HC Deb 18 January 1991 vol 183 cc1162-3

Order for Second Reading read.

2.24 pm
Mr. Dudley Fishburn (Kensington)

The purpose of this modest though important Bill is to replace the Radioactive Substances Act 1948 with a modern set of powers. They will enable the Secretary of State for Transport to implement the International Atomic Energy Agency's regulations for the safe transport of radioactive materials —something which his present powers will not allow him to do in full.

Well over 500,000 packages of radioactive material are transported by road in Britain each year. The Bill seeks to regulate the conditions under which these packages are moved about. Most of them are transported to hospitals, others go to industry and a few of the larger shipments are sent by road to fuel nuclear reactors.

The IAEA is a specialist agency of the United Nations in Vienna and advises on all aspects of the civil nuclear industry. The IAEA regulations for the safe transport of radioactive material set out minimum standards for its transport by road. They also set out the necessary testing procedures and labelling requirements.

The regulations were last revised in 1985. All member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency are under an obligation to implement the regulations, by way of domestic legislation, as soon as possible. The deadline set was 1990. Britain failed to meet that deadline. My Bill puts that right. I commend it to the House.

2.26 pm
The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Christopher Chope)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington (Mr. Fishburn) on securing a Second Reading of the Bill and I express my full support for his efforts. The Bill intends simply to bring up to date my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport's powers to make regulations governing the transport of radioactive material by road and his ability to enforce the regulations. As my hon. Friend has already said, the Bill will allow the Secretary of State to comply with the United Kingdom's obligations as a member state of the International Atomic Energy Agency to—

Ms. Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

For the sake of the record and given the short time available for the debate, may I say that the Opposition support the main thrust of the Bill. We should have liked to raise a number of issues today. If, however, the Bill is given a Second Reading and is considered in Committee, we shall raise our concerns there.

Mr. Chope

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington joins me in thanking the hon. Lady for her very encouraging comments.

The Bill is intended to cover only road transport. Provisions already exist in other legislation that allow the Secretary of State to control the transport of radioactive material by rail, air and sea. These provisions are specific to the mode of transport and therefore cannot be used for regulating road transport.

At present, the transport by road of radioactive material is controlled by regulations made under provisions contained in the Radioactive Substances Act 1948. These provisions have become outdated in the modern world, where the use of radioactive materials for medical and industrial purposes far exceeds those originally envisaged when the Act was passed in 1948. It is essential that the Secretary of State has sufficient powers available to him to control the traffic in radioactive material. The Bill will provide those powers. I ask the House to support the Bill and give it a Second Reading.

The House will recall that when the Bill was before the House during the last Session it did not get through because of a technical hitch at a very late stage, even though it enjoyed the support of most hon. Members. One of the issues raised during its Committee stage last Session was whether the Bill should apply to Northern Ireland. It does now apply to Northern Ireland. I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).