Transport Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 9th November 2000.

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Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative 7:15 pm, 9th November 2000

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 15, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 16 to 22. On Report I moved Amendment No. 285, which, had it been agreed, would have deleted Clause 245 from the Bill. Now that I understand the purpose behind what is now Clause 247, such a drastic course of action is not necessary. However, a problem still exists here.

The clause is designed to give the Secretary of State the power to implement the EU directive on the inter-operability of high-speed railways. My difficulty here is that the clause is drafted far too widely. It gives power to the Secretary of State to make regulations for any standards, not merely technical standards, and far less technical interoperability standards. What is in place to stop a future Secretary of State from using the powers conferred in this clause to solve the railway problem of the day, which might not even be a technical problem?

I should have liked to restrict the clause to only technical interoperability standards rather than standards. In the end, however, I recognised that this would have been unduly restrictive, so I have merely inserted the word "technical" in the appropriate places. There may be other reasons why the Secretary of State might wish to introduce technical standards. On this point, I should like to make it clear that I have no difficulty as regards the Secretary of State setting standards, even if they emanate from Europe. That must make sense.

In his response to my amendment on Report, the Minister indicated that the 1996 directive goes wider than the existing directive and includes staffing and operational aspects. This realises our worst fears. It could allow the Secretary of State to say how the railway staff are trained, dressed and even what their working hours might be. Are there not other provisions in our railway legislation that cover safety and other operational aspects?

I find these provisions very unsatisfactory. I am sorry that I did not pick up on these difficulties in advance of Committee stage. I beg to move.