§ 4.9 p.m.
The Minister of State, Department of Transport (The Earl of Caithness)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Caithness.)
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
My Lords, I have given notice to the noble Earl who will be dealing with this matter of two points about which I am deeply concerned. The first is that the Government have tabled at a very late stage a number of highly significant and complicated amendments. I believe that the Minister will concede that. I also believe that his reasoning is that he would rather be able to state the Government's point of view about these amendments at a fairly early stage. But 945 that places us in a difficulty in terms of being able to analyse and to scrutinise properly and to consult with people who are involved in these matters about the adequacy of what it is that the Government are proposing.
All I say at this stage is that I respect the Government's views, but we are put in a difficulty. I feel that it would not be possible for us to give full consideration to these matters in so far as they fall to be dealt with today. It may be that we shall have to deal with them at Report stage.
An even more disturbing issue has arisen which relates to Schedule 10 and the caveats which have been expressed by the Select Committee on the Scrutiny of Delegated Powers concerning the effect of that schedule. I am in some difficulty as to how we are to deal with the matter adequately. It is a subject which is of very great significance to the House because it affects its powers and whether we should be dealing, in the way that the Government recommend, with the issues which affect something like 340,000 pensioners involving £8.5 billion and the pension fund. That has caused deep concern to the Select Committee.
At this point I mention what the Select Committee has to say because I believe that the House should be seized of it without wishing to invite a debate on the matter. The pension rights of these individuals are obviously of very great concern to them. Therefore, the House is urged to consider with care whether the arrangements for British Rail pensions after privatisation can appropriately be left to delegated legislation. That is the first fundamental point which is raised by the Select Committee.
The second point which it raises deals with the provision in Schedule 10, paragraph 11(2) which states:If, apart from the provisions of this sub-paragraph, the draft of an instrument containing an order under this Schedule would be treated for the purposes of the Standing Orders of either House of Parliament as a hybrid instrument, it shall proceed in that House as if it were not such an instrument".That means that people will be denied the opportunity of petitioning. As I have already indicated, this matter involves the interests of several hundred thousand people.
The Select Committee says on this subject:We … urge the House to consider with care whether, if it is agreed that the matters to be delegated under Schedule 10 are appropriate for delegation, paragraph 11(2) does not exclude an appropriate form of parliamentary scrutiny. In view of the extent of the powers, the substantial assets involved and the number of people affected, we urge the House to consider most carefully whether, in spite of any precedents, there is sufficient justification for the exclusion of the hybrid procedure in this case".Those are very important caveats which have been entered. Unfortunately, we were not privy to this document at the time that we agreed on the order of debate in Committee. The problem which arises here is that Schedule 10 falls to be debated, in all probability, on the last day of Committee stage and just before we enter the Recess and therefore virtually at the last moment. That is where that schedule would normally fall to be debated and voted on.
946 I do not believe that that can be regarded as satisfactory when we are dealing with a matter which is as significant to the interests of this House and its procedures as this issue very clearly is. If we cannot, through the usual channels, find a way of elevating this issue so that it can be properly debated and voted on at a reasonable hour, I ask the Minister to agree to make an early statement well before we get to this item so that the Government's response will be very clear before the debate and so that we can consider it. I do not believe that that is an unreasonable request. We shall have to consider, through the usual channels, what can be done in this respect.
As we are about to go into Committee I thought it appropriate to alert the House to this issue because some noble Lords may not have been aware of what the Select Committee had to say. I hope the House will agree that it was wholly appropriate for me to raise the issue at this time so that we can give consideration to the way in which this matter can be properly debated and voted on if necessary.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, I do not wish to go into the substance of the debate on Schedule 10, as regards which I have an amendment standing in my name to delete that schedule and also to amend it by deleting the last paragraph if that were necessary. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, who has probably made the first half of my speech on Schedule 10. We are placed in some difficulty. We have been greatly assisted by the Select Committee. As one who was on the Jellicoe Committee and witnessed the delegated powers scrutiny committee being set up, I congratulate him on what it has done as regards this Bill which is an excellent piece of work. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, is right to express concern for the situation in which we are placed concerning a subject which is a very important matter for your Lordships' House.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I very warmly support what has just been said about the undesirability of this immensely important schedule being taken in the middle of the night. Will my noble friend give an undertaking that, whenever it is taken, it will be taken in reasonable, daylight hours during which the schedule can be fully discussed in view of its admittedly very great importance to a very large number of people? It would be a shocking thing to take it at 11 o'clock at night.
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
My Lords, I support what my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter has just said. I have tabled an amendment as regards the clause on pensions about which there is widespread anxiety. Like the noble Lord opposite, I have read the report of the Select Committee. I agree with him that it would be very undesirable to go straight ahead as though we did not have the benefit of the Select Committee's thinking on this very important subject. It would be very dangerous from the point of view of the reputation of this House if we were to find ourselves deciding an issue of this importance in the middle of the night.
Lord Bruce of Donington
My Lords, the report of the Select Committee on the Scrutiny of Delegated Powers was published only last Monday, 28th June, when some of us were very heavily engaged on other matters which have been the subject of dispute in this House. From an examination of the report, which I have only recently carried out, and particularly of paragraphs 10, 12 and 15, it is perfectly clear that some very serious matters have arisen. I do not propose to deal with paragraphs 12 and 15 which deal with what we call the Henry VIII procedures and which are not really relevant for the purposes of this afternoon's discussion.
In paragraph 10 the Select Committee draws the attention of the House to the possibility that the Bill itself may be tainted with hybridity as regards Schedule 10 which is brought into operation by Clause 121 of the Bill. I have no specialist interest in the Railways Bill itself, but I do have an interest in the activities of the Select Committee. It would surely be entirely proper for the House to debate the report of the Select Committee before it proceeds on a detailed consideration of the amendments before it. If the Bill is ultimately proved to be tainted with hybridity, a very long procedure would have to be adopted. Much of the labour of the House on the Bill would have been lost.
I do not think that it can be said that the Railways Bill is of such a nature that it demands the overwhelming support of the country or of any of the political parties for its urgent enactment. Nobody exhibits any particular enthusiasm for it. Therefore, I submit that it might be for the more economic use of the time of the House if the report of the Select Committee were to be considered first and the whole question of hybridity disposed of and, on the assumption that it is disposed of, for the House then to proceed to resolve itself into Committee. I shall take anybody's guidance on this, particularly that of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, who is well versed in these things. But those are my observations on the Bill for the moment and I hope that they may prove to be of assistance to the House.
§ Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe
My Lords, I should like briefly to support what has been said by other noble Lords, and particularly by my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis from our Front Bench. Having lived through the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill in another place, I react to the word "hybridity" rather like the old cavalry charger out to graze hearing the distant bugle, but I shall leave that for the moment.
When one moves from the other place to this place, there is naturally a substantial fall-off in the amount of correspondence that one receives because one no longer has a constituency to be served. However, I must advise your Lordships that on the subject of the railway pensions fund and pensioners I have received a reasonable amount of correspondence, not only from old colleagues but from people who live in the Bristol area where there is widespread concern. In view of that, I hope that some rather more felicitous timing can be arranged.
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, I have listened with care to everything that has been said. With regard to the first point which the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, raised, yes, a number of government amendments have been tabled and there are more to come. Many seek to fulfil commitments that were made in another place. I am doing my best to ensure that none of the government amendments is a starred amendment so that your Lordships will have at least some time to consider the propositions which we wish to put before your Lordships' House.
With regard to the clause on pensions, Schedule 10 and the report of the Select Committee, such reports will, of course, always be published only at the last minute, thus there will always be a tight timetable. Your Lordships will remember that that was accepted by the Jellicoe Committee when it was set up. This is a problem that will face your Lordships' House from time to time.
Having said that, I have listened with care to what has been said and I understand the importance of pensions. I remember pensions being an issue during the deregulation and privatisation of the buses. We are still in discussion with British Rail and the trustees on the question of pensions and we shall wish to bring forward amendments to Schedule 10 in due course. However, I am sure that whatever time we discuss that —and the time when we discuss matters is often in the hands of the noble Lord who leads the Labour Party —the House will give the matter the very thorough consideration which I certainly agree that it deserves. I shall draw what your Lordships have said to the attention of my noble friend the Chief Whip.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may say that we are grateful for what he has said. Although we understand what he said about the timetabling of reports from Select Committees, which, as he rightly said, will always be late, our difficulty is that the Motion governing the order of consideration and setting out which clauses should be taken in what order was moved by his noble friend the Leader of the House before we had had the benefit of the report from the Select Committee. I am sure that there is nothing between us on a party basis; it is simply a matter of how we can get round the new situation which we face today and which we may very well face again in the future. It is a question of whether there is some mechanism for looking back at the structure of the debates that we have already agreed to on the basis of the Motion that was moved by his noble friend or whether we can go back to the drawing board to find some other way of moving Schedule 10 up the Marshalled List in some way.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
Before the Minister replies to that point—if he is going to reply to it—I was interested in what he said about tabling further amendments, which I rather expected. The Minister has been extremely helpful in providing noble Lords with Notes on Clauses. Would he be able to provide noble Lords with notes on the amendments that he proposes to table, bearing in mind that they are likely 949 to be tabled at fairly short notice (even if they are unstarred) so that we can better understand the purpose behind the Government's tabling of them?
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, again I take note of the point which the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, has raised. As he agrees with me that this situation could recur in relation to other pieces of legislation, I think it appropriate that my noble friend the Chief Whip looks at the whole question.
With regard to the point which the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, has just made, I hope that he has in his hand a letter from me explaining the government amendments which have been tabled recently. The letter was copied to the noble Lords, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove and Lord Tordoff. It is difficult to write to all of your Lordships because there are over 1,000 Members of your Lordships' House and I am sure that 999 would not want the letter in any case. However, I shall ensure that those of your Lordships who are actively involved with this Bill are kept in touch.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly.
[The LORD MURTON OF LINDISFARNE in the Chair.]
Lord Tordoff moved Amendment No. 1:
Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause:
("General Duty of Secretary of State
. It shall be the principal objective of the Secretary of State in exercising any powers conferred on him by or under this Act to promote an efficient, comprehensive and safe rail network in the United Kingdom, with due regard to the environmental benefits which may come from the development and use of railway services.").
The noble Lord said: It will be remembered that there was considerable discussion on Second Reading about the objectives of the Bill and the Government's aims in introducing it. This is an enabling Bill. It sets up new structures, but nowhere in Part I of the Bill is there any indication of what it aims to do or of the duties of the Secretary of State in relation to the railways in general. I therefore felt it important that we should find some form of words at the beginning of the Bill to say what the Secretary of State is about. That is why I have tabled Amendment No. 1, which states:
It shall be the principal objective of the Secretary of State in exercising any powers conferred on him by or under this Act to promote an efficient, comprehensive and safe rail network in the United Kingdom, with due regard"—
to other matters which we shall be debating in some detail later.
§ It is probably true to say that in all previous railway Bills there has been some form of opening clause setting out the general duty of the Secretary of State. That is true of many Bills that pass through your Lordships' House because education Bills, for example, state that it shall be the purpose of the Secretary of State for Education to promote education in the country. This Bill, however, has a great yawning gap at the beginning. It seems to me self-evident that something ought to go there. I have had a stab at it, but I do not know whether the drafting is correct. If, however, the Government will agree in principle to 950 provisions of this sort but are not satisfied with the present drafting, I hope that they will come up with some better wording.
§ It seems to me that the danger is that by accepting the Bill as it stands, we are taking all long-term responsibilities for the railway system in this country away from the Secretary of State. Who is going to be responsible for ensuring that in the future the United Kingdom has a decent railway system? Various functions are specified later in the Bill for various directors in conjunction with the Secretary of State, but nowhere is there a clear statement of what the aims of the Secretary of State shall be in promoting the railway network in this country.
§ Perhaps I should have said earlier that we are discussing also Amendments Nos. 3, 6, 11 and 11A. I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Ewing of Kirkford, will wish to speak to his amendment, Amendment No. 3, to which I have put my name and that the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, will wish to speak to her environmental amendment. My noble friend Lord Redesdale will speak to Amendment No. 11. I need say no more. The matter is self-evident. It seemed to command approval from all round the Chamber on Second Reading, and, therefore, I beg to move.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord Ewing of Kirkford
Perhaps I may take up the invitation of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and speak to Amendments Nos. 3 and 6 in the name of the noble Lord, myself, and other Members of the Committee. Amendment No. 3 is a paving amendment which lays the ground for Amendment No. 6. Amendment No. 6 deals almost exclusively with the need for a national rail strategy. Those three words "national rail strategy" must strike a chord with all Members of the Committee in whichever part of the Chamber they sit.
As a political realist, I accept that, barring a snap general election—I must make it clear at this stage that if there were to be a snap general election before the implementation of the Bill, its provisions would not be implemented—we are faced with the possibility, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, said, this is a paving Bill, that the Bill's provisions will be enacted and implemented eventually. Against that background I see my responsibility as seeking to improve the provisions and proposals contained within this paving measure.
One of the provisions that I want to improve relates to the need for a national rail strategy. In the Bill, we are faced with the establishment of a number of organisations, the principal two being the track authority and the franchising authority. The track authority will be under the chairmanship of Bob Horton, the former chairman of British Petroleum whom I know well and who, if I may say so as an aside, was a good colleague of the Secretary of State for Transport at St. Andrews' University. I have discovered that college days seem to live on and on and on. The student relationships that are built up seem to pay off in years to come. I know Bob Horton 951 well, because in Grangemouth in my former parliamentary constituency, where BP has its massive refinery, I had occasion to meet him from time to time.
So we are faced with the track authority, under the chairmanship of Bob Horton, and also with the franchising authority. Those two organisations need not have, and, in my view, will not have, the same interests. That is why I regard, as will, I am sure, Members of the Committee in whatever part of the Chamber they sit, the need for a national rail strategy as being of paramount importance. I do not need to paint the picture, but every politician who says that then goes on to say, "but, I hope". Indeed, I shall paint a picture of those who may seek to franchise. I shall give one or two illustrations; for example, the Virgin organisation, which has made it clear, even at this early stage, that it is interested in certain profitable aspects of BR's existing operation. On the other hand, in the context of the Scottish services, the Stagecoach company is already saying that it is interested in certain routes operated by BR.
Both those organisations—quite rightly, and I do not criticise them for this—will be interested, and indeed it will be of paramount importance to them, in receiving a profitable return on their investment. They will have little regard for what happens to the rural services that serve the mainline services that they seek to obtain in their bid for the franchise. We could easily be involved in a situation where Virgin, on the one hand, and Stagecoach, on the other, obtain a franchise for mainline services without having any regard whatever to the feeder services from the rural areas that serve those mainline services. Far from having a national rail strategy, we shall have a fragmented rail strategy.
We shall have different standards in different parts of the country, depending upon who is successful in obtaining the franchise. I readily admit that there will be companies which will obtain the franchise and which will make an excellent job of running the services in the franchise area that they obtain. But equally there will also be companies which will make an appalling job of running the services in the area of the franchise that they obtain.
In case the Minister is tempted to deny that proposition, let me just refer him to what happened late last week in one of the areas covered by Scot Rail. The company involved in the franchise of catering services in the North East of Scotland went out of business overnight. Passengers travelling reasonably long distances the following morning were without any catering services on a route upon which they had become accustomed to having those catering services. I hope that the Minister in his response to my argument today will not say that in awarding the franchise there is some guarantee that somehow those companies which are successful in obtaining the franchise will be successful companies in perpetuity. Recent history is certainly not on his side.
I want to make it clear—I know that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, is in agreement—that we shall want to test the feeling of the Committee on this matter, because it is essential that in a national rail strategy there is at least some uniformity of 952 performance and availability of service to the travelling public, to freight users and to all those who use the rail network throughout Great Britain.
I referred to rural services. The Minister may not recall —I do not blame him for not recalling—my Second Reading speech in which I described how the SNCF in France had modernised its rail network through modernising its rural services. They are referred to by SNCF as "pick-a-back" services. There is a need to establish a series of rural locations where people are brought in to the mainline services to be transported from point to point. If that system—I said as an aside in my Second Reading speech that it had been financed to the extent of 48 per cent. of total investment by the EC—were not adopted and developed in this country, under the Government's proposals this country would be faced—the Minister will have to acknowledge this—with a rail network that serves mainline stations only.
I am not making a political point here at all. I am making a point on behalf of the travelling public who use the rail network and whom we want to encourage to use the rail network in even greater numbers. However, if we make it difficult, and even impossible, for those who use the rail network to reach mainline stations, it will be our fault as parliamentarians if the rail network is not a national rail network in the sense we want it to be. If there is no national strategy, that will be our fault. It will not even be the fault of those who obtain the franchise; nor will it be the fault of the track authority.
The track authority will be tempted to invest in modernising track and all the facilities. The pressure on the authority will be to invest in the routes that are franchised. By charging the franchisee a rent for the track, the authority will obtain a return on its investment. In my view the authority will be reluctant to invest in rural areas where the railway route is not franchised and is therefore a social responsibility.
I hope that the Minister will say what responsibility the track authority will have for investing in the rail network where the network has not been franchised. I can understand the temptation of the authority to invest in the franchised areas of the rail network because that is where it will receive a return on its investment. However, by and large, routes in the rural areas of Great Britain will not be franchised. It is as simple as that.
We come back to this whole question of social responsibility. On Second Reading the Minister said that the Government would accept responsibility for any subsidy that had to be given to the rural areas and those areas of the network which were not franchised. I must again say to the Minister that history is not on his side. When British Telecom was privatised, far from the Government accepting the social responsibility for uneconomic telephone kiosks, that responsibility was eventually passed—as governments do—from the Government to local authorities.
I envisage that sooner rather than later areas of Devon and Cornwall and rural areas throughout England, Wales and Scotland will discover that the responsibility for maintaining uneconomic lines will be passed from the Government to local authorities. 953 That is a simple step to take. Local authorities will say to those people who have to pay council tax, "We cannot possibly afford to keep those rural routes open." The rural routes will close simply because the Government do not have a national rail strategy. We are trying to be helpful to the Government here.
I turn now to the Government's determination to get as much traffic as possible off the road and on to rail. I agree with the Government that the matter is of crucial importance in environmental terms. The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, did not speak to his Amendment No. 11. I am sure he will accept that Amendment No. 11 deals with the environmental and social aspects of the rail network. If we are to attract as much freight as possible away from roads and on to the rail network, that, too, requires a national rail strategy.
I wish to mention a good example of that. The Minister has responsibility for shipping matters as well as rail matters. I am sure the Minister is perfectly well aware of what is happening at the present time, and what has happened for a number of years in the Scotch whisky industry. I know that industry well, and not because I patronise it or drink most of its products. For a number of years that industry has been subject to what is known as the grid system. Ship owners who own the vessels which take the whisky abroad say it is cheaper for them to pay the road haulage costs from the distillers, blenders and bottlers in Perth and the West of Scotland where whisky is produced down to the port of Felixstowe than it is to steam a vessel from Felixstowe to a Scottish port. The net result is that our motorways—and also the rural roads leading to the motorways—are congested with heavy goods vehicles which transport the whisky from its point of manufacture to its point of export at the port of Felixstowe.
The road haulage costs are paid by ship owners who know that it is cheaper to pay those costs rather than steam vessels to Scotland. We must consider how we are to attract freight from road to rail. We shall not achieve that objective on the basis of the fragmented approach to franchising that the Government have adopted in this legislation. I hope the Minister will not mention the Channel Tunnel as there are three substances that will not be permitted to pass through it. Those substances are liquid gas, liquid petroleum and whisky. Whisky will not be permitted to pass through the Channel Tunnel because it is highly volatile. I often wonder therefore what damage whisky does to us poor mortals as it passes through our kidneys. I hope the Minister will not say that the Channel Tunnel is about to open and therefore whisky can be transported from Perth straight through to the Continent, because that will not happen. Whisky will always have to be transported by sea.
The matter is quite simple, and I cannot comprehend why the Government and their advisers cannot grasp this. If we wish to attract freight from road to rail we must adopt a national rail strategy. These are important matters. At the minute there is a whole series of transport users' consultative committees. The Bill effectively abolishes the TUCCs, including the central transport users' consultative 954 committee. The TUCCs concern themselves with railways but in Scotland they also concern themselves with the CalMac ferries sailing between Dunoon and Rothesay and all the other ferry points in Scotland. In the north east of England they concern themselves with the Tyne and Wear Metro. In the Manchester area they concern themselves with the Manchester Metro. Indeed, the bus services which British Rail has established—for example, the King's Lynn to Peterborough service—all fall within the ambit of TUCCs. Therein lies, in one form or another, a national strategy for transport.
Before the Minister checks the Bill, I accept that later on the problems of CalMac, the Tyne and Wear Metro, the Manchester Metro and the King's Lynn to Peterborough bus service are dealt with, but there is fragmentation. The cohesion is broken up. Our amendments argue that there should be cohesion. There should be a national strategy. There is absolutely no evidence of that in the Bill. The sufferers will be the rural areas of Great Britain. Therefore, I urge all sides of the Committee to consider seriously the need for a national rail strategy.
The Government should be required to publish their proposals for a national strategy. I accept that that can happen only after the Bill has been implemented because, as I said at the beginning, I am a political realist and, barring a general election, the Bill will be implemented. The Government should be obliged to publish their proposals in order to give sufficient time for them to be considered before they are implemented. It should also be possible to amend those proposals so that all parts of the country can enjoy an equal standard of service, whether it be in John O'Groats or Land's End. There should be no discrimination. I know that the Minister will say that there are no rail services to John O'Groats and Land's End. That shows Members of the Committee what have been the effects of Beeching and the onset of a Conservative Government. The combination of those factors has been disastrous. However, I am now seeking to persuade the Minister that he should turn away from the error of his ways and accept the advice of Members of the Committee on all sides. He should accept our advice and our proposal that there should be a national rail strategy. I am pleased to speak to both Amendments Nos. 3 and 6.
§ Lord Tordoff
Amendment No. 11 stands in my name and I did suggest that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, might speak to that amendment at the beginning. I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, may then wish to speak to Amendment No. 11A before we have a general debate on the issue.
§ Lord Redesdale
Amendment No. 11 makes it a duty on the Secretary of State and the regulator to promote the environmental, social and economic benefits of the railway. When the environmental and social benefits are linked with the economic benefits, in the short term there seems to be something of a 955 paradox because, as we all know, the railways are quite expensive to run. However, it would be an extremely short-term view not to include Amendment No. 11 in the Bill because in the long term, there is a strong feeling in the country that we already have too many cars and motorways. If we continue to build more roads and put more cars on the roads, the environmental costs may be extremely high in the future.
A case in point is the road which will destroy the ancient woodland at Oxley's Wood. If it is not made a duty of the Secretary of State and the regulator to study the long- term effects of going from one transport system to another, then, environmentally, we may make the country far poorer in the future and the cost may be a great deal higher in the long run. Although, in the short term, it may cost money, I believe that the needs of the country should be looked at in the long term.
An article in the Evening Standard today points out that although there has been a drop in the number of people using the railways due to the recession, trains are still overcrowded because there has also been a reduction in the number of trains. In fact, there is serious overcrowding on Network SouthEast trains during the commuter rush hour period. In economic terms that is the way in which the system will run under the Bill. If there is no consideration of the long-term benefits of a working, integrated rail system, which is integrated with other transport systems, the Bill could prove to be extremely expensive for the country in the long term.
§ Lord Renton
I do not see the name of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, attached to any of the amendments which we are discussing, although I was extremely interested in what he said. I hope that my noble friend will take seriously the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, in his admirably short and clear speech, about the need, especially in the case of a long and detailed Bill such as this, to declare the intention of Parliament as to the purposes of the Bill and to do so in an early part of the Bill.
The Government have gone some way towards meeting that need, but not, alas, in Clause 1. They have done so in Clause 4, which Amendment No. 11 is intended to amplify in an important respect. I believe that there is a case for reconsidering the setting of the first four clauses of the Bill. I should like to see a purpose clause—a clear statement of principle—at the beginning containing the purposes which are expressed in Amendment No. 1 and those already expressed in Clause 4. I should perhaps remind the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff—because I do not believe that he has quite taken it on board—that Clause 4 places obligations on the Secretary of State as well as upon the regulator.
Having said that, perhaps I may disclose that I started my working life in 1931, after coming down from Oxford, in Paddington station for the Great Western Railway. Alas, I was not a railway porter. I was not paid at all. I was there as a pupil in the lawyers' office. However, I became a railway enthusiast, and I still am. I accept the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and the noble Lord, 956 Lord Ewing of Kirkford, that, for the various reasons which they have expressed and which I believe are shared on all sides of the Committee, we need to have a new railway scheme which will, from the public point of view, make it attractive to travel by raid instead of increasing the traffic on our roads.
I should not expect Members of the Committee opposite to agree with me but I believe that this Bill will, with good fortune—and it needs good fortune —achieve that purpose. But let us have those good purposes which are intended stated early in the Bill.
Perhaps I may refer briefly to Amendment No. 3 which is in this group. With respect to noble Lords who have put their name to this amendment, that kind of detail should go into a schedule as it does not come very well at the beginning of the Bill. They may care to bear that point in mind.
The noble Lord. Lord Ewing, spoke to Clause 6. I am sure that we all rejoice that, as he expressed his views so fully and at such great length just now, we shall hear many much shorter speeches from him during the rest of the proceedings.
I hope that my noble friend Lord Caithness, who has done so much during his years in the Government to help to protect the environment, will realise that there is a strong case for the Bill to contain as one of its purposes the benefit that can be achieved for the environment.
I hope that we do not have a Division on this first group of amendments. We want a free discussion; we want the Government to show that they have an open mind and we do not want to commit ourselves just yet to any of these amendments. As I have pointed out, even the very good amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, overlaps with Clause 4. It is unthinkable that they could both remain in the Bill.
With those, I hope, encouraging words to all concerned, I shall be very interested to hear the rest of the debate.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Baroness Nicol
I should like to confine my remarks to Amendment No. 11A. I do not need to remind most noble Lords about the value of national parks. They are among our greatest national assets containing as they do some of the most beautiful countryside in Great Britain. They were created in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act in 1949 which stated the statutory purposes to which my amendment refers. Those purposes are to preserve and enhance the natural beauties of these areas and to promote their enjoyment by the public.
Unless safeguards are built into the Government's plans for the future of the railways, there is a serious risk that they will not only lead to damage to the unique landscapes of the national parks and their wildlife, but will impose access restrictions on many of those who wish to enjoy them.
We have heard how essential the existing railway network is to the economy of rural areas, and we shall hear more about that from the noble Lord, Lord Wade, on a later amendment. However, the provisions of the Railways Bill, which includes breaking up the network, the abolition of crossrail subsidies and 957 encouraging private sector competition between lines, will put many of those lines in danger. At the same time the Government have announced that they plan to halve their expenditure on railways in 1995–96.
Many of the rural railways which are so important in national parks rely heavily on public sector subsidies because of the high costs of maintaining the track. For precisely that reason those lines are most at risk from closure. Some potential operators have already indicated that they would not be willing to take on those lines, yet it is those very lines that are of such fundamental importance to the livelihoods of the people who live in those areas. Should some of those lines escape closure, it is more than likely that many would face cuts in the frequency and standard of services. That would greatly reduce the value of those lines as a means of transport.
Many of the 100 million people who visit the national parks every year do not own cars. If the railways close or become unaffordable, visitors to national parks must stay at home or use private transport. A policy that forces people to stay away is not in accordance with the second statutory purpose to which I referred earlier; namely, to promote their enjoyment by the public. As I am sure noble Lords appreciate, increasing use of cars can only mean more congestion or new roads. Are we aiming at national parks or national car parks? That is basically the position. Some parks already suffer greatly from congestion and any further shift of freight from rail to road will only increase pressure for new roads, as my noble friend on the Front Bench said. More new roads in the parks would not only be disastrous in themselves, but the excavation of raw materials for those roads, many of which come from quarries in the national parks, would lead to even more degradation. Those quarrying rights exist under ancient mineral rights which can only be extinguished at great cost and are therefore likely to continue.
National parks are a part of our national heritage valued by us all. The Government have often stated their intention to maintain them. The amendment would place a duty on the Secretary of State and the regulator to further national park purposes not only in the interests of all who live and work in the parks, but in the interests of all of us. I hope that the Government will look kindly on the amendment.
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
I should like to start by saying that any noble Lords who find themselves speaking against the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, are at a very great disadvantage. He is always so persuasive and manages to inject a little humour which is very welcome. He will have moved all noble Lords to share in his lamentation at what I admit was news to me; namely, that Scotch whisky would not be accommodated in the Channel Tunnel. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench, who is known for his sympathy to such heart-breaking pleas, will make it his early duty to see that something is done about that.
I wonder whether it is wise to include in legislation words which amount more to pious hopes than binding duties. The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, sought to put upon the shoulders of my right honourable 958 friend the Secretary of State the duty to make the railways efficient, comprehensive and safe. There can be no controversy about wishing to see the railways earn that description; but I have great misgivings. First, I should never wish to join those who encourage Secretaries of State in the belief that they are in any way possessed of miraculous powers. Secondly, I must tell my noble friend that I have such misgivings about the Bill that I think it would be positively unkind, if not cruel, to put upon my right honourable friend duties which the Bill itself would make it difficult to perform.
I have always thought it very unwise for former Ministers, especially as the years go on, to revisit the scenes of their—I was going to say "crimes", but perhaps not—previous activities. I cannot remember doing so until today, at least on the subject of railways. However, perhaps I may be permitted just one moment of autobiography. I recall a conversation that I had with the noble Lord, Lord Marsh (who I know is much concerned about the Bill) when he first became chairman. It was quite short and simple. I said to him that I was sharply aware that his job would be very difficult and that I was even more sharply aware that my own was impossible. I assured him that I would support him both publicly and privately until I told him contrary. I also said that there was one thing for which I would not forgive him; namely, if he allowed me to be surprised when it was within his power to avoid it.
The present Government, and my right honourable friend, for whom I have very great and genuine regard, have the good fortune to have as chairman Sir Bob Reid who is a most unusual and talented manager. He is someone who I believe has already rendered very significant service to the railways. Sadly, it will take time for that service to produce a harvest. However, it is my conviction that, given the chance, it will. If I were in the position of my right honourable friend, I would say to Sir Bob Reid, "Please, take account of these things which I think are important; but, otherwise, get on with the job and do it your way".
Perhaps I may now move on to cover two further points. As I see it, one of the problems is the incredible labyrinthine relationships which will be established as a result of the Bill. I should like to read out the list to Members of the Committee because I am very anxious not to omit any of those involved. First, there is the Secretary of State; secondly, British Rail; thirdly, there will be Railtrack; fourthly, there will be the regulator; fifthly, there will be the Franchising Director; sixthly, the suppliers of the industry, which ought not to be forgotten as they employ many people in the country; seventhly, there will be the customers, whether passengers or those who put freight on the railways; and finally—and I put them last because I wish to place particular stress upon the situation—there will be the staff and the morale of the staff.
When I say "staff", I refer to men who have spent their working lives in the railways. They will find themselves still being British Rail people but working for Railtrack. Moreover, quite apart from having an uncertainty as to where their loyalties lie, at the end of 959 the day such people could experience very considerable worry that their rightful expectations as regards pensions will not be honoured if the Bill is not amended. I have tabled an amendment for a later stage in that respect, but there is no point in my expanding upon the matter at present. I can only say that I believe that that will be a very important factor in the future.
While talking about staff, I should also mention their role in handling the business of the shadow franchises. In my view, it will be asking a great deal of people to accept that sort of split in their roles and their loyalties at a time when they will wonder whether they are doing themselves something of an injury.
In this country we have a love of complex—I would almost say "unworkable"—procedures. I fear that that network of different sections of people and different interests to which I referred will be a very severe handicap and will in fact make what is already a very difficult problem almost insoluble.
There is one further point that I should like to make on the amendment. I refer to the question of if and how the very much needed investment will be sustained. The one single advantage that I see in the Bill—although it will not be realised by any means—is that it would offer some hope of at least a measure of separation. if not divorce, from the Treasury. I do not wish to detain Members of the Committee for any length of time by delivering my opinions about that body. However, I have long believed that it is a body of very clever people, situated in the midst of our affairs, who are very good at conducting their own pattern of procedures and very good at defending themselves; but whose familiarity with the problems of industry, especially in the long term, is very slight indeed. The only good fortune that the Bill may bring to the railways is some degree of separation from, as I said, that body of very clever men who are capable of inflicting such great harm.
I am not prepared to vote in favour of the amendment because I think in the first instance and in all the circumstances that it expresses unreasonable hopes; and, in the second instance, that it would impose duties on my right honourable friend which no man could possibly perform.
§ 5.15 p.m.
Amendment No. 11A, tabled in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, was only brought to my attention very shortly before the Committee stage began. However, having enjoyed the pleasure of being president of the Council for National Parks for a number of years, I should like to say a very brief word or two in strong support of her amendment.
The noble Baroness gave what one might call a "global figure" of the number of visitors to our national parks every year. If I had had the opportunity, I would have brought with me particular figures relating to the more popular of our national parks. None of your Lordships who has visited national parks, particularly those which are most popular, could be unaware of the extent to which already every year in the summer the purposes of the 960 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 are being negated by the nose-to-tail queueing of cars along the roads, quite apart from the other incidental environmental damage which is caused by so many private cars.
In my view it is essential to minimise the continuing growth in the invasion of our national parks by private cars by ensuring that the existing rail links are maintained and continue to be provided. We must also ensure that public road transport is used within the national parks to connect with trains at the railheads and other pick-up points to mitigate to some extent that invasion of our national parks by the private car.
Those parks which come immediately to mind which are at present well served by the rail system are the Lake District, the Snowdonia National Park and the Yorkshire Dales. There is no doubt that they have efficient systems of public transport to connect with rail. In my view, it is of great importance that those rail systems should be maintained.
§ Baroness Castle of Blackburn
I want at the outset to declare a personal interest in the Bill. I am one of the millions in this country who do not drive. I am also a member of an increasing number who are getting on a bit. We look to any Minister of Transport or any transport policy to guarantee us mobility. Indeed, the job of any Minister of Transport should be to maximise the mobility of all sections of the community, drivers and non-drivers, rich and poor, those in rural areas or in busy city centres. It is for those reasons that we so urgently need a statement on the intention behind the Bill before we get down to the minutiae.
When you take as your goal maximising the mobility of everyone two things become obvious. The first is that you cannot do that without a railway system. The second is that you cannot do it without a national network for those railways.
I want to pay tribute to what British Rail has always managed to achieve, underfunded as it has been and sniped at with the roads always being given preference over rail. I believe that it has served us magnificently. One of the glories of the present system is the ability to make a cross-country journey from North to South by a direct line, in comfort, peace and security, without having to change trains. I have done that many times. I have relatives in Cumbria and I join them more than once a year. Obviously, I do not go in my own car.
When making that journey, I have been placed on the train, say at Oxford or Reading, bought a through ticket having been advised by the very nice gentleman at the ticket office of the cheapest form of fare to help me on my way. (I can just see that continuing under the new system!) Then I have sat in a comfortable seat on the train—and with a buffet if I wanted it. I have travelled all the way to Penrith without having to move. The return journey was the same. I did that not long ago. The train had come from Glasgow. It went all across the North of England and the Midlands and ended up eventually in Brighton. Nobody on that train had to go and get another ticket or to change to 961 a train provided by another operator, scramble out with heavy luggage and cross to another platform to get on another train.
I say advisedly that this Bill is a direct threat to that kind of facility. It is absolute nonsense to say, vaguely because it has not been worked out yet, that all the franchise holders will come to agreement. Just imagine the cat's cradle of bureaucratic agreements there would have to be to cover the journey from Glasgow to Brighton. How many franchise holders' territories would one have to pass through? Who would offer a comprehensive, cheapest possible fare at the outset of the journey? It is nonsense, and we know it.
In my view, one of the most hypocritical parts of this Bill is Clause 4. I have just been reading subsection (1) (e), which states that one of the aims of the Bill will be to promote measures to facilitate the use of services provided by a large number of franchise holders. Therefore, the Government admit that the network will be broken into fragments and then say that there has to be some magical bureaucratic glue to stick it all together again.
I have one simple piece of advice to the Minister, if he really wants to facilitate long cross-country journeys: do not fragment the railways in the first place. That is the challenge that we must make throughout the whole course of the Bill, because a fragmented service will be a nightmare. What is more, it will be inferior.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
In these last few minutes, the debate has become a reconstruction of the Second Reading debate. The vigorous, entertaining and admirably delivered speech of the noble Baroness was really an opposition to the Second Reading of the Bill and not, as I understand it, addressed to the series of amendments which is before the Committee.
It is perhaps right that before we settle down to the consideration of detailed amendments, we should discuss briefly the situation as it stands at the moment. All that I would say to the noble Baroness on the merits of the matter is that although much of what she said is perfectly sensible, she appears to overlook entirely the position from which we are starting. We are starting from the position of a nationalised industry. At Second Reading I mentioned the Bill in another place which nationalised this industry. We really must go back to that in order to have a full understanding of the difficult problems which now face the Government in deciding how to deal with the issue. I do not underrate for one moment the tremendous difficulties which are faced by the Government and the very real problems which it would be silly to ignore. I beg of the Committee to understand that the Government are not starting from scratch or evolving a new system for a new organisation. They have to deal with an existing situation which is difficult and with a position which most people who consider it carefully regard as wholly unsatisfactory at present.
With regard to the amendments, there is an interesting point on the structure of the Bill. If accepted, Amendment No. 1 starts the Bill off with a declaration of policy and the way in which it should be 962 conducted. There is a useful argument for that. However, as I believe my noble friend Lord Renton observed earlier, one cannot have the introduction proposed in Amendment No. 1 at the same time as Clause 4. I shall be interested to hear from the Minister as to whether any general declaration of policy should come at the beginning, in Clause 1. There is certainly an argument for that. The alternative, at present adopted in the Bill, is to put the policy approach rather oddly in Clause 4.
I add one further word of caution. It would be a pity to set out a mass of detailed instructions in the Bill as to how the newly-reformed industry is to be conducted. If one sets the instruction out in statutory form, the legislation becomes somewhat inflexible in dealing with a changing situation. It invites litigation. It invites people who are interested to go to the courts to seek to obtain decisions against the railway authorities or the Government as the case may be. While some general observation as to what is intended is rightly and sensibly inserted, I should have thought in Clause 1 of the Bill, to seek to set out a long and detailed statement as to the duties of the various functionaries would be a mistake. The proper vehicle for that kind of thing is a full Ministerial Statement on which the Minister can be challenged in either House if it is felt that he and the government of the day have not carried out in principle what they have stated they wished to do.
Therefore I make two suggestions to my noble friend: first, that he reconstructs the beginning of the Bill by including some general observation, probably on the lines of the present Clause 4, as to the duties to be performed by the various functionaries, but that he should not be led into trying to spell out in detail in legislation exactly how the job is to be done. It will be a changing job as the years pass, and as techniques and technologies alter. The methods to be used will have to vary. Therefore I suggest that a good deal of flexibility, such as flows from basing policy on Ministerial Statements rather than legislation, seems wise.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Lord Renton
I agree with so much of what my noble friend says. However, will he bear in mind, first, that Ministerial Statements are not part of the law and are not binding upon the users of statutes? Secondly, Ministerial Statements are not binding upon the successors of the Ministers who make them.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
Of course, that is so; and, indeed, that is part of the advantage. When one deals with the handling of a major industry in a changing economy such as our own, one does not wish to tie oneself down with great rigidity to exact provisions which can be, and are likely to be, litigated upon by those concerned. I fully understand my noble friend's natural liking for anything which can be litigated upon. It is something that he does awfully well. But I am not sure from the point of view of the conduct of government that it is necessarily the ideal solution.
Therefore I leave it to the Minister to give the Committee his views on two points. First. I refer to the 963 actual arrangement of the Bill, to which the amendments directly relate. Should the policy indications which are to be included in the Bill be inserted in Clause 1, with Clause 4 telescoped into it? Secondly, perhaps he will tell us the degree to which he feels it is wise and helpful, and in the interests of the industry, to put those policy indications into legislation.
I agree with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, on Second Reading speeches. I enjoyed listening to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ewing. He referred to the transport of Scotch whisky. I wondered whether he was speaking on behalf of the road haulage industry. He presented a fine case for road haulage. But could the problem be that the loading gauge on the railways will not accommodate a standardised container?
§ Lord Ewing of Kirkford
I am grateful to the noble Earl for giving way. First, under no circumstances was I speaking on behalf of the road haulage industry. I take the view that the vessels should be steamed to the ports in Scotland to take the whisky. The problem with whisky, liquid gas and petrochemical products is that in bulk form they are all highly volatile. That is why they will not be allowed to go through the Channel Tunnel. That is why I made the point that if whisky is too dangerous to go through the Channel Tunnel, what damage does it do to us mere mortals as it goes through our kidneys?
I am grateful for the noble Lord's intervention. I take on board his comments. However, we still have a problem with the loading gauge of containers going through the railway system. Perhaps the Minister will guide us on that. I look forward to the Minister's comments on the amendment before coming to my decision.
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
There was a moment during the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, when I was overcome by an infirmity of purpose. I was present to support my noble friend Lord Tordoff. However, when the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, referred to the indelicacy of placing any responsibilities on the Minister because of the nature of the Bill, I felt that it might be ungenerous and intolerant of me not to follow his example and leave the Minister free to interpret the Bill as he wished should it eventually receive, Royal Assent.
However, on further reflection, I believe that the proposed amendment goes to the heart of the matter. It is a question of the relationship between Ministers and the chairmen of what were once nationalised industries. The remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, were relevant when he referred to a conduct of Government issue. The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, referred to his relationships with the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, when he was a Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, was chairman of the Railways Board.
It is an interesting and important issue. On the basis of the Morrisonian principle, upon which some of our industries were nationalised, over the years there was a delicate relationship—the noble Baroness, Lady 964 Castle, was fully aware of it—between the Minister (whoever he or she might be) and the chairman of the nationalised industries, including the chairman of British Rail. What were the respective areas of their responsibility? I believe that it was the job of the Secretary of State to listen to what the chairman said, to give him occasional advice, to be warned of dangers ahead, but to let the chairman get on with the job of running the industry, the job to which he was appointed. Equally it was important for chairmen of nationalised industries to be sensitive to their role and to the role of Ministers who answered to Parliament. On the whole, I believe that the system worked reasonably well because both parties to the dialogue understood their duties.
I believe that the whole House agrees that the Bill is extremely complex and it makes the present relationships between the Minister and the industry seem infinitely simple. We must all hope that, whether we like it or not, if the Bill were to receive the Royal Assent it will be a success. However, the likelihood is that the Minister will have to intervene and will be drawn into decisions which are not properly his or would not have been, as a result of the wide spread of duties which are embodied in the Bill. If that is the case, if there is now a spread of responsibility—that was accepted on Second Reading—is it not important to define, if we can, what the Minister should principally be concerned with?
That brings us back to my noble friend's amendment and the idea of defining early in the Bill its real purpose. I looked at the Long Title. It is rather clumsily worded, as many Long Titles are. Having read it, I find it easy to ask: to what end? What is the point of the Bill? What is the point of the railways? What is the role of the Secretary of State? Why have this legislation at all?
No doubt the Minister will argue that we have the legislation to make the railway industry more efficient and, we hope, to result in a smaller burden falling on the taxpayer. However, that is not a sufficient goal for Government, nor is it a sufficient role for the Minister. He ought to know the purpose for which the wheel turns; in other words, the objectives which lie behind the wording of the Bill and the duties of those who are called upon to perform under it.
I do not ask—and it would be unreasonable to do so—for a White Paper embodied in the Bill. That is not the way we proceed in these matters. However, listening not only to the arguments of my noble friend but also the arguments on other clauses, which were powerful, I thought that what the Bill lacks, with all its shortcomings, is a definition of purpose. It is for that definition of purpose that my noble friend asks.
Apart from mischievously indicating why it would be unkind, if not cruel, to place a Secretary of State at such a disadvantage, the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, said that the chairman should be told to get on with the job and "Do it your way". However, the chairman has special responsibilities and no doubt the several chairmen and regulators in the Bill will get on with the job and do it their way. But the Secretary of State cannot escape so easily. He will be asked: to what end? I believe that far from placing an unreasonable burden 965 on a Minister who may be obliged to operate a nonsense of a Bill, it is fairer to assist him, if we possibly can. We may not like the Bill, but in all generosity we should assist the Minister by supporting the amendment which my noble friend moved.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Marlesford
I am perhaps revealing my ignorance of procedures in Committee when I say that I found the grouping a little odd. Amendment No. 1, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, is on a general and important subject. Then there is the detailed Amendment No. 11A, from the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol. I wish to say a word on both amendments. If I am silly in raising the grouping point, as a newcomer I apologise.
My noble friend Lord Caithness knows that I am deeply concerned generally about the Bill. I mentioned that on Second Reading, as the Committee may recollect. On the other hand, I wish to give him and the Government constructive support with the Bill. By that, I mean I hope that during its passage through your Lordships' House some amendments and improvements will be accepted.
First, I wish to say a word about the mandate for the railway, as is proposed by the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. There is probably benefit in including some such a general statement in Clause 1, but I am attracted by the point made by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter: that one would not wish to enshrine in statute something which by its nature is bound, from time to time, to change. I suggest something much closer to the analogy of the Treasury's medium-term financial strategy which is announced and published and can be debated as the responsibility of the Minister and the Government of the day.
A large subsidy of money is put directly into British Rail through the public service operation grant. It is currently still over £1 billion. I think I am right in saying that the innovation was originally started by the noble Baroness, Lady Castle, when she was Minister of Transport. It is a good idea that it should be possible to pay to British Rail from public funds those moneys which are needed to undertake socially desirable services which are not of a commercial nature. That is sensible.
My anxiety is that we know far too little about how that money is spent at the moment. It is related too little to the objectives of the day. It has decreased. It was over £1.5 billion in 1982. It decreased significantly when the InterCity operation turned losses into profits, but it is still a large sum. As to the future organisation of British Rail, I have an irreconcilable political difference of view from the Opposition. I believe that the people of this country could be better served by a privately run railway than a publicly run one. I do not share the rather rosy recollections of the noble Baroness, Lady Castle, of the magnificence of the railway. Nor, thinking of the airlines, do I agree with her that a privately run rail service would necessarily mean that the nice man in the ticket office 966 would not tell us the cheapest price. Competitive airlines are constantly trying to sell one the cheapest way of flying. However, that is another point.
I do believe that we need a general statement at the beginning of the Bill. I could not vote for the words proposed in the noble Lord's amendment, but it might be useful to include some requirement for the Government to announce annually their mandate for the running of the railway. It could then be related to the expenditure of public money specifically to achieve that mandate.
Secondly, I wish to say a word about Amendment No. 11A in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol. I support it in general, but I do not think she would expect such a limited point to be put directly into the Bill. In a way I would have preferred it to be debated under Amendment No. 9 to be moved shortly by my noble friend Lord Wade. Perhaps we may discuss that.
I wish to emphasise the needs of the more remote rural areas. The national parks are a good example. It is not a matter of improving the situation under the so-called privatisation proposal. It is necessary now. I wish to quote one example. There are 10 national parks, plus the Norfolk Broads, which are the equivalent of a national park. The Broads are served by the line from Ipswich to Lowestoft. British Rail has recently published its new timetable for the line, which includes 12 stations, but it has omitted eight of the stations from the timetable, including Oulton Broad. This is astonishing. So the national parks are not even well served at the moment.
I contend that that is against British Rail's Passenger's Charter. The fourth point of that charter specifies "clear and up-to-date information." If it publishes a timetable omitting the names of the stations served, it will not encourage people to go to those places. I wrote to Sir Bob Reid and received a very nice personal letter back from him. However, he said that the omission of the names of the stations was to save money. This indicates that something is seriously wrong with the lower scales of management of the railway. I hope that my noble friend Lord Caithness might take that up with British Rail.
It is very important that we take into account the needs of rural communities generally. That could be included as a general statement in an amendment, perhaps supplemented by what my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter had in mind; namely, an ongoing but changeable statement of the public purposes of the railways.
The Earl of Caithness
I have listened with care to what the Committee has said with regard to these amendments. They have been grouped together for the convenience of discussion. But, as several Members of the Committee have pointed out, they are by no means consequential upon one another. As a result, it is inevitable that we have had something of a Second Reading debate at this early stage.
It was mentioned that these amendments have a number of common elements with which, I am sure, everybody in this Chamber has some sympathy. I am 967 sure that we all attach importance to the environmental, social and economic benefits of the railways, and to the economic needs of rural areas and the importance of our national parks.
As regards efficiency, we believe that privatisation —giving the private sector the opportunity to operate existing services and introduce new ones—is the best way to bring about an efficient railway with the improvements to services which we all believe are needed. Efficiency is about providing value for money for both the taxpayer and the passenger, as well as giving passengers the punctual and reliable services that they want. Introducing competition and fresh private sector management into the railways will bring about greater responsiveness to passengers' wishes for improved efficiency and better services.
The rail network will continue to be comprehensive. We have made it clear that we will continue to support socially necessary services which are reliant on subsidy. There is no reason to believe that our proposals will lead to the closure of lines or to reductions in services. However, if in future, circumstances change, and closure of a line or a service is proposed then, as now, statutory closure procedures would apply. Those procedures are very rigorous indeed. I am sure the Committee will agree with this conclusion when we have had the chance to debate the closure provisions of the Bill later in our proceedings.
We will also promote a safe rail network. Safety has been of paramount importance in the formulation of our proposals. The Health and Safety Commission has produced a report with 37 recommendations. The Government and the chairman of British Rail have welcomed the report and accepted its recommendations.
The new safety regime which will result from the commission's report will ensure that high safety standards on the railways can be maintained. All operators will have to produce a railway safety case to show that they can operate safely before they can start operations. This will have to be validated by Railtrack. Railtrack's own railway safety case will be validated by the Health and Safety Executive. There will he monitoring by Railtrack and by the HSE to ensure compliance with safety cases. All operators, and Railtrack, will have to comply with safety standards set or recognised by the Health and Safety Executive, which will enforce standards across the rail industry. Therefore I say to the noble Lord, Lord Ewing of Kirkford, that there will not be disparities throughout the country. There will be a very high and equal standard, monitored and enforced by a very reputable organisation.
So far as concerns the environment, we are committed to a greener future for transport in Britain and want to see the railways play their part. We recognise the very substantial advantages that the railways can offer: they often cause less environmental damage than road transport, and can be energy efficient. Here, I agree with what my noble friend Lord Renton had to say. Surely the only way to realise this potential is to get more people to choose to use rail, and that must mean offering them the services they want, both passengers and freight. By ending British 968 Rail's monopoly and introducing private sector competition—and private sector investment—we are providing the right conditions to make this happen.
The importance of rail freight was mentioned on many occasions during the Second Reading debate, and again today. It is worth repeating, therefore, that the Bill contains two measures specifically targeted at assistance to rail freight, where it brings environmental benefits. First, a new and expanded freight facility grant scheme for the railways, with a counterpart for inland waterway transport. Secondly, a completely new grant for freight train operators which will contribute towards track charges for freight flows which would otherwise disappear, or could not be attracted to rail, subject to an assessment of the environmental and other benefits. Again, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Ewing of Kirkford: there is opportunity here, and I hope that businesses throughout the land will be able to take advantage of these two special facilities and schemes that we have been able to offer.
I listened with interest to what my noble friend Lord Peyton had to say, and we have discussed this Bill outside the Chamber. At one stage he mentioned the labyrinth nature of the relationship resulting from the Bill. That involves the Secretary of State, the regulator, the franchise director and the consultative committees. I am sure that if my noble friend paused and thought for a moment, he would agree with me that the only new person coming on to the railway scene is the regulator. At the moment BR does all the jobs of the franchising director and many more. The great difference with this Bill, as I am sure my noble friend will understand, is that for the first time it will make for transparency in regard to what has been going on under a monopoly nationalised industry.
I listened with care to what my noble friend Lord Marlesford had to say. I agree with the point that he made about subsidy. Again, it is the transparency resulting from our proposals that will tell us for the first time where the vast amount of taxpayers' money is going and where the social subsidy will be best targeted in future. These are factors that we do not know at the moment. The very great advantage of our proposals is that we will make better use of taxpayers' money than we have been able to do in the past. All these issues and more will be discussed at future stages of the Bill.
Let me now turn in detail to the amendments. First, although, as I have indicated, I have sympathy with the sentiments underlying the new clause of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, I do not believe that it is appropriate to put general statements of this kind in the legislation. I listened with care to what the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, had to say, and to my noble friends Lord Marlesford and Lord Boyd-Carpenter. In particular, when it comes to legislation, the whole Committee pays particular attention to what my noble friend Lord Renton has to say. But on consideration, the noble Lord might think that we have got it right. The Railways Bill is similar in structure to other privatisation legislation. I would refer the House to the Telecommunications Act, the Electricity Act and the Gas Act. It has not been the 969 practice to include in such legislation any opening objectives in the way proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. We do not consider it appropriate to depart from the precedent in the Railways Bill. I can understand the need to do so on other transport Bills, but when it comes to a privatisation measure, I think that there is a difference, as indeed I have been able to demonstrate.
We have dealt with the various elements of the principal objective proposed for the Secretary of State in specific duties and objectives in the Bill where they are relevant and properly directed.
Clause 4 places duties on the Secretary of State, and on the regulator, in exercising their powers under Part I of the Bill. These duties deal, for example, with protecting the interests of rail users, something close to the heart of the noble Baroness, Lady Castle; promoting the use of the rail network—another point that the noble Baroness mentioned, and a matter that we shall take care of; promoting efficiency, economy and competition, taking into account railway safety, and having regard to the railways' impact on the environment.
I say to my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter that the Bill is structured to establish the new players in the industry, the regulator, the franchising director and the consultative committees, before dealing with their duties and functions. I hope that my noble friend will think that we have got that in a logical order in the Bill.
The Secretary of State is given a principal duty in Clause 106 which is directly and appropriately related to exercising his powers in Part II of the Bill. I believe that that is the proper way to deal with such matters. However, of course I have taken note of what the Committee has said and I shall discuss the matter with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.
I turn, secondly, to the matter of national rail strategy—I refer to Amendments Nos. 3 and 6, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Ewing of Kirkford. These would require the Secretary of State to formulate and from time to time review a national policy for the rail network. He would have to have regard to the desirability of operating the policy consistently throughout Great Britain, ensuring that it was formulated in sufficient time to achieve effective implementation and safeguarding and developing the rail network in rural areas. In addition, he would be required to specify objectives for the railways in contributing to reducing road congestion, environmental impact and casualties and meeting the needs of those without access to private transport. The amendment provides for consultation with rail users' representatives over the development of policy and for annual review with reports laid before Parliament.
Our view is that a centrally imposed national policy of that kind would be quite inappropriate for the new privatised railway. It would be inflexible and very quickly out of date, as several Members of the Committee have pointed out. Privatisation is the Government's strategy for the railways into the 21st 970 century. It is a strategy outlined in last year's White Paper and fleshed out in the Bill that is now before the Committee.
I listened to the noble Lord's most entertaining speech. I think that he is still under some misapprehension about what we are trying to do in this Bill. I hope that he will consider that it is wise not to move his amendment when we come to it shortly but to listen to the detailed discussions that we shall have in the six days of Committee stage. I believe that many of his worries will then be put to rest. We shall be discussing some of the items that he mentioned: the duties of the Secretary of State, the franchise director, the regulator, the consultative committees, the pensions and safety—we shall discuss all those issues in detail.
I should like to take up three points in particular. The noble Lord asked for assurances that franchisees would not go out of business overnight. The Bill contains specific provisions to ensure that services are not interrupted in the event of insolvency. I refer to Clauses 53 to 58 which we shall debate in due course. They establish a special insolvency regime for railway operating companies. That is one example where future debates will help the noble Lord.
The noble Lord asked also whether it was the case that rural services would not be franchises. It is the intention that all BR's existing services should be franchised. The Government have already announced the pattern of franchises based on BR's existing profit centres. Subsidy will be available to support unprofitable rural services operated by the franchisees. I feel that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, also is under a slight misapprehension. The franchise will be based on the BR timetable at the time of awarding the franchise. Neither the noble Lord nor the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, need fear that there will be a sudden and overnight diminution in the amount of services. The service will be based on the service currently provided by British Rail at the time of the franchise.
The noble Lord, Lord Ewing, also mentioned the transport users' consultative committees. It is true that provisions relating to the various services covered by the new rail users' consultative committees appear in different parts of the Bill. In the case of services provided by British Rail and franchisees, the committees will report to the rail regulator. In the case of Caledonian MacBrayne ferry services, the Tyne and Wear Metro and other services mentioned by the noble Lord, the rail regulator will have no role and the committees will report to the Secretary of State. Therefore the provisions have to be made in a rather different way.
But let me assure the Committee that those services which are now covered by the committees will continue to be covered by the new committees. So the noble Lord did not understand the situation absolutely rightly. When we go through the Bill in detail, he will see that that point and various other points that I have mentioned will put to rest many of his concerns.
Finally, I turn to Amendments Nos. 11A and 11, which add to the duties in Clause 4(1). Amendment 971 No. 11A adds a duty to further national park services, as defined in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, will know of my interest in national parks from my days in the Department of the Environment, where I had responsibility for them. In addition to what I have already said about the franchising, I would stress that the closure procedures that we shall discuss later in Committee are very strict indeed and very similar to what we have now. I hope that her mind will be put at rest on that point.
Amendment No. 11 adds a new duty:to promote the environmental, social and economic benefits of the railways".I do not believe that it would be appropriate to refer specifically to national park purposes in the general duties on the Secretary of State and the regulator. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that there is already a requirement. I draw his attention to Clause 4(3) (b). There he will find that there has to be:regard to the effect on the environment".I believe that it would be over-specific to single out the national parks separately, important though they are, and to include the amendment that the noble Lord wanted.
We have had a very useful discussion. I hope that I have been able to reassure the Committee that we have its concerns very much at heart. Many of the issues mentioned are already covered in the Bill and we shall discuss those matters in greater detail. I look forward to doing so. The concern on all sides is to improve the railways. That is the purpose of the Bill and we want to work together to get it right.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord Renton
Before the noble Earl sits down, I must say that I am very impressed by all that he said. However, I should like to get clear one point regarding the idea of what my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter called "statements of policy". Generally they are called statements of principle and of purpose.
I can well understand my noble friend's desire to follow what has been done in other privatisation Bills. However, would he agree that Clause 4 achieves what is normally attempted to be achieved by statements of policy, statements of purpose or statements of principle—call them what you will? Incidentally, one of his colleagues in the Government, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, on at least two occasions has commended it.
The Earl of Caithness
Again my noble friend Lord Renton shows his expertise in this matter. This is not the moment for me to take issue with him. I hope that he will permit me to to go away, cogitate on what he said and discuss it with my right honourable friend.
§ Lord Tordoff
I am grateful to those who have joined in behind this modest amendment, which took me three minutes to move one hour and 38 minutes ago. We have had a wide-ranging debate. We have heard what might be called a Second Reading speech and almost a Third Reading speech in one case.
I should like briefly to go backwards through the amendments that we have been discussing. I can add 972 nothing to what the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, and my noble friend Lord Hunt said about Amendment No. 11A. They said everything and I do not propose to speak again on that amendment, except to say that it is very worthy of support.
I draw attention to the wording of Amendment No. 11. The important words in that amendment are "to promote". The Minister agreed that there is reference throughout the length and breadth of the Bill to doing one's best arid doing whatever one does in an environmentally friendly way. I am sure that that is the intention of the Government. But there is a difference between that and promoting environmental, social and economic benefits as a principal item. It is not just an ancillary afterthought; something that we shall do if we can manage it, once we have created greater efficiency. That thought needs to be in the forefront of people's minds whenever they make decisions on such matters, especially matters of transport. And it relates of course to the interrelation between rail and other forms of transport.
I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, said and do not propose to go over that ground. I turn to my Amendment No. 1 and would like to deal with one or two of the comments that have been made. There has been widespread support for the idea of having a general statement at the beginning of the Bill. The Minister said that it would be found in Clauses 4 and 106. In fact, at one stage I was tempted to pave Clause 106 right back to the beginning of the Bill. But I realised that Clause 106 refers only to the second part of the Bill and Clause 4 only to the first part. It is that fragmentation of the obligations which worries me. The question is: where does the buck stop?
The noble Lord, Lord Renton, was kind enough to say that he thought that it was a good thing to have a general statement of objectives at the beginning of a Bill. I must say that I was greatly touched with the news that there was life at Paddington before Paddington Bear. But I am grateful to the noble Lord for what he said.
The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, was the counsel of despair. I can understand that he does not believe it possible for the Secretary of State to do much about the railways. I accept what he said regarding the way in which British Rail is performing at the moment under Sir Bob Reid. I have known Sir Bob Reid for many years; he was a senior colleague of mine in our previous incarnations. I have the feeling that there is a new spirit in British Rail and it is a pity that it has not been allowed to carry on for a few more years to allow that spirit to run through the organisation; we would have seen a great deal of improvement. But that is not to be.
I accept also what the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, said about divorce from the Treasury. Make no mistake about it: the dead hand of the Treasury is one of the great malignant forces which has stopped money going to British Rail in investment which this country so badly needs. If it has to be that private capital must be brought in to improve the railway 973 service, in principle I am not against that. However, I do not believe that the way in which it is being done in the Bill is the right way.
My quarrel with the Bill is that the Secretary of State does not seem to have any basic, fundamental objective written into it. There are bits and pieces of it all over the place, but there is no fundamental objective right at the beginning. I thought that my noble friend Lord Rodgers, talking of definition of purpose, put his finger right on the point. The buck for the transport system, including the railway system, has got to stop with the Secretary of State. The Bill does not provide for that. The Secretary of State must be answerable to Parliament for the rail network and nowhere in the Bill is that crisply spelt out.
This is an important aspect of the Bill and we need to be clear about it at this stage in our discussions. I commend the amendment to the Committee.
On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. I) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 83; Not-Contents, 95.
|Division No. 1|
|Attlee, E.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Longford, E.|
|Bonham-Carter, L.||Mclntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||McNair, L.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Mallalieu, B.|
|Callaghan of Cardiff, L.||Masham of Ilton, B.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Mayhew, L.|
|Carter, L.||Merlyn-Rees, L.|
|Castle of Blackburn, B.||Meston, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Murray of Epping Forest, L.|
|Clinton-Davis, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Rea, L.|
|David, B.||Redesdale, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Richard, L.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Rix, L.|
|Eatwell, L.||Robson of Kiddington, B.|
|Ennals, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Ewing of Kirkford, L.||Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.|
|Falkender, B.||Russell, E.|
|Gallacher, L.||Seear, B.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]||Shackleton, L.|
|Greene of Harrow Weald, L.||Shaughnessy, L.|
|Greenhill of Harrow, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Hamwee, B.||Stedman, B.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Hughes, L||Strabolgi, L.|
|Hunt, L.||Tordoff, L. [Teller.]|
|Hylton, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Waverley, V.|
|Ilchester, E.||Wharton, B.|
|Jay, L.||White. B.|
|Jay of Paddington, B.||Wigoder, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Williams of Crosby, B.|
|Jenkins of Hillhead, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L.||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
|Kilbracken, L.||Wilson of Rievaulx, L.|
|Lawrence, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Arran, E.|
|Annaly, L.||Ashbourne, L.|
|Astor, V.||Long, V.|
|Astor of Hever, L.||McColl of Dulwich, L.|
|Banbury of Southam, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Barber, L.||Marlesford, L.|
|Bauer, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Bethell, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Blatch, B.||Morris, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Mountevans, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Braine of Wheatley, L.||Munster, E.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Cadman, L.||Nelson, E.|
|Caithness, E.||Northbrook, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Park of Monmouth, B.|
|Chalker of Wallasey, B.||Peel, E.|
|Clark of Kempston, L||Pender, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Peyton of Yeovil, L.|
|Cranborne, V.||Renton, L.|
|Cumberlege, B.||Rodger of Earlsferry, L.|
|Davidson, V.||St. Davids, V.|
|Denham, L.||Seccombe, B.|
|Denton of Wakefield, B.||Sharpies, B.|
|Downshire, M.||Simon of Glaisdale, L.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Elton, L.||Skidelsky, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.|
|Fraser of Carmyllie, L.||Stewartby, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B,||Strathclyde, L.|
|Geddes, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Goschen, V.||Strathmore and Kinghorne, E. [Teller.]|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone,L.|
|Harmsworth, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Harvington, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Hemphill, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Henley, L.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Hertford, M.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Hesketh, L. [Teller.]||Trumpington, B.|
|Holderness, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|Howe, E.||Wade of Chorlton, L.|
|Jenkin of Roding, L.||Wakeham, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]|
|Lane of Horsell, L.||Wilberforce, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Wynford, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 1 [The Rail Regulator and the Director of Passenger Rail Franchising]:
§ 6.20 p.m.
Lord Clinton-Davis moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 1, line 8, at beginning insert ("Subject to section (Preparation for Franchising Director) below,").
The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee if we also consider Amendments Nos. 5, 10, 22, 48 to 50 and 59. Few would dispute the significance of the discounted rail fares that apply over so many areas of our national network. The Government believed, initially at least, that this matter could be left to the commercial judgment of operators and should not be enshrined in legislation. The report of the Select Committee on Transport in another place had this to say about the preservation of network benefits—through ticketing, cross validity and discounted fare schemes:
The Government's arguments regarding experience of the bus industry have not removed our doubts. We foresee far greater difficulties in securing voluntary agreement among two or three dozen train operators to the continuation of uniformly discounted fares, fares tapered over distance, railcards and the like".
The Government's response to that view is said to be reflected, in part at least, in Amendment No. 48, to which we shall be coming later. I shall want to say one or two words about that though I shall listen with interest to what the Minister has to say. What I would say at the very outset, however, is that Amendment No. 48 is clearly far less specific than the amendment I am recommending to the Committee now. We cover the entirety of the range of the fares that we are talking about whereas the Government do so in a very generalised way. There are major defects in the Government's proposal at first sight.
§ Around eight out of 10 rail journeys are made with rate-reduced tickets in one way or another. Around 50 per cent. of all journeys cross current profit centre boundaries. The significance of that is that it appears to be the Government's intention under the Bill that each profit centre may be operated by a different franchise. If that is the case, around 40 per cent. of all journeys will be available only at full fare unless an operator has reached a special agreement with another operator. Therein lie the anxieties that were expressed by the Transport Committee in another place.
§ Each franchisee will set the fares for journeys on his own trains. What he cannot do is set fares to stations outside his own franchise area. It follows from this that his trains can operate only at full fare unless all relevant operators have agreed to accept each other's reduced rate tickets. That seems to be a nightmare situation. It is not only long distance journeys that will be affected and be dearer in consequence. Distance is but one criterion in that the larger the distance the more likely is it that boundaries will be crossed which will lead to the problems which I just cited. Short distances will also be affected —Southampton to Portsmouth; Reading to Banbury; Coventry to Wolverhampton; and Glasgow to Fort William; all will be adversely affected in this way. It has been reliably estimated that the loss of discount through ticketing could well lead to a doubling of fares.
§ What about what in the airline business is called interlining—tickets being valid from one operator to another? Bus deregulation has set a very doubtful precedent. Tickets are very rarely transferable. What one might be able to do, along the lines practised by airlines, is that a passenger with a return ticket but travelling on a different franchisee's train or on an open access operator's train may have to pay a supplement, but the supplement would be at the rate of full standard fare.
§ So far as concerns railcards, it would be right to say that British Rail has been very innovative in its marketing. Discount railcards are available to young people, disabled people, the over 60s, families and so on. They represent very good marketing techniques. They are an incentive for greater rail travel. They increase revenue. For that reason the Government argued at the outset that it followed from that that the new operators would find it in their best interest to offer the same range of tickets as is currently the case. All that they were prepared then to enforce was full fare through tickets.
§ What they failed to appreciate in this context is that their proposals were designed to break up the whole of 976 the national rail network. So how can they ensure that railcards can be valid on a national basis? Would one operator accept another's railcard? How can we be sure that that will be the case? How can we be sure that the franchise director will be able to achieve that basis? I shall turn later to some of the further difficulties I foresee in that respect. There is another problem. Is it possible that the regulator may find practices of this kind to be anti-competitive, because that happened in another context?
§ The Government continued to insist on their assertion that all would be well if it were left to the operators right until the Committee stage of the Bill in another place, except for the single retreat that had been announced allowing railcards for disabled people. But, significantly, they would not be available to those accompanying disabled passengers. That is a very significant omission from the Government's proposals. Nor do I see any evidence in Amendment No. 48 that that lacuna has been dealt with.
§ Then, somehow or other, things began to happen. There was the Newbury by-election. The Government had a whole host of their own troubled Back Benchers in another place. More retreats in those circumstances took place because the Government took fright. They announced in a series of U-turns that they would amend the Bill to safeguard railcards for senior citizens and for young persons. I have already dealt with one omission. It will be interesting to know whether the omission is taken up by subsection (5) of new Clause 48.
§ It remains to be seen, therefore, what that clause will achieve. Will family railcards be caught up by the new clause? That is of great importance, particularly for those non-car owning families to whom my noble friend Lady Castle referred earlier. What about armed forces railcards and the whole panoply of railcards that are now in existence? Will they be maintained? We are talking about Rail Rovers, BritRail passes and promotional offers, which have been extremely popular. With regard to BritRail, the concessions for visitors from abroad with which we shall be dealing later have been very helpful in promoting tourism in this country. That is the subject of a separate amendment. I shall not pursue it now.
§ I do not believe that it is enough for the Government to agree that because these aspects are popular the franchisees will necessary continue to utilise them. The precedents afforded by bus privatisation illustrate the problems. There was a once-universal wander bus ticket; since deregulation, it is infinitely more limited. I believe that the multitude of rail operators will inevitably stand in the way of the operation of such schemes, except perhaps in a rather limited way, despite the attempts of the Government to impose certain obligations on them.
§ What about the Travelcard? It can be used for unlimited travel on Network SouthEast, the London Underground and buses, with the revenue being split three ways. But after privatisation Network SouthEast will be operated by several franchisees. It is far from clear that all of them will issue or accept the 977 Travelcard. There are bound to be major administrative problems which will represent a disincentive; having to share revenues between 10 or more participants, for example.
§ The Minister for Transport in London, Mr. Norris, said in another place that he would quit and stake his job and reputation on the card which provides cut-price travel for millions of bus, Tube and rail passengers across London. That was described as an astonishing pledge although nothing is astonishing these days. If he goes he will be just one in a whole train of Ministers. But we shall see.
§ We are here talking not just about multi-modal ticketing via the franchise director, which was the phrase used by the noble Earl at Second Reading. The Travelcard, which we are seeking to retain, would specify zonal fares used on a general basis with other forms of passenger transport. That is a far more precise definition.
§ Another example of concessionary fares not operating is the Manchester Metrolink. That is a private franchise tram scheme. It does not participate in the Greater Manchester Travelcard. It found that it was not in its commercial interests to do so. Therefore there is offered only limited access to British Rail stations.
§ Amendment No. 22 deals with the need to ensure that the reduced fares will be comparable with the position which they occupy at the present time. That is of vital importance. A limitation on the power to reduce a range of tickets and fares which are available to users of the relevant services has to be examined very carefully. I do not believe that what the Government are seeking to do provides sufficient safeguards. The Government should accept our Amendment No. 22, which is far more specific. It provides a real protection for people who avail themselves of those facilities.
I now turn to some of the problems that I foresee as regards Amendment No. 48. It commences by saying:
A franchise agreement may include provision with respect to the fares to be charged
and not "shall". There is no obligation. The franchising director has immense powers. Apparently, he does riot have to consult because there is no duty on him to do so. It is within his discretion to determine whether the facilities should be used. He has to determine whether it is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case. That provides him with an immensely wide discretion which is far wider than he ought to enjoy. It is in stark contrast to what we offer in our own amendment.
§ What are the criteria that he will deploy? How will he go about making the decision? Can we be sure that under the criteria which he has to operate the kind of facilities that are offered by London Travelcards will continue within his discretion? There is no certainty about that; there is no certainty that the present facilities will continue.
§ I believe that the Minister referred to Clause 53 dealing with the continuation of services where there has been an insolvency. One might have something 978 rather less, which could provide real problems. I invite the Minister to reply to the points which I shall make. What happens if a franchise agreement requires the franchisee to participate in a discount fares scheme only for the franchisee to find, midway through the franchise, that it is really uncommercial? He shares the view of the Manchester organisation, to which I referred. He is not operating in a very profitable area and finds the scheme a great disincentive to his operating at all. He tells the franchise director, "I am sorry, I cannot go on doing this".
§ As I understand it, the franchising director can then consider the position. He can say, "I am going to give you notice that you have to continue the service." The franchisee replies, "I am very sorry, but I cannot. What are you going to do about it because I can't do anything in order to continue the service?" Will there be prosecution? That does not solve the passengers' problems. Will there be civil action? That does not solve anything either. So we could have a lacuna. How is that to be filled in those circumstances? What does the franchising director do about it?
§ That is a question which needs to be resolved. I do not see any sanctions which are available in the later clauses of the Bill which deal with that commercial situation. It is a matter which we need to consider very carefully indeed. I commend Amendment No. 2 to the Committee. I beg to move.
The Earl of Caithness
It may be helpful if I speak now because there are government amendments and also amendments to the Government's amendments, proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, wishes to say something. However, if I explain the Government's position now I believe that it would be helpful.
I shall deal very quickly with one matter because I know that the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, will return to it time and time again. I refer to the analogy of the experience of the bus industry. That is a misleading track to go down. Outside London, buses operate commercially in a deregulated market. There is no regulator or franchising director for the bus industry. In recognition of the fact that the rail network must operate on an integrated basis, the Bill provides for a regulator and a franchising director to co-ordinate the arrangements between the parties. So the fear that the network benefits will disappear are misplaced.
I listened with care to what the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, said. Rather than the amendment which he has moved, I commend to the Committee government Amendment No. 48. That new clause would be added to the Bill after Clause 24 in the section on franchising. It would implement two commitments given by the Government at Report stage in another place.
First, subsection (2) of the new clause places a duty on the franchising director, where he considers it necessary in the interests of passengers, to ensure that franchise agreements contain provisions to ensure that fares are in his opinion reasonable. The Government have brought forward this provision in recognition that there has been some concern that fares will rise as a result of privatisation. We believe that that concern 979 is misplaced. There is no reason to expect fares to rise unduly when services are franchised. Subsidy will continue to be available for socially necessary services. Moreover, it has always been the intention that the franchising director should, through franchise agreements, control fares where franchisees enjoy monopoly power. But until now there has been nothing on the face of the Bill in respect of fares control by the franchising director.
The new clause rectifies that omission. The franchising director will have to consider in each case, whenever he lets a franchise, whether the interests of passengers require him to include in the franchise agreement provisions to ensure that fares are reasonable. The duty is not limited to cases where franchisees are likely to enjoy monopoly power, although this could be expected to be a factor that the franchising director will want to take into account. He will have to consider all the circumstances of the franchisee's operations and exercise his judgment accordingly. I hope that the Committee will agree that this subsection represents a valuable addition to the Bill. I believe that there is much common ground in the Committee on that point.
I turn now to discount fares which are the subject of subsections (3) to (5) of our new clause (Amendment No. 24). of Amendment No. 5 standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and of Amendment No. 50 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rix. which deals explicitly with discounts for the disabled. The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, has tabled amendments to the Government's Amendment No. 48 in relation to the family Railcard.
The new clause fulfils the commitments given by my right honourable friend in another place to impose a duty on the franchising director to require, through franchise agreements, participation by franchisees in discount schemes for disabled people, the elderly and the young. Perhaps it would help if I set out the present position on discount cards offered by British Rail. Under the present arrangements, all discount cards are offered by BR on a purely voluntary basis. BR developed these Railcards on its initiative. BR is free to withdraw any or all of them at its discretion. It does not need an Act of Parliament or secondary legislation; it is at BR's discretion. Discount cards are, with one exception, offered for purely commercial reasons—to increase patronage and revenue, particularly during the off-peak period—and they are, in general, profitable. The one exception is the disabled person's Railcard which does not make money but is provided by BR in recognition of the special needs of disabled people.
I am convinced that private sector operators will see commercial opportunities in providing similar discount schemes. It would be remarkable indeed if the private sector could not make a profit where BR can. Indeed, as one of the benefits of privatisation, we expect private sector operators to develop new marketing initiatives to make their services attractive to passengers and it is important that we should not unduly constrain their ability to do so.
The Government have, however, accepted that as a fall-back precaution there is a good case for statutory 980 protection for discount schemes for three groups of passengers—disabled people, senior citizens arid the young. So subsections (3) to (5) of government Amendment No. 48 impose a requirement that every franchise agreement should contain provisions requiring franchisees to participate in discount schemes for those three groups. The schemes would be approved by the franchising director. I hope that the amendment will provide the assurance which noble Lords and others have sought that discount schemes for those groups will continue after privatisation.
§ Lord Renton
I think that there is a difficulty here which I do not know whether my noble friend has appreciated. He is imposing a fresh obligation on the franchising director to introduce schemes as mentioned in his Amendment No. 48, but what the noble Lord, Lord Rix, and I and others want is a continuation of existing schemes because freshly introduced schemes might not be quite so good.
The Earl of Caithness
I hope that my noble friend will bear with me because I shall come to the point that he wants me to come to in a moment.
§ 6.45 p.m.
The Earl of Caithness
Amendment No. 5, to which the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, also spoke, goes further than the Government propose and I hope that I shall be able to persuade the Committee that it goes too far.
First, the amendment requires the Secretary of State to publish regulations specifying discount schemes. We believe that this is unnecessary and cumbersome. It would not be sensible to enshrine the details of discount schemes in regulations. The current schemes are frequently adjusted by BR in response to market demands. Each year detailed changes are made. These discount schemes are not, have never been and should not be set in concrete. It is important that this flexibility should be maintained.
Secondly, the requirements in terms of age limits and other qualifications for discount are highly specific. Again, I believe that it would be wrong to set these down in legislation in this way. To do so would make it impractical for franchisees and the franchising director to tailor schemes to future needs which at this stage may be difficult to predict.
Thirdly, Amendment No. 5 would require participation in a wider range of Railcard schemes. I do not believe that there is the same justification on the basis of social need to provide statutory protection for all these schemes. The Network Card, for example, is available to anyone who wants to buy it and simply encourages passengers to make more off-peak trips than they would otherwise make. There is no strong case for requiring franchisees to participate in this sort of scheme if it is not in their commercial interest to do so.
Indeed, it is important to strike a balance between putting a straitjacket on the marketing activities of private sector operators, on the one hand, and risking 981 the disappearance of socially valuable discount arrangements. There is a danger that, unless we are careful, we shall fix the railways' arrangements in these areas, while none of their competitors —and transport is a highly competitive business—faces any externally imposed requirements. This in the long run would be to the great commercial disadvantage of the railways, imperilling the very advantages of rail which noble Lords have spoken about so eloquently this afternoon. We believe that our amendment strikes the right balance.
Amendments Nos. 48A and 48B would require franchisees similarly to participate in discount schemes for families. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, has referred to the family Railcard which provides discounted travel for anyone over the age of 18 accompanied by between one and four children. It is not restricted to families as such. It is so clearly a marketing initiative developed by BR for purely commercial reasons that it is not properly comparable to the schemes for disabled people, the elderly and young people which provide a different order of social benefit. Discount arrangements for group travel with children should be left to operators to develop in line with their assessment of market requirements. Again, no restrictions are placed on rail's competitors. Having said that, I look forward to what the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, will say, but I hope that she will bear in mind the points that I have just made.
We have already made it clear that we expect multi-modal ticket arrangements like the London Travelcard to continue. The Government recognise the concern that has been expressed over the future of such schemes. As the Bill stands, the franchising director will be able to require franchisees to participate in the London Travelcard scheme and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has undertaken that he will be giving the franchising director guidance in that regard. Franchisees will then be required to participate in Travelcard in accordance with their franchise agreements. The same mechanism could be used to secure participation in Travelcard arrangements outside London. I hope that that satisfies the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis.
The Earl of Caithness
Concern has been expressed about the continued participation of other modes, particularly buses, in the London Travelcard. For as long as bus and Underground services in London continue to be secured through London Transport this issue will not arise. We will look at this in the context of our proposals for the deregulation of buses in London. We could not, in any event, use the Railways Bill to bind bus operators.
Amendment No. 10 would place a specific requirement on the regulator to promote multi-modal ticketing. I have to say that, for the same reason as the Bill cannot bind non-rail operators, I do not believe that this is an appropriate duty to place on the regulator. His functions are limited to the railways —and so they should be. He has no powers over 982 operators of other forms of public transport which would enable him to perform the duty proposed in Amendment No. 10.
I turn now to the Forces Railcard, which is also referred to in Amendment No. 5, which was spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. This is a commercial deal negotiated between British Rail and the Ministry of Defence. There is no reason why the ministry—or any other major customer—should not negotiate direct with operators in the future. There is no need for a statutory provision.
I turn now to the point which is, I think, of concern to my noble friend Lord Renton. Amendments Nos. 21 and 50 both make specific provision for discounts for people accompanying disabled passengers, as does the present BR disabled person's Railcard. We have already given a commitment that the benefits which are provided by the existing Railcard should be broadly maintained. I would expect that to include discounted travel for those accompanying severely disabled passengers. I do not, however, see any need to refer to that specifically in the Bill. It can be covered in the guidance which the Secretary of State will give the franchising director.
I turn now to Amendment No. 22.
The Earl of Caithness
No, certainly not. I shall return to them later, because I shall obviously have to listen and respond to what is said by the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, the noble Lords, Lord Tordoff and Lord Rix, my noble friend Lord Renton and others who wish to take part in the debate. I thought that it was right to set the scene now because of the government amendment.
Amendment No. 22 would limit the franchising director's ability to agree to a reduction in the range of ticket and fare prices available only if he is satisfied, after consulting rail user groups, that such reductions would not materially disadvantage users and potential users of the services in question. The amendment is based on the premise that the franchising director will be seeking to keep a grip on franchisees' actions. It assumes that franchisees will be required to carry forward all BR's existing ticket and fare types and only withdraw them with consent. Our intention is for the franchising director to adopt a rather lighter touch. It may, for example, be necessary for the franchising director to specify, through the franchise agreement, that a franchisee provides certain ticket types; for example, for the purpose of satisfactory fares control a franchisee may be required to offer a standard single and a monthly season ticket, subject to a certain price ceiling, probably set by formula.
It might also be necessary for franchisees to offer certain types of fare to facilitate inter-operator ticketing arrangements. The intention generally is to give franchisees the freedom to offer the ticket types and fares that they judge appropriate in response to passenger demand, rather than for the franchising director to have to approve every departure from BR's current range. There is no magic about BR's current range of ticket types and special offers. They represent 983 BR's attempt to match to passengers' demand the products on offer and the prices. Franchisees may have other ideas. I hope that they do, and are successful in attracting more people to travel by rail.
We have already given the commitment that the franchising director will consult rail user groups, in particular, the RUCCs. The franchising director will be able, through those consultations, to assess passenger requirements and form a view on which ticket types might need to be protected. We have also debated the amendments in my name covering the duty of a franchising director in respect of fares control and participation in discount schemes for the elderly, the young and the disabled.
There is a great deal of similarity between what the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and other Members of the Committee require. There is however a fine difference between us; namely, the question of encouragement for the private sector to come up with new ideas and incentives to encourage people to travel by rail—something that we all wish to see. We do not want to put the private sector in a straitjacket. We want the franchising director to have certain duties, but again, not a heavy hand on the tiller. I hope that on consideration the Committee will feel that the Government amendments are the right ones. They fulfil a commitment made in another place.
§ Baroness Stedman
The Government promised in another place, having agreed that they would put the disabled person's discount card on the face of the Bill, that the senior citizen's card and the young person's card would continue. I am grateful that the Minister has put that into his amendment and that it will eventually be on the face of the Bill.
I am worried about family railcards. The only assurance given in another place was that existing family railcards would he valid until their expiry dates. I do not know how much contact the Minister has with elderly grandparents or young families. I do not know whether he realises what a great benefit the family railcard has been to those groups of people. Many young families would never be able to visit their elderly relatives as a family, because the cost would be prohibitive unless there was some form of discount similar to that offered on the present family railcard. Most such visits are made by families at weekends. That probably means that they do not use a car. They are therefore travelling by rail and taking traffic off the roads at weekends which are the busiest times.
I tabled the amendments as probing amendments to remind the Minister that there are family railcards with discounts, with the hope that we can throw that into the pool of our general discussions, and at the same time find out whether the Minister has any views to offer the Committee about the Britrail card referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. It has brought in a great deal of revenue to BR from overseas travellers. There is now also the InterRail card which can be taken up by many people, not just the young, who travel around Europe. Surely it would be difficult for those people who have been used to having, or are becoming used to having an InterRail 984 card to travel around Europe if we do not provide anything in its place. How do we get on with our European neighbours?
§ Lord Tordoff
I shall speak briefly about Amendment No. 10, but more generally first. The mistake that the Government are making in all this is that they are saying, "Yes, it will be all right, because market forces will operate, and if it is commercially viable then things will be all right". I accept that in Amendment No. 48 the Government have gone some way from that position. Members on all sides of the Committee will be grateful that they have taken up the obligation that they laid upon themselves in another place. But I believe that there is still the underlying feeling in the Government's mind that all will be well, because if the service is commercially viable it will be provided.
The Government are forgetting that the network will be fragmented. The Government can say what they will do if there is to be a monopoly of the whole network. But, for instance, in London, with about 16 operators operating, it is unlikely that they will all feel. that there will be a great benefit to them from continuing with travelcards, for instance. We have seen that in the Buses Bill and in a great deal of legislation recently that there is an assumption that all will be well, while practice shows that that is not the case. Multi-modal travelcard schemes are important in the London area and other metropolitan areas. They must not be allowed to be damaged. The Minister says that we can perhaps have another look at this matter when bus deregulation in London comes in. By the time bus deregulation comes in. in whatever form—that is another long battle we shall have one of these days—it may be too late. Travelcards may have declined. People will then be forced to get out their motor cars and travel by road again.
We shall find over and over again throughout our discussions on the Bill that the Government do not take into account, as much as they should, that there are forces outside the purely commercial ones at which we should be looking. I have no objection, as I have said, to trying to improve the efficiency of the railways, to making them more attractive and to bringing in new capital, but we must always recognise that there is another major element. We must try to do everything that we can, by every means, even if it is an uncommercial means, to encourage people to get out of their cars and onto public transport, particularly the railways. That is what Amendment No. 10 is all about. It is trying to preserve the multi-modal travelcard which has been of such great benefit in London and the other metropolitan areas of the country.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Lord Rix
I am conscious that the curtain is about to come down for dinner, but before that happens I should like to respond to the Minister. I am grateful for the government concessions given in Amendment No. 48 and the Minister's reassurances as to our 985 Amendment No. 50. But those reassurances do not go quite far enough in regard to the disabled person's railcard.
There is a story about two gentlemen discussing a dog belonging to one of them. It is an animal of considerable potential but uncertain temperament. The non-owner who was being encouraged to take the dog on trust said to the owner, "You know that dog will not bite, and I know that dog will not bite; but the dog does not know that he will not bite".
We have received from the Government much reassurance and some concessions, and all of that is welcome; but my experience as a man of the theatre encourages me to take the view that promises and declarations of intent gain something extra from being incorporated in legally binding requirements. I found in my younger days that a contract in my pocket and the first day of rehearsal concluded was a certainty of a job rather than an assurance that a reliable third party had given a firm undertaking that a job would shortly become available—in theatrical parlance, "Don't 'phone us, we'll 'phone you".
We have made some progress with regard to the disabled person's Railcard but the amendment standing in my name and that of my noble friends —I hope I may say that—from all parts of the Chamber seeks to build on that progress and to make sure that the new arrangements start with a baseline of existing discount arrangements and move on from there as circumstances allow. I have a further important though somewhat tangential point. At present the disabled person's Railcard can be used to purchase through tickets as buying tickets at various ticket booths en route would be a virtual impossibility for the majority of disabled people. Can the Government give an assurance that such a facility to ease their right of passage will be maintained? I fear that Members of this Chamber and Members of another place would hardly escape blame if we left it open to operators to slide away from the minimum level of decency which people with disabilities now enjoy.
§ Lord Renton
I wish to support what the noble Lord, Lord Rix—whom I also call my noble friend —has said about Amendment No. 50. Like him, I acknowledge what the Government are doing in Amendment No. 48; but there is a difference still between the two. We cannot vote on Amendment No. 50 today because it will not be reached today and it has not been moved today. Between now and the next meeting of the Committee (which will be next week) I want to study very carefully what has been said by my noble friend. But it seems to me that requiring discount schemes for disabled people to be introduced in future but leaving the details to the operators is not as good as saying—as I think the Bill should say and as this amendment states—that existing discount schemes shall remain in operation.
There is another factor here. It may well be that if a disabled person and the person who has to accompany the disabled person, take out a scheme which is intended to last 12 months—there are such schemes—and if meanwhile privatisation takes place, 986 it really would be awful if those existing schemes could not be carried into privatisation. But I do not think even that is enough. As a keen supporter of privatisation, I want to make sure that nobody is going to be worse off as a result of it. As I say, I hope that my noble friend Lord Rix will reserve his position as to moving and voting on Amendment No. 50 until our next meeting. Meanwhile, we must consider the matter.
§ Lord Mountevans
I will not touch on Britrail cards as I believe we shall discuss those later in the evening. However, I wish briefly to express my considerable concern about the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. It is all very well to say that things will work out but what my noble friend has not yet told us —I do not believe the Government have yet mentioned this—is how things will work out. Will we have a private enterprise company seeking to collect revenue from multi-modal tickets and then distributing it? Will those tickets be controlled by the dominant operator, whether that is a road or rail operator or, in the case of London, probably an Underground operator? Those are the anxieties that I have.
The Earl of Caithness
The contributions we have just heard have made a useful addition to our discussion on this important topic. I shall of course read with interest and care what Members of the Committee have had to say. I shall deal with some of the points that have been raised. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, asked about the franchising director. As he pointed out, the franchising director will have discretion in exercising his functions under the Bill. He will, however, be subject to the duties which the noble Lord will find in Clause 5, and in particular his duty to fulfil the objectives given to him by the Secretary of State. For example, the Secretary of State would be able to give him guidance as to the basis on which franchisees should participate in Travelcard arrangements. The matter will also be subject to judicial review if the franchising director acts unreasonably.
The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, also asked about the franchising director's power to deal with breaches of franchise agreements if the franchisees failed to carry out their obligations to participate in network benefits that they entered into on signing their franchises. We shall discuss the enforcement powers that the franchising director has in Clauses 49 to 51, and we shall deal with that matter in some detail. Again, that matter comes back to the point I made on the first amendment; namely, it is only when we have gone through the Bill and considered all these matters that we shall see how the Bill holds together.
The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, mentioned the family Railcard. The noble Baroness has tabled an amendment to the Government's amendment on that matter. She spoke convincingly of the need to maintain the family Railcard to enable families to travel at weekends and to enable children to see their grandparents. Alas! I no longer have grandparents to see; but I certainly have young children, and I understood many of the remarks of the noble Baroness. I shall of course read with care her remarks. 987 Again, it is a question of wishing to encourage people to travel by rail I am sure the private sector will encourage that. If one considers other travel operators that have entered the private sector, for example British Airways, one can see that some of the incentives that company offers are considerably more original and are an improvement on the incentives it offered when it was in the public sector. I have no doubt that the same will apply on the railways.
The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, referred to Travelcard. I ask the noble Lord to read my remarks with care in the Official Report. I said that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has undertaken that he will give the franchising director guidance in regard to Travelcard and the franchising director can then include it in the franchise. I believe the noble Lord's concern will be satisfied. I agree with him that the whole point of these benefits is to encourage people to travel by rail. That is what we want to see, and I am sure that is what the franchisees will want. The more people they have travelling on their routes, the better it will be for the franchisees.
The noble Lord, Lord Rix, and my noble friend Lord Renton said we had not gone far enough with regard to disabled people. My advice at the moment is that the noble Lord's amendment goes further than the existing British Rail agreement. However, I shall consider that further because, as I understand it, the existing British Rail facilities for people accompanying disabled persons only apply when severely disabled people are travelling. I believe that is the position but I shall make sure that is the case. I hope I can talk to my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Rix, between now and another stage of the Bill.
§ Lord Renton
We only ask for a continuation of existing provisions. We do not want to go any further than anybody else.
The Earl of Caithness
I noted that with interest. That is why I said this is a matter we ought to discuss between now and another stage of the Bill. This debate has been helpful. I again commend to the Committee the Government's Amendments Nos. 48, 49 and 59. These have gone a long way to meeting the anxieties mentioned by so many Members of the Committee and they fulfil the commitments made in another place.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
With the greatest respect, I do not believe that Amendment No. 48 is satisfactory in its present form and I shall refer specifically to one other matter to which the noble Earl did not allude in his reply.
Suffice it to say that the Minister has come under very strong pressure not only from this side of the Committee but also from the noble Lords, Lord Renton, Lord Rix, and the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman. I suspect that the Government will concede this matter. I hope that they do. But they need to be made to concede it now. This is the opportunity that we have to deal with this specific matter.
The Minister has given us words of hope and expectation and guidance but no certainty and no 988 assurances. It is all hidden by the belief that our proposal will somehow or other stifle initiative and innovation. With respect, that is a lot of nonsense.
The form of privatisation or commercialisation that is to be introduced here will bring about a totally changed situation. Even the Minister said in a previous debate that it is not akin to other methods of privatisation. For that reason we must be reasonably sure that the benefits which accrue at present will continue. That was the burden of the case put by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and that is the case that I adopt.
I am not satisfied with general words about the franchising director being guided and coming to certain conclusions. The franchising director does not have to consult with anybody. He may consult arid he may be guided to consult but at present, we do not know that. No statutory obligation is imposed upon him.
Another point that I wish to make was not dealt with at all by the Minister. At present Amendment No. 48 is restricted to franchised services. Earlier the Minister referred to the commitment that was given on Report in another place to allow the franchising director to examine both monopoly and non-monopoly franchises. However, nothing is said in Amendment No. 48 about open access services. Let us assume that the Great Western main line is in due course operated by a mix of open access and franchised services. Network benefits should be retained for all groups, in particular disabled and elderly travellers. They should be able to use the services of all operators, whether or not they are franchised. That is not dealt with in the Bill or in Amendment No. 48.
Therefore, there are strong arguments that in addition to its open and unrestricted nature, Amendment No. 48 is misconceived and misplaced in many respects. Amendment No. 5 and the amendments coupled with it are to be preferred. I am not satisfied with what the Minister has said. I believe that there are so many holes in what he has said that the Committee should divide on this issue.
§ Lord Renton
Before the noble Lord goes any further, perhaps I may point out that he rather implied that his amendment meets the point which the noble Lord, Lord Rix, and I have made about the continuation of existing schemes. However, it would not necessarily do so.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
I do not see why not. Indeed, paragraph (3) (d) of Amendment No. 5 encompasses the point which is made in the noble Lord's own amendment. I do not believe that there is any question about that. I commend Amendment No. 2 to the Committee.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 51; Not-Contents, 81.989
|Division No. 2|
|Addington, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Airedale, L.||McGregor of Durris, L.|
|Bonham-Carter, L.||McNair, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||Mishcon, L.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Carter, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Clinton-Davis, L.||Rea, L.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||Redesdale, L. [Teller.]|
|David, B.||Richard, L.|
|Eatwell, L.||Robson of Kiddington, B.|
|Ewing of Kirkford, L.||Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Russell, E.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]||Seear, B.|
|Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Greene of Harrow Weald, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Greenhill of Harrow, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Hamwee, B.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Hughes, L.||White, B.|
|Jay of Paddington, B.||Wigoder, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Williams of Crosby, B.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Judd, L.||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
|Arran, E.||Jeffreys, L.|
|Astor, V.||Kimball, L.|
|Astor of Hever, L.||Lane of Horsell, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Leigh, L.|
|Banbury of Southam, L.||Long, V.|
|Barber, L.||McAlpine of West Green, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Bethell, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Blatch, B||Mountevans, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Munster, E.|
|Braine of Wheatley, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Nelson, E.|
|Cadman, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Caithness, E.||Pender, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Peyton of Yeovil, L.|
|Chalker of Wallasey, B.||Renton, L.|
|Chelmsford, V.||Rix, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Rodger of Earlsferry, L.|
|Cox, B.||St. Davids, V.|
|Cranborne, V.||Seccombe, B.|
|Cumberlege, B.||Sharpies, B.|
|Davidson, V.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Denham, L.||Skidelsky, L.|
|Denton of Wakefield, B.||Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.|
|Downshire, M.||Stedman, B.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Elton, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Strathmore and Kinghorne, E. [Teller.]|
|Fraser of Carmyllie, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Swansea, L.|
|Geddes, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Goschen, V.||Trumpington, B.|
|Grantchester, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|Harvington, L.||Wade of Chorlton, L.|
|Hemphill, L.||Wakeham, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]|
|Hesketh, L. [Teller.]||Waverley, V.|
|Howe, E.||Wilberforce, L.,|
|Ilchester, E.||Wynford, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.990
§ Viscount Goschen
I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving this Motion may I suggest that the Committee stage should begin again not before twenty minutes past eight.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.