Clause 85 - Orders and regulations

Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 4th March 2003.

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Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport) 10:30 am, 4th March 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 50, in

clause 85, page 36, line 20, at end add—

'(7) The organisations consulted in accordance with subsection (6) shall include representatives of the employers, shipowning companies, the British Chamber of Shipping and the Maritime Trade Unions.'.

The amendment is fairly self-explanatory. Clause 85 gives the Secretary of State power to make orders or regulations. There are corresponding provisions in similar clauses for other parts of the Bill. Subsection (6) states that before the Secretary of State makes such regulations he

''shall consult such organisations as he thinks fit''.

We would like to make a plea for the organisations consulted to include representatives of the employers, ship-owning companies, the Chamber of Shipping and the maritime trade unions.

Will the Minister confirm that the pilots' associations and the various ports associations—of which two immediately spring to mind—will also be consulted? The maritime trade unions, of which the largest and best known is probably NUMAST, would like to be consulted as a matter of course. The Chamber of Shipping and the ship-owning companies and other employers would also expect to be consulted as a matter of course.

We and those organisations believe that too much would be left to the Secretary of State's discretion without the amendment, regardless—this is not a party political point—of what Government were in power. It would be incumbent on the Government to expand the number of organisations involved. We could write into the Bill that those bodies would be consulted as of right.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

I support the amendment, and I think I know what the Minister is going to say. After sitting

for a while on these Committees, I have got the hang of things: the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) said that there was question A and answer B.

Subsection (6) is probably replicated elsewhere in all sorts of Bills. As my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York said, we are not making a party political point, merely flagging up the point. The current Secretary of State is an admirable gentleman and I am sure that he would consult as widely as possible. In today's world, however, it may be wise to specify a little more. It might be that a particular Secretary of State did not want to hear from the employers or the Chamber of Shipping or perhaps even the unions. It is in the interests of all that a wide spectrum of organisations is consulted. It will be welcome if the Under-Secretary can provide sufficient assurances but full consultation in the interests of fairness is necessary.

This is not to cast any aspersions on any particular Secretary of State, past, present or future—I am sure that many future Secretaries of State are sitting on both sides of the Committee—

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

I noted a flutter of reaction from the Opposition side of the Committee when future Secretaries of State were mentioned. Some Opposition Members are quite young, so who knows, all sorts of wonderful things could happen—perhaps even for the Liberals, but perhaps we should not go into the realms of fantasy.

The Government intend that consultation in respect of any proposal to amend the prescribed alcohol limits will be as wide as possible, and it would certainly include all the organisations mentioned in the amendment. Similarly, if it becomes necessary to prescribe limits for drugs, we would consult widely on producing the necessary equipment—a portable testing device, for example—to enable the police to screen for the presence of drugs.

I note that the hon. Member for Uxbridge said that after two and a half weeks of the Bill, he was getting the hang of it. I hope that he will have got the hang of it by next Tuesday morning, when we will have finished. I also noted his comment that the present Secretary of State is admirable; I would go further and say that my right hon. Friend is very admirable. In about an hour's time, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take the opportunity to repeat the point in the House, as the Secretary of State would be delighted to hear it.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

I would be more likely to extend my praise of the Secretary of State if he answered some of my correspondence.

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

I shall take note of that. I would have thought that most of our correspondence is answered efficiently and effectively. If the hon. Gentleman has a particular problem with any correspondence and he informs me about it in the margins of the Committee, I would be pleased to assist him.

The difficulty with the amendment is that the larger the list of organisations to be included in the consultation, the larger becomes the list of those not included. It is already clear that the Secretary of State will consult organisations as he thinks fit. That is tightly defined, and it is replicated elsewhere in the Bill and in other legislation. After that assurance, I hope that the hon. Lady will withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

We hear what the Under-Secretary says, but the idea of taking assurance and comfort from him is novel. We reserve the right to return to the matter later, but for now I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

One hesitates to use the term ''dog's dinner''—

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

Indeed. Some of the orders and regulations are to be made under the negative procedure, but others are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. It would be helpful to know which are which, and which amount to Henry VIII provisions.

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

Perhaps I can add some clarity for the Committee. Clause 85 deals with the introduction of the secondary legislation on the various matters covered in part 4 of the Bill. Subsection (4) provides that regulations under this part are to be made using the affirmative resolution procedure. That applies to any regulation creating exceptions for non-professionals under clause 77(4) and (5), any regulation amending the prescribed limits under clause 78(2), and any regulation amending the table in clause 80(1) that may be made under clause 80(2). I hope that the hon. Member for Vale of York has followed that, and that I am not going too quickly.

However, clause 85(5) provides that an order by the Secretary of State under clause 81(3)(c) to designate ''marine officials'' with the power to detain a vessel may be made by secondary legislation subject to the negative procedure. Negative procedure is appropriate here because such an order does not create a criminal offence, and the power for a marine official to detain a vessel is conditional on a police constable being requested to attend as soon as possible. Furthermore, the power lapses if the police inform the marine official that they have decided not to take specimens, for whatever reason. I hope that I have clarified the issue of secondary legislation.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

Not really, but we will study Hansard when it is printed.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 85 ordered to stand part of the Bill.