HC Deb 28 July 1982 vol 28 cc1170-1
Mr. John MacKay

I beg to move amendment No. 129, in page 49, line 26 leave out 'railway stations,'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments No. 130 and 132, and amendment No. 195, in page 49, line 30 leave out 'or by contract'.

Mr. MacKay

We have come to the part of the Bill that deals with lost property. Amendments Nos. 129 and 130 are needed partly to reflect a later amendment concerning British Rail, and partly to substitute the word "vessel" for "ship" to cover the possibility of a hovercraft service being operated in Scotland.

We have looked again at the terms of the exemptions from this part of the Bill as set out in clause 69(2). We remain convinced that the present arrangements for handling lost property on trains, buses and aircraft operate satisfactorily and should not be disturbed.

However, as the clause is drafted, I concede that the words "or by contract" may allow a variety of transport operators, albeit mainly operating on a small scale, to make their own rules for handling lost property. The words "or by contract" were intended to cover the circumstances of British Rail, which handles lost property under its conditions of carriage. Those arrangements are well understood and work satisfactorily.

Amendment No. 132 specifically exempts British Rail instead of resting on the more general reference "or by contract". The amendment thereby removes the possibility of the law being exploited by unscrupulous transport operators who ply their trade on a contractual basis and continues to allow British Rail to operate its lost property service in the way that it has always done.

Mr. Dewar

The words "leave out railway stations" have a splendid ring.

The Minister knows the views of the Labour Party, and I shall not labour the point. However, we find it disappointing that he has not been able to look more seriously at the Law Commission's suggestion that there should be a comprehensive approach to the problem of lost and found property. I still think that it will be confusing for people to follow one system if they lose property in a street and a wholly different system if they lose property on a bus or a train. However, I recognise that the Minister will not go back on that now and that we shall have to make the best of the split system.

10.45 pm

From the Minister's remarks—for which I am grateful—I take it that by removing the words "or by contract" we stop any private firm from contracting out and starting its own system by using the small print on the back of a ticket. I also take it that British Rail is the only exception. It is in a category of its own. As the Minister said, it is a fairly well understood entity that runs a system with which we are familiar.

In that sense, the amendment is helpful. However, it is only improving a situation that remains basically unsatisfactory. The Government were not right to reject the advice offered to them by the Scottish Law Commission in its well thought out and comprehensive report. However, we shall have to let the matter rest there.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 130, in page 49, line 27, leave out 'train, ship' and insert 'vessel'.

No. 132, in page 49, line 30 leave out 'or by contract' and insert— '(aa) property found on the premises of, or used by, the British Railways Board or on any vehicle, train, or vessel used by the Board'.—[Mr. Allan Stewart.]

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