Clause 72 - Interpretation

Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 27th February 2003.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful for the Under-Secretary's clarification following an earlier debate. I should like to confirm it and have it written into the record. The clause deals with interpretation and offers several definitions. I recall our interesting discussion on the trolley bus, which could impact on interpretation. I also recall asking about light railway trams and trolley buses, which I classed as a sub-group of railways. I apologise; for the record, that classification appeared in the Under-Secretary's reply to my question:

''That is a sub-group of railways and as such it has no defined separate legal meaning.''—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 13 February 2003; c. 194.]

I was grateful for that clarification. However, it is important to place on the record the fact that that formulation, as reported in Hansard, introduced—in the Under-Secretary's words, not mine—''a factual error''. As the Under-Secretary intended to clarify, light railways are sub-divisions of railways, but in the official record, his clarification suggested that trolley buses are also sub-groups of railways with no defined separate legal meaning. However, he wanted to assure me that that is incorrect.

Clause 1 is based on the Transport and Works Act 1992, which defined tramways and trolley buses in detail. The Under-Secretary helpfully made it clear that his point applied solely to light railways. We had a light-hearted aside at the time, and I am grateful that the matter has been clarified. We have a strong tradition of trolley buses, and although I do not think that we are now a nation of trolley buses, it is important to get the definition correct and to put it on the record.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

According to the hon. Lady's information, are there any trolley buses in Britain at the moment and are we ever likely to have any?

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I can say with some authority that we do not have any trolley buses in the Vale of York, but I do not know whether that is repeated across the realm. Legal definitions are important, though, because there may be applications for trolley buses in the future.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

We are talking about trolley buses now, but a few years ago we might have been having a similar conversation about trams. We thought that trams were a thing of the past, but now they are the future.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

That leads me neatly on to my second point on why clause 72 is deficient. My first point was that, as we might use a wrong definition in any amendment, the Under-Secretary should clarify the definition of ''trolley bus''. My second point is that clause 72 is deficient because of the point about trams. The Committee seems to agree that we cannot think of a trolley bus operating in the United Kingdom, but I would hate to exclude the prospect of trolley buses returning, as they would undoubtedly be environmentally friendly and energy efficient.

This is a good opportunity to clarify the position of the tram. I know that it is on the record, but it would be good to have it in the Bill. I was taken by the Under-Secretary's clear explanation of the difference between a tram and a trolley bus. If I remember correctly, a tram runs with overhead wires on tracks and is deemed to be a railway for the purposes of the Bill, whereas a trolley bus runs with overhead wires on the road and is deemed to be a road vehicle.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

I hate to go into this further, but clause 72(3) defines railway property as including, in paragraph (e),

''a railway vehicle on a network or tramway''

and, in paragraph (h),

''a vehicle used on a tramway''

My hon. Friend may be able to find out whether either definition means a tram. What is the difference between a railway vehicle on a tramway and a vehicle on a tramway?

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

As ever, my hon. Friend puts the point much more eloquently than I do. I am trying to elicit the difference between a tram and a trolley bus for the purposes of the Bill. When is a vehicle a railway vehicle, and when is it a road vehicle? Will the Under-Secretary give us a clearer definition of the difference between the definitions in paragraphs (e) and (h)? Otherwise, the clause will lead to great confusion.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Secretary of State for Transport 11:00 am, 27th February 2003

As you will undoubtedly have observed, Mr. Hood, it is not my custom or style to stand up for every clause and give it the detailed forensic examination that we have grown used to from the hon. Member for Vale of York. I am sure that the Committee is grateful to her for that, but I find myself disappointed with her contribution on clause 72. She rightly asked several questions, and we will look to the Minister for the answers, but I do not believe that she has gone far enough. You more than most, Mr. Hood, will be able to cast your mind back to 4 February to the very first sitting on clause 1, which covers issues of definition in relation to part 1, in which there is a requirement to define railway property. We are now dealing with part 3, and rightly there is a need for clause 72 to give definitions of railway property.

I am confused about why there are so many significant differences between the definitions of railway property in part 1 and those given in part 3. Will the Minister help me by explaining the differences? I see no reference to property being defined in clause 1 in part 1 as it is defined in clause 72(3)(e) and (h) in part 3:

''a railway vehicle on a network or tramway . . . a vehicle used on a tramway.''

Do those differences imply that parts of property are likely to be investigated that could not be investigated by the RAIB because they are covered by the British Transport police? That does not make much sense. However, I thought that I had found the answer to my own dilemma. I looked back, as I do—I try to prepare thoroughly for these enjoyable sittings of our Committee, which will come to an end all too soon—[Hon. Members: ''No!''] I am delighted to hear those demands around the Room for an extension so that we may hear more contributions from the hon. Member for Vale of York.

I diligently re-read the words of the Under-Secretary—we often like to read them—and those of the Minister for Transport, who told us:

''The rail accident investigation branch will investigate accidents and incidents relevant to the operation of the railway. The definition of railway property is drafted to reflect the places where a railway accident or incident would occur that could be the subject of an RAIB investigation.''

He continued:

''Extending the definition would mean that the RAIB had a duty to investigate accidents in a railway station back office, for example, which are more properly the responsibility of the Health and Safety Executive.''—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 4 February 2003; c. 6.]

It would appear that there are different definitions of railway property in parts 1 and 3. The definitions in part 1 cover those parts of property that the RAIB might investigate, but in part 3 we have a definition of railway property where the British Transport police might properly investigate; presumably, a crime could take place in a railway station back office. There is therefore a good reason for the difference, but will the Minister say where those differences are to be found? What is the difference between the definitions that we have here? We have exactly the same definitions, but in part 3 we have added properties, although there is no specific reference, for example, to a railway station back office. Can the Minister tell us whether the definitions are intended to be the same in both cases, in which case why are some items added to the list in part 3 but not included in part 1, or are they meant to be different in the way in which the Minister of State has said that they are different—relating, for example, to railway station back offices? If they are meant to be different for that purpose, can he explain how the definitions before us achieve that?

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

I return briefly to the point about trams, not because of a pedantic interest but because, as the Minister will know, there is an advanced scheme to run a tramway from Uxbridge to Shepherd's Bush, roughly along the route of the 207 bus. That is broadly welcomed in my constituency, but closer to London, along the Uxbridge road, it becomes more contentious. However, it will almost certainly run, so, for the sake of my constituents, it is important for me to know the exact definitions for tramways and trams, and for what vehicles are used on a tramway and whether they are motorised. I must press the Minister for an answer.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

Before my hon. Friend the Minister clarifies all this confusion in his usual crisp and clear way, can I ask him to bear in mind the problems of guided bus ways? In Luton, we are likely to have a guided bus way on a railway line, which is to be converted. I am sure that he will be able to deal with that. I raise it now so that no confusion arises from further questions.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

This innocent little clause has occasioned an enormous amount of interest. I shall endeavour to answer briefly the points that have been made. The clause defines the terms used in this part of the Bill. Primarily, existing statutory definitions are used from the Transport and Works Act 1992 and the Railways Act 1993. Railway services and railway property are also defined in relation to standard statutory terms. In an intervention, the hon. Member for Vale of York became exercised by trolley buses. She did not know whether there was a trolley bus in the United Kingdom, but never mind, she asked for a definition anyway.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

I was about to give the hon. Lady a definition, but if she wants to intervene, I shall happily give way.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I want to put the hon. Gentleman's mind at rest. There are no trams in Scotland, yet the Bill will apply to trams. On the same basis, there are no trolley buses at this time in England. However, I am sure that the Government would not wish to preclude the possibility of their return.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

Indeed not. The provision exists in anticipation that the Scots may wish to provide trams in Scotland.

Let us move to the point about the trolley vehicle system. That means, according to section 67 of the Transport and Works Act 1992,

''a system of transport by vehicles constructed or adapted for use on roads without rails under electric power transmitted to them by overhead wires (whether or not there is in addition a source of power on board the vehicles);''

I hope that that is helpful to the hon. Lady. I assure her that British Transport police will not cover trolley vehicles because they do not travel on rails; they are buses. The guided bus referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North is also in the same category—bus, not rail.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

Would that last point about the guided bus not come under subsection (3)(f), which refers to

''rolling stock on a network or tramway'',

or subsection (3)(h), which refers to

''a vehicle used on a tramway''?

What is the difference between a tramway and a railway?

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

The difference is that the tramway has a rail, and the guided bus does not run on a rail. That is the simple answer to that.

The hon. Member for Uxbridge wanted precise definitions of each category. They could be read into the record, but it would take a long time and would be rather boring. The categories have all been set out, and if members of the Committee want precise definitions of all terminology, I will be happy to provide a note rather than go through them now.

Clause 72 defines terms used in the jurisdiction of the British Transport police, including public policing and public areas of railways. Clause 1 provides the areas where rail accident investigators have jurisdiction. The Bill describes the meaning of railway property clearly in two places. The list contained in part 3 goes a little wider to make it clear that railway property covers wider scenarios and in respect of which persons could be required to enter into an agreement under clause 31.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

I listed three items: a railway vehicle on a network or tramway, a train used on a network and a vehicle used on a tramway. If part 3 goes wider, does that mean that the RAIB would not carry out investigations in relation to that property, whereas the British Transport police can carry out investigations in respect of alleged crimes on such property?

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

I hope that I have understood the hon. Gentleman's question. The RAIB's area of jurisdiction was set out in part 1. Part 3 sets out the responsibilities of the British Transport police. I thought that that was fairly clear. The hon. Member mentioned particular railway vehicles or tramways, but, as far as I understand it, those would be identical.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

I want to elicit from the Minister whether the other matters that the hon. Member for Bath mentioned are inside or outside the jurisdiction of the RAIB.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

On the two points that the hon. Member for Bath made, the RAIB would investigate if there were accidents on such vehicles. The hon. Member for Uxbridge mentioned railway property and asked about clause 72(3)(e) and (h). Paragraph (e) mentions

''a railway vehicle on a network or tramway''.

In other words, the railway vehicle could be used on either. Paragraph (h) mentions

''a vehicle used on a tramway''—

that is, the vehicle used only on a tramway. The intention is to cover the two circumstances where some vehicles can be used on both and some can only be used on a tram network. I hope that that has covered those important points.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

Clearly, it has not. We will have to return to this issue. I invite the Government to come up with a much clearer definition than is currently in the Bill because there will be enormous problems in establishing the precise jurisdiction of the RAIB. Although we discussed it in a very light-hearted fashion, that is precisely why I drew attention to the difference between a trolley bus and a tram. It is obviously important with regard this issue, too.

Subsection (5)(a) refers to a ''light maintenance depot''. It is interesting that the subsection refers not to a locomotive, but to a train. The corresponding section 83(1) of the Railways Act 1993, which is mentioned for these purposes, gives a definition of a locomotive. Is that because we are all now meant to know what a locomotive is as opposed to a train? The list of definitions is not comprehensive. We are trying to help the Government—[Interruption.] We differ and oppose the Government on some issues, but here we want to help by ensuring that the definitions are so clear that endless debates and court cases about the jurisdiction of the rail accident investigation branch can be avoided. Subsection (5) refers to both a light maintenance depot and a train, but I wonder why it does not also refer to a locomotive. Network is also mentioned, so why not locomotive?

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Secretary of State for Transport 11:15 am, 27th February 2003

Never let it be thought that anyone should seek to delay our proceedings so that we deal with alcohol after lunch, but I suspect that that is happening. I agree with the hon. Member for Vale of York that anyone listening to our deliberations might think that we are off our trolleys. [Interruption.] I just thought it up.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport stated on the record that the definitions of railway

property in part 1 are specifically drawn. More precisely, he said that the definition

''is drafted to reflect the places where a railway accident or incident would occur that could be the subject of an RAIB investigation.''

He continued:

''Extending the definition would mean that the RAIB had a duty to investigate accidents in a railway station back office, for example''.—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 4 February 2003; c.6.]

I refer to it again because the Minister has not answered the question why the definitions of railway property in part 3 include several examples of property that are not included earlier. In responding to the hon. Member for Vale of York, he said that the RAIB would investigate an accident if, for example, it occurred on a train used on a network. Why is that formulation not included in part 1? We have received no clear answer to that, which is disappointing. As the hon. Lady said, we will at least have an opportunity to return to these matters later.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 72 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 73 ordered to stand part of the Bill.