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Bus Services Bill [HL] - Report (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:47 pm on 24th October 2016.

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Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 6:47 pm, 24th October 2016

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for tabling this amendment and the very informative meeting we had with regards to the background to this proposal. The amendment would require bus operators to subscribe to the Confidential Incident Reporting and Analysis System, known as CIRAS. The system would enable them to collect and monitor bus casualty data and make data available to the relevant authorities for publication.

Let me make it clear at the beginning that road safety is a matter of national importance. The DVSA in particular plays an important role, with traffic commissioners, in seeking to ensure that drivers and vehicles are licensed and safe. In that regard, I would say to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, that we have had quite a detailed discussion on the role of traffic commissioners and their importance in this particular piece of legislation. The department collects and publishes data on reported road accidents which provide detail on the type of vehicle involved and the consequent casualties. I am pleased, but far from complacent, that we have seen a fall in the number of accidents involving buses and coaches in 2015 compared to the previous year.

I turn to the amendment. An efficient reporting system captures health, safety and security concerns raised by employees and can also, I accept, help resolve any issues that have been raised. I also agree with the sentiment behind this amendment. However, the amendment as currently drafted raises a number of challenges. Bus operators may already have a well-established and efficient reporting system in place. Mandating a subscription to CIRAS, or any other independent reporting system, may therefore result in duplication and additional processes, which could be confusing for employees. Secondly, there is a further issue of naming a specific organisation such as CIRAS in primary legislation. That could raise issues of competition and procurement challenges, and might require frequent changes in future as technology changes.

As the noble Baroness pointed out, London buses are held up as the exemplar for the use of CIRAS across the bus network. As I have said many times in the debates on this Bill, the provisions in the Bus Services Bill are essentially enabling ones. Any authority wishing to implement franchising, as my noble friend said a few moments ago, could mandate the use of operational safety monitoring and reporting policies and arrangements such as CIRAS through its contractual arrangements. Just as local authorities can take other decisions relating to road safety, they can decide on this issue, too. That is exactly what has happened in London.

Given the importance of road safety, and based on the fact that this issue has come to us at this time during the passage of the Bill, at this juncture I would be happy to consider a specific reference to confidential reporting systems in the guidance that will accompany the Bill. I assure the noble Baroness and your Lordships’ House that I fully understand the importance of ensuring that bus travel is safe for all, but I do not feel the amendment as currently drafted would necessarily achieve its desired outcome. I anticipate working with the noble Baroness on this matter as the Bill progresses, perhaps in another place.