with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on the matter and will be looking to provide further support where possible, potentially in conjunction with the Greater London authority.

I have spoken before in this House about the need to ensure that adequate investment in the electricity distribution network can be made to meet tomorrow’s demand for new connections, without imposing unreasonable costs on today’s consumers. This is not the occasion to delve into the intricacies of the matter. Suffice it to say that the need for action is increasingly pressing. In relation to my constituency, I am aware that the Government are working with interested parties such as Ofgem, UK Power Networks, the Greater London authority and the City of London corporation with a view to developing new models that might enable the necessary upfront investment to be delivered, with the costs being recouped from customers over time as new connections are made. It is not yet clear whether the amendments that were made in Committee to extend the second-comer rules to independent connection providers will prove directly relevant to that work, but if so, they are to be welcomed.

In conclusion, I commend the Government for the attention they have given to this important matter in part 7. I urge them to continue that focus to ensure that we get it right. As with telecommunications as a whole, this is a crucial, bread-and-butter issue when it comes to London’s future competitiveness as a commercial centre.

Photo of Michael Weir Michael Weir Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change) 9:43, 26 January 2015

Having heard the honeyed tones in which the Minister opened the debate for the Government, I feel a bit guilty about having to say that I still have severe reservations about parts of the Bill.

Not all the Bill applies to Scotland, but the main part of it that does is on energy. It is a great shame, as Richard Burden said, that we had so little time to debate those issues today. We had serious concerns about some of them, but we were not given the opportunity to debate them fully. However, that is the way it goes.

On Second Reading, I referred to two issues with fracking in Scotland: drilling under people’s homes without consent and the complexities in Scots law in relation to that. I am pleased that the Government have moved on those issues. I welcome the Government amendments removing Scotland, but I remain concerned that they have not taken the obvious action of moving licensing powers from the UK Parliament to the Scottish Government.

All powers relating to fracking lie with the Scottish Government, apart from the crucial power of licensing. The UK Government say that they intend to move those powers under the Smith commission proposals after the next general election, but with the best will in the world the process of getting that Bill through both Houses will take some time, and it will be some considerable time before the powers are with the Scottish Parliament.

Photo of Tom Greatrex Tom Greatrex Shadow Minister (Energy)

Given what the hon. Gentleman has said and new clause 2 on licensing, does he agree, as I suggested earlier to the Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, that it would be sensible for the Government to stop the 14th licensing round in Scotland so that any new licenses may be granted after the powers have been devolved, and a Scottish Government of whatever complexion can make those decisions?

Photo of Michael Weir Michael Weir Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

That is one of the few things on which the hon. Gentleman and I agree. I made that exact point earlier. My concern is that, currently, there are a few existing licences, but not many. The Department of Energy and Climate Change could grant licences between the current time and when the powers are devolved. That leaves us in a dangerous situation. All powers should be in one place. I am disappointed that the Government have not done that.

That was one of the reasons why Scottish National party members supported the moratorium on fracking. I have severe doubts about fracking, but we wanted that moratorium to ensure that work can be done before the Scottish Parliament has the opportunity to consider it in great detail.

In Scotland over the weekend, the Labour party was telling us that it was very keen on a moratorium, and that it was going to stop fracking. Labour Members came down here today and abstained on that proposal. We are told that Labour’s new clause 19 will stop fracking in the UK. Frankly, it will do no such thing, as the Minister rightly said. Nowhere does new clause 19 mention a moratorium. As far as I can see, it does not even apply to Scotland. Unlike Government new clause 15, which had a consequential amendment to ensure it applied to Scotland, new clause 19 had no such consequential amendment. The new clause therefore does not apply to Scotland at all.

Interestingly, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield said that the Minister had hinted that she might change the Bill in the Lords. She was a lot clearer than that. She said definitely that the provision on the depth of the drilling would be changed in the Lords. There is no moratorium, and new clause 19 does not apply to Scotland and is likely to be changed in the Lords in any event. We have not got very far with the Bill.

I remain concerned. I accept that the Bill has improved, but on fracking I urge the Government, even at this late stage, to think again in the Lords about the transfer of powers. Transferring them now will close the potential difficulty, put all the powers together and allow the Scottish Parliament to take decisions in line with the wishes of the Scottish people.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee 9:48, 26 January 2015

I thank my hon. Friend Richard Burden for his kind remarks. Unless I commit a sin that means the Whips require me to do something else in the next few weeks, this will be the last Bill I serve on in Committee. I did so voluntarily, because I take a great interest in a number of its clauses, not least the one referred to by Mark Field. I followed his remarks carefully and agreed with virtually every word he uttered. I am sure he would agree that the draft presented to the Committee last week was grossly inadequate for its purpose. He described the issues in thriving urban areas that need to move quickly to accommodate the needs of developers and the economy, as well as the changing technologies in the telecoms space. Different issues arise when it comes to rural access. Access arrangements have been far from satisfactory, but the clause—drafted in haste—has resulted in this step backwards. That is regrettable because—as was said in Committee—this is long overdue.

I will get the Minister into trouble with the Whips if I go on too much, but he is a man of such integrity that in the last general election he even invited his Labour opposite number, who was at one time my agent, to go for a coffee to discuss how their business should be conducted. That is an example of how collegiate he is. I thought that he would get into trouble with the Whips again when he praised the Secretary of State. I thought that the Minister was going to say that the Secretary of State was adding his weight to the matter, but as I am of similar girth I can get away with that remark.

The Bill has some extraordinarily important aspects. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield said, it covers an enormous area. The House will have to come back to the telecoms code and in the interests of all parties—including those mentioned by the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster—that will need to be done sooner rather than later, but with careful engagement with all the players.

I was especially interested in the clauses relating to hydraulic fracturing. In the dim and distant past when I worked in geology, I taught students how drilling technology works. I made the point in Committee that had we been using the technology today that we were using 40 years ago I would be against hydraulic fracking, but the technologies have developed to an extraordinary degree. We do not know enough about the UK’s general environment subsurface, so a huge amount of work is needed. In Committee and in the other place, amendments were tabled on baseline monitoring, and I am pleased that the Government have started to move in the right direction. It is possible to come up with a regulatory structure that works for the communities we seek to represent and in terms of the economics of the industry. To achieve that goal, the Government will need to think carefully about some of the issues and the underlying science.

The amendment that I tabled in Committee, about peer reviewing baseline monitoring data, is acceptable to the industry. It is in the interests of the Government and the country to reach cross-party agreement so that the data that go into the public domain are fully understood and we can argue from an evidence base, which we cannot do at present. When the first pilot well was drilled in my constituency, I got only five letters about it: three were technical questions and two were letters of objection. The second one, which was handled differently by the developer, resulted in a massive number of objections and a protest camp that is very firmly in place.

It is important that this House, the industry and the regulators engage with the public, so that there is a better scientific understanding of what can be achieved with the regulatory machinery we put in place. I have no doubt that that is an achievable goal. I hope those on the Government Front Bench recognise that when they seek to develop the Bill further in the other place.

Serving on the Bill with my hon. Friends on the Labour Front Bench and the rest of the Labour team has been a pleasure, as has been working on this topic with the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings and the Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd. These are hugely important issues and Parliament must get them right.

Finally, there is a message to consider. Reflecting on the way the Bill has been conducted, it is important that the next Parliament looks carefully at the process we have gone through. There are better ways to legislate and perhaps the next Parliament can learn from that. I wish the Bill well in the Lords. I want to see the robust amendments retained so that the regulatory issues raised by those on the Opposition Front Bench can be protected and enshrined in the Bill. That will enable this important industry to develop in this country with the support of the public we seek to represent.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Department for Transport) 9:57, 26 January 2015

I am grateful, Mr Speaker. I simply want to affirm the thanks offered by those on the shadow Front Bench to all members of the Committee, which I omitted to do in my opening remarks, as well as to those who have taken a leading role, if I may put it in those terms, on both sides of the House.

Bigger, better, well-funded roads; more straightforward planning; safer fracking; a cycling strategy; and we have saved the beaver. What’s not to like? The Bill deserves its Third Reading.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.