HL Deb 23 July 1979 vol 401 cc1685-7

5.43 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Weights and Measures (Solid Fuel) (Carriage by Rail) (Amendment) Order 1979, laid before the House on 11th July, be approved. I hope it will not be necessary to detain you very long over this order. Its purpose is to make some necessary amendments to legal requirements affecting the carriage of solid fuel by rail which have remained unchanged since 1966. The order is concerned only with the whole train loads of fuel which are being carried by rail to a single industrial undertaking; it does not therefore affect coal intended for domestic consumption or where the train is to be broken up to make deliveries to more than one destination or industrial buyer. The provisions of the order are contingent upon prior agreement to the modified procedures being reached between buyer and seller. The Weights and Measures (Solid Fuel) (Carriage by Rail) Order 1966 provided that, where a complete trainload of steel wagons of minimum capacity of 24 tons was being dispatched to a single industrial undertaking, detailed information about the load carried could be given in a single document called (the train bill), instead of by means of labels attached to individual wagons on the train. This had the effect of speeding up the dispatch of coal trains and proved to be both more practical and convenient for buyer and seller and for the railway authorities.

The law is now being overtaken by technological developments and it is for this reason that I am seeking your approval of this order. The National Coal Board began experiments several years ago with new rapid loading equipment. They sub-sequently decided to invest progressively in the installation of costly but highly efficient, rapid-loading facilities at coal mines where they could meet a demand for speedy deliveries of large quantities of fuel to power stations and similar industrial undertakings. The facilities are contingent upon the wagons in the train being specifically coupled together for the purpose of weighing the train in motion, both before and after loading, by means of equipment which is designed to determine the total net weight of the fuel carried on the train. Effectively, since the wagons cannot easily be uncoupled, the whole train becomes one load-carrying unit. The order provides that only the total net weight of the fuel need, in such circumstances, be recorded on the train bill.

If the requirement to provide, in the train bill, detailed information about the load carried in each wagon in the train, were to be maintained in these circumstances, it would be costly and time-consuming and—in some cases, I suspect—probably impractical. It would deny to buyer and seller, as well as to the railway authorities, the considerable economic advantages that result from full use of these highly automated facilities.

The order makes one further change. It allows the railway authorities greater flexibility in the use of coal wagons. The 1966 order which introduced the train bill for large industrial consignments of fuel restricted its application to trains composed of steel wagons of not less than 24 tons capacity. This provision is to be amended to allow both smaller steel wagons and those made of materials other than steel to be used in the composition of trains destined for a single industrial undertaking.

The proposed amendments have proved uncontroversial and are indeed welcomed not only by industry but by local enforcement authorities. I commend the order to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 11th July, be approved.—(Lord Trefgarne.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.