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 Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions 7:15 pm, 9th November 2000

My Lords, many regulations implementing European Community new approach directives, of which the interoperability directive is an example--other railway directives may also be examples--contain a free-standing regulatory regime which specifies offences and penalties. If the subsections in the amendment were to be deleted, the Government would be restricted to creating offences and penalties only to the extent permitted under the European Communities Act in relation to the implementation of directives. In relation to any wider use of these powers, there would be no such powers except in the areas already covered by the health and safety legislation.

As I said at Report stage, we envisage that these penalties will be at a similar level in respect of offences created under regulations made under this clause to those which are already available for enforcement of railway safety, in particular the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The wide scope for the penalties that can be imposed is because existing legislation provides for unlimited fines to be imposed in certain cases. The Government consider it essential, therefore, that similar offences should carry the same penalty, irrespective of which set of legislative provisions apply.

The proper implementation of EU directives requires appropriate steps to be taken to enforce them. That may include criminal sanctions--it frequently does--in relation to directives which deal with safety.

I hope that I have convinced the noble Earl that provisions on penalties and enforcement are necessary in order to fulfil the requirements under this, and potentially other, railway directives. I hope that he will not pursue his amendment.