HC Deb 24 May 1993 vol 225 cc724-6

'(1) Where it appears to the Secretary of State or to the Regulator that, in discharging his duty regarding the exercise of the functions assigned or transferred to him under Part I of this Act, the manner best calculated for any reason or at any time under one or more of paragraphs (a) to (h) of subsection (1) of section 4 of this Act may be, to any material extent, inconsistent with his duties under any other such paragraph, he shall refer the matter to the Central Committee.

(2) The Central Committee shall consider any matter referred to it under subsection (1) above and may advise the Secretary of State or the Regulator (as the case may be) as to how, in its opinion, he should discharge his duty, having regard to all circumstances and, in the case of any advice to the Regulator, shall send a copy of that advice to the Secretary of State.

(3) The Secretary of State or the Regulator (as the case may be) shall have regard to any advice tendered by the Central Committee under subsection (2) above.

(4) Any referral under subsection (1) above may include a requirement that the Central Committee tender its advice with such time (being not less than 28 days from the date of the referral) as may be specified in the referral; and if such a requirement is not complied with, the Secretary of State or the Regulator (as the case may be) shall proceed as if the Central Committee had considered the matter but had tendered no advice.

(5) The Secretary of State shall lay before each House of Parliament a copy of any advice received by or sent to him under subsection (2) above.'.—[Dr. Marek.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Dr. Marek

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

I am glad that I did not hear any moans this time.

This useful clause seeks to help the regulator, who will find himself in difficulty on a number of occasions when trying to perform the various duties imposed on him by clause 4. If the regulator has competing claims for his attention under the various subsections of clause 4, by this amendment he could appeal for advice. New clause 7 would give him the freedom to seek the advice of the Central Rail Users Consultative Committee. If it is added, it would make the Bill better and help the regulator to do his or her job.

Mr. Freeman

I accept the spirit of the hon. Gentleman's argument, but I do not accept the new clause. He argues that the regulator could go to the Central Rail Users Consultative Committee for advice. New clause 7, however, provides for a disputes resolution procedure, whereby if there is any disagreement between the Secretary of State and the regulator it would have to be referred to the Central Rail Users Consultative Committee. I could not agree to that, because the regulator and the Secretary of State have clearly defined separate but parallel duties. They are set out in clause 4 and other provisions of the Bill.

I am happy to accept the hon. Gentleman's recommendation that the Central Rail Users Consultative Committee should play an important part in offering advice to the regulator. It is a sensible recommendation. There should be a repository of information and experience in that committee. I underline the fact that we wish the committee to have real power and influence and a real job to do.

1 am

Dr. Marek

With the permission of the House, the Minister's reply has not been altogether negative. I invite him to think about how new clause 7 could be redrafted as a result of this exchange. If he could think of a form of words by means of which the regulator could go for advice to the CRCC, perhaps he would consider tabling an appropriate amendment in another place.

There is, however, one problem. There are constraints upon what the CRCC can discuss. An amendment would be needed to allow the CRCC to give advice to the regulator. If questions relating to classes of fares were involved, there would have to be an additional amendment. The CRCC is not, as the Bill is drafted, allowed to discuss such matters.

I am pleased with the Minister's reply. Therefore, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

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