National Networks National Policy Statement

Lord Tunnicliffe Excerpts
Wednesday 8th May 2024

(2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
On projects, I will briefly touch on HS2—I was on the Select Committee for it. We have a saying up north: “A blind man on a galloping horse could see what was coming”. It was quite clear what was coming: the cost, the cost, the cost. As a principle, I get it; it is a statement of intent about connecting the north and the south—I understand that—but nobody thought it through. If there is one thing this Government must be held accountable for, it is that they do not think it through. Come the next general election, whatever the result may be, it will be because they never thought it through.
Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, I often end up in this situation, with four or five people in the Chamber battling through statutory instruments with the Minister. I do not know how I got into this mess, but I have. Tonight, though, is different, and it has become more different as I have listened to this debate.

I was born in 1943, and I would claim to be in one of history’s most favoured generations. In my life, nobody has shot at me in anger; I have never known hunger; broadly speaking, longevity has grown in that period; general levels of health have improved; and, broadly speaking, affluence improved until, say, 2015. I remember the Cuban missile crisis and thinking, and even arguing, that all these sensible people who had been through the Second World War would not do anything silly. As I become closer to power in my old age, I realise by what a narrow margin that proved to be—just—true.

The situation we now face is worse. We have a number of wars; we have a war in the Middle East, and a war in Ukraine. Never, in decades, has the possibility of a war approaching our shores been greater. But even that pales into insignificance compared with the climate crisis. I have to get my stuff from the radio, but I believe that every day in the last year was the warmest on record, worldwide. I cannot go that far, but I have a horrible feeling that we will fail the climate crisis. We are a nation that can make our contribution, and we are backing off it; we were a leader on this whole issue, and now we are backing off it. This is just an example of how we are incrementally backing off our commitments.

I may be being unfair, so let us look at the Motion from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. I will read it into the record, because the more I read it, the more powerful I think it is. The key wording is,

“without carrying out the systematic review of road projects recommended by the Climate Change Committee; addressing the risk of insufficient environmental action by the Department for Transport highlighted by the National Audit Office; or joining up their policies with the missions presented to Parliament under the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023”.

I want the Minister to address all three charges, because if he cannot refute them, he ought to apologise. It seems to me that those commitments were made to Parliament, and Parliament has a right to expect commitments made by Ministers to be honoured.

We have no vehicle to discuss the planning statement other than this debate, so I will finish by saying a few words about it. The issues with building transport infrastructure go deeper than the NNNPS. The question is whether this update will improve transport infrastructure delivery. While this version provides some important improvements on the 2014 version, it falls well short of providing what is needed and poses significant questions as to whether it is compatible with our climate change commitments. This risks further slowing down the planning process for major projects; the system is already moving at a glacial pace, when we should be pushing the accelerator. One of the concerns raised about the plan is that it is clearly not meeting our net-zero obligation. It contains decarbonisation promises that we already know the Government are behind on, such as the charge point target. How does the Minister plan to ensure that we still meet our 2015 net-zero target when these policies seemingly do the opposite? Does the Minister think his draft National Networks National Policy Statement is compatible with the 2021 transport decarbonisation plan?

An additional concern is the lack of roles for the subnational transport bodies. These bodies have strategic plans for their regions to both reduce carbon output and support economic growth. What further work will the Government do to ensure regional bodies are brought into transport planning? I am glad the Government accepted the Transport Committee’s recommendation that these plans be placed on a five-yearly review.

One piece of good news is that noble Lords should not have to wait long to see improvements in this policy statement, if the local election results are anything to go by. As part of its commitment to overhauling the country’s approach to planning and infrastructure, Labour has committed to updating all national policy statements within six months—and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, for pointing out that, conceptually, they are a sound idea. This sits alongside Labour’s review of Britain’s rail infrastructure, which would explore how it can not only recover from over a decade of managed decline but help us boost jobs, improve value for money and drive investment and economic growth across the country. This policy statement, thanks to the input of the Transport Select Committee and those who provided evidence, does improve on the one drafted by the Government. However, what our planning and transport systems need is a Government who are committed to delivering a system that works and is compatible with our net-zero promises.

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Lord Davies of Gower) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I would like to thank all noble Lords for their consideration of the National Networks National Policy Statement. I would particularly like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for securing the debate; he is well known for his contribution to transport policy, not least in the area of rail freight.

Our road and rail networks are essential parts of our transport system. They connect people and communities and enable the effective movement of freight. They are fundamental to our economy and our way of life. Therefore, we need to maintain and enhance these national networks. The Government set out their ambition in the 2020 national infrastructure strategy to make the infrastructure consenting process better, faster and greener. The cross-government action plan for nationally significant infrastructure projects sets out the reforms to the planning regime that will ensure the system can support our future infrastructure needs. The action plan underlines the importance of having clear and up-to-date national policy statements in order to set the strategic direction for future infrastructure schemes.

The National Networks National Policy Statement—or NNNPS, as I will abbreviate it—sets out the planning framework for taking decisions on large-scale road, rail and strategic rail freight interchange projects in England. It sets out the need for development of infra- structure, and the impacts that the proposed development must address. The NNNPS provides planning guidance for promoters of schemes on the national road and rail networks, and is the basis for the examination by the examining authority and decisions by the Secretary of State. The current NNNPS was designated in 2015; at that point there was no net-zero target, transport decarbonisation plan or biodiversity net gain requirement. The NNNPS has been reviewed to bring it up to date, so that it properly reflects the legislative requirements and policy context of today.

Goods Vehicles (International Road Transport Permits and Haulage Within the EU) Regulations 2024

Lord Tunnicliffe Excerpts
Thursday 18th April 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation. I am sure he will forgive me a bit of a weary sigh, because I remember all this from the first time round. As it gradually dawned on us that the assurances that a post-Brexit trade deal would be the easiest trade deal in history were completely wrong, we realised that we were facing a much more complex set of rules and restrictions for the logistics industry, especially those smaller businesses that wanted to continue to trade with the EU.

Other sectors that have particularly suffered in recent years have been not just those trading from the UK to an EU country but, as the Minister explained, those wanting to operate cabotage services. A badly affected sector is performers—musicians and artists of various sorts—who have found it impossible to take their goods, vehicles, scenery, costumes and so on from one country to another. All this has contributed to a decline in the numbers trading and a deterioration in the balance of trade, which specifically has hit small businesses very hard.

Optimistically, I had hoped that we were over the worst and that we would gradually rebuild our trade, as people got used to the new restrictions. Apparently, that is not so, because this instrument appears to be tightening up the rules. The Minister’s introduction, which was very complex and detailed—and extremely helpful—underlined that this is going to carry on being complicated.

Paragraph 6.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum refers to

“the required outcome of the effective enforcement of posting requirements”,

so my first question to the Minister is: can he explain precisely how and to what extent the system was failing before? In a way, I am interested in the mood music behind this change. Have EU countries complained that UK operators are not doing it properly? Have we had international complaints, or are we complaining about EU operators coming here without the required permissions? What is the scenario that has led to these changes?

I realise that there are references in this SI to agreements that go well beyond the EU, but so much of our trade depends to this day on the EU, and even more did in the past. That was the easy way to do business. It was no more complex to go to the EU than it was to go from Yorkshire to Surrey, for example. Therefore, any step that makes things more complicated is a matter of concern.

To reiterate, my first question is: are the Government tightening up as a result of an international request that we do so? My second question concerns Schedule 3, which lists a series of fees. Are they being increased, compared with the previous situation? If so, by how much? All of this is very complicated, especially if you happen to be a small business, so my third question is: what are the Government doing to ensure the new arrangements are adequately publicised and that that publicity is available well in advance of the implementation?

Finally—I hope that the Minister will indulge me—trade is, of course, a two-way thing. As he will know, from 30 April we will be imposing new import checks on meat and plants, leading to the payment of a common user charge of up to £145 per consignment. Can the Minister explain why the Government have given only 27 days’ notice of the size and scale of these charges? How far is that being advertised? In what way are those new charges linked to this trading set-up that we are discussing, or are they not linked in any way at all? I realise that it is not part of the same piece of legislation, but is it part of a reciprocal deal and agreement? The final words the Minister uttered related to the TCA being part of the agreement. This is, of course, part of a whole package—a whole deal—so I am asking about the relationship between those payments and what we are discussing here.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I also thank the Minister for his presentation of this SI. He added a certain overview, which is useful. I found myself in a difficult situation with this SI, both because it is complicated and because the normal excellent support I get from the staff in our office was overwhelmed by the fact that the member of staff was doing Rwanda, so I had to try to do it myself.

I set about by trying to understand the thing. I do not know whether it is my age, and that I am just slowing down, but I found it very complex. It was not helped by the fact that the format of the Explanatory Memorandum has been changed—much to my surprise, because I learned the old one and knew where to go. That took me a little while to recover from, but eventually I found that Morag Rethans was my contact. We made contact and she helped me, over quite a long phone conversation, to work through the various bits of the agreement. Yesterday morning, I understood all parts of the SI. I do not think I understood them all at the same time, and my understanding of them has certainly faded a bit in the past 24 hours. I always like the contributions of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, because she is so much more diligent than me and finds little corners in what has been happening.

In a sense, I was content to clarify my mind—the Minister may have to correct me on this—that this was a piece of domestic legislation which took the agreements that we have, particularly the TCA and agreements with other peripheral states, as a given. As far as I can see, there is nothing in this instrument that changes our formal relationship with the EU and those peripheral states. What it does is mend holes in our own regulations that make the interface with other states incomplete and messy. The solution is designed to ensure that UK domestic law fits with our international obligations. In particular, it gives an enforcement mechanism to ensure that its impact is uniform, both in the UK and reciprocally with visitors to the UK.

By the time I had made my limited progress in understanding, I could not actually see any particular flaws in the SI, per se. Thinking in macro terms, it would have been great if we had done it sooner, because the closer it had been to the completion of the TCA and so on, the more likely that it would have fitted together. However, that has passed—let us not worry about it.

The problem with this agreement is that we left the club, and the club did not like us leaving. The negotiations that took place with respect to this area—the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and I go back at least five or six years on this issue—left the problems relating to road transport at a disadvantage compared with where we would like to be. Unfortunately, the only way of getting to where we would like to be would have been to maintain membership of the European Union. Since we on these Benches accept that we are no longer a member, it is our responsibility to conclude agreements that smooth the relationship as far as possible. As far as I can see, that is what this instrument does.

I object in many ways to the £5 million in relation to the assessment—saying that you do not need a proper impact assessment. The beauty of a full impact assessment is that the person doing it has to look at other solutions and, by looking at them, we are at least in part reassured that what is proposed is the best solution, having been exposed to other possibilities. I do not see anywhere where there could have been a better solution but it would have been better to have had a full impact assessment, with the team working on it considering all the solutions before coming to this one. With those few comments, I am content.

Moving outside the brief, in a sense, and joining the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, it seems to me that, compared with some of the fears we had way back before this was firmed up, a pretty practical situation has been developed—as I say, this is the UK end of it—and that the biggest damage is in what one might call the musicians and artists area. I would like an assurance from the Minister—this parallels the noble Baroness’s concern—on what, if anything, the Government are doing about that. Is this still a live issue? Can we have some assurance that it is being pursued because it seems to me that, for most tasks, the regulations that exist now are practical?

It seems that, in this area, however, it is a heavy burden. As I understand it, for larger operations, the problem is overcome by dual registration of specialist transporters and so on, but that area, which is so important to the UK economy, starts off with two or three blokes and their instruments in a Transit van. Previously, they could wander around the continent and so on. I know that that is what the Common Market is about and that we are not in it anymore; nevertheless, it is a considerable blow to emerging musicians and artists, so I hope that the Government might make some progress in that area.

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank noble Lords for their consideration of these draft regulations and their contributions. I will now attempt to respond to some—or all—of the specific points that were made.

These regulations are required to ensure that the UK continues to meet certain obligations of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which enables ongoing market access to the EU for the UK haulage industry. Failure to legislate to fully implement posting requirements would risk challenge from the EU around a potential breach of the TCA, the key treaty for our ongoing trading relationships with the EU. The regulations assist the UK’s competent authorities to deal with operators who have refused to co-operate with foreign authorities. The UK’s competent authorities are the traffic commissioners, for Great Britain, and the Transport Regulation Unit, for Northern Ireland. The regulations increase the tools available to them and their ability to prevent attempts to evade the rule of law.

In 2023, the UK laid regulations that provided competent authorities with powers to enforce posting requirements related to EU operators working in the UK. It is important that the UK is seen as fair and implements the reciprocal provisions for UK operators, who are subject to the same requirements in the EU. Additionally, domestic legislation must be updated to reflect the progress of partnerships with countries outside the EU—including several new and amended bilateral road transport agreements, to which I alluded earlier, that have been signed since 2018. Although UK operators working abroad outside the agreements take a chance of facing enforcement abroad, by matching UK law to these agreements, the regulations demonstrate the UK’s commitment to honouring them fully.

I turn to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, about UK haulage access rights abroad. During the TCA negotiations, the UK proposed specific market access rights for specialist hauliers servicing tours for cultural events, arguing that the nature of their work was specialist and different from general haulage activities. UK negotiators attempted to differentiate cabotage arrangements from touring. They sought to permit the carriage of goods entering the EU from the UK being unloaded and reloaded at various points in the EU and returning to the UK unaltered. The EU did not accept this proposal, seeing these different arrangements as a way of getting additional cabotage rights which are unprecedented for non-EEA/EFTA countries. To support the cultural touring sector, the Department for Transport implemented the dual registration measure in the summer of 2022. This measure relates to HGV operators.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, raised engagement with stakeholders. Throughout the development and implementation of these measures associated with the posting of transport workers, we have been engaging with industry stakeholders to promote the changes and helping businesses to know what they need to do. An 8-week public call for evidence was held from 29 June 2021 to 24 August 2021 which received 113 responses which were published on GOV.UK; 64 of these responses were from representatives of organisations. Following this, we also held a closed consultation on the proposed legislative measures with six key stakeholders, including industry associations. Consultees were broadly supportive of the proposals, and the majority thought that the additional burden imposed on businesses would be low. The devolved Administrations have been consulted on the details and proposed effects of the regulations throughout the process, including a specific consultation from August to October 2023 about the postings and international permits provisions of these regulations.

On the impact assessment, which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, the Department for Transport undertook a post-implementation review of the 2018 regulations. Permit numbers have not been oversubscribed. There have been no reports of impact by the industry.

On communications to the industry, which was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, the changes made by these regulations will be communicated with the industry via trade associations, updates to GOV.UK and other relevant channels. Information is already available where there have been changes to permit requirements in international road transport agreements. Communications with trade associations were done when international road transport agreements were implemented.

Posting requirements already apply to road transport operators and drivers for journeys between two places in the EU. Guidance has already been published. The provisions of this instrument do not affect what road transport operators or drivers need to do to comply with the posting requirements. On the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, on fees, they are not being increased.

On the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, as a result of the trade and co-operation agreement, the UK is required to implement some changes related to road transport from 2022 onwards. This is because the related EU acquis was, when the TCA was negotiated, known to be being changed from 2022. Therefore, provisions were included in the TCA for changes to come into effect later. These later changes include changes to the road transport operator licensing regime, which the UK made in 2022. They also include changes in relation to the posting of transport workers affecting in-scope drivers of goods vehicles, which is the subject of these regulations. These changes were written into the 2020 TCA, albeit with later commencement dates.

To conclude, these regulations are an important step in the UK’s future relationship with the European Union and an important part of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement that we agreed when leaving the EU. Implementing these regulations will ensure that UK operators found to be breaking the rules included in the TCA—an important treaty for our ongoing trading relationship with the EU— can be dealt with appropriately. The regulations also update requirements related to road haulage permits, including in the light of new and better bilateral road transport agreements between the UK and certain non-EU states.

Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations (Amendment) Order 2024

Lord Tunnicliffe Excerpts
Tuesday 26th March 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
That seems to me a major misjudgment. This is being treated as a cost-benefit analysis item for the Treasury, but it has huge implications. By giving this permission, there is the possibility of dealing with a large part of municipal waste problems, and that, surely, is of significance to the public sector. So I think the Government have not looked broadly enough at the impact and potential of this statutory instrument.
Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his presentation of this statutory instrument. It is not an instrument that I have got on with very well. I decided to try to understand it, and that has absorbed a great deal of my time. As I tried to understand it, my old history teacher’s test came to mind: “You don’t understand it until you can explain it in your own words”. So I shall explain what I think it means, in my own words, and see whether the Minister agrees.

At one level, this is an elaborate and benign waste-management exercise. Let us look at the two comparisons here. A renewable transport fuel comes from taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and turning it into fuel using those wonderful devices called “plants”. We then turn the energy captured in those plants into fuel and burn it in vehicle engines and so forth, which releases the energy and the CO2 back into the atmosphere. The impact of the CO2 is neutral: in other words, the plants’ photosynthesis activity captures energy, essentially from the sun, and that energy is turned into fuel and then released.

A recycled carbon fuel takes carbon from beneath the earth, in the form of oil or carbon or whatever, and in this case turns it into something useful such as plastic, which then becomes waste. It is then, in this process, turned into fuel. That means, essentially, that it is burned. Energy is released and the CO2 is released into the atmosphere. The impact of CO2 is adverse, in the sense that carbon is taken from its fossil source and put into the atmosphere, which is a bad thing.

It is only if the feedstocks are not burned wastefully, through incineration or whatever, that there is a net benign effect: only if very strict controls are applied to the feedstock to make sure that it is inevitable that the feedstock is turned into free CO2, left to incineration et cetera—or it goes into landfill, which once again is an adverse outcome. Therefore, properly controlled, this policy is benign and has our support. So the Minister can stop his concerns; we are not going to try to vote this down, first because it is benign and, secondly, because we do not want a constitutional crisis.

Moving on, I have a few questions about this order. The emphasis in the literature seems to be on aviation fuel. Can the Minister give us some feel on the extent to which it will be a significant contribution to aviation fuel or where else it would be used in any significant amount? Indeed, will it be significant in any non-aviation applications? Next, is there an international dimension here in terms of the UK creating this instrument, which will stop the development of international agreements on this way of handling waste? Finally, is it within this instrument’s power for the Government to withdraw it, because it needs to meet two tests? The first is on the strict control of the feedstock while the second is about whether the financial incentives contained in the order actually work. If it is impossible to get a set of financial incentives that work, can the Government withdraw the instrument and its impact?

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their consideration of this order. I will now attempt to respond to the specific points that they made.

Let me start by saying that the RTFO includes a range of strict eligibility criteria to ensure that all fuels supplied are sustainable and provide a minimum level of greenhouse gas savings. Although RCFs are a fossil fuel, and therefore emit fossil carbon when combusted, their carbon savings are determined by comparison to the counterfactual end-of-life fate of the waste feedstock. For instance, black binbag waste uses an assumption that the waste would otherwise be incinerated in an energy-from-waste plant and calculates the benefit seen by diverting that waste into fuel production. This still needs to provide an emissions saving of 50% compared to simply using fossil diesel.

Different counterfactuals can be considered, depending on the specific waste feedstock. This ensures that the use of these fuels delivers effective greenhouse gas savings. Converting residual non-recyclable waste plastic into recycled carbon fuels can encourage a more effective use of our waste, as it can achieve greater energy recovery than disposing of the waste via conventional means.

Any recycled fuel produced from plastics will have to meet the same fuel standards as all other fuels to gain support from the RTFO. We are aware that pyrolysis oil, which is an initial stage of chemical waste recycling, can be used as a fuel for some applications and can have negative air quality issues associated with its use. However, such fuel would not be eligible under the RTFO order proposed here, as it does not meet the relevant fuel standards outlined in the order. Pyrolysis oil created during RCF production would need to be further refined into a diesel fuel that complies with existing fuel standards to receive RTFO support. We are not aware of any evidence to suggest that this would alter the air quality performance of the final fuel compared to regular diesel.

I will now address one or two of the points that were made. The noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, made a couple of points; in particular, he talked about nuclear-derived fuels. I can tell him that we received the primary powers required to support nuclear-derived fuels under the RTFO following Royal Assent of the Energy Act 2023. We continue to consider the inclusion of nuclear-derived fuels in the RTFO. We have confirmed that the forthcoming mandate for sustainable aviation fuels will support nuclear-derived fuels; it is on track to come into force on 1 January 2025.

On the issue of cross-departmental working, DESNZ, the DfT and the Treasury are absolutely aware of the need for it and are making great efforts to work together in order to take it forward.

Avanti Trains

Lord Tunnicliffe Excerpts
Tuesday 27th February 2024

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will certainly have a look at that.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, I commend my noble friend Lord Snape for his tenacious pursuit of Avanti’s inferior performance. However, it is not just Avanti; Govia Thameslink regularly fails two-thirds of its performance measures. The industry is in a mess. Why do His Majesty’s Government not initiate legislation, already in draft, to create Great British Railways; or even better, call a general election and hand over this mess to a properly mandated Government?

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord asks about the Govia Thameslink Railway service. The new service quality regime was introduced in 2023, and the targets set for that period were drawn from the best available information at that time. We have been able to review and evaluate the outcomes of a standard set in 2022-23, with new levels for 2023-24. The department regularly discusses and reviews performance with Govia Thameslink Railway, and its service quality regime results have improved year on year. We will continue to hold it to account to deliver further improvements for passengers.

Lord Ranger of Northwood Portrait Lord Ranger of Northwood (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I echo the thanks to my noble friend the Minister and his team for all the work they have done on the Bill. I also echo the thoughts that this is just one Bill. We are on a journey with this technology and these vehicles, and where it will be going.

I would like to address some of the comments that have been made from all sides of the House, because I hear the fear, worry and concern, as technology takes a giant leap forward. We worry about the implications for the world as we see it now. However, the world changes and adjusts. I understand the questions the noble Baroness had about data, its ownership, its power and the responsibility. When we launched the Oyster card in London in 2003, the first time data would be captured en masse—tracking peoples’ individual movements—I remember similar challenges being made as to what we would do with it.

We have come a long way in 20-plus years. We understand a lot more about the power of data and how it can be used for the benefit of people, as much as the challenge there is to keep it safe. I hope that will be echoed in the usage of data with these vehicles.

Additionally, I hear the voice of my noble friend Lord Moylan. We worked together many a year ago at TfL, bringing in implementations. Back then, there was a significant challenge to another change we were implementing. We were told pedestrians would be vulnerable; we were told accessibility would be reduced; we were told safety would be jeopardised. What was the change we were bringing in? It was bicycles: the cycle hire scheme for London. There are always challenges to bringing in new schemes. They are always seen as having many problems on safety and security, and vulnerabilities. As I say, this is in the context of the world as we see it, not maybe as we can amend it and make it better.

This is the journey. There will be more Bills, and we will scrutinise further the use-cases and the opportunities that this technology will bring, for the benefit of designing the future with safety in mind, I hope.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank the Minister and his team for their co-operation on the Bill. I thank my co-spokesman, my noble friend Lord Liddle, and Grace Wright, our researcher.

When I wrote these few lines down, I was full of unbridled optimism for the Bill—but I had better come back a bit. I am sorry that the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, have not been satisfied; they were good and proper concerns, but I am sure that they will be properly considered.

Proceedings on the Bill have been very much the House of Lords at its best, and that was very much facilitated by the Minister. Like the Lib Dems, we had several meetings with him, and issues were generally treated on their merits. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, is not more reassured by the changes we made to the safety standard. I believe that the safety standard that is now in the Bill is a good one that regulators will be able to work with and that is robust enough to stand up to enterprises with a great deal of money. I, for one at least, say that we have a better Bill of which this House can be proud.

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, following on from the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, I remind the House that I raised national security and people hacking into the system at Second Reading. Group 5 today deals with data protection issues; careful control of data is one way in which to make it more difficult for outside forces to hack into it. However, if you present a complete picture of every road and road sign in Britain to people who are able to drive around the UK, then you are opening a very big picture to the world. There will be people who want to take advantage of that in a way which could be hugely damaging.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for his amendments. We had a vigorous debate in Committee about issues of safety. I do not know whether the definition produced in government Amendment 3 is absolutely the last word on the topic, but the Government have moved a long way. I thank the Minister for that amendment, which is an advance and improvement on the original. As the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, said, we need to take into account issues associated with international definitions. Government Amendment 7 is also important as a step forward, because it gives this House an important role at a key point when that statement of safety principles is issued.

The Minister will be pleased to know that I took his advice and went to visit Wayve in King’s Cross. Wayve is a local company which is developing a driverless car—an automated vehicle. I went for quite a long drive around the streets of King’s Cross and can report that I found it surprisingly relaxing. I did not expect to be relaxed but I was. I mention this because one key point was made to me during that drive, as we overtook a cyclist very carefully. The key point was that these cars will always be programmed to drive legally; that is a great deal better than you and me as, from time to time, we lapse from the highest standards. Some people out there drive in a way which does not follow the law—they wilfully drive too fast or inconsiderately, and so on.

Another point was made to me, because during that drive, first, we had a very indecisive elderly lady wondering whether she was going to cross at a zebra crossing and, secondly, we had that cyclist. Of course, those users are always going to be there, because even when we have totally driverless cars, which will be decades on, we are still going to have human nature intervening, so this is a very complex issue.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for his contribution. I also thank the Minister for the steps forward that we have made in improving the definition and the role of this House in the statement of safety principles.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, I think this group has two subgroups. There is the subgroup of amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Davies, and my noble friend Lord Berkeley’s subgroup. I am afraid to tell my noble friend that we will support the Davies subgroup and not the Berkeley subgroup.

There are many reasons for this, ending with a very pragmatic one. First, the proposals from the noble Lord, Lord Davies, are structurally sound as they separate the roles of Clause 1 and Clause 2. Clause 1, as it will stand after these amendments, in essence says, among other things, that there shall be a safety standard. The clause is headed “Basic concepts”. Clause 2 attempts to address what that safety standard shall be.

We believe that government Amendment 3 is right. It is a very sound definition of “safe enough”. It is built around the well-crafted concept of

“careful and competent human drivers”.

It is today’s standard at its best. It is today’s standard after, as is set out in the commissioners’ report, eliminating the distracted, the drowsy, the drunk, the drugged and the disqualified. It is a high standard but not an infinite standard. It recognises that there has to be a limitation, otherwise the whole pursuit of a standard that is not defined becomes impossible.

It passes what I consider to be the death test. One of these vehicles is going to kill somebody. It is inevitable; the sheer volume of events will mean that something will go wrong. It is at that moment that you have to be able to respond to public opinion, have a standard that is easy for people to understand and defend it. I know this because I have been in that position when running a railway. The 1974 Act that applies to railways demands a standard: that the risk is as low as reasonably practical. It is one of the most brilliant pieces of legislation ever passed. Its impact on safety in this country has been enormous. Its impact on construction and railways, and its crossover impact on nuclear, have served this country well. I believe that this standard, which involves being as safe as a careful and competent driver, is the natural equivalent.

I also note that the law commissions produced three answers. Since they took three years or something to come to these three answers, it seems a pretty good idea to pick one of them. They were options A, B and C. Option C is, in my view, clearly rejected by these amendments. That option was to be

“overall, safer than the average human driver”.

The average human driver includes this wonderful list of distracted, drowsy, drunk, drugged and disqualified drivers. The world is a better place for eliminating them. Option B was

“as safe as a human driver who does not cause a fault accident”.

That is so ill defined that even the law commissions gave up on it. Option A is this one:

“as safe as a competent and careful human driver”.

It passes that test in a way that, when the experts set about turning this into regulations, I believe it will be feasible for them to achieve.

We also support government Amendment 7, which is a compromise. It ensures that Parliament—the importance of Parliament is very much brought out in the supporting documentation—has a positive involvement with the initial statement of safety principles. It also assures us that there will be a negative involvement with subsequent revisions. That is a balance, and we can support that.

I am afraid that government Amendments 3 and 7 have a rather unique advantage that we should not ignore: the name on them is the Minister’s, that of the noble Lord, Lord Davies. But, with the greatest respect to him, if you rub out “Lord Davies” and look under that name, you see “His Majesty’s Government”. Their majority in the other place means that these two amendments will become law—a piece of law that will guide this industry well.

I turn to an issue that is not so directly involved but needs to be there to tidy things up: the principles relating to equality and fairness. What does this mean in this environment? This too is set out in the law commissions’ report. In essence it means that an autonomous vehicle does not come at the expense of any particular group of road users. The policy scoping notes say:

“Government is likely to include a safety principle relating to equality and fairness”.


That is not there at the moment, but I am delighted to be advised by the Minister that this will be changed from “likely to include” to “will include”. This emphasis is particularly important for pedestrians, who must not be sacrificed to achieve the introduction of automated vehicles.

Lord Hampton Portrait Lord Hampton (CB)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I will speak in support of Amendments 1 and 4 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. We dealt with safety a lot in Committee, and it is paramount. This is the most important part of the Bill. I became an enthusiast about automated vehicles because I turned up to a briefing. Most people you talk to are ambivalent at best, and there is a sort of dystopian “Blade Runner” worry about faceless terminator drones.

Safety needs to be beyond reproach when bad things happen. As the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, said, bad things will happen—deaths will happen. We need to be able to face people and say that we did the best we possibly could. The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, said this needs to be easy to understand and define; that is absolutely right, but it needs to be equivalent to, or better than, a driver who does the best in a driving test. That does not sound too high to me.

Amendment 4 mentions “significantly” improving road safety. The noble Lord, Lord Borwick, said that we should expect all autonomous vehicles to be better than human drivers, but what if they are not? We need to hold them to account. This would make the whole thing easier to sell to a sceptical public, as opposed to the government amendment. I am not a lawyer, but I do not see why trying to make things significantly better would deter players from joining the market. The industry will spend money on this only when it sees a momentum shift in public opinion, which is why safety is so important and why these amendments are so important.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, because I think he underestimates the market that will be created. I do not for one minute think that EU countries with high social standards, for example, or the United States of America, will not have a reasonably sized market of people who are elderly and disabled, and that there will not be a demand for vehicles of this sort. The vehicles will be created, and the market will be there as well as here. We are talking about enlarging the market. Instead of diminishing the market, so that it is only for people who are physically able-bodied, we are enlarging it to include a lot of other people, who will be very dependent on vehicles of this sort.

We are gazing into the future. It will not be fundamental if we get some aspects of this wrong, because we will be able to put it right in future legislation. But if we get this aspect of the Bill wrong, it will prove very costly to change course on the design of vehicles, which will have been conceived and built the wrong way. We will then face costs of adjustment as well as huge social costs, because we will have a generation of people who are stuck at home rather than being able to use vehicles as they should be able to.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, I will not take up the House’s time. We have nothing to add to this debate, although it has been very interesting. I have to deliver our judgment, which is that we are pretty sympathetic to this group. Much will depend on what the Minister says, and the extent to which he is able to give assurances may cause our view to change, but we are broadly sympathetic and will listen carefully to the response of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes.

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this debate, particularly those who joined me for a detailed discussion following Committee.

The Government want all parts of society, including those with disabilities, to be able to reap the benefits of self-driving technology; I see no disagreement between us on that point. The question at hand is not one of ambition but rather the most appropriate form and timing of intervention.

It bears repeating that we are all dealing with an industry in its infancy. It is not clear what kinds of services will ultimately come forward, and therefore what kind of accessibility provisions are appropriate. What is clear, however, is that if we try to compensate for that uncertainty with unnecessarily broad requirements, the greatest risk is that the industry simply does not develop at all.

If we want self-driving technology to serve the needs of disabled people, we must have a viable self-driving industry in the first place. That is why we have anchored our approach in the recommendations put forward by the law commissions. Their central conclusion on this issue was that our focus should be on gathering evidence and gaining experience. On their recommendation we have built reporting on accessibility into the new passenger permit scheme and have committed to using this learning to develop national accessibility standards for permits. Although we will do so in a more flexible, non-statutory form, it is on their recommendation that we are establishing an accessibility advisory panel to inform that process. We will of course also draw on the deep and hugely valuable expertise of our existing statutory Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee.

Alongside this, the Government will continue to support the development of accessible self-driving vehicle designs. This investment has already helped five separate projects to deploy accessible vehicles, and there will be further opportunities as part of our £150 million CAM pathfinder fund, announced last year.

Beginning with Amendment 8, the authorisation process exists to ensure that self-driving vehicles operate safely. It is not designed to regulate the physical construction of vehicles. Indeed, as my noble friend Lord Borwick points out, most developers are currently working to incorporate self-driving systems into existing, mass-produced models, not creating new vehicles from scratch.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Berkeley for raising these issues. I am afraid that my consideration of these things comes to the conclusion that it is a mess. There are various bodies in the Department for Transport that have various responsibilities in various other forms of transport. There is the road safety investigation branch; I cannot for the life of me see why we are going to have a road safety investigation branch. If we are, I am not quite clear in my mind how that will add value. Some clarification from the Minister would be welcome. We probably need a sensible internal review in the Department for Transport to see to what extent we need all these bodies or whether they have sufficient common themes to be brought together, thereby bringing together the expertise. All in all, I think this is a challenge for the Government, and I hope they rise to it.

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very grateful to the noble Lord for taking the time to meet me yesterday to discuss these issues in more detail. I absolutely agree with him on the importance of independent input into the system, and I have already touched on where the Government see these key functions lying. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, mentioned, this is central to the purpose of the independent statutory inspectors, whose role is established in Part 3, Chapter 2 of the Bill. They will have complete independence and all the necessary powers to investigate incidents involving self-driving vehicles and make public recommendations to improve the safety of the system. They are functionally the same as their marine, air and rail equivalents. All these bodies are part of the department, but nonetheless maintain their independence.

Separately, the Government will continue to be held to account in Parliament on their administration of the self-driving system—both at the Dispatch Box and by the Transport Select Committee. Indeed, government Amendment 7 will enable even greater scrutiny in this House of the first iteration of our statement of safety principles. Finally, we will continue to receive independent advice from our expert advisory panel, featuring representatives from the RAC Foundation, the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, and a selection of academics and engineers.

I will begin with Amendments 12 to 17, which look to change the role and purpose of the statutory inspectors to cover vehicle technologies that were never designed to meet the self-driving test. Our focus in this piece of legislation is on delivering the recommendations of the law commissions. Recommendation 32 of their report specifically calls for independent incident investigation to form part of the self-driving vehicle safety framework.

Our view is therefore that the inspectors’ role should be focused explicitly on incidents involving self-driving vehicles. This will require specific skills and expertise, and close working with the other arms of the self-driving safety framework. I recognise the noble Lord’s desire to see the remit expanded. While I fear that we disagree on that point, I assure him that the Bill permits flexibility to make sure that edge cases are not excluded. For example, the inspectors’ powers extend to vehicles that have at any point been authorised as self-driving, including those that, for whatever reason, have had their authorisation revoked or otherwise called into question. Further, provided an incident involves at least one self-driving vehicle, inspectors will be able to investigate all vehicles involved, self-driving or otherwise.

--- Later in debate ---
Amendments 9A and 9B look to establish a potential role for the ORR in providing advice to the Secretary of State in support of the general monitoring duty in Clause 38. Given its focus on motorways and major A roads in England, the ORR is not currently set up to monitor safety performance across the whole road network or the whole of Great Britain. Adding the duties suggested in the amendment would be a significant expansion of its remit. In its existing monitoring remit, the ORR will already need to consider the impact of self-driving vehicles on the safety performance of the strategic road network. We therefore do not consider the amendment to be necessary. Once again, I am grateful to the noble Lord for sharing his expertise on these points and hope that my explanation offers sufficient clarification of the position.
Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- Hansard - -

Before the Minister sits down, will he do me a personal favour and put me out of my agony? What has happened to the road safety investigation branch?

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am not sure that I completely understand, so I am unable to give an answer. As far as I understand, it still exists.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- Hansard - -

It does not exist.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate and for the support I have received from many colleagues. My noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe hit the nail on the head when he said that because so many different organisations are getting involved in this, it might be confusing. I will leave aside the road safety investigation branch he just mentioned.

There is benefit in reflecting on what everybody has said today. I hope the Minister will be prepared for some of us to meet him in the near future—although probably not before Third Reading—to look at the overall structure, taking into account the words I used earlier: impartiality, independence, transparency and assurance. I am not trying to suggest that any of the existing activities being done very well by the department should be taken over, but it might be very useful to have something independent for a venture as new as this. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Pedicabs (London) Bill [HL]

Lord Tunnicliffe Excerpts
Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, this final group of amendments covers the process for regulations made under the Bill. Amendment 3 places responsibility for making pedicab regulations solely with Transport for London, meaning that pedicab regulations will no longer be subject to any form of parliamentary procedure.

Noble Lords will be aware that this marks a shift in the Government’s approach. The Government have listened to, and reflected on, the points raised at Second Reading and in Grand Committee, and reached the conclusion that these powers should rest with Transport for London. The Government have reached this view for several important reasons. First, it is consistent with the position for taxi and private hire vehicle licensing in the capital, where Transport for London has demonstrable experience of operating effective licensing regimes. Secondly, the Bill’s provisions extend to Greater London only, addressing the legal anomaly that has meant that London’s pedicab industry has been unregulated. The Bill presents a solution to a London-centric issue. Thirdly and finally, the relative size of the pedicab industry in London is an important factor. Estimates suggest that pedicab numbers range from 200 up to 900 in peak season. This is a significantly smaller industry than London’s taxi and PHV industries, where there are over 100,000 licensed vehicles and over 120,000 licensed drivers. Therefore, this amendment offers a proportionate approach.

While I am confident that this amendment is supported by the majority of your Lordships, I am aware that there may be some noble Lords concerned that Transport for London would seize this opportunity to remove all pedicabs from London’s streets, or to impose draconian restrictions that all but ban these vehicles. I reiterate that I do not—

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- Hansard - -

I apologise for jumping in on this point but it is very important. The Minister said that the generation of regulations would be solely the responsibility of Transport for London, which is exactly where we seek to be. In preparing for this debate I looked through the Bill, and all the Minister’s amendment does—I say “all” but it may be enough, in which case I will be delighted—is to take a subsection out of Clause 6. Can I be assured that that subsection’s deletion effectively removes any DfT input to the creation of regulations other than the amendment that goes with it to introduce guidance?

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes, that is my understanding of the amendment and is correct.

Although I am confident that this amendment is supported by the majority of your Lordships, as I said, I am aware that some noble Lords may be concerned that Transport for London would seize this opportunity to remove all pedicabs from London’s streets or to impose draconian restrictions. However, I reiterate that I do not understand this to be TfL’s intention and, furthermore, it is highly unlikely that pedicab regulations could be used to do this.

However, this moves me to Amendment 4, which gives the Secretary of State the option of issuing statutory guidance to Transport for London relating to how functions under pedicab regulations are exercised. The amendment specifies that statutory guidance may cover how functions are exercised so as to protect children and vulnerable adults from harm. This amendment intends to strike a balance with the removal of parliamentary procedure for secondary legislation made under the Bill. The Government remain aware this will be a newly regulated industry, and this amendment will give the Secretary of State the option of influencing the shape of the London pedicab regime.

Transport for London or any person authorised by it to carry out functions under pedicab regulations on its behalf will need to have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State. This provides a level of oversight which I hope provides assurance to any noble Lords with concerns. Further to this, Clause 1(3) requires TfL to conduct a consultation prior to making pedicab regulations.

I hope this demonstrates that the Government have listened, and that these amendments are viewed by your Lordships as a thoughtful way forward, one which will best enable Transport for London to commence work on bringing forward its regulatory regime. I beg to move.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, I first thank the Minister, as others have done, for the amount of time he has taken on this Bill. Our central concern was that this is a London problem, and we created TfL to look after London’s problems. Now, I am in favour of TfL—somewhat biasedly, because I helped create it—but it has lived up to our expectations and has done a good job over the 23 years of its existence. It is very much the right organisation to do this task.

I thank the Minister for his Amendment 3, which he assures me will give TfL sole responsibility for developing regulations. I do take the point about why subsections (1), (3) and (4) are being retained, but I am sure it is all right because I have faith in the wonderful drafting powers of his team. If, upon consideration, they become a concern, I am sure that a government amendment will be tabled at Third Reading to amend any conflicts between the different parts. I hope he will give that consideration, if his team do advise him that there is a conflict.

Having said that I am in favour of Transport for London doing this task, I grudgingly accept that some of the concerns about TfL getting carried away and banning everything in sight, and making people bankrupt by charging them utterly unreasonable fees et cetera, do make a case for Amendment 4. Therefore, I recognise that that is the trade-off between the important position to take throughout the parliamentary process, while making sure there is a potential for government to create guidance that TfL has to have regard to. The balance between the two amendments, from our point of view, is acceptable.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, has produced Amendment 5, which is drafted very much in the terms of many of her amendments, in the sense that it is motherhood. I am actually in favour of motherhood; it helps the world go round, and it says a series of sensible things. But the problem with putting something in legislation is whether it says all the things that should be said, or whether, conversely, it contradicts things that might be wanted. I am afraid I cannot support her. I do not think it is her intention to press the amendment, but I do commend it as a questionnaire for the Minister, to clarify the Government’s position on the points raised.

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I once again thank your Lordships for their careful consideration of the Bill. I have outlined the purpose of the Government’s amendments in this group, and will now address Amendment 5, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson.

I first reiterate the Government’s objective in bringing forward this Bill. The purpose is to provide Transport for London with the tools it needs to regulate London’s pedicabs so that journeys and vehicles are safer and fairer. This means addressing both the safety-related and traffic-related concerns, and tackling the antisocial and nuisance behaviour of certain pedicab operators and drivers.

Amendment 5, which attempts to set objectives to which the Secretary of State must have regard when issuing statutory guidance, shares the Government’s objectives. However, this has been tabled in response to the Government’s Amendment 4, which provides the Secretary of State with the option of issuing statutory guidance to Transport for London relating to the exercise of its functions and the pedicab regulations. This provides clear parameters for the scope of any statutory guidance and therefore Amendment 5 is not necessary, as the matters it covers are addressed by provisions in the Bill. In addition, I note that prescribing in detail what the Secretary of State must consider when issuing guidance could have the effect of inadvertently excluding from the scope of the guidance matters which have not been specifically listed. For this reason, a general approach is considered preferable.

I will highlight some of the relevant provisions in the Bill. Clause 2(5) covers fares, including what fares may be charged and how passengers are notified of these. Clause 2(6) covers a wide range of issues relating to the operation of London’s pedicabs. This includes safety, the quality and roadworthiness of pedicabs, the working conditions of drivers and their conduct. Clause 2(7) gives Transport for London the power to place limitations on where and when pedicabs can operate, and Transport for London has already confirmed it will need to give proper consideration to the matter of pedicab ranks, taking into account the needs of pedicab drivers, passengers and other road users. Clause 3 sets out the enforcement mechanisms available to Transport for London and includes details of penalties.

A couple of points were raised by noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Storey, talked about identification of the pedicabs. That really will be a matter for Transport for London, however it intends to license them. I can think of various ways it could do it; I am sure he could as well but it will be a matter for Transport for London. On the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, regarding the need to consult, that is written into the Bill, most certainly, and I feel quite sure that cycling organisations will be included in that. I think that more or less covers everything apart from the point from the noble Lord, Lord Borwick. On that, we can confirm that this is solely Transport for London’s responsibility.

East Coast Main Line

Lord Tunnicliffe Excerpts
Wednesday 24th January 2024

(5 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hear what my noble friend says. I will certainly take it back and have a look at it.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, the Minister implies that the 2024 timetable is more or less complete. That would have involved seven railway operators, Network Rail and the DfT achieving a consensus. Such a consensus would have had winners and losers. Who made the decision as to who would be the losers?

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

With great respect to the noble Lord, I am not too sure that I understand his question. Perhaps we can have a look at it later.

Private Crossings (Signs and Barriers) Regulations 2023

Lord Tunnicliffe Excerpts
Wednesday 17th January 2024

(5 months, 4 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Browning Portrait Baroness Browning (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I apologise to the House and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley: I was a little late for the beginning of his opening remarks, although I did hear most of what he had to say.

I just want to say to my noble friend that on my journey to the House each week, I travel through the beautiful New Forest in Hampshire. This is the Weymouth to Waterloo line, so we travel at quite a speed. Across the section that covers the New Forest, there are crossings for pedestrians and for horse riders. As we approach a crossing, at a reasonable distance, the train driver is always required to sound the whistle. Would my noble friend consider whether that could be the answer for heritage railways—that the drivers of trains travelling at a much slower speed than the Weymouth to Waterloo train should sound the whistle? It seems to me that, if this has been satisfactory for so many years on a fast main line with South Western Railway, surely it would be adequate for heritage railways.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, our Front-Bench team on transport has grown dramatically over the past six months, from one to two. From time to time, my new partner—my noble friend Lord Liddle—and I have agreed on who should take business on a case-by-case basis. I thought that I would do the magnificent thing and offer to take this one. Little did I know how foolish that would turn out to be.

The essence of my noble friend Lord Berkeley’s regret Motion is that he is basically saying, “Here’s all this stuff that defines what this should be, but it’s going to involve costs”. It is not self-evident from the regulations that it will but, as you go into this, it becomes clear that, largely speaking, it will. I managed to knock together some paperwork this morning with the help of my friend Google and I have looked into this. As one who has done thousands of statutory instruments, I know that the first thing to do is not read the regulations, because they are almost impossible to read—so you go to the Explanatory Memorandum. However, in this case the EM came to the knowledge of the splendid Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee; it did a full job on these regulations, including extracting from the department a set of answers to its questions, which created much more information.

One thing that comes out of this is the fact that there is no impact assessment, because it will be below £5 million in any single year, et cetera. When one reads the appendix, one realises that the creation of this document makes doing it mandatory, even though the statutory instrument itself does not say so. I thought, “Well, I’m not going to be able to oppose this instrument”. I mean, no Labour person could stand up and criticise the Government for spending more money on railway safety—and I am sure that, deep down, it makes sense. Sadly, that sense has eluded me. The immediate questions that come up are these: why are we doing this? What is the hazard? What problems are we seeing? Our attention is drawn to two accidents: RAIB report 12/2018 and RAIB report 07/2016.

I fought my way through the labyrinth and found these reports. They were remarkably unconvincing on signage solving all the problems. I then went to the appendix, which has a really interesting table of data. If I am reading it correctly, there has been one fatality in the last five years. I know that one fatality is important but, given the hazards on the railway, this is a very low-risk environment. Having read the document with more care, I see that it is all down to a risk assessment.

--- Later in debate ---
On enforcement, the Office of Rail and Road will advise if signs are safe, but there will be no enforcement mechanism as such. The noble Lord, Lord Snape, raised an issue regarding the duties of the Office of Rail and Road. Perhaps I could respond to him in due course in writing on that. On his point about future deaths, I cannot project such a thing, but we hope that the new and proper signage will help to prevent deaths. I can say that during the period 2017 to 2022, there were 1,508 near misses at user-worked crossings.
Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- Hansard - -

The essence of my point is that, superficially, this burden offends the rule that the railways claim to take through the ORR that safety improvements are not necessary if their cost is grossly disproportionate to the benefit. If it is above £5 million you would have to set that down on a piece of paper. Would the Minister mind setting out on a piece of paper, and sharing it with all who have spoken, how the department came to the conclusion that the benefits are greater than the cost and that the cost is not grossly disproportionate to the benefit? It is a simple idea that saves the railways spending lots and lots of unnecessary money. It is a very sensible idea and it is recorded; eventually you find it in their rules. The sum should have been done.

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we could discuss this for ever and a day: the cost of a life. To me, one life saved, at whatever cost, is a life saved. That is particularly important.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- Hansard - -

I am sorry, but safety legislation, in virtually every area, does not take that view. We do not talk about it very much, but the ability to spend money on safety is almost infinite. There has to be a point where you say “Enough is enough”—otherwise, transport and virtually all activity involving risk would grind to a halt. You have to take a sensible, proportionate view, which British safety legislation does. The very sound Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 does not require risk to be eliminated; it requires it to be reduced to as low as reasonably practicable, and a court has ruled that that test includes cost.

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am afraid we will have to agree to disagree on that point at this stage. I now have to conclude—

Automated Vehicles Bill [HL]

Lord Tunnicliffe Excerpts
Lord Lucas Portrait Lord Lucas (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I very much hope that the Government will look at Amendment 25, in the context not only of this Bill but of whether the MoT test needs updating anyway in these respects. More and more aspects of automation are coming into cars. We heard last time how cars can be frightened of bags blowing in the road or reluctant to change lanes when asked as a result of automated features; doubtless, more will come in. Such features are having a noticeable effect on the way that a car behaves on the road. We ought to test to make sure that they are operating properly. I do not see any trace of that in the MoT as it is. We should be aware of the need to move.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, I will speak briefly to each of the amendments in this group, a lot of which have what I call a “motherhood” characteristic. In other words, they are self-evidently sensible things to do; the debate is whether these ideas are properly caught by the language or whether, indeed, they need to be on the face of the Bill. Therefore, I would like the Minister to try to answer in two ways: first, whether he essentially disagrees with the concept in the amendment and, secondly, if he agrees with it, why we should not have it in the Bill.

I start with Amendment 25; I believe Amendment 59 is consequential to it. This is an entirely reasonable amendment. It is difficult to believe that the standards expected and the areas considered will be identical—or even largely identical—to the present MoT regime, and therefore I think a review is entirely sensible.

Similarly, my noble friend Lord Berkeley has made a good point in Amendment 37A—and, as I read it, Amendment 57A is consequential—that the Office of Rail and Road could make a singular contribution. The ORR’s problem is that it has the responsibilities of a railway inspectorate on the one hand and, potentially, of a road inspectorate with particular reference to this area. The problem, particularly on the railways, is that there is often not enough business to keep such teams properly employed. The skills required are very similar. It could be a merger of two teams or learning from each other—there are all sorts of things that one can think of when it comes to drawing the rail and road people into the way that the various investigatory and rule-setting powers would work. As I said, Amendment 57A is consequential.

My noble friend Lord Liddle has three amendments in this group. I shall speak particularly to Amendments 40 and 41. I did not find these the easiest to read because the whole problem of taking a statement and then adapting it to a new meaning is not without its hazards. I will quote the appropriate subsections from Clause 61. Subsection (1) says:

“The main purpose of the role of inspector is that of identifying, improving understanding of, and reducing the risks of harm arising from the use of authorised automated vehicles on roads in Great Britain”.


That is then conditioned by subsection (2):

“It is no part of that purpose to establish blame or liability on the part of any person in relation to a particular incident”.


That is a no-fault environment in which many people would agree you get a better result out of the inspection of events. However, we feel that we need to take that further. Amendment 40 would add, at the end of the wording in subsection (2),

“unless the investigation concludes that a failure in the technology of an automated vehicle is at fault”.

That would give it a specific requirement to bring out and invite the inspector to say, “It was the technology that caused this accident”. We think it important that they are able to specify that the technology was at fault.

Clause 68(1) says:

“An inspector must report any findings of an investigation to the Secretary of State”.


In a sense, that implies that this is pretty routine stuff and it only needs to go to the Secretary of State. We believe that because of the complexity, and the obvious desire of the people who have looked at this at some length that parliamentarians should be involved with the evolution of this, there should be a caveat to that. Amendment 41 proposes to add

“who must lay this report before Parliament should the investigation find a technological failure of an automated vehicle to be the cause, or one of the causes, of an incident”.

So the situation would be that the Secretary of State received all reports where the technology had not been found at fault, but where the technology had been found at fault, that would be reported to Parliament.

In Amendment 55E, the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, has asked for a workforce strategy. This is classic. The whole of the UK, frankly, calls for a workforce strategy, and over and over again you see decisions being made without regard to the workforce capability. There is a good case for this particular role, but the Government should grasp the proper use of workforce strategies in managing our society. We think of the problems of doing something as being about physical things, such as factories, but over and over again it is the limitation of skills. Any activity is as much about the skill of the people working with it—it is particularly interesting to look at this in the military—as it is about the kit they are using to deliver it. We should be thinking more and more in these terms. I do not know whether this is one of the launch areas, but bringing it up in the Bill was a good thing.

Finally, Amendment 56A from my noble friend Lord Liddle, as stated in the explanatory statement, is

“to probe the difference between ‘automated,’ ‘autonomous,’ ‘autonomously’ and ‘self-driving’”.

There is an unwritten rule that, when writing standards, you never use synonyms. The moment you use synonyms you ask people to start trying to define the difference. If you have a good, simple concept, it should have one label in any regulation. It makes the writing very boring, because there is so much repetition, but it makes it unambiguous. I am afraid that this document is somewhat ambiguous because of the various terms that it uses for the same concept.

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their contributions. The amendments in this group concern the day-to-day operation of the regulatory framework.

Amendment 40, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, refers specifically to incidents in which the technology of a self-driving vehicle is at fault. In such a situation, it would be for the in-use regulatory scheme to determine whether regulatory sanctions were appropriate. Criminal penalties would also apply if the authorised self-driving entity had failed to disclose relevant safety information. Separately, a statutory inspector may also conduct an independent safety investigation. The statutory inspector is then responsible for publicly reporting on safety lessons and making recommendations for improvement. These reports would include the failure in vehicle technology and any other causation factors.

The amendment therefore confuses the role of a statutory inspector with that of the in-use regulatory scheme and the police. In doing so, it inadvertently contravenes a long-standing fundamental principle in incident investigation: learning, not blaming. In developing the inspector role, we have been guided by international standards, best practice and precedent, including that established by our own exceptional existing transport accident investigation branches. All three of these branches conduct no-blame investigations.

I have similar concerns that his Amendment 41 also risks departing from established precedent in safety investigation. An inspector must be able to report neutrally and factually without being influenced, directly or indirectly, by any person or organisation. Historically, this has extended even to Parliament. Indeed, none of the reports published by the existing air, maritime, and rail accident investigation branches are required to be laid before Parliament. However, I am happy to reassure the noble Lord that it is absolutely the Government’s intention to make all the inspector’s reports, findings and associated recommendations publicly available on GOV.UK, as is the case for the existing branches.

I confirm that specific testing for self-driving vehicles will be considered for inclusion in the MoT. Naturally, this will need to be an evolutionary process, developed in line with the introduction of the technology. The MoT will continue to play an important role in ensuring the ongoing maintenance and roadworthiness of the vehicle. However, we will not depend on it to ensure that self-driving vehicles drive safely. Authorisation places the obligation on the authorised self-driving entity to ensure that its vehicles continue to satisfy the self-driving test. The Bill grants powers to set requirements, secure information and issue sanctions as necessary to ensure that this is done. The review proposed in Amendments 25 and 59 could therefore unnecessarily delay the implementation of Bill.

On the noble Baroness’s specific question, in the event of an authorised self-driving entity ceasing trading, safety must be the priority. It would not be right for a vehicle to drive itself without someone taking responsibility for how it behaves. Given that this market is still emerging, there is much that we do not know about future ownership models and what consumer protections will therefore be needed. However, I can confirm that the important issue of the handling of ASDEs’ insolvency will be considered, following consultation, as part of establishing financial and good-repute requirements for authorisation.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Borwick Portrait Lord Borwick (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I understand the point that the noble Baroness makes.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, first, I am very sympathetic to the whole problem of access. Secondly, I recognise it is very complex and defer to the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, in the detailed knowledge that they display in these two amendments.

Broadly speaking, I would like to see these amendments encapsulated in the Bill. The key question, however—which I invite both the noble Lord and noble Baroness to answer—is whether the two concepts contained in these amendments are mutually compatible or are in any way in conflict. If they are not, I support the general direction of these amendments and hope that there is recognition of the latest point made by the noble Baroness: you can expect a much more optimal solution if you adopt a clear direction on this difficult issue at the start, rather than trying to bolt it on afterwards.

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I will take up the last point made by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. You have to start on the right footing immediately. One theme that has run through the amendments to this Bill is that those of us putting forward probing amendments are not doing so in the spirit of wanting to delay anything. I would argue that the purpose of these amendments—the detail may not be ideal; but this is the probing stage—is so integral to getting it right that you must accept that there might be a delay.

This whole project could be seriously delayed by bad publicity, adverse reporting and so on. If one in four people are looking to this brave new world of public transport, which was going to open things up for people with disabilities, and they discover that they cannot get on the new buses or into the new taxis, that will be the sort of really bad publicity that will set this revolution back by a considerable period of time.

I add one little example to those already provided by my noble friend Lady Brinton. I have 30% of normal hearing. I have found a number of times that the requirement to have both audio and visual announcements is not carried out in practice: they either have one or the other. An audio announcement on its own is no use to me at all. It shuts bus journeys off to me in areas where I am not familiar with the stops and layout of the town. If we apply that principle to people in wheelchairs and people with serious sight loss, large parts of the huge potential benefits of this new technology will be unavailable to an increasingly large section of the population. With an older population, this percentage will only get bigger.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
- Hansard - -

The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, has made the point that she can speak twice in Committee. I invite her to speak for a third time to confirm that the two amendments are mutually compatible.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I suspect that between Committee and Report, the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, and I will discuss this in detail. We might even try to do it at the meeting with the Minister.