Clause 43 - Powers to regulate transport of radioactive material

Road Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:30 pm on 1st February 2005.

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

Photo of John Thurso John Thurso Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland)

I wish to ask the Minister a simple question. He will be aware that Dounreay is in my constituency and that nuclear material has been transported from Scrabster harbour to Dounreay, although it has mainly stopped now. What has brought about the need for the new powers? As I understand it, higher grade material is transported by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary, or heavily protected by it. Has something happened? Has the constabulary been consulted about the issue?

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

Again, the issue is small, but important. The sensitive matter of the transportation of radioactive material is highly regulated in this country, and rightly so. Devonport dockyard in my constituency unloads some high-level nuclear material from submarines, and such issues are extremely important. People live within a few hundred yards from such activities.

The clause will amend section 2 of the Radioactive Material (Road Transport) Act 1991 to enable regulations to be made that permit inspectors at the radioactive materials transport division, the RMTD, to impose requirements for the provision of assistance and information when conducting an investigation. Currently, inspectors cannot insist that people operating the transport systems comply with requests for information. In most cases, the overwhelming majority of them have done so, but it has been brought to our attention that, on two occasions in recent years, a company did not co-operate with the inspectors. In fact, one company even instructed its employees not to participate in the inquiries that were being made by the inspectors. Although such cases are rare, they are extremely serious. We want to close the loophole whereby companies cannot co-operate and, thus,   inhibit inspectors doing their work properly and thoroughly. If they do not co-operate, they will face a considerable fine, which is why we have introduced such a measure.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 43 ordered to stand part of the Bill.