Inspections and information

Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 22nd May 2018.

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Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 3:15 pm, 22nd May 2018

I beg to move amendment 4, in clause 14, page 9, line 31, leave out subsections (3) and (4).

This amendment removes provision which is replaced by NC1 and NC2.

Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Conservative, Tewkesbury

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendments 5 and 6.

Government new clause 2—Trailer safety: testing regulations.

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

Under amendment 4, the provisions related to testing of trailers, should that be recommended within the report, will be withdrawn to be replaced in full through an alternative approach. As with earlier amendments, amendment 4 will ensure that the intention of the amendments made in the other place may be fully delivered. New clause 2 creates powers for extending the testing of trailers. If the report so recommends, that would be achieved by amending part 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 to extend existing regimes to apply to all trailers weighing over 750 kg.

It is important to be clear that the original Lords amendment had the defect that it would have created a free-standing testing regime alongside existing powers in the Road Traffic Act that apply to other vehicles. That is why we adopted this approach. Under our amendments, regulations may not be made before the report on trailer safety has been laid before Parliament, so that there can be full consideration.

Members will note that amendment 5 provides that regulations made under new clause 2 will be subject to the affirmative procedure, both in the first instance and again if later regulations make consequential amendments to an Act of Parliament to allow the scheme to function as intended. That is entirely appropriate for a power of this nature, and will allow the House to consider the implementation of the testing regime if its introduction is recommended.

Amendment 6 will change the extent of the report, its recommendations and the power to introduce wider periodic testing of trailers to Great Britain—matters relating to road safety and the testing of vehicles are devolved to Northern Ireland. To respond to an earlier point, Northern Ireland was covered by the Bill owing to an amendment by Lord Tunnicliffe, but since those are devolved matters, we have taken that out and it will remain for the Northern Irish to legislate as they see fit.

The reporting of accidents is handled by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and broader roadworthiness policy falls under the remit of the Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure. It would not be appropriate for the UK Government to make specific recommendations or implement broad UK-wide regulatory changes in devolved policy areas. The Department for Transport will continue to engage with its counterparts in Northern Ireland as the report is undertaken so that they may learn from our conclusions and proceed as they wish.

I hope that that summary of how the amendments replicate the relevant provisions for the testing of trailers has been useful. As with clause 13, I hope Members agree that my amendments will allow us to ensure that our intent can be fully achieved with an approach that is consistent with the rest of the Bill.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport) 3:30 pm, 22nd May 2018

The Opposition welcome new clause 2 and believe that good progress is being made in addressing vital safety issues. New clause 1 addresses reporting and understanding the evidence, and new clause 2 concerns the application of what happens next, so in some ways it is the most significant part of the Bill. As I have indicated, we want to ensure that significant steps are taken to improve trailer safety and that a solid inspection regime is put in place.

Clearly, we will want to see an initial report on the evidence gathered as a result of new clause 1 to know how best to proceed, and I believe that new clause 2 will enable that to happen. However, we will need to ensure that there is then proportionate follow-up action that provides public safety first and foremost. We want an opportunity for regular inspection, but that action should feed into trailer design to ensure that products on the market are safe and of the highest standard, that trailers are used safely, and that we learn from evidence.

Let me raise one further point. We have talked about British trailers, but obviously people from other countries use our roads. I wonder how an inspection regime will impact them and ensure that the highest standards are achieved across our roads and that safety is upheld at all times.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Labour, Rotherham

I have a series of questions for the Minister, rather than a speech. Could he give clarity on who is responsible for the periodic testing of trailers and the resources? Will he consider including tow bars or tow hitches in new clause 2, subsection (1), which states:

“Regulations may provide for periodic testing of the construction, condition or safety of relevant trailers”?

I have to apologise—I thought consideration of the Bill would last for four more sittings. Otherwise, I would have tabled amendments to that effect. It would be gracious of the Minister to comment on that.

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

I am very grateful to colleagues. If a testing regime is to be introduced, the Department will decide what the best way of doing that is. I anticipate that it would be done through an extension of work that has already been commissioned by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and other relevant authorities.

Foreign trailers on our roads will be expected to obey the laws of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the same way that any other trailer would. They will be subject to the applicable law. I want to be sure that I have caught the question that the hon. Member for York Central raised.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to the Minister. We are looking not just at the trailers we produce ourselves, but at the use of trailers no matter where they come from. Depending on which jurisdiction they enter our roads from, they could carry risk. If tow bars are not fitted correctly, if the attachment is not locked down, or if the driver is driving carelessly, they pose a risk to the British public. How will the Minister respond to that?

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

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for clarifying the point. The answer is, of course, that laws will apply to those trailers just as they would to domestic trailers. However, she rightly raises a wider point. Whether there is a difference in the assessment of trailers brought in from other countries—they may be subject to different regulatory rules—could well be considered in the wider trailer safety report. The report could also consider whether EU standards, or those of other countries, are doing the job we expect them to do. Hopefully that covers all the questions.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Labour, Rotherham

Would the Minister consider adding inspection of tow bars and tow hitches as the Bill progresses?

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

I cannot take that as a formal amendment, but I will certainly give the matter consideration.

Amendment 4 agreed to.

Clause 14, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 15 to 22 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule agreed to.

Clause 23