Clause 108 - Commencement

Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 11th March 2003.

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Amendment made: No. 42, in

clause 108, page 47, leave out from line 41 to end of line 2 on page 48.—[Mr. Jamieson.]

Amendment proposed: No. 92, in

clause 108, page 48, line 10, at end insert—

'( ) Section 105 (and the relevant entry in Schedule 7) shall come into force on the passing of this Act.'.—[Mr. Spellar.]

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

Clearly, for reasons that the Minister will probably soon share with the Committee, the Government wish to expedite the enforcement of clause 105. We had hoped that the Government would be able to tell the Committee when the other clauses would come into effect, especially whether the Government were minded to expedite provisions relating to aviation offences. If the provisions relating to blood alcohol levels are acceptable at the conclusion of the Bill's proceedings and are enacted, when will the Government introduce a Bill relating to offences committed by disruptive aviation passengers who are the worse for wear, rather than pilots, crew and other personnel? When will those provisions reach the statute book to join this Bill?

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge

I should like to take this opportunity to clarify the amendment, which has a pair of brackets at the beginning with nothing inside them. Is that a normal procedure, or should there be an ''8'' inside?

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport)

Some of the points that were made by the hon. Member for Vale of York were more relevant to the clause stand part debate than to the amendment. However, a Bill dealing with air passenger offences is already being considered by the House and I believe that it has Government support—my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is nodding.

To answer the question about the empty brackets, I understand that that is normal drafting procedure, which I hope reassures the hon. Member for Uxbridge.

The amendment follows on from clause 105. I have explained on several occasions why we believe that it is necessary to enforce those provisions as soon as the Bill receives Royal Assent.

Amendment agreed to.

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

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful to the Minister for informing us about the Aviation (Offences) Bill. I recall participating in the early stages of the proceedings with the Under-Secretary. That was an enjoyable experience. I learned much from those preparations.

There is much agreement in Committee about the provisions of the Bill that cover alcohol testing for

pilots, and we support them. The Under-Secretary said that the Government do not imagine that many pilots will fall into the categories referred to in the provisions. However, he said that some devices would need to be adapted for the tests, so presumably there will be a short period of preparation for that. The Bill sets out to give precedence to alcohol testing, and creates new aviation and maritime offences for air and sea pilots and other personnel in safety-critical positions.

It is regrettable that the Government did not see fit to include provisions relating to aviation offences, air rage, and disruptive passengers intoxicated with drink or drugs in the Bill. We are in danger of creating two categories of offences. Perhaps the Minister was told that his Department could not have as big a Bill as it wished, but that is not the best reason for excluding offences that relate to passengers. Such offences could also apply in a maritime sense; there might be disruptive passengers on a disco riverboat or chain ferry. However, one feels most vulnerable as an air passenger. We are disappointed that the Government did not make one package and include disruptive passengers on planes and ships in the Bill. It would have been a much neater way of proceeding. Now, there will be a category of offence relating to those working in safety-critical functions, even though passengers could feel equally jeopardised by disruptive passengers.

Photo of Mr Alan Hurst Mr Alan Hurst Labour, Braintree

Order. There is always a temptation to talk about what is not in a Bill, but I think that we should restrain ourselves to talking about what is in the Bill.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I was just trying to elicit from the Minister whether he was told that the Bill had to be a particular size, and why certain categories were not included.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport)

Legislation could always be expanded infinitely; there will always be other measures that people will wish to add. That leads to prioritisation by Departments. I believe that the measures before us reflect those priorities. In addition, as I said, a number of measures are, helpfully, being taken forward in private Member's legislation.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 108, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 109 ordered to stand part of the Bill.