Review of Part 1

Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:00 pm on 23rd March 2017.

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“(1) By September 2019, the Secretary of State must lay a report before Parliament assessing the effectiveness of the system for defining and insuring automated vehicles introduced by Part 1 of this Act.

(2) The report must consider—

(a) the impact on the insurance industry,

(b) the impact on the cost of insurance premiums for automated vehicles,

(c) the impact on the uptake of automated vehicles, and

(d) the levels of disagreement between manufacturers and insurers on liability.”—

This new clause would require the Government to lay a report before Parliament assessing the effectiveness and impact of the system introduced in Part 1.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Richard Burden Richard Burden Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

We are back to automated vehicles again. In our previous sitting, the Minister absolutely understood and articulated the theme of our amendments and new clauses to part 1, which is that there has to be adequate consultation, scrutiny and willingness to review. The Minister has said on several occasions that he is prepared to have all those things, which we welcome. That is why the new clause makes sense. It is about the third of those objectives: a review. It asks for a report to look at the Bill’s

“impact on the insurance industry…impact on the cost of insurance premiums for automated vehicles…impact on the uptake of automated vehicles, and…the levels of disagreement between manufacturers and insurers on liability.”

Those are all things that we have talked about. In our first sitting we spent a good deal of time exploring those issues, and we were aware that we did not yet have all the answers. The Opposition have therefore asked for consultation before measures are introduced, which the Minister has agreed to.

We are giving the Bill as much scrutiny now as we possibly can, but even after it is passed we still will not have all the answers. We still will not know the impact on the insurance industry, precisely what will happen to premiums, or whether the Bill’s provisions for sorting out the insurance market in the way that it needs to be sorted out will be adequate to give people the confidence to buy automated vehicles. That is all the new clause says: be prepared to look at the Bill again after a reasonable period to see whether it is working. If it is, great—we can all pat ourselves on the back—but if it needs to be changed in some way, the new clause would give us the opportunity. I hope that the Minister will feel able to accept the new clause, not only because of the Opposition’s arguments, but because of his own acknowledgment of the need for review, following consultation and scrutiny.

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

Understandably, the hon. Gentleman calls once again for the approach that he has recommended throughout our deliberations; it is a measured and cautious approach that takes account of the dynamism of the changes we have discussed, and that recommends that the Government be mindful of that dynamism and repeatedly—one might say continually—reconsider what steps must be taken.

As the hon. Gentleman kindly said, I have previously mentioned our agile, step-by-step approach to regulatory reform in response to automated vehicles. Where the evidence base for change exists, we will act to safely remove barriers to use, so that the public and business can benefit from the technology. Each of those steps, taken through primary and secondary legislation or guidance, will be subject to a process of scrutiny and ongoing review, and they will be preceded by the kind of consultation that we have enjoyed and continue to enjoy in anticipation of the Bill, for example in relation to drones.

I entirely identify with the purpose of the new clause. It is critical that we—not only the Government, but Parliament—recognise that in this rapidly changing area, which has widespread public interest, we need to move forward on the basis of the measured approach that the hon. Gentleman recommends.

I have a long list of things that I have committed to do. I could read it out, Mr Gray, but I fear that it might tire you, delay the Committee unduly and do nothing to further persuade the hon. Gentleman that I share his opinion about these matters. However, having asked my team to produce it, it would seem harsh if we did not turn it into a piece of written work in a form suitable to be sent to the Committee.

We spoke about the development of standards in respect of skills in these developing technologies. We spoke about the regulatory regime and the need to adapt it in respect of automated vehicles. The continuing evaluation of fitness for purpose, for example of the insurance products that are the inevitable consequence of the catalyst provided by the Bill, we will need to consider in the round. The roll-out of electric vehicle infrastructure is something that we need to look at afresh as technology changes. That ongoing process of engagement and review is absolutely necessary. I wholly and entirely commit the Government to it in the areas of legislation and regulation associated with the Bill. In doing so, I hope that the hon. Gentleman, in eager and excited anticipation of my letter setting that out in detail, will see fit to withdraw the new clause.

Photo of Richard Burden Richard Burden Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful for that response. Who could ask for more than a commitment that is whole and entire? The Minister has said, with regard to the purpose of the proposed new clause, that he will write in suitable form to the Committee to set out the Government’s commitment to meet those objectives.

Without in any way undermining our welcome of that commitment, I still do not see why there is reluctance to put the matter in the Bill. I detect that the Committee is drawing to its denouement, and no one will applaud me for delaying that unnecessarily. However, this is a matter that may need to be referred to before the Bill completes its passage. Although I absolutely accept the Minister’s assurances, I am not still convinced why this should not be in the Bill. For now, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill to be reported, without amendment.

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

On a point of order, Mr Gray. As we conclude our work on the Bill, I would personally like to thank you and your fellow Chairman, the Committee Clerks, all those who have informed us, kept us secure, delivered messages to us and recorded our words for posterity in the Official Report, for their work and service.

I also wish to thank all the members of the Committee. Committees vary in their tone and character, but I think that this Committee has been what I would describe as a gilravage. For those not familiar with that word, gilravage is a merry meeting with noise, but without injury to anyone. That is precisely what we have had: a gilravage.

Governments sometimes like to pretend that they have all the answers. All but those who are blinded by self-aggrandisement know that no Government have all the answers because no Government know all the questions. This Committee on this subject has allowed us to be reminded of that fact, as we have improved our ideas, thoughts and the condition of the Bill, through really good debate.

I must end with a quote. I think that I have done Burke and Chesterton to death during the course of my consideration of the amendments and my responses to them, so I have picked something inspired by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire, who I know is a great admirer of this late gentleman: it is Ronald Reagan. That will not cause celebration in all parts of the Committee. None the less, hon. Members will perhaps remember one of Reagan’s most famous quotes:

“With our eyes fixed on the future, but recognising the realities of today, we will achieve our destiny to be as a shining city on a hill for all mankind to see.”

The Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill will certainly be the UK’s opportunity to pave the way towards a world-leading future. Looking to that future, but mindful of the realities of the day, it will place this country at the forefront of this technology, so to shine not just in our cities, but across our kingdom.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

Further to that point of order, Mr Gray. I will not detain the Committee for any length of time. I will simply record my thanks to you and to Ms Ryan for your expert chairing of our proceedings. I would also like to thank the Clerks, the Doorkeepers and, in particular, the police officers. I was greeted this morning with a polite and gentle request to put my badge on. I thought, “My goodness, here we are coming into this place to conduct what we call the ordinary business of our parliamentary democracy.” It is far from ordinary; it is precious. The line-by-line scrutiny of this Bill has been a living example of why we hold this so dear. With that, Mr Gray, I thank you again. I will not provide a quotation with the eloquence of my right honourable friend the Minister. I will perhaps quote Paul McCartney and say that this has been “a long and winding road” and we are at the end of this particular one.

Both the hon. Gentleman and the Minister know that those are entirely bogus points of order. None the less, I will pass on their thanks to the right hon. Member for Enfield North, and I know that the Clerks and other staff are grateful for what they had to say.

Committee rose.