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Number and allocation of permits etc

Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 22nd May 2018.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport) 10:00 am, 22nd May 2018

I beg to move amendment 8, in clause 2, page 2, line 38, after “criteria”, insert

“, including compliance with emissions standards,”.

This amendment would explicitly include compliance with emissions standards as a criterion the Secretary of State may use in determining whether to grant an application for a permit.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Labour/Co-operative, Swansea West

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 7, in clause 2, page 2, line 38, leave out from “or” to the end of line 40.

This amendment would remove reference to first come first serve or an element of random selection as methods for granting an application for a permit.

Government amendment 1.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

The amendments stand in my name. I shall first speak to amendment 7 and then to the amendment about emissions.

This part of the Bill highlights a number of different ways in which the permits will be allocated. How the permit is allocated will impact on our economy. The wording of the clause suggests a restricted number of permits, but it is unclear how such a restriction will be devised. How will the Minister and his Department determine the number of permits needed?

Journey numbers can be assessed and trends extrapolated post-Brexit, but the norms of yesterday may differ very much from the new reality in which we shall be living. Will there be a set number of permits, or will the numbers fluctuate in response to demand, such as by removing a cap on the number of permits? Clarity would be most helpful. If only a fixed number of permits are allocated, we need to understand how they will be scheduled throughout the year, so that that there is no feast and famine to the initiative. Surely a flexible approach would be the most sensible way to manage it so as to ensure that the UK economy is unrestricted in the number of journeys required by logistics companies.

We are deeply concerned by the suggestion that permits will be issued on a first come, first served basis, or randomly, because that suggests that there are no strategic objectives or any prioritisation of imports and exports. To drive forward the UK’s economy in a planned and measured way, there must be a planned and measured approach to how permits are allocated to build synergy with economic priorities. For example, if the car industry were unclear about whether it would receive the permits it required for its goods to cross the channel a number of times, such uncertainty would result in companies being more likely to disinvest in the UK.

The Labour party does not believe that we should restrict the number of permits as suggested in the Bill. That would be against the interests of the UK economy. We therefore believe that it would be helpful to remove the existing wording in brackets in clause 2(1)(c) in order to remove the suggestion that the process is random or conducted on a first come, first served basis. Just because people are there early, at the front of the queue, does not mean that they should have the most important place in our economic planning.

Turning to emissions, Labour believes that the way in which permits are issued could result in social engineering. There is no greater example than that of fuel emissions from vehicles. The UK has an air quality crisis that is causing the premature death of 50,000 people in our nation every single year. By tightening up on the environmental issues, the Bill gives us the opportunity to bring real environmental change through how permits are issued in future by using levers to force change in behaviour. On Euro 5 and Euro 6 emissions standards, the way in which permits are issued could help with focusing on behavioural change, which would be a far more welcome approach than that suggested by the Bill. Should the amendment be agreed, the Minister’s focus would be on improving, in a meaningful way, the UK’s abysmal record on air quality, which would bring real health benefits to our nation.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Conservative, Scarborough and Whitby

I shall speak against the amendment because it seems to me that it would have the opposite effect to that described by the hon. Lady. If she is saying that UK trucks do not comply with emissions standards, I have to tell her that despite everything we have read about some diesel cars not complying, trucks have a very good record of complying, not least because the analytical equipment that exposed Volkswagen has for a long time been able to be carried on the back of a truck. Most trucks therefore comply with 90% or more of the actual emissions standards they are meant to meet.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport) 10:15 am, 22nd May 2018

Does the right hon. Gentleman not recognise that the UK will not be subject to those EU jurisdictions on leaving the EU? The mechanism will be negotiated and it will relate to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, wherever that gets to. Perhaps those standards will not apply in the UK.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Conservative, Scarborough and Whitby

The Minister has made it clear that leaving the European Union will not be an excuse to undermine the tough environmental standards that are in place. Indeed, the majority of trucks used on British roads are produced to European standards. There is no suggestion whatever that the Volvos, Scanias and MANs of this world will produce a down and dirty truck just for the UK market. UK trucks have a good record. Indeed, unlike cars, truck engines operate at optimum temperatures and optimum loads and therefore are likely to perform particularly well. I pay tribute to the engineers who have delivered those fantastic systems introduced in Euro 6 and in Euro 5 before that.

The point I am making is about the hon. Lady’s wish to impose a tougher standard on a truck allocated a permit. Reading between the lines, I got the impression she would say, “We will only give a permit to Euro 6 trucks”, but that would result in a similar situation to that in which London taxis found themselves, whereby a higher emissions standard was forced on taxi operators in London and the older taxis went to operate on the streets of Manchester. If she is saying that only newer Euro 6 trucks would qualify for a permit, we would find the better performing trucks being used on continental runs, leaving the dirtier, older trucks operating on British roads. By allocating permits to cleaner trucks, she would have the opposite effect to that which she hopes to achieve.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am certainly not saying that; what I am saying is that this is a real opportunity. Given that we do not have certainty over future environmental protections—as the right hon. Gentleman has suggested—because that legislation is not enshrined in UK law, there is a real risk of dirty lorries on our roads. Obviously, we want to prevent such a scenario. Given the complete failure on measures to improve air quality in our country, it is important that we consider every opportunity to do so.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Conservative, Scarborough and Whitby

I am afraid to say that that is yet another Brexit scare story. No one has suggested that leaving the European Union will be an excuse to lower this country’s standards. Indeed, we will have the freedom to impose tougher standards if we need to. We have seen trucks being replaced. Indeed, the best thing for clean air in this country is to have a strong, successful economy so that haulage companies can invest in new equipment that produces much cleaner emissions.

Photo of Julian Knight Julian Knight Conservative, Solihull

My right hon. Friend is making a superb point. It is about the unintended consequences the amendments would have. Does he agree that the best way to deal with this issue effectively is to get clean diesel on the road as fast as possible—it is much better performing than petrol in environmental terms—and to stop the scare stories about diesel?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Conservative, Scarborough and Whitby

Certainly, motor manufacturers need to answer questions about how their vehicles have been complying. It is not just Volkswagen that has been caught out over non-compliance with the rules. Other mechanisms have been used to ensure that cars can comply on the test cycle but perhaps not so much otherwise. Some motor manufacturers use a temperature get-out, but we are talking about trucks.

As I said at the beginning of my remarks, trucks do comply. They have not been getting away with the sorts of tricks that some motor manufacturers have been caught out over. The hon. Lady’s amendment would result in the law of unintended consequences. She suggests that to get a permit a truck has to be Euro 6 or better, but that would result in such trucks being used on cross-channel routes, with the dirty trucks back in the UK. Although I can understand everybody’s wish to have cleaner air and better vehicles operating on our roads, I believe the amendment would have the exact opposite effect.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Let me start by responding to amendment 8, tabled by the hon. Member for York Central, which proposes that the criteria to be considered in allocating permits may include compliance with emission standards.

As the hon. Lady will know, we have launched a consultation on what the criteria should be. One criterion we have suggested is precisely the emissions class of the lorries being used. That is beneficial for European Conference of Ministers of Transport permits because it has the effect of maximising the number of ECMT permits we will have, and we can also consider applying that criterion for future permit arrangements with the EU.

Vehicles are already required to comply with emissions standards under UK law, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby has made perfectly clear. It is important to note that there can be no doubt about the Government’s commitments to a cleaner environment, on the day on which the clean air strategy has been published. That document and the intention to legislate go far beyond anything under any previous UK Government.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure and Energy)

Will the Minister confirm whether the consultation and proposed secondary regulations take transport emissions into consideration?

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The consultation was published last week, so the hon. Gentleman is perfectly able to consult it if he wishes. It says that the emissions class of the lorries being used could be one of the criteria employed. We are consulting on that. That is the point of a consultation; we do not go in saying it will be a criterion. We consulted on it because it is important to get a balance.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure and Energy)

I want to clarify that the law of unintended consequences, which has been used as an argument against amendment 8, actually falls if the Government are already consulting on the inclusion of transport emissions.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The consultation is on the class of the lorries being used. If the consultation comes out in favour of an issue having some weight, the Government will look harder at what weight it should have, and will do precisely what has been contemplated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby, namely balance it against potential unintended consequences. My right hon. Friend was pointing out that to legislate at this point would be to invite those unintended consequences, because it would lack the further scrutiny and balancing that a consultation is designed to give.

The Bill already gives the power to use a range of criteria, including compliance with emissions standards. It does not need to be included in the Bill for us to use that criterion. It is important that primary powers give flexibility to the criteria and allow for them to be amended in future. We intend to include those criteria in regulations, which will, of course, themselves be debated by Parliament and be subject to approval in both Houses.

We also wish—as no doubt future Governments will wish—to be able to change the criteria to make improvements to the scheme or as there are evolutionary changes in the industry. It is reasonable to include such detail in secondary legislation, which would allow those changes to be made more easily. I absolutely support the intention behind the amendment, in so far as it is to ensure that our haulage sector minimises emissions and complies with high environmental standards, but the amendment is not required to achieve that and I hope the hon. Lady will not press it.

Amendment 7, also tabled by the hon. Member for York Central, proposes removing the reference to

“first come, first served or an element of random selection”.

She asked how that would operate. It is important that those references remain in the Bill, not only because they deal with the more difficult situation, where there is a limited number of permits, but because they allow us to allocate permits in the “normal” manner, where there is no limit on permit numbers.

Let me look at the idea of first come, first served, in response to the hon. Lady. Our existing permits schemes are undersubscribed—it is very important to be aware of that—so applicants have always received what they have applied for. In 2017, for example, we issued 66 permits for Ukraine from a quota of 400. For Georgia, we issued six permits from a quota of 100. Permits are issued on demand, and in those cases it makes sense to issue permits as applications are received—that is to say, on a first come, first served basis.

In the future, where more permits may be available than are applied for, permits can be issued to all available applicants. The current drafting, with the reference to first come, first served, ensures that the Secretary of State clearly has the power to provide in regulations that permits may be allocated on that basis, and that no other factors are required to be taken into consideration.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful to the Minister for setting out the surplus number of permits, but if we faced a scenario where there was increased demand on the number of permits—of course, we are entering a new scenario here—why would a cap be put on the number of permits available?

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

It entirely depends on whatever permit regime may be in place. It may well be an entirely liberalised one, with an enormous number of permits available, that therefore does not apply a cap—or it may not, as agreed.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

Following through on that logic, why even stipulate that it needs to be on a first come, first served basis? If applicants reach the set criteria to warrant having a permit, surely that should be the basis on which a permit is awarded.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I am struggling to make myself clear. I have just gone through a case where there are more permits available than the numbers demanded. Under those circumstances, it makes every sense for the Secretary of State to have a clear power to allocate on a first come, first served basis.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I will come on to other circumstances later, if I am able to proceed, but there is no doubt that that clarity is of value, and that is the clarity that the Bill affords.

This is clearly a more simple process, both for Government and for hauliers. It would mean that hauliers would not be asked for as much information, and that additional criteria would not need to be applied. It would therefore keep the process as simple as possible. I will give detail on other cases later.

Moving on to random selection, the Bill enables regulations to be made that provide for how the Secretary of State is to decide whether a permit should be granted. Such provision may include specifying criteria or other selection methods, including an element of random selection. If the demand for permits exceeds their supply, we will look to allocate them in a way that maximises benefits to the UK economy, and that is fair and equitable to hauliers. We have made that perfectly clear, and it was repeated on Second Reading. We will set out criteria in regulations, and the Secretary of State will provide guidance relating to the information that applicants must provide in their applications.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

I thank the Minister for talking through how he sees the system operating. I still question what happens on a first come, first served basis to people at the end of the queue, in the worst-case scenario. Would they still warrant a permit? Also, the Minister used the word “random”. It seems a rather unplanned way of looking at the aspirations for our economy. Does the Minister agree that that is perhaps not the right word for the Bill?

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The word “random” is a technical way of describing a mode of allocation. I do not think that it is not the right word; I think it may well be the correct word. The hon. Lady may take it in some folk sense of the word “random”, but that is not what is intended in the Bill. Let me proceed, and I will address the question that has been raised as we continue.

We are consulting on the criteria and methods to be used for allocating permits. Those criteria and methods will be included in regulations, and could include relevant factors such as the need for an applicant to hold a valid operator’s licence, the environmental standard of the vehicle organised to be used, as I have described, or the sector in which an applicant operates.

There may be cases, however, in which the application of such criteria does not enable the Secretary of State to allocate all the permits. It is therefore necessary for other methods of selection to be available. It is important to remind the Committee that we have said that we will look to allocate the permits in a way that maximises the benefits to the UK economy, and that is fair and equitable to hauliers. Those are the governing principles behind the assessment of the criteria.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

Could the Minister explain why the words that he has just used about the importance of our economy are not in the Bill, as opposed to the phrase “random selection”? Surely that is what the permits system is all about.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 10:30 am, 22nd May 2018

The Bill contains a framework by which permits are to be allocated. Maximising the benefits to the UK economy and making that framework fair and equitable to hauliers are overriding principles behind the legislation, as I pointed out on Second Reading. The Government have been quite clear about that. We have listened to the concerns raised in the other place that all permits might be allocated randomly and that getting a permit would be purely a matter of chance. That is not the case. Where random selection is used, it will not be used on its own without any other criteria being applied.

Although we expect some of the provisions in the Bill not to be necessary, we are under a duty to ensure that the Secretary of State has the power to make regulations that allow a range of outcomes to be realised. We have made explicit mention of “first come, first served” and “random selection” in the Bill in order to make it clear that the Secretary of State has the power to make regulations that include such provision. Given that there may be circumstances in which “first come, first served” or an element of “random selection” are required, it is appropriate for the Secretary of State’s powers to be spelled out clearly in the Bill, which will ensure that there is no doubt that those powers are available to him or her and provide transparency about what may be included in the regulations.

We have aimed to be open about the potential use of those methods and I have sought to set out the circumstances in which we envisage they may be used. To limit the powers would limit the ability to operate a permit scheme that works to the benefit of hauliers. We will consider all the responses to the consultation before bringing regulations forward, so that the criteria and methods we are using are suitable, and the regulations will be subject to debate and approval by both Houses, but we want to ensure that the Bill enables regulations to be made that address scenarios in which the application of criteria needs to be supplemented by other methods of selection. I hope that the detail I have set out allays fears about how they may be used and that the hon. Member for York Central feels content not to press her amendment.

Government amendment 1 will ensure that the Bill allows flexibility for whatever permit scheme we may have in future. It will allow the Secretary of State to issue permits in cases where the criteria prescribed in regulations may not be suitable. On Second Reading, hon. Members raised the issue of music tours and their hauliers not being able to travel internationally. That is a good example of an industry where a one-size-fits-all permit scheme may have some unintended consequences. Applying a single set of criteria to everyone might mean that some who are providing a highly valuable service with wider economic benefits are particularly disadvantaged. Amendment 1 will allow specific steps to be taken to mitigate that effect.

The Bill currently allows a number of permits to be available for a class of applicants, although the variety of situations in which those permits could be used is varied and often unforeseen. It might help the Committee if I give some examples. Let us take, for example, the case of an emergency where hauliers could not have foreseen the need to obtain a permit. In such a case, amendment 1 will allow permits to be issued to deal with those emergencies. That could be, for example, where there is a need to move fuel for energy supply, or to move medicines. There are also circumstances in which a haulier might be looking to move goods that are particularly important to the economy, perhaps with one-off, unusual loads, such as aeroplane parts, large turbines or the like. We want businesses to be able to move their goods, especially where there is a much wider economic benefit from that haulage.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

Will the Minister explain to the Committee why he is seeking temporary exemptions from the permit scheme, as opposed to emergency permits being issued to address the scenarios he has outlined?

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

We have taken the view that exemptions are the simplest and cleanest way to handle the cases we are talking about. Of course, some cases will be emergencies, but there might be circumstances that are not emergencies at all. I have described some examples, such as the movement of aeroplane parts, that would fall into that category. There are other cases that are worth touching on, where the type of haulage that a business does is unlikely to receive a permit due to the pattern of haulage movements, despite high economic benefits. That would be precisely the kind of case we have seen of music tours where a single journey from the UK might involve numerous stops across Europe. The amendment allows us to cater for those eventualities as well.

To be clear, the number of permits for such purposes will be small. We believe that we should apply a standard set of criteria to all applicants wherever possible. The amendment will allow us to smooth off some of the rough edges that come from having a permit scheme for, for example, matters of key national security or wider economic interests.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Labour/Co-operative, Nottingham North

I know that the Minister cannot give exhaustive lists of what is an emergency or special need, but can he be clear that circumvention of industrial action would not fall into that action?

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I have not considered that. I certainly think that there are cases of industrial action that might constitute a national emergency. We have seen that in fuel haulage, for example. I am not sure that I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance, but I understand the spirit in which he intervenes.

The power before us is relevant only where the number of permits is limited. As I have said, we expect to reach an agreement where there is no limit on the number of permits, which would avoid the need to use subsection (2) of clause 2. I remind the Committee that we are consulting on the detail of a permit scheme, including how permits are allocated, which will inform the regulations that are made under the clause.

The policy scoping documents published in March set out that we intend the Secretary of State to have powers to allocate permits directly. These will be used for areas of economic importance or for security. Amendment 1 does not change the policy on the methods for allocating permits; it simply ensures that a small number of permits can be kept aside to deal with those cases, even when they are not a clear “class of applicants”, as the previous drafting would have required. That allows us to be clear with Parliament about how we envisage a permit scheme operating and how the powers in the Bill would be used.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

I really appreciate the Minister giving way. Could he outline how exemptions would not be abused by hauliers?

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Of course, attempts to seek exemptions would be examined carefully and soberly. I have already said that we do not expect this to be anything other than a small number of exemptions. We are not expecting abuse of this provision. The point is to try to be clear and to allow for unusual circumstances, and to do so in a limited and constrained way. The haulage industry already rightly expects us to offer that level of flexibility to allow its own businesses to operate as flexibly as they do now. These simple and sensible amendments will allow us to work for the haulage industry in any future permit scheme, and I hope that the Committee will support them.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

Clearly we are handling the Bill in a most unusual way, because a consultation process is currently live on whether we should be using environmental measures to determine how permits are to be issued, so I will withhold my judgment on that. We will be able to address the issue at the next stage when we consider the regulations. I am happy not to press amendment 8.

On amendment 7, the Minister’s descriptions of “random” and “first come, first served” still do not satisfy the real requirements of driving our economy forward and ensuring that it is secure and that lorry movements will be able to support that. However, I also recognise that the Minister has said that the Government are consulting on those elements. Again, we will be able to address the issue of how the permit system will operate at the next stage of drafting the regulations.

I must say that the Minister was confused in the way he presented his rationale for the inclusion of these terms in the Bill. It is completely superfluous to suggest a “first come, first served” or “random” selection if the consultation is going on currently. I do not understand why they are included in the Bill.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The effect of not including them in the Bill would be that it was less clear to Parliament that these possible means of selection were available to the Secretary of State. Surely the hon. Lady agrees that more transparency is better than less.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

The drafting could have been greatly improved if it make the points that the Minister is trying to make. I still believe that the wording is somewhat clumsy but, given that this issue will be superseded by regulation, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I thank the Committee for those comments on the amendments, and I am grateful for the support that hon. Members have given us on the question of flexibility. In response to the question about abuse, which was perfectly proper, I should say that we will certainly expect hauliers to demonstrate why they required a permit under those unusual circumstances, and what goods they plan to move. It is important to give that clarity. As I said, we do not expect it to be more than a small number. I thank colleagues for their contributions. Amendment 1 is a simple amendment, and I beg to move—

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Labour/Co-operative, Swansea West

You should have done that earlier, while the group of amendments was being discussed. I am sorry about that.

Amendment made: 1, in clause 2, page 2, line 40, at end insert—

“(d) for a number of permits determined by the Secretary of State to be available for grant in cases in which the Secretary of State considers it inappropriate for provision made under paragraph (c) to be applied, for example because of an emergency or other special need.”—

This amendment would allow regulations to provide for the Secretary of State to reserve a certain number of permits for grant in cases in which it is inappropriate to apply the normal permit allocation procedure set out in regulations, for example because of an emergency or special need.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I beg to move amendment 2, in clause 2, page 3, line 2, leave out from “permit,” to end of line 3 and insert

“including provision specifying—

(i) when an application is to be made, or that the time when an application is to be made is to be determined by the Secretary of State;”

This amendment would ensure that regulations can provide for the time when a permit application is to be made to be determined by the Secretary of State.

The amendment relates to times when permit applications must be made. The Bill currently outlines that regulations may specify when an application may be made, and our intention was to include that in regulations, but the effect of that may be inadvertently to limit the flexibility to issue permits. For example, where we expect the demand for permits to exceed supply, we will ask hauliers to submit applications during a specified period that would allow permits to be allocated consistently, in accordance with the criteria included in the regulations.

However, because of the various possible permit types and different permit agreements that we have with different countries, we want to be able to accept applications at different times, in some cases where we have more permits than we require, and for permits to be issued in special cases, as we discussed earlier. We want to accept permit applications at any time, but by setting out in regulations where applications can be made we would be limiting that.

The haulage industry will, as I said, expect us to offer as much flexibility as we can. The amendment makes simple, sensible changes that, again, allow us to work for the haulage industry. I hope that the Committee will support its inclusion.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

The Minister’s explanation seems perfectly reasonable. He says that he believes that there will be a limited number of circumstances, so it will be interesting to see that in reality. I will reserve my other comments for discussion of clause 3.

Amendment 2 agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3