Clause 96 - Regulations

Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 6th March 2003.

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

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

The Minister will be delighted—or even disappointed—to know that the debate will not be lengthy. He was good enough to clarify the basis of the regulations that will be submitted to Parliament

under earlier clauses. Given that clause 95(3)(b) was insufficiently specific, will it now be specified more clearly who the persons may be? If not, that is deeply regrettable. It would be more helpful to have such matters clarified in the Bill. Will the regulations be subject to affirmative or negative resolution? We hope that all orders under part 5 will be subject to affirmative procedure.

Do the Government intend to create a separate offence under a different Bill relating to passengers? That will require regulations under an air navigation order to enable them to sit comfortably with the provisions of the Bill. Does the Minister envisage that statutory instruments or regulations will be required under the Bill and subsequent Bills to create a separate offence relating to passengers as opposed to crew and others under clause 89?

Clause 96 loosely requires the Secretary of State to consult such organisations that he considers appropriate. We hope that employers, union representatives and other associations will be consulted. The British Air Line Pilots Association springs to mind. A plethora of employers and employees will be caught under the provisions. I hope that the regulations will have regard to the contract of employment between such parties; given the Bill's wide remit, such contracts will run to a considerable number. Will attention be paid in those consultations to contracts and terms of employment? I hope that the Minister will put my mind at rest and say that the regulations will be passed by affirmative resolution.

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

I hope that I can put the hon. Lady's mind at rest—as I always try to do. The clause deals with the creation of secondary legislation consequent on the Bill. Secondary legislation will be needed only to amend its provisions in certain cases. It will not be needed from the start to make this part work. The clause confirms that secondary legislation resulting from such provisions must be made by statutory instrument and approved by Parliament under the affirmative procedure. That is appropriate, given that the regulations concern criminal offences that are potentially punishable by imprisonment.

The Secretary of State is also required to consult appropriate organisations before amending the alcohol limits and the range of functions to which they are attached or before adding or adapting provisions from drink-driving legislation under the Bill. We discussed such matters at some length earlier on clause 95(3) and we gave a clear undertaking that we expect various organisations, and others to which the hon. Lady did not refer, to be consulted. The clause will give the necessary flexibility that may be required, for example, for future changes in alcohol limits. It will allow for changes in those authorities covered by the offence and, when appropriate, mirror a change that might take place in future under road traffic legislation.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful for that. The Minister said that the consultation under subsection (3) would relate to amending the alcohol provisions. Would it

extend to my concern, which we have discussed at some length, about the inclusion of oral swabs? The Minister of State suggested that they might be considered. Does that mean that the consultations would extend to a different form of testing, or the taking of a different type of specimen? That would be a considerable change. At the moment, breath, urine and blood tests apply. This is a potential fourth option. I hope that there would be extensive consultation simply to explain to the respective bodies how those specimens would be tested and processed.

The Government are right to say that, because of their gravity, the new offences that are being created, which are punishable by imprisonment, should be passed by affirmative resolution. We should prefer primary legislation, and regret the drift away from it, which has been a feature of the past six years under this Government. Otherwise, with the proviso that were any change in specimen-taking or testing to occur under road traffic provisions that would have implications for this legislation, those employer and employee organisations should be consulted, we are content.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 96 ordered to stand part of the Bill.